Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Sometimes the good guys finish first

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a rough, tough world. Evil smugglers transport disease-ridden puppies across the border to sell to unsuspecting parents. Our President defends wiretapping of just about anyone in the pursuit of . . . internal security, I guess. And P Diddy still has a media empire.

Not a pretty place.

But sometimes, folks, the good guys win. Sometimes, the forces of evil and ignorance don't triumph. Superman really does knock Lex Luthor around; Batman sends the Joker back to Arkham Asylum; and Captain Marvel makes a really horrid pun while defeating Dr. Sivana.

And some days, something good happens in the state of Pennsylvania. Like the fools who back "intelligent design" go down in flames like the Hindenberg, only in a court of law. Read about it here:,1,4393563.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

Hopefully, a domino effect results from this. Hopefully, my backwards home state of Ohio follows suit. Kansas, too. And all the other red states that got behind this. Shucks, did I mention that a Bush-appointed conservative judge kicked this one to the curb? I love it.

Now, I'm a peaceful guy. Far be it from me normally to pile on when someone's lost in a such a public, disastrous, and humiliating way. But these intelligent design morons really got my dander up. So a little more piling on is deserved.

The thing that most ticked Our Man in LA off about the whole intelligent design debate, if it can be really considered one, is the way that its proponents used it as a way to defend and shield their own ignorance and the educational ineptitude in our American schools.

It's not that I don't believe in God. I do. I even occasionally believe in the supernatural. But look, just because a large percentage of people in the United States think that God must have created the complex biological systems of humans, plants and animals doesn't mean that evolution, which has a good deal of scientific backing, can't be taught. Or has to be taught alongside ancient religious ideas and mythology.

Consider this. A large percentage of the American population also believes that the sun revolves around the Earth, even though scientifically, we've proven this not to be the case.

Or this. More than a few folks in this great land of ours think the world is 6,000 years old - a conclusion you might come to if you use the Bible to take us back to that first day of creation.

Sure, Clarence Darrow knocked these ideas down nearly 100 years ago. But here we are again. And you know what? Even if a bunch of lugnuts believes this, it shouldn't be taught in our public schools. Because the rest of us know better.

In America, you have the right to be an idiot. It's protected by law. And I support your right to be as big a fool as you choose to be. But we also have the right to call people out when they're being stupid. That's protected, too. And we should have the foresight and brains to keep the stupid stuff out of our schools.

If a man dresses in a chicken suit and howls at the moon, that's cool. We have the right to suggest this might not be the best use of the man's time, but I'd fight for him to be allowed to do it. I'm just not sure I want it in my public schools. Teaching science. In Ohio.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Suspended sentence for the Tuesday Top Five

Our Man in LA is switching it up a little bit, away from the Tuesday Top Five, to take a look at a major news item that you've all probably heard a little bit about.

If you haven't heard by now, California executed Stanley Tookie Williams early this morning up at San Quentin. Williams, who may or may not have helped to co-found the infamous Crips street gang, which began in Los Angeles and spread across the country and into other nations as a humongous organized crime network, stood convicted of four murders in the City of Angels back in the 70s.

Since his time in prison, Williams had, most folks believe, reformed. He'd written anti-gang books for kids, and he'd helped to lead anti-violence movements from behind bars. He'd been nominated on a number of occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to keep other young people from the vicious track that he had once upon a time gone down.

California's Governor didn't believe he had reformed. Schwarzenegger pointed to the fact that Williams never admitted to his crimes, never expressed remorse for them. How reformed could he be, the Governor reasoned.

Now Our Man in LA is a bona fide liberal. End of story. But he believes in the rule of law in this country. Criminals should be punished for their crimes. And no, I don't believe Williams was innocent. I think he was guilty. There's not a single cell in my body that thinks he should ever - EVER - have been able to walk the streets again, even in spite of the apparently terrific work he did behind bars.

The problem isn't Williams. It's the death penalty. It's time that our country joined the 21st century and left this barbaric practice in the past, along with the Inquisition and all the other ugly bits of nonsense that must have seemed like good ideas as we made our way toward actual civilization.

The fact is, Schwarzenegger didn't have to let Williams out on the street. He could have given the man life in prison without chance of parole. It would have been fitting for a man who clearly led a particularly vicious lifestyle many years ago. Who knows what he might have done in the time he had left. Could there have been more books, more non-violence preached? Don't know.

None of us do. But Williams is dead now, another grave to match his four apparent victims.

In the investigation of crime, the first question most detectives ask is "Who Benefits?" Find the person who benefits from a theft or a murder, and more than likely you've found your assailant.

In the death of Williams, who benefits?

Clear answer. No one.

Let's take it a step further. In the execution of anyone for any crime, who benefits?

Same answer.

I've been singing this song for years, actually. And each time I hear the same argument. "But Chris, what if it was Steph who died? What if it was one of the people in the world dearest to you? Wouldn't you want that person dead?"

Sure I would. But it's not up to me. That's why we have laws. That's why in this country we allegedly believe in a system that protects the guilty as much as it protects the innocent. At the end of the day, could I imagine killing someone who had taken the things I love from me? Yes.

But those emotions exist in the vacuum of my senses. There's no context to them. They're just what I feel - in that moment. People don't deserve to die just because I think they do.

Does society have the right to take the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime? I don't think so. Others might disagree. But you have to be blind to think that the death penalty in this country is a) a deterrent to crime (since it seems like people are still out there committing murders); or b) equally distributed (how many more poor murderers go to the death house than rich ones; ask the same question for white v. black; ask the same question for different states - why are killers in Texas and Florida so much more worthy of death than those in Illinois or Wyoming?).

