Monthly Archives: February 2012

A field trip to the Bronx Zoo: a whole different perspective as a teacher. A sweet V-Day love story. And the world’s first gold-medal stand marriage proposal

Passed another “new teacher in training” milestone Tuesday: Went on my first field trip as a grown-up.
As I’m now in week three of my student-teaching experiment (I mean, training session), it seemed like it was inevitable: I’d be tested on that most exciting day for schoolchildren everywhere: a trip off the grounds.

And so with two other “real” teachers, I helped lead 26 seventh-graders to the Bronx Zoo, a cool field trip for any age group.
First, the good news: I didn’t lose any of the kids. I didn’t accidentally bump any of them into the monkey exhibit or into the lion’s cages (we didn’t actually see any lions, but we heard them.)
As a kid, of course, I loved field trips. A few hours away from the dreariness of school, where I could talk to my friends, see new things, and just shake up the monotony of the regular schedule.
As a teacher, though, field trips look a lot different.

A few things I noticed on my first trip as a teacher:
— Forget about what you’re seeing or what the guide is saying: Your No. 1 goal is to make sure every kid is within sight at all times. So when a boy and girl suddenly decided to drift a little bit, I was there to rein them in. My job Tuesday was to be the “back of the line” guy, making sure everyone stayed up with the group. Which means I constantly found myself saying “Come on, don’t fall behind” and “stay with the class!”

— You really learn a lot at the zoo if you pay attention. Unlike as a kid, when you really are just there to see the animals, I actually listened and gathered a lot of info today. Our hosts Joe and Amanda were super informative.
— One of the kids compared a long-necked ostrich who looked particularly mean to their dean at school. I had to work really hard not to laugh.

In all, it was a good day, and a chance to get to know the students outside of class. Plus, two monkeys looked like they were kissing. So that was interesting.

**Came across this story on Twitter Tuesday and wanted to pass it along. It’s a sweet Valentine’s Day story about an opera singer and the toll booth collector she saw every morning in upstate New York, and their unlikely love affair.

See? If she had an E-Z-Pass, they never would have met and fallen in love. My favorite part of the story is that he took her to see the awful flick “Cool Runnings” on their first date. Quite the romantic!

**I thought this was very sweet and unique. Olympic swimmer Matt Grevers had just won a gold medal at the Missouri Grand Prix (a fairly minor event) when he decided to propose to his longtime girlfriend Annie. While on the medal stand. (Fast forward to :40 for the good part.)

Bravo, Matt. Way to do something no one had ever done before. (I also love how he asks the silver medalist to move out of the way in the beginning.)

A heroic U.S. women’s boxer overcomes a horribly abused childhood. A sweet Valentine’s Day thought and video. A scary father shoots his daughter’s laptop.

Sometimes you read a story and truly appreciate how powerful the human spirit is, and all that it can overcome.

Quanitta Underwood is one of the top female amateur boxers in America, and this week she’s competing at the Olympic Trials for a shot at the 2012 London Games, the first time that women’s boxing will be sanctioned as a sport.

Her path to success is remarkable considering the childhood she overcame; her father molested both Quanitta and her sister over a period of years. This story in the New York Times from Sunday, beautifully written by Barry Bearak, tells Quanitta’s saga from every angle, and how she suffered for years in silence before finally breaking free. (The father went to prison, but not nearly for long enough.)

Read this story please; it’s most definitely the best thing you will read all week, and worth 15 minutes of your time.

**Between stories of terrible parents today, a moment to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. If you’re lucky enough to have someone who loves you and wants to share the day with you (as I am; incredibly excited to spend my first V-Day with the wonderful woman I’ve been dating), I hope you have a terrific time.

To celebrate, I give you one of my favorite romantic clips from a movie or TV show, ever. If you’re a fan of the show “How I Met Your Mother,” you’ll recognize this immediately. If you’re not, here’s the quick premise: A guy named Ted really likes a woman named Stella, but she told him she had no time for a date; she only had “two minutes” for lunch, usually.

So, Ted took her on a 2-minute date. This is brilliantly clever and oh so sweet:

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**Finally, from one awful parent to one who’s just plain crazy. A man named Tommy Jordan found a post his 15-year-old daughter Hannah put on Facebook, in which she curses her parents and complains about her life (sounds about typical for most teens).

Tommy, however, was enraged, so he posted this YouTube video in which he reads his daughter’s post, rips her to shreds, and then actually shoots her laptop full of holes from his .45. (The gunplay starts around the 7:20 mark, but trust me, this whole video is fascinating.)

Seriously, he shoots her laptop. This video has been viewed 22 million times on YouTube, and incredibly, there are plenty of people who support Mr. Jordan.

Seems like child abuse to me. He ought to be arrested, and ashamed of himself.

R.I.P. Whitney Houston, a supreme talent whose talent wasted away. The glue that looked like Homer Simpson. And when you interview the wrong people, hilarity ensues

When I first heard on Saturday that Whitney Houston had died, my first reaction wasn’t shock. It was a resigned sigh, tinged with sadness but also with a feeling of “well, this was bound to happen sooner or later.”
I thought it was sad that I felt like that. That a 48-year-old woman with a voice like an angel would die suddenly, and I wasn’t really surprised at all.
That’s because for all of Whitney Houston’s extraordinary talent, and wonderful accomplishments (six Grammy awards, 170 million albums sold), she had been, for the last 10 years of her life, a drug addict, an object or ridicule and occasional pity, and a shining example of wasted talent.

Oh, I know she didn’t completely waste her talent; she had immensely popular songs like the beautiful “The Greatest Love of All,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Saving All My Love For You.”
But in the prime of her life, when she could’ve been doing so much more, she faded away thanks to the scourge of drug addiction and a terrible marriage to the volatile Bobby Brown. For more than a decade Houston’s talent, drive and ambition faded away, and we were left with only memories of what once was. She became a punchline, a reality TV trainwreck playing out before our very eyes.

I have no idea if friends and family tried to help her get clean; you’d be surprised at how lonely celebrities can often be.  But whether she got help or not, nothing worked.

Such an incredible waste. There’s a great line from the movie “A Bronx Tale” that says: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

Whitney Houston didn’t waste all her talent. In her prime, there was no one better at stirring emotions in you (watch her performance at the 1991 Super Bowl here and try not to get chills). But she could’ve done so much more with her life, and been so much more.

What an absolute shame.
If you missed it, here was the lovely tribute at the Grammys to Houston Sunday night.

**A man in England named Christopher Herbert found a blob of glue that he says looks exactly like Homer Simpson.
So he put it on eBay, and it sold for $239,000 last week.

I don’t even have a joke here. I think the story speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

**This cracked me up; a local TV morning anchor thought she was interviewing two people, but it turns out there had been a booking screwup and something, and, well, these people showed up.
Enjoy the awkwardness…

Good News Friday: Will Ferrell reinvents the P.A. announcer job, hilariously. Big Man’s nephew to play with E Street Band. And Jeremy Lin, the NBA’s Harvard superstar

To start off Good News Friday, here’s Will Ferrell, being Will Ferrell. He was the guest P.A. announcer at the New Orleans Hornets-Chicago Bulls game Wednesday night, and here was his hilarious performance. I love the Bulls’ introductions better, but the Jarrett Jack one from the Hornets is awesome, too.

**Next up we have some great news from the world of Bruce Springsteen. No, it’s not that he’s excited that I’m going to see him for the first time ever (whoo-hoo, can’t wait until April 9).
It’s that as many hoped, he has decided to tap a relative to fill the enormous shoes of Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, the hugely important saxaphone player in the E Street Band who passed away last year.
Jake Clemons is an accomplished saxaphone player in his own right, and has played with the E Street Band before. I’m sure he’ll do an awesome job, though there’ll only ever be one “Big Man.”

