Good News Friday: Kansas City police give out $100 bills thanks to Secret Santa. A waitress gets the “best shift ever.” And Toys ‘R’ Us customers get their remaining bill wiped out

So much going in the world these days that’s bad, it’s nice to stop and acknowledge good things today.

Like the final episode of the Serial podcast, which was awesome (no spoilers). Like the fact that finally, after decades of a failed policy, the U.S. is letting Cuba back into the world. Like this great story I read Thursday by The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan, about a man named Danny Watkins who quit the NFL because he really wanted to be a firefighter.

And these three pieces of media, which delighted me this week. Happy Holidays to one and all…

First up, I write about this wonderful humanitarian every year at this time, because CBS Sunday Morning does a story on him each year. An anonymous millionaire in the Midwest goes around the country every December handing out $100 bills to random strangers, people who look to be in need.

This year, he did things a little differently. He enlisted members of the Kansas City, Mo. police department to be his elves, and had them pull over cars that looked to be damaged or in need of repair.
Then, after pulling them over, they gave the unsuspecting strangers the $100. Their reactions are priceless…

**Next up, this made me really happy, because I know how crappy restaurant waiters and waitresses get treated. The people at Break.com decided to give a very deserving server named Chelsea the “Best Shift Ever,” with a $1,000 tip, a new car, and so much more.

Watch and feel the love…

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**And finally, more examples of the holiday spirit making people do nice things: Last week a woman walked into a Toys ‘R’ Us store in Bellingham, Mass., and told the manager she wanted to pay off every layaway account the store had, anonymously.

It cost the benefactor $20,000, but it sure made a whole of people have a much happier holiday season.
Beautiful.

 

A gorgeous column on love and loss at Christmastime. The Gary Hart scandal captured poignantly in new book. And a Mom calls in to yell at her sons on live TV.

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Sometimes a piece of writing just smacks you in the gut, totally out of nowhere, and your jaw drops at the beauty of the words. (Yeah yeah, I know I’m a writer and a sap, but bear with me, this is worth it).

The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column usually produces good stuff, but it’s usually about an adult sexual relationship, and it’s often funny and entertaining.

But this week … wow. A writer named Jessica Strawser tells a moving story about the first holiday season she had to experience without her best friend, who had been killed in the past year by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Strawser goes to the cemetery around Christmastime and meets an interesting man there, doing his own ritual and… I don’t want to give any more away. Just read it, smile at the power of love, then hug someone you love.

Really an extraordinary column.

**Next up, this cracked me up and apparently went viral on the Web Tuesday. During a C-Span appearance by Brad and Dallas Woodhouse, two brothers who are political pundits on opposite sides of the aisle, they got a call from a “Joy in Raleigh, N.C.”

Turns out it was their Mom, who proceeded to scold her boys for never getting along.
“I was hoping this would be the year you went to your in-laws for Thanksgiving,” she said. “And I want peace when you come here at Christmas.”

Hilarious stuff. I love the brothers’ reaction when they realize it’s their momma on the line.

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**Finally today, I just finished an excellent book I want to recommend to anyone on your list who loves politics. Five years before Bill Clinton ran for President and we learned that America really didn’t care much who a politician had shtupped over the years, there was another major political force whose career was ended because of a possible affair he may have had.

The name “Gary Hart,” if you’re 30 or older, probably means one thing to you: Presidential candidate/frontrunner to win in 1988 who in 1987 was caught by reporters cavorting with a young blonde named Donna Rice, and the ensuing sex scandal ruined Hart’s chances forever in just a few days.

Matt Bai, formerly of the New York Times Magazine, has written a fabulous new book about Hart called “All the Truth is Out,” about the Hart scandal and how it changed the way politicans are covered, forever.

Before Hart, politicians’ affairs pretty much were kept secret by reporters; hell, JFK, LBJ, FDR, all had extra-marital relations. But with the explosion of cable TV and increasing pressure to “be first” and be salacious, the late 1980s ushered in a new era of political coverage.

And when the Miami Herald got a tip that Hart was fooling around, and then stalked him and “caught” him outside his Washington D.C. apartment, well, all the rules were forever changed. (As an ex-reporter I’m torn about what the Herald did; yes they were chasing a legit story, but they did it in a very sleazy way.)

