Friday, June 30, 2006


Mets in a funk

Three losses in Boston and 1 at Yankee Stadium are enough to get Met fans grumbling again. If they're so good, why can't they beat the AL East's best? Well, the Red Sox were hot, and the Yankees are the Yankees. It's just how the Mets are losing which is cause for concern. They've stopped hitting, are getting picked off bases and have made some bad errors (mostly Lastings Milledge's flubs at Fenway). The team's MVP David Wright struck out 3 times against the Yankess, who 1-hit them en route to a 2-0 shutout. No matter how improved the Mets are, they still remind you of the old Mets who couldn't put tough teams away.

Sure, they're 10.5 games ahead of the Marlins, and look like they'll cruise into the playoffs. But never be too sure. Pedro Martinez isn't pitching well, Tom Glavine is 40 years old and injuries (Carlos Delgado, Xavier Nady) keep hampering the lineup. "El Duque" Hernandez delivered 7 solid innings tonight, but he's been inconsistent. So has 5th starter, Alay Soler. Let's not even consider how Billy Wagner, who's already blown 4 saves, will perform down the stretch and in the playoffs.

The Mets still have a lot to prove. They can start by immediately snapping their 4-game losing streak tomorrow against Randy Johnson and the Yankees.

Bonghitters trek to Long Island
Billboard magazine usually challenges the Bonghitters to a double-header around 9/11. Tomorrow, the Bonghitters hit the road - actually, the Long Island Expressway - for an impromptu afternoon of ball, beer, BBQ and buds vs. Billboard in East Moriches. Wish us luck!



Bonghitters sprayed out

Yesterday, the Bonghitters were supposed to play Wall St. Journal in what promised to be a highly-competitive grudge match. Last year, WSJ tweaked High Times on, calling the Bonghitters "morons" and claiming that each game is treated like an "idealogical battle." On the contrary, HT's main complaint with WSJ has been their refusal to play women on several occasions in what are supposed to be co-ed games.

Anyway, at 12:30 pm, Bonghitters 2B Danny Danko called to say he'd heard from a reliable source that the Parks Department was closing the Great Lawn in Central Park for pesticide spraying. I hurriedly contacted the department and confirmed the rumor. They said they'd left a message on the High Times voicemail at 9:30 am. That's the amount of advance notice we received. So the much-awaited contest had to be cancelled.

It turned out that by gametime the rains had come, drenching New York. So the Parks Department saved us a very wet trip to the park yesterday. By the way, WSJ had promised to play at least 2 women. We'll face them on their field on Saturday, August 12, 11 am start (wake & bake, Bonghitters!).

So a group of Bonghitters got together last night to watch the Mets-Red Sox game at the decidedly Boston-friendly bar, the Riviera, in the West Village. The Mets couldn't stop the rampaging Bosox, who won 4-2, extending their winning streak to 12. Not even several rally joints could help the reeling, but still way-in-first-place (by 11 games) Mets. They travel to Yankee Stadium for a subway series, beginning tonight.

The Bonghitters' next game is a rematch against Vanity Fair on Thursday, July 6. The Bonghitters are 6-0.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


My review of Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint's 'River in Reverse' in Cleveland Scene

Since I began freelancing regularly - in addition to my editor-at-large gig at High Times - I've been in contact with numerous editors. One of them is Chris Parker, music editor of the alternative-weekly Cleveland Scene. Chris wrote many stories for High Times when I was editor and senior editor, and he's returned the favor lately with several assignments.

My first review published in Cleveland Scene is of The River in Reverse - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint's brilliant collaboration. Click here to read my review. It's my favorite album of the year so far.

My next review is of Guster's Ganging Up on the Sun - another terrific album. It will appear in an upcoming issue and online as well. I'm also scheduled to interview VH1's Supergroup singer Sebastian Bach for Cleveland Scene.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Rick Cusick, auctioneer

To most people, Rick Cusick is the associate publisher of High Times, and the magazine's longtime former ad director. (He was also co-editor with Dave Bienenstock and myself for 17 issues in 2005 and 2006.) But to Marijuana Policy Project and NORML supporters, Cusick may best be known as the hardest-working auctioneer in the drug-policy business.

At MPP's last two awards shows in New York (earlier this month) and Los Angeles (last year), he served as the events' mouth du jour. Midway during both programs, Cusick took to the stage, where he preceded to coax big bucks out of attendees, who'd already paid handsomely to be there in the first place.

"Rick did such a fantastic job at our Los Angeles awards gala in 2005 that we asked him to join us again in New York for MPP's 2006 awards gala on June 12," explains Stephanie Vogel, MPP's Director of Grants and Outreach, and the main coordinator of both events.

"He has a unique combination of enthusiasm for the cause and a knack for knowing what qualities of our auction items really appeal to our guests. With Rick calling the auction, MPP - known for its ultra-professional approach - can let its hair down, so to speak, while our pony-tailed auctioneer has some fun with the crowd."

Among the items the fast-talking Cusick has auctioned off are original Doonesbury and Alex Grey artwork; a Weeds script signed by the cast, writers and producers; trips to Hawaii and a retreat center near Santa Barbara; a medical-marijuana canister from federal patient Irv Rosenfeld; and handmade designer clothing from Sanni Diesner Atelier. Vogel says Cusick's well-timed pitches have earned more than $15,000 for the MPP Foundation.

Cusick has also auctioned at the last two NORML conferences in San Franciso. One of the highly-sought items was a Volcano Vaporizer, which went for $500. He's helped raise $12,000 for NORML. You can hear Cusick on stage at the Boston Freedom Rally and Seattle Hempfest, where he's been the main MC as well.

Anyone who knows him - such as High Times staffers, friends and his darling daughter Dylan - can attest to Cusick's enduring gift of gab. This has translated into raising money for a worthy cause, something more people should do.


Monday, June 26, 2006


My World Cup runneth over

My latest writing gig is with Manhattan Media's new weekly Our Town/Downtown. The 6th issue - available for free in sleek black boxes mostly south of 23 St. - features an op-ed column by yours truly. Last week, executive editor Bill Gunlocke sent me the following email:

"Got anything in you about the Cup and U.S. losing, maybe with Heat and Mets?"

Here's what I came up with:

My World Cup Runneth Over

Soccer vs. baseball? Sorry – it’s no competition.

Every four years Americans get into soccer. Or are forced to get into soccer. The World Cup is such a big hype that sports fans have no choice but to pay attention.
Now that the US is out of the Cup after losing two games, tying one and scoring just two goals (one was kicked in by an opposing player), I suppose we can care less. It’s between the European (Germany, Portugal, England, the Netherlands, Spain) and South American (Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador) soccer powers now.

I’ve been having on ongoing argument with a friend about soccer. I call it boring. She claims otherwise and accuses baseball – my favorite sport – of being way more boring than soccer. She’s been to Brazil and Argentina, so she’s rooting for those teams. Perhaps if I’ve experienced soccer culture in Sud America I’d have a different opinion.

I’ve experienced European soccer fanaticism during my frequent visits to the Netherlands. There’s nothing like hanging out in a coffee shop smoking pot and hash, drinking Heineken on tap and listening to fans scream like hooligans during a good match.

But it still doesn’t make me want to sit at home for hours during the World Cup waiting for teams to score infrequent goals. My friend says baseball is similar, especially a 2-1 game. True, but what about 8-5 games? That doesn’t happen in soccer. We agreed that soccer and hockey probably have more in common. But I don’t like hockey either.

Baseball may be my thing, but I like basketball too. I particularly enjoyed the recent playoffs that resulted in a first-time champion in the Miami Heat. One player, Dwyane Wade, fully dominated the NBA finals series like Michael Jordan did during his amazing championship run with the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s. I don’t see one player having that kind of impact in soccer (except for Brazil’s Ronaldinho). It’s a team game, not a platform for superstars. That may be more egalitarian, but it doesn’t translate into thrilling TV watching.

Right now, for me, it’s all about the Mets. They have their best team in 20 years, which happened to be the last time they won the World Series. They’ve built a powerhouse comprised of mostly Hispanic players. As I write this, they lead the NL East by an astounding nine and a half games. Four starters – David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca – plus pitching ace Tom Glavine appear to be ticketed for the All-Star Game on July 11 in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, cross-town rivals the Yankees may be struggling with injuries and a depleted rotation, but still remain in a pitched first-place battle with Red Sox, who the Mets infamously defeated in ’86 World Series and play this week in Boston.

I don’t expect Subway Series 2, though I do think the Mets could be this year’s Chicago White Sox – build a big early-season lead, coast through the summer, hold on in September as an unlikely team (Marlins, Nationals?) gives them a scare, then charge into the playoffs with the kind of momentum that can take them all the way.

No such luck for the US soccer squad, which I guess is OK with me. Now I can get back to baseball, without any distractions.


Saturday, June 24, 2006


All you need is Love

"This is a night of Love," radio jock/host Ken Dashow repeated at regular intervals last night at New York's Beacon Theater benefit concert for ailing psychedelic rocker Arthur Lee. "Lee," Dashow added, "elevated the California sound."

Arthur Lee may be obscure to most, but his impact has long been felt on musicians and fans in the know. The Memphis-born guitarist and his seminal band were part of the mid-'60s L.A. rock explosion. Love's sole hit, "Seven and Seven Is," dented the charts in 1966. Combining prog elements to form a distinctly orchestral-flavored pop, Love joined fellow L.A. scenesters the Doors, the Byrds, Buffalo Springsteen and the Mamas and the Papas in a musical revolution that still resonates today.