Another thing. Ask yourself this. Say someone does kill your loved one, and sure, you want that horrible creature dead. What difference does it really make to you or to the whole world if that bastard is dead or locked in a hole for the rest of his or her days on Earth? Either way, you get the same amount of time with the loved one you lost.

In the context of the Williams execution today, I read that Josep Borrell called for the end of capital punishment in all of the 76 nations on this Earth that still conduct this practice. Who's Josep Borrell, and who cares?

Well, Borrell's the president of the European Union. The countries of Europe - and all the rest of the western democracies on Earth - long ago gave up the death penalty. All the western democracies on Earth, save one.

That'd be us. Here we are, USA, with another black mark on a great country that seems to be accumulating its share of black marks recently.

When Americans think of the countries in the world that its people are most like, whom do we think of? I usually put Americans in the same boat as the British or Germans. We're not much different from the Australians or Canadians, either. Or the Japanese. Or even the French. A lot of similarities, I think.

However, if you look at the United States through the lens of capital punishment, you want to know what countries we compare to? Care to guess?

No? Well, too bad.

Here's the news. Through this lens, we're like China. Like Iran. Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. You figured that, right? No? There's a few others in our proud camp of countries that execute people EVERY YEAR. How about Egypt, Yemen, Singapore, and Kuwait.

Good company? You tell me.

Fact is, China, Iran, Vietnam, and the fifty nifty United States were responsible for 97 percent of all the executions in the world last year. We had almost twice the number that the Saudis did. Remember all that talk when Fahrenheit 9/11 came out about how brutal the Saudis were?

How about this for a box score:

USA 59, Saudi Arabia 33.

Do the math.

Decades ago, the groundbreaking cartoonist Walt Kelly wrote this famous phrase in his newspaper strip POGO: "I have seen the enemy, and he is us."

Today, in the wake of Williams' execution, I see that we have a long way to go as a nation before we reach our true ideals, before we self-actualize as a great nation of the new century.

In some states - like my former home base of Illinois - the death penalty has been suspended as its efficiency and efficacy is reviewed. According to polls, support for the death penalty in the US has shrunk from 80-some percent to 60-some percent in the last ten years.

So there's hope.

Still, today, and every day that we continue the practice of capital punishment, the enemy is indeed us.

I'll be back tomorrow with my top five and a whole bunch of fun stuff. Really I will. Today, though, this post today is about more than fun stuff. It's important stuff for us, and for the generations that follow.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Not your normal Monday post

Normally, in this space, Our Man in LA likes to talk sports on Mondays, relating how he spent a goodly deal of the weekend - glued to the tube, watching his teams.

We're taking a break from that. Mostly because there was a lot of embarrassment this weekend.

I don't even want to talk about how the hardcourt Longhorns looked against #1 Duke. Did I say that Texas was ready to be a power in football and basketball? Yeah . . . well, shucks.

And then Reggie Bush won the Heisman, which he totally deserved. And then the Bengals struggled against their cross-state rivals, the woeful Cleveland Browns. Not much good for Our Man Wieland, now beginning an ugly new week.

On the upside, I did like the look of Cleveland's new QB Charlie Frye. And he's an Akron ZIP! A Zip, I tells you!

But given that bad sports taste in my mouth, Our Man in LA thought he'd downshift into non-sports news and notes. So here it goes.

1) As you might have garnered from other posts, I'm not much missing the midwestern winter this year. Nope. No interest in the kind of flying, blustery snow crap that I saw in the Bears-Steelers game last night. No interest in driving around a town where planes are just crashing onto residential streets. And most of all, no real interest in being colder than, say, 50 degrees. In fact, at 55 degrees, I have now found that I like to begin layering my clothing and turning on the heat in the house.

Scoff at me about this all you want. Feel free to pull that "It builds character to be in cold weather" bullcrap that I heard for about 30 years. It doesn't. There's no character. It's just bad weather. You can be loaded with all the character you want, but if you die of a heart attack while shoveling snow when you could have been eating a nice meal at a sunny beach somewhere, well, that's not such an even trade, is it?

Of course, the wife and I are headed to the cold and snow in just a couple of weeks. Boo, snow.

2) Richard Pryor died over the weekend. I loved Pryor, but like a lot of folks my age, I had to go back and discover him later on. The only movie of his that I was allowed to see in the theater was Superman III, and his albums weren't exactly regulars of the Wieland family hi-fi.

When I did discover him years later, I was blown away. His work transcended funny, it transcended incendiary, even. I remember my cousin letting me listen to cuts off his albums from the 60s and giggling at the language. But later, as an adult, staying up late to watch one of his concert films on cable, I realized that Pryor's comedy and its inherent protest represented a true art in a way that one doesn't often see in standup comedy.

In a way, it seems like we've been missing Pryor for a long while. Because of his fight with MS, he has not been at the forefront like he once was. But it was nice knowing that he was around. We'll miss him.

3) It seems interesting that Eugene McCarthy, another icon of the late 60s, died the same weekend as Pryor. Both men - though completely different - helped embody the spirit of protest in that era. The LA Times ran their obits side by side on Sunday's front page.

These things usually come in threes, so I'm cringing a little to imagine who's next.

4) Our Woman in LA has been working with a local theatre group called City of Peace - which brings a diverse group of teens from around the LA area together to create their own plays and musicals based on the experience of growing up in an urban environment. The group's programming also features a pretty strong advocacy component, where the teens work with local organizations to help teens come to grips with issues ranging from homelessness to drug and alcohol addiction to sexual identity.

