Monthly Archives: August 2011

Happy birthday to e-mail, as it turns 29. A most impressive multi-tasker. And the juror who tried to Facebook friend the defendant

Most of the anniversaries I commemorate on this little blog aren’t really earth-shaking. I tend to notice the more obscure stuff.
But today, well, today my friends, we have an anniversary of an invention without which our lives would be totally and irrevocably altered.
On August 30, 1982, a 16-year-old named V.A. Shiva copywrited (copywrote?) the word “email” after developing a program that allowed computer users to write messages to each other from different locations, and transmit them to different locations.
I had no idea it was a 16-year-old who first came up the word “email” and the concept, but I’m not surprised. The Internet has always been driven by kids.
Think about how much we take email for granted now. You could argue it’s the single most important invention of the last 50 years.
Think about how often you email, and for how many different purposes: For work purposes (your resume to an employer, an email to a colleague about something going on at the office), for fun (hey, those Nigerian bank scams don’t write themselves!) or to learn something new (hardly a week goes by where someone doesn’t email me something, a story, a video, something, that I never knew before).
It’s truly amazing how much email has changed our lives over the past 16 years or so most of us have used it. And yet we never think about it anymore, because it’s always there and so easy.
Of course there are downsides; so many of us are slaves to our Inboxes (guilty as charged; even on vacation I found myself checking my work account at least once a day at my last job), and yeah, it has made the old-fashioned, wonderful practice of letter-writing pretty obsolete.
But still, email is 46 kinds of awesome to most people. And 30 years ago, it didn’t exist.
And now it’s such a fabric of our lives I don’t know what we’d do without it.
Don’t agree with me? Go ahead and email me about it.

**Sometimes you have to just tip your cap to a criminal. Not because you’re proud of his crime, but because it’s darn impressive he was able to pull it off.
Today I’m talking about a man from Kentucky named George Howard, who was arrested last week when his 2006 Ford swerved across a road in Louisville.
What accounted for Mr. Howard’s erratic driving? Well I’m glad you asked: He was driving, drinking a beer, and having sex all at the same time.
A menage a trois of dangerous road habits!
God bless you Mr. Howard, for making the rest of us multi-taskers hang our head in shame.

**Just like I don’t think the founders of Twitter ever imagined their little 140-character service would be used to help overthrow governments (see: Egypt), I have to think good ole’ Mark Zuckerberg (or the Winklevii twins) never imagined something like this happening when he founded Facebook.

A juror in Texas was disqualified from a jury recently, because he tried to “friend” the defendant in the case on Facebook.  22-year-old Jonathan Hudson was cited for contempt of court.
Hey, it’s not like he asked the guy to be his partner in FarmVille or anything….

1/2 of Milli Vanilli tells his side of the story, beautifully. A feel-good old people video. And Adele kicks ass at VMAs.

Follow me on Twitter here. You won’t be sorry, or your money back!

I have no shame in admitting that when Milli Vanilli first came out in the late 1980s, I was a fan.
OK, I have a little shame. I did own the cassette of their first album featuring the still-awesome “Girl You Know It’s True.” single, but I do remember being pissed when they beat out my homegirl Paula Abdul for Best New Artist at the Grammys (yes, I had a major crush on Paula. Don’t judge.)
If you don’t remember Milli Vanilli, or you’re too young, they were these two fast-dancing French guys who came to America, met a sleazy producer who convinced them to lip-synch their songs since their voices, quite frankly, weren’t very good, and they fooled American audiences and critics (and Grammy voters) for a few years before the whole scam was revealed.
I’m guessing you haven’t thought about Rob Pilatus or Fab Morvan in a while; they pretty much vanished from the radar after the scandal.
But I did kinda wonder what happened to them, and how the firestorm looked and felt from their side.
Now we know. Morvan recorded this fabulous episode of “The Moth” storytelling series recently, and I defy you to come away from listening to this not having sympathy for him.
He was a guy who was young, could dance really well, and just was thrust into circumstances he didn’t have much control over.
It’s a really compelling story; give it a listen if you get a chance.