Bai is clearly sympathetic to Hart, and he makes a really strong case on why this one affair shouldn’t have ruined him forever. Hart was a brilliant politician but didn’t have Clinton’s charm and political skills which is probably why Clinton won two terms and Hart is a footnote.

It’s a really interesting book about a fascinating man and a pivotal moment in how politics are covered. Check it out here.

Two years later, Sandy Hook teachers refuse to get discouraged. An awesome oral history of “Boogie Nights.” And Johnny Football, not so good at NFL football

Charlotte Bacon. Daniel Barden. Rachel Davino. Olivia Engel. Josephine Gay. Ana M. Marquez-Greene. Dylan Hockley. Dawn Hocksprung. Madeline F. Hsu. Catherine V. Hubbard. Chase Kowalski. Jesse Lewis. James Mattioli. Grace McDonnell. Anne Marie Murphy. Emilie Parker. Jack Pinto. Noah Pozner. Caroline Previdi. Jessica Rekos. Avielle Richman. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Benjamin Wheeler. Allison N. Wyatt.

Those are the names of the 26 people murdered two years ago Sunday, when a gunman loaded with way more powerful artillery than any one person should own, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire.

Two years. Two years since the bloodshed, and two years when every politician talked about how nothing would ever be the same, how laws needed to be changed, how guns couldn’t be this available, how massacring children is something America could not stand for.

And yet here we are. Gun laws are basically the same. Mass killings haven’t slowed down, not in the least. The NRA is as powerful as ever.

It just makes me furious.  And yet, listen to the Sandy Hook teachers in the video above, the survivors who vow to keep fighting. They give me a little bit of hope. But it’s still infuriating to know that two years after this unthinkable tragedy, America has marched on as if those kids had never been murdered.

What’s it going to take?

**Next up, Grantland.com continues to produce outstanding journalism and really fun stories; Sunday I finally got around to reading a sensational oral history of one of my favorite movies, “Boogie Nights.” (The scene above is 1/2 of one of my favorite scenes in movie history; unbelievably, I can’t find the whole uncut scene on YouTube; here’s the other half)

So much great information in this oral history, including that Albert Brooks and Warren Beatty were both in talks to play Jack instead of Burt Reynolds (Albert Brooks in that role? Inconceivable, as Vizzini would say); Reynolds and director P.T. Anderson had a fistfight on the set one day, and real-life porn star Nina Hartley, playing William H. Macy’s character’s wife, wanted to have actual sex scenes and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t allowed.

It was a transformative movie, brilliantly shot and written. The oral history shows that all involved realize how lucky they were to be part of such a landmark film.

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**Finally today, some Week 15 NFL thoughts as my New York Jets continue to screw up their campaign for the No. 1 pick, beating the equally-wretched Tennessee Titans (seriously Jets, you can’t even lose properly!)

– So all those fans clamoring for Johnny Manziel to be the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, how you feeling now?  Boy was Johnny Football awful on Sunday, throwing two picks and passing for only 80 yards as the Browns’ were destroyed. I only saw highlights but Manziel looked awful. Only one game, but he was pretty atrocious.

– Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place Carolina Panthers! 5-8-1, and yep, they’re in first in the NFC South. What a joke it is that they or New Orleans will get to host a playoff game.

– Biggest win in a decade for Buffalo, beating Green Bay. The Bills are the Jets’ rivals so I don’t really like them, but they’ve been bad for so long, and that city deserves a winner, so I’m happy they’re at least in contention for the playoffs. With all Jim Kelly’s been through, and Darryl Talley, that team deserves some good karma.

– I know nobody cares, but I was in my fantasy football league playoffs Sunday, and had a decent shot to win if Matthew Stafford had just thrown one or two more TD passes, but he stinks and he didn’t and I lost a chance at $200. Just venting, I feel better now.

– Sure as hell looks like the Seahawks are coming out of the NFC, and the Patriots are coming out of the AFC. That’d be one hell of a Super Bowl, no?

Some more fatherhood thoughts as my kid turns 3 months old. A toddler is totally confused by twins. And a man saved from drowning officiates his rescuer’s wedding

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And a Happy Friday to all of you out there; it’s been a pretty terrible week, world news-wise, but a great week for me, since I am now, officially, a stay-at-home dad.
The wife went back to work late last week after her maternity leave ended, which meant that I am now in full Mr. Mom mode, working as a freelance writer from our NYC apartment and in complete charge of our adorable 3-month old son (the grandparents have been visiting a lot and helping big-time).