Got a chance on Sunday to see some of the company in action. A group of about 20 kids gathered at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica as part of a fund raiser with the local Barnes and Noble.

Basically, the kids were amazing. It's always eye-opening to see teens talking frankly about issues like drugs, sex, identity, pregnancy, homelessness - but especially so in the context of improv games and new scenes. Watching this, you come to realize how front of mind some of these issues are to young people today. Can't wait to see the next performance.

That's all for now. See y'all tomorrow.

Friday, December 09, 2005


A Holiday Wish: Less Diddy-fying

A few weeks back, Our Man in LA produced his weekly Tuesday Top Five and Bottom One post, and he reflected on how much he would really like to see his wife's interest in television reality program just cease.

Cease. As in, go away. As in, no more Donald. No more Diddy. No more Biggest Loser or Top Model or whatever.

Sadly, I guess I didn't realize how bad the problem had gotten. That is, until last night, when Our Woman in LA and I headed over the hill to the Glendale Galleria for a night of Christmas/Hannukkah/Christmakkuh shopping.

"I know we have a lot to pick up, but we have to be back at the house early," my lovely wife said. "Tonight's the last episode of MAKING THE BAND." She then went on to explain the particular drama of this episode. I may have missed some of it, as my head was exploding with every new sentence.

But I'll replay what I was able to piece together. Apparently, last year, P Diddy couldn't make the band because he didn't like the band or the band members. And so this year, there'd been some drama about putting together another band.

And last night was the night. He was picking the members. Steph was really concerned about Audrey, because Audrey might not get in the band. But Aubrey, and not Audrey, probably would. On the other hand, she likes Aubrey, too. And what if neither Aubrey or Audrey got on? That would be strange.

"Oh well," my wife said. "It's all up to Diddy."

And that's when we instituted the new Wieland family rule. When I say "we", I actually mean "I" instituted it.

Here you have it. Wieland Family Rule #46, Section 1: "We shall never use the words Audrey, Aubrey and Diddy together in one paragraph of thought. It just sounds stupid."

If only Audrey, Aubrey, and Diddy were the only problem.

On the way home from the Galleria, Our Woman in LA told me about her favorite morning radio show, which features Ryan Seacrest (about whom I know little, except that he's on a reality show, too, and that nobody can tell me what the difference is between him and Carson Daly).

Apparently, there's a feature on the Seacrest show (Our Woman in LA's fave feature) where women who think their spouses or boyfriends are cheating can call into the show. The Seacrest show then calls the guys, pretending to be a flower shop soliciting business, and asks them if they'd like to send a free dozen roses to someone.

If the guys are cheating - and most of them are, apparently - their wives or significant others then confront them on the air.

This is not to be confused with the reality TV show "Cheaters", which is basically the same in every way, except with a video feed.

Anyway, my wife is bummed when it comes to the Seacrest show, because cheaters across the greater Los Angeles metro area apparently are onto Ryan and the crew. Some of them are threatening violence and lawsuits against Seacrest. And possibly against Carson Daly, too, since they're the same guy.

So the powers that be on Radio Seacrest are being more careful. It may mean that this "Ryan's Roses" segment might be going away.

My God. What will we do?

Well, if you're me, you'll continue not listening to the Seacrest show.

But look, here's the thing. Is it me? Am I the problem here? Has the rest of the world just embraced our new Diddy-fied form of reality programming? Is reality TV really that fun to watch? Because I can't tell you anything about Diddy except that he dated J Lo, covered a Police song, and appears on a lot of MTV.

And nobody - NOBODY - can tell me the difference between Seacrest and Daly. Can any of you?

Or do I just need to get the MTV removed from the cable system?

Basically, I'm in a beat em or join em proposition. Either I call the de-programmer and have them drag Our Woman in LA to a motel where she's convinced that reality TV is the work of the devil, or I give in and start watching these shows.

Yeah, I'm calling the de-programmer right now. Seacrest out.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


At last! Someone else remembers the real BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Unless you've been living under a rock (or possibly a huge snow and ice bluff, as with many of my Midwestern brethren), you know that one of the big movie to-do's of the Christmas/Hanukkah season is BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, the sweet, sensitive story of two gay cowboys in love in the rough terrain of the American west.

The wife can't wait to see it. Our Woman in LA can't get enough of that Jake Gyllenhal or whatever his name is. She thinks that Heath Ledger's pretty cute, too. Thinks the movie will be awesome.

I'm less than lukewarm on it.

It's not because I'm homophobic. I'm fine with gay cinema. I thought JEFFREY was hilarious. GODS AND MONSTERS was great. I dug HIGH ART. PHILADELPHIA was OK. So were MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, THE CRYING GAME, and MA VIE EN ROSE.

It's not that I don't like the stars (though Our Man in LA's not all that excited about movies featuring either Jake or Maggie Gyllenhal).

It's that I can't get all the jokes out of my head.

For example, this week in the brilliant cartoon THE BOONDOCKS, a fussy, angry grandpa is going to see BROKEBACK because he craves "manly entertainment, not all this sissy stuff". Of course, he's in for a surprise, but it's got me laughing.

You can read those strips here:

More than that, though, there's this problem. If and when I see BROKEBACK, the voice in my head, talking all throughout the film will belong to SOUTH PARK'S own Eric Cartman. As David Edelstein, the movie critic on, also remembers: "Cartman on South Park famously dismissed independent movies as 'gay cowboys eating pudding.'"

Actually, Cartman went further. When challenged on this notion by his buddies, he responded: "You a$$holes find me one independent movie that's not about gay cowboys eating pudding".

