Monthly Archives: December 2009

A very cool exhibit at the Met, a random realization that I’m getting old, and maybe the drunkest woman ever

**So I saw the best movie I’ve seen in years, Up In The Air, on Wednesday night. Have lots of thoughts, but want to let them simmer in my brain for another day. Tomorrow, a long post about George Clooney, and how outstanding this movie was.

Went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Wednesday with my mom and stepfather, and saw an extremely interesting photo exhibit. It’s by a Swiss-born shooter named Robert Frank, who during a few years in the mid 1950s toured America taking haunting, beautiful photographs of what he saw. The two I pasted above are just two of 83 pictures on display, taken from Frank’s book, “The Americans.”

Shot in black and white, the pictures are gorgeous and show an America just before social revolution. If you’re in NYC, I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s more info about it.

(And while I’m on the subject of museums, can someone tell me why the docents always chase you out 20 minutes before the museum closes? Really annoys me when at 5:10, they tell you to scram, when the place is open until 5:30.)

**Two random thoughts from today and yesterday that were rattling around in my brain today, with no real link connecting them:

— I’ve been using automated hand dryers in public bathrooms for most of my life, and I have always hated them, and still do. No matter how long you leave your hands under there, they never get the drying job done as well as paper towels. I know the hand-dryers are supposed to be better for the environment, yada yada yada. But my hands are still always wet, and that annoys me.

— Was sitting around with two of my oldest and closest friends at an NYC diner the other night, and it occurred to me that one of the great nights of my life was spent with them and my other best friend Marc, at a similar diner, the night before the first one of us was leaving for college. We sat at the North Shore Diner for hours, drinking coffee, toasting to memories from our childhood, and having one more incredible night together before we began the slow, inexorable parting of friends when you’re no longer together every day.

I thought about that, smiled inside, then realized that that wonderful night was now half a lifetime ago.

It’s the damnedest thing when age sneaks up on you like that.

**Finally, another amazing but true story from The Smoking Gun. Apparently a South Dakota woman was found passed out drunk behind the wheel of her car, and her blood alcohol level was a .708. That’s not a misprint. That is eight times the legal limit. EIGHT TIMES! I’m wondering lots of things about Marguerite Engle, the woman involved.

Like, how is she still alive being that drunk? How was she able to even walk out to her car in that condition? And will college students from around the country flock to her for advice on how to get that drunk and still live?

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The best people-watching spot in America. And a despicable scene in Iran

Maybe it’s because I’m a reporter. Or maybe I became a reporter because of this.

But I love, love, love people-watching. I’m fairly addicted to it. Whether I’m in a mall, an airplane, or a shoe-store, I’m fascinated with the study of human moves, as Paul Newman so beautifully called it in The Color of Money (one of my all-time favorite movies).

I don’t think it’s a voyeuristic thing for me; I just think I’m always curious as to what others are doing, what emotions their faces betray, and how people make the decisions that they do.

And for someone like me, the absolute Mecca of people-watching, the Centre Court Wimbledon, the 18th at Augusta, is Penn Station in New York City. You can find every type of person in Penn Station, particularly at rush hour: Businessmen rushing to make their train. Young people headed out for a night out. Poor people begging, or playing music, for a few spare coins. Tired, haggard-looking people worn out by life. White, black, Asian, Hispanic, the whole melting pot of America, all in a huge train station that links up with subways.

Spent a lot of time in Penn Station, and on the subways Tuesday, and I loved it.  Loved the intense gaze of the mid-50s woman reading a Barbara Kingsolver novel on the E train. Loved the subtle angling for a precious spot on the subway bench seats by a Hispanic man in his 40s, as he swooped down a millisecond after a man got up. There is every kind of emotion on display at Penn, and I think sociologists could learn a lot about America just by sitting in there for a week sometime.

**So when I’m on vacation I tend to take a break from the hard news in the world, but I saw this on my friend Pearlman’s blog today and I feel it must be seen. In Iran, they’re literally running over protesters against the government now. How much longer will the world just look on and do nothing? These are people desperate for change and a real shot at democracy, unafraid to die for what they believe in.

