Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I know one guy who's not going to earn that Buckeye!

It's been a pretty good week here in LA, all things considered. Work's fine. The heat wave's over. Caught a rerun of HOUSE that I hadn't seen before last night. Even finished up an outline for a new script I'd been mulling over.

So honestly, I didn't have a lot on the shelf for today's Wednesday Bottom One.

Thank God for Maurice Clarett.

Clarett, a (cough) repeat offender (cough) on the Wednesday Bottom One, showed up in the news today after being arrested again by Columbus area police officers, and after generally making an ass out of himself. Even though Mo has pretty much been making an ass of himself since the end of Ohio State's national championship run in 2002, last night's melee with the police took the cake.

Why, you might ask?

Consider the following criteria:

1) Mo forced police to use Mace to control him, after a stun gun did nothing to deter him from freaking out.

2) Mo first attracted police attention when he made an illegal U-turn somewhere in downtown Columbus. He then led a multitude of police on a high speed chase onto I-70, perhaps hoping to escape to Our Man in LA's hometown of Dayton.

3) When caught, Mo's car was found to contain an assault rifle, three other handguns, and a half empty bottle of Vodka.

Or was it half full?

Nope. For Mo, right now, I'd say things are looking mostly empty.

Anyway, you can read about this more at the site below:

Now look, folks, as a fan of both Ohio State and the Cincinnati Bengals, I've long ago learned to keep my mouth shut whenever a figure in the world of sports finds himself or herself under the thumb of the law. But seriously, Mo Clarett has to be on track for some kind of record for speedy marginalization. He's gone from Sports Illustrated coverboy to ludicrous felon in less time than it would have taken him to take a few classes and earn degree.

Man, if there aren't a few jokes in that last statement.

Because I'm a completist - and because I had to run an errand this morning - I turned on the sports radio to listen to what folks had to say about Mo. Imagine my lack of surprise when a slew of Michigan and Miami (FL) fans called in and asked where Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was to support Mo in his time of criminal need.

Uh, dude. The guy had an assault rifle, three handguns, and a bottle of Vodka. I imagine Tressel was home with the door locked.

For that matter, hopefully everyone in Columbus was at home with the doors locked. Mo was on the loose.

Ah, Mo. Always good for a laugh. By the way, old Mo is already under indictment for two counts of aggravated robbery. How do you think this will affect his case? Will it help? No? It won't help? Not a little? No?


Here's Mo's legal counsel on the matter: "I'm shocked as everyone else is about the allegation. Obviously, he's a young man with a lot of weight on his shoulders."

Sounds like he's describing Clarrett's first week in prison. Hello! I'll be here all week, folks. Try the veal.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


How to combat the dog days of summer? Just a Tuesday TOP FIVE worth of answers

Howdy, folks.

The end of summer is almost here. People are taking that last vacation, jonesing for that final three-day weekend, and bracing themselves for the autumn work season to begin. Crazy times. So what better way to fight those prototypical dog days than by taking solace in just a few of the freshly baked items in this week’s Tuesday Top Five?

Check it out . . .

5) The Dodgers grabbed Greg Maddux! Sorry, Cubs fans. But here in the Southland, there hadn’t been much to crow about in the world of baseball this season. The Angels had been down, without a Rally Monkey in sight. And the Dodgers? A fair to middling team in a generally poor division.

Until now. The Dodgers picked up the 40-something Maddux from the woeful Cubs, and a lot of us out here were thinking, “Fantastic. Just what every player wants. To go from a terrible team to a mediocre one.” Not so anymore. Since picking up the veteran (and doing some other, post-All-Star tinkering), the Dodgers actually have a shot at the playoffs again. They’re just a game and a half out of first in the West, and tied now with my beloved Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card spot.

Oh, the inhumanity. Having my childhood favorites vie with my new hometown squad for the Wild Card. Oh wait, that means I could win either way? Or if the Padres slipped up, and the Dodgers took first in the west, I could have both teams?

Happy, satisfied sigh.

