Monthly Archives: February 2011

Oscar thoughts. Two baseball stories to get you thinkin’ spring. And a “Wonder Years” moment.

Man, that was not a good Oscars telecast.
Not in the least. Not in any way, shape or form. I hate to pile on, but really, it wasn’t good. James Franco, great actor. Anne Hathaway, good actress, and she was all kinds of enthusiastic, but she and Franco were totally not up for the job of hosting the Academy Awards.
I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again: I don’t think James Franco and Anne Hathaway are famous enough to host the Oscars. They’re nice little movie stars, sure, but the Oscars demands bigger.
Besides the hosts being bad, there were a lot of other good stuff I noticed:

**Loved the few minutes we got of Billy Crystal. Made me wish he was the host again. Like, right then and there.
**Great to see Melissa Leo win, then drop an F-bomb during her speech. Ah, the joy of 7-second delay.
**I thought Jennifer Hudson, Marisa Tomei, and Helena Bonham Carter looked the most amazing.
**I loved the ending, maybe the best part of the show, with the cute fifth-graders singing on stage. Staten Island, representing.
** Thought the speeches from “The King’s Speech” guy and from Natalie Portman were the best and most heartfelt.
**SO happy to see one of my writing gods, Aaron Sorkin, win for “The Social Network.” He is eleven kinds of brilliant.
**Why the hell did Lena Horne get to bat last in the death montage, and not Dennis Hopper? Bad job, Academy.
**Finally, I remain angry that “True Grit,” the best movie of the year, got bubkes. But I’ll get over it.

**A brief interlude from “The Wonder Years.” Caught the end of this episode Sunday night after the Oscars. One of the best endings in the history of a show that gave us so, so many great moments:

**Spring training has kicked off in the past week in Florida and Arizona; it used to get me all pumped up. Now, not so much. But two very cool baseball-related stories I read/heard this week.
First, the death of Ernie Tyler brought a couple of wonderful tributes. Who’s Ernie Tyler? One of the many behind the scenes people who make baseball run; he was the attendant for the umpires for the Baltimore Orioles for 3,769 consecutive home games, from 1960-2007.  His streak only ended when Cal Ripken, that other ironman, asked him to be present at Cal’s Hall of Fame induction.
Sounds like, from this obit and this one, that Ernie was a beautiful man.

**Then there was this delightful story, heard on NPR’s “Only a Game,” about Justine Siegal, the first woman to ever throw batting practice to major league hitters. One more tiny barrier falls; why shouldn’t women who are good enough be allowed to pitch to men, even if it’s only spring training?
Siegal is actually quite an advocate for women in baseball; check out her “Only A Game” interview here:

Advertisements

My Hawaii postcard mystery. Quick Oscar picks. And inside the mind of a homeless man, via Twitter

So this is really bizarre.
Last week I get a postcard from Hawaii, with a picture of some dancing hula girls on it (that’s not it above, just a close facsimile).
The postcard reads: “Got your message. Happy Valentine’s Day from Kauai, Hawaii.” And it is unsigned.
I am immediately puzzled. I do a mental scan of my friends and family: No one I know is in Hawaii. And I don’t recognize the handwriting. And not many people know my new address here in Florida.
Still, I quickly deduce it must be from my friend Scoop, who goes to Hawaii once every couple years with her family.  Scoop is currently seven months pregnant, and I don’t remember her telling me she was going to Hawaii, but maybe she told me and I forgot. Plus, I had called her recently, so that would explain “got your message.”
I send her a quick email, thanking her for the postcard. She calls me 20 minutes later.
“Dude, I’m not in Hawaii. You think I’m going to Hawaii while pregnant?”
OK, so it’s not Scoop. I go back to being stumped. I scan my address book, my cell phone directory, all of it. No one could be in Hawaii. Finally, I vaguely recall something on my friend Tracie’s Facebook page about her taking a vacation. I call her, and she gets back to me Saturday.
“Nope, wasn’t me.”
Now back to square 1. I literally have no idea who sent me this postcard. And it’s driving me crazy. Wouldn’t it drive you nuts?
Anyway, consider this a plea: If you recently sent me a postcard from Hawaii, please tell me. Seriously. Thanks.
**2 p.m. update: I believe the mystery has been solved, thanks to a little birdie.

