Monthly Archives: February 2017

Good News Friday: A girl with cancer gets an awesome surprise from an NHL team. A Daddy-daughter duet that’s just awesome. And the People magazine thing in my email (girl forgoes birthday presents)

It was 68 degrees in New York today and the calendar says it’s February 24 and there are so many scandals coming out of the Trump White House I literally can’t keep track of them (Trump officials asked the FBI to knock down media reports about his Russian ties? Nah, nothing to see here, except a major, major violation of the law. Carry on.)

Lots of good news stories to choose from this week, before I get to the three I chose I want to direct you to this fabulous, moving essay from Rumana Ahmed, a Muslim-American woman who was on the National Security Council under Obama and tried to stay on under the Orange Man. She lasted eight days before resigning. Truly beautiful writing here.

OK, on with the show. We begin today with the St. Louis Blues, a very good hockey team that, like so many other NHL teams, does so much good in their community. (Hat tip to loyal reader Sanford for pointing me to this story)

Vladimir Tarasenko is the star of the Blues, and back in 2015 at a charity event he befriended 11-year-old Ari Dougan. Ari has neuroblastoma, an awful type of cancer that affects your nervous system, a disease she’s had since she was 3.

She and Tarasenko have talked a lot, but for her 11th birthday, the Blues did something so special. They invited her into their locker room last Monday, showered her with gifts, and gave her a two-game road trip, on the team plane and with the squad, to Phoenix and Denver.

The look on her face when she reads about her gift… priceless.

**Next up, anything that’s been seen 89 million times is probably worth seeing. I’d heard about this Daddy-Daughter dance ye olde Internet, and finally got a chance to watch it this week. Pretty spectacular.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dave Crosby and his 4-year-old daughter Claire, singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” This kid couldn’t be more adorable, especially when she asks “I do the second verse?”

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**And finally today, how about this girl? Nine-year-old Hannah Okel of Waukesha, Wisc. has a birthday coming up.

But she doesn’t want an American Girl doll, or a new baseball glove, or an Aaron Rodgers jersey. Nope, she’s telling everyone she knows that she doesn’t want gifts. Instead, she wants people to donate to the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, an organization that helps shelter dogs get medical care they need.

Hannah wants to be a vet when she grows up.

According to this People.com story, for Hannah, a proud pet parent to her dog Scout, this is a charity that makes a lot of sense.

“I chose this because if Scout needed surgery and we didn’t have enough money to pay for it, I would be sad. So, I am putting my feet in other people’s shoes and want to help those who can’t pay for their animal’s surgery,” Hannah said. 

What a terrific young lady.

 

“Moonlight” is worth all the Oscar noms it got. 7 ways Trump really is Making America Great Again (not how he planned). And Alex Trebek raps on “Jeopardy” like only he can

Sometimes, you see a movie that has been lauded nearly universally and think “Really? This is what everyone is going nuts over?” (I kind of felt that way about “Traffic” all those years ago, and “Birdman” more recently.)

This is a school vacation week for here in the Northeast, so instead of trying to make middle-school kids be quiet in my weekly substitute teaching gig, I got to go see “Moonlight,” which has a 98 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a bucuketload of Oscars.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d love it. The story, about a young African-American boy growing up in a poor section of Miami with a crack-addicted mother and a stranger who becomes a father figure, sounded like something I’d read and seen a hundred times before. Why would this be different?

Well… I shouldn’t have worried. “Moonlight” was outstanding. Really, really great. I don’t know if it was better than “Hidden Figures” or “Fences” or “LalaLand” or its other competition for Best Picture at next week’s Oscars, but it was a wonderful piece of film-making.

I have to start with the acting. The performances were sensational. The best was Mahershala Ali, who was only in the film for about 30 minutes but was so powerful as Juan, a drug dealer who serves as sort of a mentor to Chiron, the movie’s protagonist who we get to see at three different stages of his life.

Ali delivers his lines with such force, and meaning, and there’s one scene near the end of his time in the film that’s just devastating.
Naomie Harris, who plays Chiron’s drug-addicted mother, is also phenomenal, as are Trevante Rhodes (playing 25-year-old Chiron) and all the actors playing Chiron’s best friend, Kevin. (The director, Barry Jenkins, had different actors play the same characters as they grew up. Such a simple thing, but different than most movies try to do it, making a 22-year-old try to look 14, or something.)
The plot is a little slow but meaningful, and the direction is gorgeous: Every scene has a purpose. Chiron’s life is difficult throughout, but we truly see what an impact his awful childhood had on him when we see him as a grownup, falling into familiar Liberty City (a dirt-poor section of Miami) patterns and occupations, as he searches desperately for something good.

