It probably isn’t news to anyone currently breathing that every newspaper owning corporation in the United States is currently in bankruptcy Chapter 11 proceedings. Here in Philadelphia, after sinking more that 500 million bucks to take the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philly Daily News off the hands of the guys who bought them from Knight Ridder, the purchasing group headed by Brian Tierney et al. ended more than eleven months of negotiations with creditors by filing for Chapter 11 protection with the United States Bankruptcy Court, meaning reorganization and possible liquidation. There are serious rumors that only one of the two newspapers will survive, probably the Inquirer.

In a way, this is strange, because there was a time in Philadelphia, and I don’t mean going back to Ben Franklin, when it was obvious that the Inquirer was the worst and most pitiful newspaper in town. The Philadelphia Public Ledger was the newspaper of record (its building still stands at 6th & Chestnut) for many decades, while the Philadelphia Bulletin was clearly the better of the two papers while the Bulletin and Inquirer were the two main papers in the second half of the 20th century.

Of course, the Public Ledger went under in the Great Depression; it died in a court-ordered liquidation in 1941 or 1942. This may just be history repeating itself. The Public Ledger was owned jointly by the owners of the NY Times, incidentally.

For a complete list of ALL newspapers ever printed in Philadelphia, go to this website pdf of newspapers held by the free library of philadelphia;

you’ll be shocked and amazed how many newspapers there have been and how many small ones there still are other than the inquirer and daily news even now.

But then again, the Philadelphia Athletics won five world series and too many pennants to count between 1901 and 1953, and were the main baseball team in Philadelphia for more than fifty years. No one gave a fig about the Phillies. It was only after Connie Mack died and the A’s moved away that the Phillies finally developed a fan base, and even then not really until the 1964 pennant run with Dick Allen and Jim Bunning did they really draw any fans. But who remembers the A’s today in Philly? Where are they today? No one in Philadelphia remembers them at all.

There’s a small museum in one of the counties, and a small bronze plaque at the new ballpark. That’s about it for the team that in the first half of the 20th century was the second best ballclub in the American League, and by far the best professional sports team in Philadelphia.

Getting back to newspapers, the point is that you can’t understand history by looking at it now. If you looked around now and saw humans, you’d never know that dinosaurs once ruled the earth. Likewise, looking around and seeing the Inquirer being the main newspaper, you’d never know that once there was a Public Ledger, a Bulletin, and probably a dozen other papers. Even the Saturday Evening Post, the nation’s number one women’s magazine, was published right here in Philadelphia, but it died too. That building is still around also. We have seen the end of magazines like Life, the Saturday Evening Post, and most recently, U.S. News & World Report, in the past forty years. Now newspapers are dying as well.

There were a lot of great movies about newspapers. The best movie of all time is about newspapers. Here I refer to Citizen Kane (1941), which is a thinly veiled biopic of William Randolph Hearst and his media empire.

There’s also Meet John Doe (1936) and let’s not forget All the President’s Men (1974).

I’d throw in Broadcast News (1980s) as well, even though it’s really a TV movie, just because it’s flat out hysterically funny and not at all dated, and because Brooks is one of my favorite comics in the world other than Mike Reiss. Just looking at Brooks makes you laugh.

But history does repeat itself. The Hearst media empire was bankrupted by the Great Depression—so much so that Hearst himself, so rich that he could build the Heart mansion—the famous “Xanadu” in the Kane movie—in San Simeon, California—now a famous museum—actually lost all his money to his creditors in bankruptcy proceedings and lost control of his newspaper holdings. No one today has heard of the New York newspapers that Hearst made his fortune from.

Now, we are going through another serious economic dislocation which is again severely affecting media badly. As badly as Hearst was affected by the Depression and War years, that’s how badly newspapers and old media will be affected this time around. Add to that the free news which is available on the internet, and on every persons’ telephone, and one would be silly to expend money for a newspaper.

It’s quite obvious that within another twenty years, there will be no more magazines or newspapers in print at all, that everything will be delivered right to your computer, tv or phone via internet. Maybe (and I often futurize about this) the convergence of nanotechnology and biotechnology will eventuate in a chip being implanted in your brain or neural net, so that you can visualize the images yourself without a machine mediating at all. Perhaps we’ll all be connected to the internet and to each other one day in such a fashion. It’s difficult to make radical predictions, but then again, in 1910, no one could have predicted that baseball, then a deadball sport based on bunting, stealing and pitching, would in the 1920s and thereafter become a sport of sitting around waiting for someone to hit a three run home run.

