Category Archives: Uncategorized

Goodbye, “Homeland,” I’m officially done with you. The app that helps you find people to cuddle with. And marriage equality has come so, so far

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I’m out. Done. Finished. See ya.
No longer will I be watching Carrie Matheson on Sunday nights, trying to protect America while acting like a crazy, narcisstic, impossible to root-for CIA agent.
I’m through with Peter Quinn, you lovable, seriously f’ed up in the head dude. No more Saul, no more Lockhart, no more insanely impossible plots.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that “Homeland” was once by far my favorite show on TV. The debut season four years ago was as good as any season of any show, ever. I thrilled to every episode, loved the writing, acting and plots, and expected “Homeland” to take its place in the pantheon.

Season 4 started Sunday. And it was crap. Utter, complete, pathetic, unwatchable crap. Never has a show gone downhill this fast, from so high to so low. I was pretty sure after last season’s horrible ending, with Carrie and Brody’s doomed love affair finally ending, and a woman who disobeyed every order she ever got somehow being PROMOTED to a CIA station chief job, that I was totally done with the show.

But I decided to watch the season premiere this week, just for closure and to see if maybe, maybe, the writers and directors had remembered what used to be great about “Homeland,” and get back to that.

But, nope. More insanity and stupidity. (SPOILER ALERTS COMING): 

We get a completely cold, unfeeling, impossible to like Carrie, giving not one shit about her baby daughter she’s abandoned, then trying to drown the child in the bathtub (and riding around with her in the front seat of a car!).
We get more bumbling, stumbling work from the CIA in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and yet more rewards and getting everything she wants for Carrie. (“You just helped get a station chief killed? Sure, you get to take over his job!”)
We get Peter Quinn speaking for ALL of us viewers at one point screaming at Carrie, “It’s not always about you!” We get Saul, always a great character, now reduced to a sidelight.

There is no one to root for on this show, no one to empathize with, except maybe this new Pakistani kid whose family was killed in a drone bombing gone wrong. (I guess we could root for Brody and Carrie’s spawn, but that kid’s going to have an awful rough life with that DNA in her.)

I just hate, hate, hate Carrie so much, and since with Brody dead she’s basically the whole show, that’s a real problem for viewers.

It’s just such a shell of its former self, “Homeland” is. Such a shame.

cuddleapp

**Next up, I thought this was a slightly strange but possibly cool idea for an app: A new Apple app called “Cuddlr” offers users the chance to find someone nearby to cuddle with.

The app’s website said it is based on “the belief that we don’t have enough opportunities for safe, consensual, non-scripted, communicative, fun, silly, serious, spontaneous physical affection carrying no further expectation.”

Essentially, a person who is interested in meeting up with someone on the list sends a cuddle request. The receiver has one hour to respond to the request, and if the receiver decides to accept, the two strangers can meet up for a cuddle.

Sure, you may get a weirdo or two. But who doesn’t want to just hug and spoon on the couch every once in a while? A writer from Yahoo! tried the app out, and wrote a pretty entertaining story about her experience.

 

The app’s website said it is based on “the belief that we don’t have enough opportunities for safe, consensual, non-scripted, communicative, fun, silly, serious, spontaneous physical affection carrying no further expectation.”

Essentially, a person who is interested in meeting up with someone on the list sends a cuddle request. The receiver has one hour to respond to the request, and if the receiver decides to accept, the two strangers can meet up for a cuddle.

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**Finally today, take a look at this map above; all the colored in states now, or soon will, legally allow same-sex couples to marry, following the Supreme Court’s refusing to hear appeals of laws overturning same sex marriage ban.

Look at that map and see that 30 states, 30, are now going to allow loving couples who were once ostracized in America, shamed and told that they were weird and different and weren’t worthy of marriage, join their souls in a loving union.
This has all happened so fast; 10 years ago no one could ever have predicted things would change this fast. But it has, and equality is here, and sometimes I think you need to just stop and look around and realize just how far we’ve come.
It’s a beautiful map, isn’t it?