**A random interlude. Here’s a couple that’s been married for 62 years, playing the piano together. Very sweet:

**Finally, I haven’t watched MTV’s Video Music Awards since Justin Bieber was in Underoos (do they still have those?). I do remember thinking they used to be awesome; they would air sometime during the first week of school in September and we would always talk about them the next day.
I have very little interest in current music, which offends many of my friends. But Adele sort of has forced me to pay attention to her. Every time I’ve heard one of her songs or seen her on TV, she’s been awesome.
A few of my Facebook peeps raved about her performance of her song “Someone Like You” on the VMAs, so I checked it out. Moving and beautiful. Haunting, too.
Check it out. In a music scene with so many non-talents becoming famous and popular, good to see a woman with a great voice still has a seat at the “cool” table:

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Irene slams N.C. and N.J., but leaves us New Yorkers pretty OK. The MLK speech turns 48. And “Curb” gives us a holy trinity of guest stars

And so Hurricane Irene has come and gone, leaving destruction in its wake from North Carolina all the way up the coast.
New Jersey is mostly flooded. Millions of people are without power in their homes.  And good luck driving in Vermont, where so much of the state is under water.
So don’t let anyone tell you this storm was overhyped. No, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. But it still was devastating.
Fortunately, my fellow NYC brethren and I got off reasonably OK. My neighborhood in Queens had some downed trees, and fortunately my basement apartment stayed un-flooded.
Some other scattered thoughts from my brain after 48 hours of all Irene, all the time:
— CNN showed some “geniuses” on their boats in Newport, R.I. before the storm, and one father was saying how safe it was on the boat, and that even though it was a mandatory evacuation area he was staying put. And his 11-year-old son was right there smiling and nodding, too.
That father should’ve been arrested for child abuse on the spot.
—  Can someone explain to me how Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York can still have a Boston accent after 10 years as the mayor here? He still sounds like Mikey from Worcester.
— Had never been woken up out of a deep sleep before Sunday morning. But damn at 3 a.m. it was howling outside.
— I know its easy to bash the TV networks for overhyping Irene, and sure I think its goofy that they make those reporters stand out there on the beach in 100 miles per hour wind. But honestly, no sarcasm intended, I thought TV did a really good job covering this storm.
— That’s a picture of Cape Hatteras, N.C. from Sunday. Tell those people the storm was overhyped.

**Sunday was the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have A Dream.”
One of the greatest oratories of all time. Enjoy:

**Finally, another pretty solid “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was on Sunday. Not nearly as good as some of the other ones this season (last week’s “juicing” episode was an all-time classic), but Sunday brought the most awesome guest starring trio ever.

It was: Tony Soprano’s sister (Aida Turturro),  Miles Silverberg from the late, great “Murphy Brown” (Grant Shaud), and the awesome Max Medina from “Gilmore Girls!”(Scott Cohen). For you Gilmore fans, here’s a link to the Max proposal (an awesome scene) and the Lorelai acceptance (also a great scene)
Three totally random but awesome actors in one tiny little Curb episode. Awesome. And now a classic scene I just found on Youtube featuring Aida Turturro and James Gandolfini; watch the slow burn on her face around the 2:10 mark.
God that was a great show.

The best Tweets of Hurricane Irene. A quick Vin Scully tribute. And bringing the sexy back to local TV commercials

So apparently there’s some sort of weather issue going on on the East Coast? Hadn’t heard about it.
I kid. Good heavens people up here in NYC are going insane with worry over this Hurricane Irene thing. Now, I’m not tempting the gods here by poo-poohing this thing, but I lived through five hurricanes in North Carolina in the late 1990s, and this baby is only supposed to be a Category 2 when it hits land Saturday.
So while it could be awful and rainy and terrible, it may not be. I’ve got my canned goods and my flashlights and all that, but I’m not going to start freaking out until I see Noah bringing the animals on two at a time.

Meanwhile, there was all kinds of funny stuff being said on Twitter Friday about the Hurricane, so I wanted to share. (I won’t share all the jokes, too many to name, that said NYC getting this Hurricane was God’s way at getting back at the state for the whole “legalizing gay marriage” thing. Because, you know, those aren’t jokes. IT’S TRUE!!!).

