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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review: Comedy Time

I went to see a friend do stand-up comedy at Caroline's in midtown Monday night. I was pretty surprised when "Saturday Night Live" veteran Darrell Hammond was called to the stage after the opening comic.

Hammond was pretty funny. He said he hadn't done stand-up in a while, so perhaps he's working on some new material or something. I laughed out loud after a few of his jokes, including this one: "I recently gave up drinking after I finally realized I'd been spending too much time in this huge bar called ... Mexico."

And although comedy-show hosts usually annoy the shit out of anyone, and Monday's was no exception, he did offer one funny one: "I read the other day that scientists discovered a mysterious white substance on Mars. In a related story, Amy Winehouse was seen packing her bags and looking into flights."


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Review: "Get Overserved"

Good buddy Marc took me to a private screening of "Get Smart" the other night.

It was in midtown and started early, so there I was thinking it was safe to leave the crib on a schoolnight.

But the cocktail hour turned out to be more like two hours, and they served many tall, strong drinks. And even after the mediocre two-hour movie, I was still without the better judgment to call it a night, so we made a couple stops before I went home to get my less-than-four hours of sleep before work.

But I did get to meet the darling Anne Hathaway. I didn't really talk to her at length or anything, but in the very brief exchange we did have she surely seemed as sweet as her smile.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Shaq Is Whaq

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the world's heaviest loser.

His name is Shaquille O'Neal, better known as an aging, lately irrelevant, always-overrated 900-pound basketball player. Dennis Rodman years ago had a great quote about him, that I shall paraphrase now: "Shaq has two moves: Dunk and dunk."

How Shaq made the NBA's all-time top 50 players list a few years ago I'll never know. He's only good because he is gigantic and the rim is only 10 feet off the ground. But that all-time team should have been reserved for people with skill.

Anyway, over the weekend, at a club here in New York, Shaq took the stage and grabbed the mike, because most athletes think their job title entitles them to a rap career. Shaq is as good at rapping as he is at leading teams to NBA championships.

The main criticism in his lyrics was that Kobe Bryant, the best player in the world right now and one of the top five ever to play the game, can't win a championship without him. This from a guy who won three titles with Kobe and coach Phil Jackson, and his fourth with Dwyane Wade and coach Pat Riley in 2006.

If someone needs Shaq to win a championship by himself, please go ahead and forget about that. Shoot, he can't even help a team loaded with stars Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill past the first round of the playoffs.

Shaq, go ahead and retire, because you are terrible. Please do not wait for a trade-deadline deal next February where you can say at a press conference, "When people say I'm done, I have a habit of winning championships." That's the farthest thing from the truth; you won three in Los Angeles because you were in your prime, had a great supporting cast that included Kobe Bryant and your coach was Phil Jackson. And you won one past your prime because your guys in Miami were Wade and Riley. If once is a habit, then I've only slept with beautiful women.


High-Priced Chase

I never know why morons dare to challenge law enforcement with a high-speed chase on a highway or through city streets. The latest police pursuit went down in Houston this morning, and, as usual, the cops won.

But it did get me to thinking that during a typical week of news, we seem to live stream at least one such chase. Today's was the first, however, that I could remember in quite a while, so I can't help but wonder if the high gas prices are even affecting certain types of crime.


Thursday, June 19, 2008


I know this will sadden many, but the PUMA bag (seen at rest here in a 2006 file photo) has been put down.

After more than five years of serving as a great utility whilst causing me great ridicule, this thing just got torn to shreds and is now in a garbage can.

I bought it in Singapore for a very cheap price, and I felt very Euro when I used it, but many thought it was too reminiscent of a bowling bag. That didn't stop me, though, as I merely shrugged off the locker-room insults from Ohio- and Kentucky-based critics who somehow thought they were qualified to evaluate my tremendous fashion sense.

Its replacement so far hasn't exactly been what I'm looking for in an over-the-shoulder bag, but I couldn't possibly have expected similar results.

Good night, PUMA bag. Godspeed.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paul Pierce

I don't know what kind of incentive clauses are in Paul Pierce's contract, but I'd bet there's some sort of a one-time monetary bonus for having led his Boston Celtics to the NBA Championship. We're talking hundreds of dollars here.

So if there's some extra income flowing into the ole bank account, perhaps he might splurge on a razor blade and shave that awful excuse for facial hair.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Interview: Toby Young

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Six years ago, I got into memoirs, first reading Jonathan Ames, then David Sedaris, then Toby Young, after my good friend Erin turned me on to "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People," the movie for which makes its U.S. premiere in October.

If I was ever good at golf, and was asked to pick my perfect foursome, it would be those three dudes and me.

Until then, though, I'll just have to settle for an e-mail interview with Young, whose wife just delivered him their third baby in London a few days ago. Here's the Q&A:

+ I read "How To Lose Friends..." in 03 or 04, and although there were numerous missteps, being at Vanity Fair as long as you were doesn't necessarily qualify as a failure, does it?

Well, it depends on your expectations. I was expecting to (be) made the editor of one of the Conde Nast titles so, from my point of view, being fired after two-and-a-half years was definitely a disappointment.

+ Do you remember exactly when/where/why you developed your strong desire for celebrity?

I don't hold with the idea that the need for fame is a symptom of a personality disorder. I think the desire for recognition -- to be remembered -- is part of human nature.

+ When it looks like someone is ready to piss away a journalism career, maybe the best way to revive it is to write a top-selling memoir about how you nearly pissed it away. Would you say you got the last laugh then? Were the words of your critics at all a driving force behind you writing the book?

Graydon Carter told me that the reason he'd never commissioned me to write a proper piece for the magazine is because British journalists make lousy reporters. One of the reasons for writing the book was to prove him wrong, but that wasn't my only motivation. I think the biggest thing was wanting to extract something of value from the five years I'd spent trying -- and failing -- to take Manhattan. I couldn't bear the thought that I'd just pissed away five years of my life. I needed to get something out of it, transform that base metal into gold.

+ When you first considered writing "How To Lose Friends ..," I imagine you sought some advice from friends and colleagues. Did they recommend against your first book being a memoir? Surely your fan base had to have been somewhat limited, so were you at all surprised by the book's success?

Yes, most people did counsel against writing a memoir. I remember discussing the idea of a book about Conde Nast with Morgan Entreken on a long plane journey and he told me to do it as a business book. I tried to write it that way, but it just felt too unnatural to exclude myself from the story. Was I surprised by its success? Not as surprised, I think, as a veteran author who's already written several books would have been. Being a complete debutante, I wasn't aware of how unusual it is for a book to do that well.

+ Simon Pegg certainly is a qualified actor, but why not play the lead character in the upcoming biopic yourself? Did you have much input into the selection of Pegg? What is the level of creative input for the production/direction of the film overall?

I would have liked to have written, directed and starred in the film, but I don't think it would have attracted a budget of $28 million if I had. My title in the credits is co-producer and I think that accurately describes my level of involvement. I was consulted on all the big creative decisions, read each draft of the script as it was written, suggested where I thought the finished film should be cut, and so forth. Given that all I did was write the book the film is based on, that's about the most I could have hoped for.

+ After the movie's October release, what is next for you? And when is your next U.S. visit/for what purpose?

I'm currently trying to mount a production of the one-man-show based on the book off-Broadway. The idea is that I'd play myself, so it may be difficult to attract the financing. If that comes off, I'll be spending a couple of months in New York at the beginning of next year. Apart from that, I'll be over for the premier in late September.

+ What is your take on this year's U.S. presidential election? Do you have your eye on it? What about it interests you and do you prefer Obama or McCain?

As someone who values the Atlantic alliance, I hope Obama wins. I think he'll do more to restore America's reputation in Europe than McCain. Over here, brand America is sorely in need of some decontamination. I think Obama's the man to do it.


Monday, June 16, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Tiger Woods:

Congratulations on your dramatic win at the U.S. Open, and best wishes as you continue to recover from your recent knee surgery.

Before we see you compete for next month's British Open, can you and Steve Williams please work on your high-fives? Even when executed perfectly, the high-five, we all know, is incredibly weak. But you guys still don't get it right, unless, of course, you're trying to look like white fools shooting a Dockers commercial or something.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Remember "Backfetus" from last year? I do.

Well, now some kid in China is trying to outdo the backfetus with a backpenis. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, look at the picture to the right.

Farmer dad Li Jun, 30, and his unnamed wife, live in central China's Henan province, and had to rush their son to a hospital recently to have the extra penis removed.

The rare condition is called fetus in fif (FIF). Doctors said the boy was OK after surgery.

>> Read more here (h/t LA Susan)

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Caption Contest

As you know, brokedickdog earned a promotion at the turn of this year to PAE Weird News/Images Bureau Chief.

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been posting all of his submissions. No rhyme or reason; there have just been some days where I haven't had time to update.

So there are a few submissions from him, as well as others, that I've saved, and I'm now going to start publishing in a semi-occasional Caption Contest. So leave your caption here. The winner gets nothing.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

2008 Belmont Stakes

I enjoy the horses. I enjoy betting on them and photographing them.

So I lugged my gear, including a rented 400mm telephoto, out to Belmont Park for what many had hoped was going to be a great day in the sport. Big Brown had a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years, but as we all know now, he just ran out of gas.

>> Slideshow: Images From The Belmont

I've shot five Kentucky Derbys, but this was my first Belmont. Even when I know the lay of the land, as I do around Churchill Downs, there are always some curveballs that call for the need to improvise. I feel like I'm good at rolling with the punches. Saturday, however, was a fiasco in many ways.

The first Penn Station train to Belmont was scheduled to leave at 9:59 a.m. I got there at about 9:20 a.m., thinking that would be plenty of time. I was wrong. As I was in line, I heard an "all aboard" call that I thought was for Belmont, so I hurried downstairs with the masses. Again I was wrong, but the train dude said no worries, I can get on the train he was standing next to, and advised me to get off at Jamaica, then buy a ticket to Belmont. "It's cheaper to do it that way, and I'm in a good mood this morning," he said.

Little did I know it was going to take 30 years to find the ticket office once I got to Jamaica, and of course the automated machines weren't working, so as I waited in line, I missed the train to Belmont. The next one would push through in 30 minutes.

Once I got to the park, I bumped into the excellent Louisville-based columnist Pat Forde, who guided me to the media elevator for which I'd previously spent a good half hour looking. Of course, the media credentials were elsewhere, so I spent another 30 minutes looking and asking, but I finally got it and was ready to find my free boxed lunch in the photographers' room.

I chowed my lunch, ran down to the track, marked my spot along the rail, and then walked around some. When I lived in Louisville, I'd become quite familiar with Churchill Downs, but Belmont Park probably demanded just as much walking. This place was huge.

But because I'd rented a lens, I didn't horse around too much between races. I stayed close to my spot on the rail so I could watch the 10 races leading up to the big one, shooting and testing and sampling.

I was able to catch one horse, the No. 7 in the sixth race, freak out for some unknown reason in the moments after competing (see the video above). Perhaps it was the 90-plus degree heat. But his handlers were spraying him with cool water and trying to calm him down. And just when it seemed they'd turned the trick, he'd buck and bounce some more, turning nearby fans into eyewitnesses. Many compact cameras were raised high in the air until the horse finally did relax and decide it was time to play nice, head back up the tunnel and call it a day.