Jerry Seinfeld savages the advertising industry, to its face. The Jets need to fire Rex, and other NFL thoughts. And Marriott reaches a new low in guest relations

One of the most famous and greatest episodes of “Seinfeld” is the two-parter that guest-starred Keith Hernandez and featured a hilarious scene based on the JFK assassination and all the insane conspiracy theories that surround it.

In one part of the episode, where Hernandez is on a date with Elaine, he’s debating whether to lean in for a kiss. In his inner monologue, we hear him say “Come on, I’m KEITH HERNANDEZ!” to pump himself up.

It was a hilarious line, one the sportswriter Bill Simmons has referenced many times to note a coach or player’s complete confidence.

I thought of that line Sunday night while watching the above clip, a speech Jerry Seinfeld gave after winning a CLIO award, the top prize in advertising/commercials.

In just more than four minutes, he satirically savages the ad industry right to its face, speaking complete truth and exposing ad reps for what they are and what they do.
And they laugh right along with him, at themselves. Jerry Seinfeld has reached a point in his life where he’s bullet-proof; he can get an award from people, make fun of them viciously, and still get cheered walking away.

He’s “Jerry Seinfeld,” and he can walk into any room he wants. I think it’s a fabulous speech, and 100 percent true. Good for him.

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**OK, so the New York Jets are atrocious, Rex Ryan should’ve been fired two seasons ago, and I have no interest in watching them anymore this season. I’ve also determined it will be considered child abuse by the authorities if I try to raise my infant son as a Jets fan.

Good, now that that’s out of the way, there was a whole lot of compelling football Sunday (and Saturday too, as I take a rare dive into the “amateur” ranks).

– Weren’t the Dallas Cowboys supposed to stink this season? I speak for most of America when I say I was excitedly counting on it.

– If you’re an Atlanta Falcons fan, how the hell do you figure out your team? Great one week, awful the next two. What a bizarre group to try to explain.

– How ’bout those Cleveland Browns? Another team that may not be any good, but they sure do play exciting games. Down 28-3 to the Titans, they score 26 straight and win 29-28. Seriously, the Browns are crazy-exciting, and Johnny Football hasn’t done squat yet.

– I laughed, very hard and often, at these ridiculous “rumors” and “sources” who are saying Tom Brady is miserable with the Patriots and may play somewhere else next season. The Pats destroyed the Bengals Sunday night, and the idea Brady will play in another uniform is as silly as Jeter playing for the Minnesota Twins this year. It ain’t happening.

– The Giants are clearly the best football team in New York again this year. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

– Peyton Manning, 479 yards, 4 TDs, against one of the best defenses in football. Ho hum, move along, nothing to see here.

– So, couple quick words on Saturday’s college football madness, which saw 3 of the top 8 teams lose: 1, Nick Saban cannot lose enough for me, as he stands out as a Calipari-ian a-hole even among college football coaches; 2., I think I’d like to see a game in Oxford, Miss. one day, looks gorgeous on TV; 3. This four-team playoff at the end of the year is going to cause just as many arguments as the BCS did, because everyone will have lost at least once.  But the playoff will be oodles of fun.

**And finally today, proof that hotels will stop at nothing to charge, or over-charge its guests.
Marriott was recently fined $600,000 by the FCC for intentionally jamming the wi-fi signals of conference attendees so they could force the guests to pay up to $1,000 for Marriott’s own network at the hotel.

I mean … how disgusting is that? That fine should be distributed to all who had to fork over the extortion money.

“Parenthood” is back, and it’s great so far. A worthy organization helps struggling new moms. And a wonderful Budweiser ad with a great dog

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Two quick thoughts before delving into Good News Friday this week: 1, A Happy New Year and an easy Yom Kippur fast to my fellow Jews out there; I fast every year but I don’t think I can pull it off this time, thanks to the new little dude in my house who wakes me up every three hours. I am learning to live without much sleep, but for me to go without sleep AND food for 24 hours? Sorry God, I’m sitting out this year.

And two, this doesn’t really have any place in today’s blog but I came across it Thursday and it cracked me up big-time: A TV editor named Ryan Case was on a flight recently behind an unruly passenger, and Case, God bless her, live-tweeted everything this horrible woman was saying and doing. It’s hilarious, check it out here, you won’t be sorry.