It’s a little scary but mostly thrilling. Man, this parenting thing is a trip. Some more dispatches from my continuing adventures in Daddy-hood:

– This kid loves being held, but it’s only his second favorite thing. His most favorite thing is being changed.
Boy does he love being changed. Like, before I even get the diaper off he’s smiling and laughing, because he knows he’s getting wiped and cleaned and having A+D ointment slathered over his tushy.
Seriously, this is his favorite time of the day (or, you know, favorite 9-10 times per day, as it were).

Problem is, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by sitting in poop. If I don’t notice the smell or “hear” it, he’ll just sit or lie down with a poopy diaper for as long as it takes for his parents to notice.
I don’t think this bodes well for future potty training.

– He’s getting real, real close to being able to roll over. Like, he leans one way and sorta rocks. Once he’s able to roll over, all bets are off, I gotta watch him like a hawk.

– I used to have 1980s songs in my head, or commercial jingles. Now, all the time, it’s the freaking songs that come out of his playmat, or his vibrating swing. Middle of the night, I wake up and that’s what I hear. It’s a constant soundtrack that doesn’t shut off.
Parents, does it ever go away? Please make “Alouetta” stop! Tonight I’ve got a song called “Alice the Camel” in my brain. (It’s actually a pretty funny tune).

– So I’ve been alone with the kid for 8 days now and have managed to take a shower on five of those days. Pretty good percentage?

– Crazy to see him already outgrowing some of his clothes. Like, every day, I can watch him get bigger. Of all the joys of being with him every day, that might be the best.
Or his new giggle when I do something silly.
Poor kid, he has no frame of reference; he thinks Daddy is the funniest person in the whole world. Wait till he hears about Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock; then, I’m toast.

**Next up, this made me laugh: A toddler meets twins for the first time and is totally confused having two identical people sitting next to him.
Hey, I feel your pain, kid. We’re all confused by twins.

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**And finally, a wonderful story to take into the weekend. Mike Wise is a columnist at The Washington Post, and six years ago he chased after his dog until both fell through the ice in a local canal.

Freezing and calling out for help, Wise was rescued by a jogger named Jason Coates, wbo pulled both man and dog out of the water, saving their lives.

Six years later, Wise officiated at Jason’s wedding, and last week wrote about this unlikely and incredible friendship journey he’s been on.

Really a warm, sweet piece that will make you smile.

 

The CIA torture report is shameful and disgusting. A restaurant in Canada offers a new way to take orders. And the pacifier that’s wired from your baby to you

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The bile started rising at the very beginning, the sick feeling in the pit of my  stomach as I read the opening paragraphs.
Then it got thicker and thicker until I almost wanted to throw up, and my nausea turned to rage at the unbelievable details.

Yes, most of us who follow politics expected Tuesday’s release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush/Cheney years to be bad. We knew prisoners had been beaten and waterboarded at secret prisons (like the one above); we knew the Geneva Conventions had been violated and ignored.

But Jesus, it was so much worse than we thought. I almost don’t even know where to start, there are so many hideous excerpts from the 600-page report that were all over the Internet news sites Tuesday.
And remember, as you read some of this, this is just the heavily redacted, edited version that released; reading this, I can’t imagine how disgusting what we didn’t see is:

– All throughout the report are tales of innocent suspects tortured, waterboarded and put through unspeakable horrors. The report even has CIA agents admitting they knew that the torture wasn’t working, yet it kept going. Hell, in 2013 , the CIA admitted that it was simply incapable of evaluating the effectiveness of its covert activity.
But hey, let’s keep doing it. Screw the Geneva Convention.

– Once again, over and over throughout the report, this blaring fact is repeated: TORTURE DOES NOT WORK. It didn’t help get Osama bin Laden. It didn’t help against any other major target like Khalid Muhammad. It does not, in any way, lead to useful intelligence that stops terrorism. (A CIA interrogator said in the report that “torture led us away from bin Laden.”
There are those who will argue, like my father in a conversation with me Tuesday, that all U.S. and CIA actions are justified in the names of preventing future terrorism.

Except, torture does not work, ever. Which just makes America as bad as Iran, China or any other nation we look down our noses at.

– The CIA used “rectal feeding” on some prisoners, which is basically anal rape.
— The CIA tortured innocent relatives of potential suspects, just to try to get the relatives to talk. Also they tortured mentally retarded suspects as well. As my mother-in-law said, these agents made Carrie Matheson from “Homeland” look stable.

