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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2008 at 8:56 AM

If you're like most Pittsburghers, you only tune in to WQED-TV to watch Lawrence Welk reruns, and that slightly creepy "Celtic Woman" who plays the violin. So you may have missed the PBS Frontline report last night, "Rules of Engagement,"  a look back at the allegations of a massacre in Haditha, Iraq, where 24 Iraqis were killed under murky circumstances in 2005. (You can see the report online by following the link above.)

Watching the broadcast made me wonder why conservatives ever wanted to get rid of PBS: Frontline provides a highly sympathetic, if not quite exculpatory, account of the Marines in Haditha, while engaging in some media criticism as well. (Even Fox News appears to hate the troops, based on the footage selected.)

The person who comes off worst of all, though, is Pennsylvania's very own John Murtha, the Johnstown Democrat who gave the Haditha story national prominence. It was Murtha, a former Marine and Bush Administration critic, who cited Haditha as evidence that US troops were snapping under the strain, to the point that they were going on murderous rampages. 

Military prosecutors trying the case did not comment for the Frontline story, citing a policy not to speak about cases outside the courtroom. (Defense attorneys were under no such obligation, and their interviews make up a sizable chunk of the Frontline piece.) Murtha isn't quoted either, and little time is spent dwelling on how he got his information about Haditha.

But at least one of the Marines charged in the Haditha deaths, staff Sergeant Frank D. Wuterich, blames his own superiors. In a 2006 defamation lawsuit against Murtha, Wuterich argues that Murtha may have been the willing dupe of nefarious elements in the Pentagon itself. Murtha, the suit says,

was one of several Congressional Members in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate who was provided information by officials within the Department of Defense concerning the ongoing investigation into the Haditha tragedy. According to news reports Mr. Murtha was briefed by, among others, Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee. ... [T]he Department of Defense officials who have briefed or leaked information to Mr. Murtha deliberately provided him with inaccurate and false information.

Murtha responded to the lawsuit with a statement explaining that he made a public issue out of Haditha "to draw attention to the horrendous pressure put on our troops in Iraq and to the cover-up of the incident. Our troops are caught in the middle of a tragic dilemma. The military trains them to fight a conventional war and use overwhelming force to protect U.S. lives. I agree with that policy, but when we use force, we often kill civilians. What are the consequences?"

The Frontline story gives little attention to Murtha's defense, although it tacitly suggests that -- even if his criticism of the Marines in Haditha was over the line -- there may have been merit to his criticism of the war effort as a whole. At the end of the piece, Marines who'd been involved in the Haditha deployment say that on later missions, a new premium was put on protecting Iraqi lives -- and that this is a good, if difficult, thing. But in general, and for right or wrong, "Rules of Engagement" is kinder to active Marines than retired ones. 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2008 at 3:56 PM

The best and worst thing about niche cable channels is that to fill 24 hours of programming, they'll run just about anything, provided it doesn't cost too much. Among such space fillers on Animal Planet is its hour-long coverage of the World's Ugliest Dog contest.

The fact that this show, airing sporadically, covers the 2006 event is mostly pointless -- an ugly dog is an ugly dog whether it's 1900 or 2525.

The World's Ugliest Dog contest is held annually in Petaluma, Calif., which is also the long-running home of the world arm-wrestling championships (an event, you may recall, that a certain good-looking dog, Snoopy, planned to attend).

Animal Planet's coverage of the 18th annual event was this close to public-access programming: They added phony cheering-crowd noise; only featured six dogs; and blew their budget on "inspirational" back stories of the doggie finalists, leaving on-the-spot reporting of the actual contest woefully thin.

But no matter -- the show offered plenty of what we tune in to see: close-up after close-up of freaky dogs. The commentator talked about the dog's "heart" but I was mostly concerned that one Italian greyhound's protruding eyeball was going to roll right out of its head right on camera.

The title in 2006 was wide open following the death of the reigning champ Sam, a dog of such unbridled gifts and public fascination that he blew open the sport: As Richard Petty was to NASCAR, so was Sam to Ugly Dog tournaments.

A newcomer to this competition, after having studied the six finalists, would have to make the following conclusions about what makes a dog a viable contender:

 

* Being wholly or part Chinese crested. A Chinese crested is an acquired taste, as this small spindly dog even in tip-top shape has a hairless body covered splotchy pink and black skin, and just a few strategically placed tufts of long wispy hair.