“Parenthood,” a show I often hate-watch but more often love and just get mad at it sometimes, is back for a final season, and that’s good news because as imperfect as it is, it’s still a wonderful show with great heart.
Last season infuriated me at times, mostly because of the idiotic “Christina running for mayor” storyline, but there was so much other good stuff that I was eagerly anticipating this year.

And through two episodes, “Parenthood” is back in fine form. (NO SPOILERS FROM LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE AHEAD, I PROMISE). The season premiere last week was fabulous, setting up the Amber pregnancy storyline (it’s in her contract that Mae Whitman has to cry every week, right?), Zeke maybe having a serious health condition, and of course, this year’s equally-insane Christina and Adam story about them opening a charter school just for their son Max (it’s insane not because it’s a bad idea, but because these people are broke, and have no idea how to run a school yet we’re just supposed to believe they can do it.)

Can’t wait to see if Joel and Julia get back together, and if somehow I can stop hating the Sarah-Hank relationship.

“Parenthood” being back makes me happy.

**The power of a commercial is often exaggerated, but if this beautiful Budweiser ad about the dangers of drunken driving makes even one person stop before grabbing the keys, it’s worth it.
I think it’s a really terrific ad, and I’m not even a dog person.

 

**Next up, I was reading the Sunday New York Times last week, catching up on older issues from early September, and read a typically-fabulous Nicholas Kristof column about an organization called the Nurse Family Partnership. What it does is send trained, qualified nurses into the homes of vulnerable first-time moms and their babies.

The nurses make repeated home visits from pregnancy until the child is 2, and they advise mothers on literally everything they need to know about caring for infants.

It’s a wonderful non-profit that is having a tremendous effect on helping parents raise children more effectively. Just check out this passage from Kristof’s article:

“The (Nurse-Family Partnership) visits have been studied extensively through randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of evidence — and are stunningly effective. Children randomly assigned to nurse visits suffer 79 percent fewer cases of state-verified abuse or neglect than similar children randomly assigned to other programs. Even though the program ends at age 2, the children at age 15 have fewer than half as many arrests on average. At the 15-year follow-up, the mothers themselves have one-third fewer subsequent births and have spent 30 fewer months on welfare than the controls. A RAND Corporation study found that each dollar invested in nurse visits to low-income unmarried mothers produced $5.70 in benefits.”

Yes of course because I’m a new parent I’m more interested in these kinds of organizations than ever before. But truly, NFP is doing outstanding work, and they sadly do not get anywhere near the funds they need.
To find out more or make a donation, check out their website here.

“This is How I Leave You” pretty good flick, but could’ve been better. An incredible PSA about Syrian suffering. And the baseball playoffs get off to an incredible start

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With a fantastic cast and some legit funny moments in the trailer, I figured “This is How I Leave You” would at least be good for a few laughs. Best-case scenario, it’d be great, a real pleasant surprise.

And at times, this movie was really, really good, and had me and the wife chuckling pretty hard.
It was almost a great movie, except it had two major flaws: Everything that happened in the last 30 minutes was totally implausible, and a movie about a dysfunctional family reuniting after a loved one’s death had already been made recently, and it was much better. “August: Osage County” was the film “This is How I Leave You” wanted to be, it seemed, but couldn’t quite get there.

Still, it had a lot of good moments. Jason Bateman, as the seemingly-normal brother of the Altman clan, was excellent; Tina Fey, in a strange role for her was also great, as was Adam Driver and the criminally-underused Connie Britton (I love me some Mrs. Coach).

The movie just relied on way too many leaps of faith (really? A whole Little League team is in the emergency room at that time near the end when the cursing and the brawling begins?), and the story went in too many directions at once, like it didn’t trust the main storyline too much.

Still, it was a 2 1/2 star flick, so probably worth your time.

 

**Next up, with all the attention that the U.S. war on ISIS has been getting, its easy to forget just how miserable it has been for citizens of Syria the past five years.
Especially for children. Check out this remarkable PSA from an organization called The Syria Campaign. Hard to watch, and heartbreaking, but so well-done…

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox

**Finally, that was one of the most amazing baseball games I’ve ever seen Tuesday night.

The Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals went back and forth, with the Royals being down 7-3, improbably rallying to 7-7, and finally winning 9-8 in the 12th inning.