Unfortunately, Lee has had his troubles over the years, and now the 61-year-old singer is suffering from leukemia. Hence, the benefit, organized by New York promoter Steve Weitzman. It took four hours for headliner Robert Plant to hit the stage, but the preceding bands - in varying short sets - steadily built a wave that Plant would climb aboard and ride until the concert's early-morning ending.

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals deserved second billing with a spunky alt-country, half-hour 5-song set. Just as they were being introduced, Dashow joked to the baby-boomer crowd to "not eat the brown acid," to which Adams replied, "But the green stuff is OK." The Cardinals - who I saw open for Willie Nelson at the same theater last year - were better than OK, as Adams' laconic vocals and Neil Young-inspired guitar jams impressed many in the crowd who'd never heard of them.

More of a leftfield choice were noise-rockers Yo la Tengo, who managed to cram 4 songs - including the garage-y "Luci Baines," by Lee's first band, the American Four - into 18 tight minutes. "We usually do 4 songs in an hour," guitarist Ira Kaplan quipped. Kaplan, by the way, named his band after a phrase used by the original 1962 Mets ("I've got it!"). Kaplan and I both started our careers writing for the Soho Weekly News in the late-'70s, but that's a story I'll get into another time.

E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren offered an even shorter set, but he made the most of it with covers of Love's signature dream-pop minor hit "Alone Again Or" and a nod to his sometime boss, Bruce Springsteen, on Patti Smith's "Because the Night."

The other major headliner, Ian Hunter, swaggered on stage looking like he'd just stepped out of the classic-rock prop closet. This Rod Stewart clone is most famously known for his band Mott the Hoople and their anthemic 1972 hit, "All the Young Dudes" (written by David Bowie), which he performed to the crowd's delight. "All the young dudes, carry the news," they swayed and sang along. "Boogaloo dudes, carry the news."

Speaking of swagger, five minutes past midnight King Robert of Plant bolted onto the stage, wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans, his wavy blonde hair as long as ever. Like Mick Jagger, Plant hasn't gained a pound over the years, and he still, thankfully, can sing with the very best of them. Indeed, Plant is among the great rock vocalists of all time, counting on one hand.

Performing with the house band - of which he said, "I've never played with Americans before - it's liberating" - Plant mixed Led Zeppelin classics with Love originals in a memorable 70-minute set. Fans of Led Zeppelin II - such as myself - were treated to solid versions of "What Is and What Should Never Be," "Ramble On" and the show-closing "Thank You." They performed "Seven and Seven Is," "The Old Man," "Hey Joe" and several other Love tunes, with the band's original guitarist Johnny Echols sitting in.

The most comical moment of the night occurred when Plant called for Hunter to join him on stage. Hunter, who's he'd never sung with, was nowhere to be found. But during "For What It's Worth," he strolled out with a guitar, and then they dueted on the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved." It was that kind of night - fun, purposeful and pretty much on the fly.

Make a donation to the Arthur Lee Tribute Fund

This review is also available at

Friday, June 23, 2006


My review of 'Waist Deep' @

Check out my review (below) of Vondie Curtis Hall's Waist Deep, starring Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good and The Game. The film opens nationwide today.

Vondie Curtis Hall’s attempt at a black Bonnie and Clyde — Arthur Penn’s 1967 classic is referenced in the production notes and mentioned by a gas-station attendant in the film — fails on numerous counts: 1) Coco (Good), the “Bonnie” character, is just too stunning to be believed as a street hustler; 2) Bonnie and Clyde didn't involve a kidnapped child; and 3) O2 (Gibson), the “Clyde” character, has no sexual inadequacies.

O2 and Coco meet during a carjacking in South Central L.A. Soon they’re on a mission to score 100 G’s to pay the ransom for O2’s kid. They rip off ’hood spots and banks (the most obvious parallel to Bonnie and Clyde and the film’s highlights), and fall for each other before the climactic showdown with Meat (The Game as an ominous one-eyed gangsta). Judging by the audience’s reaction at the screening, you’ll be howling with laughter during the ludicrous finale.

Rating: LL


Mediabistro's 'Endless Summer' roundup

Dylan Shackleford, managing editor of, sent a survey to numberous media professionals such as myself asking the following questions:

1) what's the biggest media story of the summer? and 2) what are we doing for the summer? The first installment of what he's calling Endless Summer Media Preview appeared in yesterday's FishbowlNY. The journos and flacks included Gawker's Jesse Oxfeld and Jesica Coen, the New York Post's Keith J. Kelly, Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar, fellow Met fan Drew Kerr and disgraced "Page Six" gossip columnist Jared Paul Stern. (His top media story? "My own, of course.")

Here's what I had to say:

Summer media story: My top media story of the summer has to be the Mets. In a nod to their last great team — the 1986 Mets — they're running away with the NL East division. And it's only June! When the Mets win, the media follows. Will the Mets be this year's White Sox? We've got all summer to watch and figure it out.

Summer plans: I tend not to travel much during the summer. I'll sweat it out at home in New York. I'll probably head out to the Hamptons once or twice and make a few other visits to closer beaches. I plan to attend the Gathering of the Vibes festival in upstate New York. I'll be glued to the tube following the Mets and may even attend a few games at Shea.


Larry Brown, Robert Altman, the Mets & the World Cup

Here are a few news stories that have caught my attention over the last few days:

Knicks can Larry Brown
It's really a shame that the 2nd-worst team in the NBA chose to blame their abominable 2005-2006 season (just 23 wins) on Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown rather than on Hall of Fame player Isiah Thomas, the team's GM. When Brown was hired last summer, he immediately started making noise about Thomas' roster, which consists of high-paid offensive players. Brown believes in defense and team play. So as the Knicks' season began to bottom out last November and December, Brown got into a highly-public feud with star guard Stephon Marbury, who Thomas had traded for 2 years earlier. Marbury's a shooter, not a defensive player. Brown and Marbury didn't get along when Brown coached him on the 2004 Olympic team, which failed to score a medal. The seeds were clearly sown early on that Brown's voice and wishes would not be heard when it came to recasting the team with role players he could work with. Brown lost the power struggle yesterday as the Knicks fired him after just one season - despite them owing him $30 million for the next 3 season he won't coach. Don't cry for Brown, I suppose. But Knick fans can't be too happy as Thomas takes over the coaching reins. Now it's his team to win or lose with. The Knicks can't be any worse than they were under Brown. PHOTO OF LARRY BROWN & ISIAH THOMAS COURTESY OF IT.SPORTS.YAHOO.COM

Robert Altman on weed
Moviedom's most prolific director loves marijuana. He's gone on record numerous times (though never in High Times) about his predilection for pot. The 81-year-old auteur, who's curent movie is A Prairie Home Companion, told the Daily News' Rush & Molloy gossip snarks that since having a heart transplant he's increased his marijuana use. "I even have a prescription for marijuana pills," he further acknowledged, referring to the FDA-approved synthetic THC elixir, Marinol. If Altman will attend, we'll gladly honor him with a Stony Achievement award at the 6th Annual High Times Stony Awards on September 19 at BB King's in New York. ILLUSTRATION BY ROY BLUMENTHAL

Mets split series with Reds
Pedro Martinez won his 7th game and David Wright belted 2 more HRs in yesterday's 6-2 Met victory over the pesky Reds. On Wednesday, Jose Reyes hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, HR), but Billy Wagner blew the save (his 4th) and lost the game (his 1st). Now the Mets (45-27) embark on an extended tour of AL East cities, starting tonight in Toronto, as Tom Glavine will attempt to become MLB's 1st 11-game winner. Then they travel to Boston and back to New York next weekend for 3 games at Yankee Stadium. Should be interesting...

US bows out of World Cup
Don't expect a boom in soccer interest with the US' early departure from the highly competitive World Cup. Yesterday's 2-1 loss to Ghana capped a disappointing 3-game opening round series which saw the US lose twice, tie once (to Italy) and score just two goals (one was kicked in by an opposing player). Now that the 64 teams have been reduced to 16, the front runners are clearer: Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. One of those 6 teams should win it all. I'll leave it to soccer experts to make predictions, though Brazil looked rather formidible yesterday defeating Japan, 4-1. You have to love a team whose every player's last name ends with the letter "o" - as in superstar Ronaldinho. PHOTO OF RONALDINHO BY MAURISICO


Bonghitters on a roll

The slugging stoners - High Times' Bonghitters - scored 11 runs in the first 2 innings en route to a 17-12 victory over the DC Comics Bullets in a Central Park media-softball match yesterday. Before the game, the teams' respective coaches swapped magazines: the August issue of High Times with a Penthouse model on the cover and the July issue of Mad with Alfred E. Newman being flattened by a car.

The non- umpired game appeared to be a rout when the Bonghitters - mimicking the Mets - stormed to a 6-0 1st- inning lead, with 5 consecutive hits to start the game. They tagged on another 5 runs in the 2nd, mostly on singles. The big lead and the hot, sandy conditions resulted in the Bonghitters faltering and allowing DC to climb back into the game, scoring 12 runs in the last 3 innings. DC batted around in the 5th, sending 13 hitters to the plate and tallying 8 runs - the biggest inning against the Bonghitters all season.

With another game ready to start a 7 pm, the contest had to be called after 6 innings. Who knows what would've happened had the game gone the usual 7 innings, DC having grabbed the momentum. An umpire would've sped up the game, but DC - the home team - chose not to hire one. When told that the High Times umpire was available, DC's coach Joel Press commented, "We don't like your umpire."

The Bonghitters are 7-2-2 lifetime vs. the Bullets, going back to 1994. They've won the last 6 games in a row. DC will get another chance to break that streak when the teams meet for a rematch on High Times' home field on August 3.