Later in the episode, the kids went to the first South Park Film Fest, where the film they watched included this exchange . . . between two cowboys:

Cowboy #1: Well, I've finished my pudding.

Cowboy #2: Yeah. Me too.

Cowboy #1: Let's explore our sexuality.

And there you have it, folks. I just don't think that I could keep a straight face during this movie. I'd be wondering about when the pudding's coming, what flavor it'd be, whether it comes in those little plastic cups or whether they make it over an open fire.

I've explained this to Our Woman in LA, but she hasn't seen the episode, so she doesn't really understand the agony I'd experience as Jake and Heath explore their squishy feelings for one another.

Of course, she's not really a South Park fan, either, so my explanation of the problem sort of falls on deaf ears.

But really. Who wants to be the jerkwad in the back of the theatre who's snickering away as Jake and Heath whisper sweet nothings to each other?

You should have seen the looks I got during APOLLO 13, when I realized that Ed Harris was playing the same role that Lloyd Bridges did during AIRPLANE. The Astronauts are facing almost certain death, and I'm laughing at jokes from another movie: "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!"

Heh. That one still gets me.

So yeah. Looks like I'm in trouble when it comes time to see this flick. Maybe if I have a snack with me, I can quiet my laughter throughout the film. And no one will know that I'm such an insensitive goofball.

Yeah. That's it. A snack might do the trick.

You know, like some pudding.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Tuesday Top Five - Special Wednesday Edition

Our Man in LA has no real excuse. The holidays have been messing with his ability to post to the blog on-time and his usually speedy and smart-assed manner. Yesterday, the obstacle that kept him was the office Christmas Party, which was over at 3 p.m., and as such, afforded Our Man ample time to get it done.

See what I mean? No real excuse.

But we need a Tuesday Top Five, and a Bottom One. And we need it now. So I'm here, on a Wednesday, worrying about you, the reader, and bringing you the latest in Wieland's fancies.

(I'm also sensitive to the fact that with the holidays approaching, you have less and less time to take in the daily blogs out there. So, taking to heart the needs of the customer, Our Man in LA will try to make this short and sweet).

So away we go . . .

5) A SAVAGE PLACE by Robert B. Parker. Picked this one up while I was home in Ohio for Thanksgiving. It's proven to be a perfect book to eat turkey to, watch football to, and get your identity stolen to. Parker's dependable regular sleuth, Spenser, travels from his regular climes in Boston to Los Angeles to guard a television reporter investigating corruption and mob ties to the Hollywood studios.

Written in 1981, it's a cool look back at LA during the late 70s and early 80s. Spenser finds himself walking down the same mean streets that Our Man in LA travels daily, and it's cool to be able to imagine exactly where it is that he faces off against LA mobsters, bad guys, and studio execs.

As everyone knows, I'm a huge fan of the Spenser series, and this is a good one that gives us a lot of time with the man on his own. Exciting, interesting stuff. And with a fight sequence at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax and Third (now part of the Grove shopping mall).

4) Gary Barnett. Heh. Apparently the guy got fired today by the University of Colorado. Apparently, the news got leaked to the Denver Post before the CU Athletic Director spoke to Barnett directly.

Our Man in LA doesn't wish evil on anyone. Seriously. He's much more mellow since moving to the Left Coast. But this couldn't happen to a nicer guy than Barnett.

Bon voyage, scumbag. See if there's some other major collegiate athletic department who'll take a chance on a guy that makes light of rape victims and hires hookers to attract visiting high school seniors to a football program.

3) Mimosa. Went to this trendy little bistro on Melrose at Crescent Heights yesterday for the office Christmas Party. What do you know? The office actually got something right with this place.

If you're in the neighborhood, give it a look. Good food - my filet of sole was tasty, and the dessert (floating island) was nothing short of incredible. The decor was all yellows and French countryside - with the kind of details that the wife seems to like in an eating establishment.

True, I could have done without the white elephant, Yankee swap of presents we did after the meal, but I hardly think that's the restaurant's fault.

2) WALK THE LINE. Last Saturday, the wife and I tramped down to the Los Feliz 3 and took in the new Johnny Cash biopic. You've probably already heard the gist of my review, because it's the gist of everyone's review. Basically it's this: Wow, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are really good.

They are. They bring a lot of depth to the story, they sing and carry on in a way that pays homage to Johnny and June. There's nothing I can say about the execution of this movie that's anything, really, short of dazzling.

The problem for Our Man in LA just might be that the biopic's sort of a dull kind of flick. I realized this last year during RAY, and it was just as apparent now. Here's the problem with the biopic, in my not so humble opinion. It's got to begin and end somewhere, and it's rare that I've seen one that really ends where it should.

WALK THE LINE begins and should end at Cash's legendary 1968 concert in Folsom State Prison. Everything that the man was, everything that his legend would become, ultimately hinges on that day in that prison. It's right that the movie should start there and reach backward. The fact that it doesn't end there is a tragedy.

But Wieland, he hadn't married June Carter yet! Yeah, I know. But we all know that he did marry her. Move on.

But Wieland, he hadn't totally kicked the drug habit yet. Right, but that's not really what the movie was about. You don't spend an extra half hour on tying up a subplot that was at best secondary to the main plot.

But Wieland, he hadn't gotten the place in Tennessee yet. Look, how can I put this. This is the problem with biopics. It took two hours to get me back to Folsom. Loved every minute of it. It took me a half hour to get to the end of the movie. Looked at my watch every two or three minutes. Not because it got bad, but because I had no idea how much longer it was going to go. Cash lived up till about three years ago. I knew it wouldn't go all the way there . . . but at this rate, why not? We've already gotten the man through the most dramatic pieces of his life. Why not finish it off?