And the world watches, with thumbs twiddling.

The brilliance, and ludicrousness, of “Avatar.” And the completely puzzling Urban Meyer

Sometimes you go see a movie and you are constantly listening to the two voices fighting in your head.

Voice No. 1 says: “Good God, this is amazing! Look at the colors, the scenery, the action sequences! This is quite possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Voice No. 2 then replies:  “This is the most un-believable story ever. There’s no way any of those last 15 things could’ve happened. How can I watch this?”

Now you know how I spent 2 hours and 42 minutes Monday night, as I sat with my 3-D glasses on and watched “Avatar,” James Cameron’s $300 million epic about a former Marine who’s disabled but goes to the future, befriends some natives, kicks some butt, and that’s not even 1/10th of what the movie’s about.

My brain was fighting itself all the time during the flick. First, the overall verdict: I thought it was great, a true step-forward in moviemaking. The animation and “motion capture” technology are so far above and beyond anything you’ve ever seen before; it makes a Pixar movie look like a Pictionary drawing. The color, the scenery, the everything, was just amazing. Some critics have said it was like watching “Star Wars” for the first time, and that sounds about right.

The acting was also great, with Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang (who, as the villain in the piece, was terrific despite being saddled with the most cliched lines I’ve ever seen) being particularly terrific. The movie pulls on your heartstrings, has two incredibly well-filmed action fight sequences, and really never drags.

But the story had so many gaps in logic, and so many times where you’re just like “Wait a second, how did that happen?” I’m not talking about general plot leaps, I’m talking about all kinds of specific points which just didn’t really seem possible.

Still, I walked out of the theater completely satisfied that I’d gotten my money’s worth (well, my Dad’s money’s worth; he bought the tickets). This is a movie that will stay with me for a long, long time.

**So I thought if I gave it a day or so I might better understand what the hell Florida football coach Urban Meyer said over the weekend, when he quit, then un-quit, in 24 hours.

Nope. I’m still wildly puzzled. Meyer, the 45-year-old coach at University of Florida, had had serious heart issues over the past few years, and after a hospital stay after the Gators’ last game, realized he was killing himself with this coaching thing.

So he wisely, on advice of his doctors who told him the stress could cause his premature death, resigned as UF coach on Saturday. He talked about how he wanted to be around for his family for a long time, and that this was the smart thing to do. And I was glad to see a coach putting his family first.

Only then on Sunday, Urban turns around and says he’s only taking a “leave of absence,” and that he plans to coach again, maybe next year.

Huh? Tell me exactly how his heart won’t be affected when he’s back on the sidelines. Is coaching going to suddenly be stress-free? Is he going to be miraculously cured? Did he just wake up Sunday morning, as I suspect, and realize he was the head coach at Florida, with two national titles under his belt, along with the worship of millions of fans, and maybe decide he wasn’t quite ready to walk away?

Whatever it was, it speaks to how disingenuous these coaches are. It’s about the football family first, not the real family. Which is very sad, if you ask me.

Anyway, here’s a great column by Florida Today’s Peter Kerasotis about the whole situation.

A bizarre, beautiful win for the Jets. The Giants stink. And a hilarious anti-bully video

Nope. Ain’t giving this one back or apologizing for it.

It is extremely rare that I’ve agreed with anything Bart Scott has said this year.

The fiery Jets linebacker is way too cocky, and his words usually betray a total lack of reality for how good his team is.

But Sunday, well, Sunday, me and Bart were on the same page.

This is what he said after one of the strangest Jets wins I’ve ever seen.

“I ain’t apologizing for jack.”

He was talking, of course, about the wild and bizarre way the Jets beat the 14-0 Indianapolis Colts Sunday. With the Jets down 15-10 in the third quarter, hanging in there and playing a pretty good game, Colts coach Jim Caldwell decided that now was the time to pull his starters, rest them for the playoffs, and throw poor third-string QB Curtis Painter into the game, replacing some guy named Manning.