 

* Having a damaged eye

 

* Be missing enough teeth so that inches of tongue are permanently hanging out, preferably on one side

 

* Also helpful: lack of fur, or far too much in the wrong places; twisted or missing tail; wobbly gait; warts; and behavioral tics such as excessive drooling/foaming and making weird noises

 

* Having an owner willing to travel across country to display your hideousness to hooting crowds and cameras that will enshrine your moment of "triumph" in cable perpetuity

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Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2008 at 10:22 AM

Regular readers of this blog (s'up, Bram? and as for the CP staffers who make up the rest of my audience, get back to work!) know that just yesterday, I posted a snarky little screed regarding Richard Florida, the expat Creative Class guru who fled Pittsburgh for greener pastures. I noted that Florida had gotten married, and that his wife Rana, who is also the CEO of Florida's consulting company, writes a syndicated advice column called "The Lowdown" with three of her sisters.

In a particularly juvenile turn, I submitted a question of my own to their column. I posed as a lovelorn reader who'd lost a Very Special Knowledge Worker to a woman with a lot more flash than I could offer. The idea, see, was that the guy in question was Florida himself: If the Kozouz sisters could tell us how to handle his departure, we'd know how to how to hold on to knowledge workers just like him. Then we wouldn't need Florida and his "talent retention strategies" anymore. Ha, ha, ha. 

So. Below is the advice given by the Kozouz sisters, who responded to my desperate plea within hours. It's written in the typical "Lowdown" format, with each sister offering me her own unique take on the question. Be warned: It features Rana Florida advising me to "calm my aching loins," which for some reason is only making things worse. But on the whole, I think the advice stacks up pretty well when compared to, say, the average Post-Gazette "Pittsburgh 250" essay.

I should note that when the Sisters Kozouz penned their advice, they knew exactly who I was and what I was up to. Within two hours of my blog post yesterday, Richard Florida sent me a good-natured e-mail about it. From this I conclude that Florida has special internet powers, and a Google news thingy that tells you when your name is being posted somewhere. Either that, or he has his grad students Web-searching his name every 15 or 20 minutes all day long. I'm hoping it's actually the latter -- because I decided yesterday to live vicariously through Florida and his sky-diving, Rollerblading bride. 

With that, let's get to the advice column itself, which the Kozouz Sisters have thoughtfully titled "Pitiful in the Burg." (It's like they really do know all about me!)

Dear Lowdown,

I had a whirlwind romance with a great guy -- handsome, smart, and almost too hip for words. But eventually he left because, he said, I didn't appreciate him or his talents enough. I thought I was over him at first … but I've just discovered that he's found a woman, and a life, that provide excitement I could never match. Is there any way I can get him back? Or at least to stop grieving over his loss?

Sign me,

Heartbroken in Pittsburgh

Smart, talented and handsome? I live in a suburb of Detroit, and let’s just say when something like that comes around, women scratch each other’s eyes out to hold on. And let me tell you, they hold on for dear life. What were you thinking, sista?

— Reham

I encourage you to analyze your actions. Start a list and write down what you did right and what you did wrong. Hopefully, the second time around you can be more upbeat and appreciative.

— Ruba

First of all, calm your aching loins. Was he really all that hip? Get over it; I’m sure there are other men out there for you.

— Rana

I always say, true love is so hard to find. You need to give this guy a second chance and make your way back apologetically into the arms of this perfect "place." If he’s the one, he’ll take you back and make sure you treat him right this time around.

— Leena

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2008 at 10:22 AM

City Paper prides itself on keeping Pittsburgh informed about the doings of Richard Florida, the former Carnegie Mellon University academic who coined the phrase "creative class" to describe knowledge workers and others. You may recall that a few years back, Florida left Pittsburgh to go teach college down in northern Virginia, where they better appreciated his unorthodox approach to talent attraction. (Or at least they offered him enough money to attract his own talents.)

What's he been up to since?

I'm happy to report that he has a new book coming out. Following up on the landmark success of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, Florida has penned a third volume: The Creative Class III: Revenge of the Sith.

