As part of my gig here at the Eagle, I’m eyeball-deep in multiple endeavors that are absolutely crucial to the survival of Western Civilization. At least that’s what I tell my boss at raise time. The point of my hectic schedule? Well, my pressing duties didn’t allow me the luxury of checking out Anna Nicole Smith’s grand appearance at the Supreme Court today.So I’ll have to take the AP’s word for it that the former stripper encountered a sympathetic audience from our justices in her quest for late husband’s oil fortune. Apparently justice isn’t blind all the time.If you have a better memory than mine, perhaps you may recall that the Zeke Blog previewed this big case just yesterday, speculating that the chesty Anna just might do something that would shock the decorum of the court.But with big dough at stake, she didn’t doing anything over the top or even lose her top, which has been known to happen. Of course, Fat Tuesday hardly was just another Tuesday at the Supreme Court. For one, it was SRO with Anna gawkers and stalkers. First, her entrance:When Anna — dressed in a knee-length dress, high heels and black sunglasses — arrived, several photographers toppled like bowling pins in their frenzied scramble to snap her picture. Jeez, you would have thought that she was topless or something. Now, let’s segue to her exit:About two dozen photographers swarmed Smith and her attorney like bees to honey as the pair left through a side door of the court building after the hearing, then sped away in a black SUV. No word yet from the AP on whether the D.C. cops nailed her for speeding. Perhaps they were preoccupied staking out Marion Barry, their bad boy one-time mayor. Between her entrance and exit, Anna Nicole must have nailed her appearance with verve. She likely removed her shades in court and flashed eyes glittery with primitive need.Again, according to the AP, several justices said they were concerned that the one-time Playboy Playmate of the Year was kept from pursuing a piece of her late husband’s fortune.Even iron has a melting point, I reckon, because it sounds as if our regal justices exuded an almost schoolboyish crush on the reality TV star who has managed to shed considerable tonnage the last couple years.In her svelte salad days, Smith married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was a frisky 89 and she was a 26-year-old topless dancer whose personal architecture was considered the Ninth Wonder of the World at the time. Marshall passed on the following year, but he couldn’t take his $1.6 billion with him.One of his two sons claims he is the only heir. Anna disagrees, claiming he’s simply wormy with treachery. Sometimes the truth is inelastic, impossible to stretch. Unless you’re a lawyer. Hence, the need for judges. Smith, whose outsized body and personality dwarf any of her show biz achievements, once upon a time was awarded $474 million by a federal bankruptcy judge. That staggering amount was later reduced by a federal district judge and then thrown out altogether by a federal appeals court on jurisdictional grounds.It has been speculated at that low point in her life that a then-mammoth Smith contemplated hara-kiri, but couldn’t find a Japanese sword long enough.The high court’s eventual ruling will determine whether Smith gets another chunk of Marshall’s hefty pile of money.Stay tuned. With the help of the AP, I promise to stay on top of this.
I sometimes wonder how people who cross the borders of acceptable behavior find the time to manufacture their mayhem and mischief.For instance, don’t they have bills to pay, groceries to purchase, toilets to clean? Doesn’t their ironing back up?I guess not. If they did get sidetracked by the trivial minutiae of life, perhaps their time poverty would rescue them from themselves.But I suspect people who live out on the margin are living proof that idle hands truly are the devil’s playground. And Lucifer seems to be always working overtime in Greater Reading. I sometimes wonder why we just don’t cordon off the whole town as a crime scene.Our news stories in Berks & Beyond are beyond surreal sometimes. Yes, they are real … even though they at times smack of comedy sketches authored by gag writers who moonlight for Leno and Letterman.In today’s Eagle, there is an article about a Reading man wanted on charges he cut his girlfriend with a machete. Nice.Anyway, police tracked down where he lived and surrounded the building. The dude apparently was in no mood for a meet-and-greet with the cops. So he did the sensible thing. He jumped out a third-floor window. Splat.He was flown to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia with head injuries. Meanwhile, his poor girlfriend was languishing in Reading Hospital.Needless carnage, if you ask me.Some folks just can’t help themselves.Some folks evidently communicate without compromise.Some folks evidently get entangled in a net of unfortunate circumstances, much like tuna caught at sea. Some folks evidently are regular rapscallions. Some folks simply make a whole smorgasbord of poor choices. Some folks simply have too much emotional gravitas for their own good.Oh, well. It all makes for interesting reading. No wonder crime yarns routinely are the most-read stories on our website. Of course, there’s plenty of crime being served up daily in Greater Reading to feed our hungry readers what they crave.
