Monthly Archives: January 2016

Good News Friday: NHL players score, fans get puppies! Ben Folds Five and Fraggle Rock’s awesome video. And a high school wrestler lets himself get pinned by a boy with Downs Syndrome

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And a Happy Friday to you out there on the InterWebs. Me and the family are headed to South Jersey for the weekend with friends, which means we are legally required to listen to Bruce Springsteen for the ride down (we probably would anyway even if it wasn’t the law).

Hope you have a great weekend, let’s start today’s GNF with two things we all agree are awesome: Hockey players and puppies.

Last week in Ottawa, a Senators fan help up a sign for star Bobby Ryan that read “Bobby Dad said if you score we get a puppy.” And of course, Ryan scored later in the game.

Then a day later in Columbus, the above sign was held up, and boy, is that Dad going to be mad at Cam Atkinson (No. 13). Dude scored not once, not twice, but THREE times that night! I don’t know if this means that the family is getting three puppies, or three families will each get a puppy, or what.

But now #puppygoal is a Thing on Twitter and this will probably catch on and that’s awesome and the only down side I see are the tears of some 9-year-old girl when Ovechkin or Kane doesn’t score on the night they’re supposed to and she then has to live a canine-free life.

But hey, puppies in Ottawa and Columbus, two of you are about to get new homes!

**Next up, I love my wife. I like to make her happy and usually honor her requests. So when she sent me this video and told me it had to be in this week’s Good News Friday, I said “sure!” Because, again, I love my wife.

Then I watched it, and it’s pretty funny. Ben Folds Five, the cast of “Fraggle Rock,” and the gorgeous and talented Anna Kendrick (I may have mentioned this before, but she’s on my Top-3 list of “celebrities I’m allowed to sleep with” should the opportunity ever arise. And yes, Ross Gellar, my list is laminated.)

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**Finally today, this is beautiful and heartwarming. A high school wrestler named Deven Schuko of Norton High in Mass. was undefeated this season, going 27-0. Until last week, when he allowed himself to be pinned by Andrew Howland of Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High. Howland suffers from Downs Syndrome, and has been an honorary member of the Dighton-Rehoboth team. He’d wanted the chance to wrestle, and when Schuko’s coach asked if anyone would be willing to take Howland on, Schuko volunteered.

Watch the video of the match here.

“If I had to lose to someone, I’d like to lose to Andy,” Schuko told WCVB-TV. “It was a win-win in my book. He won, I won.”
Good on ya, Deven Schuko. Compassion and heart are much-needed in the sports world, always.

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“Billions” a new show I’m excited about. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, hilarious again. And the supermarket freezer that can read your facial expression (seriously)

Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Billions (Season 1, Episode 1). - Photo: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: Billions_101_5107.R

I’m a little hesitant to get too excited about TV shows too early in their run, because a lot of times they run out of steam pretty quickly (see, “Homeland,” “New Girl,” and “Nurse Jackie,” just to name a few).

But I had extremely high hopes for the new “Billions” show on Showtime that premiered two weeks ago, simply because of the two leads: Damian Lewis, so fantastic as Brody on “Homeland,” and Paul Giamatti, who’s been awesome in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, from “Cinderella Man,” to “Sideways” to “Private Parts.”

After two episodes, my verdict is this: Watch. This. Show. It’s damn good.

The plot is this: Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti) is the U.S attorney in Manhattan who prosecutes white-collar Wall Street crimes by day, and enjoys a little S&M with his wife at night (so far just one scene of that, but … man.) Bobby Axelrod (Lewis) is a billionaire hedge fund manager who rose up from nothing to become one of the richest men in the world. He’s smug, he’s arrogant, he’s charming, and Lewis plays him with just the right amount of likability.

Right away it’s established that Chuck is going to try to take down Axelrod, by any means necessary, and score his biggest criminal conviction yet. One possible complication? Chuck’s wife is Axelrod’s closest confidant, a sort-of “life coach meets problem-solver) for Axelrod’s firm.

The show is smartly written, really well acted by everyone (David Costabile, a great “That Guy” who played Gale on “Breaking Bad,” is also great as Axelrod’s consigliere at the firm) and has a lot of room to grow. I was fully hooked at the end of last week’s second episode, when Axelrod tells a great story about why he’s so determined to buy naming rights to an old NYC building from a family that’s owned it for decades.

I don’t know if “Billions” is going to stay this good, but we’re hooked. Sunday nights at 10 on Showtime.

Brody, it’s like we hardly knew ye.  Watch the trailer below.

**Next up, I meant to put this in the blog on Monday but it was running long already and I figured it’d still be funny two days later

And it is. Tina Fey, who really should win an Emmy or a Nobel Prize or something for playing Sarah Palin all these years, was back at it last week on “Saturday Night Live” since the former Governor of Alaska was in the news for endorsing The Donald. (By the way, a scary but pretty fantastic analysis of why Trump is likely to be the nominee was written by Josh Marshall of TPM on Tuesday; I still don’t think Trump will be the nominee in the end, but Marshall makes some excellent points, the best being: All these GOP leaders think they can mold him into whatever they want, since he has no principles of his own.)

From the opening line of the skit, Fey has me in hysterics. Enjoy.

**Finally today, I love stories about robots and machines taking over the world, and this is one I hadn’t heard before.

At the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City last week, a  mind-blowing product was revealed: A grocery store freezer case that can help you decide what you want to buy by reading your facial expression through cameras installed on top of it. It makes suggestions and shares ingredients and product information by using the glass door in front as a screen.

There’s a camera on it that gives data on your facial expressions back to the companies whose products are inside, it analyzes who walks by by their gender and feeds real-time stats back to companies.

I, of course, have lots of questions: First, will people feel shame reaching for the Tombstone pizzas they know they shouldn’t eat, if a camera is watching? If enough people make sad faces at the brussels sprouts, will we finally be rid of them?
And most importantly, isn’t this just a little too creepy, even for 2016? I know we’re being watched everywhere, but a man (or woman) should be able to pig out and not have anyone notice.

Except, you know, the cashier in aisle 7, who’s totally judging you.

Carolina vs. Denver should be a really fun Super Bowl. The hockey player who tried to score with his stick on fire. And Mike Bloomberg for President? Wouldn’t be the craziest idea

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Greetings from Snowmageddon. Or Snowpaclypse. Or whatever you want to call it when everyone from Washington D.C. up to Boston gets hit with a crapload of snow. Hope you survived whereever you are; we got 28 inches here in NYC. We took the little guy out for his first-ever play in the snow, and he wasn’t a fan. Ah, he’ll learn the wonders of a snowball fight…

I watch the Super Bowl every year because I’m an American and it’s the law, but I love it when we get new matchups and storylines.

Teams that haven’t been there before, or star players who have never seen the spotlight that is the Super Bowl, always make it more fun.

We’ve definitely got that this year. After one scintillating conference championship game Sunday and one blowout, we’re left with the Carolina Panthers vs. the Denver Broncos in two weeks at Super Bowl 50.

So many great storylines: Cam Newton, the NFL MVP finally getting a shot at the title. Peyton Manning, the old guy with the scattered arm, getting to one more Super Bowl thanks to his incredible defense. Unsung, low-key coaches like Gary Kubiak and Ron Rivera. A fabulous group of Panthers defenders (and good guys, too) like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

Great offense (Carolina) vs. great defense (Denver) always makes for compelling Super Bowls.

Can’t wait.
Couple quick thoughts on the title games:

— I hate Tom Brady as much as any non-Patriots fan does (probably more), but he was incredible Sunday in defeat. The guy was pounded and pounded and kept coming back, and very nearly got his team back to another Super Bowl. If Patriots kicker Steven Gostkowski doesn’t miss that first-quarter PAT, New England probably wins the game. They had all the momentum at the end.

— Newton is so much fun to watch. I don’t understand one iota these people who get mad at his over-the-top celebrations after scoring TD’s. The guy just plays with so much fun and enthusiasm, and his dances and histrionics are never mean-spirited.

— Manning actually played pretty well Sunday, but missed a few passes that made you realize he’s a shell of his former self.

Still, in honor of him making another Super Bowl, I give you this, one of my all-time favorite SNL commercials:

— Carson Palmer, epic choke job in the biggest game of your life. He had such a great season, you feel awful for him.

**Next up, meet Linus Omark. He plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, he used to play in the NHL, and after watching this, he’s definitely a guy I’d like to have at a party.

Dude lit his stick on fire, for real, and then tried to score a goal with it during the KHL All-Star Game shootout.

This is like that old NBA Jams video game come to life: “He’s on FIRE!” (Gen X boys like me will know what I’m talking about).

I so wish he’d scored and then this could’ve caught on and become a thing. Fire departments in cities all over the NHL would’ve been busy on game nights.

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**Finally today, the big political news over the weekend wasn’t anything from a candidate currently stumping in Iowa or New Hampshire, but a guy not yet in the race.

Michael Bloomberg, the gazillionaire former mayor of NYC whose wealth is nine times that of a certain sexist, bigoted blowhard currently leading the GOP field, is considering a run for President as an independent.

Bloomberg  has a lot of qualities a lot of moderates in both parties might like: He’s fiercely pro-gun control and pro-choice, but he’s also a big-business fan and conservative on economic issues. He was a good but not great mayor of New York, tarnishing his legacy in my eyes in two ways: 1, forcing City Council to change the laws so he could run and win a third term, and 2, his horrendous police strategies that resulted in thousands of unlawful and racist stop and frisks of New York City minorities.

He’s said to only be considering a run (and, in my favorite part of the story, spending $1 billion of his money in the race, you know, just a small chunk of it!) if Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination and if it looks like Bernie Sanders will get the Democratic nod. Bloomberg’s pitch would then be that there are radicals running on each major ticket, and he’s a sensible, much safer alternative.

There’s a lot to digest in a possible Bloomberg bid: I think he’d actually have a shot if it was a 3-way with Bernie and Trump (yuck, get your mind out of the gutter, folks), but he’d have no chance if Hillary was the nominee. A Bloomberg bid would give us another Jewish guy in the race (if Bernie got the nom, we’d have 2/3 of the nominees as Members of the Tribe! I’m kvelling just thinking about it!).

Bloomberg is 73, apparently in good shape, and he’d certainly bring gun-control issues to the forefront. Even though his candidacy would hurt my man Bernie’s chances, I hope he jumps in. Would make for great political theater, even better than we’ve had already.

Good News Friday: A little girl’s awesome reaction to getting a TD ball. The Cavaliers do an awesome MLK Day tribute. And the best free-throw distraction technique ever. And a beautiful tribute to a fallen police K-9.

And a Happy Friday to you! As we await the mother of all snowstorms here in the Northeast (one of those times where I’m thrilled to live in a city where you can walk everywhere, and there’s no need to drive in this muck), I bring you three stories of joy and good cheer.

Of course, my ultimate good cheer would be seeing Brady and Belichick lose on Sunday and Ted Cruz suddenly getting deported, but hey, we can’t be greedy.

First up today, speaking of football, the above video was a small moment of joy from last week’s Panthers-Seahawks game. Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart scored a touchdown and, taking a cue from star quarterback Cam Newton, handed the ball to a young fan.

Her face is priceless; just look at the sheer joy on her face from such a small gesture and moment. She will never, ever forget that.

**Next up, the Cleveland Cavaliers did something tremendous during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day game on Monday. A few years ago, some archivists were working on a project and found audio of an MLK speech he gave to a Cleveland high school in 1967, just a year before he died.

It’s a phenomenal speech, very different from his tone at the famous “I Have a Dream” oration in 1963.

At halftime Monday, the Cavs put together a phenomenal presentation of the speech at halftime of their game vs. Golden State, interspersing the speech with photos of King on the arena floor.

A few amazing excerpts, but I highly recommend watching the whole thing:

— “Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that nobody can do it any better. “Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that nobody can do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. “Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. “Sweet streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’

“We must keep moving. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

Just a phenomenal, beautiful presentation by the Cavs. God, what an incredible speaker King was. Joe Posnanski wrote a column about the Cavs doing this here.

**Finally, this struck me as pretty hilarious. College and high school student sections have, for decades, tried a bunch of different techniques to distract free throw shooters.

This one, from Sheridan High School in Ohio, is one I’ve never seen before. The kids decided to pretend to have a live “birth” while their opponent was taking a foul shot.

Their parents must be so proud!

Sean Penn’s “60 Minutes” interview quite a display of amazing ego and self-love. R.I.P., Glenn Frey. And the “Donald Trump Jam” song is the scariest thing I’ve seen in years

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I’ve been meaning to write about this bizarre Sean Penn/El Chapo interview/capture thing for a week now, because I’m fascinated by it on a lot of levels.
First, I’ve been highly amused at the journalistic “outrage” shared by those in my favorite profession; the social media and TV shouting from writers and commentators so upset that Penn agreed to let Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman see the story for Rolling Stone before it went to print.

Puh-leeze. Spare the outrage. 99.9 percent of the journalists I know would’ve cut off their right arm to score an exclusive interview with the most wanted man in two countries, and not lose any sleep about any pre-conditions.

Secondly, Penn’s obnoxiousness and chutzpah through this whole thing truly has been something to behold. Before the “60 Minutes” interview  (watch it at that link) and then in it, he basically blames the media for the drug war, and paints himself as some crusading “riding in on a white horse” dude who just wants to start a conversation.

I love that a guy with an ego as big as his had it revealed that El Chapo didn’t even know who Penn was! He just agreed to talk to him because he had the hots for that Mexican actress Kate del Castillo (who, I was reminded Tuesday, had a fabulous guest starring role on “Weeds” as Pilar, who was famously killed with a polo mallet by psycho child Shane).

Third, Penn seems positively upset and downcast in the interview when Charlie Rose suggests that he (Penn) helped lead the Mexican authorities to Guzman to capture him. Penn, who claims to be so distraught and angry over the drug problems in America, seems apologetic and feeling bad that he helped get the most notorious drug dealer in the world off the streets!

Sigh. Sean Penn. I liked him better when he was Spicoli. Watch that “60 Minutes” interview and see a man so in love with himself and his self-importance that he can’t even see that he actually did a good thing here,  by accident: El Chapo is back in prison.

Thanks Sean. You can go back to just acting now, please.

Next up, two things about someone I’m trying really, really hard not to write about or take seriously, the host of “The Apprentice.” First, you may have heard that a former Governor of Alaska endorsed him for President Tuesday, and even by Palin standards, her speech was a rambling, incoherent mess. I mean truly, she’s freaking incoherent. Just listen to a few minutes, please, I promise you’ll be entertained.

And second, yeah, the video above? It’s called “The Donald Trump Jam,” it was performed by those three little girls at a rally in Pensacola, Fla., the other day, and it’s the most terrifying thing I’ve seen in a long time.

Be afraid, be very afraid

**Finally, a few words on the death of Glenn Frey on Monday.

The Eagles have always been one of my favorite bands, cultural critics be damned, and it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve listened to “Hotel California” at least 500 times, many of those in college when I may or may not have been under the influence of a certain substance.

I’ve loved so many of their songs, from “Desperado” to “The Last Resort,” but “Hotel California” really is their masterpiece, their epic. Frey and Don Henley wrote it together, and it’s magnificent, and Joe Walsh’s guitar solo toward the end is, to quote rock journalist William Miller from “Almost Famous,” incendiary.

The Eagles were an incredible collaboration between Frey and Henley, two massive egos on beautiful display in that fantastic “Eagles” documentary that was out a couple of years ago (if Showtime is smart, they’d be running it all week.) Their music was part country, part rock, part easy listening, but most of all it was just fantastic.

Glenn Frey co-founded a band that contributed enormously to music history. And he’ll be missed.

 

The latest Democratic Debate was fantastic for all. Another dramatic weekend of NFL football, and I’m conflicted. And great news out of Iran, as a reporter is freed

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Whew. That was one crackling, energetic, informative and substantive Democratic debate Sunday night.

If you didn’t watch, you missed a doozy. I know it was on a Sunday night of a holiday weekend, but hey, this is sadly as close to a big audience as the DNC is going to allow the primary candidates this year, and all three of them put on a hell of a debate. (here’s a 2-minute video recap)

Quick thoughts on the 2-hour affair:

— Bernie Sanders was outstanding on the economy. He had his best debate yet (yes I’m biased as a supporter of his), being forceful, shouting less and pointedly telling voters the differences between he and Hillary Clinton. He dominated on the economy, and scored morality points by refusing to talk about Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct. He did nothing to hurt his recent rise in the polls.

— Hillary was very strong as well. She dominated on foreign policy; she wipes the floor with any candidate in either party on that one. She tried hard to paint Sanders as a position-shifter on guns and was effective in trying to say his health care plans are unrealistic. She attacked Bernie as strong as she ever has, and yet… she was still unable to explain how she’d be tough on Wall Street, when she’s taken so much of their money.

— Martin O’Malley had about two minutes to speak the whole night. Poor guy was railroaded but I thought he had some great answers, critiquing Hillary on her Wall Street ties, and on drug treatment.

— Bottom line for me: If Democratic primary voters think this election is about the economy, Bernie has a great chance to score the big upset. If it’s about terrorism or foreign policy, Hillary wins as expected.

— It’s ridiculous we’ve had only four Democratic debates, and no more before Iowa. Ridiculous.

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**Next up, another dramatic weekend of NFL football, setting up a fantastic Championship Weekend next Sunday. Patriots at Broncos, with Brady and Manning facing off probably for the last time in a big game like this. And then Carolina hosting Arizona, the two best teams in the league all year going head to head. Fantastic stuff.

Couple thoughts from the weekend, and then one big thought that gave me a lot of pause, that I’ll hopefully expand on more in another post.

— That was an incredible comeback by Seattle Sunday, down 31-0 and roaring back to only lose 31-24.

— But then again, you have to also fault Seattle for getting totally destroyed in the first half. Where the hell was the defense?

— The Arizona-Green Bay game was just nuts. Nuts. Arizona finally takes the lead late, gives up a 4th and 20 to Aaron Rodgers to keep the game, alive, then this ridiculous Hail Mary (the 2nd of the year for Rodgers!) that tied it and sent it to overtime.

Then in the extra period, the Cards’ Larry Fitzgerald makes that incredible catch and run, and Arizona wins.
After the game, I went on Twitter and as usual after a big sporting event, people were losing their minds with excitement. I got caught up in it and Tweeted something to the effect of “no matter how many CTE lawsuits and concussions happen, football will survive because of awesome games like this.”

Well, my good friend and former boss Dave saw that and we got into a terrific text exchange. Dave likes to call me on things I say and write, which is good, because we all need to be checked sometimes.

His solid point Saturday night, which I am trying to square my heart with, is that he can’t really get excited about football anymore knowing the longterm damage it does to so many brains, and bodies. And he wondered how I could justify still obsessively following the NFL when I know the horrible pain it causes.

He said “I don’t think, as a society, we should simply excuse the real effects as the price of a great game.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past 24 hours. I don’t have a good response. It bothers me that I read and write about the horrors of what football does to a person, and yet scream and yell on Sundays and can’t wait for next week’s title games.

Definitely something I need to think more about. And maybe change my behavior.

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**Finally today, it’s not often there’s any kind of good news out of Iran, but Saturday we finally got some in the “case” against Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Rezaian, an Iranian-American, had been detained for more than a year on ridiculous and nonsense “spying” charges after he was reporting for the Post in Tehran.

The Iranian courts had arrested him, did God knows what to him in the notorious Evin Prison, and allegedly sentenced him to death just a few months ago.

Finally on Saturday, after months and months of negotiations, the U.S. and Iran struck a deal to release Rezaian in exchange for other Iranians held in America also being released.

It was a prisoner swap, and no one’s ready to back-slap Iran for doing a wonderful deed. But Rezaian is by all accounts a first-rate reporter who did absolutely nothing wrong, yet was imprisoned for 545 days.

Thank God he’s free.

 

The latest installment of the Daddy Chronicles: My knee-hugging, pinching 16-month-old gets his own “office.”

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Two quick thoughts before I get into my self-indulgent (but hopefully entertaining!) post about my little guy: 1, The Academy Award nominations, once again, a disgrace. Not ONE person of color nominated in any of the acting categories; “Creed” and its star, Michael B. Jordan, were absolutely robbed. 2, Another GOP debate last night, and another example of all those wimps on stage afraid to go after Trump (except for Cruz, truly, the fireworks between these two egotistical blowhards was the only exciting part of the debate). Are they all aware they’re about to lose to Trump, and bring their entire party down with them? Sigh.

They say that babies/toddlers change every day, and man oh man, that’s so true. I haven’t written about the foibles/adventures of my 16-month-old bundle of joy in a while, and since he’s changed so much in the last few months, I felt it was time. My best friend is looking more and more like a boy and not a baby every day, and that partly excites me, partly saddens me (because he’s not a baby anymore), and partly terrifies me, since he can reach so many more shelves.

It’s been a really fun age to watch him; here are some highlights of what’s been going on in his life the last few months:

— We have to start with the squeal. It’s maybe my favorite thing he does right now. When my wife comes home from work after a long day, as soon as he hears the key in the door and the slightest glimpse of her, Nate runs toward the entryway and squeals with delight. Then three seconds go by, and he squeals again, louder and longer.

He does it for me sometimes, too, when he’s with our part-time nanny and I come back from a day of teaching or running errands. It’s just the best sound.

— Speaking of sounds, though, he’s not talking yet. Which surprises me and everyone who knows me, since I basically learned to talk as a baby and haven’t stopped yet. He says “Da” and “Da-da” when he’s looking for me around the apartment, but that’s about it. He babbles and expresses himself in other ways (throwing his milk cup down, gesturing wildly for the remote control and the cordless phones), but no real words. Not worried yet, but I kinda thought he’d have a vocabulary by now.

— He’s become obsessed with books. When he wakes up from a nap now, instead of immediately gesturing for us to take him out of the crib, he points to the books on his bookshelf. We give him 5-6 books, and he happily plays with them for a good 15-20 more minutes. But his favorite “book time” is when he goes to what we call his “office.” There’s a 2-foot gap between his book shelf and his crib, and during the day he loves going over into that gap, sitting down on his “Nate” stool, and just poring through his books, taking some out, putting them back. Seriously, he spends so much time there, we’re like two weeks away from getting him a coffeemaker and a fax machine.

My genes are definitely in this kid.

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— We are so incredibly lucky that this guy is so friendly and affectionate. He now walks around giving “knee-hugs” to us, his grandparents, and sometimes strangers. He waves, he smiles, and all of this great except I know that if we ever have a second kid he/she will be a monster who bites the head off live rats. Just to, you know, even things out.

— It’s not all rainbows and puppies, though. He’s started pinching us, really hard, the last few weeks. He thinks it’s a game but sometimes it freaking hurts. We’ve tried reprimanding, we’ve tried ignoring it, so far nothing has worked. Hope it’s just a phase like everything else.

—  Finally, I find it so fascinating how he’s got certain games and habits that he loves for a while, forgets about, then suddenly loves again. Peekaboo was a big hit when he was about 6 months old, then he lost all interest for eight months, now it’s back. He’s constantly putting his hands over his eyes, then giggling like a hyena when we ask where he is. He’s also rediscovered his love of ripping toilet paper off the roll and carefully placing it in the garbage, and his other big favorite: throwing his toys out of the playpen.

— He’s growing up so fast. I just want to stop it. Just for a little while. I wanna say “OK, no more growing for two weeks! We need you to stay the way you are!”

But that’s part of the fun. Every day is a wonder. I’m trying hard to enjoy and remember each stage of the journey.

Each stage seems to get better than the last one.

Obama goes out in style in his final State of the Union. A fabulous gun-control ad hits hard. And the Flint water disaster deserves your attention.

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Man, I’m really going to miss this guy.

That’s what I kept thinking when I watched Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the eighth and final one Barack Obama will give as President of the United States.

From the first time I saw him speak, back in 2004 at the Democratic Convention, he’s held my attention and moved me with his words more than any politician of my lifetime (40 years). Whether he’s angry, whether he’s hopeful, whether he’s empathetic, or whether he’s just saying really smart, incisive stuff, Barack Obama has never been boring.

Has he been a perfect President? Of course not. I have lots of issues with him the last seven years, from failing to close Guantanamo, moving WAY too slow on drug decriminalization, clamping down on press freedoms and subpoenaing more reporters than any President ever, and there are a few more.

But the good has far outweighed the bad to me, and watching that tremendous speech Tuesday night, I realized how much I’m going to miss him.

I’m going to miss the way he can cut through the clutter with a funny phrase or joke; he had a couple doozies Tuesday, right off the top saying he was going to keep this SOTU speech short “because I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.”

His best line, despite all the ones basically smacking down Donald Trump’s B.S.,” was about denial of reality, when he said “60 years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.”

There was so much I liked about this speech, even knowing that very little gets done legislatively in a two-term President’s final year. Loved the talk about making it easier, not harder, to vote, which sadly goes against what so many GOP governors are doing. Loved his passionate defense of the growing U.S. economy, and really liked his talk of criminal justice reform, years too late though it is.

The President seemed, to me, relaxed and confident; I said on Twitter I thought it was his “I’m Keith Hernandez!” moment. He’s done so much good for so many, that when he walks off the stage for the final time next January, it’s going to be a sad day.

Other things I will miss after watching Obama’s final SOTU:

— Joe Biden, smiling for an hour like a proud papa at his son’s Little League game.
— The TV shots of Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep. I think she stayed awake this year!
— The Michelle Obama screen shots. She is one beautiful, powerful, fierce First Lady.
— Trying to decipher the system these TV networks use when they decide which politicians to identify and which aren’t worth it. I have no clue what their formula is.

— Finally, I’ll miss seeing the history of the first African-American President of the United States. Cannot be overstated how important this man has been, symbolically, to the world.

**Next up, one thing Obama has been talking about lately is gun control, and I have to say, I’m impressed with how committed groups like Michael Bloomberg’s gun control lobby has been. This ad, which I just saw last week, was incredibly powerful and points to what could be a life-saving law change, if it ever happened.

The ad shocked me and will probably shock you. Which is the point.

Finally today, the lead poisoning of the children of the city of Flint, Mich. should be a much, much bigger story, and lead to criminal charges for state officials and maybe even the governor.

If you’re late to this like I was, a quick recap: The city of Flint is very poor, and the state of Michigan, thanks in large part to Detroit, is looking for any way to save money possible. So in 2014 Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron, which has been supplying their clean water for decades, to the Flint River, which apparently is notoriously dirty.

Very quickly, folks in Flint noticed their water was odd colored and odd tasting, and what do you know, the state did nothing about it, said it was safe, blah blah blah. And of course, it turns out the water, when tested, revealed huge amounts of lead in it, which can have horrible effects for children.

Rachel Maddow has been all over this story, I urge you to watch the above clip, and not to be outraged. The Detroit News has more damaging info.

 

A pretty blah Golden Globe awards, but some winners got me excited. And a gonzo weekend of NFL playoffs, including the disgraceful Bengals

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 10: Actress Viola Davis attends the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Awards season is here, which means snark reaches a new level on the Internet, I watch and say “I never saw that movie” a lot, and fun is had by all.

Sunday’s Golden Globes were pretty meh, I thought, but I was glad to see so many surprise winners and new faces. Some random thoughts from my wife and I as we watched…

— Ricky Gervais as host was, as usual, not funny. Sorry, I just don’t get why people love him (I also don’t get why Lady Gaga is famous, but that’s another story). Alluding to Mel Gibson, “we know who Mel blames” was one of his two best lines of the night. The other one I loved, directed to the night’s winners, was “Remember, if you win, nobody cares as much as you do.”
But otherwise, I thought Gervais was boring and not needed. Why can’t Tina and Amy host every year?

— Things/People I was thrilled to see win: “Inside Out” for best animated movie. Jon Hamm for “Mad Men.” Aaron Sorkin for “Steve Jobs” (I really don’t know why that movie didn’t do better at the box office, it was terrific).

— And Sly Stallone winning for “Creed” was fantastic. Not as fantastic? Him forgetting to thank the movie’s star, Michael B. Jordan, and director Ryan Coogler. Look, Sly, I know you’re 93 years old, but come on man, you gotta thank the freaking star and the director, the ones who actually put you in a GOOD movie for the first time in 15 years!

— Meanwhile, “Spotlight” was robbed, getting totally shut out. Just wrong.

brie-larson-golden-globes-2016-06

— Jamie Foxx yelling “the winner is, Straight Outta Compton” while presenting an award for Best Original Score was pretty hilarious, then Foxx making it better by mocking the huge Steve Harvey mistake calling out the wrong Miss Universe winner, was fabulous.

— My wife I aren’t the only ones who still can’t remember which one is Olivia Wilde and which one is Olivia Munn, right?

— Denzel Washington can’t be 61 years old. Tremendous montage of his movies, though not sure why “The Pelican Brief” got so much air time; that movie stunk and I love John Grisham.

— Best dressed of the night: Viola Davis (and Amy Adams) for the women, and Chris Evans and Brad Pitt for men. (Brie Larson’s dress (above) was also fabulous.) Worst dressed, by far and no one was even second: Maggie Gyllenhall. I mean, were bumblebees attacking her in this thing?

— Speaking of Mr. Jolie, does Brad Pitt ever, ever age? Dude still looks 25. He’s got some amazing, Benjamin Button secret formula to stay young or something.

— Not to pile on the nice folks in charge of programming at NBC, but USA Network won TWO Golden Globe awards Sunday, while NBC won zero. USA, the channel that shows pro wrestling and other crap most of the time, beat out the network of “The Cosby Show” and “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law.”

Bengals-Steelers

**Next up today, we had two bizarre and compelling endings in the NFL playoffs this weekend, one game that was exciting for three quarters, and then the Chiefs-Texans game which happily I watched not one second of.
The Redskins-Packers game went pretty much as expected; Washington had a surprisingly good season, but the Packers are better. Aaron Rodgers remembered who he is and played great.

The two games I definitely want to talk about, though, were Bengals-Steelers and Vikings-Seahawks.

— One hundred years from now, when pro football is banned in America and high school classes are studying why, I think they’ll show them clips of this Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game. The brutality was ridiculous, so over the top. The vicious Ryan Shazier hit on Gio Bernard (above.) The Vontaze Burfict brutality on Antonio Brown. The Ben Roethlisberger injury. Several other headshots that I can’t even remember off the top of my head. Coaches cursing at players on the field. Just a horrendous display of vicious behavior; this game was out of control.

— And the ending… well, I’ve seen a lot of epic meltdowns in pro football, but that one by Cincy might take the cake. You make a fantastic comeback, take a one-point lead, get an interception with less than two minutes left to basically clinch the game… and still lose. Because your defense is filled with obnoxious, taunting, me-first, selfish, completely irresponsible players like Burfict, who acted like a moron all game, and Adam “Pacman” Jones. They both committed 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties when the Steelers were only at midfield, allowing Pittsburgh to kick a chip-shot game winning field goal.

How Marvin Lewis can keep his job as head coach after his team was as undisciplined as this is beyond me. What an embarrassment the Bengals were.

— As for the Vikings, their defense was great, they got just enough offense, and then their kicker, Blair Walsh, missed a 27-yard field goal. Yeah it was below zero out, and yeah his holder didn’t spin the laces right, but come on, you gotta make that kick, Blair Walsh.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks did nothing for three quarters but somehow found a way to win. This is one hell of a run Seattle’s on, being good and getting all kinds of lucky breaks. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go back to the Super Bowl.

But honestly, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth about all of football right now after that Bengals-Steelers game.

“A View From the Bridge” an incredible Broadway experience. The stranger who donated a liver to a woman he then married. And a bachelor detective in Pittsburgh adopts 2 kids, gains a family

ViewfromtheBridge

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-land. Hope where you are is warmer than it’s been in NYC this week. While I watch some playoff football this weekend and get mad once again that the Jets blew that freaking game last Sunday and therefore aren’t playing, I give you a Broadway review and two great video stories for Good News Friday.

First, the review. Since high school, I’ve been a big Arthur Miller fan, probably once I read “Death of the Salesman” and several of his other “greatest hits.” The Dustin Hoffman movie of “Death” is incredible, and I’ve seen a few other Miller plays staged over the years.

But nothing prepared me for the sheer power and awesomeness that was the “A View from the Bridge” production my wife and I saw last weekend on Broadway. Imported directly, cast and all, from the London show, it’s the story of Eddie Carbone, a 1950s-era Brooklyn longshoreman, his wife, their 17-year-old niece, and two Italian immigrant cousins who come to live in their apartment, illegally.

The acting was amazing; Mark Strong as Eddie (above, middle) put one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen. For two hours (with no intermission, so pee before or hold it for us audience members), he commanded the small stage and showed you how a man could become obsessed, unhealthily, with his niece, and form a rage against the cousin who falls in love with her (or is just using her to stay in America legally).

I have to say, there was a lot of this play that resonated in 2016 with me, as far as immigrants coming to America and searching for a better life, and the desperation they felt.

The script was superb, the direction was great, and it was the quietest theater I’ve ever been in; all 500 of us in the crowd were hushed pretty much the whole time.

When it ended, I literally said “Wow!” If you’re in New York, or visiting anytime soon, I highly, highly recommend “A View from the Bridge.”

It reminded me how incredible live theater can be, when it’s done to perfection. I hope it wins a boatload of Tony Awards.

Next up today, these kinds of stories always amaze me. A woman named Heather Krueger in Frankfort, Ill. needed a life-saving liver transplant. A total stranger, and former Marine named Chris Dempsey was moved by her plight and decided to donate 55 percent of his own healthy liver.

The two got to know each other during their hospital stay and recuperation, and fell in love. Then they got married.

Watch the video above, and tell me fate doesn’t exist.

Finally today, yet another gem from Steve Hartman and “CBS Sunday Morning.” This one involves a tough police detective from Pittsburgh, two boys being raised in a terrible situation, and how opening his heart and home to them led to so much more.

Great stuff.