Here goes, some of my favorite Irene Tweets:
–“East Coast Residents: As a media professional, I assure you it’s OK to stand outside in a hurricane as long as you’re holding a microphone.” (@RexHuppke)
— “Breaking News: Gov. Christie orders Snooki to be tied down.” (@albertbrooks)
— Internet Outages from Hurricane Could Force People to Interact with Other People, Officials Warn (@borowitzreport)
— “If you lose connectivity, just shout out 140 character or less updates into the storm. Not a huge difference, really.” (the hilarious @pourmecoffee)
— “Sorry about the hurricane everyone. But if you continue to make episodes of Jersey Shore this is going to keep happening.” (@Jesus_M_Christ)

**Vin Scully, maybe the greatest baseball broadcaster who ever lived, said Friday that he’ll be returning for his 63rd season next year as the announcer for the Dodgers. Sixty-three years! He’s a living legend and a national treasure.
In honor of Vin’s wonderful announcement, I want to once again link to what may be the most perfect eight minutes of sports broadcasting ever: This is Scully calling Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965.

**Finally, here’s something to take your mind of this storm: Maybe the strangest local TV commercial ever. I want to shop there after seeing this, don’t you? The guy in it is alternately creepy and … no, he’s just creepy.


The sad, troubled life out of the ring of Ric Flair. An Old Navy commercial makes me sad. And the dog that ate $10,000 in diamonds

If you were a wrestling fan in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably loved Ric Flair.
I know I did. “The Nature Boy” oozed charisma, with his blond hair, crazy-eyed stare, and incredible work on the microphone in interviews, he was just about the coolest guy around.
I got to meet him once, in his home state of North Carolina. He made a personal appearance for a car company or something, and as I stood next to him, I remember thinking that the Rolex on his left wrist cost more than what I made in salary that year.
Flair was in vintage form that day; he knew everyone came to see him so he gave them what they wanted. It’s always struck me as one of the hardest parts of being a celebrity; you’ve always got to be “on” anytime you’re in public.
Anyway, Flair struck me that day as a world-class fun guy who loved what he was doing, and was happy.
How wrong I was. I read a fantastic story on today about Flair, now 62, and the enormous personal and financial problems he’s been in for the last 15 years. Truly, his life sounds miserable in almost every way.
Check it out and see how far the Nature Boy has fallen.

**This is going to sound totally random (as do many things on this blog, I’m sure). But I’m flipping around the dial Thursday night while folding my laundry and I see an Old Navy commercial with a very familiar song playing, only the words are different.
Then I recognize the tune, and cringe. It’s “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger. An awesome, powerful song from the 80s, a song that was used in one of my five favorite scenes in movie history (this brilliant, mind-altering scene from “Boogie Nights” ), is now being used to sell jeans and sweatshirts.
Depressed the hell out of me. I think I now know how baby boomers felt when Bob Dylan music was used to sell cars in the 1980s.

**Finally, a pooch that knows good jewelry. A Pomeranian dog named Honey Bug ate a pack of 1-karat diamonds in a jewelry store in Albany, Ga. recently. Fortunately, Honey Bun “expelled” the diamonds the next day.
In defense of the canine, I can totally see how he could’ve made this mistake. Dogs are a man’s best friend, and diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so why shouldn’t dogs and diamonds be together?

Steve Jobs finally walks into the sunset after changing the world. A school district uses sheep as lawnmowers. And a fun day at U.S. Open qualifying

Usually, when a CEO leaves a company, the tributes to him or her are overblown.
No one person is that much bigger than the product or business, 99 times out of 100. Most anyone else below the big chief can do that job.
And yet, with the news that Steve Jobs is stepping down, it definitely seems like the hype is about accurate.
This guy changed the world. His brilliant innovations with Apple are too numerous to be named here; there’s probably no area of technology that Jobs and Apple haven’t had a hand in. (if you’re reading this on an iPhone, I rest my case).
Jobs has been sick for a while, so Wednesday’s news isn’t a huge surprise, I guess.
But it still feels like the end of an era. What a remarkable career he’s had; people forget that he was thought to be all washed up when he left Apple. Check out this interview from 1994, and see how prescient this man was.

**You think your school district has funding problems? Please. You haven’t seen the trouble facing Carlisle, Pa. How desperate are these folks? They’re not using lawnmowers anymore to cut the grass at two local schools. They’re using sheep.
That’s right, sheep. Seven of ’em, on loan from the principal of the middle school. (Why does the principal own seven sheep? I’m guessing that’s a whole ‘nother story).
Embarrassing that a school district would have to do this. But hey, also educational for the kids? Who needs a field trip to the animal farm when you’ve got Dolly and Co. right outside the classroom window?