The Bonghitters are 6-0 in the 2006 media-softball season. Their next game is on June 29 vs. Wall Street Journal.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Heat in 6!

On June 4, I wrote: "Despite being the away team, I'll go out on a limb and predict Miami will win the NBA finals. Shaquille O'Neal will neutralize Nowitski inside [though they'll have to figure out how to stop him from beyond the 3-point line] and Dwyane Wade is better than the Dallas backcourt combined. Plus, Miami coach Pat Riley has been there 8 times more than Dallas rookie Avery Johnson. The Heat in 6."

How right I was. Wade dominated the series - which the Heat won in six games, as I predicted - and was named the NBA Finals MVP. He scorched the Mavs from Game 3 on, and averaged 34 points in the series. In last night's 95-92 finale, Wade's 36 points were the difference. It was truly Wade's World, as reported.

I knew Wade was good, but not necessarily this good. His dominating finals performance rivals Michael Jordan's heroics in the '90s. Even with Shaquille O'Neal in a lesser role, his huge body in the middle was enough to thwart Mavs' 7-footer Dirk Nowitski. And, of course, Pat Riley was the series' x-factor. When you've won the NBA title as many times as he had (4 times in LA), you have to give his team the edge.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Odds & sods

* Tonight, the Miami Heat aim to win their first NBA title. Game 6 will be played in Dallas (9 pm start on ABC). The Heat lead the series, 3-2.

For the Mavs to force a Game 7, they have to find a way to stop Dwyane Wade, who scored 42, 36 and 43 points in the Heat's 3 home victories. If the Heat win, then you heard it here first at Blooming Ideas. I predicted "The Heat in 6" on June 4.

* Since being anointed the best team in the NL, if not all of baseball last week, the Mets have dropped 3 out 4 games at home. Last night they lost to the Reds, whose ace Bronson Arroyo (9-3) tossed a complete- game 7-hitter. Tonight's match-up: Steve Trachsel (4-4) vs. Elizardo Ramirez (2-5).

Right now, 4 Mets starters are leading in the All-Star voting: David Wright (3B), Jose Reyes (SS), Carlos Beltran (OF) and Paul Lo Duca (C). Carlos Delgado is 2nd to Albert Puljos in 1B voting.

In additional Mets news, they're considering signing Edgardo Alfonzo, who was dropped by the Blue Jays after being traded by the Angels. For more on "Fonzie," see my post, "Bring me the head of Edgardo Alfonzo" (May 26).

* Is it just me or has Entourage gotten off to an incredibly boring start to the new season? I mean, who cares about Aquaman? A blackout in LA with Vince mimicking Almost Famous? C'mon. Weak. Even Jeremy Piven's not funny. What gives? Maybe the show has already peaked.

* Former Yankee reliever Steve Karsay has retired. Karsay, who has a bad shoulder, had been in the A's bullpen. Now that he's retired, I can tell you that Karsay is a pot smoker who on numerous occasions over the last year contacted myself and High Times seeking out marijuana. He attended the 5th Annual Stony Awards in September. I wish Karsay the best of luck in whatever he chooses to do outside of baseball. Perhaps he could start by making a donation to NORML.

* Hilton Ruiz's family has filed a suit against Club Utopia in New Orleans. On May 19, the jazz pianist was found lying in a pool of blood outside the club. He died on June 6. The family claims that Ruiz was attacked and beaten in the club and that the bouncers failed to protect him. "We are very confident there are people out there who are aware of what happened to Mr. Ruiz in that club in the early hours of May 19," the Ruiz family's attorney Scott Galante commented. For more on Ruiz, see my post, "Hilton Ruiz - 1952-2006" (June 6).

* After a 2-week layoff, the Bonghitters will return to Central Park on Thursday to play DC Comics. The Slugging Stoners are 5-0.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Phil's friendly Bonnaroo finale

Phil Lesh had his usual rhythm section (keyboardist Rob Barraco and drummer John Molo) and singer (Joan Osborne) on hand for the Bonnaroo finale last night. The "friends" were guitarists Larry Campbell and John Scofield. A veteran of Bob Dylan's band, Campbell more than held his own, especially on the band's cover of "All Along the Watchtower." Scofield, noted for his work with Miles Davis, was more subdued and made less of an overall impact.

The first set blistered with nods to the Grateful Dead's country-rock roots - "Uncle John's Band" and "Cumberland Blues" from Workingman's Dead. "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire on the Mountain," "Watchtower," and "I Know Your Rider" ended the set as the weekend's first and only rain shower sent people scurrying for cover. The second set lost a lot of steam during the lengthy "Space" section after a solid start ("Shakedown Street," "New Speedway Boogie"). "Not Fade Away," "In the Midnight Hour," "Franklin's Tower" and the appropriate "Box of Rain" closed out the 5th Annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

I'm writing this from home. I had an early flight out of Nashville this morning. Just as I was getting used to sleeping on the ground and in a tent again, I woke up with a start at 5 am. After breaking down my camp, I was on the road. A stop at Waffle House for cheesy eggs, smothered hash browns and sweet tea was just the right breakfast fuel for me as I raced north on I-24 to the airport.

I still have my turquoise "guest" and blue "media" bracelets circling my right wrist. The second I cut them loose MyBonnaroo will be officially over for another year. Snip - that's one. Snip - that's two. Can't wait until next year.

* Watch the High Times "potcast" from Bonnaroo - starring Bean and Danny Danko, and filmed by Aaron Strebs.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Bonnaroo reconsidered

With Bonnie Raitt finishing up her set ("Bad Case of Lovin' You") on the Which stage, Phil Lesh & Friends are the last band to go at Bonnaroo 2006. They have the final set, starting at 8:30 pm. It's still unclear who Phil's "friends" are tonight (my guess is Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon and the Benevento-Russo Duo - the same group he played with late last night at the "Super Jam").

Just an hour ago, I was sitting at a picnic table watching Sonic Youth bring the noise when none other than Lesh drove up in a golf cart (he had a driver) with several friends (perhaps his wife) and sat there for a few minutes. I imagined Phil riding around all day. checking out his favorite bands or hot new ones he's been wanting to see. That's a great way to see Bonnaroo - unfortunately, we all don't have chaffeur-driven golf carts at our disposal.

I stopped complaining today and made sure I saw everything I wanted to see - and more. Brothers Past opened the Which stage (there are 5 main stages that overlap bands) with some compelling guitar rock. I caught at least 10-15 minutess of Soulive (funky jazz), the Refugee Allstars (reggae/high life from Sierra Leone), the Streets (UK hip-hop), Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (jazz-grass), Matisyahu (the Jewish reggae star drew the biggest crowd today), Steve Earle (earnest singer-songwriter, solo), Sonic Youth (experimental grunge), moe. (seasoned jam-band rhythmists) and finally Bonnie Raitt (the one, the only slide-guitar diva with the golden pipes).

Earlier in the day, Raitt sat for an interview on the Solar Stage in Planet Roo. "Let's focus on the wind and sun [for energy]," she told the eco-conscious crowd. "Festivals like these give [these issues] a lot of press." She praised other activist-oriented artists like "Little Steven" Van Zandt ("he's a powerhouse") and Bono. On the fly, she laughed, "Bono - Roo!"

Bonnaroo can be hard to get a handle on. Do you get up early and wear yourself out for the late sets? Do you hit all the stages? When should you take a break to eat? Do you have time to stop at any of the smaller tents? How do you fit it all in? Do you even have time to hang out with friends? So then, Bonnaroo is more or less what you make it. When you're stage-hopping, do them in order so you don't have to keep criss-crossing the crowded field. Stick with bands generally no more than 30 minutes, though 10 to 15 is more advisable. Keep moving and drinking liquids (the less beer the better). Eat a slice of pizza. That's pretty safe. Have a smoothie. Skip the press conference (like I did today) if you have to. Had I been in the press tent, I wouldn't have known about the Bonnie Raitt interview (my friend Ed, whose company Sundance Solar is set up in Planet Roo, tipped me off).

Musically, all the bands of course are quite good; they wouldn't be selected to play if thery weren't already at a high-quality level. That said, one guest just told me that this year's Bonnaroo "was a schwag lineup," claiming today was the best day. When I doth protest too loudly, he amending his support of today's lineup: "Maybe that's because I'm higher today."

Bonnaroo is shifting musically. It's beyond being a jam-band festival, that's clear. It's closer to Coachella now, making Bonnaroo and Coachella the two premiere 3-day music camp fests in the US. Coachella accomplished that by catering to alternative rockers and electronauts. With the hippie audience its back pocket, Bonnaroo is not so gingerly moving in that direction. Radiohead's performance last night was the biggest indicator of that. This something-for-everyone programming mentality is surely the best way to go. But when you cross-over you do sometimes lose some of the uniqueness that got you there on the first place.

Bonnaroo is hardly afraid of its counterculture roots. It bleeds tie-dye through and through. But it should allow NORML and High Times to have tables at the event. These groups, especially NORML, are notably absent in an evironment that's at least partially sustained by marijuana. Let the pot-leaf flag fly at Bonnaroo.

And feed the press - and then I'll be completely happy!

I hear a roar in the distance for Phil Lesh. First song: "Uncle John's Band." Gotta go...



Dis 'n' dat

Here's what's going on in wacky world of Blooming Ideas:

* The Mets lost 4-2 last night to the Orioles. After their 8-game road winning streak, they've now dropped 2 in a row at home. Ex-Met Kris Benson (8-5) not only bested Pedro Martinez (6-3), but chipped him for a 3rd-inning HR. Tom Glavine goes for his 10th win today at Shea.

