Monday, March 06, 2006

NFL Deadline Now Thursday; Rams Release Isaac Bruce; Raiders Keep Collins for Now

The NFL reset its deadline for Thursday at 12 Midnight, givjng teams more time to work through contract restructuring and more time for the league to get it's CBA house in order.

The Rams released WR Isaac Bruce while the Raiders still held on the QB Kerry Collins. I think both teams will have their vets back if the CBA matter is cleared.

Ang Lee At The Governor's Ball Last Night

In this photo from, Ang Lee's spotted with movie producer James Schamus and Schamus' wife.
For the 12th year, Wolfgang Puck provided the food for Oscar's major party. What did they have? Well, I got this from the Menu posted online at

Tray Passed Hors d'oeuvres

Spicy Tuna Tartare in a Sesame Miso Cone
Mini Prime Burgers with Aged Cheddar and Remoulade
Warm Gougeres with Potato, Cheese and Herbs
Baby Potatoes with Caviar and Chives
Steak Tartare in a Black Pepper Parmesan Cone
Smoked Salmon Pizza with Dill Creme Fraiche and Caviar
Duck Sausage Pizza with Leeks and Spinach
Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato and Fresh Basil

Antipasto Assortment

Marinated Baby Artichokes with Lemon Aioli
Tuna Tataki with Sweet Soy
Smoked Salmon "Oscar" Matzo with Osetra Caviar
Chopped Vegetable Salad
Sweet Crab Stuffed Tiny Spanish Peppers
Citrus Marinated Shrimp
Green and White Asparagus with Prosciutto

Celery Root Soup with Fuji Apples and 24k Gold

Pan Roasted Organic Chicken with Black Truffle Risotto


Oscar's "Sweet Fantasy"

Menu Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck

Matt Birk: Matt Fires Off on NFL PA's Upshaw, But Makes No Sense In The Process

The "rant" he went on was just that, because Matt didn't explain exactly what Gene was doing wrong. Note to Matt: when you take time to call someone a name over the way they do a job, at least provide a detailed alternative approach. Or if you're trying to say "everything's fine" then say that, but it reads as if you're saying two messages at once: everything's fine and nothing's fine. Makes no sense to me.

But this rant is also a warning to Gene. It may be a style issue. If Gene is perceived as letting his ego get in the way of player's needs and is not appropriately accessible, it could cost him in the future.

Vikings' Birk rips NFL union boss Upshaw
‘What's going on right now is hurting all of us,’ says former Pro Bowler news services

Updated: 6:59 p.m. ET March 3, 2006

Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk is not happy with the job being done by Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players' Association. Not at all.

Birk sounded off to columnist Mark Craig in Friday's edition of the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

"Don't put this in the paper ... no, wait, go ahead and put it in," Birk told Craig. "Gene Upshaw is a piece of (expletive). Too many guys in the league just accept whatever Gene says. I don't know why no one has called this guy out."

The former Pro Bowler believes the recent breakdown in negotiations between the NFL and the players' union is hurting the sport.

"It's a joke, it really is," Birk said in the paper. "Everyone is making money. A lot of money. You think anyone wants to hear about the money problems of the NFL owners or players? It's bad pub for the league. It's bad for all of us."

Birk, a Harvard graduate, says the prospects of a uncapped season -- something that could happen if a deal is not struck before the end of this weekend -- aren't good for everyone.

"When you go to those CBA meetings, you always feel like you're being sold something instead of being given the straight facts," Birk told the paper. "Through all the meetings leading up to this, it was always: 'The owners don't want an uncapped year. We'll get a deal, and if we don't, so what? There will be an uncapped year and there will be crazy money out there.'

"The reality is that's not the case. And you're seeing that it's not the leverage we were told it would be."

If there is no deal and the cap doesn’t increase, it would leave a glut of players on the free-agent market and many teams without much money to sign them. Next year, the final season of the contract, would be without a cap — and that would contain limitations that could hurt the players, such as raising the number of years of eligibility for free agency from four to six.