4) The Farmer’s Market at the Grove. I love this LA landmark, but I’ve never brought it up in this blog before. Still, I’m not sure there’s a better place to gather in all the Southland. When Our Woman in LA and I have people in town, we generally go there. This weekend, when a few of our old pals from Chicago were around, we met up with a whole contingent of Northwestern alums and the like at the market.

The Market itself is a little of what you’d expect – fresh fruits and veggies for sale, alongside homemade crafts and candies, and a pretty decent selection of small, inexpensive restaurants and bars in a covered but outdoor setting. It’s one of the great people-watching places in LA, and you feel totally removed from city life. Except that you’re at the corner of Fairfax and Third.

The Market’s been there forever. But a few years ago, the story goes, a developer wanted to put up his high-end mall on the property. His plan was to tear down the food and fruit stands, the cool inexpensive bars, and put up a Nordstrom, mega-movie theater, and the kinds of expensive restaurants and haberdashers that the tourists seem to dig.

Not so. LA got up and protested the move. The Market was worth keeping, Angelenos said. So the developer found a way to incorporate the Market into his mall, which is called the Grove.

Worked like a charm. Plenty of people (including me) who would never set foot in the Grove love the Farmer’s Market. So the tourists stayed happy, the locals stayed happy, and I was able to continue shopping at the Glendale Galleria and still getting hummus from Moishe’s in the southeast corner of the Market.

Ain’t it grand when everyone wins?

3) The NFL Hall of Fame Weekend. Over the weekend, the National Football League inducted several deserving former players and coaches (including John Madden, Troy Aikman, and Warren Moon) into its Hall of Fame and played its first exhibition game – between the Raiders and Eagles. To which I say:


Finally, I can start talking football without everybody looking at me like I’m a crazy person. Or some kind of obsessed clown. Nope. Now with the preseason beginning, the football talk can begin in earnest. And when I say in earnest, I mean that it can go nuts.

The “What if” scenarios can begin. Like this one, my new favorite (borrowed from Fox Sports’ NFL Czar). This scenario is predicated on the idea that the biggest mistake the NFL has made in the last 20 years was its 1993 expansion, which yielded the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Now before everyone starts crowing at me about how I’m being unfair to middle America again, just hear me out. There’s a method to my madness.

See, flash forward 13 years to today. Jacksonville’s got a good team, but a market that can barely support them. No major corporate sponsors to speak of. Problems filling the place up. Carolina’s doing great. They draw from the whole state. The corporations are there, the fans are there, and so on.

But look around the league. No team in Los Angeles, much to the happiness of transplants like me who can see the best game of the week every Sunday – but much to the consternation of NFL execs who feel like they’re losing big money in the nation’s second biggest market. Not to mention the fact that every time an NFL owner doesn’t get the stadium he wants, the luxury boxes he wants, or the sandwich he wants for lunch, he threatens to move to LA.

Then you’ve got that precarious situation in New Orleans, which might not be able to still support the Saints, but the potential PR nightmare of moving them.

So, hindsight being 20-20, this is what they should have done back then.

St. Louis and Baltimore, two proven NFL cities that now have teams plundered from other markets, were among the candidates for new franchises in 1993. The NFL liked the new markets in Carolina and Jacksonville, and maybe the Baltimore and St. Louis deals didn’t look as good.

It shouldn’t have mattered. The NFL should have thought long-term. So imagine this. Boom! Now, in 1993, they create the Baltimore Ravens and the St. Louis, uh, Kings. There you go.

Why would this have changed anything? Consider:

• With Baltimore back in the league, the Cleveland Browns don’t move to Chesapeake Bay. No bad blood for the league, and the Dawg Pound maybe even gets a Super Bowl.
• With St. Louis back in the league, where are the LA Rams going to go? Seriously.

And you have an NFL with 30 happy teams, more or less. OK, so maybe a couple of years later, the Raiders move back to Oakland. No problem. At least the LA market is secure.

Maybe a year after that, the Houston Oilers still move to Tennessee and become the Titans, leaving the nation’s 4th largest market uncovered.

