The Japanese dating service that can make you look like a fake hero. Celine Dion with an awesome performance of the “Titanic” song. And coffee baked right into a bagel? Sure, why not?

This has nothing to do with what I’m writing about today, but if I don’t share this amazing photo of Pope Francis with Donald, Ivanka and Melania Trump, I’d be letting you down big-time. Truly, the captions on this one would be epic.

We all know first dates are awkward. Where to go to eat, what else to do (movie? Mini-golf? Bowling? A walk along the water? A sumo wrestling match? So many options), and most of all, trying to impress your date without making it look like you’re trying to impress him or here.

Well, an amusement park in Osaka, Japan is making life easier for men looking to look cool. First, you take your date to Hirakata Park in Osaka. Then, as you walk around, a group of bad guys come up to you and insult your lady. Then, since this is all pre-arranged, you step up to one of the bad dudes and punch him out, showing your woman how tough you are.

If violence isn’t your thing, Hirakata Park also lets you defuse a bomb and save people, or donate blood to a needy person. The company takes your money a few days before your date, and rehearses everything that’s going to happen.

I think this is a brilliant idea, and completely ridiculous. I have no doubt many men would pay for this service, but here’s a way to impress a girl on your first date: Be nice to her. Ask about her interests and life. Open doors for her. Pick up the check. Don’t be obnoxiously staring at her chest or making lewd comments.

See? I just saved every single man in Japan a little money. Still, I have no doubt this idea will come to America.

**Next up today, Celine Dion gets mocked for her overly dramatic performances and gestures, her sappy songs, and lots of other things. But the woman has an amazing voice, in case you’ve forgotten. And this is the 20th anniversary of “Titanic” being released, a movie that’s a total guilty pleasure for me. I love, love, love it, and whenever it’s on TV and I stumble on it I stay and watch for a few minutes.

Sunday night at the Billboard Music Awards in Vegas, Celine belted out “My Heart Must Go On” and it was sublime. Enjoy.

**And finally today, part of being a New Yorker is that you’re legally required to have a cup of coffee and a bagel for breakfast at least a few times a week (seriously I think it’s on every apartment lease in the five boroughs.)

But who wants to go through all that trouble of drinking and eating at the same time? No one, that’s who. So Einstein Bros. bagels has invented a way to get your caffeine and cinnamon-raisin bagel jolt all at once. Not sure anyone in the world asked for this, but here it is: The Espresso Buzz bagel! Thirty-two milligrams of caffeine are in each one, with the caffeine coming from espresso and coffee-cherry flavor. According to this story, in addition to its dark (and slightly unappetizing) color, taste tests have been pretty mixed with some tasters describing it as a “sour,” and others loving it. So who knows? Try eating it, I guess. Or snorting it you prefer. Life is short.

There is no end to what we will do to get more caffeine. Also if these bagels taste good my wife might never eat anything else, ever again.

Attending a college graduation this weekend spurs thoughts of my own, 20 years ago. Billy Joel and Axl Rose duet together on stage. Seriously. And the end of the reign of “Michael.”

I’m a pretty nostalgic guy, both for my own childhood, and for the world in general, and when it comes to my own life, I always find myself thinking about milestones, anniversaries, and key dates in my four decades on Earth.

But for some reason the fact that this year is the 20th anniversary of my college graduation has totally snuck up on me. I thought about it a few times as my wonderful alma mater, the University of Delaware, sent me emails reminding me to come to alumni weekend and oh yeah, donate some money as well.

But with life being busy, I just haven’t spent much time thinking about it. Until Saturday, when the wife and little boy and I went to Fordham University’s commencement. We went because two of our babysitters, Juily and Caroline, were graduating, and we love them for many reasons, including how great they are with our boy, and we wanted to show our support.

The graduation itself was pretty run-of-the-mill, a speaker droning on, but then hearing the individual names of the students being honored got me thinking.

It is still, and probably always be, a pretty huge deal to graduate, and watching the pride and excitement of these 21 and 22-year-olds walk across a stage, shake hands with a dean, and then look excitedly into the mass of people in the crowds while trying to find their families, was special to watch.

I always knew going to college was completely expected of me, and I never once thought it was an option not to graduate.  But still, that day back in 1997 felt so important. I felt like I had accomplished something; I’d worked hard in college but not always in class, my sweat equity was mostly saved for endless hours at the school newspaper, learning and falling in love with what would be my profession.

The idea that this was the end of my educational journey struck me as both exciting and terrifying; my life had always been organized around September being the beginning of a new year; I remember in September 1997 feeling totally strange for a few days with no school to go to; what, you mean the summer ends and I don’t have any books or homework to worry about?

That graduation day 20 years ago was a milestone I was proud of; my fellow Blue Hens and I (worst mascot in America but we loved it) knew we had accomplished something.

Watching those Fordham grads strut a little after their ceremony on Saturday, the old memories, and pride, came flowing back.

Congratulations to any and all college graduates this spring; it is still a very big deal and quite a worthy accomplishment.

**Next up today, I know there’s a great tradition in live music concerts for the star performer to bring up a “special guest” or a “great friend” who’s also a mega-famous singer, but never in a million years would I have expected these two to be up on stage together.

Yet last week at Dodgers Stadium, Billy Joel brought on his “friend” Axl Rose, to sing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” and the Piano Man’s own “Big Shot.”

I was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan way back when, and I’ve loved Billy Joel since I was 10, but seeing them on stage together here is… weird. It is an interesting juxtaposition to think of their careers together, though: Rose had a huge impact all at once, becoming incredibly famous and then crashing and burning and never really recovered from the crush of fame he received. He’s had so many problems over the years, from drugs and alcohol to showing up hours late for concerts, and he’s so unreliable that he doesn’t have much of a career anymore.

Joel, meanwhile, started off small and slowly, built a reputation as a great songwriter and singer, and has seen his fame endure for, what, at least 40 years now. He’s had lots of problems, too (bankruptcy, drinking and driving) but kept his head down and just kept performing, and now he’s a bullet-proof icon.

Anyway, just a thought. Watch the video and tell me if it’s as weird for me as it is for you.

**Finally today, a small “funeral” for my first name. For the past 45 years, Michael has been one of the most popular, if not the most popular, boys name for parents. Not one class I was ever in, from kindergarten through college, was I the only Michael. Always had to ask the teacher for the last name of the Michael they were looking for.

Lots of times, I wish I had a unique name. There were too many Michael’s in the world, I always felt; why’d my parents have to be so trendy? (And don’t get me started on the early 1980s problems we had, when Life cereal ran their “Mikey Likes It” commercials 24/7, and we Michael’s had to endure being called “Mikey” for years.” Then again, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan had our name so that wasn’t too bad.)

But now, the reign of Michael seems to have officially ended. New numbers released by the Social Security Administration show Michael to have slipped to 8th place in 2016, and at its lowest level since 1940.

The Liams, Noahs and Masons of our world have all edged Michael aside. And I’m a little sad, surprisingly. I liked being so popular 🙂

Good News Friday: The greatest peanut butter and jelly knife ever is invented. Tim Tebow does a great thing. And the woman who helps disabled goats.

OK, let’s all take a deep breath. It’s been a pretty crazy hectic news week, which didn’t slow down on Thursday when Roger Ailes and Chris Cornell both died (I guarantee those two have never been in the same sentence before), we had two horrible car accidents here in NYC (including a drunk driver plowing over more than 20 people and killing one on a crowded Times Square sidewalk) and more nonsense coming from the White House.

So we need some smiles, and some laughs, right? Good thing I’m here. I begin Good News Friday with maybe the greatest invention in sandwich-making since sliced bread (OK maybe the person who invented the paper plate has an argument).

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the greatest and only knife you’ll ever need for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s called the PB-JIFE knife, and it eliminates the problem of getting peanut butter on your hands while making the sandwich.

It’s got curved edges, a huge extra-long blade… I’m telling you, if you don’t get the man in your life this knife for Father’s Day, you just don’t love them. (I would love one of these, for anyone looking to get me a Dad’s day gift.)

It was invented by a video-game designer and costs just $12.99. You can buy it here, and if watching this demo doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will.

**Next up, Tim Tebow gets a lot of publicity, some of it negative for his spectacular failure as an NFL player and how he’s always so outspoken about his Christian beliefs, but I’ve always tried to point out how much of a good heart he has, and how much good he does in the world.

Every year he holds a “Night to Shine Prom” for special-needs kids, and Tebow went on Jimmy Fallon the other night and talked about a superfan of his named Judy, who wanted him to go to her prom with him but he was unable to.

Judy and her mom were invited to “The Tonight Show” and Tim asked Judy to dance. Her face, her reaction… just so magical.

Good on you, as usual, Tebow.

**And finally today, for you animal lovers out there, check out this incredible woman named Leanne Lauricella, who houses disabled goats in her home and takes care of them, saving their lives. All of them.

What an amazing woman. I say it all the time: So much more good than bad in the world. So much more.

I go to Florida for a few days and all hell breaks loose: Shit’s getting real for our President. Aaron Judge asks New Yorkers about Aaron Judge, hilariously. And the frisky squirrel who stole the show

Greetings from sunny Orlando. My apologies for there not being a blog post on Monday like usual, my stepsister’s wedding went late Saturday night, and spent all day Sunday chasing my little guy around and having fun (Also I forgot my laptop and am writing this on the hotel’s “business center” which amazingly has computers that use Internet Explorer as the main browser. Really? IE is still alive and being used in a “business center”? Can’t wait to load my Geocities page on here when I’m done).

Coming home Wednesday night from the Sunshine State, which happily is just as weird in 2017 as it was from 2006-11 when I lived here. Have to say, whew, I’m glad that there was so little news in the world the last few days, just some boring hockey playoffs and humdrum politics-as-usual and no major stories and …
WHAT???? WHAT HAPPENED? WAIT, THEN THIS HAPPENED, TOO??? HE TOLD THE FBI DIRECTOR TO WHAT???

Yes, boys and girls, we thought the 2016 Presidential campaign was exciting, but that was a trip to the dentist compared to the stuff that’s been coming out lately, and, I have a feeling, that’s about to keep coming out for the next several days, weeks, and months. Seriously, you can’t check out of the news for a day with this guy in the White House. It really is amazing, horrifying, sad, and depressing all at the same time, what Donald J. Trump has done/is doing to America.

So many thoughts rocketing around my head about the beginnings of the end (God willing) of Donald Trump, but my brain has been able to shake out these hopefully coherent points:

— Impeachment is a word my liberal friends have been throwing around for months, talking about this or that being grounds. I’m no Constitutional scholar like our last President was (what was that guy’s name again, anyway?) but I never thought anything Trump had done or said yet was anything that would rise to the occasion of getting a majority GOP Congress to even look into impeachmernt proceedings.

But I must say, this Comey memo might finally be the thing that starts the “I” word being taken seriously, and you can tell by some of the quiet coming out of Washington Tuesday night, and some of the strong critiques of Trump coming from GOP legislators, that this shit is getting real for a lot of them.

— Was talking to a friend today about all this and the comparisons to Richard Nixon and Watergate, which of course are going to come up, and we both agreed: Hey, at least Tricky Dick hired people to commit the crimes that lead to his downfall. Trump committed them himself.

— Think about all these people who are leaking news about Trump from inside the White House; all of these sources are people who know things, and have no interest whatsoever in protecting/helping the man who appointed them to their positions. Think about what that says about Trump, and how incredibly frightened these appointees are about what he’s doing.

Check out this paragraph from a N.Y. Times story Tuesday:

In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president for divulging classified intelligence to the Russians: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of his briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or the knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would harm American allies.

Wow. So they’re saying Trump’s not smart or interested enough to really leak secrets on purpose.

— Finally, remember when we thought Trump was going to stifle and crush a free press in America, and really do major damage to the First Amendment? Well, he still might, but man, he has done wonderful things for the readership numbers of the N.Y. Times, the Washington Post, and many other outlets. Just so much to cover and write about.

And also, it’s OK that I laughed pretty hard at that “Home Alone 2” homage at the top of this, right? I mean, laugh or cry, right?

**Next up today, a couple things left over from the past few days that made me smile. First off, “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” has done this a couple of times with newly-famous New York athletes, and they always crack me up.

Aaron Judge is a New York Yankees rookie outfielder who has hit something like 100 home runs in the first two months of the MLB season. But he’s not exactly a household name of face yet, so Fallon sent him out to Bryant Park in NYC to talk to fans about Aaron Judge.

All the reactions are great, but the dude in the middle of the video, with the crazy eyes when he realizes who he’s talking to? Cracked me up so much.

**And finally today, this happened over the weekend and it brought me great delight. A squirrel interrupted the Minnesota Twins-Cleveland Indians game, and no one seemed to have a clue on what to do about it. Grounds crew didn’t come out to catch him, no players went near the little guy, and for about four minutes the entire stadium stood watching a very energetic furry creature do whatever he wanted, running the bases like Rickey Henderson in his prime.

And I love that it finally ended not with some sensible catch and release, but because the squirrel jumped into the stands. “Hey, not our problem anymore, batter up!”

 

Good News Friday: A little girl gives out bracelets and hugs, trying to change the world. Teacher Appreciation week inspires cool gifts. And a Cubs star makes a huge gift to a children’s cancer hospital

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-Land. Your humble blogger is heading to Orlando this weekend for my stepsister’s wedding, and I’m also getting to see some old friends I haven’t seen in while, so I’m very excited. Lots of good news going on this week to counter all the insanity in Washington, D.C…

First up, as a substitute teacher and the child of two retired teachers I know how rarely teachers get appreciated, so whoever came up with Teacher Apprecation Week, bravo. The folks at Upworthy.com chronicled a whole bunch of fantastic teacher tributes that went on around the country, including the photo above for Mrs. Farvour in Wisconsin.

Check out all the photos and Tweets at the Upworthy story; and remember for a minute the teacher that changed your life

I always think of mine when I talk about teachers;  I wrote this back in 2009 about the teacher who I admired most.

**Next up, an amazing little girl named Leah Nelson of Sacramento, Calif. has started an organization called “Becuz I Care,” where she makes Rainbow Loom bracelets (made of rubber bands) and sends them to people to encourage them to do good deeds.

As she explained to Today.com last year, “You don’t have to buy anything,” Leah told TODAY Parents. “Just whenever you do something kind, you pass it on, and you ask them to pay it forward as well by passing on the bracelet when they do something kind for someone else.”

Leah and her family also raise money to help those in need, and sometimes just do things like this, a video that blew me away. Watch Leah approach a clearly distressed woman and make her day:

Just tremendous. You go, Leah. What an amazing child.

**Finally today, another athlete who has always seemed to “get it” is Cubs star Anthony Rizzo. He’s a smart, funny dude who in just a few years in Chicago has become a big star and pretty close to universally beloved.

Stuff like this helps: Rizzo just pledged $3.5 million to a Chicago children’s hospital, the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The Hope 44 Endowed Fund will provide grants on a case-by-case basis for families facing financial hardship due to unexpected needs resulting from a child’s treatment for cancer. These expenses include but are not limited to: insurance copays, meals, parking, rent, utility bills and child care for siblings.

The fund will enable oncology social workers to immediately assess a family’s need for assistance, without restrictions on a patient’s age or stage in diagnosis or the need for a formal application. A number of patients’ families have benefitted from the Rizzo Foundation’s Hope 44 Fund, which has already granted approximately $75,000 to offset these types of expenses.

Rizzo is a cancer survivor himself, and to see him giving back like this is phenomenal.

 

http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/229008138/anthony-rizzo-donates-35m-to-kids-hospital/

A mostly TV post, starring the awesome “Billions” and the really great “Better Call Saul.” And John Oliver brings us Eminem vs. New Zealand

Not going to sit here and complain about that awful performance by my New York Rangers last night, a season-ending awful performance. Nope, they’re not worth my time or aggravation.

So let’s start today with a TV post; I haven’t done one of these in a while but just about every show I’m watching these days is in the middle of a fantastic season, so I want to talk about two of them.

First off, it’s pretty rare that a series gets better from Season 1 to Season 2. “Breaking Bad” did it, “The West Wing” did, and maybe a couple others, but usually, quality either stays the same or regresses significantly (see: “The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Homeland,” etc.)

But man oh man has “Billions” been sensational in Season 2, far and away better than a really good Season 1 (Don’t worry, no spoilers about the season finale here, I know it’s only been a couple days.)

Damien Lewis has been so, so good this season, as billionaire Bobby Axelrod, going from cocky-as-hell to scared, from sympathetic to “oh man he’s such an ass,” often in the course of the same episode. Paul Giamatti as U.S. district attorney-turned-governor candidate Chuck Rhoades, has also been fabulous this year.

The show has been hilarious this year (Wags gets the best lines, from his “this deal stinks worse than Billy Batts in a trunk” to his “you mean the petting zoo?”), it’s been a little heartbreaking, and the supporting cast, with new characters like Taylor (whose gender is unknown), and SEC investigator Dake (smarmy and awesome)  being so solid alongside returnees like Wendy Rhoades and Cafferty, has been sensational as well.

The penultimate episode last week was pure perfection, as we got to see a half hour of Axe celebrating, thinking his dirty tricks have ruined Rhoades and his father, to the final 10 minutes when we learn Chuck has been playing Axe the whole time, and the whole situation blew up in Axe’s face.

I cannot, cannot recommend “Billions” enough. It has taken a giant leap forward this season. If you need a new show to binge-watch, this is the one for you.

**Next up, wanted to talk about another show that has been awesome this season (no, not ‘The Americans,” which I worship but hasn’t been quite up to its usual standards), “Better Call Saul.” I had high hopes for this show when it started, given it was a “Breaking Bad” spinoff, though I feared it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself.

But we’re early in Season 3 and it’s still fantastic, and getting better. The two separate, parallel shows, featuring Jimmy McGill on his way toward becoming shyster lawyer Saul Goodman, and ultimate fixer Mike Ehrmantrout trying to figure out the New Mexico drug war and one of its key players, Gus Fring (it is SO damn good to have him back in my life) have both been fascinating so far this year.

Jimmy so much would like to be a good man and a good, honest lawyer, but circumstances and the worst angels of his nature keep getting in the way, and in the way of fellow attorney Kim Wexler truly falling in love with him.

“Better Call Saul” has had a great slow build, such a great slow build that as brilliant TV critic Alan Sepinwall points out, you want them to hurry up and get to Jimmy becoming Saul, but you don’t want that because the leadup has been so measured and great.

“Better Call Saul” is getting better and better. Can’t wait to see how good it will be next week.

**Finally today, this cracked me up, as “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” almost always does. It’s a short video about a ridiculous court case in New Zealand, involving Eminem, a campaign song, and some fantastic, shocked looks from politicians.

I’m with John, I totally would watch this trial.

http://joeposnanski.com/katie-the-perfect/

Details on this Penn State hazing death leave me enraged. “SNL” does a great spoof on the Mika and Joe weirdness. And the Mets fan honoring his dead friend by flushing his ashes down MLB toilets

I have to admit that after hearing about so many cases of horrible hazing by fraternities on college campuses, I’ve gotten a little numb to them.

They all seem to follow the same pattern: Eager young freshman pledge gets initiated at a house party, forced to drink way too much, no one pays much attention to how sick the freshman is, until it’s far too late, and the kid dies.

The details tend to be a little different, the locations are different, the hand-wringing by college presidents about “we need to change the culture,” is a little different, but mostly I’ve read about so many of these tragedies that they sadly all blend together.

But every once in a while, I get shocked into outrage. And that’s what happened this weekend when I read about the disgusting, criminal behavior of the “men” at Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and their roles in the February death of pledge Tim Piazza (that’s him, above).

If you’re not familiar with the details, they are horrifying. Here are a few examples from the timeline that went on the night of Feb. 3:

— He fell down the stairs and was unconscious, and didn’t receive medical help for 12 hours.

10:47 p.m.: Piazza is carried back up the steps by Ryan Burke, Luke Visser, Greg Rizzo and Jonah Neuman. Piazza is limp and has a visible bruise on his abdomen. The brothers place Piazza on a couch. When Rizzo attempts to administer a sternum rub to Piazza, Piazza is unresponsive.

10:49 p.m.: Rizzo dumps liquid on Piazza’s face. Piazza does not respond. Following this Burke lifts Piazza’s arm, which immediately falls back to Piazza’s chest.

11:14 p.m.: Kordel Davis, a newly initiated brother to Beta Theta Pi as of December 2016, enters the great hall. Davis approaches Piazza, leans over him and then turns to the other brothers in an animated fashion, pointing to his head and then to Piazza. When he testified, Davis told jurors he told the other brothers that Piazza needed to be taken to the hospital. Davis told jurors he screamed at the brothers, telling them they needed to get help.

11:15 p.m.: Neuman shoves Davis into a wall and tells him things are under control. (Ed. note: Ridiculous, right? 

Now at this point, clearly there is criminal negligence and just a complete disregard for Piazza’s well-being. But it gets worse…

11:25 p.m.: Daniel Casey, the pledge master, reenters the great hall to check on Timothy Piazza — he slaps Piazza three times in the face.

