Esquire has Scarlett Johansson covered

As the faithful inhabitants of the Zeke Blogosphere have come to know, yours truly works manically into the neon night to keep you on the cutting edge of celebrity culture.Yep, “Access Hollywood” and People have nothing on us, baby! We know how to burrow ever deeper into the superficial layers of society. So here’s a juicy tidbit of breaking celeb news: Actress Scarlett Johansson soon will be unveiled as Esquire magazine’s latest “Sexiest Woman Alive.”Suffice it to say, all the editors, reporters and support personnel who make the Zeke Blog absolutely must reading for folks who read with their lips heartily endorse Esquire’s decision. And I personally am not sprinkled with small fingers of doubt over Johansson’s selection. Dear Scarlett, to put it mildly and tastefully, truly is a luscious entanglement of subatomic particles.She simply exudes the type of radiant energy that can be simultaneously as wholesome as sunshine and as naughty as moonshine. Indeed, not just anybody can switch from being the girl next door to the cosmic vamp merely by shifting her hips and pouting her lips. For you fellow Johansson’s aficionados, the November issue of Esquire will begin dropping jaws on October 17th.

The Reading School Board schools the taxpayers

Reading tax dollars already are stretched thinner than Paris Hilton when she gives up sweets for Lent.The city is woefully short of enough cash to pay for really, really important things like more cops to bust bad dudes, a workable sewer plant that will keep the toilets flushing in town, and such essential educational tools such as books so school district students can grow up and actually find gainful employment. Now comes word that Reading taxpayers will be footing the bill for four Reading School Board members to take a junket to San Francisco for an annual conference that likely will analyze the culinary splendors on Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf and detail why Alcatraz wasn’t exactly a country club for Al Capone.In addition, Reading taxpayers will have to pony up some bucks to provide all school board members with high-speed Internet access in their homes so they can spend each and every night browsing how to turn pupils with tapioca pudding for brains into Harvard grad school students.The total nut for all of this? Eleven grand.You’d have to be as dumb as a frozen ham not to realize this is a total waste of precious tax dollars.

Who knows if a pill-popping T.O. hung on the precipice of suicide?

I’m no shrink, but suffice it to say that Terrell Owens is a lush psychiatric minefield.The dude always has been as skittish as he has been loquacious. As the bombastic poster child for egocentric vanity, his cries for attention have been persistently perpetual.Still, I have no idea whether he tried to commit suicide or whether, as he and his publicist claim, he merely had an adverse reaction to mixing natural supplements and painkillers.The only person who truly knows what went down last night is the man T.O. sees in the mirror every morning.It would be presumptuous for me to speculate that Owens’ self-destructive behavior at times could make the quantum leap to the ultimate self-destruction. However, it has been vividly apparent that an acute abduction of rational behavior is par for the course in T.O. land. Just because a guy is a stud on the football field is no guarantee that lucidity and logic take up residence in his psyche.Whatever the true story of T.O.’s epic night with pills, he continues to be a master at manipulating the media with the melodic flair of a maestro. Mere hours after being released from the hospital, he held a press conference. Nothing like the warm spotlight of the media to take the chill out of a guy who’s hurting.Besides, what would a media circus be like without a clown?

Biting the bullet

Lots of rational folks were in Harrisburg yesterday, imploring state lawmakers to enact tougher gun-control laws.Their agenda: A ceasefire to the killing fields that are populating our urban cores like Reading.Meanwhile, David Laden, president of the Pennsylvania State Fish & Game Protective Association, was among more than 350 gun rights supporters who visited lawmakers’ offices to oppose new gun restrictions. Their agenda: To ensure they have enough guns stockpiled to shoot deer, squirrels and rabbits.My take: If we’re not going to put more of a bolt lock on guns, make hunters part of the solution. Turn them loose in our cities to shoot drug dealers and other hardcore criminals. If Dodge City is what we want, let everybody shoot up the town! Just kidding, folks. For a more serious perspective on the issue, check out Al Walentis’ blog today.

The ultimate sacrifice

Jason Brudereck’s Berks & Beyond piece today on Sgt. Jennifer Hartman, the Schuylkill County soldier who was killed in Iraq, is one of those stories that are so achingly sad they lunge for your heart.Even though I was on a tight time frame this morning, I lingered over my coffee for an extra moment or two, wrestling with how life can be so utterly temporary and so blatantly cruel.To summarize Jason’s article, David Hartman recently discovered his daughter’s MySpace Web site where Jennifer wrote that her biggest fear was “getting blown up in Iraq.” Jennifer, 21, was one of three soldiers killed Sept. 14 when a vehicle containing explosives blew up near the place where they were stationed in West Baghdad.I can’t imagine what haunting, shattering grief David Hartman and his family are enduring.Whatever your views on the war in Iraq, you have to profoundly admire the courage of a young lady such as Jennifer Hartman. Her valor is her eternal punctuation. I trust that somewhere in God’s master plan there is a good reason for such a profound loss.Rest in peace, Jennifer. You’re now in a place where there is nothing to fear.

Maternal instinct gone horribly amok crosses into a numbing netherworld

What demons frozen in malevolence can drive human beings to check their humanity at the door of evil insanity?Indeed, you can feel the air grow still, dark and cold around you when you see the face of humanity put on a gargoyle mask of horror. Today was such a day in East St. Louis, Ill., where an innocent plea was entered for Tiffany Hall, a 24-year-old woman charged with killing a woman and her fetus.In a violent upheaval of maternal instinct, investigators believe she sliced open the mother’s belly with a pair of scissors. Authorities say Hall also told police she drowned the woman’s three other children.Mental health experts believe some woefully tormented women become unwilling prisoners of an overwhelming need for a child. And in a desperate attempt to escape from their stone-cold sense of isolation, they resort to newborn kidnapping by Caesarean section.What in the world has happened to our Mother Earth?

This time the Eagles don't let their fast start go for naught

Well, for the second straight Sunday our intrepid Philadelphia Eagles accelerated full throttle as soon as hostilities commenced.The Birds took flight with casual ease, soaring to a 24-3 intermission lead over San Francisco.The 49ers’ first-half surrender was the most dramatic on American soil since the British called it quits against the Colonies. Indeed, the fight in the hosts from the git-go dropped quicker than the needle on a luxury car’s gas gauge.Watching those first 30 minutes one grew thankful that the malfunctioning Niners don’t run a dry cleaners because their patrons would routinely find their shirts and blouses AWOL.Of course, for the second straight Sunday the Eagles somewhat lost interest in the second-half proceedings as the Niners wiped some off the egg off their facemasks in a 38-24 loss.Fortunately for the Eagles, San Francisco, unlike the New York Giants last week when the Birds shockingly blew a 17-point lead and lost 30-24 in overtime, didn’t have a miracle comeback scripted in its playbook. The Niners had their second-half moments, but never put up a convincing argument.While the Eagles still had their heads in the game, they performed with intuition and confidence.Even with playmaking wideout Donte’ Stallworth resting his taffy-pulled hamstring on the sidelines, Donovan McNabb was as bouncy and breezy as a young calf.He finished 18-of-33 passing for 296 yards and two touchdowns as the Niner secondary played as if it was wading in duck sauce. Reggie Brown was McNabb’s big-play target, catching five balls for 106 yards, including a 50-yarder.Brian Westbrook once again demonstrated that he can ignore the earth’s gravitational pull as he flashed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Of course, 71 of those yards were stuffed into one electrifying TD jolt. He also had four receptions for 47 yards and another touchdown. Imagine what havoc this dude could wrought with two good knees. Granted, the biggest play for the Birds came from a most unlikely source. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson’s 98-yard touchdown rumble with a fumble recovery to make it 31-3 threatened to trigger an earthquake. The Monster Park ground shook under his thundering feet but the Richter scale people reported no fissured fault lines in the Bay Area.

