Instapun*** Archive Listing

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October 10, 2009 - October 3, 2009

Friday, July 11, 2008


Some dark nights aren't so easily banished.

DEJA VU. Living in New Jersey isn't bad enough. On top of that you get your TV news from Philadelphia. Most of you outlanders probably don't know what a sordid sleazy soap opera that's become.  Here's what we're getting these days in the City of Brotherly Love:

DeMentri in hot seat over NBC10 incident

By Michael Klein
Inquirer Staff Writer

In another apparent feud between Philadelphia news anchors, NBC10 is investigating Vince DeMentri in an incident involving Lori Delgado...

NBC questioned DeMentri, 44 and a five-year NBC10 employee, on July 3 about the removal of property from the newsroom and vandalism of a car in the station's parking lot in Bala Cynwyd, Leshinski said.

A station source who spoke on the condition of anonymity identified Delgado as the owner of the car, which was scratched by a key. The property, believed to be a handbag and blow dryer, was found elsewhere in the station. Delgado declined to comment yesterday in a phone call...

The NBC10 incident came to light almost six weeks after the FBI raided the home of then-CBS3 anchor Larry Mendte and seized his computer to investigate whether he read the e-mails of onetime colleague Alycia Lane and fed gossip to reporters. The investigation continues, and Mendte's lawyer this week reiterated that Mendte was cooperating.

DeMentri, known as an aggressive reporter, was suspended in 2006 after a newsroom confrontation with colleague Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz, who had chided DeMentri on the air for wading into floodwaters during a weather story.

While at WCBS in New York in the days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, DeMentri was detained and given a misdemeanor summons for wearing a hat issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which gained him access to an area off-limits to reporters. He apologized.

I once lived in Dayton, Ohio, where the weatherman was always right and the Big Story of the day was yet another one-car accident on Route 70. The next story was usually about a sale on snowblowers. Ah, Dayton. It rings a deep Philadelphia bell. But you'll have to do some work to make it ring for you...

What's really disturbing is that most people in Philadelphia aren't what you'd call good looking. In fact, being beautiful in Philadelphia can get you into a whole heap of trouble. Sad but true. This whole NBC10 grungefest got started with an anchor named Alycia Lane whose appearance pinned the needle on the looks meter of local Philly news programming.

Alycia Lane

She never did seem at home in the city of cheese steaks and the Wing Bowl. And apparently she wasn't. Pathetically, Alycia's become a kickball for the disgusting creeps at Yeah, we know she probably deserved to lose her job for her freakout in NYC. But the comet tail of follow-on garbage seems excessive. Who wants to hear about Larry Mendte digging through her emails or the ancillary crimes uncovered by FBI clerks sniffing in her wake? But that's how things things go in a city where absolutely everybody hates everybody else for every reason under the sun.

No wonder the only person worth admiring in Philadelphia history since Benjamin Franklin is Mike Schmidt

Don't know who he is? Well, then, shame on you, too. The greatest third baseman in the history of baseball. Alycia would probably have gone after him, maybe even stalked him, but he's as upright as Aeneas. He still doesn't know what a superstar he was. (Dayton.) Maybe she'll find someone worth hooking up with at Channel in Butte, Montana. Can't say the same for Larry Mendte or Vince Dementri. Wherever they go, they'll never find redemption unless they take Howard Eskin with them.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Biraq O'Bama

If you have a head like a potato, you'd better like Irish dancing.

WE HAVE A LONG LONG TIME. We just love the guy. Never figured everybody else would have so much trouble figuring out that he's a Chicago Irish politician, just like all the Daleys. Say what you have to. Say what they want to hear. Say anything. But never stop dancing. The world has long needed an heir to Teddy Kennedy, a younger master of the art of beiing rich and well connected while condemning everyone who does actual work.

Now we have him. Aren't you happy? I know I am. There's nothing better in life than being lectured about how we're supposed to be by people who have never accomplished a damn thing but getting elected to the public trough.

Yeah, take a look at the graphic above. It's not really a joke. O'Bama will dance to any tune they play until you elect him. Then he'll kick your butt all the way to Stalinism. Same steps. Slightly different music.

But I'm sure a very few of you also like Shostakovich. He'll make a poignant soundtrack for the decline and ruin of man. And O'Bama will turn it into a jig on our graves if I'm any judge. Cause he can DANCE!

Ticks. On a Plane.

THE HORROR. Creepy. But apparently true.

A Des Moines bound United Airlines flight from Denver was delayed six hours Tuesday when passengers alerted flight attendants to three ticks in the plane’s cabin.

“It is an unusual situation to find ticks on the plane, and we regret any inconvenience this might have caused our customers,” United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

How the wayward arachnids got on the jet had not been determined. A replacement aircraft shuttled the 107 passengers to Des Moines while Flight 1178 was deticked and checked.

Urbanski said no ticks were found on passengers.

Thank God nobody was killed.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's Venus Again!

Lighting up Old England.

JULY 4, PART 2. Since I'm the one who writes most of the sports coverage here, I notice more than the other IP bloggers that our earnest regular commenters seem to regard sports as mostly beneath comment, mere persiflage. But it's more than that. Today is a case in point. Many years, I find it ironic that the climax of Wimbledon coincides with Independence Day, but there are also multiple exceptions. Of late, Venus Williams (scroll down) has been responsible for all the exceptions, as she was today with her sister Serena, in a magnificent women's final that had a profound American resonance on several levels.

For example, leave it to the Europeans to misconstrue individual achievement by people within the same family as some kind of sinister and clandestine fix. Here's the reportage from the Brit newspaper The Independent:

Dementieva reopens row over
Williams’ final arrangements

For a while it was the talk of tennis. Did the Williams family have agreements over who would win when Serena and Venus played each other? The family always denied it and the controversy all but died when Serena started to get the better of her elder sister on a regular basis, but it reopened here yesterday when Elena Dementieva, looking ahead to tomorrow's all-Williams final, said: "For sure it's going to be a family decision."

The family always denied it and the controversy all but died when Serena started to get the better of her elder sister on a regular basis, but it reopened here yesterday when Elena Dementieva, looking ahead to tomorrow's all-Williams final, said: "For sure it's going to be a family decision." The Women's Tennis Association later issued a statement by Dementieva attempting to clarify her comments, but the damage was done.

I can understand. The Russians are congenitally and historically paranoid. They have their reasons. For them the fix is always in, and when they're speaking of their own country and countrymen, they're right. They traded the czars for the Soviet Central Committee, and all that changed was that the death toll increased. Now they are watching passively, as always, while their democratic president Putin systematically eliminates both democracy and personal rivals on his way to becoming the first popularly elected (but equally omnipotent) czar. The Brits are the perfect audience for such charges, because they, too, are used to fixes as part of the imperial tradition of aristocratic families who stage-manage the lives of their sons, daughters, vassals, and subjects.

What they have in common is that neither understands the American Way. The match the Williams sisters played today was a slam-dunk rebuttal of whiny Euro cynicism. Venus and Serena battled one another so passionately in individual points and games of such back-and-forth brilliance that even the most devoted dupe of Dementieva's demented conspiracy theory would have had to concede -- perhaps on the seventh deuce of game three in the second set -- that what elevated both sisters above their vanquished competition was how fiercely they wanted to win, a desire that was only heightened when they went toe-to-toe with each other. They were sisters before the match and, obviously and gracefully, afterwards, but not during. For two sets they were pure combatants.

Maybe it's wrong to use a boxing image like 'toe-to-toe' in an event of women's tennis, but that's another American aspect of this contest. To the rest of the world they may have been on a grass court, but to Americans they were indisputably 'in the ring.' It was, for us cowboy dolts, a heavyweight title fight with echoes of other great pugilistic duels. For example, Venus and Serena may be sisters, but they couldn't be more dissimilar in body type and overall aspect. With my long low-palate memory, I couldn't help being reminded of Ali versus Foreman. Venus is built like a greyhound, a slender and long-legged package of speed and almost fragile-looking keenness. Serena is muscular and deadly, an intimidating slugger who can hammer the opposition into early surrender. And that's how she started. She won nine of the first ten points, including an initial service break and a commanding first game of her own serve before Venus rallied and started showing off her dazzling quickness and even more dazzling improvisational skills. There was a key point in the first set when Venus went to the net and Serena blasted a power shot directly at her sister -- a clear bid at overwhelming Venus with a show of force -- which the greyhound's lightning reactions returned for a winner.

The match, ironically, was decided by a game Venus ultimately lost, on her own serve no less. She fell behind and then survived break point after break point, even scoring an ace on a second serve, but to no avail. Serena won the game and it seemed the momentum had shifted inevitably her way, but... No. Like Foreman, Serena had punched herself out. Venus immediately broke back on Serena's serve and cruised from there to victory. She had endured the knockout onslaught and, like Ali, she knew how to take a punch and counterattack with crushing authority.

That was the second level of American exceptionalism on display. Venus and Serena are sisters but not dynastic clones like we'd see in the Old World. Their games are different, and while their fire is equivalent, their matches are not like some predictable chess game between two near-identical peas in a generic old-school pod. They weren't trying to out-think, out-guess, out-smart the other. They were beautifully and fluidly in the moment, playing tennis against the best player either could imagine facing on the lawns of Wimbledon.

Best Vs. Best

Photos courtesy of Reuters.

The post-game interviews confirmed what may sound like jingoistic inference. While the commentators had dwelt on the history of their previous confrontations, both sisters dismissed the possibility that the past played any role in the match. Venus was forthright in declaring that she avoided thinking about anything but the next serve and the next return. She wasn't acting out some ritual of family tradition but focusing on a single match for a fifth Wimbledon Championship. Which she won.

And then there was the final level of American competitive finery. In past years, a Venus victory at Wimbledon has resulted in a display of joy so utter and childlike that it almost transcends the match highlights. Not today. At the instant her final stroke ensured victory, Venus became Serena's big sister again and her celebration was a study in muted, gracious triumph. Serena's response was equally praiseworthy. She made no excuses, expressed no regrets, and omitted any mention of an awkward officiating moment which, due to her own good sportsmanship, cost her a gigantic set point. (When it occurred, a commentator volunteered that neither Williams sister had ever claimed a point she didn't earn fair and square. No record as to whether John McEnroe blushed...)

I admit it. I love the Williams sisters, both of them. Their designer lines of clothing, their ups and downs in competition, their increasingly unflappable politesse in the context of a world press that both adores and resents them, their fiery streaks of brilliance on the court. But most of all I love those incandescent smiles, which light up the world for a moment and make all the sniping and second-guessing look as petty as it is. They're an epitome of the American oxymoron -- unbridled competition existing side-by side with love and compassion in the kind of family most of the world regards with envy and resentment. The Williams sisters are pretty much an archetype of who we are as a people. More mature, accomplished, and admirable than all the ones who aren't in the finals would like to believe.

But go ahead. Tell me sports are a waste of time and not worth a blog at InstaPunk. I'm sure The Boss will be along shortly to say something important about Nietzche. Any minute now.

I probably won't be there, though. I'll be watching the Williams sisters in the Wimbledon doubles finals, partners again, like, uh, forget it...

P.S. Since it's also in my nature to criticize sports administration, I'll add another two unwelcome cents. I'm tired of seeing all the bouquets tossed by the sports commentariat to Billy Jean King and Martyna Navratilova for extorting equal prize money from Wimbledon for the female competitors. No, I don't disagree that women should get equal prize money. But I do think they should play best-of-five rather than best-of-three sets unless what they're really after is greater-than-equal prize money. Which is what they have at the moment. The best-of-three format dates back to a time when women were regarded as weak and inferior. Anyone who saw the Williams collision knows they could have played five sets today -- and maybe should have. All you women who want equality: What say we actually try equality? Too radical a thought? Probably. Especially if what you have in mind is tacit superiority. But, hey. I'm a sports fan. Which makes me a kind of idealist. Think about it.

UPDATE.  A day later. Now we've had one of the best Wimbledon men's finals ever. A five set nailbiter that lasted literally all day. The young lion Nadal finally deposed the five-year champion Federer after a gruelling struggle in which both had a reason to quit multiple times. Neither did. The outcome was not clear until the final point had been decided in the 16th game of the fifth set. Bad boy John McEnroe pronounced it the greatest Wimbledon final he had ever seen or been party to, which given his own history, is saying something. But he was right. The match was spectacular and magnificent -- even for American chauvinists like me. Interesting that when you make the adjustments for actual playing time, Nadal and Federer made less than half what the Williams sisters did. I'm not trying to take away from what Venus and Serena did, but what we saw today was men's tennis, meaning the best tennis in the world, and maybe the best tennis in history. Why should it be worth 40 to 45 cents on the dollar compared to the women's game? And, btw, does the LPGA play only 12 holes of golf per round?

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