1:50 a.m.: Ems strikes Piazza’s abdomen.

3:22 a.m.: Piazza attempts to regain his feet, and Coyne is nearby. Piazza falls backward and strikes his head on the hardwood floor — Coyne shakes him for movement, and then leaves the room.

3:54 a.m.: Piazza attempts to stand up again, but falls face first onto the floor.

It goes on like this, agonizingly, for several more hours, with fraternity brothers stepping over him, filming him (filming!), until at 10:48 someone calls 911.

Outrageous, despicable behavior from young men who continue to think doing this to another human being is fine, that it’s all part of their glorious hazing tradition, etc.

I know I’ll hear from people reading this who will say it’s wrong to paint all fraternities with a broad brush, this is an extreme example, etc. And maybe it is atypical in its horror. But it happens in some degree ALL THE TIME at colleges across the country.

How many more young men need to die before college presidents actually do something about this? When will police and law enforcement make an example of these boys who tortured poor Tim Piazza?

Soon, I hope. Very very soon. 18 Beta Theta Pi brothers were charged criminally here. I hope they all go to jail.

**Next up today, this cracked me up big-time. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough host MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a political roundtable show my wife watches that often gets me yelling at the TV.

Mika is a blonde know-nothing who rarely adds anything interesting to a discussion, while blowhard Joe is a former GOP Congressman who changes his mind on Donald Trump so often that I have no idea where he currently stands. (First he loved Trump, then he hated Trump. Then he loved him again, then hated him after the “Access Hollywood” tape. Then I think he flip-flopped three or four more times).

Anyway, “Morning Joe” has always had a weird dynamic between the two, and now it’s gotten even weirder: The two of them left their spouses for each other, and now are engaged to be married.

Happily, “Saturday Night Live” decided to spoof Mika and Joe on Saturday night’s cold open, with a guest role from Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump’s “spokesman,” John Miller, which is an alias Trump used in the 1980s when he’d pretend to  be a publicist singing Trump’s praises.

**Finally today, a story about friendship and urinals. A Mets fan named Tom McDonald was best friends with fellow Mets fan (Mets sufferer?) Roy Riegel. Riegel died nine years ago, and McDonald was charged by Riegel’s family with disposing of his ashes in an appropriate manner.

Where to put them? At first McDonald scattered some at ballparks and notable places, but then he realized it’d just be easier to flush him down the toilet at ballparks around the country:

It’s appropriate, McDonald feels, because Riegel was a plumber.

From the NY Times story on this:

“The game has to be in progress — that’s a rule of mine,” Mr. McDonald said one recent weeknight before entering a Citi Field bathroom, holding a little plastic bottle containing a scoopful of Mr. Riegel’s cremains . . . “I took care of Roy, and I had to use the facilities myself,” Mr. McDonald said, emerging from the stall with the empty container. “So I figure, you know, kill two birds . . I always flush in between, though,” he added. “That’s another rule of mine.”

Well sure, you’ve got to have rules when doing something like this

Good News Friday: A 7-year-old forges a hilarious letter to his parents. A “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan does an awesome birthday gift. And where can you go to get stuff fixed? Try Repair Cafe

And a Happy Friday to you. Hope all is well in your world, and of course I hope you’re well since pretty soon no one who makes less than a million dollars per year will be able to get health care (didn’t you hear? Being poor is now a pre-existing condition. I kid, but not by much.)

Lots of good stories to choose from this week, but I have to start with this amazing letter from a 7-year-old Utah boy named Nathan Anderson, and I’m not saying it’s amazing just because the kid shares a first name with my child.

Nathan decided to have a little fun and take a shot, so he wrote a letter to his parents , ostensibly from his elementary school, that reads as follows:

“Dear Parents,

Nathan has been doing good in all his classes except for video game class. If he does not stay up all night playing video games he will be kicked out of school!!! Start letting him stay up all night, and start tonight! He can play anything: Computer, Wii, iPod, iPad and any other electronick. 

From, The School

So many parts of that letter I love, but the “From, The School” part had me laughing out loud for 30 seconds. Ah, Nathan, what a great effort.

“He left it on the table for an adult to find, and then when I found it, I asked him, ‘What’s this all about?’ and he tried to gauge whether I believed it, but couldn’t hide his ‘I’m being funny’ smirk,” said Lori Anderson, Nathan’s mom.

