Monthly Archives: December 2012

I’m off to Mexico for a week of sun and fun. The best pictures of 2012. And “Who’s On First?” starring Fallon, Crystal and Seinfeld

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For the first time since I started this here blog 3 1/2 years ago, I’m taking a full week off from it.

Yep, taking a break for a good reason: My soon-to-be-bride and I are travelling with her family to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a week of fun in the sun. When I first heard about the trip opportunity, my initial reaction (being a child of the 1980s) was “Didn’t “The Love Boat” stop there? And wasn’t Puerto Vallarta the trip they always gave away on game shows like “The Joker’s Wild” and “Tic-Tac-Dough?” (Man I love me some Wink Martindale.)

But alas, it’s still around and kicking, so I hope to enjoy some snorkeling, parasailing, and laying around the beach for seven glorious days.

I’ll be back blogging again, probably on New Year’s Day or so. In the meantime, have a wonderful New Year to one and all, and please oh please let them end the NHL lockout while I’m gone.

**Couple more things to leave you with before I go. This was on Jimmy Fallon the other night; the old “Who’s On First” routine that still cracks me up, with some modifications, starring Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld. Funny stuff…

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**Finally, can’t leave without sharing some of the great photos on “The Big Picture” gallery of the best of 2012. I’ve linked to their incredible galleries before, and this one doesn’t disappoint.(besides the one above, No. 11, 32, and 35 are my favorites).

Some amazing photographs showing all kinds of human emotion, each one tells a great story.

My friend Scott runs for Sandy Hook victims. Little kids having trouble with Christmas song. And an angel saves a woman in a fender-bender.

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I first met Scott Sterbens in December, 2005, when I started working at the Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper. Scott was an assistant sports editor there, and over the next five years he became my best friend at the paper.

We bonded over our shared love and misery of the Jets (we watched the AFC championship game in 2011 at his house, with an unopened bottle of champagne in my car, just waiting to be opened in case of a Jets win. Of course, the champagne stayed sealed), we made all kinds of sarcastic remarks that only we found funny, and we endured the misery of layoff after layoff at the paper, while friends of ours saw their jobs and livelihoods stripped away.

Scott is a true and honest friend, and a really good husband and father, so when I heard what he was doing for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary, I knew I had to do all I could to promote it.

Scott is running the Disney Half-Marathon in Orlando in January, and in the wake of the tragedy, he’s trying to raise money for the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund. He’s asking for donations of $1 a mile, or $2 a mile if you can (for $26), and he’s teamed up with a legit organization called CrowdRise.

Please, if you can, consider making a donation to Scott at the link here. 

Thanks.

**This ought to make you smile on the weekend before Christmas; we’ve all seen video of little kids singing Christmas carols, while they fidget uncomfortably in “fancy” clothes that they have no interest in wearing.

Well, add to that a little difficulty with counting and numbers, and you get this adorable video… I love the one kid (No. 7) who gets all mad that his classmates can’t figure this out.

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**Finally, a heartwarming story to finish Good News Friday here. A single Mom named Kim Kerswell, struggling to make ends meet with two kids, got into a fender-bender recently in a Massachusetts parking lot, and was stressing about the added expense car repairs would take.

Then an “angel” named Sherene Borr, the woman driving the other car came to her rescue. Read the beautiful story here of Borr’s wonderful acts.

The best newspaper corrections of the year. “This American Life” with another unforgettable show. And the soccer goal of the year

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It’s become a little bit of a tradition here on Wide World of Stuff to take a look at my favorite year-end list of them all: The best (and w0rst) newspaper corrections of the year.

It’s the journalist in me that loves these so much (like the poorly worded headline above), because like every reporter known to man, I’ve made a few mistakes that warranted corrections. Of course I never found them funny at the time, but when they happen to other people? Well, that’s comic gold, as the movie reviewers say.