* Today is Paul McCartney's 64th birthday, which of course will have Beatles fans humming "When I'm 64." McCartney is going through a tough period with the highly-public break-up of his marriage with second wife Heather Mills.

* The Heat and the Mavs hit the hardwood tonight for Game 5 of the NBA finals - deadlocked at 2 wins apiece. The Heat, still at home, must win this game. Dwyane Wade has emerged as the series' superstar (no surprise) with 42 and 36 points in the last 2 critical Heat victories. Gametime: 9 pm.

* "The Hemperor" Jack Herer is also celebrating a b-day today - his 67th. He's the noted author of the underground weed classic, The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

* The US tied Italy, 1-1, yesterday in World Cup competition. The Americans (0-1-1) will reach the Round of 16 if they defeat Ghana (1-1) on Thursday and if Italy (1-0-1) beats the Czech Republic (1-1). If the US advances, its 2nd-round opponent will likely be five-time WC champion Brazil.

* In Bonnaroo news, last night's "Super Jam" was a Phish reunion of sorts, with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon joined by the Benevento-Russo Duo. They debuted some new material and played a few Trey Band originals, but pulled nothing from the Phish songbook. With Phil Lesh aboard late in the set, they broke out "Casey Jones" and "Goin' Down the Road (Feelin' Bad)"... BTW: B-Roo PR poobah Ken Weinstein called me a "blogging maniac." I love it!

* Lastly, Happy Dad's Day to all those great guys out there - especially to my 79-year-old pops, Lenny!


Bonnaroo morning, 5 am, 6/18

Now I'm blogging in my car in the parking lot, not in the press tent. Wireless computing's a wonderful thing. The signal is light, but works. Sasha's set just ended with Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," the perfect sentiment for an X-ed-up late night/early morning crowd.

It's a little nippy as the sky brightens with soft pastels in the East. Another Bonnaroo morning. I slept through most of the evening acts - Radiohead, "Super Jam," Dr. John. I heard a lot of it though, in my tent. The trudging from stage to stage wears you down. At least it wears down these 51-year-old legs. Plus, after a while, you just want to get away from the crowds. Your campsite is your only respite from the constant noise and streams of people. Generators blare, port-o-john trucks hum and golf carts whiz by, kicking up dust that's everywhere at Bonnaroo.

Food is plentiful, but pretty standard festival grub. They don't feed the press, so I've been on my own. This morning I'll find breakfast at one of the vendors. Last night, I ate tofu stir fry at the Sweet Leaf organic kitchen. Not bad, though the food was kind of cold. I drank beer all day, which made me tired as well.

I'm not sure we need large festivals like this anymore. They're exceptional efforts, but what really is accomplished? They're not spontaneous like the original rock festivals (Woodstock, Altamont). Everything's so carefully and meticulously planned out. People need to create their own community, not have it created for them. Perhaps I'll go to the Rainbow Gathering in a few weeks in Colorado to refresh my memory about self-created community. Bonnaroo is cool, but sure isn't it.

Today's schedule includes: Shooter Jennings (12:30), Soulive (1:45), Sierre Leone's Refugee Allstars (2 pm), Bela Fleck (3 pm), The Streets (3:30), Son Volt (3:45), Matisyahu (4 pm), moe. (5:30), Sonic Youth (6 pm), Bonnie Raitt (6:30) and Phil & Friends (8:30).


Here's wishing Jack Herer a happy and healthy 67th birthday. Herer is notorious for his hemp manifesto, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. After suffering a stroke 5 years ago and open-heart surgery last year, Jack is doing fine. He's a medical-marijuana patient living in Northern California with his lovely wife, Jeannie. Send Jack a birthday message or comment to his MySpace page

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Mid-day report from Bonnaroo - 6/17

First of all, you should know that I'm writing this in virtual darkness. I'm in the air-conditioned press tent, listening to Cypress Hill on the What stage, pecking away in the fading light. There's wireless and electricity in the press tent, but no light to speak of. When the sun sets, you lose all available light. Guess the sun's setting.

It's been a magnificent but trying and sweltering day in Manchester, TN. Early sets by Grace Potter, Magic Numbers and New Orleans' Neville Brothers, the shredding blues guitar of Buddy Guy, the dulcet modern reggae of Damian Marley, the clever hip-hop of Beck are almost lost in Bonanaroo's great mash-up of bands. It's really more about one big collective musical experience rather than the individual contribution of a particular band at Bonnaroo. Perhaps Radiohead can shatter that tonight.

Like most stony musical events, you go with the flow at Bonnaroo. I started out in the campground at noon, headed over to Planet Roo to meet up with my Brazilian friends and the Sundance Solar crew. I left and came back, helped out at the Sundance booth, walked Sundance Ed over to vendor camping, then settled in for the first 45 minutes of Beck's set, which started with "Devil's Haircut" and where I met Shooter Jennings in the guest area with TV star/girlfriend Drea D'Matteo. (Waylon Jennings' son performs tommorow.)

High Times favorites Cypress Hill were next door on the Which stage. It took B-Real to utter the infamous 6 words, "Do you want to get high," to get me out on the concert field and watch hip-hop's premiere pro-pot act once again extoll the virtues of ganja, with a a medley that included "Hits from the Bong" and "Dr. Greenthumb," and B-Real puffing a big fattie on stage and singing, "If you want to legalize the herb/ Everybody say bom-bom-bom."

Back in the chilly press tent (a.k.a, the Igloo), by myself, Cypress Hill went way back to their first hit, "Pigs." "Everybody say 'fuck the pigs,'" B-Real asked and the crowd responded.

Tonight is Radiohead and then the late-night shows: Dr. John/Rebirth Brass Band/Ivan Neville's Dumpstafunk; and, even more anticipated, "Super Jam." Most Bonnaroo attendees have not a clue that Phish alummi Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon will be playing with the Benevento Russo Duo tonight. Gypsy punks the Dresdon Dolls are also on the late-night bill. And starting at 3:30, DJ Sasha will spin 'til dawn.



Bonnaroo morning

This is the only quiet time at Bonnaroo. After the last band ends - Blackalicious at 4:20 am - until music begins all over again at noon. It's quiet as the sun rises. Car stereos have been turned off and 80,000 or so Bonnaroovians are fast asleep in their dome tents. You can hear birds chirp and also the highway in the distance.

I slept through the late-night performances. I was suddenly very tired after Tom Petty's lengthy set, which included a guest appearance by Stevie Nicks. They sang "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." Petty ended with "Gloria." I crawled into my tent and slept until dawn.

Today should be the best of the 3. I'm particularly excited about seeing the Neville Brothers, Damian Marley, Blues Traveler and Cypress Hill. Bonnaroo, of course, is all a-buzz for Radiohead's evening performance. I will not miss the late-night set by Dr. John and the Rebirth Brass Band.


Friday, June 16, 2006


Mid-day report from Bonnaroo - 6/16

I'd have to say I haven't seen as many groups as I'd expected in the first 6 hours of Bonnaroo - the all-purpose 3-day rock festival set smack in the middle of Tennessee, south of Nashville and east of Chattanooga.

After the 11:30 press orientation, I skipped openers Robinella and World Party, but made sure not to miss Brazilian star Seu Jorge. He had the crowd singing and feverishly clapping along to his hip samba. Jorge's band - two acoustic guitars and two hand drummers - is a marvel as well.

Hungry, I repaired to camp and fixed a cheese sandwich, all the while listening to Ben Folds in the near distance on the Which stage (the second largest). With his high voice and pop piano style, Folds could easily pass for a Beach Boy.

Following a smoke with Danny Danko and the "potcast" crew - HT executive editor David "Bean" Bienenstock and Aaron Strebs (look for their latest masterpiece at today), Danko and I crossed the field to the What (main) stage, where British reggae stalwarts Steel Pulse had the crowd dancing in the staggering mid-day heat (at least 95 degrees?).

This required a stop in the air-conditioned press tent. A conference was going on, with Robert Randolph, Jimmy James (My Morning Jacket), Jack Aronoff (Steel Train), Folds and comedian Lewis Black fielding questions. Apparently it was pretty late in the conference, because one reporter, in Stutterin' John fashion (see the old Howard Stern Show), kept asking non sequitor questions like: "What do you think of steroids and why do you think there are so few Jewish baseball players?" This soon prompted Ken Weinstein to end the session with the quip, "You guys are strange today."

Stranger than that was me being asked by Colin of Big Hassle, the event's crackerjack publicity firm, if I'd like to go backstage and hit a few balls in the batting cage. "Why, sure," I responded. He'd announced at the press conference earlier that there'd be a friendly competition among the press to see who could connect the most times in 15 swings. So there I was in the cozy backstage village, taking practice cuts. I'm a pretty good hitter (and Bonghitter!), but I haven't faced a pitching machine in a long time. Two of the first 3 guys struggled bigtime, getting shutout. The burly redheaded guy ahead of me did pretty well (5 hits). He passed me his bat, which was really light. "Use this," he advised. I stepped to the plate and promptly swung through the first 2 fastballs. I fouled off the next 2. Finally, I golfed a few low pitches for clean hits. I ended up with a total of 3 cleans hits. Something tells me I'm not going to move onto the next round.

Colin fed us ice-cream bars as our reward (I ordered the dark-chocolate chocolate Godiva - yum!). I'm currently in the press room writing this, listening to Death Cab for Cuite in the background. Can't beat the air conditioning.

Tom Petty is tonight's headliner. Stay tuned...