Folks, there's nothing worse than a movie that doesn't end when it should. We've all seen flicks like that. Remember JERRY MCGUIRE? Didn't you feel that movie end like six times before you were finally put out of your misery? Awful. RAY was like this, too. We didn't go to his death, but we still stayed too long.

Good movie. Go see it. But feel free to hit the bathroom or the concessions during the last half hour.

1) TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD. I'd been hearing about this cool little black and white comic for some time, and I finally got a chance to check it out. It's funny, touching, completely amazing - and a prime illustration of the way comics is an effective medium for more than just stories about super-heroes (much as I like those, too).

Here's the set up. Tom Beland's a 30-something newspaper cartoonist from northern California. He's lonely but nice, funny but sad, you know the type. He gets a chance for an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland, and heads by himself. While he's there, for the first time in his life, he starts to realize how alone he is. He's the only guy at the Magic Kingdom not tooling around with a family.

So the last night he's there, he goes to Pleasure Island or whatever, and he meets Lily, a 40-something journalist from San Juan, who's also here on an all-expense paid junket. They have one of those nights full of possibility, conversation, and soul-touching depth . . . and in the morning, they're set to go home. And home only happens to be a million miles away from one another.

So what do you do, when you have one of those instant, change your life in a minute connections, and you know that it'll be an amazing amount of work to keep it going. Do you go for it? Do you try with every ounce of your being? Or, as Eminem said, do you let it slip away?

On that trip to Uncle Walt's Kingdom, Tom and Lily began their romance, with all the work and toil that would follow. Tom captures it on the page today in this comic. If you've got a free minute for a fun read, check this one out.

And now, the Bottom One. Drumroll please . . .

1) Bad Retro Uniforms!

One of my new favorite websites is the Helmet Project, which shows the helmets and logos of all the NFL teams and most major and minor college football teams going back nearly 50 years. Want to see when Ohio State had red helmets? Or when Northwestern's helmets were white with a purple script "Cats" on them? You can see them here.

Great way to kill an afternoon. You start out with the teams you care about, and then you start to think, "I wonder what the Ivy League's helmets were like in 1972". And the CFL, and the World League, and so on.

Additionally, Our Man in LA is a big fan of many of the retro uniforms out there. I have on more than one occasion opined that should the San Diego Chargers return to their original unis (with the powder blue jerseys, yellow pants, and white helmets), I will immediately become a Charger backer - but not one minute before.

These old uniforms are classic. But like with rock n roll, just because it's classic doesn't mean it's good. Some of these uniforms should be retired. Possibly burned. Possibly striken from memory.

Take for example the Chicago Stag uniforms the Bulls wore the other night. Awful. Reminiscent of a YMCA basketball team's uniforms. I have expected to see the name of Joe's Pep Boys on Marshall Road in Kettering, Ohio, instead of a name and number on the back. Awful. Amateurish.

So look. I realize this isn't my most controversial stand of all time. But I like the retro jerseys and uniforms. I just want a compromise. Like how about this: if the old unis are cool, show em. If not, leave em. Forget about the orange and white Tampa Bay Buc unis (with the gay pirate on the helmet); forget about the Denver Nugget unis with the Denver skyline and a rainbow on them.

You know what? If you need help with this, NFL and NBA, just give me a call. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Who needs Prozac when you have the Bengals?

I should be ashamed to admit this, I suppose. But I'm not.

Normally, on a Monday morning such as this, strapped to my desk at work, with bills and holiday shopping and routine maintenance on the Wielandmobile hanging over my head, I wouldn't be so happy. But I actually feel pretty great.

And the reason? A combination of writing stuff and sports. No two ways about it.

First, I completed a major, major re-write of a script over the weekend, and I have until Wednesday afternoon to go over it with a fine tooth comb, making sure that ever i is dotted, every t crossed. But my general impression is that I like it. It actually felt good most of the time that I was writing it, which suggests either I drank too much coffee, or I actually did some decent work.

We'll see. I have a couple of days to re-read. And to check the pH balance of the coffee we have in the house.

And then there are the sports. Mercy, mercy me.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let me ask all you readers out there a question. Should I feel like a slack-jawed yokel for letting the outcomes of a few football games so drastically affect my mood? Am I the same as that tool who sits in the stadium in minus-42 degree weather cheering on a team with no chance of survival, let alone winning? Have I no sense of reality?

Nope. Probably not. And who cares, really? The bottom line is, there's something cool about seeing your teams win, and probably there's little to ashamed of. As you might recall, there are only a few reasons that grown men should cry publicly (according to the Book of Our Man in LA), and sporting events do occupy an important roost on that list.

Looking back, it's been this way for a while. Northwestern's miracle season in 1995-96 gave me a moment or two of joy during a torturous year. Ohio State's national championship a couple of years back felt pretty good.

You get the picture. So let's get to the specifics.

1) Texas beat the ever-living tar out of Colorado and will play for the national championship in a few weeks. Now we already knew that the Mighty Mighty Longhorns were better than everyone else in the Big 12, but I guess I didn't know quite how much better. 70-3! Damn. And a lot of that scoring was done with the second team, the third team, the practice squad, and then 11 fans who won the "win a chance to play in the Big 12 championship" contest sponsored by Dr. Pepper.