**I loathe just about everything about the New York Knicks, but it’s impossible not to love this Jeremy Lin story. Lin is a Knicks rookie guard who was cut by two other teams and buried on the Knicks bench for the last several weeks, only to finally get a chance to play last week.

He’s responded with three straight awesome games, scoring 20 or more in each, and leading the Knicks to a trio of wins. But Lin’s story is even better: He’s from Harvard, which doesn’t exactly produce a bevy of NBA players. He’s a great kid who totally deserves all the attention he’s been getting.

Here’s a great take on Lin and his background from SI in 2010, and a new story from the N.Y. Times’s Howard Beck on the Asian star.

An incredible Duke comeback win over UNC. Kansas anti-abortion legislation is outrageous. And the car that drives itself.

I have no idea if any of this is going to make sense.

It’s been 45 minutes since the most improbable Duke win over North Carolina in my lifetime, and my heart rate is only now starting to slow down.
Pick an adjective. Any adjective. Insane. Ridiculous. Unbelievable.
It all applies. With just over two minutes to go in the game, North Carolina, who had dominated all night and is definitely the better team this year, was up 82-72. I had a few hundred words about this painful Duke loss already written (which thankfully I’ve now deleted; lost to the dustbin of history), but suddenly Tyler Thornton of the Blue Devils hit a 3, and then Seth Curry hit a 3 (yeah, he traveled on the play, so what), and we had a ballgame again.

And then Austin Rivers, son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, comes down with two seconds left and unleashes a 22-footer from the right side of the court.

Swish. 3-pointer. Duke wins. 20,000 UNC fans at the Dean Dome eerily silent.

And yours truly leaped up from my perch two feet from the television, on the floor, clutching a pillow (that’s my default position for when one of my teams is in a tight game) and screamed “Holy (bleep)” about 15 times in a row. My die-hard hoops fan friend Tony called. We both screamed that two word epithet into the phone to each other a few times, too.

I probably woke up my landlord. But who cared? Duke had just beaten North Carolina. Austin Rivers entered the Duke pantheon.

Believe me, I know Duke still has a ton of problems. They couldn’t rebound at all tonight, their defense was poor, and they missed way too many free throws.
But Carolina couldn’t put ’em away, and missed just enough shots at the end to keep Duke alive.

What a win. What a rivalry, the best in all of the land.
God I love sports sometimes.
Off to sleep. Yeah, right.

Another week, another insanely offensive anti-abortion law going through the motions in a state.

The state of Kansas took up a bill Wednesday that would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld, from women, personal medical information to prevent an abortion.

In other words, a doctor would be completely free from a lawsuit if he decided to withhold certain pertinent information from his patient. From his patient!

According to the Huff Post story linked above, among the most contested provisions of the bill is the section that would exempt a doctor from a medical malpractice suit if a woman claims the physician withheld information about potential birth defects to prevent her from having an abortion.

How abhorrent and heartless would a doctor have to be to do that?

The measure would also, among other things, remove tax deductions for the purchase of abortion-related insurance coverage, and force women wanting an abortion to hear the fetal heartbeat.

And oh yeah, the law would require that women be told about potential breast cancer risks from abortions, even though there has been NO medical science backing up a link.

Truly repulsive and disgusting stuff. Kansas, of course, has been a battleground state in the pro-choice and anti-choice wars for years.
Just when I think the anti-choice zealots can’t go any further, they push their agenda a few more yards…

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** I love futuristic stuff like this. From comes a quick video and story about the car that will drive itself.

I don’t believe for a minute this will ever actually become a regular thing. But for  less-than-great drivers like myself, I think it would be awesome.

We are getting closer and closer to “The Jetsons,” aren’t we?

Prop 8 overturned in California; Supreme Court up next? Once again, it’s time for Duke-Carolina. And the inspiring story of ALS patient Steve Gleason

And now, to the Supreme Court.

I guess it was kind of inevitable that the controversial Proposition 8 law in California, enacted several years ago to ban marriage between gay people, would end up in the hands of the nine most important judges in the United States.

Tuesday, yet another blow was struck for equality. The California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, setting the stage for a fight in Washington, D.C. to hopefully settle this issue once and for all.

The Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case, of course. But I think it will, and it’ll come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who on this right-leaning court is the best hope for a swing, “moderate” vote.

I hope this issue does get aired before the Supreme Court. I get sick and tired of saying it, but the continued discrimination against gay and lesbian people in our society is a disgusting, antiquated blot on our country that decades from now, future generations will shake their head at.
Good for the California Supreme Court. One more court to go, and then maybe, we can stop arguing about whether two people who love each other should be able to legally say they’re bound together forever.

For more on the ruling, check out this excellent summary here.

**Tonight. Duke-Carolina. My favorite hyphenated phrase in the world, I look forward to the first game between the two college basketball rivals more than any other every year. It’s the greatest rivalry in all of sports, and I’ll keep on believing that until my dying day.

Not feeling too optimistic about my Blue Devils’ chances tonight; Duke has had an erratic season so far; there’s no leadership on this team, the guard play has been spotty (for every solid game Austin Rivers plays, he throws in a clunker; Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry, you too), and the Tar Heels are loaded and rolling. Sunday, my Blue Devils missed six FT’s in overtime and lost to a not-that-great Miami team, in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Tonight’s game could get ugly for the boys in dark blue. But I’ll be hoping for the best and going nuts between 9 and 11 p.m. If you’re a sports fan, you really ought to watch.

**Finally today, a tragic but a bit heartwarming story you may have seen on the Super Bowl pregame show. Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2010; for my money it’s the positively worst disease you can come down with. Gleason has a wonderfully positive attitude despite his fatal diagnosis; watch his story and be inspired…

The great Curtis Martin goes into the Hall of Fame, but Parcells stupidly left out. OK Go rocks my world, again. And a very creepy, offensive political ad

There are some music videos that transcend music. That go so far beyond what’s normal in music that you watch them and just see your jaw drop to the floor.

That’s what OK Go does to me. And I’m sure, to you too if you’ve seen them. They were featured on this Chevy Sonic ad during the Super Bowl, but that’s not why I’m writing about them here. No, the reason I’m in awe is because of this video my wonderful girlfriend directed me to; it’s OK Go’s latest song “Needing/Wanting,” and it’s shot in a way I’ve never seen a video done before.

Combining with Chevy, the band set up more than 1,000 instruments in a desert in Los Angeles, hooked up a Chevy Sonic with special pneumatic arms that could play those instruments, and, well, just look at this. I watched it three times and am still astounded.

**I’m not one of those sports fans who gets all riled up about the Hall of Fame. I don’t get mad when a guy I loved doesn’t make it in baseball or football, don’t stomp my feet at the silliness of a player I think is mediocre or unworthy (I’m looking at you, Bruce Sutter) gaining the highest honor an athlete or coach can receive.
Still, Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement left me both very excited and pretty annoyed.
Excited because maybe the best New York Jets player of all time was elected to the Hall. Curtis Martin was an enormous part of the Jets’ resurgence in the late 1990s, and his skills as a running back were among the best in NFL history.
Martin didn’t wow you with breakaway speed, or bowl you over with his size. He was just amazingly consistent at making yards after the hit, and he’s the fourth-leading rusher of all-time.
He’s also universally regarded as a class act, never one to complain and as humble as anyone you’d ever meet. So happy that on a weekend that was tough for us Jets fans (our biggest rival playing the Big Brother in our city in the Super Bowl), good ole’ No. 28 was rightfully honored.
But then, I was totally puzzled that Bill Parcells was not elected to the Hall. I can’t believe there’s even a debate about the Tuna. He basically saved three franchises (Jets, Giants, Patriots) from their losing ways and brought them to the top (or in the Jets case, almost the top). He was an innovator, an absolutely mesmerizing presence who inspired his teams to play above and beyond their ability.

Was he a jerk to the media, and a blowhard much of the time? Absolutely. Did he prove to be a serial liar, claiming time and again to be retired only to come back and coach? Yep. But he was also one of the best coaches in NFL history. And for him not to make the Hall was pretty ridiculous.

**Finally, the latest really creepy political ad of the season comes courtesy of Republican Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, running for the Senate there. Besides the awful Asian stereotype evidenced by the woman’s voice (and the fact she’s supposed to be a Chinese peasant), it’s just a terrible ad. Probably helped Stabenow raise some money today, though.

Another remarkable Super Bowl, as Eli and the Giants do it again. Madonna gets it done at halftime. And the man who drove a Zamboni, drunk

Remember when Super Bowls stunk? When every year we’d get blowout after blowout?
Yeah, seems like an awfully long time ago. Sunday night, in a room filled with Giants fans both old and recent (as of a few hours earlier), I watched the latest in a recent series of scintillating Super Bowls.
So much drama, so much excitement, and once again, Eli Manning and his mates sticking it to the New England Patriots again, denying Coach Hoodie and the pretty-boy quarterback their fourth Super Bowl, 21-17.
What a thrilling contest. You can’t ask for anything more than the ball in the air, on the last play of the game, with the outcome in doubt. If Rob Gronkowski had come down with that Hail Mary, I think the Internet would’ve exploded and so might the heads of all Giants fans.

Some quickie thoughts on the game, before I get to halftime and the commercials:
— Eli Manning now has more Super Bowl wins than Peyton Manning. That blows my mind. Dude is just beyond clutch. He was terrific early, had some lulls later, but in the fourth quarter he took his team down the field like he’s done all year. It was so reminiscent of the Super Bowl from four years ago, I half expected Plaxico Burress to come limping out onto the field.
— No other way to say it, but the Pats offense choked in the 4th quarter. From Wes Welker dropping what could’ve been an almost game-clinching pass, from Brady underthrowing Gronkowski deep, from the drops on the final drive, New England came up very small in the final minutes.
— That Ahmad Bradshaw game-winning touchdown was awfully strange. It looked like he realized the Pats were trying to let him score, tried to stop himself from scoring at the 1 yard line, then fell into the end zone. It was a brilliant call by Coach Belichick to let the Giants score, and not let them run the clock all the way down and kick a winning field goal. If the Pats had won, Bradshaw wouldn’t have slept for months.
— That catch by Mario Manningham (above) was sick. Incredible.

And now, for my Madonna and commercial thoughts:
— I got two of the three Madonna “old” songs correct in our little party’s guessing game, for what that’s worth. I thought the Material Girl did really well, generally; the costumes didn’t do much for me, and she looked like she was moving a lot slower than she used to (well, she IS 53 years old now), but I thought it was a pretty solid show.
I missed the now-famous M.I.A. middle-finger salute during the performance; frankly I had no idea who M.I.A. was so hey, good job getting a little more famous, lady!
— I liked several of the ads Sunday; the Skechers one with Mark Cuban and the dog was really good, and I loved Budweiser “Prohibition” and the E-Trade baby ad as well. The Fiat ad with the woman was pretty great, too.
But my favorite was the one above, the dog in the Volkswagen commercial. Great stuff.

**I always love these kinds of stories, especially during hockey season. A Minnesota man was arrested last week for driving while intoxicated.

His vehicle of choice? A Zamboni. Yep, Joel Bruss, 34, of Apple Valley, Minn. was apparently driving erratically, as witnesses saw his Zamboni careen across the ice and bounce off the sideboards.

Read the rest of the glorious details here. As for Joel, well, all I can tell him is this: next time pal, don’t drink and ice-clean.

Another Good News Friday: The world’s prettiest bookstores. A dog gives you your receipt. NYC Mayor steps up, big-time.

This week’s dose of good news starts with one of my favorite places to visit in all the world: A bookstore.
Sure, they may be dying a slow death, but check out this fantastic gallery of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world. The one above is my favorite (it’s in China), but all of these are just spectacular.

**If you believe dogs are getting smarter and will one day take over the world, you’ll probably be impressed with this video. Check out this golden retriever and his, um, secretarial skills at this doctor’s office:

**Finally, I wrote about my strong feelings on the Susan G. Komen Foundation stripping its funding from Planned Parenthood in Thursday’s blog,  but there is some happy news to report on this front today.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who as a whole I feel has done a good job as mayor (his re-writing of the city laws to allow himself to serve a third term notwithstanding), has stepped up big-time. He has pledged to donate $250,000 in matching donation money to Planned Parenthood to help make up the loss of funds. In other words, for every $1 PP raises he will match it, up to a quarter of a million dollars.

“Politics have no place in health care,” he said in a statement. “Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.”

I’m a proud resident of New York City today, Mr. Mayor.

If it’s election season, than the GOP “hearts” Israel. A fantastic new business idea from a college student. And A terrible move by Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Well, here they go again. Every time a presidential election comes around in America, we get to listen to members of the Republican party talk about how much they love Israel.
There’s Mitt Romney waxing poetic about his love for Jerusalem, saying time and again that “there shouldn’t be an inch of difference” between the U.S. and Israel. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, the whole lot of them, going on and on about how much they love the Jewish nation.

And quite frankly, Democrats do it too. It’s always a contest in an election year to see who can smooch Israel more. And I think it’s ridiculous.

Should the U.S. be a strong ally of Israel? Of course. But this blind, slavish devotion that these politicians show Israel is really, really misguided. NO nation should be 100 percent blindly loyal to another. And I have to tell you, I didn’t think it was possible, but Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be getting more arrogant every day.
Bibi has no interest in peace; only in stoking the flames of a battle between two peoples that will go on for centuries.
I think it’s ridiculous that when Barack Obama tries to actually nudge Israel toward peace and a two-state solution with the Palestinians, like he did last year, he gets such intense blowback from American Jews, and the media.
Israel isn’t always right. It’s not a mortal American sin to point that out every once in a while. And the idea that we have to agree with and go along with everything Israel does is wildly anti-American.

So please, Mitt and Co., tone down the ridiculous rhetoric. Nobody thinks the U.S. will turn its back on Israel. But a little rationality and clear thinking would be nice.

**You have to love the ingenuity of college students. A University of Michigan student named Kellyann Wargo has come up with a new business that I guarantee will get popular on campus. It’s called the “Walk of Shame Shuttle,” and in it, Wargo offers any student who has just hooked up for a sexual encounter with a $5 ride anywhere in Ann Arbor, and a bottle of water, to boot.

You also get, according to the flier, a complimentary high-five! Who could pass that up?
Love, love, love this. God bless you, Kellyann. If you had been at my school, the University of Delaware in the mid-90s, you would’ve had your student loans paid off in no time.

**In a move that has led to justifiable outrage, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided to cut its sizable funding to Planned Parenthood. The Komen Foundation, a major breast cancer research outfit, is stopping its $700,000 donations as of now because, it appears, of pressure from anti-choice groups in the abortion debate.

Komen says no, that’s not it, it’s all because of a new law passed by Congress that prevents it from giving to groups being investigated by Congress. Of course, Planned Parenthood is the subject of a totally b.s. investigation by a Republican in the House.

I’m sick of making the argument for Planned Parenthood; about how less than 10 percent of its money goes toward abortions, about the MILLIONS of women it helps with health care each year, women who might die otherwise.

Just disgusting that Komen, a group that is the largest breast cancer organization in the world, would deny money to a group that gives women mammograms, which, you know, helps detect breast cancer.

Atrocious behavior from Komen.