I will miss the Philadelphia Daily News. For the last forty years, it’s been the best sports paper in the country, and I’ve read all the other papers around, including the Boston Globe, the Chicago, the LA, the NY and SF papers. NY has tabloids basically and no good writing at all; the Boston Globe for a long time had great writers, but they’ve all gone to ESPN or national outlets where the money really is; and no other city really had good sports writing. Philly might be the last town in which there’s been good beat writing and sports writing for a long time now.

If the Daily News goes, that will probably be the end of it, though it may survive on line since there’s an online edition of the daily news that’s pretty good, and even better, available nationally to all former philly residents who follow their teams. So when they throw the last daily news into the fire and you see the sled burning with the name “rosebud,” remember you read it here—this was all a story about Charley Foster Kane, who wanted to be the world’s greatest newspaperman, and succeeded all too well.

By the way, I mentioned in a prior post that GE was way off about Jimmy Fallon? GE stock is now trading at five dollars a share. That’s right, five dollars a share. they made a big deal about this on one of the network news shows while i was working out on the elliptical at the gym. whoa nellie! The stock apparently has completely crashed.

Jack and Suzy Welch, would you buy this company’s stock? It was trading at $40 just last year. And now it’s down to $5 a share and dropping like a rock. Pretty soon it will be worth, say, 1923 German deutsche marks, which is to say, nothing.

Oh yes I would says the Wizard of OZ. You can get a thousand shares in this company now for the price of a song. Heck, the only place the stock can go is a little down, or a lot up.

I said they should have bumped Leno three years ago. While I recognize most of their problems are with GE Capital, entertainment is the division that’s always recession proof.

If you’re not sure about that, check out the fact that 1930s and 1970s are the greatest eras of film history.

Jimmy Fallon had another great show–Jon Bon Jovi did a duet with one of his fans, while Tina Fey sat and rooted the two of them on. I think it was the girls’ dream moment of her life, all caught on camera. You can bet that will be on youtube.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
You can

The clash between Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his former assistant coach (and now Minnesota Head Coach) and good friend Brad Childress in the playoffs yesterday highlights a new trend in the NFL—the Philadelphia Eagles family of coaches in the NFL. First, there are the Buddy Ryan assistant coaches—Jon Gruden, formerly of Oakland (where he went to the Super Bowl) and now of Tampa Bay (where he also went to the Super Bowl, and narrowly missed the playoffs this year) and Jeff Fischer of Tennessee, the NFL’s longest tenured coach, who is the AFC’s top seeded team this year, a regular playoff contender, and a former Super Bowl coach and AFC champion. Former Eagles head coach and Buddy Ryan assistant coach Ray Rhodes continues to work as an assistant coach in the league. Buddy Ryan’s two sons now are assistant coaches in the league. Second, there are the ex-Eagles—such as Herm Edwards of Kansas City, and former head coach Dick Vermeil, who used to coach at St. Louis, and won a Super Bowl there. Ex-Eagle John Bunting was a college head coach at North Carolina. And then you have the Andy Reid connections–Harbaugh at Baltimore, who used to coach special teams with the Eagles, and all the connections of Reid through Green Bay as well as Philly like Childress at Minnesota and Holmgren in Seattle.

There are probably many more connections to the Eagles that could be found, but it certainly is illuminating how many coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL (and in the college ranks) now have philly ties. And we used to think this was a college hoops town with a lot of college and pro hoops coaches everywhere. Who knew we were a spawning ground for college coaches. Guess it’s a spawning ground of football coaches as well for the NFL.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009

1) Timeline – The Movie, which is based on a book by Michael Crichton, posits that a group of scientists return to France in the mid-1300s, where they help the French lead an attack of an English fortified castle and garrison to win a great victory for the French and in the process win the hand of a great French princess for one of the scientists.

The Problem: During the Hundred Years War, as is well known, the French won no battles other than isolated skirmishes, and certainly took no castles from the English during the 1300s. Instead, the English, with their dominant longbowmen, won the battles of Crecy and Poitiers during the 1300s, and therefore the French were literally afraid to do battle with the English during all of the 1300s. At Crecy and Poitier, the charge of the French mounted cavalry was met with a barrage of arrows from English and Welsh longbowmen from the woods and flanks, which just piled up French corpses. It was the French, not the English, who were holed up in garrisons and forts during the 1300s. The French did not take a garrison or fort from the English until 1430 (see below).

Consequently, the battle as described by either Crichton or the directors of the film would never have happened. It was not until after the death of Henry V, the revolt of the French, and the coming of Joan of Arc in approximately 1430 that the French even won one battle from the English in the Hundred Years, and then by 1453 they had cleared modern day France of the English who by then were feuding into the houses of Lancaster and York and descending into the Wars of the Roses. See Henry VI parts I, II and III by Shakespeare; and Sir Douglas Omans Art of Ancient & Medieval Warfare, Part II.; and any competent history of England.

2) Braveheart – This Academy Award winning film portrays the battle of Falkirk and the hero William Wallace as played by Mel Gibson as having been lost due to the treachery of the Scottish nobles, particularly Earl the Bruce, leaving the battlefield, and shows Wallace and the Scottish rebels fighting the English nobly to the end.

The Problem: The Battle of Falkirk, like the battles won by the English in Wales, was not won due to the treachery of the Scottish nobles, but due to the incredible abilities of the English and Welsh longbowmen, whose arrows penetrated the armor of enemy infantry and cavalry of the time. There was no good answer to the longbowmen, who could shoot from farther away than the infantry or cavalry could respond. When the Scottish infantry and cavalry charged, they were met with a hail of arrows from the longbowmen who were deployed on the flanks. The Scots were largely massacred and the bodies piled up in the middle of the battlefield with few or little English casualties. The longbowmen simply cleaned up and prepared for the next battle. Falkirk preceded Poitiers and Crecy on the French continent, but the English would use the lessons of Falkirk to ample good use in killing French by the hundreds using the longbow.

Thus, the portrayal of the battle of Falkirk by Director Mel Gibson in Braveheart is 100% inaccurate, although Sir Douglas Omans Art of Ancient & Medieval Warfare, Vol. II does note that it is a common enough myth amongst the Scots that the battle was lost due to the treachery of Sir Earl the Bruce, but such is hardly supported by the facts. Even if Earl the Bruce and a thousand more knights and infantry had been available for battle at Falkirk to Wallace, they could not have overcome the English/Welsh longbow and would have lost this decisive battle. See the same sources as above.

Note that Gibson was attacked ferociously for his failures to depict things historically in The Passion of the Christ. I would argue that he actually should be taken to task more for his historical failures in Braveheart, although there is no doubt that his failures historically in Passion have been taken up by others more competent than myself.

3) The Last Samurai – In this excellent film, Tom Cruise plays a disillusioned Army officer of the United States assigned in the 1870s to Japan, where he is to train a Japanese army to put down an anticipated revolt of the Last of the Samurai. Instead, he is captured and becomes one of the Samurai, who go through with their revolt. Cruise fights with them, watches them slaughtered to the last man (actually, the last man commits seppuku), but goes to the Emperor and brings the sword of the noblest Samurai and asks that the old ways be honored, with success. Cruise during the film learns the way of bushido or the way of the samurai and finds the peace that has eluded him in America.

The Problem: The film is complete historically accurate in certain respects. There was in fact a final revolt of the Samurai in the 1870s, 1873 or 74, in opposition to the Meiji Restoration, which was put down by a modernly armed Japanese army. It is true this revolt was prompted by the ban on the wearing of the two swords, short and long, of the samurai, and the banning of the samurai class, from society, as part of the Meiji Restoration. Also, Zwick and Herskowitz have produced a Kurosawa like epic film (there is no other way to describe it) and Cruise actually turns in a fine performance as a man who puts his life back together in the principles of Zen Buddhism and bushido.

The problem is that no American officer was ever sent to train Japanese army officers to fight the rebellion. It was Germany, not America, that Japan turned to when they needed to train, arm and equip their army to face and fight the Samurai. Thus, the Tom Cruise character and the idea that an American was sent to Japan is completely fictional. It was Germans, not Americans, who went to train the Japanese army to fight the samurai. See Edwin Reischauers history of Japan; and any other competent source covering the Meiji Restoration on this point.

However, if one can imagine the central character as a german army officer, the story could be historically true, though imagining a german or prussian drilling officer as a samurai is difficult to envision. Perhaps we could see it better after Mr. Cruise’s latest film role as a Nazi with an eye patch, albeit one bent on secretly plotting to kill Hitler. Personally, I still think the only good Nazi is a dead one whatever his intentions.

4) Gladiator – In this outstanding film, we begin at the end of an arduous military campaign against the Germanii led by heroic and noble general Maximus. He wins the battle, of course, and reports to his beloved Emperor, the famous Marcus Aurelius (author of the Stoic-influenced Meditations). Marcus Aurelius advises him he will disinherit his son Commodus, and make Maximus Lord Protector of Rome, that it may become a Republic again, according to the Emperors most ethical wishes and the good of Rome.

Unknown to Maximus, Commodus has arrived in camp, has a secret audience with his father, is advised he will be disinherited, and in disgust, kills Marcus Aurelius and proclaims himself Emperor. He then orders Maximus relieved of command, orders Maximus and his family executed, and assumes command of the triumph into Rome celebrating the triumph of the conquest of Germania. Maximus escapes, only to find his family dead, and vows revenge.

The rest of the movie is Maximus slow path to revenge himself as he is sold into slavery, finds himself a gladiator in the provinces, and finally, a gladiator in Rome. Finally, he gets his day and slays Commodus in the Coliseum dying in the process. An elegiac speech on how noble he was follows his death.

The Problem: Commodus was not slain by anyone for at least 15 years after taking office. The historical truth is the bad guys won. A near-madman, Commodus did revive the gladiatorial games and often fought himself in the arena as the movie suggests, but there was no Maximus to oppose him. Commodus was never slain and he got away with killing his father, though he himself did finally meet with a violent end, albeit some many years later. Commodus is ranked as a A bad emperor by most historians.

So who is Maximus? The answer lies in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The character of Maximus is the ideal man of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a perfectly stoic, ethical, noble Roman. Maximus is a philosophical fiction, much like Platos philosopher-king.

Director Ridley Scott and his writer(s) have crafted Shakespearian fiction here, but it is on a grand philosophical level. They have given flesh and blood to an epic philosophical character, the Maximus of the Meditations, and shown what he might have done if given the chance to avenge the death of Marcus Aurelius.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

It was one of the most famous games every played in college football history—the famous 29-29 tie between Harvard and Yale in November of 1968. Down by sixteen points with less than two minutes to go, against unbeated and untied Yale (with Brian Dowling and Calvin Hill), Harvard (with Tommy Lee Jones) managed to score a touchdown, then scored a two point converstion, then kicked the onsides kick.

Then with less than a minute, Harvard recovered a fumble by a Yale player named Bradford Lee (later a professor at Harvard and now at the Naval War College in Rhode Island), Harvard recovered the ball, and scored another TD and another two point conversion to miraculously tie the game as time ran out.

The next day the Harvard Crimson headline ran its famous headline, “Harvard beats Yale 29-29.”

It should be noted here that “Brian Dowling” was the model for the famous “B.D.” the helmeted football player in Gary Trudeau’s long running comic strip Doonesbury, although neither Doonesbury nor its core charaters have aged well. Doonesbury’s best character was probably “Uncle Duke”, based expressly on the late Hunter S. Thompson, but with Thomson’s death, the character had to end. The cartoon has meandered since then, and many graphic artists are much more hip and contemporary these days.

It must be nice to be married to Jane Pauley, though.

Now, according to the New York Times and other major web sources, this movie will debut Friday this weekend, and the events of that game have been dramatized in a what has become a major documentary film.

The principals of the game have been interviewed along intercutting of rare footage of the game and of the time period.

This should be one really neat film, if for no other reason than that Tommy Lee Jones, who played in the game and was an all-Ivy League linebacker, will clearly be one of the people featured in the film.

Director Rafferty, a Harvard grad, has done an excellent job with this film, which recaptures an innocent time of our past, and also recaptures a simpler spirit of athletic endeavor and competition. In that sense he refreshes us all and recalls the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young,” in that youth and the competition are for many of us the high point of memories of a lifetime.

Go see this film. Harvard wins in the end, 29-29. Ode to Joy!!!!!

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey