Monthly Archives: April 2012

A wedding weekend in Baltimore: good times. A horrific tragedy at the Bronx Zoo. And the joy of carpool singing

Most people enjoy attending weddings. Others find it a chore.

Me? It’s probably my favorite thing to do.
I’ve never not had a great time at a wedding. Eating, dancing, seeing friends and loved ones? What could be bad about that?
I spent the weekend in suburban Baltimore at the wedding of my girlfriend’s first cousin, a heck of a guy despite being an Orioles fan (that’s not them in the above photo; just some random folks I found on the Internet).
As always after big events, I had a few thoughts on the fabulous shindig:
— Generally I come down very strongly on the side of “wedding band” in the perennial “band vs. DJ” debate, but the button-pusher at this event was pretty damn good. A terrific mix of mostly fast songs, with a few slow ones thrown in, plus the DJ mixed in current songs with some oldies that kept both the older guests and the young’uns (who I now consider anyone under 30) dancing. A solid job.
— Help me out on this, non-New York people: Is it only at New York weddings that people dance before dinner? Because at just about every NY wedding I’ve been to, the dancing starts immediately when the reception does, and then after 20 minutes or so people sit down for the salad course. But most weddings I’ve been to outside of NY everybody eats for an hour, and then the dancing starts.
Personally, I like to boogie down immediately.
— Very cool Jewish wedding ritual I hadn’t seen before: Instead of the traditional  groom breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony, Saturday the bride and groom both broke glasses. Very 21st century; I liked it a lot.
— Never saw this before: The beautiful bride started crying on the way down the aisle. Sweet to see how excited and moved she was before we even got started.
— Finally, a few words about the plight of a Baltimore Orioles fan. I was standing in the lobby Saturday when I saw a man with an O’s cap checking in at the front desk. He excitedly told the clerk that he had driven all the way up from Virginia for the game that night.
“They’re honoring Frank Robinson, so I figured it was definitely worth coming,” the O’s fan said.
And I thought: That’s what 15 years of awful baseball and terrible ownership does to your fan base: They only get excited when a blast from your great past is feted.
Even though I’m a Yankees fan, it’s truly sad to see what’s happened to the Orioles. They were such a proud franchise for so long; now they’re just a laughingstock. Baseball’s more fun when the Orioles are at least competitive.

**One of the scariest car-crash stories I’ve heard in a while happened Sunday: Seven people, including three children under 10, were killed when a van they were traveling in careened off the parkway and down into the area that surrounds the Bronx Zoo.
The SUV flipped over a four-foot fence, then plunged more than 50 feet to the ground.
No explanation or reason was found so far on the crash, but my heart goes out to those families involved. What an awful, sickening way to die.

**Finally today, here’s a little heartwarming video to lift your spirits a little bit. A father and his three kids, singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the way to school in the morning.
How much fun are these kids having? A lot more fun than they had later that day in class, I’m guessing.

A kid with cancer plays catch with a big-leaguer, thanks to Twitter. The Muppets are coming back for a sequel! And a teacher gets an apology from a student

**Note: I wrote most of this blog before Game 7 of Rangers-Senators hockey, so it’s going to be more coherent than if I wrote it afterwards… But I am ecstatic that my Blueshirts pulled it out. 2-1, and I don’t think I breathed for the final 10 minutes. Hell of a series, very happy Rangers are moving on…


The strangeness and awesomeness of the Internet and the world we live in never ceases to amaze me.
Check this out: A Colorado Rockies pitcher named Jeremy Guthrie had an off-day recently, and was at Coors Field in Denver with no one to play catch with. He really wanted to get some throwing in, so he put this out on Twitter:
“Anybody on lunch break & up for a catch with me?” #

And then a 21-year-old kid named Woody Roseland, who spent 2 1/2 years going through cancer treatments and relapses, who has a prosthetic leg as well, answered Guthrie on Twitter. And a short time later, Woody Roseland was playing catch at Coors Field with a major league pitcher.