Kansas City and Oakland both in the playoffs got me thinking: One of the reasons baseball lost tons of fans in the 1990s and early 2000s, besides the glacial pace of the game and rampant steroid use, is that it seemed like the same teams were always winning and playing for the World Series.
It was the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Braves, the Cardinals… and everybody else. More money was spent by the major markets, and everyone else was playing for scraps.
But it’s been a long time since that was true; just about everyone has a shot to win in today’s MLB, and it’s one of the reasons the baseball playoffs are still exciting to me, even though I barely follow the sport for six months.
Look at who’s in the playoffs this year: Kansas City. Oakland. Pittsburgh. Baltimore. All teams that a few years ago were sad-sack losers, but who now have a chance to win it all.
It was awesome to see the K.C. fans get excited about their team being in the postseason for the first time since “Back to the Future” came out.
In baseball, everybody’s got a shot. And that’s great to see.

The Jets stink again, and more NFL musings. Facebook turns Grandmas into rappers. And the Buckingham Palace guard who just had to dance

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It’s not even October yet, and the New York Jets 2014 season is about to be kaput.

Which is nice, because it would spare me a couple months of angst, and I could just expect losses every Sunday and skip the games and spend time with my newborn son.

Still, it was so damn frustrating Sunday. Geno Smith, I so want to believe, is going to improve this year. But four games I’m in having Sanchez flashbacks; good play then bad play, good play then bad play. Sunday Geno made mostly bad plays, but he was far from alone.
The pass defense was atrocious, and that’s without Calvin Johnson being healthy enough to have an impact. The receivers couldn’t get open, and when they did, Smith missed ‘em. The offense and defense never played well at the same time, and the Jets are 1-3, and they’ve got San Diego, Denver and New England next, and 1-6 looks likely, and this has got to be it for Smith if they don’t win one of the next three, right?
Ugh. Looks like Jets will be QB shopping again next year. That Texas A&M kid looks pretty good, and so does Mariota up at Oregon.
Some other NFL thoughts on a day with only a few entertaining games:

– By the way, you notice how well some of the other young QBs played Sunday? Blake Bortles gave the Jags a spark, Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic for Minnesota… I want one of those type guys in green and white, please.

– To sum up the Packers’ beatdown of the Bears, see this awesome photo I saw on Twitter Sunday night: yeah, that Bears baby ain’t happy. And the Packers are impossible to figure out.

– J.J. Watt. I mean, he’s just ridiculous. You see this interception return he made for a TD Sunday?

– And so much for the Bills being good this year, right? That 2-0 start was a long, long time ago.

– Paging LeSean McCoy? Anyone seen him? Maybe he’s still hurt and shouldn’t have been playing, but he was invisible Sunday.

– 2 quick baseball thoughts: Beautiful job by the Red Sox in honoring Derek Jeter with so many Boston legends like Bobby Orr and Paul Pierce joining the ceremony, and I’m hoping for a Royals-Pirates World Series, those two fan bases have suffered enough the past three decades.

**Next up, if you’ve ever been to England, you know that at Buckingham Palace the guards are famously stoic, and don’t move or react to anything you say to them (I tried cracking a few jokes to one of them when I visited seven years ago, and dude didn’t move a facial muscle. Impressive discipline. Or maybe my jokes weren’t funny.)

Anyway, a 20-year-old guard named Samuel Jones recently decided to have some fun and break up the boredom of the job, performing for tourists in the above video. Sadly, this story says he’s currently being investigated and may face disciplinary action (though it looks like me just be fined).

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**So this story cracked me up: You know how on Facebook when you start typing the first few letters of a name, Facebook suggests and auto-fills a name sometimes?
Well, some Grandmas who’ve been trying to tag themselves on the site have accidentally been tagging Grandmaster Flash, the pioneering rap artist from the 1970s.

Which results in hilarious posts like these:

3.) Now grandma has an even cooler nickname.

Grandma Grandmaster Flash Facebook Tag Accidental Tagging

Grandma Grandmaster Flash Facebook Tag Accidental Tagging

Good News Friday: Derek Jeter writes the perfect farewell. “Blackish” a really fun new show. And Aaron Rodgers does good by some kids.