Shortly later, back at my post on the outside rail alongside the real photographers, I'd struck up a conversation with one of them. I noticed a twang, and sure enough, he was from Louisville and we had some mutual friends. Ted Tarquinio was stumped on why I couldn't extend the telephoto lens, but told me not to be nervous about asking another pro nearby, even though some of these guys can be fairly pompous. "Dude, so what, you're here to get your one good shot, and you'll never see this guy again," Ted said.

But Jeff Snyder wasn't pompous. He was cool, and figured out my lens, and then told me he works for the fine folks who rented me my lens. Small world.

So I tested some more stuff, and got ready for the big race, which was fast approaching. And my shirt was soaked. I hit the clubhouse and the paddock and another spot here and there. Good buddy John Charlton was busy saying hi to Shaquille O'Neal, David Hasselhoff, Steve Guttenberg and Bo Derek, all while I was down on the rail working on my farmer's tan. Steve Guttenberg! Why couldn't I have been there?

I bought my tickets -- 10 $1 winners on Big Brown that I was not going to cash; instead I'd planned to frame and give as gifts to friends in the event of a Big Brown victory -- including a couple of $2-across-the-board bets on some longer shots. Then I was in for the long haul.

The race was pretty uneventful, actually. Big Brown was a big disappointment. He just ran out of gas. I didn't really get the picture I was hoping for Saturday. I honestly got nothing worthwhile.

So knowing that trying to get on a train after the race was just a ridiculous fantasy, I cooled my heels and waited to catch up with some friends. Charlton, who'd just bought my car two months ago, was on his way to meet me, and I was also trying to say hello to Fred Cowgill, who, despite the disgusting, daylong heat, was still wearing a crispy shirt with sleeves fully extended and the knot of his tie all the way up to the neck. How did he do that for 12 hours?

On the way back to the car, we passed ESPN star Chris Fowler, who as host of "College Football GameDay" has the best job in the business ... by far. I got a good laugh from him when I told him I was in need of his mother's lemon meringue pie recipe.

Years ago, back when a roommate and I used to have late-night parties, we'd call ESPN after many beers and ask to talk to their on-air people. We got through with surprising ease. But one night we got Fowler's voice mail and the outgoing greeting went something like this: "Press 1 to leave me a voice mail, press 2 to return to the operator, press 3 for my checking account number and press 4 for my mother's lemon . . . " Funny dude, he is.

But that was the last laugh of the night. When I parted from Charlton and his crew, two hours after the big race had ended, there were still thousands of people waiting for trains. So I called Charlton, who despite dreading a long drive back to Hartford, Conn., offered to take me somewhere not too out of the way for him, like Queens, where I'd get on a train and find my way home.

So I met him at his shuttle bus, and once we got off the bus near his car, I realized I'd left my cell phone on it, so I hustled over there, and once I returned and started to walk away, I realized that while I was looking for the phone, I'd set my monopod down and left it. So I ran back and got it.

We piled into Charlton's car, which was mine until eight weeks ago, and headed for the interstate. They dropped me at a corner that reminded me of the East St. Louis neighborhood where Clark Griswold took his family for an impromptu drive two decades ago.

Once I got into the train station, guess who didn't have his wallet? Thankfully, Charlton was only a half block away, so I hurried back down to retrieve the wallet. I later realized my ballcap was in his car. I left four things behind in two hours, but got three of them back. Charlton can't find my baseball hat, and I have no idea where it is.

So I got back to the warm apartment at about 10 p.m. and there were certainly cold beers in the fridge. The television told me that on the day horse racing history was almost made, one of its biggest fans, sports TV pioneer Jim McKay had died at 87.

And in other bad news, friend Mike Budenholzer was passed over for the Phoenix Suns' head coaching job.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


Those great Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals matchups in the 1980s were happening at the same time as that "NBA Action ... It's Faaaaantastic" campaign. And ever since, commissioner David Stern and other NBA suits have claimed that the game is for the fans.

Is that why the Finals is being stretched out over two weeks, with no games on Fridays or Saturdays, and school-night games running from 9 p.m. until midnight when much of its target audience has to wake up early for work the next day?