OK, not really. The book is actually called Who's Your City? And according to the PR pitch I received this weekend, it's all about -- surprise! -- attracting talent. As the press release explains:

It's a mantra of the age of globalization that where you live doesn't matter: you can telecommute to your high-tech Silicon Valley job, a ski-slope in Idaho, a beach in Hawaii or a loft in Chicago; you can innovate from Shanghai or Bangalore.

According to international best-selling author, Richard Florida, this is wrong. Place is not only important, it's more important than ever. Globalization is not flattening the world; in fact, place is increasingly relevant to the global economy and our individual lives. … And everything we think we know about cities and their economic roles is up for grabs.

You'll also be heartened to hear that the book will feature "first-ever rankings of cities by life-stage, rating the best places for singles, young families and empty-nesters." So when the book hits the stands, it's guaranteed a "how do we match up?" newspaper article just about everywhere books are sold.

Note, however, the somewhat dismissive reference to The World is Flat, by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Maybe you think Florida is punching above his weight by taking on a big gun like Friedman. But as it turns out, Florida now has a columnist in the family too. So there.

How do I know? After hearing about Florida's new book, I got curious as to how our boy was doing. So I checked out the Web site of his Creative Class Group. (In case you were wondering, the CCG, as I like to call it, is a team of "next-generation thinkers and strategists" who offer "leading-edge knowledge … professional development worldwide." So the world's at least flat enough for purposes of a consulting gig.) And after flipping around through the site a bit, I have to say the question "Who's Your City?" was a lot less interesting to me than "Who's Your Daddy?"

I mean, check out the members of Florida's "Creative Class" team ... each one prettier, and sporting more exquisitely carved cheekbones, than the last. And that's just the guys!

But brace yourselves, ladies: Florida himself has gotten married; his wife is Rana Florida the CCG's CEO. The publicist who sent out word of this new book, Reham Alexander, is Rana Florida's sister. (Globalization aside, it really IS a small world after all!) And as it turns out Ms. Florida and Ms. Alexander write a newspaper advice column called "The Lowdown," which they pen with their sisters Leena and Ruba.

Judging from "the Lowdown" Website the column offers "four opposing viewpoints from the smart-talking Gen X sisters," and has "created quite a buzz, generating questions from an equal number of male and female, young an old."

I haven't actually read the column, but by browsing its Web site, I can tell you that I would follow almost any instruction the Kozouz sisters -- as the column's four authors refer to themselves -- gave me. Ruba is a part-time model, for example, while Ms. Florida herself apparently possesses a "high spirit and sense of adventure" that have her roller-blading and skydiving her way across the globe. What's more, her "cut to the chase attitude and philosophy on life is reflected in her advice which is straight and direct, firmly stating who is right or wrong."

And yet, something puzzles me. Florida's book apparently disputess the idea that it doesn't matter where you live. Yet his team apparently lives by the "mantra" that his book sets out to disparage. Florida now teaches in Toronto, but lives with his wife in Washington D.C. When his wife isn't traipsing off on safari or visiting the Dead Sea, she and her sister, who lives in Michigan, write a column that appears in the U.S. and Canada. And while the team's members do seem to be clustered in Washington D.C. and Michigan, one of them lives in Sydney, Australia. So is the earth flat or not?

Ordinarily, I'd hire an expensive consultant to help me figure that out. But if you want to get advice and counsel from a member of the Kozouz family, it seems, there's a cheaper way.

To wit …

Dear Lowdown,

I had a whirlwind romance with a great guy -- handsome, smart, and almost too hip for words. But eventually he left because, he said, I didn't appreciate him or his talents enough. I thought I was over him at first … but I've just discovered that he's found a woman, and a life, that provide excitement I could never match. Is there any way I can get him back? Or at least to stop grieving over his loss?

Sign me,

Heartbroken in Pittsburgh

If the Kozouz sisters have any advice for us, we'll pass it along to you ... and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 5:05 PM

So far the Survivor: Micronesia Fans vs. Favorites season has been less-than-gripping. After much hype, pretend-villain Johnny Fairplay offered himself up for sacrifice at the first tribal council. (This is no real surprise to the 14 of us who saw Fairplay drop most of his cheesy bad-boy act on last year's head-scratching (and bone-breaking) Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge series.)

