A college kid wins $38,000 on a half-court shot, only idiotic company won’t let him have it. Jon Stewart returns briefly to late night with some words of wisdom. And Betsy DeVos, showing chutzpah beyond belief when talking about HBCU’s

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Happy March, everyone! No, I won’t be commenting on the Orange Man’s State of the Union last night, which I happily missed most of, although I heard he lied through his teeth about so much (really Donald, there are 94 million unemployed people in America? Come on, even Barron Trump knows that’s bullshit) and changed his mind on a few things, and even had the freaking chutzpah to scold Democrats and tell them “the time for trivial fights is over.”  This from a guy who spent YEARS alleging Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Anyway, like I said, it’s March, the happiest month of the year for college basketball fans like me. So we start today with a basketball story, though what should’ve been a happy one isn’t really.

A Kentucky resident named Jackson Logsdon competed in one of those goofy halftime contests at a recent University of Louisville women’s basketball game. Logsdon had to hit a layup, a free throw, a 3-pointer, and a half-court shot in 30 seconds, and he’d win $38,000.

Well, as you can see here, Logsdon improbably did all that. So whoo-hoo, right? Local boy makes good, and man will that money come in handy with so many college loans to pay?

But nope, Logsdon gets none of it. Because the company that sponsored the contest, Million Dollar Media, had some fine print in the contract that said he wasn’t eligible if he’d played high school ball in the past six years.

Dude was a bench-warmer in high school six years ago! And so Logsdon got screwed.

This is ridiculous. And even though it wasn’t the university that promised Logsdon the money, they really ought to make good here. For one thing, Louisville pays its coaches enormous sums of money, and they happen to employ two major head coaches (Bobby Petrino and Rick Pitino) who are either complete scumbags (Petrino) or run dirty programs (Pitino). They get crap, rightfully so, for employing Petrino, and that hookers/basketball players scandal didn’t really look too good either.

So Louisville, do what’s right: Take $38,000 you would’ve spent on a basketball recruit’s prostitute bill, or a private jet flight for a trustee, and give a college kid what he earned. It’s the right thing to do.

**Next up today, any dose of Jon Stewart is beyond welcome these days. While the former “Daily Show” host is gearing up to do stuff for HBO (when is he exactly starting to work for them, anyway? Seems like it’s been awhile), he showed up on Stephen Colbert’s CBS late-night show Tuesday night and sent out a hilarious and true missive to the media.

Watch and enjoy and realize how much Stewart is missed.

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**Finally today, I really don’t want to continually bash Betsy DeVos, but she just keeps saying such stupid shit that I can’t help myself.

She screws up things and steps into verbal landmines that a 5-year-old wouldn’t do. Let’s look at what she said this week. DeVos met with some presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) during Black History Month.

It should have been such a simple statement about the meeting. She could have said something like “These Presidents are doing a great job helping minorities and other people of color get a good education, they’re vital to our future as a nation,” yada yada yada.

Instead (face palm), DeVos said this:

“HBCU’s have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCU’s are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater equality.”

Are you freaking kidding me??? In 2017, the leader of the Dept. of Education in the U.S. is celebrating how freaking legal segregation gave black students “options????” Like African-American students in the 1950s were sitting around going “Hmmm, let’s see, should I go to Ole Miss, the University of Georgia, or, I don’t know, Grambling State.”

Saying that African-American students chose the “option” of HBCU’s is like saying black South African’s under apartheid “chose” to go to shitty schools and have no rights.

And then, as if DeVos hadn’t made a big enough pile of crap, she brings school choice, her pet subject, into it and compares HBCU’s to charter schools.

This woman … my God, she’s not qualified to be an after-school day care assistant, much less Secretary of Education.

What an offensive, awful thing for her to say.

Her whole “statement” is below.

https://t.co/wDxFqCOEJp

 

The craziest Oscars ending ever, my jaw is on the floor, and what the hell happened? Oh yeah, the rest of the show was great.

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It’s 2:11 a.m. New York time, I’m exhausted and wired and still kind of in shock.

So, you know, typical Sunday.

Look, I had this whole Oscars blog post pretty much written by midnight. As you’ll read, I loved the telecast though I’m sure many didn’t. I loved who won (except for Casey Affleck who robbed Denzel), I thought Jimmy Kimmel was a terrific host, and the whole thing was done.

All I needed was a quick few paragraphs at the top about who won Best Picture, whether I was happy or sad about it, and boom. I’m off to bed.

Instead, I’ve spent the last few hours scouring Twitter and the Internet trying, like a million other people, to find out what in the hell happened at the end there.

“La La Land” won Best Picture. Their producers and director and actors all go up on stage, they make their speeches, oh well, I was hoping for “Hidden Figures” or “Moonlight” to win, but whatever.

Then there are men running around behind the “La La Land” folks, looking all frantic. Then the guys at the microphone are looking around crazily. And then it turns out… well, if you didn’t see it, watch this craziness:

I mean, HOW THE HELL DOES THAT HAPPEN? The wrong winner is called out in front of a billion people for the most important award of them all? Craziness.
So many thoughts: First, what a horrible feeling for both “winners” of Best Picture. The “La La Land” folks spent two or three minutes feeling better than they’ve ever felt, they’ve made it, they’ve won! And then… it’s ripped away.