Big Hassle's Ken Weinstein asked the press to pass along the following information about Bonnaroo's 2006 "Green Inititiatives":
· Over 25,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel (B100) to replace diesel for
non-music stage generators.
· WastAway refuse handling process to recycle over 250 tons of garbage.
· Concession food served with biodegradable wraps, plates, cups and
cutlery manufactured from a renewable resource.
· Festival-wide recycling and composting program.
· Cool Tags wind credits purchasing (and facilitation of purchases for
· Solar stage and sound system.
· Organic cotton and hemp t-shirts.
· Tree-free posters.
· Post-consumer recycled toilet paper for portolets.
· Post-consumer recycled paper for all administrative needs.
· Aggressively seeking ways to make Bonnaroo 2007 even greener.



Re-entry to Planet Roo

I safely landed on Planet Roo yesterday night at 22:00 after an easy trip that started at New York's La Guardia Airport, continued to Nashville Airport and then a swift drive south to Manchester, where I snuck into the site with not as much as one iota of a traffic jam. And that was not due to short or long cuts. I simply blew down I-24 and pulled over when I saw the Holiday Inn Express across the road. That's where guest and media bracelets, and a guest parking pass (entitling entrance to the guest camping zone) were awaiting me. The parking attendants waved me through, right under a beautiful shade tree. Too lucky! I set up my new Eureka tent and took a walk into the main concert area.

As kismet will have it, I immediately ran into High Times grow guru Danny Danko. I reversed directions and followed him back into the campground, where he made a b-line for HT podhead Aaron Strebs' camp. We celebrated with a joint and beers, then headed in the direction of music. We stopped for awhile to admire the pretty ladies known as Gypsy Hands Tribal Belly Dancers, who were doing trippy things with fire, backed up by a guitars and drums on the Solar Stage.

Planet Roo is actually a section of the massive Bonnaroo landscape - an eco-neighborhood if you will. That's where I located Sundance Solar, my oldest best friend Ed Bender's company. He and his team drove down from New Hampshire.

He said there's been a bud shortage since he arrived on Wednesday, so we turned him and his crew on to a joint and some hash. We caught up on old and new times, then I headed back to try out my new, improved tent.

As is usually the case when I camp out for the first time in a while, I didn't exactly sleep in. By 6:30 am I was restless. By 8 am I was showered (yes, guest camping has warm showers!) and ready to start posting.

First stop today is the press tent, where Bonnaroo publicity poobah Ken Weinstein will orient us. This is my 2nd Bonnaroo (my first was in 2004), so I pretty much know the lay-out and the drill. Bands will come and go for interviews throughout the day. Mostly, I'll be roaming the field, sampling music from the five main stages - much like I did at the New Orleans Jazzfest back in April. Bonnaroo is actually based on Jazzfest's multi-stage model. Add a huge campout to the mix and a wider range of rock styles and you've got Bonnaroo.

Here's my list of bands I plan to see (for at least a few minutes) today. Highlights are in bold:

12:30 World Party, Bettye LaVette
1:45 Seu Jorge
2 pm Ben Folds, Donavon Frankenreiter
2:30 Davendra Banhart
3 pm Steel Pulse
3:15 Mike Gordon & Ramble Dove
3:30 G. Love & Special Sauce
4 pm Bright Eyes, Nickel Creek
5:15 Ricky Scaggs & Kentucky Thunder
5:30 Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Oysterhead
6 pm Cat Power & the Memphis Rhythm Band
6:15 Death Cab for Cutie
8:30 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
11:45 Hot Buttered Rum
12 am My Morning Jacket; Umphrey’s McGee > Disco Biscuits;
Lyrics Born/Common/Blackalicious


Postscript to Met fans: 8 in a row, baby!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Jumping on the Mets bandwagon

All of a sudden, baseball pundits have anointed the Mets to the top of the world, ma. Well, close Met watchers could've seen it coming. They blew away teams this spring and have held first place since the opening week of the season. All it took was for GM Omar Minaya to solve the back end of the rotation and for the team to begin hitting on all cylinders. Well, he did and they are.

The team's current 7-game winning streak has catapulted them to best-team-in-baseball status. Last night's rain-delayed 9-3 victory over the suddenly hapless Phillies pushed them .005 points past the Tigers. At 41-23 (.641), they're now an astonishing 8.5 games ahead of the Phils and 12 ahead of the Braves. This has stat worms looking back to 1988, the last time the Mets held such a big lead so early in the season. That team lost to the Dodgers in the playoffs.

Lately, it's all been about the Mets' hitting. Despite back-to-back poor perfomances by ace Tom Glavine (9-2), they've piled up wins with first-inning rallies that are fast building the Mets' arrogant reputation, a sure sign of '86-style bravado. David Wright (.336, 13 HRs, 47 RBI) is en route to a starting All-Star birth at 3B, with "NL Player of the Week" CF Carlos Beltran (.300, 18 HRs, 52 RBI) following sharply on his heels. 1B Carlos Delgado (.268, 19 HRs, 49 RBI), right in the middle of that lineup sandwich, will likely join them on the All-Star squad (with Glavine). Meanwile, SS Jose Reyes is scoring runs at a fabulous clip, and contributions from C Paul Lo Duca (also a potential All-Star) and rejuvenated 2B Jose Valentin, as well as from substitute outfielders Endy Chavez and Lastings Milledge, can't be ignored either. Right now, the Mets' biggest problem is what to do with Cliff Floyd and Xavier Nady when they both return from the DL.

This afternoon, the Mets shoot for the sweep in Philly and an 8-game streak: Steve Trachsel (3-4) vs. Cory Lidle (4-5), 1:05 pm start on SNY & WFAN. On Friday, they'll kick off a 7-game home stand against the Orioles and Reds.

I'll be covering the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee this weekend. The lineup is stellar. Look for daily reports.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Phil Lesh on his friend, Vince Welnick

Phil Lesh comments about Vince Welnick (who died on June 2 - see "The Dead's Vince Welnick - 1951-2006") at his Phil Zone website:

"The period after Brent’s death, when Vince first joined the band, was one of one of my most difficult years with the Grateful Dead. Jill [Phil's wife] and I had become quite close to Brent [Mydland] and his wife Lisa and we spent many happy hours hanging together. I was devastated when Brent died [in 1990], and I still wonder if there was anything I could have said or done to help him.

"In hindsight, it would have been better for everyone concerned, especially Jerry [Garcia], if after Brent’s passing we had simply cancelled the fall 1990 tours; we needed some time to mourn Brent. Grateful Dead Production's huge monthly overhead kept us from taking time to absorb our loss.

"Vince helped us more than he knew; not only the speed with which he learned the music, but also that he took to the music and the scene like a kid at the beach. His energy and enthusiasm helped rekindle our own excitement with the music - at least it did for me.

"Vince was a generous spirit and a class act. I’ll never forget his first gig as our sole keyboard (Bruce Hornsby having moved on) - as we walked out on stage, some folks in the audience on Vince’s side of the stage were holding up a big sign which read 'Hey Vinnie- Welcome, Brother' - which almost moved me to tears, not least because of the contrast to Brent’s reception 11 years earlier. I was so glad that the Heads had accepted Vince that quickly.

"After Jerry’s death when I started up Phil Lesh & Friends as a band, Vince was one of my first 'Friends,' and we played a goofy, glorious, fun gig at the Fillmore. We tried to get together again later that year, but he had other commitments. I have nothing but warm memories of Vince and I am forever thankful for the grace and enthusiasm that he brought to the Grateful Dead.

"I will remember Vince as a man with a soft voice and a sweet smile who openly adored his wife Lori, who came into the Grateful Dead with the utmost respect for the band, the music - and most of all - the fans."

Phil & Friends will be performing on Sunday, June 19 at Bonnaroo.



'a/k/a Tommy Chong' opens today

Josh Gilbert's affectionate and bracing documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong - about the government's vindictive campaign against half of the infamous '70s and '80s stoner comic duo - begins its theatrical run today at New York's Film Forum.

Read reviews in the New York Times, the Village Voice and the L Magazine.

Last night's opening party for the film at Sutra turned into a smokey bacchanal, with the downstairs room resembling a Cheech & Chong movie. Attendees included Gilbert, Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling, MPP's Rob Kampia, SSDP's Kris Krane, ASA's Abby Bair, Busted! author Chris Fabricant, Susan Norget, David Peel, DJ Greg Caz, and numerous High Times staffers and Bonghitters.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Marijuana Policy projects

A gala for potheads? Last night, 300 cannactivists congregated at Capitale in New York, courtesy of Washington, DC's Marijuana Policy Project. Drinks, dinner and dancing were on tap, as well as a program that included awards given to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (Legislative Leadership) and Rhonda O'Donnell (Activist of the Year). Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling and Jim Hightower hosted, and Montel Williams provided the evening's emotional high point with a teary 17-minute speech about his own battle with multiple sclerosis.

"I'm not about politics, I'm about a mission," the chrome-domed TV talk-show personality pontificated. "I'm in pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'm in pain right now. I'm probably the government's worst enemy. I've put my black ass on the front lines for weed. It's a long road right now, but we're making a difference."

MPP executive director Rob Kampia outlined the organization's recent achievements: the latest Hinchey-Rohrbacher medical-marijuana bill, which received 168 votes (it needs 218 to pass); passage of medical-marijuana laws in Rhode Island and Montana; and upcoming efforts in South Dakota (the next state to vote on medical marijuana in November), Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois, Oregon and New York.

MPP's chief funder Peter Lewis called aiding the fight to legalize marijuana "the greatest contribution you can make." He asked attendees to "be generous and supportive, more than you've ever been."

Attendees included John Perry Barlow, Angel Raich, Chris Conrad, Mikki Norris, Josh Gilbert, Steven Hager, Maia Szalavitz, Eric Sterling, Valerie Vande Panne, Carlo McCormick, Brad Balfour, Dan Viets, Bob Newland, David Bienenstock, Danny Danko, Steve Silverman and Abby Bair.

A trailer for Gilbert's film a/k/a Tommy Chong, which opens tomorrow at the the Film Forum, preceded a funky 5-song set by jazz trio and MPP advisory board members Medeski Martin and Wood.



Lastings' impression

The Mets' rookie sensation Lasting Milledge is the subject of a story by my brother at Barry Bonds blasts Milledge for the hand-slapping incident at Shea: "When you're a rookie, you can't do things like that. You have to know your place or you're begging to get hit in the neck."

Milledge is batting .256, with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HRs and 10 RBI. He's also thrown out 2 runners since replacing the injured Xavier Nady (appendectomy) and Cliff Floyd (sprained ankle) in the outfield.

The Mets (39-23) open a 3-game series with the Phillies (33-20) tonight at Citizens Band Park: Tom Glavine (9-2) vs. Ryan Madsen (6-3), 7:05 pm start on SNY & WFAN. The Mets have won 6 in a row and are leading the Phils by 6.5 games.

The Yankees (35-26) face off against the Indians (30-32) at home: Chieng-Ming Wong (6-2) vs. Paul Byrd (5-4), 7:05 pm start on YES and WCBS Radio. The Yanks are 1 game behind the Bosox (36-25), despite losing 4 straight. Boston's in Minnesota. Great matchup: Curt Schilling (9-2) vs. Johann Santana (6-4).

Monday, June 12, 2006


BiFF annouces winners

The 9th Annual Brooklyn International Film Festival ended its 10-day run at the Brooklyn Museum with a low-key awards ceremony on Sunday night. The festival screened 120 films - 15 features and 21 documentaries, the rest shorts, animated and experimental films - selected from 2,036 entries received from 88 countries. "The festival cares about independent films," BiFF executive director Marco Ursino said before announcing the awards. "The festival cares about Brooklyn and its ethnic communities."

Each of the films I saw were of the highest quality - I rated them at least 4 stars (out of 5) as an audience voter. Except for late starts and a persistent hum in the sound system, the festival ran smoothly, and was friendly to films buffs and press alike.

BiFF's big winner was the festival's opening film - Libero De Rienzo's Blood: Death Does Not Exist. It received both the Best of Festival and Best Feature awards. "It took 8 years of work to make this movie," De Rienzo explained. "Everyday and every night - Christmas and birthdays. We did what we wanted in order to seek the truth in a country [Italy] where cinema is dying." Blood's story of incest ends farcically in a church.

Julio Soto's Radiophobia - about Chernobyl - was selected Best Documentary. Joel Palombo won the Best New Director award for Milk and Opium; the film's 12-year-old star Swaroop Khan tied for Best Actor. Khan's vivid portrayal of a Southern Indian musician who travels to New Delhi in search of work is truly touching.

Eyal Haifon's What a Wonderful Place, which follows the lives of several Ukrainian prostitutes and their Israeli pimps, received the Best Screenplay award. This multi-layered film surprises from beginning to end.

Audience awards were given to Billy Kent's The Oh in Ohio (Feature), and Joseph Mathew and Dan DeVivo's Crossing Arizona (Doc). Mohamed Al-Daradji's Ahlaam (Feature) and Aruna Matelis' Before Flying Back to Earth received Spirit awards.

For the complete list of winners, go to the BiFF website.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


My 200th MySpace friend: Mary Jane

A dude who calls himself "Mary Jane" is my 200th MySpace friend. I joined MySpace on May 16. In less than a month I've made 200 friends - that's a pace of about 100 per month. Keep those "friend requests" coming.
Click here to go to my MySpace page

Mary Jane lives in New York and is a 30-year-old Virgo who describes his occupation as "pot head." His page is adorned with pot-leaf bubbles and you hear Pato Banton's "Legalize It" when you click to it.

Mary Jane's Top 8 includes Cypress Hill, Ralph Nader, High Times Comedy Night and 420 Girls. He says in his profile: "All you need to know is that I smoke mass amounts of Mary Jane. And I want to get to know pot heads from all over the world!... Oh, and don't be confused, I am a man. I just wanted to name the page for bud! Keep on smoking!"

I recommend that all pot advocates like Mary Jane join NORML today!

PLEASE click my classified ads. It only takes a few seconds. Each time you click through I make a few cents. This ads up so I can afford to pay for the blog. Just do it!

Lastly, to my all my Hispanic brothers and sisters - Happy Puerto Rican Day!


Road warriors

It's been quite a road trip for the Mets. First, they took 2 out of 3 from the Dodgers. Now, they've won 3 in a row in Arizona, making it a 5-game streak. Virtually every game they've staked the starter to a comfortable lead and then coasted to victory. Last night was a particularly bracing example. In their first at bat, the Mets reached D-Backs ace Brandon Webb (he was 8-0) for 3 runs. They added 2 more in the 8th and 9th. And what does Alay Soler do? Toss a complete-game 2-hitter. Amazing!

GM Omar Minaya is looking like a genius right about now. He's solved the Mets' back-end-of-the-rotation problem with Soler's promotion from the minors and the trade for "El Duque" Hernandez, who threw his own complete-game 3-hitter in the opening game of the Arizona series. Suddenly, the Mets have the best staff in baseball.

And they're hitting on most cylinders. David Wright continues to tear it up (.339, 43 RBI) and Carlos Beltran is on his own tear (.293, 17 HRs, 45 RBI). Carlos Delgado snapped out of his HR drought with 2 round-trippers (leads the team with 18) on the Western swing. Jose Valentin, Endy Chavez (filling in for Cliff Floyd - sprained ankle) and Lastings Milledge (filling in for Xavier Nady - appendectomy) have been terrific in the 6th-to-8th slots in the order.

The Mets (38-23) have the biggest divisional lead in the majors. They're 5.5 games ahead of the Phillies and 9 ahead of the (fading?) Braves. They go for the sweep in AZ today: Pedro Martinez (5-2) vs. Russ Ortiz (0-4), 4:40 pm start on Ch. 11 & WFAN.

• The Yankees (35-25) have lost 3 straight, the last 2 to the A's at home. They'll attempt to prevent a sweep today: Shawn Chacon (4-1) vs. Barry Zito (6-3), 1:05 pm start on YES & WCBS Radio.
• Game 2 tonight in the NBA finals, 9 pm start on ESPN. It's pretty much a must-win for the Heat, who lost the opener to the Mavs.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Gettin' on the good foot: James Brown @ BB King's

Are you ready for some super-dynamite soul?

Dapperly dressed in a white suit, James Brown's personal emcee Danny Ray held the mike and crowd in his hands. Ticketholders in the overstuffed BB King's in New York's Times Square were anxiously looking forward to the 73-year-old funk pioneer doin' his thing.

Brown stood in the wings as they chanted his name. Wearing a red jump suit and boots, he smiled for VIPs. I went over to shake his hand. His eyes, which seemed almost closed, peered at me curiously. Then they widened. He suddenly recognized me and gave me a quick hug.

"Where's the red-headed booger?" JB asked me, laughing. Then he was gone. Moments later, he magically appeared on stage, doing a modified one-legged camel walk to "Make it Funky."

James Brown's band the Soul Generals are sho' nuff funky. For the next 20 minutes they pounded out a series of classics, from "Get Up Offa That Thing" to "Doin' It to Death." For funk fans, this is as good as it gets. Brown exhorted his blue-suited players to solo, calling them one by one - saxophonist Jeff Watkins, guitarist Keith Jenkins, trumpeter Hollie Farris, drummer Tony Cook.

Then the show started taking detours. A jazz-blues instrumental was followed by a weak version of "Hold On, I'm Coming" by Brown's red-headed wife, Tomi Rae. She's his Patti Scialfa or Linda McCartney; at worst, a distraction. Two more jazz tunes found Brown comping on keyboards. Then he offered a brief tribute to recently passed soul stars Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett and "brother Ray Charles."

During Brown's penultimate misogynistic ballad, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," there was a commotion in the crowd. Apparently someone fainted. Brown muttered about getting the patron assistance. After six uncomfortable minutes went by, Brown grimaced, "Don't worry about the show, I'll give you that," then directed the band to kick into "Livin' in America," his nationalistic anthem with dancing girls draped in American flags.

The Godfather of Soul hit his stride again on a clever version of "I Got You," which morphed into "Out of Sight," and then a dance vamp, "Rock Your Body." The band broke into the greasy riff of "Sex Machine." Brown asked the crowd, "Can I count it off?" Big cheer. "Can I count it off?" Another cheer. "One, two, three... Get up, get on up/Stay on the scene/Like a lovin' machine." Horns pierced and guitars chinked as the entire band - all 11 players, 5 backup singers and 2 dancers - began the wild final ritual of every James Brown show. "The way I like it is the way it is/You got yours, don't worry about his."

This went on for more than 15 minutes. At 10 pm, the man in red left the stage; he would not return for an encore. Eighty minutes of intermitant soul music seemed to satisfy people who paid $80. They filed out humming funky licks with a hop in their step. After 50-plus years in show business, James Brown is still its hardest working man.

Backstage, I hung out with the band. They filled me in on Brown's physical condition. "His knees aren't good," Farris said. "Plus he has diabetes." But that doesn't stop the show from going on. "We'll be playing a lot of festivals in Europe this summer." The last two stops on this current tour are tonight at the Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY and tomorrow at the Citerion Theater in New Bedford, Mass.