Totally sounds made up, but it’s true. Rick Reilly of ESPN.com tells the rest of the story here. Truly beautiful, and a heart-warming start to my Good News Friday.

**Can’t tell you how much I love the Muppets. Well, I’ve already told you several times on this blog that I love them. And I loved last year’s “Muppet Movie,” bringing our furry friends back from a far-too-long hiatus.

So it’s great news that Disney has announced a sequel. Apparently the 2011 movie made more than $140 million, so why not do it again?
I just hope they make the villain a little less “over the top” this time.

**Finally, this story really moved me. It’s a happy story in its resolution, but it takes a little while to get there. From Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Hallman Jr., it’s about a student and a teacher, reuniting after 39 years, with the student trying to apologize for what he had done.

Truly worth your time. It’s never too late to undo damage you’ve done to someone else.

Rules for men in a public bathroom (women, read this!). Obama and Jimmy Fallon “slow jam” the news. And a brave college kid opens up about his tragic past

Women, there are some things you’ll just never understand about men.
How we can sit there for 20 minutes listening to you talk about your day and then have no idea what you just said.
How we can stay up at 2 a.m. flipping through 57 movie channels hoping to see someone naked.
These are the kinds of questions there are no answers to, ladies. But today, I will do my best to answer one of your queries that has long gone unanswered:

What the hell are the rules for men in public bathrooms? Glad you asked. Because there are many.
I turn it over to the fine people at goodmenproject.com, who have broken down the 7 rules of men’s bathroom etiquette.
I have studied this document thoroughly, and I can tell you that all of these rules are 100 percent true. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 4 here; these are unbreakable.

Ladies, you’re welcome. And if you have any further questions, I’m here to help.

**I don’t have too many rules on this blog, but anytime a sitting President of the United States takes part in a late-night comic’s skit and pulls it off well, I’m gonna put it here. Mr. Obama was on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” the other night, and along with Fallon, the POTUS “slow-jammed” the news. Check it out…

**Finally, I urge you strongly to read this column. Matt Watts is a graduating senior at the University of Florida, and a writer for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Alligator. He’s a little older than most students, and upon his farewell from the paper, he penned one of the most brutally honest, brave and eloquent columns I”ve ever read from a college student.

I almost hate to give away what he’s writing about, but maybe it’ll make you more likely to click: A few years ago, Watts’ mother told his father she wanted a divorce. He responded by shooting her, point-blank, in the face at the family home.

It’s a tragedy beyond comprehension, yet Watts beautifully puts it into prose here.
What a wonderful piece of writing.

Students in Calif. discover their teacher’s a porn star. One of the most bizarre PSA’s you will see. And the stolen soda that was a felony

When I was in junior high, there was a strong rumor going around that one of the social studies teachers in our school had once posed nude in Playboy.

This rumor was so pervasive in town that I heard about it before I got to junior high, then throughout my time there. I never had this teacher in class, but there were plenty of times when I heard students gossiping about her, claiming to have seen the layout, etc. The rumor inspired surprise and a little bit of revulsion in us pre-teen boys, because we didn’t think she was attractive, and were horrified to imagine her naked.

I tell you all this because this story made me remember my junior high ex-Playmate (if she really was ever in there). The Oxnard, Calif. school district has voted to fire Miss Stacie Halas, 31, over the small matter of her students having recently discovered she was in a bunch of porn films.

The science teacher at Haydock Intermediate School made a bunch of X-rated movies before she was employed there (and man, would I have loved to see how she explained that on her resume!)

School officials said they fired her as well because of the disruption she would’ve caused by being back in the classroom.

So many jokes to be made here. But let’s just say if she ever decided to teach anatomy, I think the boys in class would sure as hell be paying attention.

**My buddy Pearlman brought this to my attention on Facebook Tuesday; it may be the strangest and creepiest public service announcement I’ve ever seen.

I may have nightmares about that baby tonight. And its teeth.

**Finally, haven’t written about a crazy Florida crime story in a while. It’s not that there haven’t been any; I just haven’t bothered to look.
Happily, I end my Florida crime drought today. Meet Mark Abaire, a 52-year-old Naples man who asked a McDonald’s employee for a courtesy cup of water. Instead, he took his empty cup and filled it up with soda.
He then sat in the restaurant drinking the soda. When asked to pay, he refused, then cursed at the manager and left.

Because of Mark’s many, many priors, he’s now been charged with a felony, instead of petty theft. For stealing a $1 cup of soda.

Mark, Mark, Mark. First rule of stealing: If you take something, don’t sit around drinking it!

New Jersey police disgrace themselves. HBO’s “Veep” is pretty awesome. And how ’bout those Rangers!

This is so stupid on so many levels. It reeks of arrogance, incompetence, and just plain idiocy.

I speak today of the New Jersey state police troopers, specifically, the two of them who, according to the Star-Ledger newspaper,  in the early afternoon on March 30, “escorted a caravan of luxury sports cars at speeds in excess of 100 mph down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City last month. The occupants included former Giants running back and sports car enthusiast Brandon Jacobs, according to a source with knowledge of the trip.”

I mean seriously. How bleeping stupid can you be? You’re a state police officer leading celebrities on a high-speed joy ride? the story also says that witnesses “saw two State Police patrol cars with their emergency lights flashing driving in front of and behind the southbound caravan, which included dozens of Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other vehicles, all with their license plates covered with tape.”

So dangerous and disgusting. I hope these guys are fired and their pensions taken away.

**I’d heard all kinds of great things about Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ new show that debuted on HBO Sunday, “Veep.” She plays a totally ineffective and foul-mouthed vice president, and the show revolves around the foibles of her and her staff, plus their desire to try to be relevant. Since, you know, being VP is a pretty awful job.

After watching the first episode, I have to wholeheartedly agree with all the critics. It’s hilarious, even if it is kinda the anti “West Wing.”

Also starring Anna Chlumsky (remember the little kid from “My Girl?”) and “Arrested Develoment”‘s Tony Hale, “Veep” is fabulous. All of the supporting characters get off a few good lines, and Louis-Dreyfus is perfect. As soon as the first episode ended, I wanted to see the next one.

And that’s all you can ask for in a show.

**Finally, so pumped today about my New York Rangers. Things looked pretty damn bleak Monday night, down 3-2 in the series to the 8th seeded Ottawa Senators, and the Rangers were down 1-0 almost halfway through the game. All my lucky charms weren’t working, so I was left where I normally am during tense sports moments of my life: rocking back and forth in front of my TV, clutching a pillow to my chest (hey, don’t judge: it calms me).

And then, finally, the Blueshirts came back. Three goals in 11 minutes, and after a frantic finish to the third period, the Rangers had won, 3-2, to force Game 7 in NY Thursday.
Some burning questions/thoughts in my head after the game:
— How in the hell did the refs, AND the video replay, call this a legal goal (it’s the last highlight under goals) for Ottawa in the last 30 seconds? Yes, Ottawa’s Chris Neil misses most of the puck with his kick, but he clearly gets some of it because the puck acclerates after he swings his skate! The refereeing in this game was terrible, both ways (yeah, the Rangers caught a break or two, I can admit that), but this blown replay is just amazing.

— Hell of a game, Brad Richards. You too, Ryan McDonagh. You were everywhere. And Chris Kreider, playing his 3rd NHL game? Yeah, not too bad, youngster. Kid’s going to be a star.
— My 7-year-old nephew is being raised a Flyers fan, which I wholeheartedly disapprove of. Apparently he asked my sister Monday afternoon: “Is Uncle Michael going to cry if the Rangers lose?” Nice.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/porn-star-teacher-fired-7893412

An awesome obit of the Lender’s Bagels guy. Introducing the water cooler made out of ice. And another MLB perfect game controversy

**Just so you know, I’ll spend most of Monday hoping and praying that my beloved New York Rangers don’t cap off a colossal choke and get eliminated by the 8th-seeded Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight. Hope your day is less angst-filled…

I may have mentioned this before, but the obits are one of my favorite parts of the newspaper.
I find it fascinating to read about people I never heard of, or find out all kinds of fun stuff about people who were famous that I never knew before.