OK, yeah, that’s sort of a problem. So you expand again – just like the NFL did anyway. So the Houston Texans come back in the league. And you have room for one more spot.

Who gets it? Carolina does. It’s a region that’s otherwise uncovered by the league, and that has a lot of business and people. So the Panthers return, but you haven’t lost a step otherwise.

So now you have a league that covers all the major markets and a lot of the significant small ones. Teams can whine and moan about their stadium or their fan base, but the chances of them going to another city are slim. Sure, you might be able to make an argument that San Antonio’s got a bigger upside than post-Katrina New Orleans, but you wouldn’t have to, either. Who’s missing, honestly?

2) LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Our Woman in LA and I caught this movie over the weekend, and we found it to be a total gem. Just a great film. Terrific performances by Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and the kids, but special mention to a very understated Steve Carrell and an amazingly funny, over-the-top and occasionally touching performance by Alan Arkin.

I expected the movie to be a lot of fun. It was. But more than that, it’s inspiring and speaks to any and all of us who have ever struggled with our ambitions, our work, or our sense of who we are and who we want to be. Totally recommended. I’d say more, but I’m afraid I’d spoil the jokes.

1) Marv Wolfman back writing NIGHTWING for DC Comics. I’ve been a comics fan since before I could read, and without question or hesitation, I can honestly say since his first appearance in this identity (in 1984), my favorite character has been Nightwing. I’m pretty sure I own his every appearance in comics, and I never missed an issue of the character’s fight for truth and justice in the pages of TEEN TITANS or his solo title.

For the uninitiated, Nightwing is secretly Dick Grayson, adopted son of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, and the first of several young men to serve as Batman’s partner, Robin. Over the years, the first Robin grew up – going through high school and college by day, while fighting the forces of evil by night. He eventually got tired of being a sidekick, even to one of the world’s greatest super-heroes, and so he struck out on his own. He took on his own identity, led his own super hero team, and eventually found a life outside Gotham City.

The creation of this new identity happened in 1984, in the TEEN TITANS comic book (actually NEW TEEN TITANS, but you get the picture), written by comics veteran Marv Wolfman. Marv, who had also served as editor of Marvel Comics at one time, was one of the hottest comics writers of the 80s, and the story that built Dick Grayson from Robin to Nightwing was one of his most critically lauded tales (right up there with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, which completely relaunched DC Comics and killed off Supergirl and Flash . . . for a time).

By the way, you can read that first Nightwing story – THE JUDAS CONTRACT – in trade paperback these days. It’s on Amazon and at your favorite comics store.

Anyway, for the last 10 or so years, Nightwing’s had his own solo comic from DC. The first 50-some issues, all written by Chuck Dixon, were pretty terrific. The former Robin traveled to Gotham’s uglier, more crime-ridden sister city to clean up crime. He got a new rogue’s gallery, a new supporting cast, and a series of great stories.

It’s kind of been down hill since then. Promising writers Devin Grayson and Bruce Jones have delivered seriously substandard stories, and they’ve helped to push the Nightwing character into a place where he feels more generic and uninteresting. Although the character had once occupied an A-list position in the DC Universe, and had been considered sort of Batman with a sense of humor, now he was just another do-gooder in tights.

That’s why I’m so excited to have Marv on his way back. This is the guy who created the modern Dick Grayson – both in his Robin identity and Nightwing role. The character flourished under Marv in the 80s and early 90s. That version of the character was the kind of guy you wanted to read about – a leader of men who was highly competent and driven, but who had a sense of humor and the ability to unclench in the company of friends.

Can’t wait to see that guy again. Welcome back, Marv.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Be it ever so humble . . .

After an exhausting, seriously painful cross country voyage – filled with horrors and obstacles the likes of which Odysseus never weathered – Our Man in LA finds himself happy to be home amongst the sun, hills, and 70-something degree weather of Southern California once again. It’s good to be home.