**How often in life do you get to stand five feet away from professional athletes, as they play some of the biggest matches of their career?
Not often. Which is why I did something I’ve always wanted to do this week: Go to the qualifying tournament at the U.S. Open.
For those not familiar with the “qualies” it works like this: If you’re a pro tennis player ranked in the top 100 or so, you automatically get into the U.S. Open. If you’re not, you have to play your way in through what’s called a qualifying tournament. For several days you try to beat other men and women desperate to make it into the main draw.
Every year before the Open they open the National Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y. and let fans watch the qualies for free. I went this year and it was fantastic. You can literally get five feet from these men and women while they’re playing; you can’t do that with any other sport.
Sure, there were no huge famous names like Roger Federer or Serena Williams playing, but these were true pros fighting their guts out, and in many cases the money they were trying to win would determine whether they could keep playing as a pro next year.
It was great fun. And yeah, there may be some more U.S. Open posts from me next week; I’m going at least twice, and hoping for more. In the immortal words of Bart Scott, I can’t wait.

An awesome baseball catch and a damn persistent moth. And terrible news about the great Pat Summitt.

Let’s start off Wednesday with a clip from a show I miss dearly, “The West Wing.” Just because…

**There doesn’t seem to be much drama left in the baseball season’s pennant races; the Yankees and Red Sox are both making the playoffs, and the other divisional races are pretty blah (except for the NL West).
But these two things caught my eye Tuesday. First, check out this incredible catch by Ben Revere (is it too much to ask for his parents to also have a son named Paul?) of the Twins.

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And then there was this. Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals had to leave a game Monday night when a moth flew into his ear and got stuck there. I wish I were making this up, but check out the bizarre details here.

**Finally today, spare a thought for maybe the greatest basketball coach who ever lived. Pat Summitt, the 59-year-old force of nature who has led the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team for the past 38 years, was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a horrible blow to one of the most indomitable people ever in sports (if you want a great picture of how driven Summitt is, read this fantastic Gary Smith Sports Illustrated profile of her from 1998), and a coach who has molded so many lives for the better.
Sportswriter Sally Jenkins calls Summitt her best friend, and it was to Jenkins who Summitt broke the news of her disease.

Here’s Jenkins’ beautiful story today in the Washington Post about her friend Pat Summitt. It’s tragic and wonderful, like the best writing often is.

I take the side (sort of) of an anti-gay marriage teacher. A demand to say something nice. And a real-life Fred Flintstone

It’s extremely rare that I would ever defend a homophobic bigot spewing hatred and intolerance. In fact, I can’t even believe I’m doing it now.
But what’s happened to Jerry Buell, a history teacher at Mount Dora High School in Florida is just wrong.
Here’s the deal: Buell, a former “Teacher of the Year” winner, wrote a message on his personal Facebook page as New York’s state legislature debated the gay marriage law this summer.
Remember, this was his personal Facebook page. This is what he wrote:

If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool as same-sex whatever! God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable???”
OK, so clearly Mr. Buell and I won’t be marching in any ACLU rallies together. But the school district decided to suspend Buell for his comments. Again, these were comments on his personal Facebook page, and he wasn’t speaking on behalf of anyone at the school, or in his authority as a teacher at the school.
I think it’s absolutely wrong to impinge this man’s free speech. You say he’s a member of a staff at a school and therefore he’s a public figure? Sorry, I don’t agree.
What a teacher does on their personal Facebook page is their own business.

I know many of you are going to scream at me and tell me I’m wrong on this one. But I really feel the school district is wrong here, no matter how repugnant I find Buell’s views.

**Here’s an idea I can totally get behind. This group I’ve never heard of called Improv Everywhere decided to try an experiment in New York City. They put up a podium and a megaphone in the middle of a crowded street, with one simple instruction: Say Something Nice.
So people walked up, and did. This should catch on in every city.

**Finally, this last story cracked me up. While being chased by police, a Michigan man tried to stop his car with his feet, Fred Flintstone-style, but failed miserably. I’m guessing his brakes failed, so this was his next best option
You’ve got to see the video of this guy. Even Barney Rubble or Mr. Slate could do better than this.
Too funny.