The last half-hour, as Chiron and Kevin reunite and have a very hard time with their feelings toward each other, is just achingly beautiful.

“Moonlight” hasn’t been a big box-office hit, because it doesn’t have famous actors or a huge studio behind it. But it’s really a terrific film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins some Oscars. It would totally deserve them.

**Next up today, as the White House operates like “a fine-tuned machine” as our delusional President says, we have a pretty funny short video I enjoyed.

Donald Trump and the 7 ways he’s making America Great Again. I thought this was terrific (And a quick aside: So many GOP Congressmen across the country have been cancelling their town halls, so afraid to be held to account by their constituents. These men talk all the time about “being strong” and being “men of the people” and all that crap, and yet they’re too scared to talk to voters? Give. Me. A. Break.)

**And finally today, don’t we all enjoy Alex Trebek rapping clues on “Jeopardy?” Of course we do. Here was Alex rapping a whole category, called “Let’s Rap, Kids!”
I could watch this 50 times. Just mesmerizing and awesome.

Alex Trebek rapping…

A trip to see “Sesame Street Live” thrills my kid. Glenn Robinson III with a pretty amazing Slam Dunk Contest dunk. And the angel in L.A. who only adopts terminally ill children

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Other than a few minutes here or there that he saw while walking into and out of a room, my son didn’t watch any television for the first two years of his life.

Everything we’d read and been told by our doctor is that TV can have many deleterious effects on babies under 2, from a higher chance they’ll develop ADD to possibility of lower cognitive function. Nothing’s 100 percent proven, of course, and I’m sure millions of kids stared at the screen since birth and turned out perfectly fine and brilliant.

Still, we figured, why not follow doctors’ advice. When he turned 2, we slowly started introducing TV to Nate, and he’s really been good about not getting too “addicted.” The first show we played for him, though, has quickly become his favorite.

The plea of “I want to watch Sesame Street!” has become a daily occurrence in our apartment, and the little guy has really learned to love Ernie, Bert, Elmo and the gang that I adored so much as a kid, too.

So when we saw that “Sesame Street Live” was coming to NYC in February, we quickly snatched up tickets hoping the experience would blow Nate’s mind.

Saturday was the big day, and it was pretty darn fun. Maybe not mind-blowing, but seeing his face and smile when the first song came on and the characters were just 50 feet away was pretty freaking special.

Some thoughts on what had to be my first live “Sesame Street” show since the early 1980s:

— The first thing that threw me was looking up that morning how long the show was. Ninety minutes. For a show aimed at the under-7 set?  Seemed like a real reach to expect kids to sit in their seats that long. Our little guy stayed interested for the 40-minute first act, walked around during intermission, and was good for about 10 minutes of Act 2. Then, he was done. Hey, at least we got that much out of him.

— One of the many touches that shows “Sesame Street Live” has been doing this awhile: In the hallways leading into the theater there were coloring book stations with little tables and lots of crayons and seats for kids who couldn’t handle sitting for the whole show. Brilliant. They also were around before the show, so parents like us kept our tykes coloring until a few minutes before the entertainment was to begin.

— There were 11 different places, from just inside the ticket booth to people walking down the aisles, to buy all kinds of SSL merchandise. And yet nowhere inside the arena was there a place to buy milk. No milk, for a show designed for toddlers? Insane.

— Honestly, a thought that kept going through my head as I watched Elmo and Ernie and Rosita and Telly all up there on stage was, ‘Man, it must be 1,000 degrees inside those costumes.'” Seriously, I’ve been inside one of those costumes once and it was brutal. Then add in the stage lights, all the singing and dancing they were doing… I bet Cookie Monster loses five pounds per show (which is good, because he eats cookies all day.)

— All in all, a really fun time. My little guy was happy all day and talking about the show all weekend, and that’s pretty much all you can hope for.

**Next up today, I haven’t watched an NBA Slam Dunk Contest in at least 15 years (maybe when Vince Carter started winning them is the last time I watched), but I am usually entertained watching clips of the stupendous dunks the winner throws down. This year, Glenn Robinson III, who is barely in the NBA, finished his winning Slam Dunk Contest with a pretty fantastic slam over a mascot, a cheerleader, and a tall fellow player.

Well done, Mr. Robinson.

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**Finally today, I’m not sure if this story is more heartbreaking, or inspiring. But I know it’s both, and it’s a tale of a remarkable human being.

A Los Angeles man named Mohamed Bzeek has much love in his heart. Along with his wife Dawn, he has taken in foster children from L.A. County’s foster homes for the past 25 years, and since the mid-90s Bzeek has only taken in terminally ill children.

These are kids with nowhere else to go, who have often little time to live. But Bzeek adopts them and brings them home.

He has had to bury 10 children over the years, but before they passed, they were exceedingly well taken care of, and they certainly knew they were loved.

The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”

What an amazing story L.A. Times reporter Hailey Branson has found here. And what an amazing man Bzeek is. How many of us could bury that many children, and love them like they were our own knowing they could be gone at any moment?

He is a true hero walking among us.

Good News Friday: An 11-year-old makes 3 half-court shots… in a row. A boy in Texas raises money and food for a local pantry. And Stephen Colbert funds every single teacher project in S.C.

And a Happy Friday to you! There are no words to describe that press conference the Orange Man gave yesterday, so I’m moving right into the good stuff today.

It is extraordinarily rare that I will blog about anything positive that occurs on the University of North Carolina men’s basketball court, because I hate the Tar Heels (Duke has won six in a row, including beating UNC last week, cough cough).

But I’ll make an exception for this incredible feat. Eleven-year-old Asher Lucas is a ballboy for the Heels, and at a recent game, Asher got to take center stage at halftime. There was a snowstorm in the Carolinas that weekend, and the previously-scheduled halftime act couldn’t make it to the Dean Smith Center.

So Asher and his ballboy buddies got to run around and, just for fun, Asher decided to try some half-court shots.

He made the first one, and the crowd cheered. He made the second one, and the crowd exploded in noise. Then he took a third one… and made it. And the fans just went nuts.

Just amazing.

 

**Next up today, a really inspiring story from a 7-year-old boy named Kaden Newton in Rockwall, Tex.

When Kaden took a visit with his parents to a local food pantry a few years ago, he noticed there weren’t many “kid-friendly” items to eat. So he decided to ask friends and family to donate his two favorite kid foods, macaroni and cheese and pancakes, to him so he could deliver it to the food pantry.

Within 10 days, Kaden’s new company “Mac and Cheese and Pancakes” had gone viral, and he received 7,000 packages of food to donate.

“It made my heart feel happy,” he said. “It will always makes me feel happy.”

What an amazing little boy.

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**Finally, Stephen Colbert is a Grade-A human being, of that few dispute. He’s humble, he’s good-hearted, and he doesn’t take himself or his success too seriously.

Here’s yet another example: The website donorschoose.org is a fabulous resource for educators, who post ideas for projects or lessons on the site and ask for financial help to carry them out. It’s sad in a way that teachers have to do this, but it’s also a great way for people who care about education to give teachers a boost.

Anyway, the teachers in South Carolina had nearly 1,000 projects on the website as of last week, and Colbert partnered with two organizations to fund every single one of them, at more than 375 schools, for a total donation of $800,000.

So every single project requested by a Palmetto State teacher will be funded by Colbert, a South Carolina native.

Just fantastic.

Why I’m starting to get mad at “This Is Us,” which could be a great show. The University of Rochester is fed up with your shower habits. And the Portland pub that donates profits to charity

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This is huge. Potentially the biggest political scandal in American history. So much still to be known, but man oh man, you could easily see how this leads to impeachment.

So glad the FBI decided not to tell America that it was investigating Trump/Russia ties, but we had to learn that Anthony Weiner had some Hillary emails on his computer…

OK, so I wrote a few months ago that “This is Us” was my favorite new show, and that it had the potential to be great, but it also could go down the tubes with a few wrong turns.

Well, call up Mapquest (look it up, kids!), but I fear the big hit on NBC has made a few too many lefts and not enough rights. Or something like that.