OK, so it didn’t exactly work. But Nathan did get to stay up an extra 30 minutes playing video games that night. Bravo, Nathan!

**Next up today, I’m a huge “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan, and clearly so is this guy and his wife. To surprise her for her birthday, this guy did a great homage to a classic first-season “Curb” episode by hiring a small orchestra to wake up his wife playing the “Curb” theme song.

Sounds great to me!

**Finally today, I thought this was a really cool thing. Across the country, weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly, volunteers gather at converted warehouses called Repair Cafes. People bring in their broken possessions, and for free, volunteers fix them.

Such a simple thing. Such a wonderful thing. There are now more than 1,000 of these Repair Cafes in 29 countries since they were founded in 2009, as neighbor helps neighbor everywhere. Watch the video above, so sweet.

Now if we could just get a Repair Cafe set up in Washington, D.C., because I think our government is broken…

The horror of “lunch-shaming” poor public school kids. Jimmy Kimmel with an amazing story of his son’s birth, and health scare. And maybe the most awkward and awful TV interview ever, starring A-Rod and Derek Jeter

There is much to be outraged about in our society these days, but today I just want to single out one horrible, vile, disgusting practice that is apparently just fine with nearly half of school districts in America.

The practice is called “lunch-shaming,” and if you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: A student goes to school and then to the cafeteria at lunch time. They stand on line, grab a sandwich or a hamburger and some fruit or whatever. They get to the register, and if it turns out they have an outstanding balance on their account, the cafeteria workers get to do something drastic. Like take their food and throw it in the garbage. Or give the child a cold sandwich with very little in it. Or not give the child any food at all.

From this New York Times story that got me all fired up:
“The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)

A Pennsylvania cafeteria worker posted on Facebook that she had quit after being forced to take lunch from a child with an unpaid bill. In Alabama, a child was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” (my addition: STAMPED ON THE ARM!???) On one day, a Utah elementary school threw away the lunches of about 40 students with unpaid food bills.

Hazel Compton, 12, remembers being given a sandwich of white bread with a slice of cheese instead of the hot lunch served to other children at her Albuquerque elementary school. (A school district spokeswoman said the sandwich met federal requirements.)

School is really, really fucking hard for some kids. There are all kinds of extra disadvantages when you’re poor, from not being able to wear nice clothes or the “cool style” to having to do homework late into the night because you had to work an after-school job to help support your family, or having to ride 2-3 buses or trains to get to a good school because the schools are terrible where you live.

School can be so, so hard. And knowing all that, knowing how painful and difficult and excruciating it can be, we still have school districts that allow employees to humiliate and disgrace children who are poor through no fault of their own.

Look, I know there’s another side to this, that school districts are underfunded, that someone has to pay for that food, etc. But come on! How about our state legislators bump up school funding so schools can help out poor families? How about lowering the limits for the free lunch program, so more families can get meals for their kids?

So many better solutions than “lunch-shaming.” What a despicable practice.

Makes me so goddamn mad.

**Next up today, grab the tissues and hold all calls for 10 minutes, this is absolutely worth your time. Jimmy Kimmel was off last week from his terrific late-night show, and Monday night in an emotional, heart-felt monologue, he explained why: His son Billy was born, only there was an immediate medical scare that had Billy fighting for his life.

Stay till the end, when he says something about saving children’s lives that, silly me, I thought 100 percent of people could agree with (nope, some were still mad at him for saying it.)

Really fantastic, raw, real stuff here from Kimmel.

**Finally today, who doesn’t love a great, horribly awkward interview starring an interviewer who has no clue about his subjects, doesn’t listen to them, then calls them by the wrong names?

I give you a five-minute masterpiece of awfulness here, folks. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were on CNBC Tuesday to hype some charity, and were interviewed by CNBC’s Bob Pisani. Besides calling Derek “Alex” a few times, asking Jeter about the Met gala after Jeter had just said he didn’t go, and trying to cause tension between the two, everything went great.

God this is wonderfully terrible TV.

An awesome day seeing Yankee Stadium from a “different” perspective. Yet one more reason Canadians are awesome. And 2 very cool NFL Draft moments

Never in my life have I put in so much planning to go to a baseball game, but I did for Sunday’s Yankees-Orioles tilt at Yankee Stadium.

