August 31, 2006

World Trade Center, 1996

Wow. WTC, 1996., originally uploaded by cyrus (bryan campen).

We are 10 days from the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. My niece has asked me to write down an account of my experiences that day, which I will do. I'll post it here also.

I'm about to leave on vacation. I will head to New Jersey's Newark Airport through the PATH train's World Trade Center station. Since I am arriving via the E train, I will walk, however briefly, on some of the original yellow tiles from the WTC concourse.

Now, off to Belfast.

Off to Belfast

The bricks they may bleed and the rain it may weep
And the damp Lagan fog lulls the city to sleep.
It's to Hell with the future, we'll live in the past
May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast

I've been to Belfast twice, once for a few hours, the second time for a few days. Tonight, I'm on my way there again. This time, on a nonstop Continental Airlines plane from New York/Newark.

I won't be there for very long, nor will I be in Ireland for very long. I will use Belfast as a base of operations to visit family in County Monaghan, then up in County Donegal. They're both in Ulster, so may as well stay in the Ulster capital. Unless I chicken out, I will rent a car and drive on the left side of the road to all those places.

Then it's down to Dublin for a day, to Marseille on Ryanair, a day there, a few days with friends in Cannes, then a surprisingly long train ride to Torino, finally a flight home out of Milan's Malpensa Airport on the fifth anniversary of September 11.

But first, Belfast. There's something of Belfast and the North that appeals to me greatly. May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast

August 30, 2006

John Batchelor Show Cancelled

WABC radio is cancelling the John Batchelor Show.

It's hard to imagine them being so stupid. For starters, it has been the number one show in NYC during its time slot for some time now.

Second, its been the highest quality program on the entire station. Where as most of the other hosts are right-wing screamers, the Batchelor Show has been a nonpartisan show dealing with international and national news in great depth. I don't think that any single program, including anything on the BBC or PBS can touch it for quality.

The John Batchelor Show will be on through this Friday on WABC-77AM, 10pm-1am. Give him a listen when you get the chance.

Batchelor won't be gone for long. It's WABC's loss. To hell with them.

August 23, 2006

Newark Bears Baseball Game

There were far fewer people at the game than were in this photo.

So our department was invited out to the Newark Bears baseball game today. The Newark Bears are a professional squad team that is not affiliated with the major leagues. The quality of play is somewhere between AA and AAA, but most of these guys ain't makin' it to the majors. They're good, but most of them have peaked, and this league is as high as they'll ever get.

The one thing that shocked us all--the very low attendance. There looked to be a lot less than 1,000 people in the stands. Maybe it was 500. I've heard that there were attendance problems, but this was much worse than expected.

The other teams in the Atlantic League are doing very well at the gate. The problem here? It's not the stadium, which is new and very attractive, and which is right next to a major NJ Transit line that runs right into Manhattan in one direction, and into the leafy and affluent northern NJ suburbs in the other. The problem is that people from the NJ suburbs are frightened to come to Newark. They think it's dangerous. I can't say that they're all wrong either, though I believe that that the area around the stadium is safe.

I'd like to see this team thrive, but, unless something changes, they'll be playing somewhere else before too long.

August 20, 2006

NY Times Discovers Bay Ridge Restaurants

This is news? Today's NY Times printed a restaurant article today stating that Bay Ridge's restaurants are "not just pizza"

I've been to Banana Leaf and Tomasso's and like them both. Will have to try Agnanti, Cebu Bar, and Tanorreen. Tanorreen especially intrigues me. The article mentions their hummus. Unlike most people I know, I absolutely love hummus and if their hummus is better than most, I may be there tomorrow.

But the NY Times think its a news story that Bay Ridge restaurants serve more than pizza? Even if said in jest, that's a bit of a joke. Bay Ridge has always been rich in restaurants. We do have great pizza here, but there's also: Northern Italian, Southern Italian, Spanish, Japanese, good steak houses, every type of Chinese,Mexican, Thai, German, a number of good Indian restaurants, a terrific Vietnamese pho place. And those are just the places that the Phantom has been to.

Thanks, NY Times for unearthing the fact that Bay Ridge restaurants are " not just pizza". What a scoop!

August 13, 2006

"World Trade Center" Movie

Yesterday, we went down to the Battery Park Stadium Theater, right outside Ground Zero, to see World Trade Center

How can you possibly make a movie about 9/11 and the World Trade Center? The subject is so immense, so awful. For some, it will always be "too soon". How do you begin to deal with it?

Oliver Stone deals it with here by sticking to the script, which deals almost exclusively with two Port Authority policemen and their ordeal that day. The larger context of the terrorist attacks is barely mentioned. There's no mention of any "JFK"-like conspiracy theories. Bush and Guiliani make brief appearances on tv here, and are treated respectfully, which probably nearly killed Oliver Stone.

