business news in context, analysis with attitude

Random notes having nothing to do with business…

For people our age, Tom Brokaw has been a fixture…first as a White House correspondent, then on “Today,” and finally on NBC’s nightly news. Upon his retirement from the anchor job this week, Brokaw made an important point – that “it’s not the questions that get us in trouble, it’s the answers.”

Words to live by, especially if you’re in the questions business…

Quick quiz# 1: Which event was more harmful to the American television viewing public: Ron Artest going into the stands to fight a spectator at a basketball game, or the “Desperate Housewives” takeoff on Monday Night Football with Terrell Owens and Nicollette Sheridan?

Quick quiz # 2: Which was worse for sports: Ron Artest going into the stands to fight a spectator at a basketball game, or the report yesterday that baseball player Jason Giambi admitted to a grand jury that he used steroids?

Just curious…

Maybe we’re a little hard-nosed on this issue, but we think that any baseball player who has used performance-enhancing steroids ought to 1) be banned from the sport for an entire year, 2) be subjected to regular and random drug testing once he returns to the sport, and 3) ought to have any statistics generated during the period he used the steroids erased from the record books. Period.

That’d send an unambiguous message.

Maybe we’re just getting old and cranky, but unambiguous messages seem like a good idea these days…

Speaking of getting old, y’know what the worst thing is about turning 50? You go for a checkup, and everything works fine. But then you get sent to another doctor (dermatology exam), and another doctor (chest x-ray), and another doctor (stress test/cardiogram). It never seems to end. And then, of course, there’s the inevitable colonoscopy…which happens next Friday, and which you’re probably hoping we won’t turn into fodder for MNB’s always-probing coverage…

Back to Giambi for a second…we loved the irony of the fact that as Giambi’s reputation seemed to be going up in flames, Babe Ruth’s 46-ounce Louisville Slugger – the one he used to hit the first home run ever in Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923 in a game against the Boston Red Sox - was sold for $1.26 million to an unidentified private collector. The Bambino, from all reports, used a lot of substances…but no steroids, and none were performance enhancing.

One substance that we enjoyed this week was a 2002 Schug Sonoma Pinot Noir, which had some great black pepper and spice and went great with a bowl of spaghetti, meatballs and some nice hot Italian sausage. Yummm….we’d recommend it to anyone.

Finally, we’d have to review the year’s full list of movies to make sure, but we suspect that we’d have a hard time finding a better movie than “Sideways,” the new Alexander Payne film that stars Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, and that follows two middle aged men on a trip through the Santa Barbara wine country in California.

This is a wonderfully grown-up film, and not just because it simultaneously makes fun of and takes seriously the growth of an American wine culture. It uses wine as a metaphor for life…how a good wine has a life cycle, a peak, and then an inevitable decline, how it changes and evolves with every breath it takes, and how, under the right circumstances, it can taste great. Giamatti and Church expertly play two middle aged men of vastly different sensibilities – Church is a mediocre actor with an enormous ego and a less than faithful attitude toward his upcoming nuptials; Giamatti is a failed novelist turned English teacher who desperately fears he may be nothing more than a hack. Their encounters with two amazing women – played by the incredible Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh – make for a movie that is very, very funny…very, very touching…and very, very honest. (And watch for the scene with the priceless bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc…)

See it.

By the way, we’re aware that not everyone agrees with our tastes in popular culture.

When we wrote last week that “National Treasure” as like “The Da Vinci Code for Dummies,” we got a number of emails suggesting not that “National Treasure” was any good, but that “The Da Vinci Code” was overrated and not very smart.

And another MNB user disagreed with our rave for “Ray,” saying that “I would have thought the director could have come up with something more than ‘Sing, Shoot dope, Pick up girls; repeat, repeat, repeat.’ Sure Ray's life included those things but I have to believe it included more than that and certainly could have been told in a more engaging way.”

Well, one of the great things about popular culture is that we all have different tastes, and can agree to disagree about what we like and dislike. We actually said that we thought “Ray” had some storytelling flaws, but that Jamie Foxx’s performance was magnificent and overcame them. (And the fact that Ray Charles endorsed the film’s approach before he died suggests that maybe ‘Sing, Shoot dope, Pick up girls; repeat, repeat, repeat’ was pretty close to the truth.

As for “The Da Vinci Code,” well…we’re just not going to agree on this one. We thought it was a smart book because it made us look at things differently. Great literature? No…it isn’t “The Great Gatsby.” It seemed both intelligent and fun to us, and we’ll settle for that it a popular novel.

But everybody’s entitled to their own opinion…

It’s Friday, it’s December, and we’re feeling expansive. (Though probably not as expansive as we’ll be feeling next Friday at this time…)

Have a great weekend.

Sláinte!!
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