But the matador defense of Colorado wasn't up to the task. Nope. And while I'm at it, let me explain that doing this to the University of Colorado makes this victory particularly sweet. You see, they're coached by Gary Barnett, who engineered that miracle season at Northwestern a decade ago. I should love him, right? Yeah, except for the fact that he showed himself to be a sleazebag of the highest order in all the years that followed.

I didn't hate Barnett for leaving NU. It's not an elite college football program. I did hate him for lying to the kids in the program. And then I hated him again for running a program that hired prostitutes to "encourage" promising recruits to attend CU. And then I hated him for somehow slithering out of those charges against the program. And then there was how he responded to charges that one of his players - Katie Hnida, the only female player in Division 1-A College Football, had been raped by members of his team.

Remember that response? It was: "Well, Katie wasn't very good." In fact, I think he may have said she stunk.

Even after that kind of public egg on the face, Barnett kept his job. Now I hear that he might lose it, given that his team limped into the post-season, being throttled in the last three games, including the Texas loss and another to the really mediocre Nebraska Huskers. If this is true, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

My brother-in-law went to grad school in Colorado, and so I usually try and support teams that my family likes. He also went to UNC, and I've become a member of the family bandwagon for the Tar Heels.

But not this case. How about we run Barnett out on a rail. I'll bring the tar. You bring the feathers.

Onto the other good wins . . .

2) Not an on-field win, but the bowl matchups came out this Sunday. And my teams are well represented. Besides the Mighty Mighty Longhorns playing in the national championship at the Rose Bowl, my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes are back at the Fiesta Bowl, matching up with Notre Dame. As a kid who attended Catholic high school in southern Ohio, I can only imagine the talk about this game in the hallways of Archbishop Alter High School.

Basically, it comes down to this. If Notre Dame wins, it's safe to say they're back to their traditional form. If Ohio State wins, they're going to be back in the national championship race next year. This game is a prognosticator - the Groundhog of the matchups out there.

And then the aforementioned Northwestern Wildcats travel to El Paso to take on UCLA, who were snuffed out by USC over the weekend. At Casa del Wieland, we call this the Hans Noel Memorial Bowl Game, as it features our friend's two alma maters in a winner-take-all matchup for his sports fan's soul. Is it possible that the Cats could actually win a bowl game for the first time in the modern era? We'll see.

And then finally, the sporting note of the weekend:

The Cincinnati Bengals will not have a losing season! They're going to the playoffs!

For the first time since the 1990 football season - 15 years ago - the NFL team in southern Ohio is guaranteed a winning record. They're a near lock for the playoffs. Finally, after 15 long years, it's safe to come out of hiding if your a Bengal fan.

Fifteen years!

Think that over. Fifteen years ago, the first Bush was president. Cheers and the Cosby Show were on NBC on Thursday nights. Timothy Dalton was still James Bond. The Lakers still had Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan was still one of those players about whom people said: "Yeah, he's good, but he hasn't won anything."

Fifteen years!

My wife was in junior high. I was a freshman at Northwestern. The NFL had two teams in Los Angeles, there wasn't a team in Baltimore or Carolina or Jacksonville. Or Nashville.

It wasn't even ridiculous for Chicago sports fans to talk about the '85 Bears. Some of those guys were still on the team. Ditka was the coach.

Fifteen years!

Adam Sandler and Chris Rock had just come on Saturday Night Live. Home Alone and Ghost were the two biggest movies. Will Smith was on TV. Justify My Love was on the air. We still thought U2 had broken up after "Rattle and Hum", and we hadn't even heard of Nirvana.


Congrats, Bengals! One curse is broken now. Let's keep moving forward. As my buddy Rob Schumann predicted at the beginning of the year, "Bears-Bengals Super Bowl". We laughed then.

But that sounds good to me. If not this year, how about in '06?

Thursday, December 01, 2005


The Tuesday Top Five - Thursday edition

You might have seen the news today that NBC is moving two of my favorite sitcoms: MY NAME IS EARL and THE OFFICE - from their current haunt on Tuesday nights to Thursday, an evening that the network owned for most of my adolescence and young adulthood. In honor of that move, Our Man in LA presents the Tuesday Top Five in a special Thursday time slot. Never before has a day named for the Norse God of Thunder (that's Thor, by the way) had such reason for celebration.


Well, actually, I'm doing this because I didn't blog on Tuesday. But Huzzah anyway.

Additionally, in honor of the Top Five and Bottom One's big one-time-only move, I will also present a special bonus feature: the Our Father-in-Law Movie Pick. Scroll down, my children. Scroll down and you shall learn.

But onto the Top Five:

5) The Ancient Egypt exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. Sure, it's not technically in SoCal at all, but this exhibit, which the wife and I attended with the official mom of Our Man in LA worked as a terrific complement to the recently completed King Tut exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. Rather than focusing on one ancient monarch, this show gave an audience a more general view of the various dynasties, including a better explanation of the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses from back when. Pieces were on loan from little out of the way places like The British Museum.

Most importantly, it allowed Our Man in LA to get his inner geek on. Only a couple of things make me geek out like ancient Egypt and the subject of archaeology - as noted in an earlier post. And this was particularly cool. The show culminates in a newly constructed tomb, built to the size and scale of the ones you might find in the Valley of the Kings, complete with the frescoes and hieroglyphs describing a dead ruler's trip to the Land of the Dead and the beginning of his relationship with the Sun God Ra.

Yeah. Pretty kickin' stuff.