"And we'll lose some of our 401(k) and annuities, and some benefits, too," Birk said. "That's a huge deal to the younger guys making the minimum who might not have 10-year careers. Those are guys the union needs to look out for.

On the surface, the dispute is over percentage points -- the union says it wants 60-plus percent of league revenues earmarked for the players; the owners are offering 56.2 percent. That amounts to approximately $10 million per team per year.

"Gene thinks we're making all this money because of Gene Upshaw," Birk told the paper. "No, we're making all of this money because of TV. This sport is huge, and what's going on right now is hurting all of us."

Skip Bayless: Gene Upshaw's Selling NFL Players "Down The River"

On 1st and 10, an ESPN show, commentator Skip Bayless claims that NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw is selling the players "down the river" and should be seeking guaranteed player contracts. He claims that Gene's a tool of the NFL owners.

As usual, Skip's on the wrong side of the argument. Gene is mindful of how the pursuit of totally guaranteed contracts would not only eventually lead to a work stopage, but cut off his players from making money, and turn the fans -- most of which favor the owners position, further against the players in an age where people are just trying to get jobs.

Gene's doing the right thing and has a more complete vision of how to get this deal done.

Village Voice Editor Nick Sylvester Suspended for False Reporting

This kind of practice is unfortunate, as it's easy -- in my view -- to just be honest about the source of news, or not write the damn story at all

Editor's Note: What Happened to That Cover Story?
March 1st, 2006 8:53 PM - Village Voice

Early Wednesday morning, the Voice learned that the concluding section of this week's cover story, "Do You Wanna Kiss Me?" by senior associate editor Nick Sylvester, contained fabricated material. In that section, Sylvester says he met at a New York City bar with three TV writers who had flown in from L.A. to test their updates of pickup techniques from Neil Strauss's book, The Game.
That scene, as Sylvester now acknowledges in the statement below, never happened.

We have removed the article from the Voice website and begun a review of the entire piece. Sylvester has been suspended.

What follows is Sylvester's statement:

Dear Voice Readers,

I did not meet Steve Lookner in New York at Bar 151. The trip and my encounter with him, DC, and Vali did not happen as I reported, or at all. The scene was a composite of specific anecdotes shared to me primarily by the two other parties, DC and Vali; Lookner did not share or take part in these anecdotes either. I deeply regret this misinformation, and I apologize to Lookner for his distress, which I certainly never intended.


Nick Sylvester

Rap Collection at The Smithsonian - Village Voice

More proof of the continued integration of America. A great process to watch unfold.

'Old-Schoolest of Collectors'
Grandmaster Flash and the Smithsonian's new hip-hop collection

by Austin Kelley - Village Voice
March 3rd, 2006 3:53 PM

DJs, like curators, are collectors, so when Grandmaster Flash and other hip-hop luminaries met up with some officials from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History the other day, there was some serious collecting to discuss. To begin with, museum director Brent Glass described his institution's grand undertaking: "It's the only museum in the world that has the mission of telling the whole of American history," he said. It's a tall order, but the museum's holdings—nearly three million objects, which include a Pac-Man gumball bank, a bag of brown rice, and over a hundred pieces of Tupperware—give the impression that the curators cast a wide net. Now alongside the S. Newman Darby Windsurfing Collection, the museum will maintain an archive entitled "Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life."

The new collection will consist of a custom-made Kangol hat from Grandmaster Flash, some Zulu Nation stickers from Afrika Bambaataa, a noise-maker/keychain from Ice T, and other ephemera. If the objects do not seem earth-shattering, some of the founding fathers of the genre (including influential DJs Kool Herc and Bambaataa, impresario Russell Simmons, and noise-maker maker/actor/MC Ice T were at the New York Hilton to describe the importance of the initiative and also to add to the oral history of hip-hop. "Hip-hop is not only the soundtrack of American culture over the last 30 years," Simmons said, "it's a documentation of a lot that has been left out of our history." Ice T added: "I'm so happy that right now anybody comes and asks me about my music or hip-hop, I can say, 'Take your fucking ass to the museum.' "

In the curatorial spirit, though, Grandmaster Flash seemed particularly attuned to the power of archives and collections. He described it in personal terms. "My father was a serious collector of vinyl records," he said. "The number one rule was: Don't go in dad's records. My father used to work for the railroad. I'd watch him put on his backpack and as soon as I heard the door slam, I would go get a chair, drag it over to the closet, climb up on the chair and wow, look at all those records." Flash wore diamond earrings and a baby-blue Kansas City Royals hat. He smiled mysteriously and looked like he was still under the spell of his dad's records.