– The CIA constantly lied to both the Bush and Obama White Houses about what they were doing in the secret prisons and detention centers, and there was zero oversight, apparently.

– Barack Obama comes off pretty awfully in this report too, for his ultimate refusal to coperate with the investigation, and to hold anyone accountable for the torture. His B.S. about “let’s look forward, not backward,” while he knew America had lost all moral authority in the world because of what happened, and his refusal to go forward with prosecutions against war criminals, is a stain on his Presidency for all time.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I highly urge you to check out Andrew Sullivan’s thorough breakdown of the report, as well as this fantastic New York Times story that breaks down, case by case, the numerous lies of the Bush-Cheney CIA era and how torture got us nowhere.

There should be prosecutions, there should be trials, and there should be prison time for Bush, Cheney and ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden. If there are not, I believe we have lost all moral authority with the world.

What an absolute disgrace.

**OK, time for a palatte cleanser: This is a terrific and interesting new idea; a restaurant in Toronto called “Signs” has opened, and all its waiters and waitresses are deaf. Customers order in sign language (instructions on signs are printed in on the menu) and it’s a whole different kind of restaurant experience.
Very cool.

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**And finally, a new product that totally appeals to me, and creeps me out as a new father. A company called Blue Maestro has just invented a new app called Pacifi, which is a Bluetooth-enabled pacifier that sends your baby’s temperature directly to your Smartphone.

Pacifi works by using a built-in temperature sensor that is nestled in its silicon teat. The gathered temperature data is then transmitted to an app found in an iOS or Android device through Bluetooth. Afterwards, the app determines the time when a temperature data is most accurate, time-stamps it, and plots it in a graph.

Do I want this? No. Seems a little too “overbearing parent” to me. But hey, if your kid is sick, I guess it could be useful.
Now, when will they invent an app that makes your baby stop crying? Because I’ll pay a million bucks for that one.

 

A barbershop encounter gives me serious childhood flashbacks. Browns and Jets lose excruciatingly, as usual. And an 18-wheeler jumps over a racecar

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You ever have an experience as an adult where you meet someone who reminds you exactly of you as a kid, and it sorta freaks you out?

I had one of those moments Sunday, in a pretty unlikely place. Before heading to my usual NFL-watching sports pub, I walked a few blocks to my usual barbershop, which because I’m significantly follicly-challenged, I only have to visit every three months or so.

It’s a tiny place, just 3-4 chairs and a small waiting area, and when I got there a father and his two young sons were already waiting to be shorn. Both kids (I found out later they were 8 and 5) were wearing football jerseys; the older one was wearing a Mike Wallace Dolphins jersey, while his brother rocked a Darrelle Revis Jets jersey.

So we’re all just sitting there, me across from them, and because I’m the kind of person who likes talking to strangers, I said to the older boy “So, you like the Dolphins, huh?”

This produced, wonderfully, a 20-minute stream of football talk from the mouths of these two that can only be called a massive flood of gridiron info. The brothers were seemingly so excited to have a captive audience that they just started spewing out NFL knowledge, rapid-fire, talking over each other and making my head spin as I tried to respond or acknowledge each expression.

It sounded something like this: “Did you know the Bears lost to the Cowboys 41-28 The Eagles are my favorite team I really like Mark Sanchez Did you see the game where the 49ers lost to the Seahawks My Dad took me to Giants vs. Texans J.J. Watt is super awesome I think when I grow up I want to be a linebacker Do you know that my favorite team is either the Broncos or Giants or Jets…”

And on and on. It was hilarious. Eventually the smaller boy went into the barber’s chair and his dad had to keep reminding him to look straight ahead and stop turning around to talk to the strange man, but darn it if the kid kept turning around, to the amusement of the barber.

When they were done, the father thanked me for indulging his boys, I told him I had an infant one at home, and then it hit me: Those boys are exactly like I was at their age. I was a sports nut extraordinaire and I loved it when a grown-up would talk sports with me, or more likely, let me talk sports at them. Kids just want to be heard, and I was just like those boys today at the barbershop.
Thirty years ago, I was them.

I walked out with a big smile, which is very rare when I leave a barbershop and have to see just how little hair I have left.