I should explain the "red-headed booger" remark. Back in 1979 I interviewed Brown for the now-defunct Soho News. He loved my cover story portrait of him. From 1979-1984, I was privileged to interview him many times. Years have passed and Brown still always welcomes me warmly. To him, I'm the red-headed booger, whatever that means.

Go see James Brown if he comes to your town. There are very few American musical legends left. Despite the stiff price and short set, you won't regret it. Just don't be late: the first 25 minutes are the best.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


No Bonghitters game today

Consistent rain in New York over the last week not only wiped out last night's Yankees-Red Sox game. Today, the High Times-Rolling Stone softball match-up was cancelled due to wet field conditions in Central Park. The game will be rescheduled. The Bonghitters' next game is on June 22 vs. DC Comics.

Meanwhile, in Los Angles, the Mets took 2 out of 3 from the Dodgers. They open a 4-game series against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix tonight - "El Duque" Hernandez (3-5) vs. Claudio Vargas (6-2), 9:40 pm start on SNY & WFAN.

Last night's 9-7 Met victory saw the Mets jump out to a 4-0 lead in the 1st, only to surrender it in the 2nd. Tom Glavine (9-2), pitching on 3 days reast, allowed 3 HRs (2 to Rafael Furcal), but still managed to get the win. Rookie phenom Lastings Milledge led the offense with a 2-run HR (his 2nd) and a triple. David Wright (.335) and Carlos Beltran (.275) both had 3 hits.

Tonight, the Yankees try to make it 3 in a row against the Bosox, weather permitting - Jared Wright (3-3) vs. Curt Schilling (8-2), 7:05 pm start on YES & WCBS Radio.

Lastly, the website Rivalfish has complied a humorous list of "Major League Baseball's All-Time Tokin' Team." Here's the stony lineup:

P - Bill Lee
C - Darren Daulton
1B - Orlando Cepeda
2B - Jackie Robinson
SS - Ozzie Smith
3B - Ken Caminiti
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - George Sisler
RF - Dusty Baker


Hilton Ruiz - 1952-2006

Questions surround death of jazz pianist.

It has not been a good week for keyboard players. First the Grateful Dead's Vince Welnick committed suicide. Then on Tuesday, Billy Preston - known as "The Fifth Beatle" for his playing on "Get Back" - passed away at 59 years of age. But most upsetting to me is the loss of jazz pianist Hilton Ruiz, who also died on Tuesday of a head injury suffered outside Bar Utopia on Bourbon St. in New Orleans on May 19. It's unclear what exactly happened to Ruiz on the night in question.

“Although it is the family’s understanding that the New Orleans Police Department has closed its file in this matter, the family confirms that they continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding his injury and death,” the Ruiz family's New Orleans attorney Scott M. Galante stated.

"Galante said he has not seen the evidence that police showed to Ruiz’s ex-wife and daughter, both named Aida, while Ruiz was still on life support," the Associated Press reported. "Attorney Mary Howell, representing them at the time, said then that they had accepted the conclusion reached by police. [His] not convinced that an accidental fall caused his death."

A story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune stated: "Although there were early reports that Ruiz might have been beaten, New Orleans police said witnesses and other evidence indicated he fell. 'We did see a fall on the video. I can't tell you any more now,' Ruiz's ex-wife said... A number of Ruiz's friends and colleagues, including trombone player Steve Turre, a longtime friend, were skeptical about the police account.

"Capt. John Bryson, a police spokesman, said, 'We investigated it as an attack. That was the first indication. But all the evidence indicated that he fell. If anyone saw anything else, we beg them to come to us.'"

Ruiz died in East Jefferson General Hospital at 3:50 a.m. on June 6. He'd been in a coma since May 19.

The pianist arrived in New Orleans on May 18 to work on a Hurricane Katrina benefit CD project with Marco Matute, founder and producer of the M27 World label. They spent they day shooting a video. He became involved with the project after performing at a Katrina benefit in New York.

"The music was beautiful," trumpeter Lew Soloff remarked. "There were some very exciting takes. I understand that Hilton said it might have been the best album he ever did. Then three days later, I heard about this."

I interviewed Ruiz in 1979 when he still lived in New York (he'd since moved to Teaneck, NJ). He was 27 at the time and just starting to make his mark on the local jazz scene. An impeccable pianist, Ruiz incorporated latin rhythms into bebop motifs. "I played my first recital at Carnegie Hall when I was eight," he told me. "I was a child prodigy."

Ruiz played with a wide range of jazz musicians, but was best known then for his work with Rahsann Roland Kirk in the mid-'70s. "Musically, he showed me how to be a versatile performer just by teaching me hundreds of standards," he explained. "I don't know anybody who knew as many tunes as he did. He was really one of the greatest musicians America ever produced."

Ruiz's own discography included more than a dozen solo albums, beginning with Piano Man in 1975. His song "Something Grand" was featured on the soundtrack of the film American Beauty.

"He's one of the few musicians on the scene that [was] equally at home in both the jazz genre and the Afro-Cuban genre in a complete sense," Turre commented. "There [are] a lot of people who dabble with both worlds, but very few can authentically deal with both. And he [was] one of them."

I can only hope that foul play was not involved in the death of this wonderfully talented musician. Check out Hilton Ruiz's cd catalog at Amazon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Around the horn

Mets split first 2 games in LA
Who would've expected Alay Soler (1-1) to pitch a better game than Pedro Martinez to start off the Met's 10-game road trip? But that was the case, with Soler (6 hits, 1 run in 7 innings) shutting down the Dodgers on Monday (4-1 Mets) and Martinez (8 hits, 7 runs in 5 HRs) getting roughed up last night (8-5 Dodgers). Worse for Martinez, he allowed 2 more HRs, upping his season total to 11. He had to be relieved in the 6th when the Dodgers broke open the game with a 6-run rally. Martinez (5-2) hasn't won in his last 7 starts... Cliff Floyd left the game with a sprained ankle... Jose Valentin had a particularly shakey game at 2B, making 2 errors in the 6th... The Mets (34-23) lead the Phillies (31-27) by 3.5 games and the Braves (29-30) by 6... Tonight: Tom Glavine (8-2) vs. Odalis Perez (4-1), 10:10 pm start on FSY & WFAN.

Yanks take 2 from Bosox
Melky Cabrera prevented the Red Sox from tying last night's game, leaping to catch Manny Ramirez's HR try in the 8th. The Yankees held on to win, 2-1, behind Chien-Ming Wang (6-2) and Mariano Rivera (12th save). The Yanks (35-22) now lead the Bosox (33-23) by 1.5. Tonight: Jared Wright (3-3) vs. Curt Schilling (8-2), 7:05 pm start on YES & WCBS Radio.

Giants' Jason Schmidt fans 16
Schmidt (6-2) tied a 102-year-old team record held by Christy Mathewson in Miami last night, shutting down the Marlins 2-1 with a 16-K, 7-hit complete game... On Monday, Barry Bonds belted his 716th HR.

Bonghitters look to extend winning streak
Weather permitting - it's raining today in New York - High Times' slugging stoners will take on Rolling Stone tomorrow in Central Park. The Bonghitters are 5-0.


My review of 'a/k/a Tommy Chong'

Josh Gilbert's fascinating documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong opens in New York at the Film Forum on June 14.

Check out my review of the movie in the new June 7-20 issue of the L magazine

You can pick up free copies of the L mag in the plastic orange bins all over New York.

Click here for screening times and ticket info

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The best album of 2006 (so far)

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
The River in Reverse
Verve Records

After Katrina washed Allen Toussaint out of his New Orleans home to New York, he and Elvis Costello performed at a few benefits and decided to cut a cd together. The two combined their bands - Costello's Imposters and Toussaint's horn section and guitarist - and put down 13 tracks last October, fresh from the storm.

Toussaint's the greatest songwriter/producer ever to come out of the South. His resume includes LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time," the Meters' "Ride Your Pony," Lee Dorsey's "Working in a Coalmine," Chris Kenner's "Land of 1,000 Dances," Jesse Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-in-Law," the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can" - to name a few. He's an American treasure.

Costello needs no introduction. Since bursting on the rock scene in 1977 with My Aim Is True, he's been one of pop music's most prolific performers. But not since 1980’s Get Happy has Costello really explored his funky side. Toussaint clearly brought it out of him.

For The River in Reverse, released today, Costello and Toussaint collaborated on five original songs, Costello wrote the title track and the rest of the album covers some of Toussaint’s lesser-known hits. The best of the covers is “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?” – originally written for Dorsey.

It’s an old thing
It’s a soul thing
But it’s a real

The song oozes with grit, punchy horns, snaky organ and amusing lyrics.

Did it really ding dong?
I must’ve ding wrong
It didn’t ding long

Costello steps out on “The River in Reverse,” the keynote song of the album. An emotional tour de force, it’s his most meaningful performance since 1979's “(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding.”

Wake me up with a slap or a kiss
There must be something better than
Because I don’t see how it can get much worse
What can we do to send the river in reverse?

Whether it’s inspired renditions (“On Your Way Down,” “Ascension Day,” “Freedom for the Stallion”) or ferocious collaborations (“Broken Promise Land,” “Six-Fingered Man"), Costello and Toussaint always find the groove. These two musical giants deliver a scorching R&B session that will move you and keep you moving.


Monday, June 05, 2006


The Dead's Vince Welnick - 1951-2006

Yet another Grateful Dead keyboardist passed away this weekend. Vince Welnick apparently committed suicide in Forestville, CA on Friday, June 2. He was 55 years old.

Welnick replaced Brent Mydland in 1990, after he died of a drug overdose. Welnick was the last of the Dead's five keyboard players. "A lot of people ask about that and my stock answer is that I am aware of the fact that you could die doing this job," Welnick observed then, "but I was somewhat dying of boredom before the job came up so I thought I'd take my chances."

