Monthly Archives: October 2011

Why I’m kind of a Scrooge about Halloween. Big wins for the Giants and Steelers. And despicable behavior from a foreclosure firm

Happy Halloween to all you kids out there, and grownups who still want to be kids and therefore celebrate this holiday.
Sorry to be a Scrooge about Halloween, but I don’t really get the big deal. Sure, as a child it was wonderful to go around to everyone’s house and get Snickers bars and Taffy and the granddaddy of them all, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and then come home and eat it all.
And yeah, I guess it was cool dressing up as Spiderman or Snoopy or Batman for one day.
But once you hit, I don’t know, 11, doesn’t Halloween just seem kind of silly? Ghosts and goblins and haunted houses and all that stuff?
I know what you’re thinking, that I had some Halloween childhood trauma in my past. But nope, nothing too bad ever happened to me at Halloween, beyond being pelted by eggs and shaving cream by kids.

I just don’t see the big hoo-ha about it. Maybe it’ll be different when I have kids. For now, I just see it as a sort-of made-up holiday.

But hey, if anyone has some 3 Musketeers they’re not eating, give me a call.
And now, for a very different take on Halloween, Mr. Jerry Seinfeld (it gets good about :45 in)

**Couple quick NFL thoughts on the Jets’ bye week, when I have the rare stress-free Sunday…
— Man, that would’ve been an embarrassing loss for the Giants. For three quarters they were getting badly beaten by the awful Dolphins. But then, Miami being Miami, the Giants were able to come back, as Eli Manning had a hell of a game.  The Giants are two games up in the NFC East, and I can’t for the life of me figure out if they’re a good team or not.
— Not sure if the Eagles are as good as they looked Sunday night, or the Cowboys are that bad. But that’s the Eagles team we’ve been expecting all year.
— Hey Tim Tebow fans, how’s that NFL starting gig treating your hero? Oy. Ugly for Timmy on Sunday.
—  I’m officially scared of the Buffalo Bills. I know the Redskins stink, but that was a hell of a dominating performance Sunday. Jets now play the Bills and Pats back to back the next two weeks. Oy. To win the division, my boys will have to win both. Not looking likely.

**The terrific politics writer John Harwood (who, like me, is a big Duke basketball fan, go Blue Devils) pointed me toward this story on Twitter the other day. It’s truly one of the most cold and heartless stories of employees belittling other people’s pain that you’ll ever see. A law firm near Buffalo, N.Y. called Stephen Baum specializes in foreclosures, often evicting people from their homes with little notice.
Last year, at the company’s Halloween party, employees dressed up as people they had evicted, mocking them with signs and dirty clothes. (that’s one photo of them, above)
This is apparently par for the course at this firm; read Joe Nocera’s excellent story and see how disgusting this business operates.
Laughing at people who can no longer afford their homes. That’s real classy.

A great ESPN doc on “The Real Rocky.” A very thorough doctor’s office. And if real life were like online shopping

Besides having one of the greatest nicknames in the history of boxing, Chuck Wepner, a.k.a., the “Bayonne Bleeder” has had a hell of an interesting life.
First he was a rising young heavyweight fighter from New Jersey, with a penchant for sporting crimson all over his face during his fights (hence the nickname). Wepner wasn’t a pretty fighter; he was a brawler who didn’t have a ton of natural talent, but had a lot of heart.
Then he was fortunate enough to fight the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, on March 24, 1975, and was 19 seconds away from going all 15 rounds with the champ, an incredible accomplishment (Wepner also knocked Ali down).
A young actor named Sylvester Stallone watched that fight, and was inspired to write “Rocky.” A little movie franchise you may have heard of.
Through the years, Stallone continued to rip off Wepner’s life story, and Wepner got not a penny from Sly. Eventually, ole’ Chuck got into some trouble with the law, went to prison, and finally decided to sue Stallone a few years ago for using his life story without any kind of financial payback.

It’s really a hell of an interesting life Wepner has led. ESPN just made a movie about him called “The Real Rocky,” and I highly recommend checking it out.
It’s hilarious, for one thing, as Stallone repeatedly credits Wepner for being his inspiration, befriends the fighter over the years, then suddenly changes his story when Wepner decides to sue. I mean, it’s astonishing how many parts of Wepner’s life are in the “Rocky” movies.