**Next up, a data storage and cloud computing company named EMC put together this awesome commercial where an 18-wheeler jumps over a race car. I have no idea what any of this has to do with a data company, but it was super cool to watch. For more info on how they did this, click here.

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**Finally, some quick-hit NFL thoughts on a Sunday filled with many blowouts and a few exciting games:

– My favorite team, the Jets, played a pretty good game Sunday but of course lost in OT when a simple screen pass turned into an 87-yard game winning TD. I truly watched very little of this game, because I just can’t waste my time watching the same awful play week after week, but from what I saw, Geno Smith showed some glimmers. 2-11 baby!

– This cracked me up: For the coin toss before the Rams-Redskins game, St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher sent out six players who aren’t usually captains and who seemingly were chosen at random. Except they weren’t; those six are the players St. Louis drafted over two years when they traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Redskins in 2012, so Washington could pick RG III.
That deal’s not working out so well for the ‘Skins, so I loved Fisher’s gesture. Great sense of humor.

– My “adopted” team, the Browns, did everything possible to break their fans’ hearts Sunday, before finally losing to Indy in the final minute. Cleveland has the worse kicker in the NFL this year, Billly Cundiff, who shanked another one to help lose this game. How is he still employed?

– Finally, I hate Bill Belichick as much as I hate anyone in sports, but Joe Posnanski wrote a really insightful piece on Coach Hoodie for NBCSports.com the other day. The Daylight Savings Time anecdote cracked me up.

Good News Friday: Chris Rock and Frank Rich have a hilarious, insightful interview. A beautiful tale of a 7-year-old boy who becomes a hero, thanks to his brother. And a Vegas jackpot winner donates $14 million to charity.

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Three stories that made me feel better this week, as I shake my head in absolute bafflement and disgust at the Eric Garner murder non-indictment here in NYC. Truly, how in the hell can there not even be a trial in this case??? Just mind-boggling.

Chris Rock has always been an outstanding stand-up comedian; I have quoted/stolen so many of his jokes over the years, from his riff on white people’s anger over the O.J. Simpson verdict (“I ain’t seen white people this mad since they cancelled M*A*S*H!) to his famous “N-word vs. Black People” diatribe on his 1996 “Bring The Pain” concert special (one of the funniest I’ve ever seen by anybody).

But Rock isn’t just funny; he’s actually a really smart guy, who always has interesting things to say about our society. He’s hyping a new movie now called “Top Five,” and like most celebrities he’s doing a ton of publicity.
The best piece he’s done, that really blew me away with his insights and hilarity, was with the incredibly talented New York magazine writer Frank Rich. It’s long but so worth it.

A couple of excerpts to get you to click through:

On Racial progress in the U.S.: . There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years …  There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

On what he’d do as a reporter in Ferguson, Mo. right now: I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people. I’d only interview white people. Just white people. We know how black people feel about Ferguson — outraged, upset, cheated by the system, all these things.

On where he lives, in New Jersey: I’m in Alpine. That’s not Jersey. That’s like Beverly Hills with freaking snow.

Rock’s the best, and I don’t care if all his movies have stunk so far.

**Next up, I loved this ESPN Outside the Lines feature. It’s about a 7-year-old Massachusetts boy named Danny Keefe, who’s the waterboy for the Bridgewater High School football team. Danny suffers from a brain disorder,  and has an unusual way of dressing.

He was being bullied at school, until his brother and some buddies decided to do something about it.

A tear-jerker story, and a sweet one. There’s so much good in the world.

 

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**Finally, a really heartwarming story about a jackpot winner  in Las Vegas who so far has chosen to remain anonymous.
The new owner of $14 million decided to do something beautiful with his windfall: he’s donating the whole thing to charity. He’s also planning to help his church build a new facility, since they’ve been holding services in a high school gym (not a very religious place, I can tell you from my hundreds of hours spent in them covering sports events).

Very cool.

Rams players continue recent trend of athlete activism, and its awesome. A hilarious cartoon I didn’t get at first. And man reveals in obit that he was Spider-Man

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I was going to write a throwaway line or two Sunday night about the five St. Louis Rams players who, before their game with the Raiders, protested the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson non-indictment decision in Ferguson.

But the more I thought about it, I felt it deserved its own post.

What the Rams players did, if you didn’t see it, was come out in pregame introductions and throw their hands up, in the now-familiar “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” symbol that has become such a part of the Ferguson protest movement.