The new day job required me to venture out from the home office and spend nine days away – first in the hellish biodome called Gaylord Opryland, and then in the completely civilized but blast furnace hot cities of Washington, DC, and New York City.

Along the way, I came up with a list of ten things I never, ever, EVER want to see in my travels again. EVER! I’m serious here. Our Woman in LA had to put up with more than one profanity-laced rant from me along the way, and I don’t think she should have to put up with another one. So take note, travel gods. This stuff is seriously off limits:

10) Uninformed Rent-a-Car clods, I mean, clerks. So let’s say you rent a car in an unfamiliar city. Let’s say the clod behind the counter offers directions. One would think that, for the sake of argument, the genius renting you the Mitsubishi whatever might have heard of some of the suburbs of HIS hometown.

It’s like this. You’re in the Washington-Baltimore area. You have a meeting in Owings Mills, which even I know is a suburb. You give the address to the clod. The clod goes to his computer, types something in. Ten minutes later, you’re behind the counter because he has spelled “Owings Mills” as “Owensmills” and can’t understand why the address won’t come up.

Then, when you ask for directions to another location – in the city – he offers a not very helpful “First you take a left out of here, go down two streets to . . . what is that? L Street? Yeah, L Street. Wait. No. Wait. Yeah. N Street. OK, turn right there. Wait.”

Uh-huh. Let’s have a show of hands. Who wants to rent anything from this guy?

9) Anyplace where Chik-fil-a is considered health food. Nothing against the fast food chain, or the Peach Bowl (which it sponsors), but if you ask someone at a hotel – or say, the Opryland Convention Center – if there’s someplace where you can get something healthy, they shouldn’t squint at you. Like you just said something to them in Swahili. Or like you just asked if Opryland really was the best place to study the Dadaist art form and to read the mad ravings of Man Ray.

You also shouldn’t get this answer: “We got a Chik-fil-a down in the Delta.”

Actually, you should never get that answer. To any question. Ever.

8)American Airlines Ground Crew who think it’s funny that your flight has switched gates (and terminals) without making it known on the big screen of departures.

Folks, right now, if you can avoid Nashville and the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, I encourage it. As a friend. Because if you don’t, you’ll hear that Chik-fil-a crap from number 9, AND some tool in short sleeve dress shirt with the American logo on it, laughing about how your flight got switched from Terminal C to Terminal D.

Then he’ll beat his chest about how American has five terminals at DFW. Whoopee.

Then you’ll learn that Terminals C and D aren’t next to one another. Actually, Terminal E is between them. Chew on that a while.

While we’re at it . . .

7) Switching gates at all. Is there ever a time when that’s fun? And have you ever noticed that usually there’s nothing wrong with the gate you started from? Yeah. And nobody can ever tell you why the airline needed to switch gates.

6) Not to keep harping on the tools, I mean, employees of our nation’s major airlines, but how fun is it to hear this over the loudspeaker at your gate:

“Sorry, folks, it’s going to be another hour or so before we can begin boarding. You see, we’ve detected some, ahem, issues with the plane. We’re going to need to switch it out for a different one, and the first available plane is currently en route from Albuquerque.”

Pretty fun, huh?

OK, now imagine it happening twice. On the same morning. After the same airline didn’t get you to Dallas in time for you to make your connection to LA, which meant that you had to sleep for about four hours in a flea-bit motel near the airport.

But work with me. You’ve waited for them to bring in a new plane. They have. The folks from Albuquerque have gotten off. They’re cleaning it. And then:

“Wow, hey folks. We, uh, we’ve got a certain issue . . . we’re not going to be able to take off again for another hour. There’s . . . well, see, there’s something wrong with this plane, too. I know you guys understand. So anyway, one’s coming in from Jacksonville right now . . .”


5) Surly front desk clerks at the chain hotel of your choice. You should never have to deal with a guy who says any of the following to you when you check in – at 10 p.m.