Just a quick warning about Tuesday: Planet Earth just might stumble in its axis.And failing that, our judicial system may gag over one massive hiccup. Come to think of it, make that two huge hiccups.In fact, as I write this tonight, I hope and pray that we are not on the eve of destruction.Because tomorrow is the day reality-TV mess Anna Nicole Smith, her chest preceding her, is expected to walk into the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court.Her shadow likely will roll heavily over the austere court, especially the seat occupied by Justice Clarence Thomas.Anna likely will bring a shudder as well as a sexual electricity to the legal arguments centering on a protracted and juicy soap opera involving her, her ancient and late oil tycoon, his son and a messy multimillion-dollar inheritance squabble. If the Supreme Court ever celebrates Mardi Gras, this could be the year. The case obviously has tweaked the antennae of the tabloids for a decade, and tomorrow figures to be quite the media circus.After all, celebrities move to the sound of clicking cameras. And Anna Nicole has fed off the constant energy source of cameras ever since she was the 1993 Playmate of the Year.Legally, this courtroom drama would just be a boring probate dispute testing federal and state court jurisdiction. But in our superficial celeb-obsessed culture, this Supreme Court appearance is a watershed moment. Smith married Texas oilman Howard Marshall in 1994 after meeting him at an adult club where she was a dancer.The fact that she was a mere 26 and he was a tottering, doddering 89 not surprisingly cast Anna Nicole in the dual roles of obnoxious, predatory gold digger and bosomy temptress. When Marshall kicked the oil derrick a mere 14 months later, public perception was frothing at the mouth over Smith being a female barracuda, an Amazon of epic animalism and greed.According to his widow’s legal papers, Marshall’s assets had been held in a trust that designated his son, Pierce Marshall, as the primary beneficiary. However, after Marshall met Smith, he created a separate trust for her benefit, the filing said. Smith asserts that Pierce Marshall “suppressed or destroyed” the documents related to assets designated for her by Howard Marshall.Well, check out this link for the nitty-gritty of the legal glop. What interests me is whether Anna Nicole truly will be a spectacle in the Supreme Court. Odds are she won’t utter any throaty comments to the assembled justices. She likely will be demure as she tries to extract sympathy for her case. Still, she has been known to be way over the top and out on the margin on more than one occasion.So the titillating apprehension that she could do or say something totally outrageous and inappropriate has many of us turning blue as we hold our breath.I can’t wait until tomorrow because this torrid tale could really get hot.
I guess it’s no secret that yours truly, the Polish prince of pigskin prognosticating, loves football almost as much as Haagen-Dazs.Which is why despite temperatures cold enough to freeze the whiskers off a polar bear Sunday night, I ventured up to the Sovereign Center to check the American Indoor Football League debut of the Reading Express.For game details, by the way, check out Brian Rippey’s post-mortem on the Express’ 59-40 loss to the Erie Freeze (aptly named for the frigid popsicle of an evening). Also for the big picture on the Express, browse Rich Scarcella’s column today for his opinion that the Express needs to tone down the show biz and focus on the football.Well, I must respectfully disagree. Having watched the big-league (relatively speaking) Arena Football League for years, indoor football is a party.The griddle that is indoor football has a flame that throws plenty of heat. It’s definitely not intended to be an Amish picnic. And it’s certainly not football for purists. This is an aerial circus, not a compilation of the greatest hits registered by fire-breathing linebackers. After all, the field is only 50 yards long. The goal posts are skinnier than a 7-iron. Teams only have 8 guys on a side and they pass on almost every snap. Two receivers are in forward motion on every play. The game is geared to the offense. It’s not football, it’s pinball on turf. The whole object is to make the scoreboard go TILT and process defenses into steak tartar. Overmatched defenses blow coverages more frequently than West Virginians spit bicuspids. And little wonder. Beleaguered defenders find themselves peering down the barrel more often than a Dick Cheney hunting partner.In fact, the poor guy stuck keeping stats for these games has a job tougher than a $4 sirloin.But the offensive fireworks are only part of the show. Indoor football is a party, folks. It comes replete with oodles of histrionics and theatrics — pulsating music that throbs craniums and a dance team guaranteed to keep eyeballs glued to the field. Indeed, the Smokin’ Hot Steam Team had moves every bit as impressive Sunday night as those of Reading High grad Carmelo Ocasio, who snared four Express touchdown passes.However, I do echo Scarcella’s criticism of the house disc jockey who assaulted the senses with his non-stop bombastic blathering. The Express definitely has to push the mute button on that dude. Or at least inject him with some anesthesia prior to the opening kickoff. To sum up, if you’re into entertainment, Express games are a viable option for your discretionary dollars. It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not real football. But it sizzles. And it’s fun.