The devil's in the details, and the opening details of this movie are terribly good. You see Officer Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin waking up early very early in the morning. WINS news plays on the car radio telling about the NYC primary election. You see an achingly beautiful image of the Trade Center from up the Hudson River, on that beautiful day.

Nicolas Cage is Sgt. McLoughlin. He's perfect as the stoic, rarely smiling cop, doing his job. He's walking a beat in front of madhouse that is the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC, when he sees and hears American Airlines No. 11 screaming southbound towards One World Trade Center. Soon, he's with Jimeno and others in a bus heading downtown.

They approach a scene of floating office paper, of falling debris and of falling bodies. You don't see the bodies but you certainly hear their impact on the sidewalk.

McLoughlin asks for volunteers to enter the WTC to help in the evacuation, and Jimeno is one of them. They're in the "concourse" ( underground shopping-mall area ) when a terrible shaking begins. There's what I believe to be a very realistic few seconds when the men react in confusion, followed by McLoughlin yelling, terror in his voice to head for the elevator well, the "strongest point of the building". The seconds of the collapse are awful, the constant shifting of the debris afterward is almsot as bad.

Much of the movie is of McLoughlin and Jimeno speaking to one another in the hell of shifting metal, of nearby fires, of pistols belonging to dead police officers firing spontaneously due to the heat from those fires. They fight to stay sane, to stay

To me, apart from McLoughlin and Jimeno, the best character is Dave Karnes, played by Michael Shannon. Karnes is an ex-Marine --check that there are no ex-Marines-- he is a Marine no longer on active duty who, upon seeing the events of the day, puts on his old uniform, talks his way through the cordon, hooks up with another Marine, and begins a search for survivors, in the dark. And, Holy Mother of God--he actually finds McLoughlin and Jimeno. Jimeno had been banging a metal bar, and somehow Karnes heard it among all the other noises in that wilderness. And all of that is true..

Jimeno is afraid that Karnes will leave them, but Karnes says "We won't leave you. We're Marines".

Over a period of hours, the men are dug out of the still-shifting piles or metal and rock by highly skilled FDNY and other rescuers who, with complete disregard for their own safety, enter into the dangerous wreckage to rescue, first, Jimeno, then McLoughlin.

I've said nothing about the female leads. To me, the roles that they play are some of the movie's weakest points. There is an excessive wallowing in cutesy family scenes. Showing normal family life before the disaster and what the wives were going through after it was crucial to the story, but to me what we had here was excessive, clumsy and mawkish. It comes close to ruining the movie, but does not.

The movie ends with a cutesy "happy ending" scene. I wouldn't have done it that way, and would have ended it with McLoughlin being carried out of the pit of hell surrounded by dozens upon dozens of his brothers, from here and from all over America.

On balance, this was a very good movie. I'll see it again.

Some trivia on the film here

A column from Cal Thomas here

August 08, 2006

Lieberman Loses, and so does McKinney

It appears that incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman has lost the Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont. Congratulations to Lamont and to his supporters, who essentially took Joe out due to his support for the Iraq War. Enjoy the thrill of victory. It will last three months exactly.

As the great Yogi said, "it ain't over till its over". Joe Lieberman appears to have lost with a margin of 51-49 percent or close to it. He -will- run as an independent. He will win the General Election with a coaltion of pro-national security Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

I don't welcome Senator Lieberman's loss , but he'll be fine. Come November, he will be re-elected and more independent than ever.

The Phantom may even make his second-ever political contribution to this fine man.

Bye Bye

Cynthia McKinney, perhaps the most vile person in American political life, has apparently gone down to defeat in Georgia. Wonder if the DC Police will throw a going away party for her?

I will be on the road Wednesday through Friday. If you see someone in a Phantom uniform in Cincinnati or Cleveland, it just may be me. Maybe I will be able to post, maybe not.

August 01, 2006

World Trade Center Movie

WTC, originally uploaded by cliorsfreak.

In about a month, it will have been five years since the attack on the World Trade Center.

One of the big topics among some of us is whether to see the movie "World Trade Center"
Some initially did not want to see it because director Oliver Stone has a track record of making movies based on odd conspiracy theories. But this is not a conspiracy movie. By all accounts, Stone has made an honest and realistic film here, based on the story of two Port Authority policemen-John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno--who survived despite the fact the the buildings fell all around them.

But the other reason why some won't see it is because they feel that, less than five years later, "it's too soon". Well, maybe it is, for a lot of us. A lot of people will never want to see any representation of such a horrible event. I understand.

But I'll see this movie this coming Saturday, at the Battery Park Cinema, a couple of blocks north of the World Trade Center. I must.

I'll comment on the film here by Sunday.

Between now and September 11, there will be several posts on the upcoming fifth anniversary of New York's darkest day.