"Rule number three was"—He didn't mention rule number two—"never, ever touch the stereo. So I would grab the record, and I'd drag the chair and the record over to the stereo. I would turn on the stereo, and I'd be dancing in the living room. Then I would try to put the record back in exactly the same spot. When my dad came home, he would want to listen to his music and he would notice that something was different. He would go to my mom and say, 'Who's been in my records?' She would say, 'No, Joe, don't do it.' And my father would kick my ass. He'd kick my fucking ass. I'd cry, and my mother would hold me. The next day my father would put on his backpack, and when the door slammed, I'd go into the kitchen and get that chair."

Flash's masochistic persistence and technical curiosity ("I had this incredible urge. I would go in back yards. I would unscrew speakers out of rusted old cars.") paid off. By the time he was twenty, he was a renowned DJ, and a few years later, in 1981 his The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel helped usher in a new genre of recorded music.

After the Hilton event, Grandmaster Flash lingered in the hotel hallway talking about his dad's records, still enchanted by them. His father must have forgiven him eventually. He died of cancer, but in the hospital he told his son, "Make sure you get the records." Flash recalled: "When we went to the house after the funeral, I opened up that closet and just looked at all those records. I cried for a couple days." He paused. "I found all these great records in there. Him and I had never powwowed and talked about what he had. Old Isley brothers and this and that." I asked him where he kept the vinyl now, and he told me about the 20-foot-by-20-foot two-story shack he built for the collection. "There are no categories," he said. "That's the way my mind thinks. When I go in there to get something, I can be in there all day."

Flash gave the Smithsonian a turntable and mixer, but only a couple records (two copies of Bustin Loose by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers). As part of hip-hop's old guard, he had respect for the museum's age and stature, though. "The old-schoolest of collectors is the Smithsonian. Everyone else comes after. Whether they be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Experience Music Project in Seattle. They all come after. To be part of the Smithsonian is just monumental."

I asked him if he might donate his record collection some day, but he had other plans. "When I pass, all my objects can go to the most fitting organizations that will treasure them, but the vinyl—I want it melted in a shape of a casket, that's how I want to go."

78th Annual Oscar: Ratings Down 10 Percent from 2005

This happened because the most decorated movies were not box office blockbusters. Even King Kong failed to break records, but I attribute that to it's December start.

Oscars Ratings Drop 10 Percent From 2005
Associated Press - Mar 06, 08:22

ABC is in for a "Crash" landing in the Oscar ratings.

The Academy Awards were down 10 percent from last year's ceremony, based on preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings from the nation's 55 biggest markets. If the full national ratings follow suit later Monday, this year's ceremony will likely be the second least-watched Oscars telecast behind 2003, when "Chicago" won best picture.

The ceremony, where "Crash" won a surprise best picture trophy, drew a 27.1 rating and a 40 share. Each rating point is equivalent to 1.1 million homes, while the share indicates that 40 percent of the TVs in use last night were tuned to the awards.

Last year's metered markets had a 30.1 rating and 43 share, Nielsen said.

The ceremony's central lesson: Play a real person enmeshed in wrenching drama, win an Academy Award.

It worked last year for Jamie Foxx in "Ray" and this time around for Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line" and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the glory-hungry writer in "Capote."

Sunday's Oscars were anything but predictable, however, as the explosive race drama "Crash" denied "Brokeback Mountain" the best-picture Oscar despite the gay Western love story's front-runner status and its best-director award for Ang Lee.

Latino's Lagging in Edcuation. John McWhorter, You Owe Me $100!