I haven’t seen last night’s episode yet (so there are no spoilers here), but I have a few big problems with the show, that I’m sure many of you share:

— First of all, Kate. Kate, Kate, Kate. I’ve heard of making a character one-dimensional, but this is ridiculous. Every single storyline involving Kate deals with her weight. It’s always, always about Kate’s struggle with her size. They’ve made this the entire story of her character, as if she has nothing else. It’s insulting that they’ve made her this unlikable person who has no other dimension to her. And now they’re putting her into this ridiculous love triangle with the douchebag at the weight-loss camp, and her fiance Toby (who I actually like)? Ugh.

— Then there’s Kevin, who is also completely unlikable. He’s cute and charming and a sort-of TV star, but the writers have given us no reason to root for him or like him. He’s as shallow as puddle of water, and he treats people badly. I’m kind of glad he keeps getting dumped by girls on the show.

— The best part of “This Is Us,” by far, is Randall and his family, and biological dad William. The acting is tremendous, the storylines interesting, and we have reason to care about and like these characters. I’d watch an entire show just about them.

— I also think Mandy Moore, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, is one hell of an actress. Her scenes are gorgeous, she has great chemistry with Milo Ventimiglia, and she shows the strength and fragility of Rebecca in every scene. I know she’s not going to win an Emmy or anything, but I’m stunned at how good she is.

— Finally, OK, maybe this is a little thing, but did you see last week’s episode with Kevin trying to win back his ex-wife Sophie? The scenes in the New York City subway (above) were the most unrealistic I’ve ever seen on a non-sci-fi show, ever.

Has anyone involved with the show ever been on a NYC subway? They don’t have carpeting, there’s always a few people standing,, and most of all, when a derailment delay happens and then finally after 20 minutes the subway starts moving again, people do NOT stand up and cheer wildly like they did on this episode!!! Man that pissed me off.

OK I think I’m done ranting. Seriously, “This Is Us” has so much potential; it’s warm, emotional and beautifully shot. But please, for the love of God, do something with Kate and Kevin’s characters.

**Alrighty, next up, the University of Rochester is a little fed up with the behavior of some of its male students in the dorm room showers. So they posted this stern note which I think we can all agree with:

rochester-masturbationwarningThat’s classic. My favorite part is at the end, the “Thank you for your cooperation.” Really classes it up a little, doesn’t it?

(Update: Smart reader Mark M. has pointed me to this, showing that the sign is actually a fake, and that lots of these have popped up around colleges. Ah, well. It’s still funny.)

**Finally today, I love this story and not just because I visited Portland last summer and found it to be awesome.

The Oregon Public House bar in Portland is maybe the first non-profit pub in America. Customers walk in to the place, order their drink, order their food, then pick a charity they’d like the profits from their meal to go to.

The owners swap out charities every month, and so far have given away more than $100,000 to worthy causes.

Pretty freaking awesome.

 

A sorority in Michigan puts out a horrific anti-Semitic V-day card. “SNL” and Melissa McCarthy score again. And thoughts on a politically-charged Grammys dominated by Adele

There is so much going on in America right now, politically and socially, that sometimes I feel like we can’t process at all.

There’s so much wrong, and so many lies and such deep hatred emanating from the White House and those who support it, that sometimes I feel like things slide and don’t get the attention it deserves.

So in my tiny corner of the Internet today, I wanted to say how absolutely revolted I am by this story, and how it’s just a mere pebble to a larger boulder of a trend: Anti-Semitism is getting worse and worse in America.

The Central Michigan University College Republicans hosted a Valentine’s Day party last Wednesday night; at the party, they distributed gift bags to all attendees.

In those gift bags was a Valentine’s Day card so hideous, so horrendous… Just look at it.

centralmichigan-vday

Words fail me. That is 14,000 kinds of wrong.

Of course the College Republicans of CMU apologized profusely, claimed that it was some “unauthorized” person who unbeknownst to them put those cards i people’s bags, yada yada yada. Maybe they’re telling the truth, but it smells like bullshit to me.

Anti-Semitism has always been around, you don’t have to tell any Jewish person that. But over the past year, ever since a certain bigoted a-hole began running for President and doing stuff like running ads with pictures of Hillary Clinton and talking about money and putting a Jewish star on the ad (real subtle, Donald), things seem to be getting worse.

There were many, many stories around Hanukkah time of menorahs being destroyed, synagogues being vandalized, and blatant anti-Semitism in many forms. You going to tell me it’s just a coincidence that all this is getting worse since a man who actually became President has a white supremicist and anti-Semite running his campaign and now, his White House?

It is disgusting, it is scary, and it needs to be called out every single time it happens.

Shame on the Central Michigan College Republicans, and shame on the millions of Americans who excused the anti-Semitism of the current administration.

Sadly, this shit doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

**And now, on a lighter note… “Saturday Night Live” did a pretty sexist and awful KellyAnne Conway sketch this week (I’m not going to link to it and give it more clicks, you can find it if you want to), but they absolutely hit a home run again with Melissa McCarthy as White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “The People’s Court” bit is hilarious, and the last 30 seconds are my favorite part, but her saying the word “Orlan-ta.” had me burst out laughing.

Melissa McCarthy may have to become a permanent cast member, she’s too damn good in this role…

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**Finally today, every year I spend 364 or so days ignoring popular music of all genres, stuck in the 1980s and ’90s that I am, then spend one night watching the Grammys and catching up and asking my much-cooler, hipper wife to explain stuff to me (Hey, it works for us.)

Some thoughts from what was a pretty powerful and politically-charged, but sometimes boring, Grammys:

— So Adele won everything and she was absolutely charming as always, whether it was when she stopped her tribute performance to George Michael to start it over because there was a screwup (and then she cursed on live TV which is always fun), or when she basically bowed down to Beyonce and apologized for winning Record and Album of the Year. As I’ve said, I know nothing about current music but it seems the Internet lost its mind that Adele beat Beyonce.

— Beyonce was pretty stunning in her visual and artistic performance; pregnant with twins, she still put on an amazing show.
Seriously, I know she’s called Queen Bey and all that, but can we actually elect her Queen of America?

— The political protests from the stage were expected, because music has always been such an important way to spread messages of resistance. A Tribe Called Quest was pretty on point, calling the President “President Agent Orange” and then parading to the stage a variety of regular people from all different faiths and nationalities. Katy Perry, who I’m not usually a fan of, dropped a fantastic performance as well, and Jennifer Lopez quoting Toni Morrison? Didn’t see that one coming.

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— The Prince tribute was the highlight of the whole show for me, which I knew it would be. Bruno Mars doing “Let’s Go Crazy?” Well done, sir.

— Speaking of J-Lo, she looked great but she’s coming dangerously close to John Boehner’s skin color. There is such a thing as TOO much bronzing and tanning.

— Literally nothing can get me to change the channel faster than “An All-Star Tribute to the Bee Gees!”

— For old fogies like me, seeing the James Corden “Carpool Karaoke” bit with so many artists singing “Sweet Caroline” along with Neil Diamond was pretty fun.

— Also, I had no idea who they were before Sunday night, but Twenty One Pilots coming up to accept their Grammy award with no pants on was pretty fabulous.

— Finally, Lady Gaga and Metallica was a glorious train wreck. As my wife astutely put it, “Gaga looked like she was a Metallica groupie.”

 

 

Good News Friday: An actor and an elderly woman form a beautiful friendship. An Oklahoma special needs athlete scores a huge basket. And a Syrian family finally makes it to the U.S.

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And a Happy Friday to you all out there, from post-blizzard NYC, where we only got a few inches of snow Thursday but it felt like a lot more.

My cup runneth over with good news stories this week, notwithstanding that tremendous Duke-UNC basketball game last night. Wow, what a game. Blue Devils are coming around, Tar Heels are a fantastic team, game wasn’t decided until the final minute and thankfully the superior shade of blue got the win. Let’s go Duke.

OK, so first up this week, despite the belief of some moron in the White House that every refugee from Syria is only coming here to kill us all, there really are some beautiful, heartwarming stories coming out of the madness that the immigrant ban was.

Check this out from Allentown, Pa.: A Syrian family who was approved, vetted, and ready to re-settle in Allentown, but who was denied entry into America because of the Orange Man’s ridiculous executive order, has finally made it to the U.S.

The Assali family’s story  made international headlines when the Syrian Christian family of six (see Donald, they’re Christians! You said they get preferred treatment!) was detained at Philadelphia International Airport, had their visas canceled, and were sent back to Damascus.

But according to this story, during the past two weeks, Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent and lawyers have been fighting to have the family returned, since they went through a 13-year process to obtain visas. (13 years!).

They finally arrived Monday to hugs, cheers and relief.

More goodness: Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf said he would personally reimburse the family for the six plane tickets they bought to get to the United States. A friend of the governor who asked to remain anonymous  also chipped in, paying for the van that took the family from New York to Allentown, the source said.

Ridiculous they had to go through all this, to get all the way to America and be sent back at the airport. But at least finally, thanks to some U.S. judges who are actually (gasp!) following the rule of law, the Assalis have arrived.

**Next up, this is the time of year where we start seeing a lot of these stories in amateur sports, and I love every one of them.

A teenage girl from Norman, Okla. named Lainy Frederickson got into a game last week for the first time. As you’ll see, Lainy has a lot of problems, but the special-needs athlete was put into the game and knocked home a basket. All the reactions are great, but my favorites are the referee, and No. 15 from the other team.

So, so wonderful when high school sports are used to lift up spirits and hearts.

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**Finally this week, a really sweet story involving 31-year-old actor Chris Salvatore, and his 89-year-old neighbor Norma Cook. They’re neighbors in Hollywood, and when Cook recently got leukemia and became gravely ill, Salvatore decided to spend as much time possible with her.

He hangs out with Cook at the hospital, and when doctors told Cook she couldn’t return to her apartment unless she got 24-hour care, Salvatore took the Internet, raising $50,000 for her, and then when the money ran low, he asked his octogenarian friend to move into his apartment.

She couldn’t be happier that I asked,” he said. “I was over there visiting most days anyway.”

“The only other option was for her to go into a facility,” he continued. “I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother.”

Really sweet. But this quote from Cook made me laugh out loud.

We always watch the news,” she added. “We mostly talk and drink Champagne and eat peanuts.”

Sounds good to me!

A hilarious look at what it’s like to work from home. The pretty amazing Lumber 84 full Super Bowl ad. And two great pieces of recent writing I’ve loved.

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Another day where I’m too depressed to blog much about politics. 3 things from Tuesday made me want a blindfold and a cigarette: 1, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education, when I wouldn’t hire her to be a secretary at Dunkin’ Donuts; 2, Mitch McConnell and his GOP colleagues in the Senate wouldn’t let Elizabeth Warren read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing soon-to-be- Attorney General Jeff Sessions because, well, because they’re assholes. 3, The first few paragraphs of this story have me packing for Toronto, immediately. I mean, if this were a movie script it’d be laughed out of Hollywood. 

Like millions of Americans, I mostly work from  home.

Sure it’s true that my primary boss these days is 29 months old and told us the other day he’d like to have lunch in his crib (it was 6:45 a.m when he said it). But even before he came along and I was a freelance writer most of the time, working from you live can be quite the rewarding experience. Freedom to wear what you want! Freedom to let potato chip crumbs sit on your sweatshirt for hours at a time! 45-minute “quick work breaks” to watch the third period of that crucially important Rangers-Vancouver Game 7 from 1994 that you’ve only seen 32 times.

But working from home can also be … a little weird. And lonely. And drive you insane.

Fortunately, a hilarious new story in The New Yorker by Colin Nissan explains to the rest of you what working from home is like. Seriously, this is fantastic. An excerpt:

911 OPERATOR: 911—what’s your emergency?
ROBERT: Hi, I . . . uh . . . I work from home.
OPERATOR: O.K., is anyone else there with you, sir?
ROBERT: No, I’m alone.
OPERATOR: And when’s the last time you saw someone else? Was that today?
ROBERT: Uh, my wife . . . this morning, I guess.
OPERATOR: Anyone else?
ROBERT: I don’t think so. Well, the mailman, but that was through the blinds. I don’t know if that counts.
OPERATOR: I’m afraid not. (Pause.) I’m going to ask you to open the blinds, O.K.? Let’s go ahead and let some light in.
ROBERT: How much light??
OPERATOR: Just a little is fine.
ROBERT: O.K. (Pause.) I did it. (Pause.) It’s bright. It feels so bright on my face.
OPERATOR: That’s good. That’s how it’s supposed to feel. (Pause.) I need you to tell me what you’re wearing, O.K.?
ROBERT: You know . . . just regular clothes.
OPERATOR: Outside clothes or inside clothes?
ROBERT: Hold on, I’ll check. (Pause.) Pajamas. I’m wearing my pajamas. I could swear I’d changed into regular . . . I thought these were jeans!
OPERATOR: It’s O.K., sir. Calm down.
ROBERT: Wait, this isn’t even a shirt. It’s just my skin! Goddammit.

**Next up today, in all the insanity of the way the Super Bowl ended, I forgot to mention, as one of the commercials I really liked, the 84 Lumber spot about a mother and daughter’s long journey toward freedom.

Well, as good as the Super Bowl ad was, the full version of the commercial is even better. Check out this awesomeness above.

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**Finally today, I’ve been quite derelict in pointing out great writing on the blog lately; it’s not that I’m not reading good stuff anymore, it’s more that I’m just forgetting to blog about it.

But two pieces I’ve read in the past two weeks have been just really exceptional. First, Jeanne Marie Laskas of the New York Times Magazine spent a few months in a place readers never get to see: The room at the White House where every letter sent to the President gets sorted and responded to, and she meets the people who decide which 10 letters per day the President reads (they get sorted by categories and topic; those are some of the categories in the photo above)

This is outstanding reporting and beautiful writing, and by the end, you feel the pain and the joy of these fresh-faced employees completely.

The second piece is a tribute written by a protege to his mentor. When Mike Sielski was a young aspiring sportswriter two decades ago, one of his heroes, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bill Lyon, extended kindness after kindness. Lyon is a legend in sportswriting, someone I looked up to and read for years and used as an inspiration, and I always had heard he was a mensch as well.

Lyon is sadly stricken with Alzheimer’s now, but he was being honored in Philly on Wednesday, which is why Sielski wrote this phenomenal, heartfelt piece about a truly heroic man. Read it and learn how much small gestures can mean.

That was the greatest comeback in sports history. I hate you but I salute you, New England Patriots. There were a few good Super Bowl commercials that stood out. And “SNL” gets a hilarious Melissa McCarthy appearance.

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Yeah, I got nothin.’

As the Atlanta Falcons bullied, pummeled, and bludgeoned the New England Patriots all over the field for the first 2 1/2 quarters of Super Bowl 51, I was so, so tempted to gloat. So much was I enjoying seeing my hated nemesis and their two-headed monster, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get their butts kicked, I wanted to get excited. I want to taunt my Pats fans friends (of which I have many). I wanted to make sarcastic remarks about Bob Kraft and Trump and Brady and so much of the New England mystique getting smushed on Sunday night… but I didn’t.

Because deep, deep, deep down, I knew that even at 28-3, this game wasn’t over. I have seen this movie, this incredible Patriots movie, too many times before. Too many times has No. 12 come down and broken hearts, splintered hopes, destroyed dreams.

And so with an enormous assist from their opponents, the Patriots and their robot quarterback did it again. In the biggest Super Bowl comeback ever (biggest by 14 points!), New England won a 34-28 overtime thriller.

And I’m … spent. In disbelief at how it happened, even as I feared it might. After looking so awful for so long, the Patriots woke up. Stopped dropping passes, stopped letting Brady get hit every time he threw, and actually played a little defense of their own.

And because they did, I have to finally say it: Tom Brady is the greatest QB in NFL history. And his coach is probably the best in NFL history, too (though Lombardi and Paul Brown have some pretty good arguments).

A horrible game. An amazing final quarter. A win that will last forever. A few semi-coherent thoughts from my notes…

— I mean, there have been sports collapses before, and choke jobs, and gag jobs, and just terrible play by teams that are way ahead… but oh my goodness, the 2017 Atlanta Falcons 2nd-half Super Bowl performance will be the standard all other collapses will be judged by. For eternity. you’re up 28-3! So many times they could’ve put this game away, but the two biggest screw-ups have to be throwing the ball on 3rd and 1, when you’re inside field goal range up 28-20 and a FG pretty much wins it in the fourth quarter, and then Matt Ryan’s sack/fumble that gave the Pats life a few minutes earlier.

Just an unbelievable collapse. The Falcons’ D surrendered but it was exhausted by overtime. This loss is just as much on the offense; how do you only throw the ball to Julio Jones FOUR times??? (and on one of those he made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history). Just a complete and total meltdown that will forever stain all those involved.

— Somewhere Rodney Harrison, victimized by the David Tyree catch nine years ago in the Super Bowl, was smiling Sunday night. Because that Julian Edelman catch (above) was some kind of Spiderman shit, too. If there was any doubt at that point that the Pats would win, that unreal catch was it.

— Kind of amazing that after dropping so many balls the first three quarters the Pats receivers caught every freaking ball in the fourth quarter and OT. (No, I’m not bitter.)

— Is there anyone in America, except maybe Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who thought once the game went into overtime Atlanta had a chance? Nope. There was no hope, especially after Atlanta lost the OT coin toss. Those defensive players’ legs were rubber.

Lady Gaga performs during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show held at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Anthony Behar) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***(Sipa via AP Images)

— Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was stellar and pitch-perfect. Not overly political but certainly inclusive, she performed her hits, had outstanding choreography, and a pretty fantastic finish. Well done.

— A lot of otherwise-bright people will tell you today that this was the “best Super Bowl ever.” Nonsense. It was a one-sided rout for three quarters. It was the best comeback ever, maybe the most dramatic game ever. But it was a snoozefest for a long time.

— I am so, so glad I didn’t have to cover that game and write a coherent story on deadline.

**So, the commercials. I thought they were pretty decent this year, actually. I loved the Turbo Tax Humpty Dumpty one, and I thought the Christopher Walken/Justin Timberlake ad was really clever. But the two I liked the best were the Honda ad with quotes from celebrity high school yearbooks (above) and this one, from Budweiser, about how their two founders met: Really smart and well-done.

**Finally today, this was about the only thing that could cheer me up after the Super Bowl: “Saturday Night Live” hit it out of the park again over the weekend, as Melissa McCarthy did her best Sean Spicer (White House Press secretary) impression.

Again, these things are hilarious but the real-life stuff is just so scary; Trump saying on the Super Bowl pre-game that sure, Putin’s a killer but we’ve got killers in America, too is pretty horrendous, but this passage, from this tremendous NYT story, is what will scare the hell out of me for weeks:

Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council,…

The President of the United States had NO IDEA what he was signing!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. OK. I think I need to take some pills. Have a wonderful day.

 

 

Good News Friday: The teacher with a special handshake for each kid is awesome. Remembering my favorite all-time Super Bowl ad. And a 5th-grade boy’s love letter is beautiful

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And a Happy Friday to all of you out in Internet-land! It’s Super Bowl weekend, and after this miserable NFL season, I think we’re all just hoping for the same thing: The Patriots get destroyed. OK, maybe only people outside of New England hope for that.

We start today with a video that went viral 100 times over this week, but in case you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty awesome. A teacher in North Carolina named Barry White has created a unique way of greeting every one of his students each morning at Ashley K-8 school in Charlotte.  Yeah, he has 58 students.

“I had a simple handshake with one student last year who wasn’t even in my class, but every day she would wait for me in the morning so we could do our handshake and I saw how powerful it was,” White tells PEOPLE.

Some of them are simple, some of them are crazy intricate. But all are special to each student, and when it all comes down to it, that’s what teaching is all about: Making each student feel special.

“I like that if I’m not having a good day, I can come to his class and I know I’ll have the opportunity to turn my day around.” says 10-year-old Zhyir Williams. “He can make you feel better with a handshake.”

You go, Barry White!

**Next up, I always like to run my favorite Super Bowl commercial before the big game. Now there have been a ton of great ads, like the Budweiser frogs, the Cindy Crawford Pepsi ad, the famous Mean Joe Greene Coke ad, the “1984” ad from Apple… all brilliant.

But I have to say this one is my all-time favorite. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Terry Tate, Office Linebacker:

**And finally today, a beautiful little love note from a 5th-grade boy, to his first crush. Ah, we all remember our first crush: Mine was on Jill Deruga, in 2nd grade. Man, she was cute. We gave each other “I Love You” banners for Valentine’s Day that year, because clearly at 7 years old we knew exactly what love was.

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Anyway, this is a love note from a love-struck boy to his new crush, Abby. In case you can’t read the note above, it reads:

“Dear Abby, your eyes remind me of the evening sky. My heart felt like broken glass until I saw you, and then I felt like I had every Pokémon ever. I love how you play Zelda even when people think it’s weird. If you liked me back it would be my first ever victory,” he wrote. 

Just poetry, man. Whoever that 5th grader is, there’s a Hollywood scriptwriting award in your future. I really hope Abby gave him a chance.