A glorious day at Saratoga Race Course. My favorite Craigslist ad. And Jon Huntsman finally calls out the GOP crazies.

Took a two-day drive through my past this weekend.
Went up to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where I lived for three years from 2002-05. It was where I had some of the greatest times of my life, which now have led to some painful memories.
It was where I met my wife. It was where I proposed. And now that I’m divorced, well, it was a little tough, emotionally glimpsing the memories for the first time since the breakup.
After feeling pretty blue for most of Saturday, I needed a pick-me-up on Sunday. Then I remembered: I was going to Saratoga Race Course Sunday.
And it is impossible not to have a smile on your face inside those hallowed grounds.
If you’ve never been, Saratoga Race Course is one of the most wonderful places on Earth. Even if you don’t like horse racing, it’s a good time at the track. The strange and enormous hats worn by ladies there, the aroma of wonderful food (the Carolina Barbecue pulled pork was as good as I remembered it), the excitement as post time nears, and the beautiful spectacle of the thoroughbreds racing toward the finish line make for a truly wonderful day.
I was there with my friend Matt, whom I met as part of the Big Brother/Big Sister program eight years ago, and who now (egads) is almost 19 years old. He used to love the track when he was younger, so I hoped he’d enjoy it as much now.
He did. We dodged raindrops and sloshed our way through the gates, and through the first five races, we weren’t doing so well at the ticket window. Four picks, all losers, as our money washed away.
Finally, we decided the 7th would be our last betting race of the day. He pointed to horse No. 2, Motion Lounge. “That’s the one we should pick,” he said. The odds were 13-1. I was kinda hoping he’d pick a favorite. But nope, he thought No. 2 was our choice.
We walked to the window, placed our bet, and walked back outside with my friends Sally and Trevor, also visiting from out of town. Just about 3 minutes before the race started, the skies emptied and rain drenched us.
We ran back inside into the hallway and watched the race on the TV monitors. But it was raining so hard we couldn’t tell who won.
Finally, the results popped up on the screen. Motion Lounge had won.
“Whoo-hoo!” we screamed, and high-fived. Turns out the odds had ballooned to 19-1 by post time, so we were 38 bucks richer.
What had already been a great day at Saratoga got just a little bit better.
If you’re ever in the Adirondacks in August, I highly recommend a day at Saratoga. For the $3 admission price, there’s no better value in all of sports.

**The following ad was placed on Craigslist last week. I pray that it’s real, and quite frankly, who would make up something this bizarre? It read:

“A guy broke into my house last week. He didn’t take my TV, he took my remote. Now he drives by and changes the channels.
I need someone to sit at the end of my street and get his license number. I will pay $10 an hour till he is caught.”

**Hallelujah. Just when I thought every GOP presidential candidate had gone completely over the sanity bar and veered into looney-ville, Jon Huntsman stood up Sunday morning on ABC’S “This Week” and called out Michele Bachman and Rick Perry for being out of touch with reality. I don’t know where “this” version of Huntsman has been the last two months,  but this interview was fantastic. It gets really good at the 3:30 mark, when he calls out Perry.

The world’s best street fliers. The worst head-first slide ever.And more awesome “soldiers surprise loved ones” videos

**Writing this post after a five-hour drive from NYC up to my old stomping grounds in Saratoga Springs (it should’ve taken about 3 hours). Truly, the traffic on the George Washington Bridge was worth moving back to New York for.

So it’s pretty rare that a street flier will actually catch your attention. Maybe if it’s about a missing kid or a lost dog, you stop for a second and look at it.
But these fliers, from the website (because really, who wouldn’t want to click on a happy place and visit it?) are pretty damn hilarious.
My favorites are the second one, and the chicken strips one.
And I liked this one a lot, too:

**Wanna see the worst, most un-athletic head-first slide by a baseball player ever? Of course you do. Here’s a man named Graham Taylor, a pitcher for the Jacksonville Suns, trying to score after rounding third. Seriously, I could’ve done better than this.

**Finally, you know I’m a total sap when it comes to these “surprise” reunions of soldiers and their loved ones. Something about the pure joy and emotion on the loved one’s face just gets me every time.

Here’s one of the best ones I’ve seen; a woman selected to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game has no idea that the catcher is her husband: