Monthly Archives: December 2014

“The Joy List:” Things that made me happy in 2014

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Four

Let’s face it: 2014 was pretty awful for a lot of people.
Hurricanes, severe droughts, journalist beheadings, wars raging in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Police shootings/killings of unarmed civilians. The Republicans sweeping the November elections (well, I’ll admit that some of my readers might not think that was awful, but for me it was).

I could go on and on, but I won’t because if there’s one thing I hope you’ve gotten from me in the 5 1/2 years of this blog’s existence,  it’s that I’m a huge believer in being positive.
Looking at the happy, the optimistic, the good side of life is my No. 1 personal credo.
And so, it occurred to me the other day that it’d be fun to write a blog post about joy; specifically, an un-ordered list of many things that made my year great.

I hope maybe my list sparks you, on this last day of 2014, to think of what made you feel good in 2014.

Bandleader, a drum roll please…

— My son being born. Well that’s an obvious one. But every day he surprises me, makes me laugh, smile and count my blessings. 16 weeks old today, and I can’t believe how fast he’s growing.

— Sleep. (See item No. 1 for why).

— My boy’s mother, aka my wife. She brings me joy every day.

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— The Colombian soccer team’s dancing at the World Cup. Just pure, sheer exuberance every time they scored a goal. I guess they waited four years to dance like that.

— The movie “Boyhood.” It’s getting Oscar buzz and it absolutely deserves it; this movie took me on a 12-year journey through the life of one family, and it was the best film I saw in many a year. If it comes back out after getting Oscar nominated, you should definitely see it.

— The San Antonio Spurs playing basketball in the NBA playoffs last spring. Beautiful teamwork, such great passing, and an example of hoops at its most perfect form.

— The incredible performance/ceremony from Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert and Queen Latifah in honor of same-sex marriage at the Grammys last January. Chill-bump inducing stuff, and a wonderful sign of progress in America.

— John Oliver. Every week on his HBO show he brought the funny. What a brilliantly-written, hard-hitting show that shone a light on a lot of under-reported issues in the media.

— A rainbow I saw in Central Park last summer. It was enormous and pretty and it made me smile.

— The Rangers making the Stanley Cup Finals, totally out of nowhere. I went to Game 6 at MSG against Montreal, the night they clinched a trip to the Finals for the first time since ’94. Maybe my favorite sporting event I’ve ever attended.

–Malala winning a Nobel Peace Prize. What a brave, intelligent young woman.

— And finally, making it through another year without being completely bald yet. I know it’s coming, but I’m fighting it, baby!

Have a wonderful New Year.

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A few words about the departing Rex Ryan, who I loved then hated. Jib Jab brings the funny of 2014. And Dave Barry brilliantly dissects 2014.

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On this morning after another miserable New York Jets season has ended, permit me a few words about the sure-to-be fired Rex Ryan, a coach unlike any I’ve ever seen stroll the sidelines for the Green and White.

Ah, Rex. You came in breathing fire back in 2009, talking about meeting the new President one day (as in, we’ll win the Super Bowl and be invited to the White House) and charming the press. Then, incredibly, thanks to a series of lucky breaks and other teams losing, you led the Jets to the playoffs, before staging two fantastic wins to get to the AFC Championship game.

Then the next year, you did it again. The Jets whipped the Pats in the playoffs and came oh-so-close to beating the Steelers to go to the Super Bowl, and now the team I bleed for had made 2 straight title games and had a coach ready to become a legend.

Then … it all went to shit, pardon the expression. The quarterback regressed, the defense got old, the offensive line collapsed, the star receiver became an even bigger diva, and the coach, well, it turns out he was awesome at motivation, awesome at designing defensive schemes, and so awesome at anything else.

The man was a terrible, terrible game-coach. Truly awful. For six years Rex Ryan ran a disorganized sideline; no one wasted more timeouts, or was called for too many men on the field penalties, than the Jets.
And nobody talks about this, but Rex for most of his career as Jets coach had a major say in the draft, and he didn’t excel at picking players, at all. He fell in love with Sanchez, who wasn’t all that great, and 1st-round defensive picks like Kyle Wilson and Quinton Coples have been busts.

