Monday, November 30, 2009

Documentaries, Tiger and Paterson

*Two documentaries currently on cable are worth your time. In Showtime's Poliwood, veteran filmmaker Barry Levinson uses last year's political conventions as a backdrop for a study of celebrity and politics, as well as the polarization of America and television's influence in making it so. HBO's By the People: The Election of Barack Obama likely will make the blood boil of those who didn't and still don't support the candidate and now the president. But political junkies will appreciate the behind-the-scenes access to the Obama campaign, from prior to his announcement of a White House run, all the way to the night of his election.

*Tiger Woods hasn't made many mistakes on the golf course or in the marketing of his brand name. But he sure is creating a mess in the wake of the one-car accident in front of his home the other night. So far, what little we've heard from Tiger doesn't pass the smell test. His best bet would have been to get ahead of the story by coming clean immediately. Now it looks like a coverup and wild speculation abounds. This may be a private matter, as Tiger contends, but only for the average guy. Not in this celebrity culture for the world's most famous athlete. And not when billions of dollars are at stake for the sport and business.

*Gov. David Paterson's image-building TV commercials are well-done. And he's found his sea legs to play Mr. Tough Guy against an increasingly (if that's possible) unimpressive Legislature. But it says here it's probably too late. Had Paterson hit the ground running when he became accidental governor in the wake of the Spitzer scandal, he'd been dealing from a position of strength today. Too many early missteps, however, have left him largely ineffective and too far behind to salvage his changes of winning his party's nomination.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Back from the coast

Airline travel is always an adventure these days. Some snippets:

*My wife phoned from Los Angeles last week, where she had journeyed a day before I was to join her there for her dad's funeral. "I guess they think I'm a terrorist," she said, having been singled out on the Albany Airport security line to be screened by a relatively new-fangled air-blowing device. "Hum," was my wittiest reply. Twenty four hours later, I, too, was singled out on the Albany Airport security line for the same special screening. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

*Return trip. Again, my wife and I traveled a day apart. Flying weather was perfect both days. I flew Saturday from LAX to O'Hare to Albany without incident, arriving home early. Sunday was to be a day to get over jet lag, save for the brief ride back to Albany to pick up my wife. Wrong! She phoned from the tarmac in LA shortly after 6 a.m. her time, informing me her plane hadn't departed due to equipment problems. That would put her in danger of missing her connecting flight in Cincinnati. An hour later, she was off the plane, rearranging her itinerary with the gate agent. She was switching airlines and destinations, and I'd have to pick her up at Newark at 5:30 p.m. our time. So much for my quiet Sunday.

*So now I'm off to Newark, having followed the progress of the flight on the Web and seeing it was going to land on time. Some quick calculations told me I could leave Woodstock at about 3:40, hope traffic was light (it was), pull up to the arrivals area just after 5:30, by which time my wife (who wasn't going to check luggage) would be there for a quick getaway. Indeed, she phoned just as I was approaching the airport exit on the Turnpike, saying the plane was taxiing to the gate. Only one problem: There wasn't enough room for her carry-on bag, so they'd checked it and she'd have to go to baggage claim. No quick getaway.

*Here's the kicker: I pull up to the arrivals exit, put on the flashing lights and wait for my wife to emerge, all the while expecting airline security to hustle me along. Other airports barely give you give time to drop off or pick up passengers before they clear you away, fearing the worst inside each vehicle. Not so in front of Terminal A at Newark, at least not on this Sunday night. It was nearly a half-hour before my wife reached the car. The car in front of me had sat parked even longer. The good news: I didn't have to circle around the airport. The bad news: Not particularly reassuring security measures outside the Terminal A.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The things you hear

*Last Sunday morning. Entrance to the Hurley Ridge Market in West Hurley. I'm going inside to buy the papers. A guy about my age is chatting loudly with friends. It's quickly clear he's not a fan of the president. He says the president is making a mess of the country. "Obama ought to be shot," the guy declares. I look his way thinking the guy's lucky no authorities were in earshot. Heck, I was tempted to pull a Gomer Pyle and yell, "Citizen's arrest! Citizen's arrest!" You don't like this or any president? That's your right. But overstating your displeasure with a hyperbolic (I hope) threat isn't cool, you know?

