Monthly Archives: September 2011

NYC doesn’t care if drivers can’t see. “Weeds” and “The Big C” finish off with shockers. And in praise of Mayim Bialik, who is awesome

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This story made me fairly pissed.
New York state reversed a law enacted in 2000, and now will no longer require drivers to pass a vision test if they want to renew their license.
Yep, any old person can “self-certify” that their vision is good enough to see an onrushing tractor-trailer or a squirrel jumping out in the middle of the road.
Or, you know, a STOP SIGN!!!!!!!!
Nobody has ever listened to me about this, but I have always believed that after the age of 50, motorists should be required to re-take a road test every five years. I said this even before I lived in Florida for five years, the state with more old people driving than palm trees.
It’s ridiculous how easy it is to keep a driver’s license in America. And now, New York state has just made it even easier.
Good job.

A couple of my favorite TV shows ended their terrific seasons on Showtime on Monday night.
And since sometimes it takes me a few days to remember to write about stuff, I’m only telling you about them now on Friday.
First, “Weeds.” Loved, loved, LOVED “Weeds” this season. The last couple of years were kinda disappointing; the show lost a lot of the humor and the heart that it had the first four seasons, and it just got a little too ridiculous.
But this year was awesome. Heylia came back, Shane was blisteringly good in his role, and Mary-Louise Parker kicked her usual ass.
Loved the finale, with a giant compromise resulting in the Botwins and Nancy’s sister moving to Connecticut, and the final scene leaving a giant cliffhanger out there.
Before the season started, I was kinda hoping this would be the last season. Now, “Weeds” was so strong I’m hoping for more.
Even more shockingly good in its season finale was “The Big C.” I’ve said it on here several times; Laura Linney and this show are worth ordering Showtime by themselves. The finale of Season 2 about a woman slowly dying of cancer was a beautiful show, with an ending that literally had me sitting there with my mouth open and shouting “No!” (Oliver Platt is such a fantastic actor, isn’t he?)

Great, great, great ending to the show. Already looking forward to Season 3.

**OK, this will go without saying to anyone who watched “The Big Bang Theory” as religiously as I do: But Mayim Bialik absolutely positively slays me as Amy Farrah Fowler. Every time she’s on, she gets funnier and funnier.
She was very prominent in Thursday night’s episode, and killed as usual. I know the writing is a big part of why she’s so hilarious, but damn if our girl from “Blossom” doesn’t play Amy perfectly.
She has taken what was already a brilliant, hysterical show and made it so much better. I hope she’s on every episode from now on.
If you have never seen her, here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of her brilliance.

And, because who doesn’t miss “Blossom,” here you go…

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An incredible night of baseball, as Sox and Braves finish epic collapses. Happy Rosh Hashana to all. And an insane balcony dive into the pool

What an absolutely crazy night of baseball Wednesday night.
Four teams, four different games, all fighting to stay alive for the wild card. Three of those games had dramatic endings, with the last two, involving the Rays and Red Sox, finishing within three minutes of each other.
Truly high drama. First the Cardinals win, putting pressure on the Braves. Then Atlanta finishes its epic September collapse, losing in extra innings to Philadelphia and knocking itself out of the postseason.
Then the Red Sox, who have collapsed even more than Atlanta, take a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth at the sad-sack Orioles, only to see the O’s rally for two runs and the win off Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (didn’t he used to be good and clutch and all that?)
Then, literally less than five minutes later, Tampa Bay, which rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the eighth inning against the Yankees (who had nothing to play for) got a game-winning home run from Evan Longoria (above) in the 12th inning to win and clinch a playoff spot.
Whew. Hell of a final day of the regular season. Now we’ve got Yankees-Tigers and Rays-Rangers in the AL playoffs (I think Detroit and Texas win those series; Yanks are going to have a lot of trouble with Verlander), and Brewers-Diamondbacks and Phillies-Cardinals in the other (Phillies-Brewers looks good to me in the NLCS).
As usual, Tom Verducci of SI has the best take on Wednesday night’s madness.

Final baseball thought: Jose Reyes of the Mets, what a joke. Takes himself out of the game yesterday after his first inning single, to protect his batting average and lead in the batting race. A disgrace, and anathema to what any true competitor would do.

**Wanted to wish all my fellow Tribe members a happy Rosh Hashana, and a happy New Year. I spent Wednesday night celebrating the holiday by eating, drinking, and arguing with an old lady about Israel and the rights of Palestinians to have their own land (don’t ask; at a dinner party, sometimes you find yourselves in these conversations).
For the rest of you who don’t celebrate, let me remind you of the moral of every Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.”

**I kind of can’t believe this guy actually does this. An insane dive off the balcony of a hotel, into the swimming pool. I’m amazed he didn’t kill himself. But since he was successful, I simply say “Bravo, fine sir.”

Ruminations from a funeral. I hit a running milestone. And a beautiful story of a black church rising from the ashes after being burned down

Before Sunday, I hadn’t been to a funeral in many years.
Which is a good thing, of course. I had a string of relatives die, starting late in high school through a few years after college, but that was more than 10 years ago. I’ve been exceedingly lucky since then.
But last week one of my close friends’ father-in-law passed away, and so I found myself in an enormous synagogue Sunday morning, surrounded by about 600 people in the largest funeral I’d ever attended.
Of course it’s cliche to say funerals make you think, but as I sat there getting emotional about a man I didn’t know well (but who from all accounts was a wonderful person), there were a few things I kept thinking about.
For one, seeing the hundreds of people there to honor him, I thought about the horribly cruel irony of a person being most appreciated and loved on the day they can’t see it and appreciate it.
I also thought about the major change I made in my own life last year, and how glad I was that instead of continuing to be unhappy, I decided to do something about it. Haven’t regretted it since.
I thought about the finality of death, and how my thoughts have changed on it. When I was younger, I believed in reincarnation, and an afterlife. Now? I’m not so sure.
Finally I thought about the man who we were all talking about Sunday. Did he die with no regrets? Did he live his life to the fullest, and accomplish what he wanted to do? If he could’ve sat up from the casket and looked at the assembled masses, what would he say?
Later, as we sat around the man’s house, friends and relatives were telling stories. They were laughing and smiling, enjoying the memories of a life they were lucky enough to be a part of.
And really, that’s why funerals don’t bother me too much. Yes, they’re a mourning of a death.
But they’re also a celebration of a life. And that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
(Skip to 3:31 here; this is the song I want played at my funeral, in case, you know, any of you are in a position to do anything about it at that time)

**So it’s been a while since I’ve written about my quixotic quest to one day run a marathon. I started running seriously while I still lived in Florida last spring, and after some time off when I first moved to NYC (it just got lost in the shuffle, frankly), I’ve been picking it up more and more the last month or so.

Monday was a big day; I hit a new milestone. I ran more than three miles for the first time; 3.15, to be exact.
May not sound like much to you “real” runners out there, but it was exciting for me. 23 more miles to go, and I’ll be ready for a marathon.
Damn, it felt good.

**The great New York Times writer Dan Barry wrote this beautiful piece in the Times the other day that I wanted to share. It’s about a black church in Mass. that was burned down on the night Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, that has now been rebuilt better than ever.
This is how you stop evil from winning. You rebuild, and dare them to do it again.

A very cool “Muppets” museum exhibit. “The 2-minute date” revisited. And “Boardwalk Empire,” a show you should definitely be watching

A huge part of my early childhood was spent watching “The Muppet Show.”
I remember when I was little it was on Saturday nights, and we’d watch it in the living room and laugh really, really hard.
I loved the Muppet movies over the years, and even briefly enjoyed the Saturday morning “Muppet Babies” cartoon.
So when I heard there was a Muppets exhibit at a museum very close to my apartment in Queens, I was totally on board.
Went to see it Saturday, which happened to be the late Jim Henson’s 75th birthday. It was fabulous.
Some things I learned:
— Jim Henson was an enormous talent (duh), but also had his hand in way more projects than I realized, not just the Muppets. One of the best parts of the exhibit was seeing his original drawings for some of the characters.
— Fozzy was woefully underrepresented in the gallery. I loved me some Fozzy.
— There was an early clip of Rowlf the Dog on the Jimmy Dean variety show from 1966. All the adults in the room were laughing hysterically. Most of the kids, too.
— There was a movie shown with clips from a lot of the musical performances from “The Muppet Show.” Many were good. This one from Elton John must be clicked on, because Sir Elton’s outfit defies description.
— It fascinates me how a man can take puppets and make them so real, so full of human qualities, so full of heart and humor and intelligence. Jim Henson was a true visionary and a genius, and I’m so glad his life’s work continues to live on through yet another generation.
If you live in New York, the exhibit is at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens through Jan. 12.

**So I gave up on “How I Met Your Mother” two years ago, after watching it from the beginning.
I just thought the storylines had gotten really weak, I was sick of all the stopping and starting and the teases of Ted meeting women and the writers leading us to believe that this is really going to be the one he ends up with.
But I watched the season premiere last week and it was really funny, and Monday night’s episode was good, too.
Glad to see a show I once loved get its mojo back.
So since I was feeling the show tonight, here’s my favorite clip ever from it. Ted and Stella’s 2-minute date (if you’ve never seen the show, Stella’s this new girl Ted is trying to woo, but she said she only has two minutes for a date. So he takes her on a two-minute date.