And so, predictably, the Jets steamrolled Painter, played great on offense against the Indy backups, and won, 29-15.

And of course, in this crazy season, everything once again went right for the Jets in the other games, so now all my boys have to do is beat Cincinnati next Sunday night (and damn you, NBC for making me wait around ALL DAY next Sunday to watch the Jets break my heart!) and they’re in the playoffs.

Lots of things to digest from Sunday’s game, but back to Bart Scott first: I agree. I ain’t giving this one back. There have been so many terrible things that have happened to the Jets over the 30 years I’ve been a fan, that if they get a huge break like they did Sunday, I’m good with it.

This is the NFL. You can’t take any win for granted, nor feel bad about it.  Do the Jets deserve to be in the playoffs? Probably not. Was this a terrible move by Caldwell, teasing his fans and chucking away a shot at 19-0 and history? Yes.

But hey, Jets coaches have done stupid things for 40 years. ‘Bout time someone else did it against them, right?

Couple more thoughts on the game:

— Brad Smith, that KO return was HUGE. Just huge. Gave the whole team a lift.

–Thought Mark Sanchez did OK, and obviously he didn’t have to do much in the third and fourth quarters, as the running game took over. Fantastic job by the O-line and by Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, though yes, they did do it against Colts backups.

— If Indy doesn’t win the Super Bowl because the team is rusty and loses its first playoff game, well, I think it’s going to be a miserable offseason for Coach Caldwell. 

— Hate to give Mike Francesa, the blowhard know it all on WFAN, but he brought up a great point Sunday night: Peyton Manning completely supported his coach’s decision to pull him from the game, though you could tell he was so upset on the sidelines as perfection slipped away. But Manning, the player, did as his coach asked. Contrast that to the me-first No.4 under center for the Minnesota Vikings, who got his panties in a bunch when his coach wanted to pull him from the game.

–What the hell is wrong with the Saints? Geez, blowing a 17-point lead to the lowly Bucs at home? That’s awful.

— Nice to see the Houston Texans tease their fans again with a strong finish. And while we’re at it, Derrick Mason of the Ravens, how do you drop that ball in the end zone? I’m starting to think somehow, someway, the Steelers are getting in the playoffs.

Finally, this is definitely in the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame. It appears to be a PSA about how to deal with bullies. The part about biting is my favorite:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The thrill of a live hockey game. And the new airline rules that will bother us

 

People have often asked me what’s my favorite sport. I answer tennis or hockey or football, depending on my mood.
But when they ask me what’s the best sport to watch live, there’s not even a split-second hesitation in my answer.

Hockey, without a doubt, is the winner for “biggest improvement from seeing it on TV to being at the game.”

Last night Julie and I went to the Rangers-Islanders game at Madison Square Garden, my favorite arena on Earth, to watch one of the great rivalries in sports. It reminded me of just how much damn fun a live hockey game is.

You see the speed, size and skill of the players so much better in person. On TV, you can’t appreciate the breathtaking rushes up the ice by a Marian Gaborik or a John Tavares, and watch the beautiful choreography of a play developing into a big-time scoring chance. The ferocity of the body-checks by Dan Girardi or Sean Avery is lost when you’re sitting at home, too.

But most of all, a hockey crowd is just so intense and fun. We were sitting in Section 310 last night, which, thankfully, was a Rangers-dominated fan section (at Islander-Ranger games, there are always a lot of opposing team’s fans in the other’s building).  It was awesome listening to the 10-year-old behind us call the refs “a bunch of idiots.”  The brilliantly thought-provoking and penetrating men’s room line conversation can’t be beat (“Islanders suck.” “Rangers suck.” No, Islanders suck.” Really, it was like Masterpiece Theater in there.)

It was so much fun getting swept up in the collective “oohs” and “ahhs” of scoring chances that just missed. We booed, we cheered, and we saw a thrilling game that had the Islanders (sadly) winning in overtime.

I know hockey doesn’t get a lot of love in America. And I know the zealots like me, the people who worship the sport, are always saying “Just go to one game, and you’ll love it forever.”

But really, it’s true. Live hockey is an incredible experience that will turn you onto the sport. If you get a chance, just give it a shot.

And the kid was right: Those refs really were idiots.

**So after that Nigerian guy tried to blow up  the plane in Detroit the other day, it was so predictable that the airlines would immediately react like a scared little kid and make up a whole bunch of new rules. Apparently, according to this article, you now must sit in your seat with nothing on your lap or tray-table, and stay seated, for the final hour of international flights, and longer lines await you at security on all flights.

As Bill Maher and others always say, we’re always fighting the previous battle with airline security. After the shoe-bomber failed, we all had to take off our shoes. Now this guy fails, and we have to stay seated. Here’s the thing: The Nigerian guy WAS seated! He didn’t need to get up.

I just always feel like we’re fighting a hopeless battle against would-be airline bombers. No matter what we try to do, no security measures will ever be 100-percent, guaranteed effective. There will always be that risk.

So, fine, make me take my shoes off, keep me seated, while I hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic in my head. Fine. Whatever.

Just don’t take away my bag of peanuts. A man needs salty goodness to keep his sanity on flights these days.

One of my favorite presents ever, and some other random post-Christmas thoughts

Hello dear readers, sorry I took a one-day break from the blog, but even us Jews get busy on Christmas sometimes. Had a wonderful holiday with my wife’s family; Christmas Eve brought a dinner hosted by my in-laws at their house on Long Island, and as usual they were gracious enough to invite my father and stepmother, my mother and stepfather (they all get along quite well), and my 91-year-old Grandma, who is the most wonderful thing ever.

Then on Christmas morning, presents galore.  I received a DVD of the Pixar movie “Up” (best thing I’ve seen in  a long time,) some sweaters and books, and then maybe one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten. It was the New York Times book of front pages, with every single front page the paper has ever produced.

Even better, it comes with CD-ROMs of every article on the front page, so you could continue reading the story when it jumps to another page. Brilliant. I’m a huge fan of old newspapers; one day when we have a house and I get my own “man-cave” room, I want to get famous newspaper headlines framed and hanging on the walls (“Dewey defeats Truman,” Ford to City: Drop Dead,” JFK’s assassination, etc.)

Anyway, I’m super excited to dive it into it. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family; hope all of you had wonderful holidays as well.

*** Now I’m not here to rail against the coarsening of our culture, because enough people already do that. But this caught my eye:  Has anyone else noticed that the word “effing” has become acceptable in mainstream newspapers and magazines?  I’ve seen it a few times in the last few months, but then in a Newsweek headline from two weeks ago that read: “Why is Barney Frank so effing mad?”

I use the F word as much as the next guy (maybe more, if you ask the people who sit near me at work), but how is this suddenly acceptable? Is spelling it out in some way less offensive or problematic? I don’t know, I just think it’s a little odd how easily this has become accepted.

***Finally, a few leftover Christmas thoughts:

— Is there a rule that the relatives and friends you only see once a year always sit next to you at the large dinner table? Just wondering.

— My wife’s cousin’s sons (I know, there’s no good word for it) had some great T-shirts and pillows this year. The two boys, who were in a virtual trance while playing their brand-new Wii, were wearing the following matching shirt:

And this pillow was also lying on the couch, which cracked me up as well:

Rockin’ Out to “Rock of Ages,” and a day in NYC

So a short blog tonight as I’m wildly pooped; spent the day in NYC with my wife and the in-laws; had a wonderful time. Got to see the usual late December treats in the city: The tree at Rockefeller Center, the Macy’s window, the throngs of people pushing each other out of the way as they try to cross the street. Good times.

Also got to stop in at FAO Schwarz, the greatest toy store ever, and saw the big piano you could walk on that was used in “Big” back in the 1980s. Very, very cool, still.