John McWhorter, the African American author and for a time a drinking friend of mine, and who gained some measure of fame after the publication of his book "Losing The Race" -- which slammed black culture as being education unfriendly -- once bet me $100 that Latinos were ahead of Blacks in higher rates of education and lower rates of poverty. Well, here's more proof that he's wrong and still owes me $100.

Report: Hispanics lagging in education

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

Getting the children of Spanish-speaking immigrants to finish high school and go to college is crucial to the economy as much of the nation's workforce edges toward retirement, says a report released Wednesday by a prominent government advisory board.

"Hispanics are coming of age in an aging society," says Marta Tienda, a Princeton University professor who headed a panel that studied the impact of the nation's 41 million Hispanics. "Education is the bottom line." The study was released by the non-profit National Research Council.

By 2030, about 25% of white Americans will be at retirement age or older, compared with 10% of Hispanics. Although a growing number of Hispanics have reached the middle class, the report says they continue to lag economically as a group because of a continued influx of low-skilled immigrants. At the same time, demand is rising for a better-educated U.S. workforce.

"Perhaps the most profound risk facing Hispanics is failure to graduate from high school," the report says. Hispanics have the highest high school dropout rate of any ethnic or racial group in the USA.

The report also cites low enrollment rates in four-year colleges and poor English skills. "These trends bode ill for Hispanics," the report warns. "Failure to close Hispanics' education and language gap risks compromising their ability to both contribute to and share in national prosperity."

Although the report stops short of making specific recommendations, it calls for investment in education and social programs. "We hope it triggers a lot of alarms," Tienda says.

The report comes at a time of intensifying debate over whether undocumented immigrants should be granted certain rights, including temporary work visas, driver's licenses and in-state tuition breaks.

"If you're the L.A. (Los Angeles) Unified School District, how can you try to advance the prospects of your poorly-educated student body when it's constantly expanding with people from abroad?" asks Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group based in Washington, D.C., that advocates enforcement of immigration laws. "That's why immigration control is extraordinarily important," he says.

Stopping immigration won't reduce the number of Hispanics already here, says Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. "Regardless of what happens to immigration flows, there is a huge second generation of Latinos," Suro says.

The challenge, he adds, is getting mostly white voters "to invest in the education of another group."

How Latinos fare academically will shape the nation's future, says Melissa Lazarin, senior education policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza, a civil rights group. "We need to ensure that they're well-educated and they get the tools that they need to contribute."

Study: Most College Students Can't Understand Credit Card Deals (But Have Too Many of Them!)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.

Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.

More than 50% of students at four-year schools and more than 75% at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization.

Most students at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks. Examples include identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin.

There was brighter news.

Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.

Also, compared with all adults with similar levels of education, college students had superior skills in searching and using information from texts and documents.

"But do they do well enough for a highly educated population? For a knowledge-based economy? The answer is no," said Joni Finney, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent and non-partisan group.

"This sends a message that we should be monitoring this as a nation, and we don't do it," Finney said. "States have no idea about the knowledge and skills of their college graduates."

The survey examined college and university students nearing the end of their degree programs. The students did the worst on matters involving math, according to the study.

Almost 20% of students pursuing four-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills. For example, the students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the service station. About 30% of two-year students had only basic math skills.

Baldi and Finney said the survey should be used as a tool. They hope state leaders, educators and university trustees will examine the rigor of courses required of all students.

The survey showed a strong relationship between analytic coursework and literacy. Students in two-year and four-year schools scored higher when they took classes that challenged them to apply theories to practical problems or weigh competing arguments.

The college survey used the same test as the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the government's examination of English literacy among adults. The results of that study were released in December, showing about one in 20 adults is not literate in English.

On campus, the tests were given in 2003 to a representative sample of 1,827 students at public and private schools. The Pew Charitable Trusts funded the survey.

It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

New Poll: Most see racial progress; blacks still skeptical

From AP. Read this carefully as a window toward understanding how blacks think.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Blacks are more likely than whites to commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday, an AP-Ipsos poll found. They're also more inclined to harbor doubts about progress toward his dream of racial equality.