** Season 2 of “Boardwalk Empire” started Sunday night on HBO. So happy to have it back. Last year’s debut was fantastic, though I expected nothing less from a show created by a former “Sopranos” writer. (Terrence Winter)

The new season started off solid (SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SUNDAY’S EPISODE YET).

Great opening scene with Chalky White and the Klan (though I expected Chalky to get all Omar Little (his old “Wire” character) on those guys. I think the whole Jimmy/Eli/Nucky dynamic is going to be fascinating; I loved how Eli went to arrest Chalky (for his safety, so he wouldn’t be lynched by a white mob) about a half hour after he had tried to have Chalky killed).
The editing and direction of the episode was awesome; the scene where Nucky gave two speeches to two different groups was brilliant. I also think there’s a lot of interesting stuff in Richard, Jimmy’s disfigured friend from the war. Between he and that FBI Van Alden guy, there’s plenty of creepiness to go around in this show.

So great to have it back. If you’re not watching it yet and get HBO, you really should be.

Cameron Crowe and Pearl Jam team up for an awesome movie. And Bills and Lions and Packers, oh my: another loony NFL day

Love Cameron Crowe movies. Just about all of ’em.
Really like Pearl Jam, though have never been a hard-core fan.
So I was reasonably certain that I was going to really like “Pearl Jam Twenty”, the new documentary Crowe made to commemorate 20 years of the band.
I saw the flick Friday night in New York City (its only playing in selected cities, but will be out on DVD soon and is airing on PBS stations on Oct. 21) and really, really came away impressed.
Crowe didn’t really come off as a “fan-boy” director making a movie about his heroes. I thought the interviews with Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and of course Eddie Vedder were really interesting (who knew that the hit song “Daughter” was originally called “Brother?” That’s the kind of stuff you find out in this flick).

Vedder, in particular, seems like a fascinating guy. He seemed as a young man not to care about success, but then admitted how excited he was to finally meet Pete Townsend, an idol of his.
Crowe got some fantastic footage from the 20 years of the band’s history; two favorites of mine were the montage of clips of Vedder, repeatedly, leaping off 20-foot-high scaffolding into the crowd (it’s a miracle he didn’t kill himself), and the band backstage doing an impromptu version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
I came away from the movie truly impressed with the dedication and musical talent of Pearl Jam. Are they an iconic band of this generation? Absolutely.
If you get a chance to see the movie, I definitely recommend it. Especially for the Kurt Cobain interview outtakes, which I won’t spoil but were awesome.

Here’s the trailer for the movie; it ought to get you hooked…

**As always on autumn Mondays here at WWOS, I have some Jets thoughts and some NFL thoughts.
— The less said about my Gang Green’s sad performance at Oakland in a 34-24 loss, the better. The Jets’ defense was atrocious. I know Darren McFadden is good and everything, but the tackling from the Jets was terrible. The pass coverage was spotty, and once again there was no pass rush. Two out of three games this year, the defense has stunk. Color me officially worried.
— Offensively Mark Sanchez made his usual “one or two horrible throws a game”, but he wasn’t the problem Sunday. The O-line collapsed in the second half, and Antonio Cromartie, well, he couldn’t have possibly played worse. His fumble on the kickoff, after the Raiders scored to take a 24-17 lead, was an absolute crusher of a mistake. So glad Cro is getting $8 million a year.
My boys are 2-1, with road games at Baltimore and at New England the next 2 weeks. Two and three looks likely. Oy.

–I think I’m going to make Buffalo Bills games must-see TV. They played yet another thriller Sunday, beating the Pats (thank you, Buffalo, from all Jets fans) after rallying from 21-0 down. And their quarterback went to Harvard! Love this Bills team.
— And of course the Detroit Lions are 3-0 now, coming back from 20-0 down to beat the Vikings and their walking corpse of a quarterback, Donovan McNabb. All who had Detroit and Buffalo both 3-0 at this point, raise your hands. (Very nice column by the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay on Bills and Lions here)
— I ain’t seeing a Super Bowl hangover from the Packers. Damn they are good.
— Drew Brees is looking like the guy from two years ago. Which is scary for everyone else.
— Finally, got a give a shout-out to the Giants. Big-time win at Philly. Eli Manning is such a maddening player to watch; he can play terrible for months at a time, then play as well as he did Sunday.

The lady who stole a hearse, took it for joyride. A crazy H.S. football play. And the delightful Sofia Vergara

I think this story pretty much speaks for itself.
A 23-year-old West Virginia woman named Angela DeHart was having a fight with her girlfriend while they were driving, and DeHart got out of the car angrily.
She then started walking up the road and spotted a hearse parked outside a funeral home, unattended.
So she jumped in the hearse and sped off.
With a corpse still in the back of the hearse.
She was charged with grand larceny and “displacement of a dead body” which sounds like an awesome charge to have on your rap sheet, doesn’t it?

**I know it’s only mid-September, but this has to be the craziest touchdown of the year. Check out this play from a Connecticut high school football game last week. If you’re like me, you’ll probably need to see the replay to see how the hell it happened:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Who doesn’t love Sofia Vergara from “Modern Family?” She’s awesome on the show and not bad to look at either, of course.
Someone took the time to put together a short video of her “greatest hits” in mispronunciation on the show.

Enjoy.

The incredible stats about pot arrests in U.S. A son comes out to his father, on YouTube. A brilliant riposte to Rick Perry.

As I’ve said on this blog before, I think it’s ridiculous that marijuana is illegal in this country. So many millions of dollars wasted, so many millions of jail cells needlessly occupied by people who perpetrate a victimless crime upon themselves, and don’t get violent while using it.
These stats released this week astonished and saddened me.  According to the FBI, 52 percent of all drug arrests in America in 2010 were for pot. Think about that for a second: Crystal meth, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, all of those drugs COMBINED for fewer arrests than pot.
Arrests for simple marijuana possession accounted for 5.7 percent of ALL arrests in America last year. 750,000 people were arrested for smoking pot last year.
It is insane that this country, no matter who’s in charge of the government, continues to prosecute marijuana users, when there are so many more important law enforcement priorities.
Legalize it. Tax it. And let’s move on to the really important issues, shall we?

**Hopefully you’ve seen this by now; this is beautiful. Randy Phillips, a 21-year-old member of the U.S. Armed Forces, emboldened by the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” finally came out to his father, over the phone. And broadcast it live on YouTube. Listen to the emotion in both men’s voice, and know what an enormous relief the end of that horrific DADT policy must be for so many of our brave soldiers.

**Finally, I sadly didn’t get to watch the latest episode of my favorite reality show, the GOP presidential debate, Thursday night (Damn grad school classes!)

But I heard my main man Rick Perry got trampled again, caught in his own idiocy. Also heard some in the crowd booed a gay soldier who asked a question (Stay classy, Tea Party people).
Also saw this sign on the Internet the other day and laughed out loud:

The scourge on my ears perpetrated by John Sterling. Mr. Rogers, remembered. And IKEA comes up with a way to make men happy

The Yankees are cruising toward the baseball playoffs, and I find myself getting sucked into following them, like I usually do in late September. Baseball is never more thrilling to me than at playoff time, which is fast approaching.
But that pull is being thwarted lately, because while in the car, and curious how the Bombers are doing, I turn the radio to WCBS 880 for the score and am hit with it, like a punch in the face.
John Sterling, the most obnoxious and God-awful sportscaster I’ve ever heard, is doing the play-by-play.
And I am reminded that the scourge continues. And if I want to hear the Yankees in the car, I must suffer that man.
Here’s the thing about Sterling, who’s been butchering Yankees broadcasts, and making them all about his own ego and grandiosity, for more than two decades now: Even Yankees fans hate him. So I can only imagine how the rest of you would feel if he ever infected your ears.
A quick rundown of Sterling’s awfulness: He constantly gets the details wrong on his call. He has all these signature shtick phrases for home runs (“An A-bomb, from A-Rod!”, “The Grandy-man can” for Curtis Granderson, and my other favorite, “Mark Teixeira has just sent a Tex message!”) that he repeats, ad nauseum.
He believes he is more important than the game. He prattles on and on, pontificating and ignoring the reality on the field, believing what he has to say is more important.
As the great critic Phil Mushnick has pointed out time and again, it’s embarrassing that such a prestigious organization as the Yankees has such a horrible representative calling their games.

Please, Hank Steinbrenner, owner of all things Yankee, remove this man from our ears. It would be an act of mercy rarely seen before.
Until then, I’ll be waiting until I get home to check the score.

**Stumbled upon this, sort of randomly, on Andrew Sullivan’s blog today. And it made me smile broadly.
It’s the late Fred “Mr.” Rogers, accepting the lifetime achievement Emmy Award in 1997, five years before he died. Take a few minutes and listen to it; I guarantee you’ll be smiling by the end.