*Reminded myself last night why it's a good thing I don't do comedy for a living. As MC of the annual Rip Van Winkle Council Boy Scouts dinner, it was my pleasure to move along a program highlighting the many good things accomplished by the scouts and volunteer leaders. But, although several of my humorous asides generated the desired results, a couple of more than usual fell flat. I'm going to chalk it up to being rusty and tired, this being my first event in more than seven months, although it probably wasn't that. Anyway, I'll do better the next time.

*Didn't dawn on me until this morning that former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who's on trial in Albany, has Abbe Lowell as his lead defense attorney. Lowell is a high-powered Washington lawyer with a great resume and reputation. In my mind, that makes Bruno's chances of survival greater than I'd have originally thought. On the other hand, Bruno ought to keep his mouth shut. He's giving too many media interviews (he's always loved the microphones) and yesterday the judge strongly admonished him for inappropriate in-court comments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Greek

*Make sure you catch another excellent installment in ESPN's "30 for 30" series, this one on Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. It's a wonderful and ultimately sad tale about the rise and fall of one of the great characters and, believe it or not, visionaries, of sports TV.

*Reminder to would-be registrants to the Freeman's Website: Full names are required to sign up. You know who we are; we want to know who you are.

*If you believe the argument of the lawyer for the alleged blackmailer of David Letterman that it was all a business deal, watch out for the ledge on the back of the turnip truck; you're about to fall off.

Monday, November 9, 2009


*Forget the "60 Minutes" interview with Andre Agassi - which somehow required at least three separate sessions to record judging from Katie Couric's outfits. The real eye-opener last night was the segment on cyber terrorism. If you missed it, find it here. It will get your attention.

*The Freeman 20-Year Club welcomed Sports Editor Ron Rosner last night at its annual dinner. Good to see many current and former colleagues in a social setting away from the office. Of the attendees whose names names have been in the paper and you're likely to recognize were Ed Palladino, Joan Saehloff, Hugh Reynolds, Edwina Henderson, Tony Adamis, Tom Wakeman, Don Treat and Bonnie Langston. Also on hand were several of our behind-the-scenes stalwarts from sales and production.

*Speaking of dinners, the Rip Van Winkle Council, Boy Scouts of America's, annual event is Thursday night at Wiltwyck Golf Club. I've been asked back as MC, proving once again that the scouts really are prepared. Local financier Bill Spearman will receive the top award.

*I know the program is wildly popular, but for my money, the lead character played by Hugh Laurie in "House" is the most unappealing on TV. Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm", you say? At least he plays it for laughs.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Series

*Maybe I missed him both times, but Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman seemed to be conspiculously absent for the trophy presentations after the ALCS and World Series. The platform was crowded with Steinbrenners and team officials Randy Levine and Lon Trost, as well as Manager Joe Girardi and a handful of players (and platform-crasher Mayor Mike Bloomberg), but no Cashman. Odd and unfortunate, if an on-purpose snub from above.

*I know this is after the fact, but I couldn't figure out the angst before Game 6 about starting Andy Pettitte on three days rest. Sure, he couldn't go deep into the game - like beyond six innings. But he was barely doing that on full rest. A solid four or five innings were sufficient, given the strength of the bullpen. And that's what he provided.

*Also thought it was crazy that some people - including the prominent midday radio talker - had Mariano Rivera slated for three innings of relief in Game 6. Again, not with the Yankees bullpen depth - and the possibility of needing him again had there been a Game 7. As it was, Mariano required over 40 pitches to get five outs and save the game.