One of my favorite Twitter people to follow, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, has been saying for months that The Economist magazine, of all places, has been running awesome obits lately. So I finally checked one out and it was pretty terrific.

I give you the life and times of Murray Lender, the guy who not only invented and popularized Lender’s frozen bagels (I hate to admit this as a native NY’er, but when I lived in N.C. I did eat a few Lender’s bagels to get by. New Yorker, don’t judge me: Look, you weren’t there, you don’t know how bad the local bagels were!), but basically helped spread bagel love all across America (OK I know that sounds dirty).

Really a fascinating guy. Check out the obit here.

**Today’s example of “Inventions that didn’t really need to be invented” comes here: Boys and girls, I give you an ice cooler made out of ice. I guess this could come in handy if you were looking to have a beer party in middle of the desert…

**Remember two years ago, when Major League baseball umpire Jim Joyce cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game when he called a runner safe on what would’ve been the last out (the runner was clearly out)?

Well, we now have a little bit of the baseball gods, or karma, evening things out. Saturday in Seattle, Chicago White Sox pitcher Phillip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in big-league history. Humber was fabulous, striking out nine batters and only allowing a few balls to be hit hard.

But in the ninth inning, with two outs and a 3-2 count on Mariners batter Brendan Ryan, we had a little bit of controversy. Ryan tried to check his swing on a pitch and it looked like he had done it. Except umpire Brian Runge said he went around and called him out.

It was an iffy call; check out a slow-motion look at it here. (Personally, I think Ryan checked his swing).

But hey, the baseball gods giveth, the baseball gods taketh away. I’m glad that on a close call like that, the ump decided to side with history.

Amazing that in the history of baseball, there’ve been only 21 of these perfect games thrown.

An Alabama football star takes a cancer-stricken girl to her prom. Jeremy Lin should totally call this college girl. And Jackie Robinson’s widow, doing so much good

A beautiful story of a future NFL star’s kindness starts us off on Good News Friday. Courtney Alvis is a high school senior in Hueytown, Alabama. She’s not your typical kid, though; she was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago, and missed nearly her entire junior year while battling the disease. Still, like most seniors, she wanted to go to her prom. But she didn’t have a date. Until her dad reached out to a guy who knew a guy, who knew some University of Alabama football players, including star, and soon-to-be NFL first-round draft pick, Trent Richardson. Richardson’s mother is a cancer survivor. The above video shows what happened next. So beautiful when an athlete realizes how much good he or she can do, if they want to. I don’t know what pro team Trent Richardson will play for in the fall. But I damn sure will be rooting for him. What a great gesture by a good kid.

**Well, Jeremy Lin and his “Linsanity” didn’t have that long of a shelf life after all. The New York Knicks phenom sort of cooled off after an amazing few weeks in the spotlight, and now he’s probably out for the season with a knee injury. Still, he’s in demand for some things. Like a senior formal at William & Mary College. A girl named Lina put together this very creative and cool video. It really gets good around the 2:10 mark…

**Finally today, a great story from last week’s Sports Illustrated told of the current great works being done by Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball and American legend Jackie Robinson. She’s a woman who has lived on her own since Jackie’s death 40 years ago, and has made a huge difference in the lives of so many through scholarships awarded to minority students. She shuns the spotlight, mostly, but has been a wonderful part of keeping her husband’s legacy alive. The writer here, Kostya Kennedy, does a terrific job staying out of the way, and letting his subject’s great life and accomplishments tell the story.

Two legends leave the stage: R.I.P., Dick Clark, and farewell, Pat Summitt. And a “wet willy” in the NBA? Yep.

The annals of music history in the 1950s and ’60s are littered with tales of legends.