Not sure when “The Real Rocky” is on again, but I highly recommend seeing it. It’s a great story about a colorful character, back when boxing had such people.

**OK, tell me if you think this is extremely weird. I think it’s weird. So I just started with a new G.P., and made my first doctor’s appointment with her last week, on Wednesday, for an appointment Oct. 31.
And two days after making the appointment, I get a letter in the mail confirming said appointment. An actual snail mail letter from the postman.
Which was followed up by confirmation phone calls for the next three days. All over ONE appointment!
Do these people have a fear of abandonment or what? They wasted two pieces of paper to mail me a letter about an appointment I just made two days ago.
Somewhere, Al Gore silently weeps.

**Finally, this made me laugh. If real life shopping were like online shopping, this is what it would look like… Stick with it, it just gets funnier and funnier.

An incredible World Series game. A thought about police officers on rainy nights. And how Charlie Brown was drawn

That was one hell of a World Series game last night. Man oh man. I didn’t watch most of it since I had class Thursday night, but came back in to it in the 8th inning and got sucked in.

For Texas to be one strike away in the ninth, leading by two runs, only to have David Freese hit a game-tying two-run triple (on a ball Nelson Cruz should’ve caught, and won’t he be thinking of that the rest of his life), then to have the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, who has one of the most amazing life stories you’ll ever hear, hit a two-run homer in the 10th to put Texas back ahead … only to see the Rangers get 1 strike away again in the bottom of the 10th, only to see the Cardinals again tie it, and then win it in the bottom of the 11th on a Freese home run … insane.

A wonderful, heart-stopping, thrilling baseball game. The Series now comes down to Game 7, tonight, and I don’t know how Texas can possibly recover, emotionally, after Thursday’s heartbreak.

Man, baseball’s a beautiful sport sometimes.

**So this is something I’ve always wondered, and I’m going to throw it out here in case there are any police officers who read me on a regular basis (Hey, I have no idea who you people are, for the most part. I hope at least one officer can help).
When it’s a terribly cold and rainy night, like it was here in New York Thursday, do police officers write fewer traffic tickets? Because I’m thinking they really don’t want to be getting out of their car, checking meters and stuff like that, when it’s pouring.
Plus, tickets never stay on windshields in driving rainstorms, so then they’d have to go through all the hassle of drivers never paying tickets because they blew off the window.

Just wondering. My theory is that there are WAY less tickets written on rainy days. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

**Finally, I’m a big “Peanuts” fan, so I was very happy to stumble on this, something I’ve never seen before. It’s a short clip of Charles Schulz drawing Charlie Brown.
You never get to see a master at work, so enjoy…

The anti-choice movement tries to go even farther. A great Tony Romo joke. And THIS is how you do a political ad

I write about abortion quite a bit on this blog because A, I feel very passionately about this subject, and 2, because I cannot believe how far the anti-choice movement continues to go in the legal arena. Every time I think the zealots have gone as far as they can, they move the line a few more feet to the side of intolerance.

The latest blow comes in this New York Times article, which reveals that in Mississippi, Ohio, Florida and other states, a new “personhood” movement is afoot and gaining traction.
The most extreme of these laws on the ballot this year is in Mississippi, where all abortions, no matter the situation, would be banned since legally now, if this amendment passes, a fertilized human egg would be considered a legal person. Which means that any woman choosing to undergo an abortion would be committing murder, and she would be subject to criminal prosecution.

Absolutely, positively, 100 percent disgusting. And yet BOTH major party candidates for governor in that backwards-ass state have endorsed the amendment.
Can’t tell you how revolting this is. A woman who is raped and gets pregnant has an abortion, and then is arrested for the act and faces life in prison.
I know, I know, there’s no way that this kind of a law Mississippi is considering would hold up in court.
But once again, little by little, women’s rights continue to get trampled on. And the extreme right wing pushes the needle just a little farther toward insanity and intolerance.

**Speaking of pregnancy, this joke about Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys cracked me up. Those of you who follow the NFL will certainly appreciate it:

“Tony Romo’s wife is pregnant. I have no doubt he’ll be a great husband for the first two trimesters.”

**The other day I showed you a horrible Herman Cain ad. Now, for the other side of the coin, THIS is how you do a political ad. It’s for San Francisco mayor Ed Lee.

A wonderful invention for dog owners. A perfect analogy for teaching teenagers. And the bizarre Herman Cain ad.

We tackle ALL the important societal issues here on Wide World of Stuff.
Today, a subject near and dear to many of your hearts, I am sure.
If you’ve ever been a dog owner like I have, you know the absolute joy that is picking up your dog’s poop.

Sure, there are fancy tools that make it so you don’t have to really touch the poop, but it’s still kind of a yucky job.
But wait, now it’s gotten easier!  The people at Pauli Clean Tech have made a device called the AshPoopie. What’s it do? It turns your dog’s No.2 into odorless, harmless ash. Yes, your dog’s waste can instantly be made hygenic and inoffensive to all!

I actually think this is a great product. Although the above promotional video does lead to a few questions:  Could we really make signs like the one at :14, and make certain areas of our world poop-free? And they say it takes less than a minute to do. What do you do while you’re waiting for the transformation, watch the process itself? ‘Cause that could get nasty and gross.

Still, I applaud you, Pauli Tech. You saw a need in the marketplace and filled it. Now Fido’s feces can be sent away like dust in the wind.

**Speaking of dogs, the high school teacher I’m observing gave me a wonderful analogy a few weeks ago when I started coming to his class, and it hit me again Tuesday while I, for the second day in a row, tried to get the 33 kids I was teaching to you know, stop talking for FIVE SECONDS and listen.

He said to think of teenagers like puppies. You have to train them to follow instructions, be careful not to give them too much to remember at once, and constantly lead them from one thing to another, lest they get confused.

Sounds about right to me. I also have officially joined the “teacher club” in one area; I could hardly talk Tuesday night since my voice was nearly gone, from teaching the last couple of days. Guess I gotta stock up on honey and herbal tea…

**Finally, I know it’s early in the presidential campaign season, but if there’s a weirder ad than this one from Herman Cain’s campaign manager, I’ll be stunned.
Seriously, what the hell were they thinking with this one? I love the part at 41 seconds where he just smokes in front of the camera.

The silver anniversary of the Buckner game. More proof life in 2011 is awesome. And another disgraceful newspaper exec

There was a great World Series game Monday. Texas beat St. Louis 4-2, and I have to admit I was captivated during the final innings, partly because I so enjoy watching Tony La Russa overmanage and ruin his team’s chances on a regular basis (I hate La Russa. Probably irrationally so. But I just think he’s a pompous ass who’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. Also anyone notice that all-world superstar Albert Pujols has only gotten a hit in ONE of the five games played so far?)

But today I want to talk about a different World Series game. One that happened 25 years ago today.
Game 6. 1986. Mets. Red Sox. Bill Buckner.
I don’t think I have to say anymore. Even though I’ve always been a Yankees fan, I remember where I was that night. I was watching the game with my Dad in my parents bedroom (I was 11), and when the Sox took the lead 5-3, my Dad gave up on the game and went to sleep, while I stayed in the room to watch (my parents’ room had the good TV back then).

As the Mets started to come back, I woke him. When the Mets tied the game, I think all of New York was awake and screaming. And then poor Bill Buckner let the ball go through his legs, and became a totally unjustified goat all these years (Why don’t Sox fans blame Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley just as much for the loss?).

It was one of the greatest moments in New York sports history.  You’ve all seen the Buckner clip 1,000 times, so I put the next best thing up above: An RBI Baseball re-creation of the inning, synced perfectly to Vin Scully’s wonderful play by play.
And Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal wrote this excellent piece on memories from 25 years ago.

And of course, since Keith Hernandez is involved, how can I not show this? Maybe the funniest “Seinfeld” scene ever.

(And while we’re talking about Bill Buckner, a chance for me to plug books by my boy Jeff Pearlman (who’s on the NY Times bestseller list this week for his Walter Payton bio, whoo-hoo!), who wrote this fabulous tome on the 1986 Mets a few years ago. If you know a Mets fan or are one, check it out if only for the story about Rafael Santana peeing on a teammate’s head while passed out drunk on a bus. Truly epic.)

**So my sister calls me Monday night. She just got Verizon Fios cable TV service, which I’ve had for a few months.
“Did you know you can order from Cherry Valley (an awesome local deli where we live) through the TV?”
“No way” I shouted.
I then checked it out and within five minutes I was able to order a pastrami on rye (if I was hungry, which I wasn’t).
You can order food through your TV remote control and have it delivered to your door. Screw the iPhone, this is better!

Can’t wait until mid-December when it’s -12 degrees out and I order food through my TV.

**You know, I thought once I was out of the newspaper business full-time, stories like this would cease to anger me so. But nope. There are a lot of reasons my beloved journalism industry is dying, but sheer corporate greed is often overlooked.

Yet check out how the ex-CEO of Gannett made out upon retirement. This is a man, Craig Dubow, who fired thousands of employees and single-handedly helped ruin some wonderful newspapers.

Just despicable.

A huge win for the Jets, Tebow-mania begins, and other NFL thoughts. The play of the year in college FB. And politicians + science = hilarity

I knew they were in there somewhere.

After six games of my New York Jets looking very little like the fabulous 2010 team, the 2011 Jets showed up big-time in the second half of Sunday’s win over San Diego.
Man, my heart could barely take it. But this time the drama was worth it. My boys rallied from 21-10 down to convincingly beat the Chargers, 27-21.
Some quick-hit thoughts on a victory that may vault the Jets into a strong run at the playoffs:
— OK, Plaxico Burress, you’re still an idiot for shooting yourself in the leg three years ago. But you earned your Jets salary Sunday. Three TD catches, each one a thing of beauty.
— Mark Sanchez, you’ve taken a lot of (well-deserved) criticism from Jets fans and media this year. But except for one really poor throw in the first quarter, you played very well Sunday. Excellent touch on the Burress passes, good poise in the pocket, and he ran for a huge first down late in the 4th quarter.
— ‘Bout time the Jets running game showed up. Huge day for Shonn Greene. Again, please.
— Philip Rivers is a terrific quarterback. But why does he always seem to shrink at crunch-time? And how good is Darrelle Revis?
— Such a strong game for the Jets in the tackling dept. Seems like they missed way fewer than they had the last few weeks.
— 4-3 now, with a bye, then Buffalo on the road and New England home. Gotta at least split those. Win them both, and suddenly a division title is back in play…
See how quickly I can get giddy after a big win?

Some other NFL thoughts from Sunday…
I could hear the screaming from my old state of Florida Sunday, as the most popular man in state history, Tim Tebow, won his first NFL start. Who cares that he was awful for the first 56 minutes of the game against Miami? The Bronco signal-caller led his team to an 18-15 overtime win.
Truly readers, unless you’ve lived in Florida, you cannot fathom how huge that man is in the state. God-like status doesn’t even begin to cover it.
— Hey Carson Palmer, great debut! Three interceptions for the Raiders.
— Sixty-two to 7. That was an NFL score Sunday. Saints over Colts. Oy.

**Check out how nuts this final play of the Michigan State-Wisconsin football game was on Saturday night. Game tied at 31, final play of regulation, the Spartans throw a Hail Mary and watch the craziness ensue. Oh yeah, instant replay is a great thing…

**Finally, my best friend Clay sent me this and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s a story from Scientific American magazine, and it details the many, many ways that politicians and celebrities have royally screwed up talking about science over the years.
Seriously, public figures talking out of their you know where should just be quiet and stick to what they know.

My favorite of these wonderful, horrible quotes?

Sally Kern, Oklahoma State Rep. (R), presenting some skewed social statistics:

“Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country.”—March 11, 2008

Generation X (my people!) responds to the current whiners. And the streaker who dressed as a referee

If you are in my generation (between the ages of 32-39), I think you will find this as awesome as I did.
It’s a blog post from a guy named Mat Honan, on gizmodo.com, called “Generation X is sick of your bullshit.”
Read it and nod, as we 30-somethings have to listen to hearing about how bad this new generation has it.

**And now, for some mindless streaker fun. Check out this guy at the UCLA-Arizona game Thursday night, dressed as a referee, running onto the field, and then taking all his clothes off.
Then, while that was going on, a huge brawl among the players broke out. Check that out here. 

The Ohio animal tragedy makes me sad. Qaddafi bites the dust. And the best 12 and under band in America

So a day after that insane story from Ohio about the man who let all the animals out and then killed himself, I am left brimming with questions.
I cannot fathom why Terry Thompson, a 62-year-old Zanesville, Ohio man,  would release 56 animals from his farm before killing himself on Wednesday.
Why, why, why would he do this? Was he trying to inflict damage on the world? Trying to free his animals, though he had to know that most of them would have to be killed?
Was he angry at the animals, for some reason? Such an unbelievably reckless and dangerous thing to do.
This story from the Cincinnati Enquirer says that Thompson was deeply in debt. But to do something like this?
I just don’t understand it. A man who loved animals as much as Thompson did, I can’t understand how he would do something like this.

It’s a small miracle that people weren’t seriously injured by the Bengal Tigers or the grizzly bears, or any of the other animals. The scene there on Wednesday was beyond chaotic, with animals roaming the streets and approaching cars.

What an awful, awful mess. So many animals killed, needlessly, because of the reckless and stupid act of one troubled man.

**So Muammar Gaddafi was killed Thursday, in pretty gruesome fashion, according to this riveting New York Times story. He was beaten by a mob, and executed at close range.

Let’s see now. In the last few months Osama bin Laden has been killed. Gaddafi’s gone, too, and Mubarak in Egypt has been exiled.
And yet Fidel Castro, 432 years old, still lives in Cuba. How in the world Castro has lived this long is truly incredible.
He and Keith Richards clearly know something the rest of the world don’t know.

**This video has been on YouTube for more than two years, but I saw it for the first time thanks to Bill Simmons’ Twitter feed. (Follow me on Twitter here.)
It’s a group of musicians 12 years old and younger, in a band called Recess doing “Separate Ways” by Journey.

And it is nothing short of awesome.

Thoughts from a high school classroom. The best of “very special” episodes. And an obit on Thomas Edison

As part of my grad school experience/quest to become a high school English teacher, I’ve been spending quite a few hours in a New York City public school the last few weeks.
This fall I’m required by Queens College to observe/teach 100 hours in a classroom setting.  I was assigned to a fairly new high school (which I won’t name to protect the innocent and the guilty) that’s clean and fresh and all kinds of modern.
And the kids? Well … a few quick thoughts from my first few weeks of watching a pair of 9th grade English classes:
— All I’ve heard in the last 15 years is how much “smarter and more world-savvy” kids today are. Not so much. The kids I’m seeing seem really, really sheltered.
— Felt pretty ancient when a 14-year-old referred to me as “Old Dude” the other day. Laughing, I asked him how old he thought I was. “Ummm, 50?” (I’m 36).
Sigh. I think it’s the hair loss.
— Sitting in on teacher’s meetings and hearing them bitch about their students made me wonder how my teachers used to talk about me.
— I’ve gotten to see some very good teachers up close, who have left me kind of in awe. I’ve got a LONG way to go until I’m good at this.
— The lack of respect kids have for their teachers is one thing I expected. But lack of respect for each other? Kind of sad.
— It’s been three weeks and I haven’t wanted to kill any of the students in my classes yet. That’s a good thing, right?
— Finally, I can’t say enough about how prepared and on point most of the teachers in my school seem to be. This is such a hard profession, and the more I see it up close, the more scared I get.
But then, that’s how I felt at the beginning as a journalist. So maybe it’ll pass.
Or, you know, I’ll go crazy in five years and write a bestselling book called “How I escaped from the classroom before turning into a mass-murderer.”

**Don’t know about you, but a staple of my childhood was the sitcom “Very Special” episode. Not sure how intentionally cheesy these were meant to be, but man, they were horrendous. I particularly remember a “Growing Pains” episode involving Mike Seaver and some cocaine that sparked a drug talk from my mother back in the late 1980s.

Anyway, some brilliant Internet person put together this three-minute compilation of the best of the “special” episodes. It’s fabulous.

** I came across this the other day on Twitter and thought it was fascinating, especially in light of all the Steve Jobs obit worship. Here’s an obituary of Thomas Edison from October 18, 1931, from the New York Times. Truly amazing to think of all that man accomplished.