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We get magical moments in sports all the time, but the joy is that we never know exactly when they’re going to happen.

Derek Jeter played his final game at Yankee Stadium Thursday night. It comes after a full season of hype, publicity, and at times nauseatingly-loving media coverage, coverage so immense that even Yankee fans like me were sick of it by midsummer.

He is one of the greatest Yankees in history, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and a man whose play the last few years has been painful to watch for those of us who remember his prime fondly.
So Thursday night it was finally going to end, and “Jeet” had a couple of nice moments through eight innings: A double off the wall, a go-ahead grounder that scored a run, and in the top of the ninth he stood at shortstop with the Yankees about to close out a routine 5-2 win over Baltimore.
Only then, the Hollywood ending wouldn’t have happened. So David Robertson, a solid closer all year, gave up a couple of homers and the O’s tied the game at 5, and of course Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, and of course the Yanks got a man to second, and then, this happened…

Some of us got chills. How great is that? A perfect ending for a marvelous career.

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**Next up, there are so few good network sitcoms these days that I think a new one debuting is worthy of a Good News Friday mention. I’d read some good things about the new Anthony Anderson show “Blackish,” so the wife and I gave it a shot Wednesday night.
Really, really funny. The writing was sharp (I especially like the part where Anderson and his wife discuss the O.J. case), the acting spot-on, and the premise seems like it can be carried out humorously for awhile. (Though bad-ass Laurence Fishburne playing a Grandpa made me feel really, really old.)

I’ve seen lots of shows that have had great pilots and then stunk after that (I’m looking at you, “Michael J. Fox Show”), so I don’t want to get too excited about “Blackish.” But it was smart, funny and definitely I show I’ll keep watching for a while.

**Finally, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a pretty good reputation for being a good guy (his idiotic blind defense of steroid user Ryan Braun is one notable screw-up by him), and he showed again that there are 99 percent good dudes in the NFL, we just hear about the screw-ups.

Rodgers heard about a woman named Annie who’s suffering from spina bifida, and surprised her with the biggest shock of her life. Really sweet, heart-warming video, especially at the reveal at 1:40 mark …

 

The biggest climate change rally ever, and how Congress still doesn’t get it. A mesmerizing video of acrobats flying. And some thoughts from the dad of a 2-week-old

More than 300,000 people marched in New York City Sunday to bring awareness, and protest the massive lack of activity in our government, on the issue of climate change.
It was an important rally for an important cause, and in most forward-thinking nations who give a damn about the future, it would be seen as a strong statement that something must be done about climate change, NOW.

And yet, nothing will happen. Because just last week, as Jon Stewart brilliantly satirizes above, a House of Representatives committee (a committee with the word “Science” in its name, mind you) showed just how utterly clueless many GOP Congressmen are, and how deep in denial they are, about this issue.

Stewart’s bit is hilarious. But so sad, too.

**And now, some awesome “extreme trampolining” from brothers Sean and Eric Kennedy. I thought this was mesmerizing and very cool…

**Finally, I’m about two weeks into this whole Fatherhood thing (I feel it’s important enough of a job to be capitalized, don’t you?), and of course it’s been an adventure: Thrilling, tiring, hard, rewarding, you name it:
Couple quick thoughts on the things I’ve learned, and if you’re a father reading this, I’m sure you can relate:

– Every day brings a new “first” moment, and they’re all awesome. Last Friday was his first “outdoor” outing to the park. A couple of nights ago we read our son a story in bed for the first time, even though we know he’s way too young to really focus or understand anything of what we’re saying.
And Tuesday night was my favorite “first” so far: We gave him his first bath, and then I sung Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” to my boy and he stayed quiet and seemed to enjoy it. It’s the same song my mother used to sing to me as a child, and you can be darn sure my son will be hearing it a whole lot.
Too bad his old man can’t carry a tune.

– It’s amazing how quickly you can lose touch with the outside world when you’re just trying to keep an infant happy and fed, and how what day of the week it is very easily slips your mind. With my wife on maternity leave and me taking a few weeks off from substitute teaching, we’re spending so much time together and in our apartment that one day really bleeds into another. If not for NFL games on Sunday, I would’ve had no idea that it was Sunday.

