Monthly Archives: December 2015

“The Big Short” was way more entertaining than I expected, and still left me enraged. The best photos of the year. And Dave Barry’s Year in Review, brilliant as always.

Bigshort

I went to see “The Big Short” last week not just because it’s based on a book I wrote (OK, OK, it was the “other” Michael Lewis who wrote it, must we be sticklers for details?), but because it got superb reviews and I was curious how the director, Adam McKay, could possibly make sub-prime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations into an exciting movie.

But damned if “The Big Short” isn’t pretty exciting. The cast is stellar, with Christian Bale and Steve Carell shining, but the script and the inventive way McKay uses to explain a lot of the boring technical jargon (a naked Margot Robbie in a bubble bath talking about finance certainly got me to sit up straight in my seat) was really what made the movie stand out.

The film doesn’t talk down to its audience, and actually makes the half-dozen or so main characters, who saw the housing bubble collapsing, and taking the world economy down with it, long before others did, seem like characters in a thriller.

To be clear, there are no “good guys” here, just some money men who figured out what was going to happen and made millions doing it.
Even as I was enjoying the movie, though, I got enraged, which is what I suppose is the point. This entire financial collapse we experience in 2008 could’ve been prevented, and it was caused by reckless greed and illegal behavior, combined with so many regulators looking the other way.

By the end of the movie, you feel angry that so few have gone to jail over causing so much pain and suffering. But you also feel this was an important story to tell that most Americans really should watch (kind of the same way I feel about “Concussion,” another flick I just saw, but more on that next week in this space.)

Go see “The Big Short.” It’s much better than you think it’ll be. And you’ll even learn something while having a good time.

NYT.photosofyear1

**Next up, two of my favorite year-end annual events. First, the New York Times’ collection of the Pictures of the Year, from news events around the world. So many haunting and beautiful images here, I’ve put two on the page here (above and below) but really, look at all of them.

Just amazing photography.

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**Finally today, one of my favorite annual things to read this time of year is Dave Barry’s hilarious take on the momentous events of the last 12 months. Barry is, without a doubt, the funniest newspaper writer who ever lived, and though he doesn’t write as much anymore, these year-end recaps still slay me. Some excerpts below; read the whole column here:

JanuaryOn DeflateGate: “The most fascinating theory is put forth by Patriot Head Coach Bill Belichick, a man who, at his happiest, looks like irate ferrets are gnawing their way out of his colon.”

March, on Putin: Abroad, Russian President Vladimir Putin mysteriously vanishes from public view for 10 days. It is later revealed that he was training customer-service representatives for Comcast.

August, on climate change: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July was the hottest month globally ever recorded. With a renewed sense of urgency, the world’s industrialized nations vow to continue sending large delegations via jumbo jets to distant conferences on climate change until this darned thing has been licked.

November, on Presidential debates: In presidential politics, Ben Carson reacts angrily to CNN reports suggesting that he never tried to stab anybody or hit his mother with a hammer. Really. Donald Trump continues his two-pronged campaign of saying reprehensible things and then clarifying his statements by saying he didn’t really say them so STOP HATING YOU PATHETIC LOSERS, a strategy that continues to cost him vital support among knowledgeable Washington insiders. Jeb Bush seeks to revive his flagging campaign by unleashing an awesome new slogan —“Jeb Can Fix It!” — and immediately surges ahead in the coveted 3-year-old-boy voter demographic.
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The Jets with a stunning, thrilling win over the Patriots, as Belichick makes a rare stupid decision. “Master of None” a superb new Netflix show. And the rapist who made sure his victim got home safely.

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Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. It’s been several hours since the New York Jets pulled off an always-satisfying, and always-rare, win over the Patriots Sunday.

And I’m still jazzed. Damn, that feels good. I’ve said before that a victory over New England, since it’s so uncommon, feels like two wins instead of one. And this one certainly does.

Where to start? Well, for once Bill Belichick didn’t come off as such a genius. Coach Hoodie seemed to make major blunders throughout the game, starting with the end of the first half when he inexplicably decided not to try to score more points, with 1:50 left, 2 timeouts, and his team trailing by 7.

But Billy boy saved his best brain work for OT, when after winning the coin toss, he told his captain to say the Pats wanted to kick off. This meant, if the Jets scored a TD, New England wouldn’t get the ball at all and the game would be over.
Which is exactly what happened.
Because Ryan Fitzpatrick, God bless his journeyman soul, led the Jets downfield for a beautiful TD. I don’t know what the hell has gotten into Fitz this year, but this isn’t the QB I watched so many years in Buffalo and Houston. This guy is calm, poised, and after a shaky start, played a terrific game Sunday.

And Brandon Marshall… you complete me. I never saw Don Maynard because I wasn’t born yet, but Marshall’s the best Jets receiver of my lifetime. At least he’s having the best season of any Jets receiver of my life. He’s been so clutch, and so huge, in so many games.

The Jets defense also was fantastic, though to be fair, I think the Patriots were down to the kids from “Lucas” on the offensive line and at wideout by the end. Brady is just so fricken good, he almost pulled out a win anyway.

Ah, so much fun to beat the Pats. Now the Jets have set me up for the ultimate heartbreak: Having to beat Rex Ryan and Buffalo next week to get in. Bills, nothing to play for, Rex desperately wanting to beat his old team, Jets in a great spot… what could possibly go wrong?

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**Next up, I’ve been reading and hearing over the last few weeks about how fantastic Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix comedy, “Master of None” was. I’ve seen it on a bunch of “Top 10 shows of the year” lists, my favorite TV critic Alan Sepinwall had raved about it, and word of mouth about it was great.

Still, I wasn’t a big fan of Ansari or “Parks and Rec,” his last show, so I didn’t immediately watch.

Big mistake. The wife and I have been binge-watching it this weekend and it’s absolutely terrific. We’ve seen eight episodes (of 10) and it’s getting better and better.

The show, ostensibly, is just about a single man (Ansari) in his 30’s, working as an actor, hanging out with his friends, and having adventures both in dating and professionally. But it’s much more than that.

The writing is sharp and real; the chemistry among the actors (none of whom besides Ansari are famous) is terrific, and the stories told are fascinating.

One episode has Ansari’s character, Dev, vying with another Indian actor for a role in a TV show, since “you’re only allowed one Indian per show.” Another hilarious episode has Dev and his Asian friend Kevin trying to repay their parents for giving them a great new life in America by learning about their journeys.
And maybe the best storyline so far involves Claire Danes and Noah Emmerich in guest-starring roles, playing comedy so well.

It’s the rare show that treats its audience as intelligent adults; the relationships seem real, the dialogue is really funny, and it’s just a great, great show.

Can’t wait to watch the last two episodes; this is definitely a show you should check out.

**Finally today, I’m a few weeks late on this but just got around to reading it this weekend, and it’s brave and powerful and fabulous so I wanted to share it. Alisson Wood wrote this in the New York Times Week in Review a few weeks ago, about the time she was a college student, working as a waitress in a diner, and was raped by her boss, a manager at the restaurant.

The headline “Get home safe,” my rapist said” doesn’t grab you, nothing will. After committing his sexual assault in his office, Alisson’s boss helped her into her car, then followed her home.

It took years for her to come to terms with what happened, and her essay brings forth all her emotions. It’s difficult, important writing, and it’s done very well.

Rapists come in all shapes, sizes and demeanors; the stereotypes are often very wrong.

It’s a terrific essay and I highly urge you to read it.

Good News Friday: Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. And three of my favorite Good News Friday stories from 2015

For all my readers out there who celebrate this holiday today, I say Merry Christmas, and ho, ho, ho. May you have gotten whatever you asked for in your stocking, and that you have a wonderful day with you and your family. Me? Like all other Jews in America, as is written in the Torah, I’ll be at a Chinese restaurant. (Actually I won’t be, but I’m pretty sure it IS in the Torah.)

Given that this is the last Friday of 2015, I thought I’d post a few of my favorite Good News Friday stories of the year here.

I hated narrowing it down to just three, but I know you’ve got presents to open and I’ve got moo shoo pork and egg rolls to eat.

**First off, this was from a GNF post in May, and it may be my favorite thing I saw this year. It’s a video of a father doing a rare thing at a wedding: Giving a speech to the groom while they’re up at the altar during the service, not at the reception.

This dad, whose name isn’t on the video, gives his future son-in-law Phillip a little talking-to, in a loving, oh-so-sweet tribute to the woman Philip’s about to marry. It’s about love and Jesus and how much the father loves his daughter… yeah, I cried at the end (and I’m Jewish, that’s how good it is.)

**Next up, this next story I love because it’s so out of the blue and delivered such random joy to dozens of people stranded at an airport.

During a flight delay in June at LaGuardia Airport, the touring casts of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” decided that with everyone in a grumpy mood, they’d put on a little impromptu performance.

And as you might expect, it was awesome.

**And finally, I love this wonderful tradition. Every year, a wealthy businessman, who remains anonymous, travels the country in December and gives out $100,000 to perfect strangers, usually in $100 increments.

And for the last several years, he has allowed Steve Hartman from “CBS Sunday Morning” to tag along. The look on the strangers’ faces … just perfect.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

 

“Serial” is back, and so far it’s fantastic. Netflix invents socks to keep you awake while binge-watching. And the Montreal Canadiens do a bang-up version of “Let It Go.”

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The first season of the podcast “Serial” was a phenomenon in all ways. I was hooked right from the beginning, becoming more addicted each week as the host, Sarah Koenig, walked us through a 1999 murder case involving a Baltimore teenager who allegedly murdered his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Millions of people like me argued about the case with friends, read about it on Internet message boards, and came to the end of the season still not 100 percent sure whether Adnan Syed was guilty (I came down on the side that there certainly was enough reasonable doubt to acquit him.)

Season 2 of “Serial,” which broke every downloading podcast record imaginable, started two weeks ago, and I’m happy to say it’s shaping up just as compellingly as Season 1.

This year they’re investigating a much more famous case, that of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who famously walked off his platoon’s base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, held as a prisoner for five years, then finally released.

Immediately after his release, there was a counter-narrative to the idea that Bergdahl was a hero, and I have to say, after two episodes of “Serial,” I’m of the mind that what he did was extremely dangerous and incredibly disrespectful and hurtful to the American war in Afghanistan.

Episode 2, which detailed the incalculable risks and effort it took to try to find Bergdahl in the months after his disappearance, features numerous interviews with fellow soldiers who talk about the agonizing toll of the search. Day after day, hour after hour, plunging themselves into highly-dangerous situations that could’ve been a trap, just acting on small bits of intelligence that Bergdahl was in a certain location.

So far we’ve only heard bits and pieces of Bergdahl’s explanation of his actions, but right now, he looks awfully guilty of abandonment and other crimes.

Then again, Adnan looked guilty for a while last season, too.

New “Serial” episodes come out every Thursday. If you’re not already on board, I highly, highly recommend it.

 

**Next up today, one of the many, many things I love this time of year are videos of professional athletes singing cheesy holiday songs and showing varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Not surprisingly, there are quite a few gems out there this year, but the Montreal Canadiens singing “Let it Go” from “Frozen” has to be my favorite. P.K. Subban, God bless him, seems to be the only Habs player putting some feeling into it, although as always, the non-native English speakers do their best to channel Elsa.

Enjoy!

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**And finally, this is something that was destined to be invented in this age of television binge-watching. Netflix, the service that basically invented binge-watching of TV shows, has just come out with an innovate pair of socks that (get this) pauses the TV show you’re watching if the socks detect that you’ve fallen asleep.

How does it work? There’s an accelerometer built into them that detects when you’ve stopped moving for a prolonged period of time. A light on the top of the sock will go off to warn you your show is about to be paused, and if you don’t move after that, the socks know you’re asleep and pause the show for you.

Cool, right? I would totally want a pair… until I read this story in the Washington Post explaining their significant cost, that you have to put them together yourself, and they’re a pain to wash and could be blocked by your coffee table or blanket.

Still, if you’ve got $80 to spend and are constantly missing “House of Cards” last five minutes, this is the gift for you.

Me? I think I’ll just rely on a cheaper “you’ve fallen asleep” product: my wife’s elbow into my ribs. I get that for free.

A crazy-awesome NFL Sunday featuring an insane Odell Beckham Jr. Steve Harvey makes the worst awards show screw-up ever at Miss Universe pageant. And an awesome montage of 1980s video dating profiles

Chargers.Weddle

After my New York Jets squeaked out an ugly but beautiful 19-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night, I spent much of Sunday holiday shopping with my wife and son, figuring the slate of NFL games wasn’t going to be all that great.

Yeah, I was wrong about that one. Pretty thrilling day of action I missed most of, but caught up on later. Crazy comebacks, crazy behavior by a certain diva wide receiver, and the Denver Broncos really ticking me off.

First, we’ve gotta start with Odell Beckham Jr., who acted like a 5-year-old child throughout most of his team’s 38-35 loss to Carolina. The Giants fell behind 35-7, made a fantastic comeback, then lost on a last-second field goal as the Panthers went to 14-0.

But all anyone will be talking about today is Beckham’s awful behavior. He committed three personal foul penalties, including twice intentionally slamming his head into Panthers’ DB Josh Norman’s helmet, once running 15 yards down the field after the play ended and smacking into Norman.

Beckham was, incredibly, neither ejected from the game by the refs or benched by his formerly-tough, no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin. What an embarrassment. I don’t care what Norman was doing on pass patterns, that’s ridiculous and disgraceful. Beckham should be suspended for the last two games of the year.

— Then there were the Broncos’ whose collapse after leading 27-10 at Pittsburgh hurt the Jets’ playoff chances a lot. Looks like Brock Osweiler might be falling down to Earth a bit, huh?

— The opposite of Odell Beckham, Jr: San Diego Chargers may be moving to L.A. next year, making their win over Miami Sunday possibly their last home game ever in San Diego. Two hours after the game, safety Eric Weddle was still at the stadium signing autographs. Then he went back on the field and lay down at the 50-yard line, leading to this awesome photograph (above).

— Think maybe Arizona vs. Carolina would be a hell of a lot of fun in the NFC title game.

— I think Kirk Cousins might actually turn into a decent NFL quarterback.

— And I think Johnny Manziel won’t.

**OK, so I’m sure not many of you watched the Miss Universe Pageant on FOX Sunday night, because c’mon, who among us really watches beauty contests anymore?
But I was on social media late Sunday night after this happened and thank goodness I was, because otherwise I might’ve missed the absolute worst awards show host screw-up of all time.

Steve Harvey, the comedian and host of the show, did everything right until the end, when announcing the winner. Which is, you know, the MOST IMPORTANT PART.

The final two contestants were Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, and Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach. Harvey opened the envelope and shouted the winner was Miss Colombia.

So of course, Gutierrez starts crying, gets the crown, the flowers, the whole thing, and starts blowing kisses to the crowd.
Only, a minute later, Harvey announces he made a mistake: Colombia was the first runner-up (which is what these award pageant announcers always say before naming the winner), and Miss Philippines is the actual winner.

Chaos, of course, ensued. Poor Gutierrez doesn’t speak English and has no idea what is happening. Wurtzbach is totally shocked, too, and then walks up to the podium. And then they have to explain to Gutierrez she actually lost, and take the crown off her.

So, so bad. But such amazing television, isn’t it?

**Finally today, this is totally a lost treasure of the 1980s, and I must give a big hat tip to my friend and former college newspaper boss Melissa T. for pointing me to this.

For those of you too young to remember what dating life was like pre-Internet, well, there used to be a thing called “video dating,” where you’d make a short biographical tape about yourself and submit it to a dating service, which would then show it to single men (or women) and they could judge for themselves if they wanted to pursue the person.

I have no idea who put this 4-minute montage of men’s tapes together, but it should be in a time capsule for future generations to study.

This entire thing is hilarious, my two favorites are Maurice (the 2nd guy in the video) and then the “refined Valley dude” at 1:10). Also I love the “goddess” guy at 1:45, he sounds really fun.

(Update: Apparently Ellen DeGeneres loved this tape, too, and found three of the guys on it and brought them to her show a few years ago.

Good News Friday: Kobe’s relationship with his H.S. English teacher is awesome. “The 12 Pains of Christmas” always makes me smile. And a Canada children’s choir singing song in Arabic

at Verizon Center on December 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

And a happy Friday to you all! We’re between Chanukah and Christmas and year-end lists are flying around like insults out of Donald Trump’s mouth.  Sad to report that it looks like one of my favorites, the Regrettheerror.com list of the best and funniest newspaper and magazine corrections of the year, is no longer. Seems the guy running it, Craig Silverman, got a new job and has shuttered his annual roundup. Bummer.

However, three happy stories to lead you into the weekend, where hopefully you won’t be stuck at a mall shopping… (and a fourth story that I’m not writing about simply because I could write about LeBron James’ kindness and generosity every week, and that would get boring. But what he did for a disabled fan in Boston the other night… so great.

First up, I’ve heard some fabulous radio stories over the years from Bill Littlefield’s wonderful NPR program “Only a Game,” but this one from last week’s show has to be among my favorites. You may remember a few weeks ago that Kobe Bryant, in announcing his retirement from the NBA following this season, wrote a poem called “Dear Basketball” and published it on Derek Jeter’s website, The Player’s Tribune.

Well, in seeking to find out where Kobe’s poetry inspiration came from, Littlefield tracked down his old high school English teacher from Lower Merion, Pa., a delightful woman named Jeanne Mastriano.

This seven-minute interview is just terrific, especially when Mastriano talks about the voicemail she left Kobe during the NBA Finals one year, and the stunning impact it had on him.

Can’t praise this short piece enough; listen to it here. I’m not a huge Kobe fan but anyone who loves his English teacher that much can’t be all bad.

**Next up, here’s a story that’s not quite as perfect as first thought when it went viral, but still pretty awesome.

A children’s choir in Canada performed an Arabic song called Tala’ al-Badru Alayna, which was sung by Prophet Muhammad’s companions to welcome him as he sought refuge in Medina. The beautiful performance went viral as it was shared as a welcoming event for refugees in Canada while the country was getting ready for the second group of refugees.

But… not quite. Recent reports suggested that the choir and the song did not have anything to do with welcoming the refugees, it was just something the choir director had wanted to perform for a long time.

Still, it’s a beautiful performance and should indeed be a sign that some countries (not America, apparently, but SOME countries) understand the meaning of compassion and welcoming in those who have suffered so much in recent years.

 

**And finally today, I try to run this song every year on the blog around the holidays because it always makes me smile. It’s an old song parody from the Bob Rivers Group, it’s called the “12 Things at Christmas that are such a pain to me.” I laugh, not exaggerating, every time I hear it. Especially, of course, at the “rigging up the lights guy.”

Enjoy, and take a deep breath, the holidays and the stress will be over soon…

The GOP debate produces the usual high comedy and insanity. And why the Monmouth basketball team bench is the best show going

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I resolved to myself that I’d write about the GOP Presidential debate for this post today, but halfway through watching this exercise of extreme diarrhea of the mouth, I stopped and had a thought: Maybe I shouldn’t blog about it. Why?

Because honestly? This is like shooting fish in a barrel. If the fish are already dead. And the barrel is inches from you. It’s way, way, way too easy.

There was just SO much insanity, idiocy, lies and outright wrong-ness on that stage Tuesday night, it was breathtaking. I had no breath at some points. It was, for lack of a more PC term, the biggest and loudest dick-swinging contest I’ve ever seen in my life. Every single candidate (except Carly Fiorina, who was oddly restrained) tried to be the biggest, most macho, baddest dude around, who was going to kick ass and blow the crap out of ISIS and do it yesterday.

So, so much to comment on and mock. But I’ll try to keep this to a reasonable length.

— First, these guys are all supposed to be so tough and so baaad, yet there was a guy on the state tonight who was walloping them all by at least 15-20 points in the polls, voting for real starts in about six weeks, and yet only two of them went after Trump at all, and only one with any real passion. These guys are so strong and so fearless, yet they’re afraid of a real estate developer with an acid tongue?

— Gotta say, though, the one candidate who really tore into The Donald was Jeb Bush, and he did go after him. That was as strong as Bush has been this whole campaign. Trump is the most thin-skinned politician in history, so when he’s called out on things he’s said in the past, he either calls it a lie, or goes to a personal attack. He’s a schoolyard bully of the worst kind, but it was nice to see Bush stand up to him.

— Ted Cruz is getting closer to this nomination than I ever thought possible. Listening to him talk, he’s Dick Cheney on steroids. I cannot even fathom him talking/negotiating with a world leader.

–Ben Carson couldn’t be sinking faster than if he was a rock in the ocean. His answer about killing children in war and comparing it to kids about to undergo brain surgery was … beyond bizarre.

— Enjoyed the Marco Rubio-Ted Cruz fighting about immigration. Seems everyone on stage took a lot of time to go after Rubio, which surprised me. He’s so far back in the polls, even though people like me think he’ll eventually be the nominee. Why did the other candidates spend so much time attacking him, are they suddenly afraid he’ll start gaining popularity?

— Now Trump, in addition to barring all Muslims from entering the U.S., wants to kill the families of suspected terrorists. And shut down part of the Internet. Swell.

— Nice to see Chris Christie taking the Rudy Giuliani 2008 playbook by invoking a noun, verb and 9/11 in every sentence. How’d that work for Rudy?

— “We’re going to start killing the bad guys.” Ted Cruz. So THAT’s what we should be doing! Thanks Ted!

— I know this was a foreign policy debate, but there are other problems in the world besides ISIS. Would’ve liked to have heard more (or anything!) about China, Russia, or lots of other places.

— Finally, remember when a lot of us thought Rand Paul was going to be a serious candidate for the nomination? Now he and Kasich sound like the only mentally stable folks at sanitarium, shouting into the wind. And the wind is coming from Trump’s mouth.

**Finally today, this is sort of about sports but more about creative celebrations and how much fun they are to watch. One of the coolest under-the-radar stories in college basketball so far this season has been the Monmouth Hawks, and their crazy-cool bench antics.

The scrubs sitting on folding chairs while the action is going on have choreographed some elaborate, hilarious routines to perform when things are going well, and this season, they’ve been going really, really well. Monmouth beat Georgetown Tuesday night, and have a real chance at making the NCAA Tournament, which would make their bench 100x more famous.

Check out the above video for some of the bench highlights; my favorite is the football-themed hike at :26.

And here’s more, from a recent game vs. Wagner. I just love stuff like this, bored college kids having fun and enjoying themselves…

The “Fargo” season finale tonight has me super-excited. An eye-opening experiment involving the Quran and the Bible shows prejudice. And the Jets cruise while the NFC East doesn’t stink for once

FARGO -- Pictured: (l-r) Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist, Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist. CR: Chris Large/FX

Tonight is the season finale of the most shockingly great show on TV right now.

“Fargo” the movie was an all-time classic, and firmly in my Top 10. Then last season they brought “Fargo” back as a TV show, and it was fabulous. Billy Bob Thornton was one of the greatest villains I’ve ever seen, the writing was great, the acting superb, and it was fantastically violent.

My hopes for “Season 2” weren’t great, given that it was a new story, but with a stellar cast like Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart and Ted Danson, I thought maybe it’d be decent.

And I’ve been blown away. I wrote about how good the early episodes of this season were a few weeks ago, The first nine episodes of this season have laid an amazing groundwork, telling the story of a 1979 feud between two Midwestern mob families thrown into a bloody war, and an (at-first) innocent Minnesota couple, Ed and Peggy Blumquist.

I don’t want to give anything away in case you haven’t seen it, so (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THIS SEASON AND PLAN TO).

Last week’s episode was amazing. The bloody shootout at the motel, Hanzee’s betrayal of the Gerhardts, and Peggy’s immortal line “It’s just a flying saucer hon, let’s go,” has me primed for tonight’s finale.

So many great performances in this series, and the most shocking one to me has been Dunst, who I never thought was much of a thespian. What do I want from tonight? I hope Hank lives. I kinda want Ed and Peggy to somehow survive. And I really, really want at least one more scene from Karl Weathers (played greatly by Nick Offerman)

Seriously, “Fargo” has been sensational. The writing, the directing, all of it. Can’t wait to see how creator Noah Hawley finishes off this masterpiece of a season.

**Next up, this is one of the best experiments I’ve seen in a long time. I know it’s been done before, but this was done really well. With all the anti-Muslim rhetoric shooting around the U.S. and Europe these days, a Dutch group called Dit is Normaal decided to disguise a Bible as a Quran, and read verses to people on the street and asked them their thoughts.

Of course, most people reacted with disgust and making derogatory comments about Muslims. One highlight, at 2:09 of the video: “It bothers me that some people see these old writings as the absolute truth. (Paging Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz!)

Then the experimenters told them the truth. And the reactions were priceless.

No translation needed for the woman’s Dutch remark at 2:25, huh?

Just shows how that to some Christians, it’s always “other people’s” religious texts that are wrong and bigoted and intolerant.

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**Finally today, it’s rare that I get to watch a stress-free New York Jets game from start to finish. But Sunday, my boys actually played a laugher. Sure, it was against the terrible Tennessee Titans, but hey, it still could’ve been dangerous for a Jets team that I’m still not convinced is all that good.

But Gang Green dominated from start to finish, leading 27-0 in the first half. Being that I was only paying half-attention to the game at times (I was at my fabulous step-dad’s 80th birthday bash), it seemed like every time I looked up the Jets were scoring again.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Jets’ best QB since Chad Pennington, Brandon Marshall may be having the best season of any Jets wideout ever (sorry, Keyshawn of 1998), and the defense is ferocious.

Jets are 8-5, Kansas City is 8-5, Steelers are 8-5. Only 2 of those 3 are getting in the playoffs. Last three weeks should be fun. This Jets team looks mighty dangerous at the moment.

Some other quick-hit NFL Week 14 thoughts:

— Holy cow, the NFC East went 2-1 Sunday, that’s a veritable onslaught of positivity! Nice to see the Iggles knock Buffalo out of playoff contention, and the ‘Skins escaped, too.

— One day they’re going to do an autopsy on Rob Gronkowski and prove definitively that he’s not human. Guy is just freaking indestructible.

— Andy Dalton’s injury is huge for the Bengals. They ain’t winning anything with A.J. McCarron at QB.

— The Panthers are going 16-0. And there isn’t a soul in America who placed that wager in Vegas back in September.

— Johnny Football lives! It’s just like the Browns to screw up their clear shot at the No. 1 pick by winning some games here in December like they did Sunday.

Good News Friday: Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly takes a huge fan on a 21st birthday date. Tom Hanks and Jimmy Fallon do “Kid Theater.” And a man’s 100 love note tribute to his late wife

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And a Happy Friday to you out there in Internet-land. We’re in the middle of Hanukkah, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is up, and Donald Trump is on his way to Mecca to pray with his favorite people as we speak (ha.)

Lots of good stories and videos this week that came my way. First up, if you’re a football fan you probably know the Carolina Panthers are having an amazing season, as the last undefeated NFL team right now. They’re 12-0, have a really good chance to go 16-0, and are one of the feel-good stories of sports these days.

One more reason to root for them: The huge heart of star linebacker Luke Kuechly. The hard-hitting ‘backer took a local girl suffering from cerebral palsy on a surprise birthday date.

As seen in this story, Jessica Hayes has cerebral palsy, autism, and is half blind. And she had one wish for her 21st birthday: “to meet Carolina Panthers player Luke Kuechly and give him one of my famous hugs.”

Kuechly surprised Jessica with flowers and a limo, and whisked her off to a great night.

See the video here at the bottom; it’s fantastic.

**Next up today, Jimmy Fallon continues to do great, creative work on “The Tonight Show.” This clip is from October but my friend Christine just pointed me to it this week; it’s from a recurring Fallon sketch called “Kid Theater,” where Jimmy and a famous actor read scenes from the actor’s recent movie, with the twist being that elementary school children write scenes for the film just knowing the title.

Tom Hanks and “Bridge of Spies” got the little-kid treatment here; I laughed really hard, especially at the second one.

100lovenotes.upworthy

**Finally today, another example of one man doing one simple thing, that explodes into something wonderful all over the world. This is Hyong Yi, of Charlotte, N.C., pictured with his wife Catherine and their two children.

Catherine died of cancer a year ago, and instead of mourning her death and feeling awful on the anniversary in November, Hyong did something awesome.

He took 100 love notes that he and Catherine had written to each other, and passed them out to strangers on the streets of Charlotte.

He then encouraged each person to pass on the notes to loved ones in their lives, and gave them blank notes to write their own personalized messages.

The hashtag #100LoveNotes has gone viral, and Hyong has heard from people in Scotland, New Zealand, and Canada, among other places.

People have made videos and put them on Twitter, and many of them are in this article here.

“What I wouldn’t give to have one more minute, even a minute, to talk, hold hands with Catherine,” Hyong says. “I want people to take a minute and reflect on that and take time to acknowledge those important in your life.”

Really beautiful stuff here.

A found audiotape of my parents from 1978 is priceless. The dating site for Mickey Mouse lovers only. And the real story behind the “Goodfellas” painting

Mom.Dad.Debbie.1977

Thoughts while wondering if the Golden State Warriors will ever lose. My heavens that team is amazing…

A wonderful treasure arrived, totally out of the blue last week.

My mom and stepfather had been cleaning out some boxes in their house a few weeks ago, and found what I believe to be a priceless treasure: It’s an audiocassette tape from July, 1978, at the 10th anniversary party of my Mom and Dad.

It’s about 40 minutes of hilarity and horror; horror because it slowly dawned on me that my folks (that’s them above, with my sister, right before I was born in 1975) were younger than I am now when the tape was made. Hilarity because the tape is mostly my parents’ closest friends, parents of my lifelong closest friends, making up songs and doing skits poking fun at the foibles and quirks of my parents.

Horror because at one point my friend Marc’s mother makes a pretty R-rated sex joke about my parents, and no kid wants to hear that, ever. I literally winced playing that part back.

But hilarity again because so much of the dialogue and the songs ring true. We all know our parents through memories passed down from grandparents, and friends, and all that. But as kids, we hear them once they’re all set in stone, once our parents’ past life before us is long gone and seems ancient.

When this tape was recorded, my parents had only been married 10 years (they’d be married 11 more before getting divorced). I’m only 2 in this tape, while my sister is 6. These are, unfiltered, my parents and their friends in the prime of their life, with so much still ahead of them.

The audio comes through crystal clear, for a tape that’s 37 years old. At one point toward the end you can hear me cry out (from upstairs, presumably) “Mommy?”, and everyone laughs.
The treasures on this tape are never-ending for a “family historian” like me.

My dad jokes about wanting to go see “King Kong” at the movies the week before. I hear my late Grandma’s full-throated laugh again, which I can never hear enough. I learned a few things about my parents listening to it, too, which is always nice.

I can’t tell you how much this tape has suddenly come to mean to me. Maybe because, even though my parents’ divorce was the best thing for everybody, it takes me back for a few minutes in time when they were happy together.

But mostly, I think it’s because this is a time capsule of a period involving people who I love the most, that I couldn’t possibly remember. It’s a tiny slice of history, and memory, and, thanks to the wonder of free software that converts cassettes into MP3’s (what a time to be alive), I’ll have it forever.

Ah, if only there had been video to go with the tape…

**Next up today, I’m a huge “Goodfellas” fan of course, so any time I come across something related to the movie that seems interesting, it’s going to show up here.

I read this on Twitter the other day, from a story on mixedmartialarts.com (I have no idea why it was on there either): It’s the tale of the famous painting from the scene where Henry, Tommy and Jimmy are at Tommy’s mother’s house, after (spoiler alert!) killing Billy Batts.

The backstory is pretty fascinating: The painting was done by director Martin Scorsese’s mother, based on a photo she saw in National Geographic in the 1970s.

Read the rest of the tale here, and of course, watch the scene above.

mickey-minnie-mouse-disney-kiss-w724

**Finally today, this is one of those stories that I felt like couldn’t be real when I heard it on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” but apparently it is.

There is now a dating site for people who love everything Walt Disney-related.
It’s called Mouse Mingle (because of course it is),

From this story in the Orlando Sentinel:  “Users can fill out a profile by answering a multiple-choice questionnaire or browse other profiles for free. In addition to the usual desired age range, physical qualities and smoking/drinking queries, folks are asked Disney-centric questions. Favorite Disney song? Favorite Marvel franchise? Which park do you call home? What type of annual pass do you have? What type of pet person are you? (“I’m a Thumper person” is the choice for rabbit owners.)

To actually mingle with the Mouse fans, you know, make contact with others on the website, requires a monthly subscription price of $12.55.

So many jokes here, so little time: Is a Pocahontas fan compatible with an Aladdin lover? What happens if the couple doesn’t agree on which of the Seven Dwarfs is the cutest? And on the first date, does the guy show her his 78 snow globes he bought at Disney World, or would that be too creepy even for people on this site?

God bless America.