Predictably, some on the lunatic fringe went nuts, accusing the NFL players of siding against the police (Less predictably, the St. Louis police department lost their damn minds, vaguely threatening to no longer protect Rams players in the community. Stephen Colbert perfectly captured the insanity of this.)

But what this small protest was, to me, was a continuation of a welcome trend in pro sports over the past few years: Athletes using their status to speak out on social and current issues.
We’ve seen LeBron James and the Miami Heat publicly show solidarity with Trayvon Martin. Major league baseball players threatened to boycott the All-Star Game in Arizona in 2010 over the state’s proposed draconian anti-immigration law, and then-active NFL’ers like Chris Kluwe and Brendan Ayanbadejo strongly supported gay-rights legislation.

This is all in stark contrast to what athletes mostly did in the 1980s and ’90s, when Michael Jordan’s infamous quote when asked to oppose racist Senator Jesse Helms (“Republicans buy sneakers, too) typified how star athletes felt. Then, it seemed they couldn’t be bothered, so self-centered and greedy and single-minded were they.

Why are athletes so much more motivated now? Maybe it has to do with the explosion of social media, with athletes feeling a closer connection to their fans and communities and feeling safer in expressing their views.

Maybe, like LeBron, more of them simply feel they ought to use their standing for good, to push issues even further into consciousness, and force sports fans to think about other things (always a good idea).

I don’t really know the reason, nor do I care. I’m just thrilled that so many of today’s “heroes” have a social conscience. They have so much influence over kids, it’s great to see them push something more than sports drinks and headphones.

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**Next up, my boy Pearlman threw this out on Twitter last week; a cartoon by Mark Parisi from a few years back, and it stumped me for a while, then made me annoyed that I didn’t get it, then when the joke was pointed out to me I laughed real hard.
So far of the 10 people I’ve shown it to, only 2 have gotten it straight out. But since my readers are brilliant, I’m sure you’ll get it. Pretty damn funny if you ask me…

**Finally today, I thought this was all kinds of awesome. A 35-year-old Minnesota man named Aaron Purmort died of brain cancer last week, but in his obit in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, he revealed that he was indeed, Spider-Man.

The obit reads that “mild-mannered” Purmort “died peacefully at home on Nov. 25 after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long.”

The obit goes on to say that Purmort is survived by his wife, Nora, and their young son, Ralph. He cites accomplishments including a high school band “which reached critical acclaim in the northern suburbs,” a degree from the College of Visual Arts “which also died an untimely death recently,” and his ability to always have “the right cardigan and the right thing to say (even if it was wildly inappropriate).”

That’s a beautiful obit for a man taken far too young. But hey, he did get to be Spider-Man during his life, so that’s something. (I also love that in the comments section of the obit there’s an entry from “Bruce Wayne,” saying they’ll meet again somewhere.”

Humor is the best antidote to everything in life.

 

A wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and another “Grown-up” moment for me. A way-cool slo-motion puppy video. And the Giants are just as putrid as my Jets

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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving weekend. It was a different one for me in many ways; obviously it was my first as a father, and thus I had even more reasons to be thankful.

But it was an unusual Turkey Day for my family, and it led, two days later, to what I like to call one of those “grown-up moments” for me.

For reasons that are too complicated and boring to go into here, my extended family wasn’t all together like always at my Aunt Linda’s hosue on Thanksgiving; half of us were there, and the other half of us were at my Mom’s. Mom did an outstanding job, and the food was great and it was a terrific time, but it felt … different.
A few weeks ago, when we realized we wouldn’t all be together, and knowing that half the family still hadn’t met our three-month-old son,  my wife and I decided to host a gathering of the whole family on the Saturday after T’giving.

Which sounded like a good idea at the time, but as I soon learned, hosting 18 people in a 2-bedroom apartment, serving lunch, making sure everyone’s got something to drink, is a hell of a lot more work than I realized. It was my first time really “hosting” relatives, and it turned out great. I looked around the room at one point and had one of those “When did I get to be the grown-up, hosting the whole family?” kind of moments, since sometimes it feels like just a few weeks ago I was a gawky kid with braces going out for the junior high tennis team (I made it, if you’re scoring at home).

All my life I’ve been going to other people’s houses for stuff like this, but now I’ve got a great wife, a great place to live, and a beautiful, happy boy. I felt doubly, triply blessed this year.