For those of you who have been kind of enough to check out my blog over the course of the past year, you perhaps may have noticed that sometimes I’m a mental midget.Indeed, dip into any database of morons and the name “Zeke” likely will pop up in garish neon on your screen. Of course, this is not my fault. The toll of advancing years has caused my brain to become somewhat moth-eaten.The sinuous and dastardly forces of old age bushwhacked me once again last night.But it was my fault. You see, I’m still extremely gullible in believing that I can consume a big dinner, sip a couple of drinks, and still stay awake to watch a late-night fight on pay-per-view.Granted, some of you may chastise me for still indulging my philistine habit of watching boxing.The sweet science once upon a time captivated the world. Now, prizefighting has been reduced to a fringe sport.Ballroom dancing apparently appeals to the masses these days, not the ability to knock your opponent senseless with a furious fusillade of lightning lefts and rambunctious rights.The acute erosion of boxing’s popularity during a period of time when we are at war and our vice president shoots one of his buddies seems curiously out of sync — at least to me. But I digress. Anyway, I’m a throwback to the age of cavemen. Consequently, I squandered $44.95 Saturday night to watch the PPV telecast of the Sugar Shane Mosley-Fernando Vargas junior middleweight tussle direct from Las Vegas, the final resting place for the sport of pugilism. Guess what? Actually, you don’t have to guess, do you? My clever foreshadowing has adroitly staged the inevitable and predictable denouement for you.Yep, I fell asleep on my rump and missed the entire fight.Actually, I awoke just in time to see referee Joe Cortez stop the fight in the 10th round because apparently while I dozed Mosley’s repeated rapid-fire volleys of rocketing right hands had transformed Vargas’ left eye into a terrible terrain that looked as if it had been transplanted from the harrowing mountains of Afghanistan. Once my brain, heavy with the torpor of an ill-timed nap, snapped to attention, I lambasted myself with an utterly hysterical diatribe. Oh, well. I guess I can take solace in the natural order of things: Fish swim in the sea. Mosquitoes rise from the swamp. Old men snooze on reclining chairs.P.S.: I don’t know whose eyes were shut tighter last night during the fight — both of mine or Vargas’ left one. I’ll have to watch the replay Saturday night at 10 on HBO. Assuming I can keep my eyes open that late.
Convenience store clerks often witness the inferno of life from a ringside seat. They don’t pay these people enough because their job hardly is a stroll through serendipity.For instance, they too frequently are subjected to playing the role of the fish when bandits decide to shoot fish in a barrel en route to the cash register.And then there are times when convenience store clerks encounter situations bizarre enough to make them request a lifeline to sanity.A poor lady working in a convenience store outside Pittsburgh was mortified because she thought she had microwaved a severed penis, police said today.As it turns out, the clerk actually microwaved a prosthetic penis device belonging to a woman who was trying to cheat on a drug test. The cheating woman apparently wanted to ensure that the urine passed the body temperature test.The Whizzinator device now resonates in the American vernacular and is considered quintessentially chic in some circles. Actor Tom Sizemore was jailed about a year ago for violating his probation by failing a drug test after he was caught trying to use the Whizzinator to fake the results. And Vikings running back Onterrio Smith was suspended for the 2005 NFL season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy after getting caught with the Whizzinator at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Well, men will be men.But why was a woman using the Whizzinator yesterday?On second thought, I don’t want to know.Some things are better left underground, smoldering on unattended like a fire deep in an old mine.