And the “Moonlight” folks! They were robbed of the incredible moment of hearing their names called for the biggest award they’ll likely ever win. They think they’ve lost, then they find out they won and rush onstage. Craziness. (An aside many pointed out on Twitter: Can you imagine if it happened the other way around? If a film made by African-Americans, starring African-Americans, was announced as the winner and then it was changed? You would’ve heard the screaming from L.A. to New York).

— So how did this happen? Well, turns out there are two people, one on each side of the stage, who hold the envelopes for all 24 awards. There are duplicates of each envelope so depending on whichever side of the stage the presenters walk out on, they can grab the correct envelope.

Emma Stone held on to her envelope that said she won Best Actress, and apparently somehow when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway walked out, Beatty took the OTHER envelope for Best Actress instead of the Best Picture one.
If you watch, you can see Beatty looks confused, like he knows something is wrong, and Dunaway just saw “La La Land” at the end of the Best Actress card and read it.

Just amazing. The documentary about how this happened will win an Oscar one day.
And one more coherent thought before I drift off: Why didn’t the 2 people who hold the envelopes realize that each of them STILL had the Best Picture envelope in their hands when Beatty/Dunaway walked out, and raise hell then? Like tell somebody in charge or something?

Nuts. But I’m so, so glad “Moonlight” won. Fantastic picture. OK, off to bed. Here’s all the stuff I wrote before the biggest screw-up in Hollywood award show history…

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Sunday night was the 2017 Oscars, or as they were known heading in, “Hey, #OscarsnotsoWhite anymore!”

Jimmy Kimmel was hosting for the first time (he did a real nice job, and the dropping Junior Mints and other candy from the ceiling was pretty clever), and we had some fresh winners, excellent speeches, and overall a pretty terrific show (your opinion may vary)

Some thoughts on a pretty entertaining telecast:

— Gotta start with the great and deserving winners: Viola Davis, my goodness, what a tremendous speech. Emotional, poignant, thanking everyone in the cast of the fantastic “Fences” movie, and then closing with an extraordinary tribute to her parents, thanking God that they were her first role models and caretakers.

Also loved that Mahershala Ali won for “Moonlight,” (the first-ever Muslim winner of an Oscar, so take that Steve Bannon), and that the “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins and screenwriter Tarell Alvin McRaney won for Best Screenplay, and I thought the music awards for “La La Land” were well-deserved.

— I thought the opening was pretty novel, getting all the movie stars on their feet and dancing while Justin Timberlake did his thing (I love that song.) Very cool seeing Denzel and Jeff Bridges and the like having a good time.

And I thought Kimmel’s monologue was sharp, especially the hilarious part “mocking” Meryl Streep for being a highly overrated and unqualified actress, obviously a dig at Donald Trump’s ridiculous critique of Streep. She played along, but it looked like her husband still is mad at our President.

— Sara Bareilles, singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” over the dead montage. Absolutely perfect. So achingly beautiful. 

— Actual conversation in my house when The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) came out to present:
Me: “Why is Dwayne Johnson at the Oscars, he can’t act.”
Wife: “I think he did one of the songs in the Monet movie.”
Me: “You mean “Moana?”
Wife: “Oh yeah, that.”

See, now I really want to see a musical about the French painter.

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— Awesome-looking celebs, according to the fashion expert in my house (my wife): Mahershala Ali (stunning in his tux); the three “Hidden Figures” women (particularly Taraji P. Henson, wow what a dress), Charlize Theron who will always look beautiful, and Dev Patel, a handsome man.
Badly-dressed celebs: Dakota Johnson (hideous dress),

— I’m sure lots of people hated it, but we loved the little historical montages about past winners of the big categories

— Very legitimate question. What the hell was Jennifer Aniston, who was never once in a good movie, doing in the second row at the Oscars? We saw her in the interminable (but kind of amusing) sketch where Kimmel gave random people on a bus tour a thrill of a lifetime. Seriously though, how does Aniston get such prime placement?

— Of course everyone was wondering if any of the winners would make political statements in their speeches, and there were a few jabs. Actor Mark Rylance’s statement about “being in opposition but not hatred” was pretty good.

But the sharpest critique came from someone who wasn’t there: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose “The Salesman” won for best foreign film. He boycotted the awards telecast, but had a letter he wrote read, attacking Trump’s “inhuman” travel ban. It was powerful and necessary to remind the billion people watching around the world that millions upon millions of people disagree with this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah wants to be a vet when she grows up.

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

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

What a terrific young lady.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Trebek rapping…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done, Mr. Robinson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is a true hero walking among us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just amazing.

 

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

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

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

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

What an amazing little boy.

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

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

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

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

Just fantastic.

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

subway-thisisus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty freaking awesome.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

centralmichigan-vday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They finally arrived Monday to hugs, cheers and relief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds good to me!

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

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

Like millions of Americans, I mostly work from  home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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