*They say the Yankees will keep either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, both of whom have played out their contracts. The smart money is on Damon, since he plays the outfield and does more things. I'd prefer Matsui, even before last night's MVP performance. He's a full-time DH who fits the mold: aging slugger who handles lefties as well as righties. That said, if the Yankees let both go and started getting younger, it wouldn't make me mad. Damon, Matsui, Jorge Posada, Pettitte, Rivera are getting up there (so, too, is Derek Jeter, although he's showing no signs of slowing down). Better to start now, rather than wait until it's too late and too many expensive contracts have been doled out to senior citizens.

*When did Tim McCarver stop making sense? The veteran broadcaster used to set the standard for incisive comments in his early network days, as well as when he was behind the mike for the Mets and Yankees. In this postseason, he often sounded contradictory and off the wall. Sad, because Joe Buck has never been better.

*Watching the Phillies this week, I have to wonder how the Mets, even without their major injuries this season, figured to beat them out. That's quite a lineup in Philadelphia. A little more pitching, particularly in the bullpen, and that's a team without peer in the National League.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The election

*Know how you could predict Mike Bloomberg wasn't going to win a laugher yesterday? When you saw the video of the dour New York City mayor showing up to cast his own vote. He was hardly a picture of a confident front-runner

*I know I wrote that the Ulster County Legislature campaign wasn't drumming up a lot of interest on a macro level. But it sure did within each district, witness the Republicans' stunning takeback of the majority from Democrats. So much for the Ulster County Democratic demographic balance of power. Add to that the landslide countywide wins for Judge-elect Don Williams and Clerk Nina Postupack of the GOP, and throw in huge victories by Republicans Jim Quigley in the town of Ulster supervisor race and (new Republican) Jeff Moran in Woodstock, among others. How to you spell momentum-breaker?

*So which Republican will be the Ulster County Legislature's new chairman? And what about the majority and minority leaders? (The GOP's current minority leader was ousted in a primary. And the Democrats' majority leader lost in the general election.) If you're into politics, the jockeying for position will be fun to watch.

*Speaking of a roadblocker of a result, voters in the 23rd Congressional District in Upstate apparently wanted no part of the Palin-Armey-Beck push to get an out-of-district Conservative into the House. Once the moderate Republican had been bullied out of the race, she endorsed the Democrat and, lo and behold, the latter won. (And Democrats never win in that district ... until last night.)

*New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's negative advertising doomed him. Given Corzine's record, voters didn't much care of Republican challenger Chris Christie is overweight. What did that have to do with the real issues?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All's quiet

*Yes, I'm not a candidate, so I haven't had to knock on doors, raise money and participate in forums and media interviews. And tonight I won't have to sweat out election returns. So the following has to be put in that context. But I can't remember a more uneventful, quiet politcal campaign season. Maybe it's been contentious in some of the town races about which I'm less familiar. And I understand that as publisher I'm a bit removed from the day-to-day give and take our editors and reporters experience. It's just that from what I read in news stories and paid ads in print, and commercials I hear on the air, it's untypically calm. If you accept that analysis, you may agree that a big part of it can be attributed to the county executive form of government in Ulster County, which has rendered the Legislature election, shall we say, less pivotal in the grand scheme. Legislators are still important and the party power split is crucial. But with a county executive at the helm, the buck really stops at his desk. Then again, as comic Dennis Miller might say after a rant (the Dennis Miller of pre-Bill O'Reilly days), "I could be wrong."

*Speaking of the right-leaning Miller, I see left-leaning comic Bill Maher is coming to UPAC in a couple of months. Not to discourage ticket sales, but I'm guessing conservatives won't find him humorous.

*Long before George Steinbrenner became a beloved figure in New York and his fading health made the Yankees' quest for another title a rallying cry, winning the World Series was little more than the icing on the cake. Getting there was the prize. But in the Steinbrenner era, not capturing the World Series is considered a failure. Sad. The Yankees were by far the best team in baseball in this marathon season. Being eliminated in the postseason is easy, especially if you face hot pitchers in a short series, or if one or more of your best hitters encounters an inevitable slump. If the Yankees somehow lose the last two games against the Phillies - unlikely, but possible - it should be considered a disappointment, given how close the team is to winning it all. But a failure? Nonsense.