My father-in-law is fantastic in many ways, not least of which he helped give the world an awesome daughter who sleeps in bed next to me every night. His loves are straightforward: action movies where stuff blows up and people chase each other; red meat and bacon; his family, the New York Giants, and most of all, the New York Yankees. Loves, loves, loves him some pinstripes baseball.

So for his 70th birthday this year, the wife and I decided to splurge way beyond what we’d normally do: We decided to rent a one-game luxury suite at Yankee Stadium, and if I didn’t already only have one kidney I might have had to sell the other one to pay for it (kidding. About selling the kidney, not about having just one. Click the link above for a crazy story from my life.)

We invited 20 relatives and friends of my in-laws to the game, spent weeks and weeks working out the details just right with the Yankees suite people, and despite it being a so-so weather day here in NYC, it was pretty amazing.

Our suite was right on the first-base-line, and the food and drink were as plentiful as advertised. They gave us Yankees caps, some other swag to take home, and we got to see a pretty great game (Yankees were down 4-2 in the ninth, rallied to tie it up, then lost in 11 innings) as well.

They put “Happy Birthday Steve Honig” on the scoreboard which was fabulous, and the Stadium staff couldn’t have been more gracious (kind of insane how many ushers/attendants/suite personnel work just one game; have to think Yanks are just a tad overstaffed, since many, many of the employees seemed to just be standing around doing nothing.)

The big surprise was in the third inning a Yankees employee walks into the suite with a large, mustachioed man and announces excitedly, “Goose Gossage is here!”

The Goose (above) is a Yankees legend from the 1970s and ’80s, a fireballing relief pitcher who helped the Yanks win the World Series in 1978. Lately he’s been famous for being a cranky old-guy blowhard bitching about today’s pitchers having it easy and Latin players celebrating too much, but Sunday he was delightful. Spent 10 minutes with us, helped sing “Happy Birthday” and was in great spirits.

Sunday was, technically, my little guy’s first sporting event, and he loved it. I really don’t want to take him to games until he’s a little older (he’s 2 1/2) and we can both enjoy it, but the fact that he was able to run around the suite and not have to sit in a seat for three hours made us feel like it’d be OK to have him there. Plus, he and my father-in-law are BFF. (Poor kid’s gonna think every Yankees game is gonna be like this. “What, Daddy, we have to wait on LINE to pee?”)

Anyway, the day was great, and the best moment for me happened after the game, when a close friend of my in-laws said “Steve, this is the first time I’ve ever seen you smiling when the Yankees have lost.”

It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of memory for my wife’s Dad, at least I hope it was. He was as happy as we have seen him, and that’s by far worth more than all the planning and $$$ that went into it.

Next up, I love Canadians for so many reasons, including doing stuff like this. The Edmonton Oilers are good again, which is great because their crowds are so fantastic and loud. Before Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series against Anaheim Sunday, the singer who was to perform the “Star-Spangled Banner” appeared to have some mic trouble, so he turned to the crowd for help.

And dammit if a bunch of citizens of the Great White North didn’t belt out a great U.S.A. anthem. You think there’s any way 18,000 American fans in, say, Tampa Bay, could do that for the Canadian anthem? I doubt it.

Anyway, this was great. Go, Canada.

**Finally today, the NFL Draft is one of those way-overhyped events that gets so hyped these days because the NFL is a behemoth and everything it does gets overhyped.

I rarely pay much attention to it except to see how my Jets will screw it up (they got a great player in the first round, a safety named Jamal Adams, then drafted a guy who plays the same position in the second round. Because, you know, the Jets are perfect at every other position but safety), but these two videos caught my eye over the weekend and I thought they were great.

First, above, the Arizona Cardinals allowed the family of a slain Phoenix police officer,  David Glasser, to help make a draft pick. David Johnson of the Cards was Glasser’s favorite player, so he and Glasser’s widow and son made the pick. Very cool.

And then this, which was hilarious: The draft was held in Philadelphia this year, and of course Eagles fans hate the Dallas Cowboys, so when Cowboys legend Drew Pearson got up to make his team’s second-round pick, he was vociferously booed. Which Pearson enjoyed, then decided to ramp up the booing even more with this fantastic speech. I hate the Cowboys too, but I LOVED this, especially when he thanks the Eagles fans “for allowing me to have a career in the NFL.”