Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bob Woodward, Will Ferrell, Lakisha Jones and Burning Snow

What a week in Flint, Michigan. In San Pedro, my second home, we're never surprised by movie-makers putting up detour signs, taking over Pt. Fermin Park -- sometimes for weeks at a time -- or setting off explosions at midnight at the harbor. In Flint, though, it's something exceptionally rare.

So the town was feverish and hysterical this week when Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson, along with trucks, vintage cars, light set ups and dozens of crew rolled in to film scenes for "Semi-Pro" featuring the 70s fictional basketball team, the Flint Tropics. The scenes they filmed in Flint involved transforming streets into winter, so crews from a company named "Snow Business" piled supposedly biodegradable fluff on several city blocks. And they stripped the leaves and buds off trees along First Street, trees which didn't seem to know that Hollywood trumps Mother Nature, especially in a cash-strapped town. They claim they'll replace those trees, but it's galling.

And the other day some of the leftover "snow" caught fire. Ironic twist on the Hollywood week. Snow smoking around the stripped locust branches. Ah, yes, things are going great in Vehicle City.

In the midst of the "Semi-Pro" hoopla, Bob Woodward showed up, part of UM - Flint's Spotlight series, to sell books, talk to high school students, and deliver a noon talk to a couple of hundred grown ups. I bought a copy of State of Denial and got it signed by the man himself -- who despite his recent wiliness and self-promoting actions confusing truth with fortune, remains a journalistic hero of mine. I was a young reporter at the Orange Coast Daily Pilot during Watergate, and every day in '73 and '74 was more exciting than the last. We idolized those boys -- and believed in the power of the word, of relentless research and fearlessness, to bring down evil. What's happened since? Even Woodward sits a bit too comfortably in corporate laps and the Washington press corps have the spine of eels. Still, it was stimulating to see Woodward in person and hear him talk about how he interviewed Bush for three and a half hours over two days. Stunningly, he claimed to have asked him 500 questions. It seems our president isn't a guy to go beyond the one-word response. Truth, ah, elusive truth slinks off, neglected, into the darkness.

Finally, Lakisha. She got her "American Idol" mojo back last week and squeaked through to the final four. Flint celebrates her with so much obsession it's...dare I say it?... embarrassing. Better, though, to rest in the talents of a powerful gospel shouter than corrupt politicians and industrial decay.

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