The man deserved to be fired two years ago, and wasn’t because the owner loves him. He deserved to be fired last year, and wasn’t. And he most certainly deserves to be fired this year, and finally, mercifully, will.

I have heard over the past few weeks many broadcasters and media members say Rex deserves to stay, he’s a great coach, etc. And I wonder: Have these people been watching the Jets? Because if they were, they’d see a coach long past his expiration date.

I feel bad it didn’t work out because I’m a fan and Rex is great fun in press conferences. But after those first two magical years, he’s been awful. And he’s stayed far too long.

Now, to paraphrase his greatest-ever quote, I’m going to go eat a goddamn snack.

**Next up, the good folks at Jib Jab have put together their as-usual awesome video parodying the year that was.

Here’s 2014 in a two-minute nutshell; I laughed out loud at least twice.

**And finally, the legendary newspaper comedian Dave Barry has come out with his “review” of 2014, and it’s the funniest thing I’ve read all year. A few excerpts of his brilliance in this piece:

— On a happier note, Colorado announces that it has already collected marijuana sales taxes totaling $2million, which the state plans to spend on “a subwoofer the size of Delaware.”

— In an aviation miracle, a 15-year-old boy sneaks into the landing-gear compartment of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 and somehow survives a five-hour flight from San Jose to Maui. Hours later major U.S. airlines jointly announce that they are offering “an exciting new seating option for budget-minder flyers who enjoy fresh air.”

— In government news, the troubled Secret Service once again comes under withering criticism when an intruder is able to jump the White House fence, enter the White House through the front door, overpower a Secret Service agent, run through the Central Hall, enter the East Room, deliver a nationwide radio address and appoint four federal judges before being overpowered. In a congressional hearing probing the incident, the Secret Service director promises to improve White House security but suggests that in the meantime the First Family should “consider adopting a larger dog.”

Dave Barry’s the best.

Good News Friday: A Montreal hockey player wows some kids, in disguise. A beautiful Whitney Houston song, sung from mom to child. And the monkey who knows CPR saved a friend’s life

And a Happy Friday to you and yours, hope you all had a great holiday, whether it was Hanukkah that just ended, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or yes, Festivus too (I excel at the “Feats of Strength!”)

Three pretty awesome stories/videos today to lead you into the weekend. First up, I’ve written about the excellent good deeds of Montreal Canadiens defencemen (yes I used the Canadian spelling there) P.K. Subban before; while on the ice he plays a little dirty and phony sometimes, off-ice he’s truly a superstar who understands what a role model he is to kids.

In his latest terrific gesture, he pretended to be a bus driver shuttling kids to a Canadiens practice, only to reveal himself before some stunned and happy faces (it gets great around the 3:10 mark).

Love his “Coming to America” reference at the 48-second mark, too. Well done, Mr. Subban.

**Next up, saw this on Huffington Post the other day and it was just beautiful. A woman in South Carolina named Kimberly Henderson has a 1-year-old who only seems to respond to Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston songs (my little guy has gotten a steady dose of Barry Manilow, Bon Jovi and Joni Mitchell so far).

So Henderson belted out this exquisite version of “How Will I Know,” and it’s been viewed 20 million times already.

Get this woman a recording contract or at least a spot on “American Idol”, please…

**And finally, here’s a sure-fire winner for MVP (most valuable primate): In India this week a monkey was electrocuted when a train cable hit him. Seeing what happened, his monkey friend came and tended to him, giving CPR and helping the first monkey to safety.

Pretty incredible stuff.

The new Chris Rock movie is not as good as the hype (but it’s decent). Darlene Love belts it out for Letterman one more time. And South Dakota’s hilarious accidentally dirty billboard

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I took my 3-month-old to the movies the other day, which some of my family and friends have called crazy and others have applauded (Hey, the kid’s got to get out in the world, it was a rainy afternoon, and it was a fun adventure. He behaved beautifully in the theater, didn’t cry a peep while sleeping through the whole flick, and except for some difficulty on the bus, it was a successful trip.)

Was very excited to see “Top Five,” the Chris Rock movie being hyped as an actual “good” Chris Rock movie, and really funny and smart and sharp. Best movie of his career, the critics I trust said.

And maybe it was. But it sure wasn’t as stellar as I had hoped.

First, the good: There were some genuinely laugh-out-loud funny scenes, the two best being when Rock’s stand-up comedian-turned-actor, Andre Allen, goes back to his old neighborhood and meets up with Tracy Morgan and others, and a hilarious strip-club scene with cameos by Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler (Seinfeld works blue here and it’s awesome; he says a word in this flick that I’m 100 percent certain he’s never said on stage before).

The story itself is not bad: Andre is getting married in a few days to a reality-TV star played by Gabrielle Union, but before that he’s spending a day with a New York Times reporter played by Rosario Dawson, to help promote a new “serious” movie he’s in.

But so much of the movie just felt forced to me; Dawson’s “journalist” was the most unprofessional and ridiculous portrayal of a newspaper reporter since Drew Barrymore played a copy editor with a secretary in “Never Been Kissed,” Rock’s not that good of an actor so his attempts at seriousness fall flat, and the ending didn’t really do it for me.

Still, it did have some laughs, and probably is the best movie Rock has done. Honestly, it’s worth seeing just for the Seinfeld and Sandler scene, truly side-splittingly awesome.

**Next up, it’s Christmas Eve, and I’d like to wish all my readers who celebrate a Merry Christmas. May your stocking be filled with everything you want, and make Christmas dinner make you stuffed and happy.

There are a lot of great Christmas traditions out there, and I’m not about to say one is better than the other. But one I’ve come to love, along with millions of others, is the fantastic female singer Darlene Love coming to the David Letterman show a few days before Dec. 25 every year, and belting out a beautiful rendition of “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home.”

Love has an incredible voice, she’s been wowing Letterman for more than 20 years, and with his show ending in May, this was the last performance for him.

Just fantastic stuff, gives me chills to hear how beautiful her voice is.

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**And finally, this made me laugh pretty hard, because there’s still a 12-year-old boy inside of all of us.

The state of South Dakota gets a lot of snow and ice in the winter, and is trying to spread the word to drivers not to jerk their steering wheels to avoid accidents, thereby causing accidents.

So they came up with a public service campaign, putting up billboards and commercials, with the slogan: “Don’t Jerk and Drive.”

Somewhere, Bart Simpson is laughing his ass off.

The best and funniest newspaper corrections of the year. Stephen Colbert goes out with a bang. And Rex Ryan loses one more soul-crusher to Belichick

 

It is of course the time of year when we are all inundated with lists, best-ofs, and other reminders that the 12 months we just lived are about to end, and a new year will start.

But if you read this column regularly you know that only one year-end list really matters to me, and really makes me happy: Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute’s “Regret the Error” column, rounding up the best, worst and most hilarious newspaper or magazine corrections of the year.

I cringe when I read some of these, because as a longtime journalist I can see exactly how some of them could’ve happened (hey, at my first job in Wilmington, N.C. I once ran a photo with an obit of a guy he died. Except it was the wrong picture; dude whose mug we ran was very much alive, and called the next day to express his displeasure about being prematurely killed. Hey, no one’s perfect!)

Anyway, these are always great and worth your time. Some of my favorites from this year’s collection (the whole column can be read here):

From the Washington Post:  An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Joaquín Guzmán was found in bed with his secretary. He was found with his wife. This version has been corrected.

From SlateThis post originally quoted photographer Tom Sanders as saying it takes him five years to get on the dance floor. It takes him five beers.

From The DartmouthA front-page editorial published Oct. 17 calling for the abolition of the Greek system at Dartmouth stated that in the late 1980s, Alpha Delta fraternity pledges were forced to perform oral sex on an ejaculating dildo. The editorial should have stated that some pledges were required to simulate oral sex on an inanimate object, which the house’s advisor now says may have been a banana.

Glad they got that cleared up.

**Next up, the great Stephen Colbert ended his groundbreaking “Colbert Report” last Thursday night, and it was beautiful. For the final segment, he gathered a whole bunch of famous people in his studio, including Jeff Bridges, Barry Manilow, Katie Couric, Bryan Cranston and Willie Nelson, for a rousing chorus of “We’ll Meet Again.” Seriously, he had every famous person alive (EW.com has the full list of everyone on stage here; it’s dizzying.)

I thought this was great. Colbert takes over for Letterman next spring, and we all know he’ll do a great job, but the “Report” brought the funny each and every night.
It’ll be missed.