It also represents the first time since Our Man in LA's misspent youth that he stepped inside the actually pretty amazing Dayton Art Institute. Situated on a hill just north of the Gem City's downtown, it's a pretty incredible museum for a town that size. As an urchin, the young Mr. Wieland used to get dragged there by parents who did all manner of volunteer work there (including being on the Board and whatnot). Usually, after a time, I would get bored and start racing around the catacombs of the place, past the priceless works of art, from neo-Classical to ancient North American to Italian Renaissance and so on.

I had the urge to take a run like that this time around, too. But the wife wouldn't let me.

4) WATCHMEN by Alan Moore. As promised, I need to comment on this one, part of the list of Time's Best Graphic Novels of all time. Earlier in the year, I re-read (or rather, I tried to re-read) Moore's other big deal comic of the era - V for Vendetta. And I was totally underwhelmed. Couldn't get through it to save my life. I just found it heavy-handed, overstated, and kind of dull. So I was fully cowed by the time I got around to re-reading this. WATCHMEN was one of the seminal books of my teen years. What if it turned out to be kind of dull?

Whew. Bullet dodged. WATCHMEN is anything but dull. It's amazing. Expansive, fascinating, with complex characters forced into decisions that border on the impossible.

When I read it as a kid, I focused on the fun, super-hero-y aspects of the book. The tough-as-nails, psychotic anti-criminal known as Rorschach (who, along with Frank Miller's grim and gritty Dark Knight Returns, ushered in an angry and violent era of super-hero comics that lasted 20 years); the "mask killer" plot that serves as the throughline; and the fun little details throughout (Moore imagines an America where in 1985 Richard Nixon is serving his sixth term in office).

Now, though, I realize all that stuff is just window dressing. It's actually as humanistic a story as I've seen in the super hero genre. It celebrates the imperfections, the crazy dreams of people, and even their surrender to things larger than themselves. Rorschach is more just an empty psychopath to me now, but I admire his "never surrender, never compromise" attitude - even if I could never live by it and don't think anyone should. Likewise, other heroes Nite Owl and Silk Spectre disappointed me the first time around because they gave in so easily. Now I rejoice at their humanity - how they find the things personally important to them and hang on, though the world falls apart.

So yeah. WATCHMEN. Maybe, as the guy from Slate suggested, it made comics grow up. Whatever. The most important thing is that it's a hell of an epic read.

3) College sports. I mean, really, is there anything much better than this time of year, when the two greatest of all intercollegiate athletics - football and men's basketball co-exist in the hearts, minds, and TIVOs of young men like myself? Seriously, I can't get enough. Two weeks ago, there was Rivalry Week Part One. Ohio State beating Michigan. Auburn beating Alabama. Then Rivalry Week Part Two. Texas beating A&M. And now finally, there's this weekend - basically the last straw before bowl season gets set. Texas plays Colorado for the Big 12 championship. Georgia-LSU in the SEC. Virginia Tech-Florida State in the ACC. Army-Navy. And the battle for the City of Angels - USC-UCLA.

And that's just football, dude. Basketball's just getting started. Texas is off to a boffo start. Even Northwestern isn't licked yet. A night doesn't go by when there isn't something for me to watch on ESPN. Add in the pro stuff for a little bit of spice, and you have arguably the best time of the year.

Which isn't to say that I don't have some quibbles about college sports in 2005. I have two.

Whoa, Our Man in LA, you might be shouting. Quibbles are for the Bottom One!

I know, I know, but I have to be true to myself. So here they are – the only things that keep college sports from being mind-blowingly amazing as 2005 draws to a close:

A) The Big East is part of the BCS. Look, I’m not even going to get involved in the whole argument about the college football national championship. I don’t think the BCS is perfect, I know someone would whine about a playoff, and I frankly liked the old system where the Big Ten played the Pac Ten in the Rose Bowl every year in what I liked to call the "Wieland National Championship".

But the BCS is here for now, and I'm usually OK with it. Back during the old system, there were always a couple of major bowl games I didn't watch, and there are some now. But I respect the idea of automatic bids to the big games for leaders in all the major conferences – Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, and Pac 10.

Notice I didn't say the Big Least. That's because the Conference is indiscernible from the mid-major conferences all over the country – groups like the MAC, the WAC, and the Mountain West. The Big Least used to have Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College – all respectable teams. But they’re gone now. And now West Virginia, a team no more worthy than the winner of tonight's MAC championship (Akron v. Northern Illinois, for those playing at home) will play in one of the big games, while some better team will play for less money, less glory, fewer ratings, and possibly in some place ridiculous like Shreveport.

In the Wieland BCS, there’d be none of that. If the Big Least doesn’t feature a Top 10 team, it loses its automatic bid. That’s all. And I’d make it easier. I’d add the venerable Cotton Bowl to the bowl games.

So the Wieland BCS would look like this in 2005. Of course, these are projections:

USC v. Texas in the Rose Bowl (BCS #1 v. BCS #2)
Penn State v. Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl (Big Ten #1 v. at-large)
Virginia Tech v. LSU in the Sugar Bowl (ACC #1 v. SEC #1)
Ohio State v. Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl (at-large v. at-large)
Auburn v. Miami in the Cotton Bowl (at-large v. at-large)

Of course, it’s too cool to happen. Guess I won’t be tuning into the real Sugar Bowl (LSU v. West Virginia). My God, how will that turn out?

B) The Big Ten plays the ACC in a pre-season tournament every college basketball season. Love it. Love the idea of it. Wish we had more conference tourneys in b’ball and football.

But this Big Ten-ACC thing should stop.

We've proven the point. We all get it. The ACC is better. This year is one of the closer in memory, and the ACC still won it 7-4 or whatever. Other years have been worse.