Three-fourths of Americans say there has been significant progress toward equality, but only 66% of blacks felt that way.

Racial integration has swept across much of American life, and blacks have gained economic ground since the height of the civil rights movement. Two decades ago, the government established a federal holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

On some measures such as annual income, blacks have closed the gap considerably with whites over the past few decades, census figures show. The progress for blacks may have stalled, however.

"People have opportunities, but things get in the way of those opportunities," said Latoya Williams, a black mother of four in Norfolk, Va. "The way the economy is now, you're working just to put a little food on the table. You just work, work, work yourself to death."

Just under a fourth of the population said they planned to commemorate King's birthday on Monday. A solid majority of blacks, 60%, said they would be involved.

"Participating in the march and in church services is a good time of fellowship and is important in keeping the dream alive," said Aubrey Jones, a black deputy warden at a state prison near Macon, Ga.

Fewer than one in six whites, 15%, planned to commemorate the day, the poll found.

Sandy Smith, a white health care worker from Medford, Mass., said she likes to participate in services at work for King Day. "It honors somebody who contributed quite a bit to our culture," she said.

All 50 states gradually recognized a King holiday. But only one-third of businesses offer a paid holiday, according to the Bureau of National Affairs.

Participation in the holiday was enhanced by legislation passed in 1994 establishing the day as one of service.

In many places, people will help with projects aimed to improve the community and help the needy. Supporters of the holiday try to discourage businesses from using it as a marketing gimmick.

"Martin Luther King would turn over in his grave if he thought he was recognized by a day of shopping and rest," said former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., who worked with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to establish the holiday as a day of service.

"The idea that it's a day on and not a day off is catching on," Wofford said. "But the King holiday is well short of what it needs to be."

Some say the fight for racial equality has stalled.

"We've made great progress over the last 50 years," said Julian Bond, national chairman of the NAACP. "Progress has always been stop-and-start, and sometimes backup. We're in a holding pattern right now."

Three-fourths of those polled say King should be honored with a federal holiday. Blacks almost unanimously favored that, according to the poll of 1,242 adults that included an oversample of blacks.

The poll, taken Monday through Thursday, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Accusations that King committed adultery and plagiarized material in academic writings emerged in the years after the holiday was established. Those claims remind people that King had human failings despite his larger-than-life image as a hero of the civil rights movement, said William Boone, a political scientist at Clark Atlanta University.

"It does not diminish the mission he was on," Boone said. "People now have a tendency to sanitize him, to make him more palatable to a broader spectrum of the American population."


WHO COMMEMORATES THE HOLIDAY: Blacks, at 60%, were more likely than whites, at 15%, to commemorate the holiday. At 13%, people age 65 and older were less likely than people in other age groups to participate. People in urban areas, at 30%, were more likely than those in the suburbs or rural areas to participate. Single people were more likely than married people to participate. Democrats, at 30%, were twice as likely as Republicans, at 14%, to get involved.

PROGRESS TOWARD THE DREAM: Whites, at 78%, were more likely than blacks, at 66%, to feel that significant progress has been made toward racial equality. Young adults, at 85%, were the most likely to feel significant progress has been made. Those who live in the suburbs were more likely than those in the cities to think progress has been made. Republicans, at 84%, were more likely than Democrats, at 72%, to think much progress has been made.

SHOULD THERE BE A HOLIDAY: Blacks, at 96%, were more likely than whites, at 67%, to feel that King's birthday should be a national holiday. People under 50 were more likely than those over 50 to think MLK Day should be a national holiday. Those with a college degree were more likely to feel that way than those with a high school education or less. Democrats, at 84%, were more likely than Republicans or independents, to feel the day should be a holiday.

