Monthly Archives: January 2019

A couple destroys a woman’s life thanks to mistaken identity, and refuses to admit it. The incredible surfing feat you have to see. And “The Price is Right” contestant who was in the bathroom when her name was called

This is one of those stories that enraged me.

In the grand scheme of the whole world, it’s not the biggest deal in history. Of course there are many more horrible things done by horrible people to innocents that deserve more attention, and more headlines.

But this really, really bothered me. So people of my Generation, Generation X, may remember the name Kevin Powell. He was a cast member on the first season of MTV’s “The Real World,” playing the “angry black male” character to perfection. Powell has gone on to become an activist and author and received a small amount of fame, while also admitting to abusing numerous women when he was in college.

Well, he and his choreographer wife, Jinah Parker, were preparing to put on a dance show in 2017 when they received a nasty email from a woman named April Sellers. After the tiniest bit of research (Googling, basically) they tried to destroy the name and reputation of Miss Sellers, who they believed to be a Minneapolis theater director and actor. They wrote a viciously hateful email to the Minnesota arts community, the newspapers there, NPR, and many others.

Only, it turns out, they had the wrong April Sellers. The one in Minnesota (pictured above) had no Earthly idea why she was being defamed like this; the actual emailer was a different woman with the same name, who lived in Cleveland.

Now, ninety-nine times out of 100, this would result in an apology, a huge apology, and an attempt to make amends.

Only, no such thing happened. Far from it. And as a result, April Sellers’ Minnesota life was ruined, her career forever changed. There is a slightly, sort-of happy ending to this story, but I urge to read the whole thing and see how reckless, and purely blindly evil, two people can be toward another person, for no apparent reason.

I hope this story follows Kevin Powell for the rest of his life. And that one day, he and Parker wise up and realize just how incredibly wrong they were.

**Next up today, this is one of those athletic feats that is so incomprehensible to me, I don’t even know how you could ever get this good at this. A Brazilian surfer named Rodrigo Koxa just broke the world record for the highest wave ever surfed, at 82 feet, during a session in Portugal, this week.

EIGHTY-TWO FEET high, this wave was. That’s 11 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s stacked on top of one another, with me added on top just for fun.

Insane.

**And finally today, big shout-out to my friend and loyal blog reader Kathy for pointing me to this the other day, as she knew this is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to blog about.

On a recent episode of “The Price is Right,” last week, audience member Tara Armstrong was called down to come to Contestant’s Row. The thrill of a lifetime! A chance to win big prizes and money!

Except after Tara’s name was called, nothing happened for a while. It seems Tara was in the bathroom, answering nature’s call instead of that of the show announcer.

Finally, Tara left her Estate (see what I did there?) and made it down to where Drew Carey would greet her.

I have so many questions, like: Didn’t you go before the show, Tara? And don’t they give you time during commercial breaks to go pee? And do you think she heard her name and ran out without washing her hands, because she was so excited to be on “The Price is Right?”

The world wonders.

Djokovic and Osaka consolidate their dominance with beautiful Aussie Open wins. The man who does rock stars’ laundry on tour. And “SNL” brings back the legend, Steve Martin, for a funny sketch

We have come to the end of the Australian Open, and as always at the end of Grand Slam tournaments, I am a little thrilled and I am a little sad.

I am thrilled because for two weeks I got to immerse myself in tennis as much as I possibly can, and while that’s certainly not as much as it used to be before I got into the human-making business (well, I’m a co-creator at least), it’s still way more than normal. And once again over the past two weeks we were treated to some fantastic tennis and drama on the men’s and women’s sides.

But of course, also a little sad because it’s over, and I delete the tournament app on my phone, and don’t wake up checking scores to see what I missed overnight from Melbourne.

Still, I’m mostly happy, because this Australian Open was great, punctuated by two very worthy champions, in Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka.

— Novak Djokovic’s performance in victory Sunday… I mean, what can you say? Maybe the most dominant performance in a final I’ve seen since Rafael Nadal destroyed Federer at the French Open in 2008, losing only four games total.  From the opening five minutes, the Serb was dominant. He lost only ONE point on serve in the first set, he never let Nadal have time to hit his deep groundstrokes, and never left the Spanish lefty have a chance. Djokovic has now won three straight Slams, and could hold all four majors at the same time, for the second time in his career, if he wins in Paris in a few months.

I thought he couldn’t possibly ever be better than he was in 2016. But Djokovic has gone to a whole new, scary level. Wonderful to see tennis played that well.

— Meanwhile, I’ve never seen Rafael Nadal look so… helpless as he did Sunday morning in the final. He couldn’t do anything on Djokovic’s serve, and the Spaniard saw his own massive serves fired right back at him like they came from a ball machine. Nothing Nadal did in the final worked, and he looked so much like … 99 percent of the world’s other tennis players do against Nadal.

— My good friend Dave, who is a tennis fan that parachutes into the sport during the Grand Slams, texted me a great point in Djokovic’s favor, as he grows inexorably closer to Roger Federer’s record of 20 Slam titles (he’s now only 5 away) and the Greatest of All Time debate:

A good chunk of Federer’s Slam titles have come against finals opponents who are, shall we say, less than legendary. Among those Fed has vanquished to win the trophy include Mark Philippoussis, Marcos Baghdatis, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marat Safin.

For Djokovic, in 12 of his 15 title wins, he’s had to defeat either Federer, Nadal or Andy Murray, the other three members of this “Big Four” in the Golden Age of the sport. That’s mighty freaking impressive.

— Can’t say enough how impressed I am that Osaka, all of 21 years old, can have the life-changing win she had at the U.S. Open last September, with all the attendant controversy and drama that that win entailed, then come back four months later at the next Slam and win the trophy again, in a thrilling three-set final over Petra Kvitova.

That’s really, really hard to do. She’s humble, she’s shy, she’s funny… everything about her screams “star.” Hard not to be happy for, and root for, this young champion.

**Next up today, gotta hand it to “Saturday Night Live” for responding to breaking news events with a major guest appearance, within 24 hours. This cold open spoofing Tucker Carlson’s show on the day Trump consigliere Roger Stone was arrested is funny enough (again, Kate McKinnon is a national treasure!), but then comedy legend Steve Martin comes on as Stone and it goes to another level.

Please tell me some of you in the younger generation catch the throwback reference Martin tosses in at the 6:33 mark.

**Finally today, sometimes you just read a really cool profile of someone that isn’t particularly timely or newsworthy, it’s just a fascinating feature on an idea I wish I’d thought of.

The New York Times’ Thomas Rogers introduces us to Hans-Jurgen Toph, the German man who has become legendary as the proprietor of Rock N’ Roll Laundry, a company that tours with countless music acts and cleans their clothes, expertly, and for decades.

Go behind the scenes and learn great details like how Toph and his company shrunk a pair of David Hasselhoff’s gold pants, how he calls himself “Der Toph” un-ironically, and what some of the challenges of the job are.

I enjoyed this story so much more than I thought I would, thanks to quotes like “I know every disabled bathroom in every German football stadium,” and “Thanks for taking the rocks out of my pants.”.

Really fun story here.

Good News Friday: Paul Stanley and KISS decide to feed government workers not getting paid. Angelica comes back to “America’s Got Talent” and is amazing again. And more reasons to love P.K. Subban: He helps a kid taunted by racists

And a Happy Friday to all my readers, as we wait for the most ridiculous government shutdown of my lifetime (and most of them have been ridiculous, but this one takes the cake) drags on for yet another week, as Obi-Wan Pelosi (I stole that from someone on Twitter) and the Man-Baby in Chief continue to spar and hundreds of thousands of government workers again go without paychecks.

Honestly, I could rant for 45 minutes about how furious I am about this shutdown, all due to the massive, Saturn-sized ego of our President, but it’s Good News Friday and I don’t want to get riled up. (Although I do urge you to check out Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado’s rant from the Senate floor on Thursday, here.)

But speaking of the government shutdown, there are lots of good folks trying to do what they can to help those in need.

And, while not the humanitarians I would normally think of first, it’s the members of rock band KISS who I want to, well, blow kisses at this week. It seems Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, the two frontmen for the legendary group, own a chain of restaurants nationwide called Rock and Brews. And the duo have said that for the duration of the shutdown, they will feed any and all TSA workers for free (the restaurants are mostly in California or Florida and many are in airports; here’s a link to all their locations.)

“We are proud to operate restaurants at airports and respect the diligent, hard work of each and every TSA employee to ensure the safety of travelers,” said Simmons and Stanley in a joint statement. “They touch our lives daily, and as long as they are working without pay, the least we can do is provide them with a delicious meal to show our support.”

Very cool move, fellas. Now please, get back to rock and rollin’ all night, and partying every day.

**Next up today, you may remember I was seriously smitten with young amazing singer Angelica Hale from “America’s Got Talent” season in 2017. She came in second that year (to the equally-amazing child ventriloquist Darci Lynne) but Angelica was invited back to AGT’s “Champions” season currently going on.

Well, Angelica is a little more grown up but still incredible. Check out her performance of “Fight Song” from this past week’s show; what a sensational voice and talent she is. Just makes you feel good to hear her.

**And finally today, I love any chance I can get to highlight the awesome deeds of Nashville Predators hockey star P.K. Subban, and fortunately for me, he keeps doing great stuff worthy of praise.

A few months ago Subban heard about a young African-American hockey player in Michigan named Ty Cornett, who disgustingly has been subject to racist taunts this year while playing in youth leagues. (The taunts really are horrendous; you can read some of them here.)

Subban decided to offer Ty some support, in the form of this fabulous 43-second video, before a recent NHL game.

You go, P.K. Tremendous job. I hope he stays in touch with this kid, and Corbett makes the pros one day, shutting up those disgusting racists who tormented him.
I love this quote from Ty at the end of the story:

Through it all, Ty’s love of hockey hasn’t lessened. There was a time late last year when Matthew, distraught over the treatment of his son, thought Ty should consider taking a break.

“Why would I ever stop playing hockey?” Ty told him. “I love it. They’re the ones with the problems, not me.”

Exactly, son. Exactly.

17 years after getting LASIK surgery, I need glasses again, dammit. And I’m not happy. The next great Americans arrive at the Aussie Open. And an ESPN announcer with a beautiful elegy to his late father

 

I’m bummed. I’m bummed because last Saturday I got some news that I hoped I’d never have to hear again. From a freaking eye doctor.

In February, 2002, I had the best surgery of my life, and spent the best money I’d ever spent.

After 20 years of wearing glasses, from age 8 on, I finally took the plunge and got LASIK surgery. My whole life changed, for the better. I hated, hated glasses, for obvious reasons in school (I was called a nerd, made fun of, all the usual insults we vision-impaired folks deal with in adolescence) and then as an adult I felt it hampered my dating life, my social life, all of it.

LASIK was the panacea, the cure-all to my problems. OK, it didn’t solve EVERY problem, but it made me feel better, look better, and that led to a lot of great things in my life.

Anyway, LASIK was great, and I thought, OK, I’ll never have to wear glasses again, or at least, not for a very long time.

Well, that time is now. I knew my nearsighted-ness was getting a little worse; I’ve been having trouble seeing the scorebox on the TV during sporting events lately, and reading the letters on street signs in the dark while I’m driving was getting more difficult.

But still, I didn’t think I would hear, within two minutes of my annual eye exam, “Yeah, you’re going to need glasses for driving.”

Ugh. I’m only 43; I thought my re-entry into the four-eyed world was still a decade away. I wasn’t mentally prepared to have to delve back into this arena again.

I feel old. I feel like I should get a LASIK refund (kidding, of course, they never guaranteed anything.) I feel defeated.

After my diagnosis, I tried on a few frames, looked at myself in the mirror, and tried not to grimace each time. Couldn’t bring myself to buy specs yet; that’ll come this week.

Dammit, dammit, dammit. Back to glasses. Sigh.

On the positive side, maybe I’ll start to look distinguished with glasses, like Clooney. Nah, I’ll end up looking like Larry David.

**Next up today, this came out of the blue to me on Twitter and I have to say it was very, very moving. ESPN sportscaster Scott Van Pelt, normally known for his sharp, funny quips, went on the air the other night on the anniversary of his father’s death, and gave a beautiful two-minute tribute to his Dad, and the importance of seizing every moment.

I really loved this.

**Finally today, we are midway through the second week of the Australian Open, and as usual, it’s been an awesome tournament. Oh sure I was bummed when Roger Federer lost in the 4th round (not sure he’ll ever win another Slam, the men’s field is just so strong), but there have been so many terrific storylines I’ve enjoyed, including…

— The next generation of Americans is ready to do damage. Yeah, we’ve been hearing about them for a few years, all about their potential, but now they’re here. On the women’s side, Danielle Collins, the pride of UVA, is in the semifinals after never having won a match at a Grand Slam heading into last week (she is ranked in the Top 40, so it’s not like she is a total surprise). Amanda Anisimova, who was born 10 days before 9/11, got to the 4th round and showed she’s the future, and fellow teen Sofia Kenin was also terrific in Week 1.

— And on the men’s side, whoo boy. My man Reilly Opelka beat John Isner, Taylor Fritz did well to get to the third round, and the guy pictured above, all of 21 years old a few days ago, was spectacular. Frances Tiafoe, who many of us in tennis have been touting as the best U.S. hope to win a Grand Slam in the next few years, has finally had that major breakthrough we’ve all expected. He beat No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson in Round 2, survived two more brutal matches to reach the quarters, then finally succumbed to Rafa Nadal on Monday.

But in the process, Tiafoe revealed his wonderful personality, enthusiasm and talent that many have enjoyed as he’s risen up the junior ranks. Truly, a good dude and someone you should root for. He and the other young Americans are just about ready to arrive, now if that Novak/Roger/Rafa three-headed monster would retire already 🙂

— The Aussie Open is killer on my sleep cycle. I try to get to sleep earlier than I used to but it’s hard to turn off live tennis at 12:30 a.m. And this is the only sporting event I follow where I wake up at 7 a.m. and check my phone to see all the things that happened while I slept.

— Down to the semis in both men’s and women’s, and I’m pretty sure Novak Djokovic will win the men’s title, though Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafa Nadal will both give him major tests in the process. On the women’s side? I have no idea, especially after Serena’s epic collapse Tuesday night from up 5-1 in the third set.
I guess I’ll say Naomi Osaka wins it, but the way Danielle Collins is playing, it wouldn’t shock me if she broke through and shocked the world.

— Finally, I have to give a shout-out to this tremendous piece of journalism from my friend and former colleague Konrad Marshall, whose work I have featured in this space before. Konrad, a native Australian who’s a journalist there now, wrote this outstanding feature on the greatest Aussie tennis player of them all, and one of the 3 greatest men’s players ever, Rod Laver.

Laver is 80 now, was hobbled by a stroke and only recently has come out of his shell a bit and accepted the adulation he gets worldwide.

Marshall gets so many wonderful details from Laver, about his stroke, about his beloved wife Mary passing away, and how he’s so enjoying life now. Truly, this is a fantastic piece of writing I think you’ll enjoy. (I got to meet Laver a few years ago at the U.S. Open and the 10 minutes I spent with him is an absolute career highlight.)

Two incredible NFL championship games go to OT, and we’ve got a Rams-Pats Super Bowl. A Mexican airline hilariously trolls America. And SNL with a brilliant skid for women to ward off strange men.

So I was going to go off on a rant today (well, more like a lament than a rant) about something that happened to me this weekend, but I had so much to say about the incredible NFL games Sunday that I’ll save my slight self-pity party for Wednesday’s post.

I realize you don’t have time to read 3,000-word blog posts on a Monday, even on a holiday (Happy MLK Day, y’all! Watch this at least once today, please. Thank you.) And I also have many thoughts about the Australian Open lately but that’ll be saved for Wednesday too.

So I have to start with the football. Wow, wow, wow. We had two sensational NFL conference championship games on Sunday, filled with controversy, drama, absolutely dreadful officiating, and the L.A. Rams and the bleeping New England Patriots left standing, to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

I try not to care about the NFL, for many reasons, but in the playoffs I always get sucked back in, by the drama and the incredible athleticism of these players.

So much to chew on from both games, I don’t know where to start. I’ll start with the Saints-Rams game, where one horribly blown officiating call cost New Orleans a chance to play in the Super Bowl this year.

Now, there were lots of plays in that game that helped the Rams win, and the Saints lose. But the absolutely brutal missed pass-interference call, when New Orleans was inside the Rams 20 in the final minutes, when it was SO obvious that Nickell Robey-Coleman of the Rams mugged Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis (no relation to me), was just killer. If it had been called, the Saints run the clock all the way down and kick the winning field goal.

But it wasn’t, it was just a go-ahead kick, and L.A. had time to come down the field and kick a tying field goal, and the Rams ended up winning on a fantastically clutch 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein, and the Rams are in the Super Bowl.

— I mean, I know refs miss calls, but this was egregious.

— Still, the Rams deserve a ton of credit, slowing down New Orleans’ offense, and winning without much of any contributions from Todd Gurley. They were a fabulous team all year and deserve to be in the Super Bowl.

— This is a bad, bad loss for the Saints. Horrible no-call excluded, their defense allowed the drive at the end to tie the game, and Brees and the Saints didn’t put up nearly enough points in the first half, when they settled for field goals twice.

— Now, onto the other thriller, the one that had me pulling my six remaining hairs off the top of my head…

— I have tried arguing it away, have been in denial about it, have tried to refuse to consider the argument. But it’s gotten beyond ridiculous: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League. He just is.
Do you realize what he just did, at age 41? He went into Kansas City, the most hostile stadium in the AFC, and obliterated the Chiefs defense, led go-ahead TD drives in the fourth quarter twice, and then surgically, precisely led the Pats on a game-winning drive in overtime.

I never, ever, had one doubt once the Patriots got the ball first in overtime, that they would win (more on the NFL OT rule in a minute). Brady is unflappable, he’s unstoppable, and he’s going to his ninth Super Bowl with, again, a bunch of no-name offensive skill players (except for Gronk and Edelman).

As a Jets fan it kills me to write all that. But the guy is just the freaking greatest who ever took a snap. NINE Super Bowls. Nine.

— Kansas City’s defense played WAY too passively in the fourth. No blitzes, no double-coverage on Julian Edelman (who is just unbelievable), and when they finally got a turnover that would’ve ended the game, in the final minute of the fourth quarter, it was called back on an offsides penalty. Tiny mistakes ruin seasons.

— Tony Romo, calling the game for CBS, had a Hall of Fame performance. He had the perfect blend of enthusiasm, knowledge and forethought. He seriously predicted so many huge plays in the fourth quarter and OT, because he played the game for so long and speaks in a way that translates to the viewer. He’s very quickly becoming one of the best football announcers ever. And the Tweets he inspired, were hilarious. This was my favorite…

— Tyreek Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. He plays for the Chiefs. They let him touch the ball ONE time Sunday. Once! I don’t care how good the Pats defense is, you have gotta find a way to get him the ball, Kansas City!

— Now, the overtime rule. In the NFL, in overtime, if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown, the game’s over. If they only get a field goal, the other team gets a chance to score. So the Patriots got the ball, scored a TD, and Kansas City’s marvelous young QB, Patrick Mahomes, never got on the field.

It’s a stupid, stupid way to determine a winner, especially in a playoff game. As sportswriter Mike DeCourcy pointed out on Twitter, it’s like if a baseball team scored runs in the top of the 10th, but the home team never got a chance to bat in the bottom half of the inning.

It’s the way the NFL has always done it, and it’s ridiculous, because it places SO much emphasis on the coin toss. I texted my Dad during the break before the OT coin toss “The Chiefs better win the toss or this game’s over,” and I was right.

But, whatever, it’s done. And now we get a rematch of the Super Bowl that made Brady’s legacy, Rams vs. Pats, a replay of 2002.

Should be fun. Go Rams. But Brady’s the greatest ever. Dammit.

**Next up today, this is a brilliant commercial from AeroMexico that pokes America, properly, about some of our country’s citizens “fear of Mexico.”

Now, I feel pretty confident these people in the ad are actors, not real people, because of the “getting DNA” aspect of it. But whether it’s actors or real people, it’s fantastic.

Especially the Taco Bell part at the end.

**Finally today, Rachel Brosnahan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” hosted “Saturday Night Live” this week, and my feelings about how her show ended its season notwithstanding, I was excited to see the very funny woman on the show.

And she was great. This was my favorite sketch, though, about how women can get annoying, strange men away from them when traveling alone.

Brilliant! The “conversation prophylatic” line had me laughing out loud.

Good News Friday: Duke’s loss to Syracuse bummed me out, but it raised $175,000 for a great cause. A homeless man finds a check for $10,000, and it changes so many lives. And the app that locks your kid’s phone until they text you back.

And a Happy Friday, peeps! Hope you’re having a kick-ass day wherever you are; here in the Northeast we’re expecting a big ole’ snowstorm on Saturday night, so if nothing else, I’ll get to try out the new snow shovel I bought when we moved to suburbia a few months ago.

Want to start off Good News Friday talking about a Duke basketball game, but it’s not good news in the way I normally talk about my beloved Blue Devils.

Because this good news story comes not from me being excited about a Duke win, but what happened because of a fairly stunning Duke loss on Monday (hey, Duke was playing without two of its starters, it happens.)

A huge Syracuse fan and booster named Adam Weitsman made a promise on social media that if the Orange scored the upset Monday, he’d donate $150,000 to the Boys & Girls Club.

Well, the ‘Cuse got it done, winning 95-91, and Weitsman has agreed to pay up. This ESPN story says “Weitsman said he called officials with the Boys & Girl Club on Tuesday and made arrangements to deliver $50,000 apiece to three Boys & Girls Clubs in Owego, Binghamton and Syracuse. His buddies reminded him he’d forgotten to mention another club in Endicott, so he added another $25,000 donation for a grand total of $175,000 to charity after his favorite team’s upset of the Blue Devils.”

This guy Weitsman has quite a backstory: He’s a convicted felon who spent nearly a year in prison in 2004 for bank fraud. Since then, he has made a fortune as the owner of Upstate Shredding, a $1 billion scrap metal and recycling company. He reportedly owns a $30 million mansion on Skaneateles Lake in New York.

Good on him for making such a big donation; Boys & Girls Clubs do so much for so many kids who need a place to hang out, get a mentor, and learn about life.

**Next up today, this is a pretty remarkable story from Steve Hartman and CBS News. A homeless man named Elmer Alvarez found a $10,000 check on the street in New Haven, Conn., last year, and immediately, instead of trying to cash it, tried to track down the woman it belonged to.

Her name is Roberta Hoskie, a successful real estate broker in the state, and what she and Alvarez have done since their meeting is quite wonderful.

So much fate and luck involved in turning around someone’s life sometimes. So many people who you look down on for being homeless or poor, just need a chance. A chance like Elmer Alvarez was given.

**Finally today, my stepsister Lori pointed this out to me, and maybe it’s because she has a couple of teenagers it appealed to her. But I think this is an awesome idea even if your kids are young.

A father has made an app that locks children’s phones until they write back to their parent. Seriously, this is a thing.

The app, called ReplyASAP, makes text messages “unmissable between people that matter, since important messages shouldn’t be missed,” says its creator.

Nick Herbert created the app, which can freeze your child’s phone and even sound an alarm in silent mode. It essentially forces teenagers to stop what they are doing and reply to their worried parents.

Brilliant. Now no more Fortnite until you tell Mom when you’re coming home for dinner and who you’re with!

 

Season 2 of “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was solid, until the last five minutes. Snoop Dogg does NHL play-by-play and it’s awesome. And the new Gillette ad is fantastic

You may remember I was very, very enthused when “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” debuted on Amazon Prime in 2017. Set in late-1950s New York, it starred Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a Jewish housewife with two kids who, in the first episode, impulsively gets up on stage at a comedy club her husband performs at, when he announces he’s leaving her for another woman.

Filled with wonderful acting and great scripts from one of my all-time faves, Amy Sherman-Palladino, “Mrs. Maisel” got huge plaudits from fans and critics.

So me and the wife were very excited to start watching season 2 a few weeks ago, even though we’d heard it wasn’t quite as good in its sophomore year.

Finished it the other night, and a spoiler-free review forthcoming:
First off, I liked the season as a whole… right up until the last five minutes. Honestly, everything I’m about to say was almost ruined by the final scene of the final episode of the season. That’s how much I hated the ending.

But first, season 2 is very different in some ways from Season 1. We finally do start to see Midge’s stand-up career take off a little, as she struggles to be taken seriously by NYC club owners, and other comics. Her manager, played by the awesome Alex Bornstein, is also great, as the streetwise, tough-talking Susie.

We spend much more time with Midge’s parents, Abe and Rose, and it’s mostly fabulous. Tony Shalhoub, who’s good in everything, gets much more screen time this season, and he’s perfect as the cantankerous brainiac professor who can’t understand why his little girl would get up on stage and tell jokes.

We also, regrettably, get a whole lot of Joel, Midge’s jerk of a husband, in Season 2. As what happened in “Gilmore Girls” when she ran that show, Sherman-Palladino just falls in love with these doofus characters and thinks the audience will too. Joel offers very little except providing us reasons to see his parents, played hilariously by Caroline Aaron and Kevin Pollak.

There are lots of high marks in the season; the comedy Midge does onstage is usually really funny. There are a few episodes in Paris, and a few in the Catskills, that don’t advance the story much but are beautifully shot and fun to look at.

And so I was feeling really good about season 2, until the last scene. I’m not going to give it away, I promise. But the choice the writers make when looking to end the season, really calls into question everywhere they’re going in season 3. And I’m worried, because I really like this show.

But what happens at the end is just so illogical, and not on a par with everything that’s happened before.

OK I better stop before I rant some more and give it away. Anyway, maybe you’ll have a different opinion.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” had a strong season 2, definitely watch it. And then tell me what you think of the ending, because oy vey.

**Next up today, this new ad from Gillette has gone viral in a huge way, and I’m very happy it has. Taking a break from their “The Best A Man Can Get” slogan that it has used for decades, Gillette has decided to hop aboard the #MeToo train and cut this striking commercial challenging “toxic masculinity.”

It’s appealing to men to be different, to stop all the caddish behavior so many of us unfortunately still do, and it’s really beautifully put-together.

Good for Gillette; this is one of the best ads I’ve seen in years. Very effective stuff.

**Finally today, you can always count on Snoop Dogg for two things: talking about weed, and hilarity. He gave us the latter this week, when he stopped by the Los Angeles Kings broadcast booth to do a little play by play.

I fast-forwarded to the best part, when the Kings get a power play and they let Snoop just talk for a bit. “Who wants that money?” is my favorite sentence, but really, it’s so great all the way through.

Ah, Snoop. There’s a broadcasting career ahead of you if you wanted it.

The NFL Playoffs gave us only one good game, but next Sunday should be awesome. A crazy-good clairvoyant act on “America’s Got Talent.” And the Australian Open is starting, yay!

Well, you could choose to look at the NFL divisional playoff weekend we just had in one of two ways.

You can take the view that I’m sure most people will, that what’s usually a terrific, close, competitive quartet of games was mostly a dud, as the Rams, Patriots and Chiefs had easy wins, and only the Saints-Eagles game Sunday was exciting. So you could conclude that it was a boring weekend.

Or, you can take an optimistic view, and say we’ve got two massively great games scheduled for the AFC and NFC championship games next Sunday, thanks to the teams who won.

Kansas City vs. New England at Arrowhead Stadium. New Orleans vs. the L.A. Rams down in Louisiana. Should be a whole lot of fun. Both games ought to be high-scoring and down to the wire. They’ve gotta be better than what we just saw, right?

See, I’m an optimist.