Here’s the complete list compiled by the great “Regret The Error” blog, but below are a couple of my favorites from the last 12 months:

From “The Australian” daily newspaper:

Due to a production error, a quote attributed to Lieutenant Colonel Ghulam Jehlani Shafiq in a report in The Weekend Australian on Saturday (“Afghanistan battles scourge of corruption”, page 16) was altered to change its meaning. Colonel Jehlani did not say: “It’s not like 25 years ago. I was killing everybody.” In fact, he said: “It’s not like 25 years ago I was killing everybody. At that time too we tried not to have civilian casualties.” The Australian apologises for the error.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

C.W. Nevius’ column about Most Holy Redeemer banning drag queen performers incorrectly stated that entertainer Peaches Christ appeared at an event at the church’s hall with a dildo shaped like a crucifix. He did not appear at the event, nor does he use the prop.

And from the Suffolk Journal in Suffolk, Mass.:

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**I could rave about “This American Life” on NPR just about every week on the blog. I take for granted how terrific the program is, and how intelligent, sweet, haunting and thought-provoking it is; it’s truly the best hour of radio anywhere.

Last week’s show was particularly awesome; entitled “This week,” Ira Glass and Co. did something darn-near impossible: Produced, on the fly, a show dealing only with events that happened in the past seven days. So they were producing, reporting, and compiling all at the same time.
There are tiny stories on here, like the shuttle bus driver at an airport finally retiring after 128,000 loops to and from the parking lot, or about a group in New Orleans called “No AIDS” that goes to bars in the city offering free HIV testsBut there are also huge stories on here, like a “live” report from a journalist nearly killed in Afghanistan, who is intent on going back for more.

Really, it’s a wonderful show; listen to it here or download the episode on iTunes.

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**Finally, I only seem to pay attention to soccer when there’s an amazing goal scored somewhere in the world. Was reading this cool compilation of the best sports moments of 2012 when I stumbled upon this incredible score by a Serbian soccer played named Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Maybe one of the best goals ever.

My first trip to Barclays Center is glorious (except for the result). A delightful look at 1st-graders. And “The Voice” does Newtown’s memory proud

Barclays Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

I’ve literally been waiting to see a Nets basketball game in Brooklyn for about eight years, ever since they first announced they were moving to the greatest city in the world.
Tuesday night, I finally got to experience one at the beautiful new Barclays Center.
As everyone has already said, the building looks much, much nicer on the inside than on the outside.
I can’t rave enough about the experience. It started with the seats; I knew we had bought good seats but had forgotten how good they were; it’s always nice to walk into the main entrance of an arena and then walk down to find your seats; that hardly ever happens.
The Barclays Center has beautiful sightlines, pretty roomy seating area, lots of wide aisles and lots of bathrooms, and a scoreboard that is the clearest I’ve ever seen. Seriously, watching the scoreboard is almost like watching the action live.
Then of course, there was the food. I’d heard and read how varied and terrific it was, and all the reviews were spot-on. From the Brooklyn burgers, to the Nathan’s hot dogs, to the barbecue and sushi and soft-serve ice cream (with real chocolate egg creams, invented in Brooklyn!), it was an orgiastic feast. I’m going back for another game in a couple of weeks, and already have four foods I must have (my stomach may disagree).

So Tuesday night was wonderful in all ways except one… the outcome. The Nets and Jazz played a very entertaining game, but my Nets continue to illustrate the wonderful trend of building big leads and then blowing them. They let Utah come back from 13 down, and Brooklyn’s finest missed two shots to tie in the last 10 seconds and lost, 92-90.

After a fantastic start to the season, the Nets are suddenly looking very average, and so is Deron Williams, who has to be more injured than he’s letting on.

Still, even though the Nets lost, Barclays proved itself to be a gem. So happy to have my favorite NBA team in a world-class arena, just a short subway ride from my home.

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**And now, a very funny story that was sparked out of the misery of the Newtown massacre. A very gifted New York Times writer named Michael Winerip talked to a first-grade teacher named Joanne Strongin, in Great Neck, N.Y. And they put together a list of 25 things they’ve learned about first-graders.
Some of the gems in this article (I highly recommend clicking through to read it all, you will crack up laughing:)

–First graders love to tell visitors to their classroom that they do not take naps after lunch like little baby kindergartners.
— First graders go to the bathroom three or four times a day.
— By the end of the year, several first graders have lost their two front teeth and a few can tie their shoes.
— First graders claim to hate tattle tales but tattle at every opportunity (that’s my favorite).
— First graders are old enough to know the rules, and young enough to turn themselves in for breaking them.
First graders are taught if they don’t have a tissue, to sneeze into their elbows.

Truly, it will warm your heart.

**Finally today, I don’t usually watch “The Voice” but my mother-in-law passed along this beautiful tribute to the Sandy Hook victims that opened the show Monday night.

So haunting to hear “Hallelujah” done like this. Well done, “The Voice.”

“Homeland” totally redeems itself with an awesome finale. NBA players sing the dreidel song. And the Jets’ misery continues

Episode 212

“Homeland,” “Homeland,” “Homeland.”

Home-freaking-land. All is forgiven. After a few episodes where I finally cracked, and started to admit what others had been saying, that the show was veering wildly off-course and slipping away, it totally redeemed itself Sunday night.

Everything felt pitch-perfect: Brody didn’t die (I thought for sure they would kill him, but Quinn’s reasons for not doing it made perfect sense). Broday may or may not still be a terrorist (I’m thinking not). Carrie decided to run off with Brody, choosing his love over her career.  Then a bomb exploded under his car, everyone from the CIA is dead, and Carrie and old man Saul are the only ones left.

Then an old video when Brody really was a terrorist gets released, and suddenly Carrie realized she can’t possibly go off with Brody.

And now the show is completely re-set for Season 3. We’ve got Brody, on the run in Canada, ironic that he’s actually innocent of this attack, but everyone thinks he’s done it. We’ve got Brody’s family, hopefully out of the show now. And we’ve got Carrie and Saul, looking for a new terrorist threat and piecing their world back together, while rogue CIA assassin Quinn lurks somewhere.

I was on the edge of my seat on the couch all hour. What a fantastic way to end the season.
Gotta wait nine more months for another new “Homeland,” and that’s just way too long.

Again, if you haven’t watched this show yet, you’re missing one of the best TV shows of all time.

**Well this is pretty entertaining. I know Hanukkah ended, but I saw this the other day and laughed, and then forgot about it. And with Jeremy Lin returning to MSG and kicking the Knicks’ butt Monday night (the Nets fan in me enjoyed that, and I’m headed to my first Nets game in Brooklyn tonight, report to follow in Wednesday’s blog), figured I could still post this.

It’s the decidedly non-Jewish Houston Rockets singing the “Dreidel” song…

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**And finally, because I wasted three perfectly good hours of my life watching Monday’s train-wreck of a Jets-Titans game, a few thoughts on my disastrous boys in green and white:

— This Jets team might be the most boring they’ve had since the 1-15 team. And even that team was exciting because you never knew what horribly new way to lose they’d invent next.
— I can’t watch Mark Sanchez play another game at quarterback. I just can’t. Four years in and he’s still as bad as he was as a rookie. For the love of God, they MUST have a new QB next year.

— The lack of speed and skill on the offense is pretty amazing. This is a terrible Tennessee team, with the worst defense in the league, and the Jets couldn’t do bubkis with them.
— Jon Gruden is an affront to the ears. Not just mine; all ears, everywhere in the sound of his voice.

— Shocking to see the Jets actually give Tim Tebow a whole series at QB. Of course, when he didn’t immediately lead them to a TD, he was banished.

— I’m very happy that because I’ll be on vacation and out of the country for the last two Jets games this season, that Monday night was my last day of misery with them for a while. Such a nice way to end the season.

Spending a day with a 7-year-old, and escaping thoughts of Newtown. Obama’s beautiful speech hits right notes. And a feel-good video about a traffic ticket

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newtown-school-shooting-the-victims-2012121-032There is so much grief we all have been feeling since Friday morning, when news broke that a 20-year-old man broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and slaughtered 26 people, including 20 children.

Since Friday afternoon, when I heard the news while substitute teaching in, of all  places, an elementary school, I have been obsessing about this story. Reading everything I can about those beautiful children (two of whom are above). Reading everything I can about the monster who did this, and his mother, and trying to make any kind of sense of it.

I read this exhaustive yet terrific report from The Hartford Courant, and about the heroic 6-year-old girl who played dead and stayed alive, while all of her first-grade classmates fell around her.

I am angry and sad and horrified and fearful and everything else you all are feeling, but Sunday, I felt good for a few hours.
A long-planned day with a 7-year-old made me feel better. My nephew had never done the Manhattan holiday tourist bit, and so my fiancee, my sister and I showed a boy who knows nothing of what happened Friday some goodness in the world.

We looked at the Macy’s windows and smiled. I marveled at his smile upon seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and the famous skating rink up close.

And seeing him at FAO Schwarz, walking among the giant stuffed animals and the piano from “Big” and the Lego stuff, each few steps bringing about new wonder, was a tonic for my soul.

Nobody his age should ever, ever, ever have to deal with what those kids at Sandy Hook Elementary did. It should always be about robot helicopters and hackey-sacks and 200-trick magic sets.

But it’s not, and that’s unspeakably sad. For a few hours, though, I got to see what a 7-year-old’s life should mostly be about:

Joy.

**I thought President Obama gave a pitch-perfect address Sunday night at the Newtown vigil. Now, follow it up. Push for tighter gun control laws. Stop cutting funding for mental health care in this nation; fund it in the extreme at the school and hospital levels.

Words were beautiful. Now show me action. You’re a second-term President holding your last public office. Show us some action.

**Finally, here’s something that will put a smile on your face today. A police officer in Plano, Texas, at a traffic stop, gave a man $100 the other day.

There is still so much good in the world. Never forget that.

Good News Friday: The “12-12-12” concert mostly rocked. A gift idea for your favorite drinker. And Andre Johnson takes kids to Toys R’ Us

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Good News comes from all walks of life today, but it starts with one of the most epic concerts I’ve ever seen.

The concert for Sandy Relief, or the “12-12-12” show at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, was fantastic, if a little over-packed with old, white dudes who kicked ass through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the Aughts, and are still rocking in the ’10s (can we call this decade the ’10s? Good).
It went on for about 43 hours (OK, about six), and was filled with highlights and a few lowlights, and raised $30 million from ticket sales and corporate donations so far (they haven’t tallied all the Internet and phone pledges yet).

A few quick-hit thoughts after watching the show:

— Best performances were Bruce Springsteen (never lets a crowd down), Alicia Keys, the Stones, and, much to my surprise, Chris Martin of Coldplay. He did a great duet with Michael Stipe (who looked awful but sounded great), had some funny jokes, and truly seemed honored to be there.

— Worst performances? Adam Sandler blaspheming by doing a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallejulah” was terrible. I thought the skit with Seth Meyers was awful. And, I expect to get hit by lightning after writing this, but I wasn’t thrilled by Paul McCartney’s performance. He did two “Wings” songs, for God’s sake. “Live and Let Die” was good, as was “Blackbird,” but I dunno, I just didn’t love Sir Paul on this night.

— Wow, was Roger Daltrey’s chest waxed. But he looked and sounded great. Keith Richards, well, I’ve seen corpses that looked better.

— Maybe I’m sensitive as a native New Yorker, but it pissed me off how many celebs claim to be “New Yorkers.” Chelsea Clinton (from Arkansas) and Sandler (from New Hampshire) both claimed to be natives on the show. Just wrong.

Kanye West’s leather skirt. Ummm, yeah. Great fashion choice. As someone on Twitter said, “Leave him alone. He came straight to the concert from his field hockey game.”

— Crazy that Keys was the only female on the entire show (which someone joked was “a five-hour Cialis commercial.). They couldn’t have gotten Pink, or Sheryl Crow, or Gwen Stefani?

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**Next, I have the perfect gift for you if you or someone you love loves beer, and loves keeping their hands warm.

Heard about these on the radio, and then had to see them for myself: An Icelandic company makes beer mittens, so you can hold your Budweiser and keep your digits warm all at the same time.

Bloody brilliant. I don’t even drink beer and I want a pair.

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**Finally, one of the good guys of the NFL is Andre Johnson, the world-class wide receiver for the Houston Texans. Every year, Johnson takes a group of at-risk Houston kids and gives them a shopping spree at Toys R’ Us. They have 80 seconds to each grab as much as they can and shove it into a shopping cart.

This year’s spree came to $19,521, which means those kids knew exactly where the big ticket items were. Bravo, Andre. (That’s him with the receipt, above)

Some hideously awful Menorahs make me laugh. The coolest iceberg video you’ll see. And a newspaper’s insane way to decide a firing

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Too tired to blog about the awesomeness that was the 12-12-12 Sandy Relief concert last night, but it was awesome. Thoughts on it, and Kanye West’s skirt, tomorrow…
As we are still knee-deep (candle-deep) in the throes of Hanukkah, I thought this photo gallery was particularly awesome.

The folks at Huffington Post compiled a list of the 25 tackiest menorahs, and some of them are truly hilariously god-awful. The Pez one (above) is great, but I highly recommend clicking through to find the “Four Loco can” menorah, and the Dinosaur menorah.

Hey, when you need a menorah and you gotta make do with what you have, this is what results.

**This is one of the most amazing videos you’ll see. It’s from a new documentary called “Chasing Ice,” and I’d like to show it to everyone who doesn’t believe the climate is changing. Four minutes of incredible footage…

**After all I’ve seen and heard about newspaper cutbacks and layoffs in my former profession the last 10 years, I thought it was impossible for me to be surprised anymore.

But Kansas City Star, you win the prize for making my jaw drop today. Check this out: They told two reporters, Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann, that one of them had to be let go. And then told them that they were to make the decision which one of them would leave.

I mean, really? You’re going to ask two colleagues to figure out which one of them is going to be out on the street? What, do they play the most important game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” ever? Flip a coin? Race a 50-yard-dash?

Just despicable.

Jon Stewart slays Fox for hypocrisy on guns. The NHL lockout has my blood boiling. And a drone that will babysit your kid for you

**As you may have heard, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas went on TV at halftime of a Sunday night football game two weeks ago and had the gall to actually speak out about gun violence in America.

And the right wing of this country lost their damn mind. Fox News led the way, of course, saying Costas should stick to sports, how dare he “hijack” the football game with a two-minute discussion of gun violence. Oh wait, what’s that? A day earlier an NFL player had shot and killed his girlfriend, then himself? Sorry, that’s not a good time to talk about gun violence. Nope, not at all, they moaned.

Well as usual, Jon Stewart has a slap-back for those folks (above). Enjoy.

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**I haven’t talked too much about the NHL lockout on my blog, because I know most of you don’t give two pucks about the sport.
But I need to vent. I am so disgusted, especially after last week’s “close but not really close” series of meetings that left both sides accusing the others of lying.

Don Fehr, the NHL player rep and the man who ruined many a baseball season, has no interest in saving this season. He wants to get the players’ every cent they can, which is his job, I understand. But his job is also to realize that NO ONE is getting paid if there’s no season, and his righteous indignation is galling right now.
And commissioner Gary Bettman, well… there aren’t strong enough pejorative words to express how I feel about him. He’s presiding over his third lockout in 18 years, a dubious track record for any head of sport. He’s spiteful, he’s stubborn, and he gives not a whit about fans or what’s good for his game.