**Quick Oscar picks for tonight, with who I’m rooting for and who I think will win:
Best Picture: Rooting for: “True Grit.” Will win: “The King’s Speech.”
Best Actor: Rooting for: Jeff Bridges. Will win: Colin Firth.
Best Actress: Rooting for: Melissa Leo. Will win: Natalie Portman.
Best Supporting Actor: Rooting for: Geoffrey Rush. Will win: Christian Bale.
Best Supporting Actress: Rooting for: Hailey Steinfeld. Will win: Melissa Leo.

**There are so many ways to get your voices heard in 2011, and yet still, so many have no voice.
Which is why I loved this project by four college students, who have given four homeless men in New York City pre-paid cell phones, and asked them to Tweet about their lives on Twitter.
I’ve been following one of them, Derrick Wiggins, for a few days, and it’s a fascinating glimpse inside the mind of a person who truly is trying to get his life back on track.
The messages are simple: “I dropped off my resume at the YMCA, The contact person was unavailble. I hope to hear from him,” reads one.
But they are fascinating. Check him out when you get a chance, and really see how someone on the street thinks, and lives.

Mike Tyson picks the Oscars. Another scary Rolling Stone expose. And a great live TV interview with a drunk guy

Follow me on Twitter here.

The Oscars are Sunday, and as usual I’m excited. I’m very bad about picking the winners, though I did see 5 of the 10 Best Picture Nominees this year (saw “The Social Network” Friday. Excellent. Aaron Sorkin is one of my writing heroes, and he did not disappoint. Still hoping “True Grit” wins, though I know it’s a longshot).
Really, though, every year at this time I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking: Who did former heavyweight champion and all-time lunatic Mike Tyson like this year at the cinema?
Well, wonder no more. We have our answer. Iron Mike, you’re the new Roger Ebert, my friend (this clip definitely NSFW):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**I’ve become somewhat immune to some of the sleazy tactics employed by our government since this “War on Terror that will never, ever end” started.
But this pissed the hell out of me. Rolling Stone, which still does some sensational journalism, has an incredible story up describing how one U.S. Lt. General, William Caldwell, manipulated his “psychological operations” team to scare visiting politicians and dignitaries into increasing funding for the war.
Michael Hastings, who wrote this story, has a sterling reputation, and Gen. David Petraeus says he’s looking into it.
How disgusting.  That U.S. commanders would order soldiers to use tactics used previously only on the enemy against Americans, all to scare up more support and funding, is horrendous.
Then again, we’re a country that still tortures people, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.
How’s that “closing Guantanamo” thing going, Mr. President? Remember that 2008 promise?

**I don’t think I need to say anything more about this video, found on SI.com’s Extra Mustard, than this:  Man’s house burns down. So he gets interviewed on live TV. Also, the man is wildly drunk:

My grandma moves to a new home, and it breaks our hearts. And the President shows some spine

This one’s a little personal…

Maybe Wednesday was just any other day for you.
In my little family, it was titanic. Epic. An incredibly sad yet important milestone.
My grandmother, Marcelle Kouvant, is 92 years old. She’s the best person I’ve ever met, and the only close second is my own mother.
For 60-plus years, Grandma has lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Queens, N.Y. It was the epicenter of our world, a tiny dwelling that somehow held so much love.
I can tell you hundreds of stories of the joy and wonder that took place in that little home, but suffice to say, it was where you felt safe, secure and adored every single moment you were there. Whether you were family or stranger, you were loved in that apartment.
For decades, Grandma was a rock. She didn’t age, her mind was sharper than a Ginzu knife, and she always made you feel, every second, that you were the most important person in the world.