But the highlight of the day was my long-awaited and desired trip to the Atkinson Theatre to see “Rock of Ages.”  If you’re not familiar with the Broadway show to which I refer, it’s just about the greatest thing ever if you’re a Generation X person who loved 80s music like I did. It’s a story about a guy and a girl who move to L.A. and the Sunset Strip to try to make it big, and, well, it’s just 2-plus hours of awesomeness. I was singing every song in my seat, and playing with the cool fake lighters they handed out when the ballads were on (just about everyone in the theatre was using it for the Poison classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

It wasn’t just the music that was terrific; the writing was really funny, the acting was superb, and the costumes, well, let’s just say if you lived through the 80s, you’ll know they got the outfits exactly right. Sequins, leggings, big hair, it was perfect.

So, a great day. Definitely recommend seeing “Rock of Ages” if you’re in NY.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go serenade the family with “The Search is Over.”

So bad, they’re good:The secret thrill of ugly Christmas sweaters

Because we Americans will find any excuse whatsoever to have a theme party, I present to you the newest rage that’s sweeping our land this holiday season:

Ugly Christmas sweater parties.

Seriously.  This is a thing now. Ugly Christmas sweaters, long the scourge of people who know people with really bad taste everywhere, are now a hit. People are wearing them to parties, and celebrating the true awfulness that is dashing reindeer on wool. I guess it’s fun to drink eggnog and look at people who’s shirts are even uglier than the one you have on. The drunker you get, maybe the better the sweater looks!

Personally, I don’t think some of these sweaters are SO bad, but wait, as I duck the mallet thrown at me from my wife after typing that sentence. Anyway, for a true taste of ugly sweaters, check out www.uglychristmassweater.com, and this great 5-minute piece by my hero Bill Geist (seriously, he has the best job in the world and I want it) on CBS Sunday Morning:

Home sweet (snowy) home, ruminations from the airport, and Mayor Rudy quits before he starts

Snow, I’ve missed you.

Maybe it’s all the time I spent in upstate New York. Maybe it’s the fact that it never, ever gets cold enough to even flake in The Sunshine State.

But when my wife and I flew home from Florida Monday afternoon and I saw the beautiful white stuff on the ground on Long Island, I was one happy fella.

I haven’t seen snow in like a year, and seeing it once in a while stirs up all kinds of great memories. Sledding in Sunshine Acres Park near my house. Throwing snowballs at my friends. Driving eight hours in a blizzard from Delaware to New York one memorable February night (one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life, if you’re keeping score at home. THe trip normally takes 3 hours, but it was horrendous on the N.J. Turnpike).

I know if you live in a part of the country that was demolished by the storm last weekend, you think I’m crazy and want me to shut up. But in Florida, when it’s pretty much one season all year round, you miss out on things like winter blizzards.

So, I was a happy guy as I sloshed through the airport parking lot. I’m sure in a few days here I”ll be cursing the ice and freezing my tush off, but for right now, it’s all a white wonderland to me.

*** I love airports. They fascinate me. I’ve always been a fan of flying, even when it becomes pretty routine as you get older. Couple things struck me as I made my annual December voyage up the coast:

–I don’t know if it’s a post 9/11 thing or what, but Southwest pilots don’t tell nearly the amount of jokes they used to.

— Explain this to me about the airport: Why do they lie to us about the boarding process on their monitors? Our flight screen kept flashing “boarding”  at us for 10 minutes before a soul had gotten on the plane. Are they trying to trick us or something, make us think we’re going to get on soon?

— And what, exactly, is the proper response to the person  in front of you on the plane who reclines their seat all the way back, for the whole damn flight? Are you allowed to say “Excuse me, I now have about four inches of legroom, and if I want to reach under the seat I risk permanently injuring my neck by contorting myself as if I were a carnival performer?” Or do you just suck it up? I’m always too nice to say anything, but man, this woman today was oblivious.

**While I’m in a New York State of Mind, heard tonight that the people of the Empire State will sadly be deprived of either Senator Giuliani or Governor Giuliani, as Mr. 9/11 is set to announce Tuesday that he’s not running for anything in 2010. That’s too bad, because I really wanted to hear how he worked his heroic work on 9/11 into discussions of the environment, gay marriage, and fiscal responsibility. I know Rudy could do it, too!

What a joke he’s become. Maybe he’ll run for President again, who knows. What I do know is that the stars will never align better for Andrew Cuomo, heir to his father’s throne, to be the next Governor of N.Y.

R.I.P., Jets season. A crazy, crazy Steelers win. And the best anti-Xmas song ever

If Sunday’s New York Jets game were Jeopardy,” here’s a clue: The entire second half.

The question: When were you certain the Jets were going to lose to the Atlanta Falcons?”

Yes my friends, 30 years of Jets-watching has allowed me to be Kreskin, at certain moments. And as me and the rest of my bar amigos at Houligan’s Pub here in Ormond Beach watched mistake after mistake by the Jets, missed field goals, interceptions by Mark Sanchez (geez, where have I written that before?) and blown chances, I knew this was going to end badly.

“How many times have we seen this?” I muttered into my Coke. “Jets dominate the game, can’t put a team away, the opponent puts together one good drive, and BAM, game over.”

So it was, in a way, a tiny bit satisfying as I watched the Jets fall to 7-7, in a crushing 10-7 defeat at Giants Stadium.

A few questions sprung to mind during this contest, besides “what the hell am I doing watching this for 3 hours?”

— OK, so Kellen Clemens stinks as a QB. He also stinks as a holder on field goals. What, if anything, is he good at?

— Was the Jets defense unaware Tony Gonzalez, one of the best tight ends in history, plays for the Falcons? Because he was awfully lonesome on that 4th and goal play when he scored the winning touchdown.

— How many bleepin’ interceptions did the Jets defensive backs drop Sunday? 4, 5, 6? Besides the three missed FG’s that was another sign it wasn’t going to be New York’s day.

— Mark Sanchez, Jets fans really, really want to see progress from you. But on two of those three interceptions (the middle one didn’t bother me that much), it looked like you’ve learned nothing from Week 1. Eat. The. Ball. If no one’s open.

— The defense was great Sunday, really great. I don’t blame them for the loss, even though they gave up the final TD. You just can’t kill a defense that allowed 10 points; they’re not the reason the Jets lost.

— Sadly, thanks to the bumbling of some other AFC teams, I can’t officially write off this season completely. Denver lost and is 8-6, Baltimore is 8-6, while the Titans, Steelers, Jags and ‘Fins are 7-7, like the Jets. But here’s the thing: No way the Jets deserve to be in the playoffs, and there’s NO WAY they’re beating 14-0 Indy next week.

So yeah, the season’s over. And I’m OK with it. 7-7, with a rookie quarterback and the loss of two hugely important players to injury (Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington) is about where this team should be.

It just sucks to watch the same movie over and over again, and that’s what this team is.

**So there were some crazy endings to games Sunday, another reason to love the NFL. Oakland wins AT Denver? With JaMarcus Russell? Crazy. San Diego nips Cincy at the end on a 52-yard field goal? Crazy.

But without a doubt the most thrilling ending was Pittsburgh, scoring a TD on the game’s last play to beat Green Bay, 37-36. They overcame one of the stupidest coaching calls ever (Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, up 30-28, tries an onside kick late in the fourth quarter. Of course Green Bay recovered and scored) and won on the play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace, fresh off the “60 Minutes” set, apparently.

Still, the onside kick was beyond nuts. I know Tomlin explained that he didn’t trust his defense, but still, that’s a crazy, crazy call.

— I have no idea who’s making the playoffs in the AFC. My best guess right now is Denver and Jacksonville, but who the heck knows?

**Boy, the Duke basketball team kicked the holy hell out of Gonzaga Saturday. That was nice to see. Still wanting to see more out of the Plumlee boys, Mason and Miles, but I’m not complaining. And it was nice to see Carolina lose, too. A good Saturday!

**Finally, if you’ve hung in there and want a good laugh this Monday, this is my favorite all-time “Christmas song.”  The 12 Pains of Christmas cheers me every December. Just listen to the “rigging up the lights” guy and try not to laugh.”