The serious negotiating that finally started a few weeks ago, three months after the season should’ve started, has led us nowhere. I have lost almost all faith that there will be a season (an aside: Why do these lockouts always happen my Rangers are actually good?), and I no longer care who “wins” the lockout (though owners always win these things).

It’s mid-December and I miss my NHL hockey. I wish all parties would shut up and stay in a room and not come out until a deal is reached.

I’m an addicted fan who needs my sport, and it’s disgusting how little anyone in this mess cares about their loyal customers.

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**Finally, a new way to babysit your kids. Can’t say I recommend this for everyone, though.
Paul Wallich, a father from Vermont, got sick of walking his son to the school bus stop every day.
So he did what no father has ever done: He built a drone helicopter, with a camera mounted on it, to follow his son to the bus stop.

“If I am walking my kid to the bus stop in December and January, I would really rather not be doing that,” Wallich told NBC News.

Really, Mr. Wallich? You had to go to all this trouble to build a robot because it was too cold to walk your son to school? I’m sorry, but I think that’s ridiculous.

He should’ve built a helicopter that would take he AND his son to the bus stop. That’s what a good parent would do!

Drone babysitter story from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

Same-sex marriage in Washington: A photo says it all. “Homeland” nears the finish with no logic in sight. And a little kid hams it up with cheerleaders

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It’s not remarkable anymore, states allowing same-sex marriage. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, that it’s becoming less and less of a big deal? Future generations will look back and wonder exactly what was so scary and threatening about two people who love each other getting married.

The state of Washington held its first same-sex marriages on Sunday, when the state’s new law became official. Take a look at that terrific photo from the front page of the Seattle Times, and this photo here, and tell me what anyone could possibly object to.

Little by little, the stigma has fallen away. And every once in a while, it’s nice to see progress in the smiling faces of humans who love each other, like the people above.

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**OK, I admit it. After weeks and weeks of pooh-poohing all those who say “Homeland” has taken plausibility and reality and stretched all to hell, and that it’s starting to affect their enjoyment of the show, I’m starting to change my mind.
Sunday’s episode was ridiculous and awesome all at once, but for once for me, the ridiculousness quotient was higher. You’re going to ask me to believe that afterCarrie escapes from Abu Nasir’s clutches, no one at the CIA de-briefs or asks her questions about that, she then wanders back into the abandoned warehouse looking for our favorite terrorist, and where dozens of SWAT team members have failed, she figures out where Nasir is hiding?

Then, after Nasir kills a SWAT team guy (who went in alone, which is also something that would never happen in real life), he doesn’t kill Carrie, and with her screaming and yelling it still takes like five minutes for anyone else to show up? OK, fine.

But in addition to all that, we’re now supposed to believe that Brody’s a good guy, and he and Carrie are truly in love and belong together? Nope.

It sounds crazy, but Saul’s scenes were the best of this last episode. Man, Mandy Patinkin is some kind of great actor. He and Estes are terrific foils.

I have no idea what’ll happen in the season finale; I would love it as a fan of the show if the writers had the cojones to actually kill Brody. I know it might damage the show, and Damien Lewis is so good in his role, but I feel like for the show to have credibility moving forward, Brody must die.

So that’s what I hope for. And I hope the finale doesn’t have me yelling at the TV angrily, like Sunday’s episode did.

**Finally today, you’ve gotta love a kid who gets his time in the spotlight and totally lives it up.
If you had told me when I was this kid’s age that I’d get to dance on an NFL field at halftime in front of a dozen gorgeous Tampa Bay Bucs cheerleaders, I would’ve said you could kill me right afterwards, because life wouldn’t get any better.
Seriously, look how much fun this kid is having! Very jealous of him.