– This is apparently quite common with newborns, but in the middle of a deep sleep my child will make random noises that sound like squeaky toys, and then continue sleeping. If we could harness that ability, he could be a key member of a rock band one day, just squeaking on cue.

– Can’t imagine how single mothers raise children alone, especially in the first few weeks. As much respect as I had for them before, it’s increased 100 times now that I’m a parent.

– My friend Rhonda told me the sweetest feeling in the world is when your baby falls asleep on your chest. She’s 100 percent right. It’s happened a few times for me, and when it happens, I don’t want to move from that spot, ever.

 

A Super Bowl rematch that was way better than the original, and other NFL Week 3 thoughts. An awesome high school kid interview. And the Chinese make cell phone texting pedestrian lanes a reality

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Last year’s Super Bowl was such a dud, it may have started a downward spiral for the NFL that has continued into this season, with Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Roger Goodell (and was that the worst press conference performance you’ve ever seen on Friday? Pretty horrible) all caught up in the web.
But Sunday’s rematch between Seattle and Denver was pretty thrilling, and almost made up for last February’s egg.
Peyton Manning was held down by the Seahawks’ for 3 quarters, than threw two TD passes in the final minutes to send the game to OT. But Russell Wilson, who would seem right at home in the middle of any chaotic situation you can imagine, led his team down for the winning score.
Great game. Wish it was this good last February when the whole world watched.
Some other ramblings from a pretty exciting Week 3, while I await my Jets’ latest prime-time mishap tonight on Monday Night Football:

– Wow, that Eagles-Redskins game was wild. Looked like an old-time Joe Thiesmann-Ron Jaworski 1980s shootout for a while. Nick Foles is damn tough, Kirk Cousins is for real, and DeSean Jackson is the cockiest NFL receiver we’ve seen since T.O., and he should shut up and just play once in a while.
What a thriller. Eagles are 3-0 and are going to be really tough to beat.
— The Browns, who I have always considered the Jets’ spiritual cousins, positively gave away their game against the Ravens. Cleveland led throughout the fourth quarter, blew two golden chances to put the game away, then lost on a last-second FG.
Cleveland fans, I feel your pain. This Brian Hoyer dude looks like he’ll keep Johnny Football on the bench for awhile.

– What the heck’s wrong with the Saints? They struggled all day to put away a pretty woeful Minnesota team. Drew Brees and Co. just don’t look right. And what’s wrong with the Packers? They looked terrible offensively Sunday.

– Thank you, Rashad Jennings of the Giants: Without you, my fantasy team might’ve scored in negative numbers Sunday. I have no idea how the Texans were 2-0 with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, that guy is horrendous.

– Have no idea if the Cowboys are any good. In fact, they may be the worst 2-1 team in the NFL. But Tony Romo sure can look great at times.

–Lastly, we live in a world where Drew Stanton has won two consecutive starts in the NFL. One more reason I never, ever bet on football.

**Next up today, this totally made me smile. In my newspaper career I interviewed thousands of high school football players after games, and 99 percent of the time you get totally boring, cliched answers or mono-syllabic grunts from kids.
So when you’re a reporter and come across a kid like Apollos Hester of East View (Texas) High, well, you just want to hug him and get down on one knee and praise him to the heavens.
Listen to this fantastic 90-second interview he gives a local TV reporter after Friday night’s game. You go, Apollos.

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**Finally today, remember a few months ago when, as an experiment, a sidewalk in Washington, D.C. was turned into two separate lanes, one for people walking and one for those slowpokes among us who were texting or reading email on their phones while traversing the cement? I thought it was a brilliant idea, but sadly it was just a trial.
However, as is the case in so many things related to technology, the Chinese are ahead of us.  Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones,” according to this Wall Street Journal story.

Bravo, China. I hope America copies you, and soon!

