Monthly Archives: November 2010

The WikiLeaks scandal doesn’t move me. And an incredible Billy Joel interview

So the entire media world seems to be going crazy over this newest WikiLeaks scandal, involving thousands of leaked diplomatic cables that were top-secret.
Thanks to someone who’s leaking this stuff, we’re supposed to believe, thanks to a hysterical press corps, that national security has been threatened, diplomacy ruined, and the entire world may come crashing down.
Please. Been reading about the WikiLeaks disclosure for a little while tonight, and it sounds to me like much ado about very little.
We have learned, for example, that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Iranian officials “big, fat liars,” and that the U.S. has tried to persuade Pakistan to give America some of its nuclear weapons.
There is other stuff in there, unflattering stuff about world leaders, but I mean really, everyone knows that people talk behind each other’s back. That’s what makes the world go round: gossip.
I just don’t see what the big deal is. Maybe I’m missing the boat here. Or maybe, once again, my friends in the media are making this out to be a way bigger deal than it really is.

**It’s fairly required that if you grew up on Long Island in the 1980s, you’re a Billy Joel fan. So of course I was, and still am, a huge fan.
Billy was one of us, just a working-class schlub from the Island who wrote songs on the piano that became the soundtrack to many of our lives. I saw him in concert once, back when I was in high school around 1991 or so, and it was freaking incredible.
Anyway, Billy’s songs have always meant so much to me, from the beautiful “She’s Always a Woman” and “And So it Goes” (a wildly underrated Joel classic) to “Piano Man” and “Summer Highland Falls.”

Howard Stern? I’m so not a fan. But last week Howard had Billy on his satellite radio show for 90 minutes, and it was an incredible interview. Stern came off as just a regular guy, asking questions, and it was fabulous. Billy talked about how he wrote certain songs, how lyrics “muck up” beautiful music, and of his days banging Elle McPherson, and then Christie Brinkley (it was a rough life for Mr. Joel).

If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, here’s Part 1. All six parts are on YouTube, if you’re interested. It’s truly a fantastic conversation.

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Our society hits a new low with “Bridalplasty.” Fed takes out Nadal. And R.I.P., Leslie Nielsen

Read this story today and just felt sad about the people who would want to be on this television show, and about the people who came up with the idea.
On the E! network, which has never met a sewer it wasn’t willing to happily wade into naked, a new show premiered Sunday.

It’s called Bridalplasty, and this is the concept: They take a bunch of engaged women, move them into a house together, and have them compete in various challenges, all to win the “grand prize” of the reconstructive surgery of their choice.
And this is the best (or worst) part: The winner’s husband doesn’t get to see his newly-plastic bride until the day of the wedding. So who the hell knows if he’ll freak out once he sees what she’s done to herself.
Hideous. Sickening. Disgusting. And yet, not surprising. It’s awful that women would subject themselves to a show like this, and awful that voyeurs among us out in couch-potatoland would want to watch.

**Sunday  brought a rare late-November tennis treat for me and other racket-heads. A Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal match at the ATP World Finals or whatever the hell it’s called, in London.
It’s definitely been Rafa’s year, with three Grand Slams, and Fed seemed to be on the decline. But Sunday, after splitting two sets, Federer spanked Nadal in the third set to win the final salvo of 2010.
This rivalry is so great because it keeps bouncing back and forth; now, on hardcourts, Federer has re-established he can beat te great Spaniard. Now, if they play again in Australia in January, Fed might just have the edge.
We’re so lucky to have these two guys playing at the same time.

**Very few human beings have ever made me laugh harder than Leslie Nielsen. “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” are always must-stop viewing for me when I flip around the dial, even 25  or 30 years after they first came out.
Leslie Nielsen died Sunday at age 84, but what a legacy he left behind. How many people can leave this Earth saying they made millions laugh so hard, milk came out of their nose? The scene in “The Naked Gun 2 1/2” where Lt. Frank Drebin forgets he has his microphone on, and goes to the men’s room, is pee-in-your-pants funny.
Picking just one hilarious Nielsen clip is impossible, so enjoy this montage as a remembrance of a brilliant comedic actor (the scene at 2:20 still kills me)

Old friends and maybe my favorite day of the year. And a joy of train-riding

My four oldest friends in the world are Marc, Andrew, Tracie and David.
We have all known each other for a minimum of 25 years. They are the people who knew me when, and who know me now. I love them all as dearly as my own family.
We don’t all live near each other anymore; haven’t since the first of us (Andrew, Tracie and I, that’s us in the picture above) left for college in 1993.
But every year since then, we have made a concerted effort to meet at least once a year, all of us, over Thanksgiving break when we were all home visiting our families.
It might be my favorite day of the year. We sit, we talk, we re-connect in a way we can’t do when we talk on the phone or by email. No matter how many years go by, we all fall into our familiar roles in the group dynamic, and that’s as comforting to me as an old sweater. Girlfriends have become wives and boyfriends turned into husbands, and they’re added to the group and I sometimes wonder that after the 78th time hearing the story of how Andrew and I fought over who got to have a crush on Tracie (that actually happened once), they’ll just leave us and sit at another table.
This year we met Saturday night, and it was as special as always. We’ve come so far, all of us; and now instead of talking of hook-ups and drunken nights, we talk about babies and sitters and memories and pass around cellphone pictures of the kids.
A lot has changed in my life in the past few months, but there’s a rock-solid sense of security in knowing that the people who loved you then, still love you now.
And will love you for all your tomorrows, too.

**This is just a little P.S. kind of thing. Rode the train home from NYC to Long Island after the dinner. Bought a N.Y. Times before I got on. The ride was an hour, and I was in a pretty quiet train car, and for one peaceful 60-minute stretch, I simply sat and read the newspaper. You can’t do that in a car; too many distractions, obviously.
A train is the perfect place to just sit back, read and relax. You have no control over how fast you’re going, or when you’ll get there. It’s like a built-in life timeout, and I enjoy its rare pleasure.

A Happy Thanksgiving: Great turkey, sweet potato pie, and a Jets win. And the madness of Black Friday

Pretty darn perfect Thanksgiving day for your humble blogger.
Traffic getting from Long Island to my aunt’s house in Joisey? Hardly any at all, either going there or coming home.
Food and relatives, both going down easily? Yep. My aunt, one of the world’s best cooks and I won’t hear anyone tell me differently, added sweet potato pie to our usual gastronomical orgy this year, and after 3 pieces I can tell you it was fan-freaking-tastic.
And the relatives were great as always; it’s interesting to see just how huge the generational shift has become in the extended Lewis clan. As a kid, there were just like 5 or 6 of us kids, and everyone else was old(er) people.  The grandparents and matriarch/patriarchs were all still alive and well.
Now, there are rugrats everywhere, and sadly only one grandparent left, my remarkable Grandma, Marcelle Kouvant, who is 92.
I know it happens in every family, this shift, but it was fascinating for me to look around today and see just how much things have changed.
Then I came home and didn’t have a heart attack with my beloved Jets for the first time in four weeks. So that was nice.
Not a great game for my boys by any means, a 26-10 win over the Bengals. Mark Sanchez looked shaky, but the defense was fabulous and Brad Smith, wow, two more huge touchdowns. Every year this guy wins 1-2 games by himself, and tonight he WAS the offense. What a valuable player.
And now, 11 days off until Armageddon at Foxboro: 9-2 Jets at 9-2 Pats. Man New England’s offense looks scary these days. The Jets’ D finally played a full game Thursday.
Belichick. Ryan. Brady. Revis.
Can this game just get here already?

**Of all the ridiculous things in our culture in the year of our Lord two thousand and ten, one of the most ridiculous to me is this whole “Black Friday” crap.
Stores opening at 3 a.m. Stampedes of people storming the gates, and in some cases, people getting trampled death. Thousands of stories on the news and on the web about “oooh, the excitement of shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving,” and “who’s got the best deals,” yada yada yada.
Just ridiculous. Is it really that important to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving? How much money are you saving by being online at Target at 2:15 a.m.? Shouldn’t you still be sleeping, for God’s sakes?
Ugh, just annoys me.  Here, here’s something better to do today instead of trying to save a few bucks.

A quick review of “Morning Glory.” And some LeBron thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.  I have a lot to be thankful this year, as I do every year. As I down the delicious turkey at my aunt’s house, I will definitely be counting my blessings.

Hadn’t been to a movie in a while, so being home on vacation and all, I went to the cinema with dear old Dad on Wednesday.
We saw “Morning Glory,” which had intrigued me because it had Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford in it, plus the adorably attractive Rachel McAdams.
The verdict? Pretty good. Definitely chick-flicky, but funny and sweet. It takes a while to get going; McAdams is the plucky producer of a terrible network morning show (think “The Today Show” if it was awful), Keaton is friendly but self-righteous host, and Harrison Ford plays a Mike Wallace-type who thinks the morning news diet of cooking segments and health updates is beneath him (of course, it is.) And Ira from “Mad About You” has a big part, too! Love Ira.
As a journalist I couldn’t help but see the obvious mistakes in the plot and script (OK, McAdams gets fired from a crappy local show, then goes to a national network show, and her salary is half of what it was? Impossible.), and the movie does start off pretty slow. But it’s impossible not to like McAdams, and about 40 minutes in the movie really, really gets funny.
Not exactly a four-star classic, but you will definitely laugh. And my main man from “Modern Family,” Ty Burrell, is in the movie for 10 minutes. And he, of course, is hilarious.

**Watched some of the Miami Heat for the first time Wednesday night, and I think I get why they’re having problems. Too many superstars, no one sure who should lead.
But something else struck me as I watched LeBron James, a guy I used to really admire: Dude looked lost out there. The first analogy that came to my head was that LeBron was like the lead singer of a band, and as the frontman everything revolved around him. He got all the chicks, he made all the money, and everything the group did was dictated by him.
Then the band folded, and he joined another band, who had their own frontman.
And now LeBron is sort of just like any old guitar player/backup singer, hanging around kinda out of the spotlight, watching the lead singer (in this case, the supremely talented Dwyane Wade) and remembering fondly the days when he was The Man.
Maybe it’ll all work out in Miami, and the Heat will win a championship. But looking at LeBron, he seems to feel like McCartney did in Wings.

(Totally random thought: When I first heard of Dwyane Wade, I thought his name was Dwayne Wayne, the so-cool character in “A Different World.” So here’s a clip of the ultra-awesome Dwayne Wayne):

This Derek Jeter thing is making me nervous. And a cool new website for sports bettors

So I have to admit, this Derek Jeter contract negotiation is starting to make me a little nervous, as a Yankees fan.
As synonymous with the pinstripes as any Yankee of my lifetime, Jeter should be a Yankee for life. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. His emergence in 1996 as a rookie was a huge key to the Yanks finally winning the World Series again, and the guy has been nothing but class for 14 years.
So of course when his contract ran out this year, the Yanks were going to re-sign him. And of course Jeter would find it unthinkable to play anywhere else at the end of his career. I mean come on, Jeter as a Toronto Blue Jay? Or a Cleveland Indian? Ridiculous.
Except … the Yankees management seem to be digging their heels in, with Hal (Son of George) Steinbrenner saying maybe Jeter should “test the market” after the Yanks made a three-year, $45 million offer.
I still don’t think there’s any way in hell that the Yankees let Jeter get away. It would be a colossal disaster, even if Jeet’s not the same player he was a few years ago.
He has to stay a Yankee, and finish his career a Yankee. Some things are bigger than money. Sign. The. Man.

**My friend David Kohn is a sports nut, as well as one of the few people willing to be my friend as a child (I think his mother made him be my friend, but that’s another story.) Dave is the guy you hope is sitting next to you in Vegas on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, because he’ll help you win money.
He and a partner have come up with a very cool new web site called mojingo.com. The way it works is this: You go on the site and show your sports knowledge, picking games in football, basketball, baseball, and everything else. The better you are at picking winners, the more money you can win; you’re basically picking against everybody else who picks on the site.
The other cool feature of the site is it gives you access to fan experts for each team. Let’s say you want to bet on the Sacramento Kings one night but don’t know much about them or their chances. At Mojingo you can get access to Kings’ diehards (I’m sure there is such a creature out there, a Sacramento Kings diehard) who will guide you in the right direction.
They’ve just launched the site and OK I’m biased, but it looks really cool. Check it out when you get a chance.
And if you see Dave, tell him I can still kick his butt at RBI Baseball.

The robot who gives you a sponge-bath. And STD pee tests through your phone (seriously)

Two stories today that make me shake my head in amazement. Traveling back to NY for Thanksgiving today, too, so maybe I’ll get wanded or strip-searched! I should be so lucky.

Regular readers of this blog know that from time to time I highlight new advances in robot technology. Partly because I’m fascinated by the idea of machines taking over the world, and partly because I secretly wanted to be a Jetson family member as a kid. (By the way, I just spent wonderful five minutes on the Wikipedia page for The Jetsons. I love the Internet.)

Anyway, this stuff amuses and amazes me. The latest breakthrough comes from Georgia Tech University, where they’ve invented Cody, the robot that gives you a sponge bath. The robot uses lasers to figure out which parts of your body needs to be scrubbed (because really, we all need a good scrubbing from time to time), and then it goes to work. There’s more to it, and if you’re really interested in the science, click here.
Me, I just got creeped out, and alternately excited, watching this video below. Nothing more romantic than a sponge bath from a robot, is there? Maybe if Johnny Five (above) had given Ally Sheedy a sponge bath in “Short Circuit”, they would’ve had a more fulfilling love affair.

**OK, this story is just so, so wrong. A company in Britain has come up with a way to tell if you have an STD: Pee into your cell phone.
Seriously, I wouldn’t make this stuff up.
Let’s let The Guardian, a British newspaper, explain:

“Doctors and technology experts are developing small devices, similar to pregnancy testing kits, that will tell someone quickly and privately if they have caught an infection through sexual contact.
“People who suspect they have been infected will be able to put urine or saliva on to a computer chip about the size of a USB chip, plug it into their phone or computer and receive a diagnosis within minutes, telling them which, if any, sexually transmitted infection (STI) they have. Seven funders, including the Medical Research Council, have put £4m into developing the technology via a forum called the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

Where do I begin with the jokes? This would give new meaning to the term “downloading.” Do you say to a woman or man you’re about to sleep with “Look, I really like you, but I gotta be safe. Can I have some of your urine?”

And how is it that a person would go about getting urine onto a tiny micro-chip anyway, with toilet paper? And who the hell wants to be near a cell phone that smells like pee?
Those Brits, they just don’t think of the consequences.
STD tests through your phone. Unbelievable. Makes you long for the good old days of embarrassing chats with your doctor about your “Friend” who hooked up with that stranger in Toledo.

Another ho-hum thriller from the Jets. And life without HDTV

Yeah, I’m just going to start copying and pasting these Monday Jets game reactions on the blog.
I mean, every week they take the game down to the wire, and every week they find a way to win.
And every week, I love Santonio Holmes even more. Seriously, sign the dude to a contract extension right now, because his price is just going to up, up, up.
Another Sunday spent at Houligan’s, my beloved sports pub, and another last 20 minutes of a Jets game having me sweat profusely. This time, my boys made it a little different; they got way ahead, 23-7, over the Houston Texans in the fourth quarter. I actually started to relax, and feel good. Hey, finally, an easy win.
Except they let the Texans come all the way back, take the lead, and again it was Santonio and Mark Sanchez (and Braylon Edwards, who set it up) who bailed the team out and enabled the Jets to win.
“This must be the most dramatic 8-2 team in history,” I said to my buddy Sean at Houligan’s. He just exhaled and started breathing normally again.
I am fully convinced this is turning out to be a very special season for my Jets. Stuff like this happening over and over again? It’s not coincidence, it’s not luck. It’s just a team that finds ways to win, every week.