Something gross welled up inside me like a terrible virus last evening and colonized what’s left of my mind.I have no explanation why I suddenly developed a widespread fixation on televised nonsense.But I couldn’t unpeel myself from the sofa, and I couldn’t unpry my fingers from the remote. I kept clicking with a staccato-like frenzy back and forth between the Olympic ladies figure skating, “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Skating With Celebrities.”I just couldn’t help my myself from hitting rock bottom. I spent an entire evening in absolute subjection and serfdom to my shallower side.My once hollowed utopia of watching hardcore sports like football, basketball, baseball and boxing had somehow morphed into a meowing dystopia of viewing silly, superficial programming that someday will have all of America ending up in a scratching, inane heap. And for this I am deeply ashamed. My cowardice in failing to resist this dreaded impulse to dummy down my TV watching was absolutely breathtaking.This morning I’m feeling rancorous and gloomy, a black-draped prince of a macho man in exile.They say the unconscious never lies. So does this mean that down deep in my inner core I share some sort of pablum kinship with the Katie Courics of this world? I could rationalize away my fall from grace by simply saying I was watching these shows to check out the babes.Of course, there are no babes in Olympic figure skating. Shizuka Arakawa, Sasha Cohen and Irini Slutskaya are hardly Maxim material.On the other hand, “American Idol” contestant Becky O’Donoghue is a Maxim girl, but apparently blind Americans voted her off “Idol” last night.Kristy Swanson and Jillian Barberie do generate some blazes of electric light on “Skating with Celebrities” and pro wrestler Stacy Keibler, obviously no blood relative of ring icon Gorilla Monsoon, does bubble up the chemistry of “Dancing with the Stars” (which also features a curiously stiff Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest football player ever).The ladies aside, it still was a lost evening for me.It would have been much better if a power failure had hit our neighborhood. At least then the imploding state of my mind would have been concealed in the pitch-black night.
Today has been rather emblematic of the hellacious horror transpiring in Iraq.More than 130 people, including dozens who joined a demonstration against sectarian violence, were killed in bloodshed across Iraq. The country is getting stripped bare, painfully vulnerable to brutality. The torrent of unremitting violence is triggering a harrowing erosion of the national fabric. And now there is a brewing civil war to stave in this fractious powder keg.George W. Bush is finding out the painful way that rampant red-eye hatred is not the most stable foundation upon which to erect a democracy.It’s a primal death struggle in Iraq. The exchange of suffering never abates, the sheen of the discord refusing to be dulled by time. Doesn’t seem like Uncle Sam’s boys and girls will be coming home anytime soon.
If you want to catch Kid Rock in the muddy washes of the flesh, you had better check him on March 23rd at 8 p.m. at the Sovereign Center.Because you won’t be seeing the Kid online in an explicit sex video, at least not for several days.A U.S. District Court judge has signed a temporary order halting the World Wide Red Light District company from posting a preview clip of the video on its web sites.The video, to put it discretely, apparently is replete with carnal affection with mammalian overtones and features the rap-rocker, former Creed singer Scott Stapp and four women who apparently aren’t shy about being bosom-close.Oh, well. By working definition, free spirits gotta be free. And how better to exercise that freedom than by frolicking in a lusty display of passionate gymnastics? I doubt Kid Rock, never lacking for hubris, went to court because he suddenly craves social acceptance or wants to muster some damage control. This is all about the money. If it’s Kid Rock’s naked butt online or on screen, he wants a piece of the action. Granted, you’d have to be a cretin to want to watch this sex tape. But, after all, we are talking about the Kid’s fans here. Not to be elitist, but I sincerely doubt that any of his faithful followers are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.Anyway, his lawyers accused Red Light of violating Kid Rock’s trademark and privacy rights. The lawsuit seeks a permanent court order halting sale or distribution of the video.The temporary order covers only a 40-second preview. The order remains in effect until a court hearing Friday.Whatever the outcome of the judicial proceedings, the publicity over this sex video sure can’t hurt the Kid’s concert ticket sales. You’d better call the Sovereign Center before the phone line melts.
An audit by Berks controller Sandy Graffius has found there was no hanky-panky going on as three state constables knocked down big bucks in the bumptious, brickbat arena of crime fighting.Apparently, the three constables are a real stable of workhorses in the grit-and-gristle judicial proceedings.Graffius and President Judge Art Grim also reported that reviews by the state Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the Judicial Conduct Board found the three constables earn their big money.Constables Thomas Holt, Bart Ganster and Fernando de los Santos earned a combined $438,342 in 2004 and a combined $491,761 in 2005.Those incomes certainly aren’t chump change, now are they? Constables do not receive a salary, by the way. Instead, they submit vouchers to the county for each warrant or other court duty they perform.Still, busy or not, I think the compensation for constables is totally out of whack. I can’t be the only one in Berks who wants to howl foul about this. Constables are important, apparently, but they shouldn’t earn more than cops.Granted, constables should be compensated fairly for their efforts. But the current bloated system of payment should have all of Berks County baying as long and loud as a wolf pack mating chorus.