Good News Friday: Fewer American kids are in poverty. An actual good-news NFL story! And an awesome ad about books

And a Happy Friday to you all. I survived my son’s bris yesterday and am happy today he’ll never have to go through that again, though I think it was harder on me than him. Luckily our mohel was a little more qualified and professional than in “Seinfeld…”

Three news items/videos to send you into the weekend…

First, there’s very little positive news to report these days about poverty, and income equality. Thanks mostly to the recession of six years ago, and to Republicans who refuse to authorize any increase in spending on poor people and programs that might help them, it seems that more and more Americans are struggling.
But a rare positive report came out this week: According to Census data, the number of American children living in poverty has declined sharply. For the first time since 2006, 2013 saw a drop. The report showed significant improvements for children. The poverty rate for children under 18 declined last year for the first time since 2000, the bureau said, and the number of children in poverty fell by 1.4 million, to 14.7 million.

We are far, far away from actually feeding and caring for all of our kids in America. But hey, anytime fewer of them are poor and going hungry, I’m happy.

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**Next up, a story showing that not all NFL players and coaches are scumbags like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.
First, you might remember the story of Bengals player Devon Still, whose 4-year-old daughter has cancer. Well, to help raise money for pediatric cancer research, the NFL is selling Still’s jersey. And Saints coach Sean Payton stepped up big time, buying 100 jerseys at $100 apiece, which equals a $10,000 donation.
Way to go, Sean.

**And finally, this ad made me smile. It’s from Ikea, hyping a revolutionary new product called … a book.

I laughed throughout.

A few thoughts on NFL owner idiocy. John Oliver brilliant on the Scotland independence debate. And a dude races the London Tube.

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So with all the personal excitement in my life last week with the baby arrival and all, I realize I’m a little late in commenting on maybe the worst week in NFL history.
Between the Ray Rice beating his wife video, the details of Greg Hardy’s abuse coming out, and Adrian Peterson acting unconscionably by beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, it’s been a period of time where anyone and everyone has criticized NFL commish Roger Goodell, and the culture of this behemoth league.

The one thing that’s struck me that I don’t think has gotten enough attention is just how incredibly out of touch and lacking in common sense and decency NFL owners seem to be.
Specifically, three who were in the spotlight this week: Steve Bisciotti (above left), the Ravens owner who had the audacity to say that if his organization’s complete bungling of the Rice discipline leads to greater awareness of domestic violence, than it’ll all have been worth it. Seriously, that’s basically what he said.

Then there was Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who tearfully claimed that domestic violence was a hugely personal and important issue to him, yet allowed his franchise to suit up a linebacker, Hardy, who had already been convicted on domestic abuse charges, during the Panthers’ Week 1 game (he’s since been inactive.)

And finally, there’s owner Zygi Wilf up in Minnesota, who has decided that Adrian Peterson, who has had multiple child abuse/dangerment charges filed against him, only has to sit out one game despite his recent indictment. (Wednesday update: The Vikings indefinitely suspended Peterson Wednesday morning.)

As Keith Olbermann repeatedly, and devastatingly repeats in this blistering commentary, “A little boy was putting up his hands, trying to stop a professional football player from hitting him with a small tree branch.”

And yet Wilf thinks it’s fine for Peterson to play Sunday.

Three extraordinarily rich and successful men, who apparently are so isolated in their ivory tower that common sense and decency have flown so far over their heads. Three men who have so much power, power to do good, and yet obsfuscate and excuse the despicable behavior of men whose paychecks they happily sign each week.
You want to blame Roger Goodell and rake him over the coals? I’m with you.

But these owners have plenty of power themselves, and yet they shrink from doing the right thing, all in the name of winning football games.

Just pitiful.

**John Oliver has had so many memorable segments during his debut season of “Last Week Tonight,” it’s hard to pick a favorite.

But this one he did on Sunday, about Scotland’s huge independence vote coming on Thursday on whether to secede from the UK, was maybe the best one yet. The line about Mel Gibson and Braveheart alone (at :51) slayed me so much I had to pause the DVR so I wouldn’t miss the next line: (By the way, if Scotland secedes, does Andy Murray’s Wimbledon title last year still count as a British guy ending the enormous title drought?)

**Finally, in the category of “What kind of a brain comes up with a challenge like this?”, I present the guys from Epic Challenges, who decided to race the tube in London from one stop to another, by sending a man out of the station on foot and trying to beat the train to the next stop.

Mesmerizing, and oh so cool…