Couple other NFL thoughts:
— Can the Colts and Patriots play, like, every other week? Phenomenal game, unfortunately, won by the Pats when Peyton Manning shockingly threw an interception in the final minute.
— New Orleans is looking like themselves again. Though I have no idea if they’re the best team in the NFC. There are 6 teams who could be.
— Ah, the Bengals. They lead 31-14, and lose 49-31. Karma baby, karma.
— Jets-Pats, in New England, in two weeks for first place in the AFC East. I’m getting pumped already.

**Due to circumstances, I am currently without my beloved HDTV plasma, that I bought about three years ago.
I will have it again soon, but for the past month I have lived like it was 1995, with a regular, standard definition TV.
I didn’t think I would miss it that much. I was wrong. Way wrong.
It’s amazing how used to something like HD quality you get. Try watching sports, or movies, or a TV show like “Boardwalk Empire” in HD, then on a regular TV.
Check out ESPN Classic sometime and watch a football game from 1993. It may as well be from 1893. The players look grainy and far away. The colors are just bland and ordinary.
I know this isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s incredible how much better it is to be a fan of movies or TV in 2010.

Finally some money for 9/11 workers. And an awesome “30 for 30” on Marcus Dupree

It pisses me off that we’re sitting here in Nov. 2010, and I’m just now reading this story about how finally, rescue workers on 9/11 are getting their money for health damages suffered at Ground Zero.
These are people who risked their health, and their lives, to try to save lives and help America recover from one of the worst tragedies in our history. And yet New York City fought hard, challenging lawsuits and trying to save every penny, in attempting to limit the amount of compensation the rescue workers got.
These are people who breathed in toxic fumes, asbestos, and God knows whatever else, and it’s taken them this long to get paid from the city.
There are a lot of disgraces stemming from the post-9/11 , from the remarkable length of time it’s taken to get a proper memorial built, to the construction of new buildings on the site, to taking care of those who got sick on 9/11 trying to help.
Finally, these heroes are getting some relief. Better late than never, I suppose.

**Marcus DuPree is probably the greatest running back you’ve never heard of. An obscenely talented high school kid from Philadelphia, Miss. in the early 1980s, DuPree was can’t miss, and every college in America wanted him.
You’ve never heard of him, so something must’ve happened. I’ve been catching up on my ESPN “30 for 30″‘s this weekend, and “The Greatest There Never Was,” about DuPree and what went wrong, was simply fantastic. There are some insane stories that even someone like me who’s seen how dirty recruiting can be was surprised by, like the fact that ass’t coaches from Texas and Oklahoma moved to Mississippi for a few months while recruiting DuPree.

It’s a brilliant documentary that doesn’t paint DuPree or anyone in his life as strictly heroes or villains, and there’s actually a fairly uplifting ending for such a sad story about what might have been.
Definitely check it out if you can; ESPN is re-running it next Sunday, the 28th at 9 Eastern.
Here’s the trailer, watch it and tell me you’re not hooked:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I rant about Internet video ads. And an incredible basketball trick-shot video

Got time for a rant? Of course you do, it’s Saturday.
My newest huge pet peeve is these damn videos on Web sites that start playing as soon as you just arrive at the site. You don’t click anything, all you’re doing is trying to get information about something, and these ads just start playing at a rather high decibel level.
And a lot of times you can’t even turn them off! They just blare on until their finished, or until you close the site and go find your information somewhere else.
Drives me crazy, because you get a helpless feeling while you wait for the annoying man (or woman) to shut up and let you get to your damn info.
I know, I know, advertising on the Web is hugely important, it supports a lot of great sites, yada yada yada.
It’s still damn annoying.

**This is Kyle Singler of Duke. He gets buckets. Phenomenal stuff. I want to believe this is all real, but some of it looks pretty incredible.
Kyle says it’s real, here, so I believe him.