ECONOMIC COMPARISON: Comparative numbers on median incomes of whites and blacks from the Census. The median salary is the midpoint of the range of salaries. 1. In 1955, when Rosa Parks helped spark the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a bus, blacks' median annual income was 43% of the median income of whites. 2. In 1968, the year King was killed, blacks' median annual income was 63% of whites' median income. 3. In 1986, the year King's birthday was made a national holiday, blacks' median annual income was 68% of whites' median income. 4. In 2003, the most recent year available in the census data, blacks' median annual income was 81% of whites' median income.
The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly larger for blacks. The comparative racial information comes from the Census Bureau.

Seahawks sign Shaun Alexander for $62 million - 8-year deal is largest ever for running back

From The Seattle Post - Intelligencer


Shaun Alexander returned to the Seattle area Sunday night, and he's not headed anywhere else for the foreseeable future.

At least not in terms of his football future.

Alexander has agreed to re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks, agreeing to an eight-year contract worth $62 million. In terms of total money in the contract, it is the largest ever signed by a running back; $15 million is to be paid in the first year.

Agent Jim Steiner gave the contract terms to The Associated Press. Sources close to the situation confirmed Alexander's decision to re-sign. The Seahawks had no comment, as the contract had not been completed. A news conference announcing Alexander's return likely will be today at the team's headquarters in Kirkland.

Alexander returned to Seattle on Sunday after attending banquets on the East Coast and Kansas City. He left his cell-phone charger on the East Coast, leaving his phone out of juice.

He could not be reached Sunday evening, but the electricity of his decision was reverberating around the Puget Sound area, as Alexander is returning to the team he helped reach its first Super Bowl last season.

Sunday began with Alexander just hours away from becoming a free agent. Never mind that the start to free agency was eventually delayed as the league's owners and players union continued negotiating an extension to the collective-bargaining agreement. The whole question of free agency is irrelevant when it comes to Alexander.

After a year in which Alexander was asked about his free-agent future at least once a week, he never ended up getting there. It was about the only destination that Alexander didn't reach in a season when he set the league's single-season record for touchdowns, was named NFL MVP and became the franchise's career-leading rusher.

He has 7,817 yards in six years as a Seahawk, a total to which he can now add.

In those six seasons, Alexander has never missed a game, and he has rushed for more than 1,150 yards in each of the five seasons since he supplanted Ricky Watters as the team's starting running back.
In 2004, he finished second in the league in rushing. This season, he won the rushing title with 1,880 yards. He scored 28 touchdowns, breaking Priest Holmes' single-season league record.

Alexander's future was a source of scrutiny since February 2005, when Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones signed long-term deals. Alexander got a one-year deal worth $6.32 million as the team's franchise player. Hardly chump change, but security in the NFL is written by long-term contracts -- the kind Alexander will sign this week.

Hasselbeck and Jones remain the highest-paid Seahawks, but in terms of mechanics, the total sum of Alexander's contract surpasses the $60 million deal that LaDainian Tomlinson signed with the San Diego Chargers. However, about $20 million of Tomlinson's deal was guaranteed.

Alexander signed the one-year contract in July, days before training camp, but only after being guaranteed he would be an unrestricted free agent if he didn't work out a contract extension with the Seahawks.

After signing the contract, Alexander was unfailingly optimistic a deal would be worked out, and he never wavered from the expectation he would stay a Seahawk throughout a season in which the contract discussions could be described as polite, but not overwhelmingly productive.

As with so many negotiations, it took a deadline to produce a deal, and Sunday, Alexander took a last look at the possibility of a free-agent future before agreeing to return to Seattle.

"Crash" Upsets All Predictions for A "Brokeback Mountain" Sweep - Including Mine

"Crash" -- Paul Haggis' wonderful film about race relations in LA -- took home the "Best Picture" award at the 78th Annual Academy Awards, upsetting front-runner "Brokeaback Mountain" and shattering all predictions boards, including mine.

In part because of this outcome, I scored 20 of 24 correct, missing on "Best Picture", "Cinematography", "Documentary Short", and "Animated Short." But in two of those categories, I picked the front-runner, which missed on both.

I think Tom O'Neill of the LA Times called it right when he predicted this awards outcome due to homeophobia in the Academy.

More on this, and my good time at the San Francisco Academy of Friends Party, later today.