Some quick-hit thoughts on the weekend’s games…

— Let’s start with the only really good game. The Eagles pounced on the Saints, 14-0 in the first quarter and damned if I didn’t start thinking, “Is Nick Foles really going to do this again, get incredibly hot and lead his team back to the Super Bowl?”
Then, New Orleans woke up, and squeaked out a 20-14 win with just enough offense. If I’m the Saints, I’m not feeling that confident these days. Drew Brees and Co. have not looked nearly as explosive the last several weeks as they had prior, and they’ve got a huge test in the Rams next week.

— The Patriots looked scary, scary good on Sunday. That was a good Chargers team they walloped, and like everyone else, I’ve run out of ways to praise the dominance of New England. Do you realize they’re about to play in the their eighth straight AFC title game? That is insane.

— The Rams didn’t quite look as impossible-to-stop Saturday night as they did earlier in the season, but man it is fun to watch them on offense. So many weapons, so smooth, and Todd Gurley in the backfield is special.

— Why oh why do instant replays in football take forever? I particularly love when the “rules analyst” every network has in the booth definitely tells us the call should go one way, then the referee on the field goes the opposite way. As Al Michaels said a few weeks ago on a telecast, the refs really are just making it up as they go along.

— I’m picking with my heart and my head for the title games. Give me the Chiefs, with home-field being a big help, and the Rams, getting it done in New Orleans. That would give us one hell of a fun Super Bowl.

**Next up today, I’m starting to get sucked back into “America’s Got Talent” again, now that they’ve got this “Champions” season going on. And so the other night I watched in amazement this act called “The Clairvoyants,” two people named Tommy and Amelie who are pretty incredible at predicting the future.

This is beyond the usual “psychic down at the corner store” kind of stuff. I’m kind of blown away by this. Watch and then pick your jaw up off the floor.

** Finally today, it’s a wonderful time of year for tennis fans like me, because after an offseason that felt like it lasted forever (OK it was only two months), pro tennis is back and more specifically, the Australian Open is here.

It began Sunday night, and the Aussie Open is notoriously hard to predict, since it’s the first Slam of the year, everyone’s healthy and fired up, and so anything can happen.

A ton of great storylines as usual this year in Melbourne, including: Can two-time defending champ Roger Federer win again, or is age finally catching up to him? Novak Djokovic dominated the second half of last season and already has won six Aussie Open titles, can anything stop him? Is Nadal healthy?

On the women’s side, things are wide open as usual. Can Naomi Osaka follow up her amazing U.S. Open title and win again? Is Serena ready to win again after losing two Slam finals last year? And is it time for Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys to triumph in Melbourne?

Nobody knows the answers. Which is why I love tennis so much.

We saw a huge upset that I was personally invested in Sunday night, as Reilly Opelka, a kid from Palm Coast, Fla., I wrote about when he was 11 and used to be taller than (he’s now a 7-footer), scored a huge upset and beat No. 9 seed John Isner.

Great kid from a great family. Very happy for him.

In my younger days I’d stay up most of the night during the Aussie Open, sacrificing sleep for tennis. Can’t do that anymore, but I’ll still love watching what I can see.

ESPN or ESPN 2, every night starting at 7. Can’t wait.

 

Good News Friday: The mayor of NYC says the city will provide free health care for ALL of its residents. An air traffic controller does something awesome for a crying passenger. And a schoolteacher has the flight of her life thanks to great kindnesses

And a Happy Friday, denizens of the Internet. Hope you are somewhere warm today, as we freeze our tushes off here in NYC. Have to be honest with you, not a whole lot of good news going on in America right now for me to bring to you on Good News Friday this week, or maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places.

Between this ridiculous, painful and wholly unnecessary government shutdown, and other events (poor Andy Murray has to retire from tennis because of injury, that bummed me out Thursday night) there’s a lot of bleakness.

But there’s plenty of goodness, too, which I want to share. First off, let’s start in my home state of New York, where our progressive mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, announced a pretty major and drastic program that will ensure that undocumented immigrants and low-income city residents who don’t qualify for insurance will still receive medical treatment.

According to this New York Times story, “New York City already provides health care to the uninsured and the undocumented through its hospital system, a roughly $8 billion behemoth whose history of service to the poor, regardless of an ability to pay, can be traced to the founding of Bellevue Hospital in the 18th century. A person without medical insurance has long been able to go to a city emergency room and get care, free of charge, or to seek a primary-care physician.

But the financially challenged system did not work well to connect patients to doctors, Mr. de Blasio said. He promised a streamlined approach — complete with a hotline and dedicated membership card — and one that would be focused on the primary-care doctor, rather than the emergency room.”

More details here:  “The mayor’s proposal is a mix of insurance and direct spending, and Mr. de Blasio said it would take about two years to get it fully running. The city already has a kind of public option for health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, through an insurance plan run by city hospitals known as MetroPlus.

The new proposal would improve that coverage, which already insures some 516,000 people, and aim to reach more of those who are eligible, such as the young and uninsured, and others who qualify but have not applied.

It would also provide additional direct city spending, at least $100 million per year when fully implemented, officials said, for the city’s hospital system to support care for those without insurance. “

This is outstanding. Health care should be a right, not a privilege in this country of so much wealth, and I’m glad New York City, and many other cities and states around the country, are finally starting to realize that.

I’ve been critical, as have many of my fellow liberals, of de Blasio’s, shall we say, less than inspiring five years as mayor. But this is a big step in the right direction.

 

**Next up today, I thought this was very awesome. Jahmaul Allen, a ramp agent for American Airlines, saw a child crying on the airplane right in front of him last week. So he decided to start dancing to try to cheer the kid up.

Hey, he had me laughing. Very cool little moment. Isn’t life really all about the cool little moments that occur in between what we call “the big stuff?”

To quote Linda Richman from “Saturday Night Live,” “Discuss.”

**And finally today, I love a good “people help out a teacher” story, and this one is definitely a little different. A public school teacher working in inner-city Chicago flew to Florida to visit her parents over the holidays, and had a life-changing trip on her flight.

Bermudez talked to her seatmate, a stranger, about life and funding in inner-city schools, and after a few minutes, the man asked to get her information; the company he works for likes to donate items to schools like hers, he explained. Maybe they could work something out.

The kind gesture already made her flight a heartening one. But then things really took a turn. Bermudez felt a tap on her shoulder.

The man sitting behind her apologized for having eavesdropped on her conversation — then handed her a stack of cash.

The bill on top was $100.

One thing has led to another, and other passengers got involved, and the story went viral, and Bermudez’s school has gotten $4,000 in donations from total strangers.

It’s really a beautiful story; read the rest here.

A library on the U.S.-Canada border shines a light on U.S. in 2018. The sad life of an NFL punter on a great offense. And a new Netflix show you’ve never heard of is totally awesome

I’m not going to waste any of your time talking about the angry white racist in the White House’s “speech” last night, because it’s not worth the gunk on the bottom of your shoe that accrues as you walk down the sidewalk. Needless to say, rarely in American politics has one man’s ego and stubbornness caused so many hundreds of thousands of people to go without pay. But here we are.

Instead, I want to start today with this wonderful little radio story from “This American Life.” It’s by producer Zoe Chace, and it’s about a remarkable place in Derby Line, Vermont, that straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada. Literally, the town library is divided between the two countries, located partly in Derby Line and partly in Stanstead, Quebec. Flower pots are aligned at one point to indicate the border.

What “This American Life” explores about this place is how it’s been used by Iranian students living in America trying to reunite with their families, and how this one little library, at least the Canada part, has been a lifeline.

It’s seven minutes of fascinating listening, showing the extreme lengths families have to go to these days, thanks to the xenophobic policies of this administration. Take a listen here; it’s quite a window into our current world.

**Next up today, I thought this was hilarious. The Kansas City Chiefs have been the highest-scoring offense in the NFL this year, and have a great shot at winning the Super Bowl. They play the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, and once again, the Chief with the most boring job on the team has to be punter Dustin Colquitt. Because he never gets to play. Because the Chiefs hardly ever punt.

The Kansas City social media team put together this video showing Colquitt, and how he spends most games.

I love it. Poor punters, no respect.

**Finally today, when someone I trust, like my friend Steve M., tells me to watch a show, that I’m sure to love it and if I watch it, I’ll definitely be blogging about it, then of course I need to give it a try. I trust Steve’s opinion on most things, and despite his fatal flaw of being a fan of the North Carolina men’s basketball team, he’s generally a good fellow.

And of course, he was absolutely right on this one.

On the surface, the new show “Derry Girls” on Netflix doesn’t exactly seem like my cup of tea. It’s about a group of teenage friends growing up in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, dealing with The Troubles and bomb scares and life at a strict Catholic high school and parents and all of that.

But instead of it being a trite, cliche-filled show, it’s freaking brilliant. And hilarious. And raucous.

The characters, from constantly anxiety-riddled Clare to foul-mouthed and sex-crazed Michelle to sad British boy and butt of all jokes James, are all perfectly drawn, and the writing is whip-smart. You may need subtitles at first because the Irish accents are gravy-thick, but you’ll pick up on the language soon enough.

“Derry Girls” is only six episodes long, and each one is only about 22 minutes, so it won’t take you long to get through it. But I’m telling you, it’s just about the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s better than a “British comedy,” and even the grownups don’t seem like caricatures, and they have some wicked funny lines, too.

I’m telling you, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Give “Derry Girls” a try on Netflix. Any show that can refer to John Travolta as “the disco dancer from Look Who’s Talking” is worth a shot.