Goodbye Penn State offense, Goodbye Columbus

With their Nittany Lions hobbled with a 2-2 record after dropping their Big Ten opener to Ohio State yesterday in Columbus, everybody who’s hung over in hardly Happy Valley today can’t even look forward to basketball season. Because, of course, Penn State really doesn’t have a basketball season.But the Lions do play football. At least their defense did Saturday against Ohio State, supposedly the best team in all the land. The Penn State D played a monstrously improbable game as they took most of the buckshot out of vaunted Buckeye big guns Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.Nevertheless, the Lions fell 28-6, losing their seventh straight road game to Ohio State.Granted, the lopsided final score was conspicuously misleading as Anthony Morelli uncorked basically back-to-back fourth-quarter interceptions that boomeranged for two whopping Buckeyes touchdown returns of 61 and 55 yards.A quarterback trying to gun sling a miraculous come-from-behind victory has to pass surpassingly well. Morelli, however, was about as accurate all afternoon as an embezzling accountant. His gun sights were misaligned as he went a misfiring 15 of 25 for 106 yards and three picks.Indeed, one doesn’t have to be Lee Corso to figure out that Morelli’s two interceptions that were returned for big-play TDs hurt more than a pair of impacted wisdom teeth. However, that is not to say that Morelli, like impacted wisdom teeth, should be pulled. It’s way premature for Joe Paterno to yank the kid from the job.Speaking of Paterno, his gut was wracked with pain most of the game. And he didn’t get queasy from watching the Penn State offense script a squalid tale of impotence and failure.Rather, JoePa was ravaged by a stomach flu. His skin suddenly as pale as a pearl handle, Paterno abruptly jogged to the locker room midway through the second quarter. He returned to the field briefly after halftime, then once again retreated to the locker room until the start of the fourth quarter.Paterno, who eschews the modern marvels of medical science, should have coated his innards with some Kaopectate. And it wouldn’t hurt if the 79-year-old finally grew up and started wearing a hat in the rain. He seemingly has spent most of this season getting his head soaked on the sidelines. He has spent so much time wiping raindrops off his thick glasses he should equip them with wiper blades.Speaking of glasses, perhaps they should fit Anthony Morelli with a pair as well.

A love potion to gag on

The Phillies were off last night, I already had overdosed on the NFL Network and had just finished reading this week’s Sports Illustrated from cover to cover, so I decided to watch the season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” with my wife.God, it was a wonder we didn’t drown in soap suds.What sappy pabulum! How does this tripe captivate Americans until their heart muscles begin to bind?As I was watching this nonsense, I was praying that the gods of slumber would soon render me past the threshold of unconsciousness.Granted, I realize I’m in the minority here. The ratings reflect that millions of giddy, giggly folks watch this saga of life, lust, death and more lust with their mouths agape.I would assume that all those breathless viewers sport Valentine’s faces with straight eyebrows that pierce them like Cupid’s arrow as they watch Meredith, McDreamy, Addison, Izzie, Christina and George try to get a grip on their hormones without getting them entangled with their stethoscopes.For a few tense moments last night it appeared as if the plague soon would bring an abrupt end to all the hanky-panky on the program.No such luck.”Grey’s Anatomy’s” lives on to pluck heartstrings across the heartland.

Sacrifice is never painless

As you well know, trash seems to pile up in our fair city. Philly has cheesesteaks, New York has Broadway, Hollywood has sun-kissed starlets, Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Reading has trash piled up to the Pagoda. Some things were meant to be, I guess.Of course, now comes word that we really have some disgusting trash in town.The Humane Society of Berks County Inc. is investigating why white doves, two goats and dozens of roosters were killed and their mutilated remains stuffed into a trash bin behind B&G Auto Glass.Apparently investigators have ruled out that the animals were killed going through a windshield. However, they may have been sacrificed during religious rites.Santeria, voodoo and a Mexican black magic practice known as Paolo use animal sacrifices to ward off evil and to appease saints, according to Humane Society executive director Karel Minor. I’m not a big proponent of animal sacrifices personally, but I realize religious beliefs are extremely subjective. Indeed, there still are some folks who believe in the Greek gods of mythology. Who knows? Zeus may have migrated from Mount Olympus to Mount Penn. No matter your stance on animal sacrifice, you have to admit the practice isn’t as tacky as human sacrifice. And we’ve certainly have had enough of the latter in town in recent years.At least these animals apparently didn’t die hungry. Some of the roosters and doves had vegetables and rice stuffed into their neck cavities while others were stuffed with coconut. Dylan Heckart, the society’s officer in charge of the investigation, said stuffing food into sacrificed animals is common in religious rites. The two goat carcasses evidently strongly indicate somebody was really in the throes of a bent-knee religious fervor. “In Santeria, and in Paolo especially, the goat is the Super Bowl of sacrifices,” Heckart said. “Sacrificing a goat is for when you are asking for a big favor.” Well, if these religious zealots were asking for such big favors as an end to drug trafficking and gang violence in Reading, or the Phillies clinching the National League wild card spot, or the U. S. winning the Ryder Cup, I’m all for animal sacrifice. The animal kingdom, of course, may beg to differ.