Monthly Archives: December 2018

Good News Friday: A 9-year-old convinces his town to overturn a law banning snowball fights. Paralyzed musicians do a concert using just their brainwaves. And a high school basketball coach in Chicago suffers tragedy, then inspires

Happy Friday, people of the Internet, and thank you for spending a few minutes of your day here in my happy place, my little corner of the Web. Seriously, thanks for stopping by.

Lots of good news to choose from this week, but I have to start with this hilarious/fabulous piece of news from Colorado, where a 9-year-old boy convinced his local town government to allow snowball fights.

Apparently in Severance, Colo., there’s been a law on the books for 100 years that snowball fights are illegal. According to this story on Upworthy.com, “the small town of Severance averages 43 inches of snow per year, but for the past 100 years, throwing snowballs within city limits has been illegal. Packed balls of snow fell under the town’s definition of “missiles,” and a town ordinance prohibited the throwing of stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, or other property.  (OK seriously a packed snowball is a “missile???” Come on people. I’ve thrown a bunch of snowballs in my life and had just as many pegged at me, and never in a million years could one describe a snowball as “a missile.”)

Nine-year-old Dane Best wanted to have fun with his friends when it snowed, so he asked the town council to change the law.

Best and his classmates wrote letters encouraging officials to overturn the law. Then Best made his case in front of the council using logic and common sense.

“The children of Severance want the opportunity to have a snowball fight like the rest of the world,” he told the lawmakers. “The law was created many years ago. Today’s kids need a reason to play outside.”

Awesome. For his efforts, Best was given the chance to throw the first legal snowball in town.

Way to go, Dane!

**Next up today, this is pretty amazing. Check out this performance put on by paralyzed musicians, using only their brainwaves.

This is how it worked, in a joint effort from Plymouth University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London.

First, researchers put stretchy, cap-like devices that can read brainwaves on the musician’s heads. Then, during the performance, a computer screen presented the four musicians with selections of short different musical phrases. The musicians could choose what phrase they wanted by simply looking at it. The caps then picked up these brainwaves and sent the information to four other, nearby musicians who played the music for them (so, technically, maybe this would be an octet).

This was the result, pretty spectacular.

https://www.upworthy.com/hear-paralyzed-musicians-deliver-a-performance-with-only-their-brainwaves?c=upw1

 

**Finally today, spend a few minutes feeling good about humanity by watching this story about Chicago basketball coach Shawn Harrington, who was accidentally shot and paralyzed a few years ago and instead of allowing that tragedy to change the trajectory of his life for the bad, he has become an inspiring figure to all he comes into contact with.

What a great, great guy, with a fantastic attitude.

Remembering George H.W. Bush, a flawed but decent man who looks so much better in hindsight. Some Adam Sandler for your Hanukkah celebration. And in South Korea, paying money to go to jail for some peace and quiet

Like I’m sure a lot of you have, I’ve spent part of the last few days thinking about the complicated legacy of George H.W. Bush, who lived a hell of a life, all the way to 94, before dying last Friday.

Today is his funeral, and since our current President has declared it a national day of mourning, almost all federal employees have the day off, there’s no U.S. mail service, and even the stock market will be closed, which almost never happens.

As such, seems like a good time to write a little bit about the 41st President. As usual, I have many thoughts about a man who sure does look better in hindsight, but that shouldn’t obscure that he did quite a few good and quite a few bad things in his career.

Couple major points I have been mulling:

— First, the man’s resume was impeccable. To be a military hero, go into the CIA, serve in Congress, then be a Vice-President, and win the White House in 1988 when he trailed by double-digits in the polls in August was a hell of an accomplishment. Then, after losing to Bill Clinton in 1992, served out the rest of his life jumping out of airplanes (even up to age 90) and serving as an elder statesman, developing friendships with Clinton and Barack Obama. You can say lots of things about Bush, but he did not get cheated in life.

— OK, so here are a few things I must praise him for: Helped end the Cold War, without actual bloodshed. Drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Almost always acted decently and humanely in public. Resisted, at least a little bit, the powerful forces of the Religious Right and the loony wing of the Republican party, which wasn’t quite as insane as it is in 2018 but was certainly getting there.

— And a few things that he did that absolutely must be part of his legacy, even as so many this week have tried to make him into a saint: Helped wreck the American economy in the 1980s and early 1990s, leading to a huge recession. Helped craft and signed many discriminatory policies in education and housing that punished poor people and minorities.  Ran a disgusting, racist ad against Michael Dukakis in ’88 that had a big part in Bush’s win. Foisted Clarence Thomas on us. Foisted his own son George W. upon the world, who went on to do great damage to America.

— And oh yeah, might have (OK, probably did) participate or at least know about a massive scandal that involved selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages in 1980. Then as President pardoned anyone who may have connected Bush to the issue.

— Still, in hindsight, isn’t it amazing how far the Republican party has fallen, from Bush to now? George W. and Dick Cheney brought torturing our enemies, and scaring the hell out of Americans to believe that “foreign” almost always meant evil,” to a new, frightening level. And how we have this fraud in the Oval Office, who did nothing to earn the office but promise people everything with the lies a huckster always tells.

— In the end, I don’t think George H. W. Bush was a terrible President, nor a terrible man. He wasn’t our worst Chief Executive, nor was he our best. He lived life to the fullest and took advantage of the breaks given to him at birth, as a wealthy white man, to reach the pinnacle of American achievement.

A couple of tributes/critiques I read this week that I thought were worth sharing. First, the great Charlie Pierce, as usual, punctures the “hero worship” around Bush’s death with this column looking at him evenly.

And I was kind of blown away by this interview on NPR with Joe Bonsall of the country music band Oak Ridge Boys, who talked about their long friendship and special bond with Bush, Even if, like me, you weren’t a fan of Bush, this is a really sweet story and remembrance.

And OK, yeah, if you’re a Gen Xer like me you probably thought of Dana Carvey doing Bush as well this week. Freaking hilarious.

***Next up, as we’re in the middle of Hanukkah I feel religiously required as a Member of the Tribe to watch at least one of Adam Sandler’s famous “The Hanukkah Song” videos.

The Goldie Hawn/Paul Newman line cracks me up the most, every time I see it. And does anyone remember when Yasmine Bleeth was famous enough to be in a song like this (OK she was in Part 2 of it but still).

**Finally today, I heard this bizarre story on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and of course it’s so absurd it has to be true. And it is.

Residents of South Korea are so stressed out and exhausted from their daily work and lives that they’re now paying money, voluntarily, to be checked into “jail” for a day or two.

According to this story, “the detention center, called “Prison Inside Me,” opened in the South Korean city of Hongcheon in 2013. Since then, more than 2,000 people have put themselves through the prison-like experience.

“Many of them are tired, overworked office workers or students. Some say the complete isolation of a jail environment can help them break free from day-to-day pressures.

The building looks like a real prison. Inside, individuals are kept alone in small “cells.” There is no bed in the room, so many sleep on the floor on a yoga mat.

These “prisoners” receive only a blue uniform to wear, a tea set, as well as a pen and paper for keeping notes. Prison rules are strongly enforced. Electronic devices, clocks and other personal belongings are banned. Talking among the prisoners is not permitted.”

This is NUTS, am I right? I mean, look, if you want to get away from it all, isn’t there, like, a stream or a meadow or some quiet place somewhere where you can turn off your cellphone and just veg for a bit? I mean, voluntarily going to jail just to de-stress seems pretty extreme.

Then again, I am reminded of a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Goodfellas, when Karen Hill is worried about her husband Henry’s mob dealings and how it might land him in prison. What about Jeannie’s husband, she asks, who went to prison?

“You know why Jeanie’s husband went to jail? To get away from Jeannie!” he thunders.

So maybe all these South Koreans just need marriage counseling, not prison.

It’s a crazy world we live in.

Happy Hanukkah, y’all! An awesome singing parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes its place in the Hanukkah pantheon. The Chargers are for real, and other NFL thoughts. And a marriage proposal goes great until the ring falls down the street grate.

Morning my fellow humanoids, and a Happy Hanukkah to all of my fellow Members of the Tribe, who started our annual run of eight crazy nights last night. Go crazy, Hebrews, and imbibe some latkes and jelly donuts, spin that dreidel like it’s going out of style, and cue up your favorite Adam Sandler song we all know and love.

To get in the Hanukkah spirit, check out this pretty hilarious parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by the satire singing group Six13, who every year come up with great stuff.

“I light the candles with people who love me, he lights the candles with his whole family.” So funny.

Enjoy, and please, whatever you do, keep those Menorah candles away from the drapes.

**Next up today, another week, another embarrassing way to lose for my Jets. I really tried very hard not to watch too much of the game today, because they’re 3-8, and I was at my in-laws’ Hanukkah party at their place, and the Jets really aren’t worth my aggravation.

But I kept catching glances of the TV, and my boys were wining 16-0, and 19-6, and it looked like they’d finally break their losing streak. Stupid me; they lost in the final minute, of course, and once again for about the 354th time in my decades as a Jets fan, I found myself muttering “Why do I even bother?”

So pointless to root for this team, it really is.

— So, about that Cleveland Browns playoff push… yeah not so much. The lovable losers got stomped by Houston, which oh by the way has won nine straight games now, and looks to be a real threat in the stacked AFC. Man the AFC playoffs are gonna be fun. Baker Mayfield looked like the rookie he is for the Browns.

— What a huge win for the Chargers, the team everyone in San Diego loves except now they play in Los Angeles. Phillip Rivers and his buds were down 23-7 at halftime, then completely turned the game around and won 33-30 with a game-winning field goal on the final play. (the third try at a game-winning kick, by the way, after the favorite team of the Pearson family was offsides the first two times).
Wow does L.A. have two outstanding football teams this year.  It’s too bad nobody out there seems to care about them. But good for Chargers fans, who’ve suffered a lot.

— Gotta hand it to those New York Giants, who tried desperately to give away a well-earned win over the Bears Sunday. The G-Men had a 10-point lead with 1:30 to play, yet were forced to play overtime after blowing the edge. They won, but it sure didn’t come easy.

— Finally, a couple words about the big off-field NFL story this weekend, that of Chiefs star running back Kareem Hunt getting released from the team Friday after video emerged of him assaulting a woman back in February. While you might want to give the Chiefs a smidge of credit for acting fast once TMZ made the video of the attack public to the world, you’d rescind that you hear the reason Kansas City gave for ridding the franchise of Hunt.

They didn’t cut him because he hit a woman; they cut him because he “wasn’t truthful” with the team about it.
So let that be a lesson to all you talented kids out there! Go on ahead and beat up whoever you want, if you’re good enough, someone will overlook it. You just have to be HONEST when asked about it, then everything will be fine!

Shaking my head.

**Finally today, this was a very cool story: A man proposed to his fiancee Friday night here in New York’s Times Square, and all was going great for a second. She said yes, and it looked to be a night to remember for the rest of their lives.

Except the man made one small error: He accidentally dropped his fiancee’s ring into a sidewalk grate.

The NYPD officers nearby tried to help open the grate when the couple asked for help, but were unsuccessful. However a special ops unit of the force was able to get it open and retrieve the ring, and the mystery couple was reunited with the ring once the NYPD Twitter account publicized that the ring had been found. (Their names haven’t been released).

As much as I want to mock the guy for his clumsiness, I proposed to my wife on a gondola ride in Central Park, and I absolutely positively could’ve gotten so nervous that I might have dropped the ring in the water.

So unnamed dude who got a happy ending? I feel you man.