About six years ago, finally, the aging process began to take hold. Suddenly she didn’t remember that story of when you were 10 and she slept over when you were sick, or the name of that friend she and Grandpa knew decades earlier.
We knew what it could be. But we didn’t want to believe.  This remarkable woman couldn’t possibly have what doctors would confirm: The early stages of Alzheimers.
It’s been called the cruelest disease, because it leaves your body intact while ravaging your mind.
Little by little, day by day, the rock of Gibraltar of our family slipped through our fingertips.
We tried to hold on to her; tried to latch on to every hopeful sign. A few summers ago at her 90th birthday celebration, she beat my wife and I at gin rummy, game after game. How could someone who could do that be sick?
But we were losing her. Home care aides came in, first four hours a day, then for eight, and then 12.
My heroic mother did so much to hold on, kept trying to make the best of the situation, but it was killing her inside, watching her mother slip away.
Finally, after months and months of minor emergencies at the apartment, it was time. The horrible decision of moving Grandma out of the place she’d lived since World War II had to be made, by my mother and my Aunt Linda.
Grandma couldn’t live alone anymore. She just couldn’t.
Wednesday we got the call. The nursing home on Long Island had a room for her. She hardly understood where she was going, and it only sunk in today that she wouldn’t be returning home.
It’s unfathomable to me right now that I’ll never be in that little apartment again. All the happiness, all the meals, all the hugs and kisses, all of it inside those four walls, is gone.
She’s now in a place where she’ll be taken care of very well, I have no doubt. And the incredible strain on my mother, which worries my sister, stepfather and I, should ease a bit.
The Earth kept spinning Wednesday night, even while Marcelle Kouvant’s apartment was vacant.
But a little part of our family’s history has faded into the shadows. It is the end of an era.
And so I am sad. But so, so grateful for all the years I’ve had with her.

**So many other things I was going to blog about today; Mike Tyson picks the Oscars, the insane Indiana Attorney General, an incredible Rolling Stone expose, and an epic basketball coach meltdown. But I’ll save them for the weekend.
I can’t let today go by without finally celebrating the federal government’s decision to stop trying to enforce the odious Defense of Marriage Act, with the President, in essence, saying it is unconstitutional. DOMA basically said that only a man and woman are allowed to be married in the eyes of the federal government.

It was a disgusting law when it was enacted, and it’s shameful that it was allowed to be settled law this long. No, this is not a major victory, yet. States still might not recognize same-sex marriages that other states do recognize.
But our President, first on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and now on DOMA, has finally grown a set, and done what’s right.
And after bashing him on gay rights for a long time, well, I think those of us on the left ought to tip our caps to him on this one.

Wisconsin governor reveals true colors. What you really don’t want behind the sofa.And Bill Maher, brilliantly, on Civil War re-enactors.

Ah, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, how do you really feel?

In the middle of this historic series of protests in America’s Dairyland, where one new Republican chief executive is trying to undo decades of progress by public unions in America, there was this today.
A prank phone call from a man in Buffalo named Ian Murphy, who works for something called the Buffalo Beast, purported to be from a wealthy donor and friend of Walker’s, David Koch.
On the call Murphy listens (and prods) Walker about the protests, and gets him to admit, yeah, this is the first step in Republican governors’ plans to break unions, and yeah, he’s thought about planting pro-Walker people in the crowds to stir up trouble, and well, yeah, a whole bunch of other stuff you always knew fat cats said to politicians, and vice-versa. (Part 2 of this call can be found if you click the video below after it’s done.)
It’s actually fascinating to listen to how a guy like Walker talks to one of his big donor supporters.Have a listen for yourself.

**You know, sometimes a story can be summed up in one sentence: A woman found an alligator behind her sofa.
Get the details here.

**I’ve always thought it was beyond bizarre how many people in this country take part in Civil War re-enactments. I don’t get the whole “re-enactment” idea in general, but the folks who actually take the time to get all dressed up in costumes, trek to a fairly historic battlefield, and then pretend they’re actually either a Union or Rebel soldier in 1862, baffles me.

And the fact that Southerners do it, you know, the people who lost the war, boggles my mind.

Bill Maher feels the same way. As usual, he expresses it far more amusingly than I could. Enjoy:

The iPhone app that can be your priest. A shocking Internet fact. “Glee” has lost me. And the coolest crowd dance you will see

A smorgasbord of short thoughts for this Tuesday. And let me tell you, we had a great smorgasbord in my hometown of Commack, N.Y. I think it was called Henry’s. Mmmm, delicious.