Hope, and optimism, is a very good thing.

**If you’re a man and you’ve ever been trapped in an IKEA store for hours while your girlfriend/wife tries to decide exactly which kind of wood the new desk for the home office would go best with the decor, you will appreciate this next story.
The good Swedes at IKEA have come up with a new area of the store called “ManLand,” where women can park their fellas and the guys can play video games, pinball, foosball, or watch TV on a super-cool flatscreen.
But that’s not the best part (although that is pretty awesome). The best part is that the store will also give the women “buzzers” that remind them to collect their men after 30 minutes of play.

I could totally see women leaving men there. And I could totally see men saying “let’s see: stay here in Manland and keep playing pinball, or go home and put together the damn furniture she just bought over the next three hours.”
“I’m fine here, honey, I’ll take a cab home.”

A historic sports anniversary goes sadly unnoticed by most. An unfortunate intern injury. I am outraged by the Troy Davis case

One of the most important anniversaries in sports was Tuesday, Sept. 20.
It’s an anniversary I feel particularly strongly about, because I have met the woman involved several times and found her to be one of the classiest, most heartfelt people I’ve ever met.
On Sept. 20, 1973, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that was kind of like a day at the circus. It was played at the Houston Astrodome, where 45,000 people attended, and to say it was a hugely important day for women’s rights, and women’s athletes, is an understatement.
It’s easy to look back now and marvel at how it was such a big deal that 29-year-old woman in her athletic prime could whip a 55-year-old man on the court. (And I love the cheesy commercial above, which I found randomly on YouTube. God bless the Internet).
But it was a big deal. There were plenty of people back then who didn’t think King would win. But she did, easily.
Like I said, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing King a few times over the years, and she was nothing but gracious, eloquent, and kind. I would make the argument that she was the most influential female athlete/leader of the 20th century, and thanks to her millions more women were treated as serious athletes as the 20th century’s final decades rolled on.
So 38 years later, every female athlete playing today owes a small debt to Billie Jean King, truly a legend of our time.

**Here’s what can happen when you’re on the field at an NFL game. This poor intern for the New York Giants, Ryan Brown, was standing behind the end zone, minding his own business Monday night, when Giant Michael Boley scored a TD and tried to throw the ball over the cameraman. And he, eh, showed why he’s not a QB: (Boley later apologized to the kid).

**Maybe you’re familiar with the case of Troy Davis, a Georgia man sentenced to the death penalty and scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

Despite there being literally NO physical evidence, despite seven of nine eyewitnesses re-canting their testimony against him, despite there being NO evidence of any crime being committed against police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Ga., in 1989, the state parole board denied Mr. Davis clemency on Tuesday.

This is the country we live in. This is what happens when you have an irreversible act like the death penalty as an option.

The state of Georgia is about to execute a man who is very likely innocent. And the blood on the hands of everyone involved should leave a permanent stain.
Meanwhile, Rick Perry and his “fans” are probably standing and cheering right now.

Why the subway is the last true democratic experience in America. Larry Merchant is a bad-ass. And why “hurdle-cycling” is not a sport

This is one of my occasional ruminations about something that may or may not make sense.
Since I moved back to New York a few months ago, I’ve been riding the NYC subway system a lot. And the other day, while sitting among a very diverse group of people on the F train, I had a thought.
In just about every segment of our society, there are levels and status. You can buy your way into first class on an airplane. You can slip the maitre ‘d a $20 and get a better table.
You can buy first-class tickets to sporting events, you can cut your way through security lines at airports, yada yada yada.
But on the subway, we are all the same. I have seen men in Armani suits sitting on the train next to women wearing dirty and filthy clothes. I’ve seen people of all ethnic backgrounds holding onto the same bar so they don’t fall when the train stops short.
There is no status on the subway. There are no “preferred” cars, or benefits to be had. We all paid the same $2.25 to ride, and we all get treated the same way. And we’re all forced to be next to each other for the length of the trip.

Maybe I’m a romantic fool, but it’s one of the few truly democratic experiences we have as citizens. For just a few minutes, we’re all basically the same.

And I think it’s wonderful.

**I don’t care much about boxing anymore, but after a supposedly “big fight” Saturday night between the highly obnoxious Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz, I heard about this awesome postgame interview between Mayweather and HBO’s 412-year-old announcer Larry Merchant.
Two awesome things here, starting at 45 seconds in: The face Merchant makes at 1:00, and then his retort to Mayweather. (The clip just got pulled from YouTube, but you can watch the interview here.)

**Finally, there are some sports that just wouldn’t work. May I present to you why hurdling over barriers while on a bicycle is never a good idea…