Category Archives: Uncategorized

I finally saw “The Book of Mormon” and it was fabulous. SNL with a great Hillary spoof. And the Golden State Warriors leave me breathless

bookofmormon
Two things happened in New York in 2011: I moved back here, and “The Book of Mormon” debuted on Broadway.

Pretty much since it opened and I heard how astoundingly great it was, I’ve wanted to see it. I’m not a huge Trey Parker/Matt Stone fan, don’t love “South Park” all that much, but I heard so many wonderful things about it, I figured I had to see it.

Finally, five years later, my lovely wife got us tickets to see it on Saturday (bless her, she’d already seen it once before we met, and her reaction: “I’m kind of embarrassed at how hard I laughed at it.”)

Yes, I knew it’d be raunchy, and totally inappropriate, and probably offensive if I was even a tiny bit Mormon.

And after seeing it, I can honestly say: It was really damn funny. The story of two apple-cheeked and fired up new Mormon missionaries named Price and Cunningham (first names Kevin and Arnold, so of course I thought of Kevin Arnold and once again, it ALL goes back to “The Wonder Years”) being sent to Uganda to convert a whole bunch of African-American villagers is hilarious. The dialogue is SO over the top, and the props so delightfully tacky, and the profanity sprinkled throughout (an African general is called “General Butt-fucking Naked”) but it’s all done in service of laughs.

The musical numbers are tremendous; the actors playing Cunningham (Christopher John O’Neill) and the female Ugandan villager Nabulungi (Nikki Renee Daniels) were particularly fabulous; I was also blown away by the energy and intensity of all the performers, for the whole two hours. We saw a Saturday matinee, so to think the whole cast had to turn around and do the whole show again just four hours later was kind of mind-boggling.

“The Book of Mormon” wasn’t perfect; it started off slow, and the musical numbers in the second act were much better and funnier, at least to me. But it was really, really good. If you are visiting NYC and can get tickets, definitely worth your time.

**Next up today, the New York presidential primary is fast approaching, and after watching these candidates from afar for the past year, it’s a little bit cool seeing them pressing the flesh just a few miles from me. I did some Bernie Sanders volunteering on Sunday, and as you might expect, his people are mighty fired up. (Unlike me, they actually think Bernie will get the Democratic nomination. Ah, to be a young dreamer…)

SNL did its part to help Bernie Saturday night, with the great Kate McKinnon poking fun at Hillary Clinton in the opening sketch. I laughed pretty hard…

 

**Finally today, the end of the regular season in the NBA very rarely is interesting. Most teams have either clinched their playoff spot and are getting ready for the postseason, or have packed it in long ago and are just playing out the string (our two NYC teams are happily doing just that). I normally pay as much attention to the last week of the season as I do to golf (though hey, good job by that British dude winning The Masters Sunday.)

But this year’s different, because the Golden State Warriors, my goodness, are just so much fun to watch, and they’re chasing a record that really means very little like it’s the most important damn thing in the world. They’ve been trying to equal or beat the Chicago Bulls 72 wins in a regular season, and this weekend the Dubs (as they’re called by the cool kids) pulled out two games they absolutely could’ve lost.

The regular season means nothing, these guys have killed themselves all year, they’re the best show in sports right now, and still, they found the wherewithal to pull out huge road wins over Memphis and San Antonio, all while Steph Curry makes Harry Houdini shots like that (above).

It’s so wonderful to watch a team of ego-less players at the highest level, playing the game with so much joy. The Stanley Cup playoffs (and my underachieving Rangers) usually have my full attention this time of year, but sleep be damned, I’m going to try to catch as many Warriors games as I can.

This kind of team just doesn’t come along too often. I mean, look at this shot!

Good News Friday: An incredible version of “Sounds of Silence” from a metal band. A great April Fool’s ad about toilet paper. And a 9-year-old news reporter coming for the world

As I sit here contemplating just how quickly my New York Rangers will be knocked out of the playoffs this year after another disastrous loss Thursday night, I say how do you do and how you be, and Happy Friday to you.

We start today with a musical performance that blew me away. I’d never heard of the band Disturbed, but I’m told by my best friend Clay they’re a heavy metal group. (which explains why I’ve never heard of them, I gave up metal 20 years ago when Guns N’ Roses broke up).

Anyway, Disturbed was on “Conan” the other night and played this amazing cover of the classic Simon and Garfunkel song, “Sounds of Silence.”