**Next up today, not sure if this is an ad promoting puppies, or slo-motion, or puppies shaking in slow motion. But it was striking and cool so I wanted to share. It’s called “Shake Puppies” and it was directed by Carli Davidson. Very cool…

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**Finally, some NFL thoughts after a not a whole lot of drama on a weekend full of blowouts…

– I don’t think in my lifetime the Jets and Giants have both been this god-awful in the same season. In 1995 they combined for eight total wins, and in 1976 they each won three games, so this season, when they’ve combined for 5, ranks up there among the most putrid.

I mean, Sunday had to be as low as the Giants can get, right? Up 21-0 over a horrendous one-win Jacksonville team, the Giants lost, 25-24 on a last-minute field goal by the Jags.
2014 has been one awful sports year in New York; save for the Rangers making the Cup finals, and the surprising Islanders off to a great start, everyone else has been miserable.

– Break up the NFC South! The most painful division since “long” (at least it was painful to me) saw its top two “leaders” the 4-7 Falcons and 4-7 Saints, both win on Sunday. Yeah, we all saw New Orleans on the road beating the tar out of the Steelers.

– Johnny Football is alive! My adopted team, the Browns, finally turned to the gunslinger from Texas Sunday late in their loss to the Bills, and he led ‘em to a touchdown. I still think Brian Hoyer should get one more game, but Manziel does make things exciting.

– I only saw parts of it, but great game between the Pats and Packers Sunday. Green Bay’s gonna be one hell of a tough out in the playoffs.

– Finally, saw rumors that Jets are in the running to get Jim Harbaugh as coach next year. My two-word response?
Yes, please.

A few thoughts on the depressing, but not surprising, Ferguson verdict. My favorite Thanksgiving clip ever. And the state of Texas, rewriting history for America’s youth

Ferguson

So the Darren Wilson non-indictment came down Monday night and it’s still totally OK for a white guy to shoot an unarmed black guy in America, which has to be reassuring to millions of mouth-breathers out there.

For the rest of us, it’s just another moment in a long, long, long line of racial injstices being perpetrated against African-Americans, a list of moments that’s too depressing to even list here (go Google the name Amadou Diallo if you want to get angry.)

I don’t have anything particularly brilliant or trenchant to say about the Ferguson grand jury’s decision, although there have been many terrific articles written that basically say that Darren Wilson’s testimony about what happened is nearly impossible to believe (not saying he’s a liar, but check out Ezra Klein on Vox.com going through Wilson’s words and trying to figure out exactly how his story gibes with reality.)

I will say that I do agree with my smart friend Will, who said on Facebook that as much anger and outrage and nonsense that is being spouted on TV and the Interwebs, none of us were there on the grand jury, none of us saw and heard everything, and that we shouldn’t be so quick to call them “idiots” or “morons” for not indicting Wilson.

It’s just that this was so predictable, that once again, a dead African-American kid elicits no justice. I think so much of the rage and anger seen Monday night, in Ferguson and elsewhere, is because so many are so damn tired of the same story being re-written, over and over again.
The names change, the faces change, but it’s the same old story, with the same people getting the short end of the stick again.

And it continues to be wholly depressing.

**And now for something happier: Thanksgiving! As I say every year here, it’s my favorite holiday ever. Food, family, football (good games this year, too), it’s all wonderful.
By far my favorite TV Thanksgiving moment is one I watch every year at this time (above). Still the best food-fight ever filmed….

Moses.texasschools

**Finally today, this is almost as big a “surprise” as a dead African-American kid shot by a white police officer not suffering any penalty: The state of Texas, the biggest by far supplier of textbooks to American schools, has decided once again to rewrite history using the Bible as a model.

The State Board of Education, controlled by Republicans just approved new textbooks that will teach that our Founding Fathers based our Constitution on the Bible, and that the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

Aside from the obvious jokes I can make (“Parting the Red Sea? That was nothing! This guy came up with three branches of government and checks and balances, baby!”), it’s just so freaking sad. Right-wing nutjobs hijacked the process, wouldn’t let any “normal” textbooks teaching actual, you know, history be taught, and now 50 million textbooks bought by the state of Texas will have this crap, along with fiction about climate change, the Civil War (did you know slavery was barely  a factor?) and so much else.

Here’s a background story from The Atlantic about how this was went down in Texas. Just freaking depressing. This is how a new generation of Tea Partiers gets born.