Monthly Archives: May 2010

Finally, we have library bouncers. And the product that will save your marriage!

Here’s an idea we can all get behind.

Have you ever been in a library and the people a few feet away won’t shut up? Or a cell phone goes off when you’re knee-deep into some Dickens or Bronte?

Don’t you wish you had some muscle to tell those no-good citizens that their behavior is unnaceptable?

Well, a town library in Kings Lynn, Norfolk (England) made those dreaming of a quiet library, where offenders will be intimidated.

Yes, they hired bouncers, after area youths were engaging in “anti-social behavior” and terrorizing and tormenting the female staff.

Read the details here. I love this story so much. Can’t you just see two huge guys in leather jackets walking in between the stacks at every library, glaring down at you? How about a beefy dude standing at the books returned area, his piercing glare a clear sign you now owe $.0.40?

Sounds like a great employment opportunity in these troubled economic times.

I love stupid infomercials, because 99.9 percent of the time they’re so useless and laughable that you wonder who would really buy that product. I particularly love the ones where you can’t tell what they’re selling based on the name.

This my friends, is pure genius! Genius, I tell you.

Without further ado, I give you the Better Marriage Blanket:

The despicable Floyd Landis. And a beautiful moment on a Danish bus (seriously)

There are some people in pro sports who make my skin crawl.

Curt Schilling. Terrell Owens. Lane Kiffin (did you see him on HBO’s Real Sports this week, acting all humble and nice? Please.) And in a sport that I hardly ever pay attention to, the cycling world’s Floyd Landis.

He is lower than pond scum. He has to look up to see the dirt on my shoe. He’d need a ladder to look eye to eye with an earthworm.

You get the idea.

If you don’t remember good old Floyd, a quick reminder: He won the Tour de France in 2006, and it was a wonderful story at the time, how he came from far back in the pack to win. Except then he failed a drug test a little while after winning, and he was later stripped of the title.

Since then, Landis has denied, under oath, to interviewers, and to anyone who would listen, that he ever took performance-enhancing drugs. Despite evidence piled as high as Kilimanjaro, our man Floyd swore he was innocent.

Until finally, in an interview with ESPN published Thursday, Landis admitted what we all knew: that he used EPO, testosterone, and other drugs illegally while he was a competitive cyclist. He wanted to clear his conscience, we’re told.

Yet he also took this opportunity to accuse Lance Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs, too. With no proof of any kind, and with less credibility than Wilt Chamberlain preaching abstinence, Landis says he had conversations with Armstrong, a true American hero, where Armstrong revealed he used drugs.

Floyd Landis is disgraceful. He’s disgraceful for lying for years, for concocting all kinds of ridiculous excuses, and now for trying to bring Armstrong down with him.

He has no honor, and isn’t worthy of being called an athlete. This is the last pathetic attempt of a truly desperate man to be relevant again.

**And now, for a palatte-cleanser. Chalk this up as one of the small moments that make life wonderful. An African bus driver in Denmark had a birthday. The people on his usual route found out and decided to do something special for him. Just look at Mukhtar’s face throughout this 2-minute video, and you’ll see what true kindness can do for a person (especially at the 0:58 mark): (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for this video):

As usual, media completely overreacts on election results. And “Glee” and “Modern Family” rule again

Not sure why this set me off today, but it did.

Tuesday night was a reasonably big political primary night in America. We had some close races, and for a liberal like me, things went very well. The awful Blanche Lincoln, who’s as much a Democrat as Rush Limbaugh, has been forced into a runoff and could very well lose in Arkansas. Arlen Specter, ancient and also not really a Democrat, has been beaten by a real Democrat.

Anyway, the other big story was Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, winning in Kentucky.

So of course Wednesday I go online and read some reaction and all I see is media overreaction. We love nothing more than a good theme, us reporter types, and if the theme isn’t quite there, well, damn the torpedoes and we push the theme anyway.

So because Rand Paul won, the headlines are about the Tea Party totally changing the 2010 elections, and everything is different now.

And since Specter lost, I read headlines like “Specter defeat signals a wave against incumbents” in the New York Times.

But you know what? Maybe Specter lost because Democrats in Pennsylvania were sick of him and they knew he wasn’t a real Dem. And maybe Rand Paul won because he tapped into some voter anger in Kentucky and was just a better candidate.

I’m not saying that incumbents aren’t in danger, they might be. But it just ticks me off how the media takes what could be 1 or 2 isolated events, and automatically applies them everywhere else.

I think it’s lazy and way too easy to do. And I wish my fellow journalists wouldn’t do it so darn much. Sometimes one race is just one race.

**So the last “Modern Family” of the season aired Wednesday night. And I am sad. What an amazing first season it was. The biggest surprise in TV, to me, in many years, “Modern Family” just hit so many perfect notes, in almost every episode.

The one Wednesday night wasn’t the best of the year (though Cameron singing “Ave Maria” while Mitchell chased the pigeon was pure genius); I think my favorites are still the pilot, and the one with Phil trying to teach Hailey how to work the TV remote control.

It’s rare that TV networks actually keep shows on the air that are smart AND funny, but “Modern Family” is coming back next year, since, happily, so many people appreciate and get its smart humor.

**As for “Glee,” another fabulous episode this week. Ever since Idina Menzel, a Lea Michele (Rachel) lookalike, guest-starred, I wondered what they would do with her. Well, we got our answer. I always knew that Jesse was up to no good.

The music kicked butt again this week; you can’t go wrong with “Piano Man,” songs from Les Miz, and the best of all, Artie the wheelchair kid leading a flash mob at the mall in “The Safety Dance.”

Not enough Sue and not enough Puck this week, but hey, it’s a freaking huge cast.

Finally, can we stop for a minute and appreciate how Neil Patrick Harris’ second career has totally dwarfed his first? Admit it, 10 years ago, we all figured he’d always be “the kid who played Doogie Howser, M.D.”

But look at him now: he’s a bona fide TV star, hosts the Emmys and the Tonys, and is pretty much as popular a guy as you will find.

Of course, some of us will always remember him for this … God, that was a great show. (By the way, someone once told me I reminded them of Vinnie Delpino. Not sure it was a compliment).

The Supreme Court does the right thing by kid criminals. And grandma’s selling crack again

I haven’t agreed with a lot of what the John Roberts Supreme Court has done.

Certainly the Citizens United case a few months ago, where the Court ruled that corporations can spend as much as they want on political campaigns, was pretty disgusting.

But I must say I was very pleased that on Monday the court barred sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles not convicted of murder.

Mistakes made when you’re 15, 16, 17 years old should not end your life, as long as you haven’t taken another life. Of course crimes like armed robbery are serious, and teenagers should absolutely pay the price for those offenses.

But now, after ruling on a Florida case before it, the Court agreed that life without parole for juveniles is excessive, and cruel and unusual.

There is hope. There is rehabilitation that can occur, when you’re that young. Now, if we could just get our government to put more money into rehabilitation and treatment, instead of just building more prisons and locking people up for decades for non-violent drug offenses, we might have a different society.

But hey, that’s probably asking too much.

***Hard to top this story for fun. If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: You can’t trust grandmas to stop selling drugs.

In Pensacola, Fla., last week  an 87-year-old woman named Ola Mae Agee was busted for selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer. She lives on Martin Luther King Drive (what did Chris Rock always say: “Martin Luther King Jr. stood for peace and non-violence. Yet in every city in America, you don’t want to be on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Bad things happen there.”)

Grandmas selling crack. I’m wondering if hard candy tastes better when you’re high.

The violently unhappy Wendy’s customer who owns a Taser. And Cleveland really, really wants to keep LeBron

Sometimes, my dear readers, I have to look far and wide, to the four corners of this here Internet, and the four corners of the globe, to find a fascinating, humorous, or otherwise interesting story to share with you.

Other times, I am blessed. I live in Florida, and crazy stuff seems to happen here all the time.

Tonight, I only had to look at the website of my own newspaper, the Daytona Beach News-Journal. There I learned about Melanese Asia Reid, 20, and her friend Katrina Mari-Alyce Bryant, 23. The two ladies were at a Daytona Beach Wendy’s drive-thru Monday morning, and apparently they weren’t happy with the way their order was given to them.

So Reid and Bryant got out of their car, and ran into the restaurant wielding a Taser.

Let me repeat that. Wielding a Taser.

What did the guy do, forget to throw in a few extra ketchups? Leave the mayo off the burger?

They began chasing the poor employee around and trying to stun him with the Taser, but to no avail. They eventually fled, but were caught when (and I love this part) they later called the manager of the Wendy’s to complain, and shared where they were calling from when asked.

Oh man, so many jokes, so little time. When they say fast food can kill you, they’re not kidding.

Or how about this for a new slogan: “Wendy’s. Our food is so good, you’ll be shocked!”

OK, I’m done now. Check out the story here.

**LeBron James has been getting all kinds of criticism since the Cavaliers blew that series to the Celtics a few days ago. I think much of it is unwarranted; not to get off on a rant here (hat tip, Dennis Miller), but a lot of the same criticisms of LeBron were made of some guy named Jordan when he played for the Bulls in the late 1980s: Great individual talent, not a true leader, never going to win a championship, yada yada yada.

Anyway, so many are criticizing, and yet the people of Cleveland, New York and Chicago are begging for King James to play for them.

Gotta hand it to these Cleveland folks for this brilliant idea: A remake of “We Are the World” with LeBron thrown in. Hilarious:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Federer-Nadal part of a great sports day for me. And some signs of Catholic tolerance for gays

Two or three times a year, I get a truly extraordinary sports on TV day.

When not only are there a ton of great games or matches to watch, but they unfold one after another, leaving me with few conflicts, but hours

and hours of great entertainment.

Sunday was one of those days. Starting with Roger Federer playing Rafael Nadal for the first time in a year, and ending with the Flyers’ trouncing of the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Sunday was a smorgasbord of fun for me (real smorgasbords are good, too).

A few thoughts on what I saw:

— First at12:30 p.m. I got Federer-Nadal playing in the finals of a tournament in Madrid. Rafa-Roger is my favorite rivalry in sports right now. Amazing they haven’t played in a year, what with Nadal’s injury issues. It was a really good match, as it usually is when these two play, filled with some amazing points. But as usual on clay, Rafa won, 6-4, 7-6.

Still, as a tennis fan and a Fed fan I’m encouraged. As a tennis fan, a healthy and powerful Nadal only makes the sport better; I can still dream of Federer-Nadal III in the Wimbledon final this year.

And Federer played pretty well, I thought. He can beat Nadal on clay, he’s shown that. Nadal still owns him head-to-head, but Federer absolutely has to feel he can beat Rafa at the French Open next week.

— Then I had a great hockey game at 3 p.m., Chicago and San Jose. I know most people reading this don’t like hockey, but it was a sensational game between two terrific teams. As always, my hockey blog can be read here

— While that was going on, the Orlando Magic failed to show up for their NBA playoff game with Boston, getting clobbered for three quarters before making it close in a 92-88 loss. Boy did the Magic look awful, though my Duke boy J.J. Redick played well.

— Next was my beloved University of Delaware taking on UNC in a men’s lacrosse NCAA Tournament game. Getting the chance to root for my alma mater, and against the hated Tar Heels, was not an opportunity to be missed. My Blue Hens played fabulously but fell just short, 14-13. It was everything the great sport of lacrosse is all about: hitting, scoring and great goaltending. I know lacrosse gets little love from the U.S. sports fan, but it’s truly a great sport.

— And then the Flyers beat the hell out of the Canadiens. I hate the Flyers, so the less said, the better.

So, yeah, pretty awesome sports day. I think I came up for food a few times, and I definitely remember walking Bernie. Beyond that, I was glued to the TV.

**You’ve probably heard by now that an 8-year-old boy who was accepted to a Catholic school in Hingham, Mass. was subsequently denied admission this fall because the school found out his parents are lesbians.

While this disgusts me, and I think, most others who believe in equality, and got me thinking about the old chestnut I always hear from religious people about how the Bible says we should treat our fellow man with kindness (unless, of course, his parents are both boys or both girls), I was pleased to see that not all Catholics in Boston agreed with this awful decision from the St. Paul’s school. (Man that was a long sentence.)

The Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic Schools Foundation immediately condemned this decision. They sent out a  statement saying, in part, ” “We believe a policy that denies admission to students in such a manner . . . is at odds with our values as a Foundation . . . and ultimately with Gospel teaching,’’ it read.

They’re also going to help the boy who St. Paul’s School rejected find a new place to learn. Bravo to Cardinal Sean O’Malley for doing this.

I’m sure they’ll find a school that will teach this third-grader, and all the others, something about tolerance and acceptance. A lesson still disgustingly lost on some who continue to exclude everyone unlike them at all costs.

“Field of Dreams” is up for sale; I am sad. And the most bizarre cover of Journey you’ll ever see

If you’re a good friend or a relative, you probably know that I’m a little obsessed with the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Not only is it my favorite movie ever, not only do I believe that there are two kinds of people in the world (those that love “Field of Dreams” and those that don’t have a heart), but as a teenager (I was 14 when it came out) I often delighted my father by simply blurting out parts of the movie, verbatim.

I could spend 3,000 words explaining why I love the movie, even after 100 viewings. I could tell you that visiting the actual movie site in Dyersville, Iowa is on my “Bucket List.”

But you don’t want to hear all that today. Instead, I’ll just tell you I was sad to hear that family who owns the farm the movie was filmed on has decided to sell.

Becky and Don Lansing, who actually only own 2/3 of the property the movie was made on (don’t ask me why I know that), have kept the field exactly as it was in the movie, and don’t charge admission at the field.

People of all ages come out there, April-November, and play baseball. With strangers. And they walk out of the corn field and wait for magic to happen.

Sure it’s just a movie site. But to those of us who worship the film, it’s a shrine. So I just hope that whoever buys Becky and Don’s property don’t turn the field into something tacky.

I hope they don’t overcommercialize it, and add on all kinds of crap.

Just leave it alone, I’d ask the new owners. It’s a sacred place.

**So at a benefit to save the rainforests the other night in New York City, there stood on stage one of the oddest collections of musical singing talent you’ll see.

Elton John, Lady Gaga, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, and Shirley Bassey all gathered round to sing “Don’t Stop Believin.” It was pretty awesome, especially when the mostly-naked men came on toward the end. Enjoy:

Making men more cuddly. And Kenny Anderson finally gets it

Ladies, don’t you wish you could make your men more cuddly? That you could just snap your fingers and bam, there would be your beloved husband/boyfriend ready to hug you and hold you for hours? (I don’t have that problem, of course. I’m all about the snuggling. It’s my wife who’s ready to flee after just a few minutes.)

Of course you do. Well your dreams and prayers have been answered. Scientists in Germany have discovered a “cuddle chemical” that may allow men to be more sensual and affectionate. It’s called Oxytocin, and according to this study, the 24 men who had taken a few puffs of the spray were shown to have higher emotional empathy than those who took a placebo.

This medicine could be groundbreaking. Can’t you just see the scene? A woman sneaks into the bathroom, grabs some Oxytoxin spray, and ingests it into her man’s nose while he sleeps.

Suddenly, he wakes up, holds her for hours, then gets up, turns on Oprah, and asks if she wants to go to that art exhibit at the Met later that day. To heck with football, he says, “let’s stay home and talk about our feelings.”

Yep, that oxytocin could be better for women than Oprah herself has been.

***Kenny Anderson, once the greatest  high school point guard ever to come out of New York City (well, one of the best ever, at least), was always kind of a moron as a pro player.

He did stupid things, he said stupid things (during one of the NBA lockouts, he made a comment about needing $20,000 a month of “hanging around money) and basically acted like the perfect example of the spoiled modern athlete.

But finally, maybe 20 years too late, but finally, Anderson seems to get it. He went back to college in Florida recently, and today, after hard work, Anderson will graduate from college. The New York Times’ George Vecsey wrote a real nice story on Anderson in the Times this week; check it out.

Funny quote from the story, though, from Kenny, that doesn’t speak well of the intelligence needed to play pro hoops:

“I hadn’t used my brain in 2o years.”

An incredible death penalty tale from the 50s. And the ultimate irony for a war-zone reporter

I realize that in admitting this I’m free to be labeled a “nerd,” but 90 percent of what I listen to on my iPod is NPR.

I love, love, love NPR. I think they do some of the most intelligent, thought-provoking, interesting stories I see anywhere. Of course I love the shows like This American Life and Car Talk (though it does bother me a little how funny those two think they are), and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

But really, it’s the journalism that NPR does best. Driving to work Thursday, I heard one of the most astonishing and gripping stories I’ve ever come across.

It’s about a woman named Bridget McGee-Robinson, who has spent a lot of time trying to learn the truth about the 1951 execution of her grandfather, Willie McGee, in Mississippi. Willie’s alleged crime was that he, a black man, had raped a white woman in 1945.

After many appeals and trials, he was sentenced to death. Amazingly, the execution, by way of the electric chair, was broadcast live over the radio, and quite frankly I cannot believe what the radio announcer does right before McGee dies. When you listen to it, I think you’ll be amazed, too.

It’s a heartwrenching task, re-opening the old wounds of the past. McGee-Robinson goes back to talk to the people of the Mississippi town this event occurred, and 60 years later, the wounds are still fresh.

It’s truly fascinating listening to, and it might make you question your feelings on the death penalty.

Hey, it’s Friday, you’ve got a few minutes to kill. Check it out here.

***Man, it has to suck to be Kevin Dougherty, of Arlington Heights, Ill. right about now.

Dougherty is one of the brave reporters who voluntarily goes to war zones and reports. He’s done dangerous work in Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, you name it. And each time Dougherty, who works for Stars and Stripes newspaper, has come back safely.

So what happens? The 49-year-old Dougherty was home in Rockford, Ill. on April 28, walking on the street, when he was hit by a car and nearly killed.

He suffered two badly broken legs, a broken arm, a fractured skull and a host of internal injuries, and he just got out of intensive care Wednesday.

Amazing. Just when he thought he was safe, with no bullets flying, bombs dropping, or warlords on the attack.

Get better soon, Kevin.

Riffing on LeBron’s Moment, “Modern Family,” a dessert I just discovered, and an inspirational wrestler

My brain is tired and my mind is scattering like pool balls after Minnesota Fats chalks up.  So four (reasonably) quick thoughts for your Thursday pleasure:

My man-crush on LeBron James has not abated after his disastrous performance in Game 5 of the Cavs-Celtics series the other night. My man LeBron has been ripped to shreds by ESPN’s Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, and analyzed to death by so many others.

He was awful Tuesday night. Really, really bad, in a game his team desperately needed him. Which sets up a delicious Game 6 tonight in Boston, Cavs-Celtics. Just like Game 6 in Detroit a few years ago, when the kid took it upon himself to will his team to win, this is a defining “Career Game” for LeBron.

If he and the Cavs somehow blow this series (and Mike Brown, the coach, should absolutely be fired if they do), it’s a stain on his career. He had the better team, the most talent, and still lost.

LeBron and Co. also need to win this game because I don’t think the long-suffering people of Cleveland could deal with a Game 6 loss, followed by their superstar walking off the court for the last time as a Cav, before heading to New York to play for the Knicks.

His reputation, his future, the sports karma of an entire city, are on No.23’s shoulders tonight.

So, yeah, might be interesting to watch. I say LeBron comes through with 35 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists, and Cleveland gets to a Game 7. Game on.

**”Modern Family” just continues to get better and better. Two incredibly awesome lines in Wednesday night’s episode.

First, from Cameron, on the topic of their friends: “We actually know a couple named Lewis and Clark. Clark went to New Orleans once and bought a belt. He called it his Louisiana Purchase.”

And then, from the always-fantastic Luke: “Manny is crazy. Did you know we had a fire drill last night? Not the hotel. Just me and him.”

God I love this show.

**So reason 4,242 I love my wife: She introduced me to an awesome new (old) dessert tonight. Take two slices of pound cake, toast them in the oven for a little while, then put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in between them, sandwich-like.

Oh my God, it was freaking amazing. She said her mom taught her that years ago. Clearly my mother was busy with other things, like teaching me how to tie my shoes and read and other useless crap like that. Seriously, get some pound cake next time you’re at the store; you’ll thank me.

**Finally, I love inspirational stories. When they involve a kid I once covered, even better. A kid named Dan Bishop is from Whitehall, N.Y., near my old stomping grounds of Glens Falls. Bishop was paralyzed in a wrestling accident two months ago.

Sunday, he walked across the stage of the University of Buffalo at his college graduation. Read his amazing story, and hear from Bishop himself,  here.