Lead singer David Draimin sounds so beautiful.

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**Next up, loyal reader Sanford pointed me to this story, and I love it. A 9-year-old girl named Hilde Kate Lysiak is scooping veteran reporters and news outlets in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pa., and I’m not talking about scooping them on a kitten stuck in a tree or a Little League game.

Hilde, the daughter of a former New York Daily News reporter, beat her competition on a murder recently, posting her “Orange Street News” story online, and then, you know, returning to third grade.

I just like letting people know all the information,” Hilde said Monday to the Washington Post (which then offered her a full-time job. I’m kidding. I think.) Hilde has gotten criticism from her neighborhood for some of her reporting, with some questioning what a 9-year-old knows about local crime.

“If you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computers and do something about the news. There, is that cute enough for you?”

You go, Hilde! Love this kid.

**And finally today, I didn’t see a lot of really clever April Fool’s jokes last Friday, but this one was fabulous. Toilet paper producer Quilted Northern “introduced” its new artisanal-style product, with wonderful examples.

Well-played, Quilted Northern. And I really want me some of that.

 

Still smiling after that incredible Villanova-UNC title game. Bernie with a big win in Wisconsin. And did the Associated Press coordinate with the Nazis in the 1930s?

As I write this, it’s been exactly 24 hours since the greatest ending to an NCAA Tournament ever.

And I’m still smiling, thinking about it, and not because the team I hate most, the University of North Carolina, lost in the most excruciating manner possible. (not proud of my feelings, just admitting them).

What happened Monday night in Houston, between Villanova and UNC, was extraordinary. The game was well-played throughout, neither team got too far ahead, it was exciting, it was thrilling, and then the last 10 seconds happened.

Before we get into the awesomeness of Kris Jenkins’ shot, I have to throw a little love at Marcus Paige and the miraculous play he made to tie the game.  A double-pump wild-looking 3-pointer that went in, it was the perfect capper to a great career.

And produced this incredible photo…

Apr 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) shoots and scores a three point basket against the Villanova Wildcats in the second half in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Only, there were still 4.7 seconds left on the clock. And Villanova is an experienced team that knows exactly what to do in those situations. And the Tar Heels played way too loose on defense at the end, and Jenkins is a great shooter, and as soon as he let it go, I thought it was in.

And it was, setting off an incredible celebration. Only once before has an NCAA Tournament title game ended on a last-second game-winning shot, and that was 1983 N.C. State over Houston. But let’s be honest: That Lorenzo Charles dunk was a fluky play; he snatched Derreck Whittenberg’s long desperation jumper that was going to fall short, and he put it back in.

This, Monday night, was perfect, flawless execution. The reaction videos were all over social media; this one of Charles Barkley was great, I thought:

Whew. What a great game. I say this all the time but there are SO many things wrong with college basketball, from the academic fraud cases to the exploitation of players, to the inconsistent officiating, yada yada yada.

But for two hours Monday night, it was sports at its best. Such a wonderful, wonderful contest. Thrilled the Villanova kids won. The NCAA Tournament remains the most wonderful sporting event of the year.

And I can’t wait till next college basketball season starts.

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**Next up today, Tuesday night was another huge night for my man Bernie Sanders. In a very important state in the general election, everyone’s favorite 74-year-old Vermont Jew came up big, beating Hillary Clinton 56-43 as of this writing, with 86 percent in.

There was a lot here that favored Bernie: Wisconsin is a big union state, independents could vote in the Democratic primary, and there are some big college towns in the state, like Madison.

But this is more than that: He’s now won 7 of the last 8 contests. He’s winning big states and small states, and now he’s got yuuuge momentum heading into New York.

And let me tell you, as someone who lives here and is a big political junkie, the next two weeks leading up to the April 19 primary are going to be all kinds of fun.

Bernie slicing into Hillary’s lead, the whole Wall Street argument against HRC, the Jewish vote being up for grabs, the Clintons likely going super-negative to blunt Bernie’s momentum… it’s all on. Believe me, I don’t have blinders on, I know it’s still a longshot for Bernie to get the nomination.

But that he’s still this viable heading into New York, I never would’ve believed it. He’s got a real, real shot to win my state. And then, boy, the shit would really hit the fan in Hillary-land.

And don’t forget! We’ve got Satan in a Cowboy Hat, Ted Cruz, and the man Charlie Pierce calls the vulgar, talking yam, suddenly in a competitive race again. Cruz whupped Trump in Wisconsin by 20-plus points, and now Trump is saying all kinds of nasty things again, and the Orange man is coming back to his home turf here in N.Y., where nobody likes Cruz, and the mud will be flying from Brooklyn to Binghamton.

Get your popcorn ready.

**Finally today, I thought this story was truly fascinating. The Guardian newspaper of London came out with a story citing a German researcher’s recently unearthed archive material from the 1930s, and alleging that the Associated Press willingly cooperated in helping spread Nazi propaganda.

As the only foreign news source in Germany for several years back then, the story alleges that the AP was allowed to stay in the country only after agreeing to not publish anything negative about the Hitler government.

This is an explosive, explosive charge against a legendary news operation, and the AP has of course denied the charge.

But this is really interesting stuff. Here’s the AP’s response to the article.

 

30 things you can say both to a toddler and your drunk friend. Some thoughts on the Season 2 finale of “Serial.” And Villanova and North Carolina play for a national title tonight.

Silly toddler putting spaghetti on head at messy table

You might not think there are many things a toddler and your drunk friend have in common.

Oh sure, they both drool occasionally, have trouble verbalizing their wants, and sometimes you just wish they’d fall down and go to sleep.

But did you know there are 30 things you can say to both of them and they would apply equally?

Meredith Masony of the blog “That’s Inappropriate” came up with this hilarious and brilliant list. Some of my favorites…

— We need to use our “inside” voice.

— Yes, those are boobies, but we don’t touch those.

— I am not playing that song again. We have heard it 15 times. Put on your pants.

— Please hold my hand in the parking lot. I don’t want you to get hit by a car.

— I told you to sit here. Why did you leave? You have to tell me when you’re going somewhere.

Seriously, all of these are great. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my toddler drunk.

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**Next up today, the second season of the fantastic podcast “Serial” just ended with the release of the final episode Thursday, and while many people (myself included) have said Season 2 wasn’t quite as compelling or thrilling as season 1, it was still pretty damn good.

This season, if you’ve been listening (and if you haven’t, the next few hundred words won’t make much sense to you ), the “Serial” team dug deep into the well-known story of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who wandered off his base in Afghanistan in 2009, was captured and held and tortured by the Taliban for five years, before being rescued in a controversial 5-for-1 prisoner swap, where five Guantanamo Bay detainees were traded for Bergdahl.
At first, he was lauded as an American hero, but after a few days and a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House, his former mates had had enough, and pushed back with the truth.

One of the fantastic things “Serial” did this season is tell us so much about the inner workings of the search for Bergdahl; it’s incredible how many thousands of soldiers across many different areas were looking for him, and you really get to understand why these guys were so pissed that they were risking their lives for a guy who did something that, in their mind, was so monumentally stupid and reckless.

I loved how “Serial” used filmmaker Mark Boal’s interviews with Bergdahl to really give us a portrait of what he was thinking, and why he did what he did. They also offer pretty substantial evidence that Bergdahl never should have been allowed into the Army in the first place, given his psychological makeup and his experience at Coast Guard boot camp.

I found myself, much like during Season 1, going back and forth with my sympathies, but this was an easier call: Bergdahl was no hero. He was a troubled kid who had difficulty with the Army’s authority, and in the heat of some bad moments, decided to do something very, very stupid. As 20-year-olds do all the time.

I loved this season of “Serial,” for the balanced portrait it gave us on all sides. If you haven’t listened yet, the whole season is now on iTunes. It’s fantastic. Truly compelling, well-done journalism.

**Finally today, tonight is a wonderful night and a sad night for college basketball fanatics like me. It’s wonderful because it’s time for the national championship game, and unlike the two snoozers of semifinals on Saturday, I think this will be a terrific matchup. Villanova is playing out of its mind right now, and so is North Carolina, and we’ve got a fabulous strength vs. strength battle of great defense (Nova) against great offense (UNC).

So it’ll hopefully be a close, tense game, followed by the greatest montage of every year, “One Shining Moment.” (Had to put last year’s up there; tonight could be a rough one for Duke fans like me, so we’ve got to enjoy something today. Ah, Jahlil Okafor, happier times!)

But it’s also a sad night because it means the college basketball season is over. Always get a little bummed Tuesday when I think about that.

Hoping tonight’s a great one. I’m picking Villanova, 71-67, and Rollie Massimino storming the court in celebration.

Go Wildcats.

Good News Friday: A soup kitchen in Kansas City unlike any you’ve seen. Seth Meyers on the day he became a Dad this week. And Iowa St. football players save a woman from drowning

KCSoupkitchen

And a Happy Friday to you all! It’s April Fool’s Day, it’s spring, it’s beautiful weather, and my son’s fever has finally gone away after a week.

All reasons for celebration. Here are three more to send you into the weekend.

First up, the fine folks at Upworthy.com again caught my eye and warmed my heart with this story. I have a special place in my heart for soup kitchens and food banks, because they do so much to help the less fortunate and hungry. This kind of soup kitchen, though, I’ve never seen.

The restaurant-style Kansas City Community Kitchen in Missouri doesn’t offer trays, buffets and waiting in lines like most soup kitchens.

When you step inside the Kansas City Community Kitchen today, a greeter shows you to a table. Waiters take your order, and there are tons of healthy options.

Diners are encouraged to leave reviews of their service and requests for what they’d like to see on the menu.

The kitchen also offers a six-month culinary training program for people who want to learn the food business but for various reasons, can’t do it at a school or academy.

This really seems like a wonderful place; if I’m ever in Kansas City, I’m totally going to check it out.

**Next up, I’m not a big Seth Meyers fan, I find him to be a little smarmy and not all that funny. But Tuesday night he told a really sweet story about his wife going into labor on Easter Sunday, and the resulting trip through Manhattan to the hospital.

My favorite part is when he writes the wrong name on the hospital form under “Father,” because I totally almost did that too…

**Finally today, it’s April and it’s spring break time and let’s take a minute to salute the fine men of the Iowa State football team, who took time out from drinking and checking out bikini-clad coeds on South Padre Island, Texas to rescue a drowning woman.

On March 16, a 22-year-old woman named Luisa Maria Castro accidentally drover her car hood-first into a canal, and it started to submerge.

According to the Des Moines Register, current seniors Jack Spreen and Anthony Lazard and former player Joe Doran came to her assistance, swimming over to the car and freeing her by breaking a hole in the windshield.

That car completely sank in less than a minute and if not for them jumping into the water and pulling the driver out, she would most certainly have drowned,” officer Michael Schiltz said in a statement from the city to the Register.

Senior Josh Jahlas, sophomore Spencer Benton and former player Matt Swoyer waited ashore and helped collect Castro there.

The story is slightly marred by the fact that Castro was driving drunk (she registered a .16 BAC), but still, a heroic deed was done.

Good job, Cyclones players! Now people should at least give you a break on that whole 3-9 record you had last season.

Tales from subbing at a junior high gym class: It’s as bad as you remember. Sarah Silverman is back with a great election year video. And the NRA website gives Cinderella and Goldilocks AK-47s.

EdCutlip.wonderyears

So as I’ve said here many times before, I’ve been substitute teaching in the New York City school system for four years now, though since our son was born I’ve only been teaching once a week.

Usually I go to a different school each week, and it’s uneventful. I love getting “out in the world” without the little guy once a week, and I avoid the truly awful schools, and my experiences are generally fine and routine.

Lately, though, I’ve had a pretty cool assignment. My favorite middle school in NYC, one that knows me and has used me a lot, asked me to be a five-week fill-in for one of their three gym teachers, who is on paternity leave.

So for the past four Tuesdays, I’ve reported to the gym and stayed there all day. I didn’t get a whistle or wear a cool hat like the legendary Coach Cutlip from “The Wonder Years,” but it has been a fascinating experience.

Some notes from the phys ed experiment:

— I hated, hated, hated junior high, and the worst part by far was gym class. Being half-naked in the locker room, as an adolescent boy, is horrifying. Throw in that I was considered a bit of a nerd, and there were mean bullies in my class, and well, use your imagination.

Here’s a nice re-creation of gym class from the folks at “Freaks and Geeks.”

Happily, I didn’t see too much of that so far. Each gym period has three classes in it, and they are inter-gender (which mine never were), so we’ve got 90 kids and three teachers all in one giant room.

— And let me tell you something, it’s physically dangerous. Not for the kids, but for me. They’re doing a basketball unit and so everyone was playing hoops today, but not really playing games, just shooting around. I got hit in the head with a volleyball during 2nd period (we’d run out of basketballs), and then hit again in the head with a basketball during 3rd period. I don’t think I was concussed, but seriously, it’s a jungle in there.

— In the last month I’ve seen about 1,000 boys take half-court shots. I think 10 went in. I wish I could say this was the “Steph Curry effect” since he makes so many of them, but I seem to remember my friends and I trying ridiculous half-court shots, too. What is it about heaving the ball as high and far as you can that’s appealing to us? I truly don’t know the answer.

— So this was fun: Tuesday one of the male gym teachers was telling the students that failing gym could prevent them from getting into their preferred high school, and that they must have a “real medical excuse” to get out of gym.

So one 7th grade girl raises her hand and shouts “That’s so not fair, what if we have our period?”
I was shocked because I don’t think 25 years ago when I was in junior high any girl would ever, ever shout that out and make it a topic of discussion, in front of boys, no less! But I guess kids growing up today, between Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all that, share their lives completely and totally, and real life in school is just an extension of that.

— On that note, one hilarious threat from the female gym teacher a couple of weeks ago, to some 7th grade classes: “If you guys don’t be quiet and let me start the class, we’re going to sit here and I’m going to tell you in great detail where babies come from!”

The gasps of horror and “Noooooooooooooooooo!” screams could be heard all the way to California, I think. Needless to say, the kids got quiet.

Ah, junior high. There isn’t enough money in the world you could pay me to make me go back and be 12 again.

**Next up today, the great Sarah Silverman is back with another election-year video; in 2012 she famously told New York Jews to schlep down to Florida and make sure their grandparents voted.

Now, Sarah is supporting Bernie Sanders, and come on, is there any way I wasn’t going to post this video? It’s fantastic. Seriously, watch it. It’s 5 minutes and explains Bernie better than he ever could.

**And finally, I wish this was one of those stories from “The Onion” and we could all have a good laugh about it.

But no, no, it’s real. The NRA Family website and author Amelia Hamilton have created new versions of fairy tales where the characters carry guns.

Yep, Cinderella can now blow away those evil stepsisters with a rifle. Goldilocks wouldn’t have had any problem with those bears if she’d had her AK-47 with her! And Little Red Riding Hood, whoo boy, no worries on her walking through the woods now that she’s got her trusty pistol with her!

Seriously. This is a thing. Disgusting, revolting and just … awful.

A new North Carolina law encourages discrimination, and it’s disgusting. A great Trump/”Hamilton” parody. And the Final 4 is set, with one huge surprise

NClawprotest

We saw this in Indiana, we saw this with Houston, and now, we’re seeing it with North Carolina.

State and city legislators are scared out of their ever-loving minds at transgender people actually having rights, and being treated like everyone else.

It terrifies them to such an irrational degree, for reasons I can’t fathom, that they literally make up and change, and override hundreds of years of governmental rules just to stop fair treatment.

In case you don’t know what I”m talking about, last year the city of Charlotte, N.C. passed a measure protecting LGBT people from being discriminated against by local businesses. This law was set to go into effect on April 1, meaning of course it hadn’t even happened yet.

And yet, it was SO scary to North Carolina state legislators that a special session of the body was called, the first time in 35 years, to pass a law blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to protect gay and transgender people.

This new law, by the way, was introduced, “debated” and signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in TWELVE hours, by far the fastest anything has ever moved through the N.C. legislature. (Seriously, a bill honoring native son Michael Jordan wouldn’t move that freaking fast.)

The new law establishes a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that explicitly supersedes any local nondiscrimination measures. The statewide protections cover race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex — but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

Once again, the pathetic N.C. legislators who approved this claim it’s all about “public safety” in bathrooms, and more nonsense. It’s discrimination, and it’s disgraceful, and it is absolutely not what a majority of voters in N.C. are in favor of. And God forbid any city or town in the state want to disagree, well, this law makes that impossible.

North Carolina is a beautiful state filled with wonderful people, a place I came to love in the three years I lived there. But now it is just another state where legislators have been bought and paid for by special interests and rich billionaires, and so once again the will of the people is irrelevant.

Take a look at what the state’s newspapers have to say about this bill, and be at least slightly heartened that major companies like Google, American Airlines, Loews, and the NBA have denounced the law. Let’s hope the NBA pulls the 2017 All-Star Game from the state, and other companies boycott as well.

This is nothing but bigotry, pure and simple, and let’s hope the power of public shaming and corporate muscle makes a powerful sound that ripples from Asheville to Wilmington.

**Next up today, my awesome Aunt Linda sent me this a few days ago and I thought it was pretty damn funny. It’s the hit musical “Hamilton” parodied as if it were about a certain orange-skinned Republican presidential candidate, done by a group called the Rad Motel Sketch Comedy Group. Just a warning, there’s some NSFW (not safe for work) language in here. But it’s really dead-on accurate. Enjoy…

boeheim-getty-ftr-032716_1hgazuecewxfu1kg3ahza5ofb8

**Finally today, after an incredible first four days of the NCAA Tournament, the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds had nowhere to go but down. And while the last few days of games haven’t produced as many thrills, they still gave us several outstanding finishes, three worthy Final Four teams, and one that I have no Earthly idea how they’ve made it.

Some quick thoughts on the weekend’s action, which was compelling if not fabulously played:

— Syracuse? Really? A team that lost five out of its last six games down the stretch of the season, a team that many people (me included) thought didn’t even deserve to get a bid to the Tournament, makes the Final Four. Crazy. The way they did it, too, was stunning; Virginia completely controlled the game Sunday, for 30 minutes, scoring whenever it wanted, then suddenly forgot how to play basketball. An epic choke job when the Hoos were on their way to the Final Four.

I hate the guy, but you must give Jim Boeheim credit; The dude can flat-out coach. This Orange team isn’t great and struggled most of the year, but are on some crazy good roll right now, and Boeheim has them clicking. What a tremendous coaching job he’s done. A 10 seed in the Final Four.

— UNC-Notre Dame was incredibly entertaining, the most fun game of the weekend. I have no idea how the Tar Heels suddenly became deadly from behind the 3-point line, but that, combined with their huge size advantage up front, made the difference Sunday night.

— So great, now we get a UNC-Syracuse Final Four matchup, both schools having had academic/grade changing scandals in recent years. What wonderful representatives of college athletics. As one Tweet read Sunday night, “The North Carolina-Syracuse Billable Hours Outside Counsel National Semifinal, brought to you by Bond Schoeneck & King, is set.”

—The Kansas-Villanova game was compelling, even if the shooting was pretty ugly most of the night. The Wildcats are a lot of fun to watch, so many complementary parts, with Kris Jenkins, Ryan Arciadiacono and that Daniel Ochefu kid all meshing so well together. I’d love to see them win the national title.

— Buddy Hield of Oklahoma plays with such pure joy on the court. He can shoot a little bit, huh? What a great college player. Who cares what he becomes in the NBA, it’s great to see a kid stay four years and get so much better.

Good News Friday: A teacher writes a beautiful letter to reassure her students. An awesome Fisher-Price commercial on the future of parenting. And finally, some good news out of Michigan

Upworthy.LETTERPIC

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there in Internet-ville. I’m still bummed over the Duke-Oregon game last night won by the Ducks (who were the better team by far) but whether you’re feeling the same way for other reasons, or you’re already happy anyway, it’s time for some good news stories.

First up, anyone who’s been alive the last 10 years knows that one of the biggest issues in education has been the incredible over-reliance on standardized testing results. Teachers and students and parents ALL agree that there’s been way too much pressure put on students and teachers to perform, and that this is now way to educate kids, by making so much about the test.

Kids get so nervous and stressed before these state exams that they literally get ulcers and suffer anxiety attacks.

Well, one third-grade teacher in Indiana decided to do something wonderful for her students. A mom of a boy in this anonymous teacher’s class shared the letter above that was sent home to her son, Rylan, right before some state tests coming up.

Rylan was so moved by the letter that he cried in school, his mom reports.

The whole thing is great, but this was my favorite part:

“These tests do not define you. There are many ways of being smart. YOU are smart! YOU are enough! You are the light that brightens my day and the reason I am happy to come to work each day. So in the midst of all these tests, remember that there is no way to “test” all of the amazing and awesome things that make you, YOU.”

So, so great. I wish we knew who this teacher was; she ought to get a big raise or at least some Teacher of the Year award. Bravo.

**Next up today, this is a very cool little commercial from Fisher-Price that I really liked. It’s called “The Future of Parenting,” and it deals with the thorny question of how we can keep our kids from becoming screen-obsessed zombies without taking technology and innovation out of their toys and play time.

If this is what the kids of 2025 are going to play with, then I want to buy a Zoltar machine and come back as a kid in about 10 years. The books at the end are my favorite part…

**And finally, it’s been one bad news story after another coming out of Michigan over the past few years, with the despicable lead poisoning in the water supply in Flint finally garnering the headlines and changes it deserves.

But every once in a while, some good news pops up everywhere, even in Michigan.

This week it was announced that thanks to a new Detroit Promise Zone program, any graduating high school senior who is accepted to one of Detroit’s five community colleges won’t have to pay a dime for tuition.

The Detroit Promise Zone program, officially launched on Tuesday, will make it possible. At first the funds will come from a private scholarship foundation. But starting in 2018, some of the money will come from property taxes already earmarked for the program.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a high school senior preparing for college now or a second-grader whose college career is years away. The Detroit Promise will be there to help make a college education a reality,” said Mayor Mike Duggan.

He hopes that the program will eventually expand to cover the cost of four years of college tuition at a state school for each Detroit student.

No, it’s not a scholarship to Harvard. But it’s a start, and it’s a wonderful thing for a student in the inner city of Detroit to know they have a chance to make something of themselves. A hand

 

Getting old stinks, aka, I’m starting to feel 40. Alabama teachers to receive training on how NOT to have sex with students. And the best NBA injury reason ever recorded

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Spare a few thoughts today for the victims of the awful Brussels terror attacks. There’s no place in the world today that’s totally safe anymore. Just awful…

The photo above made me smile, though: This was Air Force One on its way into Cuba. What an incredible shot of a historic trip. I thought about writing about the terrorist attack today, but have no new thoughts to share; sadly these have become so frequent that anything I thought of to say sounded trite. So instead, I bring you a short bit about getting old, and two stories that will hopefully make you laugh.

I never actually “felt” 30 years old. I didn’t really feel any older, or different, or have any thoughts whatsoever about hitting a new decade.

I never felt 18, except I could vote and buy lottery tickets.  I never felt 21, except I could drink and gamble in casinos (which was a very big deal to me).

But let me tell you something, I absolutely have felt 40 the past few days. Yeah, I’ve been 40 for eight months now, but in the past week I’ve felt closer to 50.

Getting old sucks for everyone, sure. But 40 has snuck up on me physically. The littlest things now can cause pain or discomfort, and it makes me mad. A few days ago I was standing a certain way and watching TV in that position, sort of crouched over, for about 10 minutes.

When I got up, I had shooting pain in my lower back. Then it felt really, really stiff, and I had trouble walking for the next few hours. It went away, but that shit never happened before.

Then Saturday, I did a routine 3-mile run on a treadmill. I didn’t go crazy-fast, I didn’t do anything that I don’t normally do. I stretched before, I stretched after. And I’ve had right hip flexor/adductor pain for the last three days. Until today I thought I was just sore, like, you know, good sore from running.

Tuesday every time I took a damn step with my right leg, or shifted my weight to that side, I was in agony. I’m going to the doctor today, I’m sure she’ll tell me I have a pulled muscle in my hip or something like that, and she’ll give me some anti-inflammatory medicine, and send me on my way.

And I’ll realize once again, that this never used to happen to me. But now I’m 40. And I’m getting old. And I’m mad.

That’s all. You fellow 40-year-olds out there can surely relate.

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**Next up today, a wonderful and heart-warming story from the world of education. The state of Alabama has just seen its Senate committee approve a bill that would require teachers to receive an hour of training a year on sexual relations and other inappropriate relations with students.

The Education Policy Committee approved the bill by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, the Decatur Daily reported.

The Educator-Student Interaction Training Act would require training on sexual or romantic contact, social media interactions, interactions outside the classroom and the use of corporal punishment and physical restraints in classrooms.

SERIOUSLY??? So let me get this straight: The state of Alabama feels a need to train teachers NOT to have sex with students? Can I please just imagine what the course trainers might say?

“Now folks, I know you all have needs. And I know you might think that Janette there in the third row is looking mighty fine in her crop top and shorts. And I know you might think that hey, she’s 16, she’s practically an adult, she and I can go out. But you just can’t do it, OK? Go home, watch some porn, and forget about her.

OK, class dismissed. Tomorrow: Why you older male teachers shouldn’t drive past college campuses in the springtime.”

**Finally today, I don’t usually laugh at juvenile humor too much, but this cracked me up. Maybe it’s because I’m a male. But on the boxscore for the Denver Nuggets game on Saturday night, beneath the players who played were listed the players who didn’t play and why. These are done in every boxscore for every NBA game, with the abbreviations DNP (Did Not Play) or DND (Did not Dress).

However, I’m pret-ty sure that the reason for Kenneth Faried missing the game was kind of unique.

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Let me tell you, that can be painful. Only thing worse? High sack soreness.

Poor Kenneth. He’s never going to live that typo down.

 

Someone’s going to get killed at a Donald Trump rally, and soon. What a real “parent fantasy” sounds like. And the craziest opening weekend of March Madness, EVER

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I don’t say this lightly, or flippantly, or because I’m trying to drive up pageviews on my blog.

I really and truly believe it: Someone within the next few weeks or months is going to get murdered at a Donald Trump public event.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, that in America in 2016, we have this incredible powder keg of circumstances that have conspired to make me think this.

But this is what we have: A Presidential candidate, the frontrunner for one of our two major parties, who lies, blusters and incites violence. A candidate who draws thousands and thousands of Americans to his rallies, people who may already have their own prejudices and predilection toward violence.

A candidate who then, from the stage every chance he gets, stokes hatred and violence. And tells those followers that they should “punch someone in the face” or “have them taken out on a stretcher” or says “I’ll pay your legal fees” if you beat someone up.

And what do you know, the acolytes listen and take their cue from their leader. And then the candidate throws up his hands and says, in effect, “What do you want from me? I’m not telling them to do it. And the protesters started it!”

There was more violence at Trump events this weekend, in Arizona and elsewhere. So far the injuries have been minor, and the police have been there to break it up, but this shit is not going away. Not anytime soon.

And pretty soon, someone’s going to have a concealed gun at one of these rallies, or in the parking lot, and tempers will flare, and the gun will go off, and people will be shocked (SHOCKED) that this could happen.

I won’t be. You shouldn’t be either. This is what happens when a person adored and worshipped by thousands and thousands encourages violence.

Someone’s going to die. And it’s completely, totally preventable.

And it’ll be a goddamn shame when it happens. Just don’t be surprised.

Because it’s coming. It’s most definitely coming.

**Next, my good friend Amanda pointed this video to me a few weeks back, and I’m sure all parents of babies/toddlers will appreciate the humor. It’s a short skit from the comedy team “Hamish and Andy” called “Parent Fantasy hotline,” and it illustrates exactly what kind of fantasy new parents really would enjoy…

**Finally… I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. I am without speech. I’m sitting here at 11:16 p.m. Eastern having just watched the most epic collapse in NCAA Tournament history. Probably in basketball history.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the University of Northern Iowa had a 12-point lead with 44 seconds left over Texas A&M Sunday night. I mean, it was over. There was a better chance of a meteorite striking the arena than there was of the Aggies coming back.

And yet, they did. Texas A&M scored 12 points in those 44 seconds to tie the game, then won in double overtime.

It was epic. It was improbable. And it capped off probably the greatest, most exciting first weekend in NCAA Tournament history.

I know, I know, “recency bias” affects all of us. Everything that just happened we proclaim the greatest ever. But this time, it’s true.

We had buzzer-beaters. We had last-second layups. We had dramatic 3-pointers for the win (Wisconsin last night over Xavier). Hell, last night’s game wasn’t even Northern Iowa’s most dramatic game of the weekend! That came Friday night (above), when Paul Jesperson hit a half-court heave at the buzzer to win.

So much incredible action went on, I can’t even begin to recap it. My brain is mush right now, so if some of this doesn’t make sense, my apologies. But some quick-hit thoughts from the weekend:

–Gotta say a few words about my favorite team. Duke tried really hard to blow that 20-plus point lead against Yale Saturday. This Blue Devils team is very fragile, with a huge swing between being great and being awful always nearby. I have said repeatedly that given what this team lacks, making the Sweet 16 was all we fans could hope for. Now they’ve made it; everything else is gravy.

— I so wish Gus Johnson had been calling that Northern Iowa ending, either Friday night or Sunday night. Then again, nah. He would’ve had a heart attack at the end of regulation and they’d have had to revive him during the OT’s.

— Villanova is looking scary good. Kansas, too. And Gonzaga, they were the most impressive team I saw all weekend.

— Not sure who knows less about a topic they discuss all the time on TV: Charles Barkley on college basketball, or Donald Trump on world affairs. We all love Barkley’s personality, but could he watch, maybe one or two college games before March when he’s on TV all the time analyzing?

— Thank God there are no more games now until Thursday. I need a few days to recover.