•“I’m giving you a smoking room, and you’ll take it!”
•“We have charged you already for three nights, whether you stay that long or not!”
•“I’d run to our restaurant if I were you! We close in ten minutes, with or without you!”
•“How can you say that I made a mistake by giving you a smoking room?! I think it is you who made the mistake, and now you will live with it!”
•“Give the porter your keys if you would like to see your bags!”

Smell that? That’s the joy of hotel living.

4)The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. I know I’ve already ranted plenty about this horrible, horrible place. But let me just make the following points:

•One co-worker, after spending a week at Opryland, vowed never to venture south of the Ohio River again.
•They have boat tours of the place. Boat tours! For an indoor biodome with a canal winding through it. At most, the canal stretches about 100 yards.
•If you don’t just want a tour, you can have a romantic boat ride through the biodome canal. Under the fake stars of the plexiglass ceiling. You sly dog . . .
•In the morning, you can wake up in your hotel room, go out on the balcony, and look out on your view of the little Opryland Delta Village. Which is inside. Yes. Like the Bottle City of Kandor.

Is it any wonder at all that the rest of the world hates Americans? This is what we do for fun. For vacation. We got to city-sized aquariums and we let our Country Western overlords ply us with fried foods for a few days. With no outside news except that which you can find in a USA Today.

3)Ill-informed airline pilots. You know who I mean. The kinds of guys who say over the loud speaker, “We’re smoothing out right about now, so I’m turning off the fasten-seatbelt sign” right before it gets bumpy. The one who seems surprised that we got to our destination so fast. The one who has no idea if we’ll make our connection.


2)Drunk Airport Trolley Drivers. So OK. Say you did something really horrible in a past life. And karma has decided to bite you in the ass by putting you on a plane that will be three hours late, so that you’ll miss your connection and be forced to spend the night at one of the hotels near the Dallas airport.

Say that the airline, because they’re in on the karmic retribution, have put you up in a motel for the “special rate” of just $49 of your money. At least you get out of the airport, which somehow is more soulless than the average airport. Don’t ask me how. It just is.

Then say you go outside to wait – with seven other poor souls – in the sweltering heat at 11 p.m. and wait for the trolley from this so-called hotel with its so-called special rate to come and pick you up.

And then you wait. And you wait. And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait and you wait.

So you call. Oh, yeah, they’re on their way.

And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait and you wait.

You call again. He left 25 minutes ago. He should be there.

And then the trolley driver shows up. So you pile in. At this point, for the right to sleep, you’ll put up with a lot. You’ll put up with the fact that the trolley smells like an elephant with a bladder control problem recently had a bath inside.

You’ll put up with used yogurt containers (spoons sticking out) occupy all the cup holders.

You’ll put up with the fact that the driver swerves a little fast around all the twists and turns of DFW as he goes to Terminals E and D (their order explained above).

But you won’t accept the fact that this driver is also three sheets to the wind. That’s right, he’s drunk.

So drunk that you realize there’s a sort of fortified wine smell to the place. So drunk that when the roads do straighten out, he’s still swerving. So drunk that when he gets a cell phone call, he stops the trolley. In the middle of a freeway. Stops it. Then sort of lets it drift into two lanes before realizing that he’s in what’s supposed to be a MOVING CAR.

Did I mention that he was so drunk that he also wanted a tip when he got us to the motel?

1)The Baymont Inn, right off Highway 183 in Bedford, Texas. Just do yourself a favor. Don’t go. I know, I know. It’s hard to resist.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “They sell frozen pizzas in the lobby!”

Nope. Don’t go.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “You can hear a motorcycle gang riding hard up and down the highway – right outside your window.”

Nope. I’m telling you.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “When you ask the front desk if they can call you a cab, they tell you that the drunk trolley guy comes around once an hour. Or that you can call on their friends Don and Ricky, who sometimes take people around LIKE a taxi cab. And when you ask to see a phone book, they’ll tell you that there might be one at the Albertsons in the strip mall down the road.”

Seriously. I’m taking a stand.

“Good God, Wieland,” you’ll say. “What happened to you? You’re soft since you went to California.”

Fine by me. It’s good to be home.

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