Basically it breaks down like this. The ACC has some teams at the top – like, say, Duke, who are always better than whatever the Big Ten has to offer. The big difference is at the bottom, where Big Ten cellar dwellers like Michigan are better than the squads driving the ACC caboose (like Miami)

The exception is Northwestern. Call my alma mater North-worst-ern. A double digit loss to Virginia? Really?

But this is what I’m talking about. The Big Ten is a middle of the pack b’ball conference, but it’s not the tops. Maybe it can swim with the Pac 10 or the Big 12 or the SEC. Not the ACC. Not the Big East. Let those two play.

Sigh. See you next year, ACC.

It would be soooo much easier and cooler for me if I ran things.

2) MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. This is another example of me coming really late to a party. I know the movie’s been out since practically the beginning of the year. I know that everyone already knows that it’s magical and beautiful. But the wife and I got a chance to take the movie in while in Dayton. It’s still playing in the birthplace of aviation, you see (at the Danberry Dollar Saver Theater – which means it cost $5 for both of us to see it.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing. First, consider the crew that went to Antarctica, froze their asses off, and witnessed this amazing piece of nature. Then consider the fact that these cute little birds – who don’t fly and who are vulnerable to attacks by seals – tough it out like practically no other creature in nature. Then consider the fact that baby penguins are really cute, and it’s fun to see them pop out of those eggs, tough it out, and make their way in the world.

Loved it. Really I did. Loved it enough to get pissed off at the different interpretations and criticisms I hear about it. Yes, future film auteurs, it’s not as gritty as MURDERBALL. It’s not supposed to be. Sometimes a movie can be sweet and still not be treacly. It doesn’t kill us to not blame art for being what it is.

And no, right wingers, it’s not proof that God sees monogamy as the proper way of the world. These penguins are serial monogamists, after all. Didn’t you hear that part about how penguin couples don’t get back together each year?

Doesn’t matter. Quiet those folks down. A good movie, a fun time. It’s one of those movies that you can see with all ages and not be embarrassed.

But you knew that already, because you saw it in June.

1) Last night’s episode of LOST. Your eyes do not deceive you. Our Man in LA has come to praise LOST, not to bitch about it.

That’s because last night’s episode was one of the few that didn’t fit into the ever-expanding category of “Worst Episode Ever”. Actually, it was pretty good. You got some questions answered (Just what was it that Kate did to have all them there federal marshalls after her?), you got some sweet reunions (cool to see Jin and Sun back together again, cool to see Rose and her husband together for once).

You even got to see more of the film, courtesy of the show’s new shaman, Eko, who I like better than the original shaman, Locke. Why do I like Eko better? Simple, really. If Eko is thinking, “The Island called us” or some other metaphysical bullshit that Locke spouts on a regular basis without someone popping him in the jaw (which may be the only proof that something really mystical is going on, since I would have tried to smother Locke to death with palm fronds by now), well, then Eko keeps it to himself.

He’s quiet. Interesting and quiet. Seen and not heard. We can only guess what’s going through the guy’s mind. And that’s just fine. Additionally, the guy who plays Eko might well be the second best actor on the show, after the dude who plays Michael. Oh yeah, we got some interesting news for him, too.

So a good episode of LOST. Wonders never cease. Of course, there won’t be another one until January.

I know we’re going a little long in this posting, so I’ll get to our final items on tonight’s list:

The Bottom One:

Our Woman in LA’s obsession with MTV. Seriously, I’m thinking of calling my cable company and asking them if they can take MTV off my basic cable. She’s watching MADE right now as we speak. I have to give her an hour of quiet tonight because MAKING THE BAND is on.

Earlier this evening, she asked me why I thought it was called MAKING THE BAND now, when originally it was MAKING DA BAND.

I couldn’t think of an answer, other than, “I’m in my thirties.”

Look, I watched some MTV in my time, too. Like when I was 12. And when there were videos. And even when there were videos and shows like REAL WORLD. But now it’s like all goofy reality shows all the time. And she’s watching them. And she’s liking it.

I must be losing it. I realize that I’m old beyond my years. But I don’t care about the ever-expanding list of teenie-bopper pseudo celebs that include Britney and Kevin, Diddy or whatever his name is, Jennifer Lopez, or the folks from Punk’d.

To quote the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, when I see some of this stuff, “I know why tigers eat their young.”

Please, folks, help Our Woman in LA break the habit!

Finally, we’re closing out tonight with our bonus feature – the Our Father-in-Law movie pick. What does this entail? I’ll let the Father-in-Law explain:

“For me to sit down and watch a movie or any type of entertainment, it’s got to have one of three things. You understand what I mean? I don’t mean it can have just anything. It’s got to have one of these three things. OK? OK.

“It’s got to have T and A. Some sort of T and A.

“It’s got to have someone getting whacked. Someone’s got to die to get me to tune in.

“Or it’s got to have a referee.

“If it’s got T and A and someone getting whacked, you are guaranteed of me sitting down and watching the whole thing. I like the Carolina Panthers, so you can get me for T and A and a referee. If you can get all three, you let me know.”

This week, Our Father-in-Law recommends: BAD BOYS II.

So I checked it out. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow it, since I didn’t see Bad Boys I. But Our Father-in-Law is right on the money. It really is one of the most extravagant, over-the-top, can’t look away, popcorn flicks of all time. Or as the man himself would say:

“It’s got T and A, it’s got every kind of explosion and car chase, you got bullets going through everything, you got corpses falling out of buildings and getting shot. And those two guys are pretty funny, too.”

Amen. See you tomorrow.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?