I’m Jewish, so this story doesn’t really apply to me.But for you Catholics out there, your problems are solved.
If you have an iPhone.

In what might be more proof that we as Americans have WAY too much time on our hands, an Indiana company called “Little iApps” has invented something called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” which allows you to give your confession through your phone.
So many jokes to make here, so little time. I’m guessing this will save a lot of time for sinners, not having to go to see an actual priest and all.
But seriously, this baby has it all. It walks you through your sins, lets you customize your conscience based on your age, sex, etc., and can also make great spaghetti (kidding about the last part.)
And it’s only $1.99! Can’t beat that price with a stick.

**So this statistic blew me away when I saw it last week. Because I’m forgetful, I’m only getting around to blogging on it now. In a story about rural areas in America having little access to the Internet, the New York Times dropped this gem on readers: 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all.
WHAT??? Seriously, 28 percent of people don’t use the Internet? I’m shocked that in 2011, the number is that high. I understand having slow connections, not going on often, etc., but for that number of people to never use the Web? I couldn’t believe it.

**Tried to get back into “Glee” when I got home Tuesday night. I’d pretty much given up on it this year, because it was so bad at the start. Still, I decided to try again.
Not a good sign when the only parts I enjoyed were the Sue Sylvester scenes. And I did smile when Rachel and Blaine (is that his name?) did a “Don’t You Want Me Baby” duet.
But man, this show has just ridden off the rails. Sad.

Finally, here’s a little Tuesday pick-me-up: Check out these fans at a Northern Iowa basketball game, doing something called the “Interlude Dance.” Seriously, the coordination, and how long they carry it out, is impressive:

Oh, Sarah. IBM’s Watson talks some trash. And the greatest baby name ever

Every once in a while, my Palin-radar goes off. I try to turn the damn thing off, but it beeps now and again.
It beeped Monday when I heard this story. Apparently Ms. Palin admitted that she asked daughter Bristol to “Google the economy” for her before giving a big speech on Long Island.
Yep, Sarah Palin asked her daughter to look up information on the economy for her.
And this moron wants to be President. And there are thousands of my fellow Americans who want her to be.
God help us all.

**So as funny as the The Onion normally is, this made me laugh out loud today. It’s from sportspickle.com, one of my favorite sites on the Internet. Sportspickle is the site that’s brought you gems like “spelling bee contestant stumped on word ‘girlfriend.’

This is  Sportspickle on what Watson, the IBM supercomputer that kicked ass on “Jeopardy” last week, would say if it talked trash.

**Finally, the greatest or worst baby name ever has a new entry. An Egyptian couple, paying tribute to one of the most important triggers of the country’s recent revolution, has named their baby “Facebook.”
Gotta believe she’ll be the only one in class with that name. Though she’ll probably be sitting next to Twitter Johnson one day.

Musings on the joy of bookstores. A ridiculous Andy Roddick shot. And loving “The Wire” vicariously through my best friend

I am an enormous fan of bookstores. For so many reasons. I love wandering around them never knowing what I may stumble upon.
I love that you can just sit in them for hours and get transported into another world. I used to have a thing, for a long, long time, that I literally could not go into a bookstore without buying something. I had very little self-control.
I haven’t been wandering in bookstores for a while; just don’t seem to have the time or the desire.
Luckily, Joe Posnanski did, the other night. And he wrote this hilarious, poignant, rambling collection of thoughts about how we feel in bookstores, what happens there, and why the bargain bins always have bird-books in them.
If you love books, you’ll love this piece, and it’ll brighten your Monday. I promise.

**Andy Roddick, on match point Sunday, to win a tournament, hit the most ridiculous shot of his life. He said so himself. Watch this and your jaw will drop:

**So I’ve been trying to get my best friend Clay to watch “The Wire” for about four years now.
Finally, about six months ago, on one of our rare visits (he lives in California), I literally stuck the entire first-season DVD box in his hands and said “Watch this. It’s the best show ever on television.”
Well, what you have to know about Clay, God love him, is that he’s deliberate. I mean, he makes molasses seem speedy. It takes my boy a long, long, LONG time to do things, but he eventually does them. I knew he would one day get around to watching “The Wire,” and be immersed in the world of Omar Little and Avon Barksdale and the great, great Stringer Bell.

Finally, he finished Season 1 Saturday night. And then left me a classic voicemail telling me how much he loved the show, and thanking me for turning him onto it (Hey, I steer him toward all the good stuff. He never watched “The West Wing” or “Six Feet Under” before I told him to.)

People, I cannot recommend “The Wire” enough. Netflix it, watch it on HBO, whatever you’ve got to do. You will not be sorry.

Governor Rick Perry is bat-shit crazy. And an Iowa high school boy refuses to wrestle a girl: chicken

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is everything you would expect a Republican governor of Texas to be.
Much like his predecessor, some dude who astonishingly became President, Perry oozes swagger, cockiness, and very few brain cells. He illustrated this a few years ago when he suggested that Texas should secede from the United States, a notion at which many non-Texans nodded approvingly.
Now Perry  is refusing federal funds for education, because the Democrats actually had the chutzpah to put language in the laws of the state saying the money actually had to be used for, you know, schools and not whatever Perry wants.
Perry also has some, eh, interesting thoughts about contraception and abstinence. Thoughts that in 2011 make him even more bat-shit crazy and pigheaded than previously thought.
Check out Gail Collins’ excellent column for all the details.

**Unfortunately, this next story isn’t an original one. At the Iowa state high school wrestling championships this week (which is by far the biggest scholastic event in the state each year; a great book was written about it by Mark Kreidler) a boy named Joel Northrup was scheduled to compete against a girl named Cassy Herkelman in the first round.
Northrup refused, and forfeited the match. He said he didn’t believe, in his conscience and his faith, that he should be wrestling against a female.
Some have applauded Northrup, a 10th grader, for his decision. I think it was disrespectful and silly.
Cassy Herkelman had earned the right to compete. Northrup knows there’s nothing sexual about wrestling, and there have been hundreds of girls who’ve competed against boys in this sport with no problem whatsoever.
I suppose you could argue, as my father did when we discussed this Friday, that Northrup only hurt himself by doing this. He was the one who forfeited.
But I disagree. It hurts Herkleman, too, because it reduces her to a sideshow, a spectacle, when all she wants to do is wrestle like thousands of others do in Iowa.
Northrup and his father (who attempted to use religious grounds as a reason for his son’s decision) tried to look big by making this move. I think they end up looking extremely, extremely small.

Brooklyn holds a Phil Collins Day parade. And a re-enactment of your favorite ’80s movies in 4 minutes

Go ahead, make fun of me for being stuck, pop-culturally, in the 1980s. Other people have, plenty of times.

But dammit, I love the decade in which I grew up. The music, the clothes, the movies, the TV, all of it. (Well, not all of it. I’m still not sure what the hell Depeche Mode was all about.)

Today, two items that show I’m not the only one who loved the Reagan years:

First, I present to you the first-ever Phil Collins Day parade, held in my beloved home state of New York. Why have a Phil Collins Day, and a parade to boot? Ask Heather Feather, the organizer of the thing (guessing that wasn’t the name on her birth certificate). She actually has a great reason for starting Phil day, if you click the link.
Besides, Phil was awesome. I know it’s unfashionable to say now, but I loved his music. “In the Air Tonight,” “Another Day in Paradise,” and of course, “A Groovy Kind of Love,” which I’m listening to on iTunes as I type this.
Here’s footage of the Phil parade, an event I totally would’ve attended if I lived in NY:

**And second, here’s Topher Grace, Anna Faris and some other celebrity friends in a four-minute video homage (God I love that word, “homage”) to the 80s, all set to the tune of the ’80s classic, “Don’t You Want Me.” Sadly, I think I missed 1 or 2 of the 80s references in the video. I am hanging my head in shame.

But this video is fantastic.