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Big Crown?

I've shot six Kentucky Derbys, but this Saturday could be the most important day at the track for me, and I'm nowhere near Louisville, where I definitely know my way around Churchill Downs.

Saturday, I'll be shooting the Belmont Stakes on a day where Big Brown is expected to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 30 years.

I don't know what to expect at Belmont Park, but if it's anything like Churchill on Derby Day, it will be difficult to use the cell phone. If I can get a signal, though, then you should sign up for my Twitter updates.

Just click that link above, then search "John P. Wise" or "jpwise," then figure out how to "Follow" me. I'll be sending updates throughout the day as long as there is cellular reception.

And lastly, one of the things I do at work is use AP photos or those of my own and add text to them. We use posters like this for several of our bigger stories each day. That explains the image above.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

How's My Fanhood?

Remember that recent ESPN Mobile campaign where one user seemed to question his friend's fanhood?

Well, a good friend and fellow Ohioan seemed to do that to me on the phone the other night, and a healthy debate ensued. I told him this was going on the blog, but I'll be polite and not drop his name.

Sure I'm one of the more sensitive dudes I know, and some friends are thick enough to think that's a bad quality. But one thing I don't do is get emotional over my squads. Consider this lineup before you wonder if I've endured some heartache:

+ Cleveland Indians (1997 debacle against the Marlins)
+ Cleveland Browns ("The Pass" and "The Fumble")
+ Cleveland Cavaliers (Some guy named Jordan)
+ Cincinnati Bearcats (Kenyon Martin breaks his leg in 2000)
+ Ohio State Buckeyes (losers of the last two national championship games)

So yeah, those are my teams. And my boy seems to think that not taking bat to chair, matches to couch or forehead to brick wall means I'm not down.

I told him I could probably recall all the starting quarterbacks and running backs at Ohio State the last 20 or 25 years. His reply was sensible, that just being knowledgeable, a student of the sport and team, isn't enough to make me a die-hard fan.

As a former sportswriter, I've covered many games, coaches, teams and players, but only was lucky enough to interview John Cooper for a season preview once in the 1990s. Ohio State football would be a dream job for a beat writer.

But my friend continued by saying that growing up in smaller, rural towns in central Ohio as he and some others in our circle did offered only OSU football as their childhood athletics outlet. Having grown up in the gigantic metropolis known as Cleveland, I had those other teams to distract me from OSU football. So he and the others are hard-core and I am not, by his logic.

"You had a lot of other options when you were growing up that they might have watered down your interest in each. Did watching any of those Cleveland teams lose make you cry?"

No, they didn't, because it's dumb to get emotional over games, especially since they're played by people I've never met. "Watching Ohio State lose has made me cry three times," he said.

Don't get me wrong; I took the sports I played pretty seriously in high school and there is sports in my family's history. But I think being even-keeled as you support the local team is OK if you still want to call yourself die-hard.

That's why I can be proud that my Indians took the best team in baseball to seven games in the ALCS last fall before bowing to the eventual World Series-winning Boston Red Sox. I'm not the typical hater to call talk radio, for example, and blast my squad because "they suck." You know what? The Tribe was supposed to merely contend for a postseason spot, not beat the best team in the sport.

And that's why I can be proud to have watched my Cavaliers hang within one point of the Celtics, with two minutes left in Game 7 of their series two weeks ago, on Boston's home floor, before losing.

And that's why I can handle OSU's having lost the national championship game because after that embarrassing loss to Florida the year before, everyone had their sights set on 2008, not 2007. So this is the year for Buckeye football, and it begins in less than 100 days. Expect me to be there when OSU plays at USC in September.

And expect me to watch every game with Steve and Bruce and the gang up here at our favorite bar.

Just don't expect me to get emotional if they don't win the national championship. I see my friend's point; I really do. But to me, it's just games, fellas. I don't really cry about much else, so why would I cry about college football?