Elvis. The Beatles. The Beach Boys.
I think one man was as important, culturally, as all of them.
Dick Clark didn’t invent rock and roll music, and he didn’t invent dancing, and he didn’t invent teenagers having a good time.
But he sure as hell put them all together and started a phenomenon. Through the 1950s and 60s, then well into the 70s and 80s, Dick Clark and “American Bandstand” were permanently ensconced in American pop culture.
I grew up hearing stories from my grandparents about how my mom and Aunt would come home from school every day, throw their books down, and boogie in front of the TV to whatever music “Bandstand” was playing that day.

The show changed American culture, exposing millions to music they’d never heard before. He also put African-Americans and whites on TV together at a time when that just wasn’t done.

And Clark, who sadly died of a heart attack Wednesday at 82, was at the center of it all.
The man never seemed to age, seemed to appeal to every demographic, and was a bonafide star-maker. He was a terrific TV show host as well (“25,000 Pyramid” is my favorite game show ever), and New Year’s Eve was a showcase for him for so many years. It wasn’t midnight without him.

Clark lived a tremendous life, filled with a little scandal (he was touched by the payola scandal of the late 1950s) and even after his stroke robbed him of speech a few years back, he still came out on New Year’s Eve.
We needed to see him, and he clearly loved the audience. His passing is a tremendous loss to the world.
But man, what a life he lived.

**The other sad news Wednesday was a little more predictable, unfortunately. One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, the legendary Pat Summitt of Tennessee, officially stepped down as head coach Wednesday. Summitt has been suffering from early-onset dementia for the past year, but still coached the Volunteer team this past season, leading them to the Elite 8.
But now, she is stepping down, and her longtime assistant, Holly Barlick, is taking over.

It’s truly the end of an era. Summitt was a pioneer in women’s basketball, and a brilliant coach who motivated her players (through fear and other means) and helped so many women reach their potential.

Christine Brennan, the fine USA Today sportswriter, has penned a great tribute to Summitt. Check it out here.

**Finally, while I wonder how my Rangers let another game slip away against Ottawa last night (the series is tied 2-2 and I’m officially worried), and laugh at the Penguins’ 10-3 win over the Flyers (apparently Ben Roethlisberger threw a late touchdown in that one; seriously, TEN goals, Philly lets up?), I was amused by this play that happened in the NBA the other night.

Delonte West gave opposing player Gordon Hayward (he was the dude from Butler who just missed beating Duke with a half-court shot in the national title game in 2010) a Wet Willy. That’s right, West licked his finger and put it in Hayward’s ear during a stoppage of play.

Seriously dude, a wet willy? What was the next idea, to give him a wedgie, followed by a purple nurple (those really hurt, you know).
This just cracks me up every time I watch it.

Some TV talk: A really good new HBO show, “Girls,” and some “Mad Men” thoughts. And a car crash video you must see (if you can bear it)

Time for one of my semi-regular “here’s some good TV I’m watching that I want to tell you about” posts.

First, the new HBO show “Girls” received a ton of hype before its debut last Sunday. There were billboards all over NYC, the critics couldn’t stop gushing over it, and the show was basically hailed as the next great HBO show.

Got a chance to watch it Tuesday, and while it may not be the greatest thing since overtime hockey was invented (or sliced bread, depending on your frame of reference), it was pretty darn good.

“Girls” is about four young women in their 20’s living in New York, and the trials and tribulations they endure. But if you think this is “Sex and the City, the Next Generation,” you’d be wrong. The star, Lena Dunham, is no Carrie Bradshaw. She’s 24, depends totally on her parents for money, and does at least five stupid things in the first episode. Yet, she’s kinda lovable.
The rest of the quarter isn’t all that fleshed out yet, but each gets some good lines off in the premiere. It’s a funny show that’s actually quite sweet in some ways, and it looks like it’s going to be very different from your usual sitcom (just the scene with Lena’s Hannah in the hotel room with her parents was fabulous and inventive).
I’m not ready to anoint “Girls” as part of the historical HBO awesome pantheon, but it’s definitely got me back for a second look (And Digger Stiles from “Gilmore Girls”  is in it!).

It’s on Sunday night on HBO at 10:30.

 

**And now, a couple of thoughts on last week’s “Mad Men.” And I don’t even think I need to say “spoiler alert,” because folks, it’s Wednesday and you should’ve seen it already if you care.

— Fabulous episode. Of course, any episode where the detestable Pete Campbell gets his lights punched out is fabulous. God I hate Pete Campbell. I haven’t hated a TV character this much since Ziggy Sobotka on Season 2 of “The Wire.”
— Though I have to say, Don Draper being the only one to NOT cheat on his wife at a brothel party or whatever the hell that thing they took the Jaguar guy to was pretty stunning.
— I really hope they don’t have Lane leave his wife for Joan. That is one hook-up that I don’t think my eyes could ever “un-see.”
— I know Roger has pretty much no role at the agency anymore, but goddamn, John Slattery has the best lines every week. I loved this gem from last week, when Pete and Lane were about to fight: “I know cooler heads should prevail, but am I the only one who wants to see this?”

Man I love Roger.

*Finally today, one of the scariest “driver plows into a building” videos you’ll ever see. It comes from my old employer, the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Last weekend a 76-year-old Florida woman plowed her car into a Publix supermarket, and amazingly didn’t kill anyone.
This is from the surveillance camera at the store; I’m warning you, it’s very scary and a little shocking when the crash happens (around the :32 mark). Like I said, I feel OK posting this here because no one was killed or seriously hurt.

A Secret Service disgrace. Pulitzer day still excites me. And Tupac Shakur comes back to life (sort of)

Didn’t really read too much about this developing scandal involving the Secret Service and prostitutes in Colombia until Monday, and I have to say the details that are starting to emerge are pretty stunning.
So many questions spring to mind: Did these guys really think no one would find out about this? How, exactly, did men whose entire careers and reputations are based upon secrecy, and no one knowing who they are, think it was a good idea to go out and patronize hookers in a foreign country?

And perhaps the biggest question of all: Didn’t these guys ever see the brilliant movie “In the Line of Fire” (above)? Clint Eastwood, now that’s how a Secret Service agent should act. Great movie if you haven’t seen it.

**Even though I’m not a full-time writer anymore, the day Pulitzer Prizes are announced still excites me a little. Monday was that day this year.

Movies have the Oscars, TV has the Emmys, and we journalists have the Pulitzers, still and all in 2012 the most important award or honor a scribe can achieve.
I’m extremely fortunate to know two people who have won the award, and both were well-deserved, even though both downplay it in conversation (I was horrified when I visited my friend Kristen’s house last December had her framed Pulitzer certificate was on the floor. “We had nowhere to put it when we moved in!” she exclaimed. Lemme tell you, if I had won a Pulitzer, that baby would be hanging from every front door I ever live in. And I’d want it buried with me.)

Anyhow, there were some very interesting developments this year. For the first time ever, two online only publications, Huffington Post and Politico, won Pulitzers. As expected, the fantastic reporting by a 24-year-old named Sara Ganim, on the Penn State sex abuse story, was honored (that’s her after finding out she won).
And a wonderful columnist from Chicago named Mary Schmich won a prize; she writes with heart and compassion and really should be more famous than she is.

Check out this beautiful column on growing up poor that was part of her Pulitzer submission.

**I know this will shock you, but I was never a big fan of Tupac Shakur when he was alive. Never liked rap music, but I acknowledge that he’s a legend since everyone I know who likes rap says that in his prime, there was no one better than ‘Pac. Of course, his prime was cut short when he was murdered in Las Vegas in 1996.
So it had to be all kinds of weird (and cool) to see this the other night, at the Coachella Music Festival in California, when Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg introduced … an incredibly lifelike-looking version of Tupac.

Using some very impressive hologram technology, Dre and Snoop (and some really talented technical people, I’m guessing) brought Tupac back from the grave to sing at the festival.

I don’t really know how this was done, and I don’t like the music. But damn, it’s all kinds of creepy and cool.