Born on February 2, 1952 in Phoenix, Welnick co-founded the Tubes, who had one Top 10 hit, "She's a Beauty," in 1983. Based in San Francisco, Welnick met members of the Dead and upon Mydland's untimely death was asked to join America's most-famous touring band. His first show was on September 17, 1990.

"There's magic every night," he said at the time. "I'm still in complete awe of it. I didn't know how 'big time' big time was until I got next to these guys."

Welnick performed with the Dead - occasionally augmented by Bruce Hornsby on piano - until Jerry Garcia died in 1995. He subsequently formed his own group, Missing Man Formation, and also toured with Dead drummer Mickey Hart's band, Planet Drum.

"The big thing about Vince was that he had that fearlessness to be able to go and just jump into our madness and just operate on it like it was a normal, everyday procedure," Hart said Saturday. "A lot of people can play, but with us they just don't know how to navigate. Our music is different."

However, Mike Lawson, who oversees Welnick's website, blasted the Dead for their alleged poor treatment of the keyboardist following Garcia's death. "He never got over the sorrow of losing Jerry, facing his own demons without his friend," Lawson writes, emotionally. "I cannot possibly describe the hurt and anguish he felt when 'The Dead' decided to have a family reunion of the surviving members of Grateful Dead, a band that he was no mere sideman for its last five years, but a full member of by order of Jerry Garcia. How damned insulting was it to have a 'surviving members family reunion' and not invite your new brother? He was the proverbial red-headed step-child to them.

"Vince kept a brave face about it, trying to remain cheerful, hoping that somehow, someday the tide would turn, the phone would ring and it would be Bob Weir calling him. Calling just to say, 'How are you, Vinny?' Something. Anything.

"The lack of compassion displayed toward him, the ostracizing he felt burned and hurt Vince very deeply. He was a sensitive, sweet soul. He just couldn't handle the rejection."

Lawson recounts Welnick's overdose on the Ratdog bus ("Bob [Weir] and Ratdog sent a hospital alone in the back of a taxi cab, without a friend in site, and had him checked in as John Doe, while they played the show anyway") and performing on the "ill-fated summer '95 Dead tour" despite being "very sick...with life-threatening cancer."

"They didn't pull the trigger," Lawson concludes, "but they sold him the gun. At this point, it is now on their shoulders to live with what they could have or should have done. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives."

Cut and paste this url to watch Welnick sing the "Star Spangled Banner" with Garcia and Weir at a San Francisco Giants game: dead


'Sopranos' a-go-go

The 6th season of the The Sopranos ended with a thud on Sunday night. The espisode promised a revenge hit, but never delivered. Instead, we followed various plot lines that included Christopher's affair with Julianna (Julianne Margolis), whom he meets at an AA meeting and promptly falls off the wagon with, smoking heroin; Phil Leotardo's heart attack; AJ's relationship with his new Dominican girlfriend; and Tony's hospital visit to Phil in Brooklyn.

Most of the tension revolved around Christopher. Would the Brooklyn family led by jailed Johnny Sack and Phil wack him as payback for the killing of Dom, who joked about Vito's death and in turn got the same treatment, courtesy of Silvio and Carlo, in the previous episode? Tony's handsome, drug-addicted nephew, however, survived until The Soprano's 7th and final season.

Sunday, June 04, 2006



Mets' GM Omar Minaya went to great lengths to shore up the bullpen over the winter, dispatching starters for relievers. Jorge Julio was a bust (already traded for "El Duque" Hernandez), but Duaner Sanchez (aquired for Jae Seo) has been a solid set-up man. Until today.

After last night's marathon rain-delayed doubleheader against the Giants, neither team needed another extra-inning affair. However, that's what happened, as the Giants outlasted the Mets, 7-6, in 12. Blame the bullpen - and not Billy Wagner - for blowing this one. Not once, not twice, but 3 times!

With the Mets ahead 3-1, Sanchez surrendered the lead in the 8th (aided by a crucial Jose Reyes error). David Wright's 2nd HR of the game (his 9th and 10th) tied the score. In the 10th, Aaron Heilman was tagged for 2 runs, but clutch solo HRs by Jose Valentin (his 5th) and Lasting Milledge (his 1st ever) off of ex-Met Armando Benitez sent the game to the 11th. In the 12th, Pedro Feliciano (1-2) and Heath Bell again allowed the Giants to grab the lead. The Mets were shut down in their half, ending a hard-fought weekend that saw them lose 2 out of 3 to the 4th-place Giants.

The poor bullpen performance wasted a quality start from Steve Trachsel (2-4), who gave up 1 run on 6 hits in 7 innings

Though Met fans booed him throughout the series (he called the reaction "pretty weak"), Barry Bonds was pretty much an afterthought. He never came close to hitting a HR and was a serious defensive liability for the Giants. Bonds should either sign with an American League club next season and stop embarrassing himself in leftfield or, better yet, move to first-base.

Wright remains on fire (he's batting .330, with 8 HRs and 38 RBI), while Carlos Delgado's slump (5-for-50) continued, reducing his average to .242. In addition to his game-tying HR, Milledge had a 2-run double.

The Mets (32-22) are still 5 games ahead of the Braves (28-28), who were swept in Atlanta by the Diamondbacks. Tomorrow, the Mets begin a 10-game road trip - 3 in Los Angeles, 4 in Phoenix and 3 in Philadelphia. It will be Alay Soler (0-1) vs. Brett Tomko (5-3), 10:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN.

• The Yankees (33-21) failed to sweep the Orioles, losing 11-4. Combined with the Red Sox's 8-3 win over the Tigers, the Yanks fell one game out of 1st place. The two AL East rivals begin a 4-game series at Yankee Stadium tomorrow.


Southern nights

The minute I predicted the Suns would defeat the Mavs, I knew I'd made a mistake. It was just wishful thinking - I wanted to see Steve Nash in the NBA finals. But without Amare Stoudamire, Phoenix couldn't keep pace with Dallas. So last night's Game 6 finale - Mavs 106, Suns 93 - came as no surprise. The Suns simply couldn't stop Dirk Nowitski.

Now the Mavs will face Miami in the finals, starting Thursday in Dallas. It will be the first time since 1978 (when Washington beat Seattle) that both teams are making their debuts in the finals. Now the only teams left in the NBA to never go the distance are the Cavaliers, Clippers and Nuggets.

Despite being the away team, I'll go out on a limb and predict Miami will win the NBA finals. Shaquille O'Neal will neutralize Nowitski inside (though they'll have to figure out how to stop him from beyond the 3-point line) and Dwyane Wade is better than the Dallas backcourt combined. Plus, Miami coach Pat Riley has been there 8 times more than Dallas rookie Avery Johnson. The Heat in 6.


BiFF: day 2

After watching the Mets lose game 1 of their rain-delayed doubleheader against the Giants and the Yankees squeeze out a victory in Baltimore with a desperate Joe Torre using Chien-Ming Wang to get the save, I hailed a cab and directed the driver to the Brooklyn Museum so I could catch the 9 pm screening of Beth Bird's Everyone Their Grain of Sand. Things were running a tad late, so I chugged a Brooklyn Lager and enjoyed the salsa rhythms of Sonido Costeno, who were the featured band at the musuem's wildly popular "First Saturday" party.

The movie was worth the wait. Despite an annoying hum in the sound system, I was mesmerized by Bird's account of the activist struggle of Mexicans who live just east of Tijuana in an area called Maclovio Rojas. Her camera follows companeros fighting to retain their community as multi-national corporations eat up much of the area south of the US- Baja border and employ factory workers as virtual slave laborers. Sadly, the Mexican government's duplicitous tactics resulted in the jailing of one of Maclovio Rojas' leaders (she was arrested for "stealing" water from the Tijuana Aqueduct) and forced others into hiding. Bird, who answered questions after the screening, said the struggle continues for these truly sympathetic people.

Today's featured movies at the Brooklyn International Film Festival are Joseph Matthews and Dan DeVivo's Crossing Arizona (5:30 pm), Bent Hamer's Factotum (7:30 pm) and Azazel Jacobs' The GoodTimesKid (9:30 pm). All three are narrative features. I've already seen Factotum, which is based on a Charles Bukowski book and stars Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


The Heat is on

Like I predicted, the Miami Heat defeated the defending Eastern Conference champions the Detroit Piston in the NBA semifinals, 4 games to 2. Last night's 91-86 victory capped off a low-scoring series and sent the Heat to their first-ever NBA finals.
Generally, it takes two superstar players to get to "the dance," as the NBA finals, World Series and Super Bowl are euphemistically called. Miami's duo of center Shaquille O'Neal and shooting guard Dwyane Wade has proven to be formidible. Last night, as Wade tried to shake off the flu, O'Neal dominated Game 6 with a vintage 28-point (12-for-14 shooting), 16-rebound, 5-blocked shot performance.
Wade had a series-low 14 points, but scattered 10 assists. Richard Hamilton (33 points) did his best to keep the Pistons in the game.

Much of the credit for the Heat's success has to go to coach Pat Riley, who replaced Stan Van Gundy in December after the team's 11-10 start. Riley's won 4 NBA titles, all when he was with the Lakers in the '80s ('82, '85, '87, '88). His last appearance in the finals was with the Knicks in 1994. Riley's Heat will most likely face the Dallas Mavericks, who can finish off the Suns tonight in Phoenix. In Game 5, Mavs' center Dirk Nowitski exploded for 50 points. Clearly, the Suns have no answer for Dirk. Tip-off is 8:30 pm on TNT.

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