Monthly Archives: November 2011

The man who returned stolen money, 60 years later. A happy ending to “60 Minutes” homeless kids story And the worst firing story possible

This is why I don’t think I could ever be a good criminal: I have a guilty conscience (also I’m 5-foot-6, and really dislike guns. That’s also why I’d be a bad criminal. But I digress).

Seems another fellow in Seattle had a conscience attack last week. The unnamed fella returned $100 to a Seattle Sears store, with a note that read:

“During the late [forties] I stole some money from the cash register in the amount of $20-$30,” the note read. “I want to pay you back this money in the amount of $100 to put in your theft account.”

Man, can you imagine carrying around the guilt for 60 years, then paying the store back? So many questions I have about this story: What made the guy finally decide to give the money back? How did he decide how much to return?

And what I really want to know is: What did he need the money for back in the 1940s? Transistor radio? Baseball cards? I’d love to sit down and talk to this guy.

**It’s rare to get such a quick happy resolution to a story that broke many hearts, but we got one Tuesday. One of the homeless families profiled on “60 Minutes” Sunday, which I wrote about and linked to here, was especially sad to hear about and listen to. Arielle Metzger, a 15-year-old girl,(above, right) was so poised and calm as she talked about living her car, and using gas station restrooms to get ready for school in the morning.

But thanks to the show, the Metzgers have gotten a ton of help since the show aired.  Several individuals have come forward offering the Metzgers a place to live, and the kids’ dad Tom has been offered a full-time job (he’d been unemployed).
I can’t stress enough how important it is for the media to keep shining a light on our most downtrodden fellow Americans. Millions of people in this country are just aching to do good, and when they see a story like the Metzgers, they are more than willing to pitch in and help.

I smiled all night once I read this. No kid should ever have to get ready for school in a gas station.

**Finally, I thought this was pretty heartless. The University of Akron decided to fire their football coach last week. Which was understandable, since head coach Rob Ianello was 2-22 in his first two seasons as coach. But you want to know how they did it? They called Ianello while he was on his way to his mother’s funeral.

I mean, really, Akron, you couldn’t have waited a day or two for the man to grieve? He had to be fired immediately, when you don’t have another game for like, 8 months?

Just despicable.

Thoughts on “Boardwalk Empire” and “Parenthood,” my two fave shows going in opposite directions. And a crazy hoops shot I’ve never seen

I have been grossly negligent on this blog in discussing my two favorite television shows right now, “Parenthood” and “Boardwalk Empire.” Both are still awesome and you should be viewing them regularly if you like great drama, terrific writing, and wonderful acting.
However, they’re going in opposite directions in terms of quality. Let’s start with the show that’s pissing me off and going downhill, at least a little bit.
“Parenthood” was so good during its first two seasons about not falling deeply into cliched storylines. Yes, Crosby the eternal bachelor sleeping with the nanny right after getting engaged to Jasmine was a little cliche, but the show handled it really well. Yes, Amber and Haddie fighting over the same boy could’ve been trite, but it was dealt with so beautifully (that scene from Season 1 of the girls at the gas station? So perfect).

But this year, even though a few storylines are still strong (I’ve grown to like the Julia adoption thing, and I’m loving shy boy Drew with his cute new girlfriend), “Parenthood” is torpedoing in the wrong direction. First it was terrible of Lauren Graham’s Sarah to invest so deeply again into her ex-husband’s alcohol issues, at the expense of her current boyfriend (played by John Ritter’s son Jason, who every woman I know thinks is really handsome). I just didn’t believe a man who had wronged her so much would engender Sarah’s support again.

But even that wasn’t as bad as this idiotic Adam/Kristina/hot new girl at work plot device going  on now. First of all, it was ridiculous and totally unrealistic that unemployed Adam, with a third kid on the way, would buy in with his dummy brother to a fading recording studio. But I got over that.
But now this new secretary kissing Adam, and him basically flirting with her for a few weeks, and then Kristina (whose character I intensely dislike, and Monica Potter is no great thespian in my book, either) going all crazy on Adam last week, accusing him of liking this new girl Rachel, and them throwing up this ridiculous roadblock in the marriage, just reeks of desperation and stupid cliche writing. No way in the world Adam would cheat on Kristina, we know too much about him already that he wouldn’t do that, and for her not to trust him at this point just stretches credibility (even when we consider she just had a baby).

Still, it’s a show worth watching just for Craig T. Nelson as Zeke and the adorable moments it gives us each week, like 6-year-old Sydney throwing a temper tantrum after losing a game for the first time. I love this show, but it’s been significantly worse this year.

Now on to HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” As good as it was in Season 1, this year has been even better. The transition of power in Atlantic City, as young Jimmy and his friends like Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano overthrow Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson, has been fascinating. The stunner of this last episode I totally did not see coming, and each week I wonder which of a thousand ways they’re going to take the show.

Buscemi is brilliant, but it’s the supporting players (injured war hero Richard, angry Philly butcher/bootlegger Horvitz, and an in-his-prime gangster Arnold Rothstein) who make “Boardwalk” so entertaining and fascinating. If you’ve never seen this show and have HBO, you have no excuse. Go watch a few episodes; you’ll thank me.

**Finally, check out University of Detroit guard Ray McCallum, who came up with a new way to score on Nov. 23 in a game against Austin Peay. Can’t say I’ve ever seen this before; man, if he could perfect this, it’d be an unbeatable H-O-R-S-E shot.

A thoroughly entertaining “Muppets” movie. The Jets almost kill me again. In a win. And a heartbreaking story about homeless kids

I had every expectation that I would the love new “Muppets” movie. Loved The Muppets as a kid, and had heard nothing but great things about this resurrection of the franchise.
I am so happy to report that “The Muppets” was fantastic. Brilliant. Filled with heart, humor and plenty of interesting story plot points to keep the kids and the adults laughing (in the theatre I was in, it was split about 50/50 kids to adults).
Jason Segel, who basically persuaded Disney to do another “Muppets” movie, is terrific. Amy Adams is great, and the new Muppet, Walter, is a great addition. I got misty-eyed when Kermit sang “The Rainbow Connection,” it’s the truth. Miss Piggy was as charming as ever.
There were also a few ingenious winks at the grown-ups in the crowd (Amy Adams had the best one of these, which I won’t spoil), and a genuine sense that this was a labor of love.

Can’t recommend the movie highly enough. Watching this film was like watching a family you loved getting back together.

**Another week, another Jets game that had me pulling my last remaining hairs out.  This time my boys in green and white did almost everything possible to lose (fumbling punts, throwing interceptions, forgetting to cover receivers) but pulled one out of their rears anyway, 28-24 over Buffalo.

Some quick-hit thoughts from the Jets’ roller-coaster win:
— Say this about Mark Sanchez: Every throw he makes is exciting for someone. Sometimes he throws it to the wrong team, but on just about every strike he hits somebody in the hands.  Sanchez again made some awful decisions Sunday, threw a terrible interception that led to a TD and easily could’ve had two or three more passes picked off. But the kid made two fantastic plays at the end (helped by a great catch by Plaxico) to help the Jets win. As my fellow die-hard friend David texted me after the win, that’s what makes Sanchez so infuriating. He clearly has the talent to be great, but I don’t know if he’ll ever put it together.
— Can anyone on the Jets catch a punt and not fumble? Anyone?
— Jets aren’t going to the playoffs. They’re just not very good. Sunday confirmed all that in spades.
— Forget about his ridiculous and classless and not all that funny end zone dance imitating Plaxico Burress. The reason Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson should be infamous today is because he dropped a wide-open possible TD pass on his team’s final drive. Brutal.

–Speaking of which, my man Bob Costas brilliantly called out these moron NFL celebration artists on “Sunday Night Football” in this scathing two-minute essay. Costas is 100 percent right.
A few more scattered NFL thoughts:
— Boy the Tim Tebow haters have to really be mad today. Another win for Denver’s wonderboy QB.
— Here’s something you don’t see every day: Chargers kicker Nick Novak, a short time before his missed FG at the end of the game that would’ve won it, decided to take a leak on the sideline.
He took a leak, then pissed away his team’s chances (Ba bum bump. I’m here all week. Try the veal.)

**Eight months ago, “60 Minutes” did a wonderful but heartbreaking story about homeless families in Central Florida, and what the true impact of this economic recession has been. Sunday night they caught up with the kids they were following. Things have gotten worse. Watch this and see what this recession has wrought: So many homeless children, with no end in sight.

An awesome outer space video. A do-or-die game for the Jets. And don’t mess with a kid’s Halloween candy

**Just so you know, expect a lengthy and detailed review of the awesome “Muppets” movie in Monday’s blog…

So even though the space shuttle program is being terminated, we can still get cool launch videos. Here is the Mars Science Laboratory Launch from Saturday at Cape Canaveral.

Still something that makes your jaw drop.

**Big game for my Jets today. I’m still pretty mad at them for that awful performance against Denver last week, but as always I still care and will probably watch today against Buffalo. Simply put, at 5-5 the Jets cannot lose more than one more game the rest of the season, if they hope to get to the playoffs. And losing to Buffalo would pretty much end the season. I have a feeling my boys will bounce back, but if they don’t, I’m going to be in an awfully bad mood Monday.

**So I’m a few weeks late on hearing about this story, but it frightened me greatly. A 10-year-old girl in Florida named Miesha Bryant was arrested and charged with a felony for striking her fifth-grade teacher, then threatening to kill the teacher, Kelly Sanchez.

Sanchez had confiscated Miesha’s Halloween candy bag until the end of the day, since Miesha had been playing with it. But Miesha was having none of it, and threw a serious temper tantrum, then punched Sanchez in the stomach.

Scary stuff for a 10-year-old to have that kind of rage in her.

A very strong defense of Obama with which I kind of agree. An awesome website about giving thanks. And the mystery of the JFK “umbrella man.”

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly did; it’s always my favorite holiday, thanks to being with loving family, and my Aunt Linda’s as-always simply magnificent cooking (though a shout-out to my cousin Marni for her delicious sweet-potato with pecans dish, mmmm good.)

We start today with President Obama, who I am thankful for, believe it or not. I do criticize the President quite a bit here on the blog, because liberals like me are often disappointed that he’s not liberal or progressive enough. But Andrew Sullivan, as he often does, has snapped me back into reality, and given me a dose of perspective, on our President. Obama actually has done quite a few good things in his almost three-year term so far, and I think sometimes we liberals forget that.

And hey, it could be a lot worse, I’m reminded every time I watch one of the GOP debates.

Check out Sullivan’s excellent take on Obama here.

**48 years ago last Tuesday, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I thought I’d seen and heard about every single detail of that awful day in Dealey Plaza, but this short video from the New York Times was really fascinating. It explains why, on a perfectly clear and sunny day on Nov. 22, 1963, one man stood in the crowd holding a black umbrella.

Really interesting, and worth five minutes of your time.

**Finally, a wonderful website in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Epicthanks.org has a very simple premise: You go on there, upload a photo of someone you’re thankful for, and then write a few sentences about why you’re so thankful.

Such a simple concept. But such an uplifting place to visit.

Little boys having fun with flour. The professor who demanded snacks from students. And the REAL victims of the NBA lockout: hookers

Let’s start today with a video of what can go wrong when two children get into a bag of flour. Man, what fun it was to be a 6-year-old and just throw stuff around the house. I love the boys’ innocent reactions here.

**I wish I had a professor like George Parrott, a psychology professor who made headlines last week at Sacramento State. Delightfully for entertainment purposes, he wasn’t in the news for winning a Nobel Prize or a big grant or something boring like that. Nope, Parrott is briefly famous because he walked out on his class when they forgot to bring snacks for everyone.

Seriously. Here’s the deal: Every semester, as part of a teamwork exercise and teaching the students how to learn to count on each other, Parrott asks the students to collectively supply snacks and baked goods for the class, twice during the semester.

Last week, when the students forgot, Parrott walked out of class and declined to teach the kids that day. He said it wasn’t about the food, it was about the students not working cooperatively, and not using teamwork.

Some people get kinda cranky when they don’t get their brownies, apparently. But seriously, Sacramento State students, isn’t a batch of chocolate chip cookies worth getting lectured to by the eminent Mr. Parrott?

What a windbag.

**Finally, I’ve talked before about the real victims of the NBA lockout: The concession stand workers, the parking lot attendants, the folks who own bars and restaurants near basketball arenas. But I’ve been overlooking the real victims here, the folks who are truly hurting.

That’s right, the escort services. We all know pro athletes love the ladies, and yeah, sometimes they pay money for their girls. And without NBA players paying between $400 and $4,000 per hour for their services (seriously, 4,000 an hour? For that money, the woman ought to also provide a scouting report on the next opponent, am I right?)

A 30 percent decline seems to be the magic number, even for Henry, who runs an escort service in New York that he says charges between $400 and $4,000 an hour, depending on the woman.

An owner of a N.Y. escort service named Henry said business is down 30 percent.

“There are replacement (customers) but they aren’t as consistent and not nearly as high paying,” Henry said.

Henry, I feel your pain. Nobody can throw money around on women like NBA players. David Stern, Billy Hunter, hear this man: Get your players back to work, so Henry’s ladies can get back to work.

The Muppets hit SNL, and soon a movie theater! A disgusting abuse of police power at UC-Davis. And “Sexiest Man Alive” confuses me.

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Yeah, I’m pretty damn excited about the new Muppets movie. More than excited; downright giddy.
Love the Muppets. Always have, always will. My favorite? Sometimes it’s Kermit, usually it’s Fozzie, and in the right moment, it has even been Animal.
I have been very impressed by how much the studio, Disney, has been promoting the movie, and all the trailers look really good, too. (Of course, I already love the Muppets and will see the movie regardless, so I’m probably not the target audience.)
Anyway, the film comes out this week and with star Jason Segel hosting “Saturday Night Live” last weekend, well, this happened. And it was awesome.

**There is a moment in every protest movement that galvanizes a country. I’m not so sure America is able to be moved in one direction anymore. But if we are, well, this ought to do it. At the University of California-Davis last Friday, police pepper sprayed a non-violent student demonstration. Watch as an officer of the law named John Pike calmly sprays dozens of students (11 were treated for injuries, and two went to the hospital) for absolutely no reason. There was no violence, Officer Pike was in no danger, and yet he casually decides to injure protesters who are sitting on the ground.

Disgusting and disgraceful doesn’t even begin to cover it. (Andrew Sullivan has a typically terrific take here.) This kind of behavior, this kind of police brutality, should not happen her in the United States of America. And yet it does. And watch how quickly people forget about this incident, and gloss it over.Please don’t.
Watch this video, and take a look at America.

**Finally, I am once again puzzled while standing in a supermarket checkout line. I see People has named Bradley Cooper the “Sexiest Man Alive. ” First, congrats, Bradley.
But I now am filled with questions. First of all, did all the previous winners die? Or have they been hideously disfigured in some kind of accident? Because I’d like to know what caused them to lose their title. If I’m Ben Affleck or Hugh Jackman (past winners), I’d like to know what’s made me less sexy.

Then I got to wondering about how “Sexiest Man Alive” is chosen. Is there criteria? A secret formula (even more secret than the Coke formula?) Do judges sit around in a conference room for hours, debating the hotness of Colin Farrell vs. Paul Rudd? Are there scores kept? Does it get violent, with one judge arguing for her man and another disagreeing?

These are the things I wonder about.

Eastwood makes “J. Edgar” a sympathetic love story. A NYC pizza chain question. And a 6-year-old feels my Jets pain

It’s very rare that a movie’s brilliance is overshadowed for me by its way too sympathetic portrayal of the main character.
But as I watched Clint Eastwood’s very good new biopic about longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called “J. Edgar,” I just couldn’t get past this: Hoover was a very bad, very dangerous, evil man, and in this movie he comes off WAY too benignly for my taste. For much of the film, we see Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hoover as a paranoid, power-hungry opportunist who takes credit for things he doesn’t do, bullies dozens of people, and generally acts like a jackass.

But quite a bit of the film shows Hoover’s longtime romance with fellow FBI agent Clyde Tolson (played wonderfully by Armie Hammer; seriously, both he and Leo should get Oscar nominations), and actually makes Edgar seem kind and gentle.

I know Eastwood’s a great filmmaker, and of course his politics can be whatever they want. But I sat in the theater silently steaming at what I thought as kind of a “pass” given to Hoover by ole’ Dirty Harry himself. Hoover spied on the Kennedys and MLK, helped Joe McCarthy ruin thousands of lives during the Red Scare of the early 1950s, and was generally an enormous blowhard. And I didn’t think we saw enough of that here.

Still, it was a really good movie. The action moved along well, the script was terrific, and like I said, DiCaprio and Hammer were both really solid. There are some beautiful moments between Hoover and his longtime secretary (played by Naomi Watts), and the makeup on DiCaprio as he aged was superb.

Still … J. Edgar Hoover was a small, awful man, and I hate seeing him glamorized on screen. I shouldn’t have let it bother me, but it did.

**A quick NYC pizza thought: There are 5,000 good New York pizza places in the five boroughs. Literally on almost every corner, you find a good joint to grab a slice.
And yet all over Manhattan Sunday I noticed a ton of Pizza Hut and Papa John’s signs. My question is this: With 5,000 really good pizza places around, who exactly is ordering chain pizza here? I mean, even a so-so NYC pizza shop is way better than chain pizza.

I just wonder how the heck they stay in business. On a related note, I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time Sunday night. Darn good eats.

**Finally, I didn’t watch much football Sunday so my thoughts are spare.
— Terrible loss to the Eagles by the Giants. Really, you couldn’t beat Vince Young at home?
— I am so looking forward to Lions-Packers on Thanksgiving. Detroit put up 49 Sunday, and we know the Packers’ defense is poor (despite them being 10-0). Should be a great game.
— Ray Rice: He’s good. Phillip Rivers? Not so much.
— Finally, I’ll leave it to the 6-year-old Jets fan to sum up how all of us in Gang Green nation are feeling today. I feel so bad for that kid; escape now while you have a chance!

Good-news Friday: The man who made 1 million free throws for charity. My 1 good news thought from Jets debacle. And saving the world from Nickelback


It’s time for another Good News Friday, and I’m going to start with a very dedicated man.

Two years ago Dave Cummings decided he wanted to do something special to help pay tribute to and raise money for American soldiers. So he vowed to make 1 million free throws over the next two years.  He raised nearly $70,000, made about 1,300 free throws a day, every day, for the last two years (think about how much of a time commitment that is, especially if you have a full-time job like Cummings did).

But the New Hampshire man did it, and on Veterans Day at the Basketball Hall of Fame, he sank foul shot No. 1,000,000.

A beautiful tribute to the troops. Check out the great NPR “Only A Game” radio show’s story on Cummings here.

**And on the Veterans theme, I continue to be touched by these awesome “surprise reunion” soldier videos …

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**It would be absolutely impossible for me to keep this “good news” thing going today and talk about last night’s disgusting Jets loss to Denver. The only good news for me out of this loss is I no longer think I’ll be watching the rest of the Jets season.

And now, back to the good news: How cute is this? A puppy giving a massage to a  cat. 

**Finally, this is good news to all who like good music. The horrid band Nickelback was scheduled to play the halftime show of the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers next week.
Correctly horrified, a Lions fan started an online petition asking the NFL and the team to book a better act. He got 50,000 signatures in a week!

Good music taste should win out. But alas, Nickelback will play anyway. Still, nice to see we can still mobilize large numbers of people around something really important: Not inflicting horrible music on America while we’re eating turkey.

Banks start arresting customers. An awesome wedding entrance video. And when octogenarians attack each other.

You may have heard there was a little kerfuffle at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York the other night. Mayor Bloomberg decided to kick the protesters out, temporarily, and no longer allowed them to pitch tents and sleep at the park, then let them back in. (I’m not really all that outraged about this; there are a million other places the Occupiers can make their voices heard in N.Y.)

While I’m still not sure if OWS will accomplish anything tangible, I thought this was very interesting. The great liberal blog Daily Kos put together a compilation of 10 stories of people trying desperately to take their money out of big banks, and not being allowed to. In a few cases, arrests were even made. Number 2 on the list (with video) was the most outrageous to me.

**You know I love unique wedding entrance videos here on the ole’ blog.  So when I saw this one on SI.com Wednesday, it took me all of three seconds to realize I’d be posting it here. At a New Jersey wedding over the weekend, a groom convinced his extremely-patient and understanding wife to allow he and his groomsmen to dress up as WWE characters and walk down the aisle to their entrance music. Fabulous. (It gets good about 2:30 in, and just keeps getting better.)

**You’re never too old to get revenge on a cheatin’ lover. That’s the message of this story, I think. An 87-year-old woman in Missouri named Dorothy Desjardins was convinced her 88-year-old husband was sleeping around. With her hairdresser, no less! So she did what she had to do:  She picked up his .22 Ruger gun and started waving it him, then fired a shot at him (it was unloaded, sadly for her).

Desjardins has now been charged with felony domestic assault. The lesson here? Even when you’re 88, you shouldn’t mess around with a woman’s hairdresser. That always gets out.