Of the Favorites, I swear I don't remember half of them -- but I'm rooting for Yau-Man, of course. So far, the few Fans we've met seem a little … odd. There's the huge tree-like guy, Joel; Chet, who's a pageant coach (can't wait to see those skills transfer); and Kathleen, the gal with the Ellie Mae Clampett hairdo who somehow has lived to be 40-something without ever encountering a gay person or breast implants. According to the CBS web site, though, she does own a dog named Wilson Von Barkypants.

Episode two this week didn't reveal much more except:

* Some Fans have dreadful tattoos. What's with those little inked hands on Joel's chest? And Mikey B. looked like he'd lost a street-fight with a crew of jailhouse tattooists; he was rockin' that off-center ticket stub in the middle of his back.

* Never mind tattoo hands, some Favorites have got roaming hands. Kissy-face this early in the game seems like a poor strategy.

* Pageant-maven Chet is lacking in body, mind and heart according to his teammates, who died a million times during Chet's miserable challenge performance. They might be right, but I support the underdog, especially one as hangdog-looking as ol' Chet.

* Favorite Cirie still grumbles about having to do any physical activity. Please. The water around Exile Island looks fabulous.

* The producers may be running out of ways to mix up this show. Two people to Exile Island? Temporary immunity idols? Yawn. And when are they going to dream up some new competitions besides Swim-Grab-Untie-Solve Puzzle?

But the last five minutes was worth it. Nothing on Survivor ever beats a total blind-side. That chick is still wondering what happened.

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 2:05 PM

So, local lefty singer/songwriter Anne Feeney dropped me a line to say she's putting the finishing touches on her new album this weekend, with help from a special musical guest: founding country-rock folkie Commander Cody, who's passing through town on a mini-tour. The CD, to be released as Dump the Bosses Off Your Back, is being recorded at Wilkin Audio in Regent Square; apparently a bunch of the local musicians who are playing on it are gonna be around to hob-nob with each other and Cody … and would I like to stop by? And would I perhaps like to bring a photographer?

It does actually sound interesting, and if I were free, I'd gladly poke my head in. But if you've ever spent much time at a recording studio, you'll know it's mostly pretty boring unless it's your music, you're heavily medicated or you're a total gear nerd. But maybe Feeney knows something I don't in this regard, like some magical means of making studios a good time. I'm totally open to that possibility.

In any case, if you can't wait for her new CD, you can catch her on Fri., Feb. 22, performing with husband-and-wife duo Four Shillings Short. Comprised of Aodh Og O Tuama and Christy Martin, the group combines Celtic, Indian, and American folk music. Anne Feeney with Four Shillings Short. 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 22. Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, 416 W. North Ave., North Side. All ages. $15 (children free). 412-877-6480.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2008 at 11:25 AM

As the dead-of-winter dearth of tours hits its home stretch, we're discovering some things to get excited about -- spring already promises a few sweet tours that, perhaps surprisingly, are hitting Pittsburgh:

- Mr. Small's hosts garagey weirdos The Black Lips, touring with drumbuddy . . . err . . . buddies Quintron and Miss Pussycat, March 7th; Br'er Fox (formerly The Resistors) opens.

- The Slits, legendary '70s British punk band, pull through the Warhol on March 21 with Shellshag. We all know how that place books show that should be at bigger venues, and therefore sell out quickly, so get your tickets while they last.

- The very next night, March 22, another bunch of UK punks/post-punks -- New Model Army -- appear at the 31st Street Pub. They had to cancel their late 2007 tour due to visa problems.

- April 12 brings The New Pornographers (word is that Neko Case will be present on this tour; Bejar likely will not) with Okkervill River in the indie rock double bill of the (early part of the) year. That's at the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, and will set you back $30 (or $27 if you want balcony seats).

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2008 at 8:51 AM

Anyone who read my council column, "Going Through the Motions," knows I'm above taking a dig at former Councilor Twanda Carlisle.

When Judge John Zottola gave her a one- to two-year sentence on public-corruption charges Feb. 4, it was a bit more than I thought she would get. But still, she had violated the public trust, even though she publicly blamed the media for blowing the whole stealing-public-money thing out of proportion.

But now I find myself almost sympathetic to Carlisle ... almost.

Incarceration of some period is necessary for what she has done. But then I compare her sentence to those of other public officials recently convicted of violating the public trust.

My expert analysis: It stinks.

Within 24 hours of Carlisle being sentenced, former state Rep. Frank LaGrotta and Mark Donley, a police chief from nearby Beaver County, were sentenced on corruption charges of their own. LaGrotta received six months of house arrest for paying close to $30,000 to his sister and her daughter to "work" at no-show state jobs. The sister (a kindergarten teacher in Ellwood City) and the niece were given probation. As for Conley, he pleaded guilty to taking bribes and was given probation.

Some people resent it when the race card is played, especially in defense of somebody who couldn't even defend herself in a courtroom. (Carlisle pled "no contest" to the charges.) But it's hard to ignore the fact that, of the three public officials sentenced recently, only one is black …. and that's the only one who will be doing hard time.

Other public officials in recent memory have also fared pretty well inside the legal system. Former Councilor Joe Cusick was convicted of extorting bribes and selling jobs while a member of Alcosan — he received six months in a halfway house and six months of house arrest. Former state Rep. Jeff Habay has faced a multitude of charges in recent years. On the first group of charges, that he had his state staff do campaign work, he spent a week in the county jail before being referred to an "alternative facility." He was recently given four to six months in the county jail, followed by 14 months house arrest for staging an anthrax threat at his office.

I don't want Twanda Carlisle to get special treatment. I think Zottola was on the money when he sentenced her to a maximum of two years in prison. Contrary to what Carlisle and some of her supporters allege, this wasn't a bookkeeping error.

But sentences ought to be even-handed … and these white, male public officials should have been given stiffer penalties too. LaGrotta is helping officials in other investigations … but he ought to do time for paying his family with our tax dollars for work they didn't do.

Twanda Carlisle stole from the city and from the people of her council district. She should and will pay for that. But for her to be going to prison while others get an anklet, their own bed and all the Judge Judy they can watch, is a crime in itself.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2008 at 11:09 AM

Suddenly, there's a convergence of at least four fashion-model reality shows on TV. Seriously, there may be more and I'm just missing them. 

The standard bearer, America's Next Top Model, is back -- but with a pair of clips show (booo!). New episodes, on The CW, start Wed., Feb. 20, when according to the heavily air-brushed ad I saw, Miss Tyra takes the next batch of skinny teen-age divas to New York City.

Diva-dom is what's missing from Bravo's Make Me a Supermodel. I dig that viewers vote American Idol-style for who stays or goes, though so far "America voting on the Alltel network" has seemed pretty clueless, keeping the wooden Jay around for a couple weeks.

But doing the show live enough to allow for weekly voting likely means the producers don't have enough time and foresight to craft a show with a decent narrative -- and by that I shamelessly mean: stock characters to love and hate; "feuds"; health crises and various melodramas; and "shocking" events we sorta saw coming. It's no secret now that reality shows get a season-arc storyline, and that helps make them entertaining.

The gals on Make Me a Supermodel are utterly forgettable. They even robbed the one girl, Holly, with the super-cute retro bob, of her distinctive hairdo. On the upside, the guys -- all freshly manscaped -- rarely wear shirts, and the naughty-naughty flirty friendship between married prison-guard Ben and gay boy-next-door Ronnie holds some dramatic promise. But, the show's biggest crime is dullness -- from the boring hosts and judges -- right through last episode's Big Crisis: Model-on-the-bubble Kate was apparently eating bread.

Too MUCH drama is why I love The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, and this third season has been awesome. (Catch endless repeats on Oxygen.) I love how the show blatantly fakes a bunch of Janice-drama, even as you know the real Janice is likely a 25-hour-a-day crazy control-freak handful.

Plus, I've never seen somebody look so good and so bad at the same time. The close-ups don't do the heavily worked-on Miz Dickinson any favors. She's this close to sliding into one of those plastic-surgery-gone-wrong shows. And yet ... from a respectable distance, striding across a room, in a bathing suit ... we should all be so lucky. The editing on this show is so sloppy, that over the reputed course of "one day" Janice's face will display several stages of since-I-was-Botoxed-and-siliconed-up, so that her lip shape fluctuates wildly, her eyes shrink and widen, and so on.

Season three -- which wrapped up last night with more invented drama -- Janice fires her business partner Peter, big whoop -- has had some real demented highlights:

*  The Models for Jesus gripe session, followed by the most twisted photo shoot yet, those gay-rough-trade, ass-less jeans, featuring -- yes -- one of the prim Models for Jesus dudes stripped down to what God gave him, oiled up and nuzzling another guy's crotch. Clearly, the producers have determined that The JDMA scores high with gay male viewers -- or does the agency only get gay-oriented underwear contracts, which ... ahem ... require lots of hunky male models to disrobe and prance about in micro-thongs, adjusting their "rabbits" (a Janice term).

* Janice's new "bodyguard," Sorin. The Romanian beefcake didn't work out as a model, so Janice made him her bodyguard ... and forced him to follow her around in a man-kini: essentially, tiny hot pants and a crop-top that reads "security." As an around-town accessory, this tops any toy dog.

* The "Latin" division. This seemed like a great business idea -- having a pool of Latino models to tap the rising demographic, add diversity and all that. Then, inexplicably, in Los Angeles, Janice couldn't find any Latinos and filled up the "Latin" (her usual term) division with Russians, Asian-Americans and assorted not-Latinos.

* The Versace memorial. While in Miami, Janice drags her models and a huge paparazzi crew to pine-and-pose outside the gates of Gianni Versace's home, on the 10th anniversary of his murder there. You do the math: Some 18-year-old model would have been 8 when this happened, and likely could care less. Not so Janice, who kneels dramatically by the gates and avers: "Without Gianni, I would not have had children." The cameras whirr and click, and Janice -- ever the perfect model -- expresses "pain" without cracking her makeup with a tear.

Up next for our indefatigable "world's first supermodel," Janice takes charge of the burgeoning career of Abbey, runner-up of the U.K. version of Next Top Model. Abbey and Janice starts this week, also on Oxygen.

JDMA's Sorin: Yo soy bodyguard
JDMA's Sorin: Yo soy bodyguard

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:25 AM

Mid-February marks the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show -- six hours of semi-serious dog-watching on USA Network, broadcast live over two nights. I tune in every year, though it hasn't been the same since they lost Joe Gargiola, the divinely mushy-mounted co-commentator a few years back.

Every year the announcer rattles off the same patter about the 169 dog breeds that compete in the Westminster show; after years of watching, I can recite big chunks of this patter by heart. I'm sympathetic -- it's gotta be tough to come up with something different to say about so many dogs, many of which look the same to the casual observer.

But because this is a showcase for lesser-seen but totally cool-looking dogs that might attract new pet owners -- my fantasy dogs include the 10-foot-high Irish wolfhound; the aristocratic Russian saluki that must use $20 worth of shampoo a week; and the spooky, spectral Ibizan hound -- a fair amount of the blather is carefully coded admonitions to Stay Away. (Which I support: You shouldn't get a dog you can't manage)

Sometimes, the commentator is specific -- "the basenji is not for everyone" -- but dig the variety of nuanced warnings:

* "for households that can accommodate their needs ..." (Irish wolfhound)

* "a strong prey drive ... not the dog for everyone" (Rhodesian ridgeback)

* "spirited, self-assured demeanor" (Australian terrier)

* "They're always going to be a bit dominant" (bull terrier)

* "a dog that openly feels superior to its owner" (Scottish terrier)

Another great bit of extraordinarily polite commentary came in a segment introducing one of the four new breeds added to this year's roster -- a prosaically named hound, a plott. The winning plott was noted as being a "fearless hunter" (good, I guess) and as having had a "problem with [Westminster's] trademarked green carpet." (I think most pet owners know what's the story here!)

The remaining three groups -- Sporting, Toy and Working -- compete tonight; then, the final seven group winners go muzzle to muzzle. I root every year for the teeny tiny Chihuahua with the giant head to prevail, but to no avail. Terriers and poodles historically dominate the big win.

In fact, some sort of terrier has won 33 of the last 100 times. Is there a fix in? Is it because the bouncy, domineering terriers can't help but "bring it," as commentator David Frei suggests? Or, do they just look so darn cute sitting in the victory cup?

There's mutterings that this year's favorite is the 15-inch beagle, Uno – who ruled the Hound group and made the Final Seven. Could it be Snoopy's year? By 10:55 p.m. we'll know.

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