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**Finally today, some thoughts from the gridiron, as the NFL season winds down and we get set for what looks like it’ll be a wide, wide-open playoffs:

— So because I’m a masochist, I watched most of the Jets-Patriots game, even though I knew exactly how it would end. It’s like a movie you’ve seen 50 times so you know the ending, but you just can’t stop watching, anyway.

Jets defense played great, confusing Tom Brady. Jets offense played well between the 20’s, only to completely stall inside the red zone. And just when the game’s close, just when Gang Green might pull it out, Brady embarks on a clock-killing drive that ends the game.
Happens so damn often. At least the Jets made ’em sweat a little, and didn’t worsen their draft position. But I hate, hate, hate losing to Belichick and Brady. 17-16 was the final, so damn close.

— Who’s excited for that divisional showdown with a playoff spot on the line next week, the 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers vs. the 6-9 Atlanta Falcons! Anyone? Anyone? What a joke that one of those losing teams will get to host a playoff game.

— Couple games to get legit excited about next week: Bengals-Steelers for all the marbles in the AFC North, and Lions at Packers for all the marbles in the NFC North. Nothing better than football in Green Bay in late December.

— Mark Sanchez, you made me all nostalgic Saturday night. Throwing a couple of key interceptions, helping cost your team a playoff berth… man, it’s like it’s 2011 all over again. (Wipes tears away with Kleenex.)

— Arizona, you ain’t going nowhere with Ryan Lindley. Watched some of that game Sunday night and I’m sorry, there’s a reason he’s third-string.

— Finally, the Buffalo Bills. Oh, the Buffalo Bills. Huge win last week, giving their fans hope for the playoffs. Then Sunday, they lose to … the awful Oakland Raiders? Really Buffalo? Been 15 years now since they made the playoffs. Those fans deserve better.

Good News Friday: Kansas City police give out $100 bills thanks to Secret Santa. A waitress gets the “best shift ever.” And Toys ‘R’ Us customers get their remaining bill wiped out

So much going in the world these days that’s bad, it’s nice to stop and acknowledge good things today.

Like the final episode of the Serial podcast, which was awesome (no spoilers). Like the fact that finally, after decades of a failed policy, the U.S. is letting Cuba back into the world. Like this great story I read Thursday by The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan, about a man named Danny Watkins who quit the NFL because he really wanted to be a firefighter.

And these three pieces of media, which delighted me this week. Happy Holidays to one and all…

First up, I write about this wonderful humanitarian every year at this time, because CBS Sunday Morning does a story on him each year. An anonymous millionaire in the Midwest goes around the country every December handing out $100 bills to random strangers, people who look to be in need.

This year, he did things a little differently. He enlisted members of the Kansas City, Mo. police department to be his elves, and had them pull over cars that looked to be damaged or in need of repair.
Then, after pulling them over, they gave the unsuspecting strangers the $100. Their reactions are priceless…

**Next up, this made me really happy, because I know how crappy restaurant waiters and waitresses get treated. The people at Break.com decided to give a very deserving server named Chelsea the “Best Shift Ever,” with a $1,000 tip, a new car, and so much more.

Watch and feel the love…

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**And finally, more examples of the holiday spirit making people do nice things: Last week a woman walked into a Toys ‘R’ Us store in Bellingham, Mass., and told the manager she wanted to pay off every layaway account the store had, anonymously.

It cost the benefactor $20,000, but it sure made a whole of people have a much happier holiday season.
Beautiful.

 

A gorgeous column on love and loss at Christmastime. The Gary Hart scandal captured poignantly in new book. And a Mom calls in to yell at her sons on live TV.

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Sometimes a piece of writing just smacks you in the gut, totally out of nowhere, and your jaw drops at the beauty of the words. (Yeah yeah, I know I’m a writer and a sap, but bear with me, this is worth it).

The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column usually produces good stuff, but it’s usually about an adult sexual relationship, and it’s often funny and entertaining.

But this week … wow. A writer named Jessica Strawser tells a moving story about the first holiday season she had to experience without her best friend, who had been killed in the past year by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Strawser goes to the cemetery around Christmastime and meets an interesting man there, doing his own ritual and… I don’t want to give any more away. Just read it, smile at the power of love, then hug someone you love.

Really an extraordinary column.

**Next up, this cracked me up and apparently went viral on the Web Tuesday. During a C-Span appearance by Brad and Dallas Woodhouse, two brothers who are political pundits on opposite sides of the aisle, they got a call from a “Joy in Raleigh, N.C.”

Turns out it was their Mom, who proceeded to scold her boys for never getting along.
“I was hoping this would be the year you went to your in-laws for Thanksgiving,” she said. “And I want peace when you come here at Christmas.”

Hilarious stuff. I love the brothers’ reaction when they realize it’s their momma on the line.

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**Finally today, I just finished an excellent book I want to recommend to anyone on your list who loves politics. Five years before Bill Clinton ran for President and we learned that America really didn’t care much who a politician had shtupped over the years, there was another major political force whose career was ended because of a possible affair he may have had.

The name “Gary Hart,” if you’re 30 or older, probably means one thing to you: Presidential candidate/frontrunner to win in 1988 who in 1987 was caught by reporters cavorting with a young blonde named Donna Rice, and the ensuing sex scandal ruined Hart’s chances forever in just a few days.

Matt Bai, formerly of the New York Times Magazine, has written a fabulous new book about Hart called “All the Truth is Out,” about the Hart scandal and how it changed the way politicans are covered, forever.

Before Hart, politicians’ affairs pretty much were kept secret by reporters; hell, JFK, LBJ, FDR, all had extra-marital relations. But with the explosion of cable TV and increasing pressure to “be first” and be salacious, the late 1980s ushered in a new era of political coverage.

And when the Miami Herald got a tip that Hart was fooling around, and then stalked him and “caught” him outside his Washington D.C. apartment, well, all the rules were forever changed. (As an ex-reporter I’m torn about what the Herald did; yes they were chasing a legit story, but they did it in a very sleazy way.)

Bai is clearly sympathetic to Hart, and he makes a really strong case on why this one affair shouldn’t have ruined him forever. Hart was a brilliant politician but didn’t have Clinton’s charm and political skills which is probably why Clinton won two terms and Hart is a footnote.

It’s a really interesting book about a fascinating man and a pivotal moment in how politics are covered. Check it out here.

Two years later, Sandy Hook teachers refuse to get discouraged. An awesome oral history of “Boogie Nights.” And Johnny Football, not so good at NFL football

Charlotte Bacon. Daniel Barden. Rachel Davino. Olivia Engel. Josephine Gay. Ana M. Marquez-Greene. Dylan Hockley. Dawn Hocksprung. Madeline F. Hsu. Catherine V. Hubbard. Chase Kowalski. Jesse Lewis. James Mattioli. Grace McDonnell. Anne Marie Murphy. Emilie Parker. Jack Pinto. Noah Pozner. Caroline Previdi. Jessica Rekos. Avielle Richman. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Benjamin Wheeler. Allison N. Wyatt.

Those are the names of the 26 people murdered two years ago Sunday, when a gunman loaded with way more powerful artillery than any one person should own, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire.

Two years. Two years since the bloodshed, and two years when every politician talked about how nothing would ever be the same, how laws needed to be changed, how guns couldn’t be this available, how massacring children is something America could not stand for.

And yet here we are. Gun laws are basically the same. Mass killings haven’t slowed down, not in the least. The NRA is as powerful as ever.

It just makes me furious.  And yet, listen to the Sandy Hook teachers in the video above, the survivors who vow to keep fighting. They give me a little bit of hope. But it’s still infuriating to know that two years after this unthinkable tragedy, America has marched on as if those kids had never been murdered.

What’s it going to take?

**Next up, Grantland.com continues to produce outstanding journalism and really fun stories; Sunday I finally got around to reading a sensational oral history of one of my favorite movies, “Boogie Nights.” (The scene above is 1/2 of one of my favorite scenes in movie history; unbelievably, I can’t find the whole uncut scene on YouTube; here’s the other half)

So much great information in this oral history, including that Albert Brooks and Warren Beatty were both in talks to play Jack instead of Burt Reynolds (Albert Brooks in that role? Inconceivable, as Vizzini would say); Reynolds and director P.T. Anderson had a fistfight on the set one day, and real-life porn star Nina Hartley, playing William H. Macy’s character’s wife, wanted to have actual sex scenes and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t allowed.

It was a transformative movie, brilliantly shot and written. The oral history shows that all involved realize how lucky they were to be part of such a landmark film.

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**Finally today, some Week 15 NFL thoughts as my New York Jets continue to screw up their campaign for the No. 1 pick, beating the equally-wretched Tennessee Titans (seriously Jets, you can’t even lose properly!)

— So all those fans clamoring for Johnny Manziel to be the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, how you feeling now?  Boy was Johnny Football awful on Sunday, throwing two picks and passing for only 80 yards as the Browns’ were destroyed. I only saw highlights but Manziel looked awful. Only one game, but he was pretty atrocious.

— Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place Carolina Panthers! 5-8-1, and yep, they’re in first in the NFC South. What a joke it is that they or New Orleans will get to host a playoff game.

— Biggest win in a decade for Buffalo, beating Green Bay. The Bills are the Jets’ rivals so I don’t really like them, but they’ve been bad for so long, and that city deserves a winner, so I’m happy they’re at least in contention for the playoffs. With all Jim Kelly’s been through, and Darryl Talley, that team deserves some good karma.

— I know nobody cares, but I was in my fantasy football league playoffs Sunday, and had a decent shot to win if Matthew Stafford had just thrown one or two more TD passes, but he stinks and he didn’t and I lost a chance at $200. Just venting, I feel better now.

— Sure as hell looks like the Seahawks are coming out of the NFC, and the Patriots are coming out of the AFC. That’d be one hell of a Super Bowl, no?

Some more fatherhood thoughts as my kid turns 3 months old. A toddler is totally confused by twins. And a man saved from drowning officiates his rescuer’s wedding

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And a Happy Friday to all of you out there; it’s been a pretty terrible week, world news-wise, but a great week for me, since I am now, officially, a stay-at-home dad.
The wife went back to work late last week after her maternity leave ended, which meant that I am now in full Mr. Mom mode, working as a freelance writer from our NYC apartment and in complete charge of our adorable 3-month old son (the grandparents have been visiting a lot and helping big-time).

It’s a little scary but mostly thrilling. Man, this parenting thing is a trip. Some more dispatches from my continuing adventures in Daddy-hood:

— This kid loves being held, but it’s only his second favorite thing. His most favorite thing is being changed.
Boy does he love being changed. Like, before I even get the diaper off he’s smiling and laughing, because he knows he’s getting wiped and cleaned and having A+D ointment slathered over his tushy.
Seriously, this is his favorite time of the day (or, you know, favorite 9-10 times per day, as it were).

Problem is, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by sitting in poop. If I don’t notice the smell or “hear” it, he’ll just sit or lie down with a poopy diaper for as long as it takes for his parents to notice.
I don’t think this bodes well for future potty training.

— He’s getting real, real close to being able to roll over. Like, he leans one way and sorta rocks. Once he’s able to roll over, all bets are off, I gotta watch him like a hawk.

— I used to have 1980s songs in my head, or commercial jingles. Now, all the time, it’s the freaking songs that come out of his playmat, or his vibrating swing. Middle of the night, I wake up and that’s what I hear. It’s a constant soundtrack that doesn’t shut off.
Parents, does it ever go away? Please make “Alouetta” stop! Tonight I’ve got a song called “Alice the Camel” in my brain. (It’s actually a pretty funny tune).

— So I’ve been alone with the kid for 8 days now and have managed to take a shower on five of those days. Pretty good percentage?

— Crazy to see him already outgrowing some of his clothes. Like, every day, I can watch him get bigger. Of all the joys of being with him every day, that might be the best.
Or his new giggle when I do something silly.
Poor kid, he has no frame of reference; he thinks Daddy is the funniest person in the whole world. Wait till he hears about Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock; then, I’m toast.

**Next up, this made me laugh: A toddler meets twins for the first time and is totally confused having two identical people sitting next to him.
Hey, I feel your pain, kid. We’re all confused by twins.

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**And finally, a wonderful story to take into the weekend. Mike Wise is a columnist at The Washington Post, and six years ago he chased after his dog until both fell through the ice in a local canal.

Freezing and calling out for help, Wise was rescued by a jogger named Jason Coates, wbo pulled both man and dog out of the water, saving their lives.

Six years later, Wise officiated at Jason’s wedding, and last week wrote about this unlikely and incredible friendship journey he’s been on.

Really a warm, sweet piece that will make you smile.

 

The CIA torture report is shameful and disgusting. A restaurant in Canada offers a new way to take orders. And the pacifier that’s wired from your baby to you

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The bile started rising at the very beginning, the sick feeling in the pit of my  stomach as I read the opening paragraphs.
Then it got thicker and thicker until I almost wanted to throw up, and my nausea turned to rage at the unbelievable details.

Yes, most of us who follow politics expected Tuesday’s release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush/Cheney years to be bad. We knew prisoners had been beaten and waterboarded at secret prisons (like the one above); we knew the Geneva Conventions had been violated and ignored.

But Jesus, it was so much worse than we thought. I almost don’t even know where to start, there are so many hideous excerpts from the 600-page report that were all over the Internet news sites Tuesday.
And remember, as you read some of this, this is just the heavily redacted, edited version that released; reading this, I can’t imagine how disgusting what we didn’t see is:

— All throughout the report are tales of innocent suspects tortured, waterboarded and put through unspeakable horrors. The report even has CIA agents admitting they knew that the torture wasn’t working, yet it kept going. Hell, in 2013 , the CIA admitted that it was simply incapable of evaluating the effectiveness of its covert activity.
But hey, let’s keep doing it. Screw the Geneva Convention.

— Once again, over and over throughout the report, this blaring fact is repeated: TORTURE DOES NOT WORK. It didn’t help get Osama bin Laden. It didn’t help against any other major target like Khalid Muhammad. It does not, in any way, lead to useful intelligence that stops terrorism. (A CIA interrogator said in the report that “torture led us away from bin Laden.”
There are those who will argue, like my father in a conversation with me Tuesday, that all U.S. and CIA actions are justified in the names of preventing future terrorism.

Except, torture does not work, ever. Which just makes America as bad as Iran, China or any other nation we look down our noses at.

— The CIA used “rectal feeding” on some prisoners, which is basically anal rape.
— The CIA tortured innocent relatives of potential suspects, just to try to get the relatives to talk. Also they tortured mentally retarded suspects as well. As my mother-in-law said, these agents made Carrie Matheson from “Homeland” look stable.

— The CIA constantly lied to both the Bush and Obama White Houses about what they were doing in the secret prisons and detention centers, and there was zero oversight, apparently.

— Barack Obama comes off pretty awfully in this report too, for his ultimate refusal to coperate with the investigation, and to hold anyone accountable for the torture. His B.S. about “let’s look forward, not backward,” while he knew America had lost all moral authority in the world because of what happened, and his refusal to go forward with prosecutions against war criminals, is a stain on his Presidency for all time.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I highly urge you to check out Andrew Sullivan’s thorough breakdown of the report, as well as this fantastic New York Times story that breaks down, case by case, the numerous lies of the Bush-Cheney CIA era and how torture got us nowhere.

There should be prosecutions, there should be trials, and there should be prison time for Bush, Cheney and ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden. If there are not, I believe we have lost all moral authority with the world.

What an absolute disgrace.

**OK, time for a palatte cleanser: This is a terrific and interesting new idea; a restaurant in Toronto called “Signs” has opened, and all its waiters and waitresses are deaf. Customers order in sign language (instructions on signs are printed in on the menu) and it’s a whole different kind of restaurant experience.
Very cool.

pacifiers-with-iphone

**And finally, a new product that totally appeals to me, and creeps me out as a new father. A company called Blue Maestro has just invented a new app called Pacifi, which is a Bluetooth-enabled pacifier that sends your baby’s temperature directly to your Smartphone.

Pacifi works by using a built-in temperature sensor that is nestled in its silicon teat. The gathered temperature data is then transmitted to an app found in an iOS or Android device through Bluetooth. Afterwards, the app determines the time when a temperature data is most accurate, time-stamps it, and plots it in a graph.

Do I want this? No. Seems a little too “overbearing parent” to me. But hey, if your kid is sick, I guess it could be useful.
Now, when will they invent an app that makes your baby stop crying? Because I’ll pay a million bucks for that one.