Tag Archives: Brody

Why I may be done with “Homeland.” Dogs love sledding; snowmen, not so much. And “Llewyn Davis” a typical Coen flick


You know how some athletes have one incredible season in their careers, and spend the rest of their time trying to live up to that year, only to fall short?

That’s kind of how I feel about “Homeland,” which was once my favorite show on TV and in two short years has become a show whose season I was glad to see end on Sunday night.

I will continue to argue forever that Season 1 of “Homeland” was among the best seasons of any TV show, ever. The acting was brilliant, the plot exciting, the writing terrific, and the drama and tension of the last few episodes were amazing. I think I said on the blog then that “Homeland” had the potential to be one of the greatest shows of all time.

But like Brady Anderson of the Orioles chasing that 50-homer season, “Homeland” never maintained those heights. Season 2 was pretty good, but then its ludicrous plot twists that were SO far removed from any reality started to kill its buzz.

And then this season, it sank even further. Sadly it seems that with so many plot ideas to choose from, the writers decided that Brody and Carrie’s neverending love was the one to focus on (that, and Dana Brody’s adventures).

(SPOILER ALERT HERE, READ NO FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SUNDAY’S EPISODE) Things got so insanely out of control that to buy into the latest plot, that Saul and the CIA could have ex-Marine and ex-heroin junkie Brody infiltrate the Iran National Guard and kill the top general, you had to pretty much turn off your brain.

When it actually worked (sort of), and Brody just walked out of Akbari’s office Sunday and made it all the way to the front gates before anyone noticed that, um, the General was dead, I just laughed out loud and turned to my wife and said “Even for this show, that’s ridiculous.”

I will say that “Homeland” did finally do the right thing and kill off Brody, and they seem to be setting up for a fresh start next year with Saul out of the CIA, Carrie in Turkey with her new Brody baby love child, and who knows what else.

But I’m honestly not sure I’ll watch Season 4. The creators and writers have taken this show so far off the rails, and there’s so much great TV on right now (like “Masters of Sex,” plus at some point I’m legally required to start watching “Breaking Bad, right?) that I don’t know if “Homeland” is still worth my time.

Maybe I’ll feel differently in nine months or whenever it’s back. But right now, I’m like Saul: Happy to sail off into the sunset.

**And now, three minutes of dogs sledding through the snow. And treating snowmen like they treat fire hydrants (it gets really good around the 2:00 mark)



**Finally today, another short movie review from a flick I saw over the weekend. I’m a big Coen Brothers fan, as I’ve said on here before, even when they make inscrutably bad movies (I defy anyone to tell me “A Serious Man” was a good film), they’re always interesting.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” is not a bad movie; it’s pretty good, actually. Not one of their best, but definitely in the upper echelon.

It’s about the New York City folk scene in the early 1960s, before Bob Dylan and Joan Baez made folk music mainstream and popular. Llewyn Davis has nowhere near the talent of Dylan, and the movie basically follows him through a week of his life.

Davis is a pretty unlikable character, like many Coen creations, and he seems to treat everyone he meets badly, from former lover Jane (Carey Mulligan), his older friends the Garfeins (whose cat is basically a co-star of the movie), to Mr. Roland Turner (John Goodman), an old musician who steals the few scenes he’s in.

The movie is really dark, and Davis keeps running into obstacles that block his success, many of his own making.

Like in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” the music in “Llewyn Davis” is the best thing in it; Oscar Issac’s Davis has a beautiful voice, and a lot of the songs have deeper meanings connected to the plot.

So if you’re a Coen fan like me, you’ll like this. If not, eh, steer clear. It’s definitely as weird as their other flicks.

“Homeland” returns with a solid reset. A beautiful essay on tennis as a metaphor for marriage. And a way-cool photo montage of NYC at night

Episode 301

Too depressed about the ridiculous government shutdown to rant and rave about it tonight. I’m just so disgusted by the Tea Party and their desire to burn down the village, rather than try to save it. Probably will be ranting about it here tomorrow. For tonight, I’d rather spend a few minutes in a fictional Washington, D.C., with Carrie, Saul and Brody…

I was one of the many people who was down on “Homeland” toward the end of last season. It had gotten too ridiculous, too soap opera-ish, and tried to cram way too much into each episode.
Then, the Season 2 finale was breathtakingly awesome, and all seemed right with the show again.
Happily, Sunday night’s season 3 opener was very good as well (SPOILER ALERT: STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET).
Picking up where Season 2 left off, with the huge explosion at the CIA building, Brody on the run somewhere, and Carrie and Saul left to pick up the pieces, we got a normal (for this show, anyway), well-written episode.
Couple questions the first show set up: What will happen to the Carrie-Saul relationship, now that Saul basically outed her affair with Brody to Congress? (well, someone else on the inside (Quinn, maybe?) outed it to the Washington Post first, but still.)
Will Dana Brody try to kill herself again? (And nice job by her to get into a relationship while in counseling, that’s always a good move). Is Saul’s new right-hand man, Dar Adal, going to become his frenemy, or is he legitimately interested in doing evil without going too far around the law? And most excitingly, is Carrie really going to try to convince the whole world that Brody isn’t a terrorist who blew up the CIA building?

I think the show works best when Carrie is off her meds, so from that standpoint, this looks like a great season. I have no idea what Quinn’s role will be, nor if Carrie decides she needs to go “rogue” again and starts working against Saul and the remaining CIA peeps.

And we saw from the coming attractions that Brody will be seen again, but it doesn’t look good for him.

So happy to have “Homeland” back. Especially now, this dysfunctional government is a lot more fun to watch than our real one.


**I’m a huge fan of the writing and performing of Denis Leary; both in stand-up comedy and in his all-time fabulous drama “Rescue Me,” Leary is brilliant, hilarious, poignant and able to pull on any emotion in you that he wants to.

Turns out, his wife is a pretty fabulous writer, too. Ann Leary has written several novels that have become best-sellers, and on Sunday she wrote a beautiful essay in the New York Times about her marriage to Denis, the sport of tennis, and how two people brought their relationship back from the brink, thanks to a little help from the sport me and Roger Federer love so much.
This is definitely worth a few minutes of your time, whether you’re married or not. It’s eloquent and beautifully done.

**Finally, this is pretty awesome and hypnotic: A man took 41 photographs of New York City’s streets between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. one day using a Nokia Lumia 1020 camera, then strung them together to make this cool video.

Every once in a while I see something like this and think: Thirty years ago, most of us were using Polaroids and shaking our pictures to get them to develop.

“Homeland” totally redeems itself with an awesome finale. NBA players sing the dreidel song. And the Jets’ misery continues

Episode 212

“Homeland,” “Homeland,” “Homeland.”

Home-freaking-land. All is forgiven. After a few episodes where I finally cracked, and started to admit what others had been saying, that the show was veering wildly off-course and slipping away, it totally redeemed itself Sunday night.

Everything felt pitch-perfect: Brody didn’t die (I thought for sure they would kill him, but Quinn’s reasons for not doing it made perfect sense). Broday may or may not still be a terrorist (I’m thinking not). Carrie decided to run off with Brody, choosing his love over her career.  Then a bomb exploded under his car, everyone from the CIA is dead, and Carrie and old man Saul are the only ones left.

Then an old video when Brody really was a terrorist gets released, and suddenly Carrie realized she can’t possibly go off with Brody.

And now the show is completely re-set for Season 3. We’ve got Brody, on the run in Canada, ironic that he’s actually innocent of this attack, but everyone thinks he’s done it. We’ve got Brody’s family, hopefully out of the show now. And we’ve got Carrie and Saul, looking for a new terrorist threat and piecing their world back together, while rogue CIA assassin Quinn lurks somewhere.

I was on the edge of my seat on the couch all hour. What a fantastic way to end the season.
Gotta wait nine more months for another new “Homeland,” and that’s just way too long.

Again, if you haven’t watched this show yet, you’re missing one of the best TV shows of all time.

**Well this is pretty entertaining. I know Hanukkah ended, but I saw this the other day and laughed, and then forgot about it. And with Jeremy Lin returning to MSG and kicking the Knicks’ butt Monday night (the Nets fan in me enjoyed that, and I’m headed to my first Nets game in Brooklyn tonight, report to follow in Wednesday’s blog), figured I could still post this.

It’s the decidedly non-Jewish Houston Rockets singing the “Dreidel” song…


**And finally, because I wasted three perfectly good hours of my life watching Monday’s train-wreck of a Jets-Titans game, a few thoughts on my disastrous boys in green and white:

— This Jets team might be the most boring they’ve had since the 1-15 team. And even that team was exciting because you never knew what horribly new way to lose they’d invent next.
— I can’t watch Mark Sanchez play another game at quarterback. I just can’t. Four years in and he’s still as bad as he was as a rookie. For the love of God, they MUST have a new QB next year.

— The lack of speed and skill on the offense is pretty amazing. This is a terrible Tennessee team, with the worst defense in the league, and the Jets couldn’t do bubkis with them.
— Jon Gruden is an affront to the ears. Not just mine; all ears, everywhere in the sound of his voice.

— Shocking to see the Jets actually give Tim Tebow a whole series at QB. Of course, when he didn’t immediately lead them to a TD, he was banished.

— I’m very happy that because I’ll be on vacation and out of the country for the last two Jets games this season, that Monday night was my last day of misery with them for a while. Such a nice way to end the season.

Same-sex marriage in Washington: A photo says it all. “Homeland” nears the finish with no logic in sight. And a little kid hams it up with cheerleaders


It’s not remarkable anymore, states allowing same-sex marriage. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, that it’s becoming less and less of a big deal? Future generations will look back and wonder exactly what was so scary and threatening about two people who love each other getting married.

The state of Washington held its first same-sex marriages on Sunday, when the state’s new law became official. Take a look at that terrific photo from the front page of the Seattle Times, and this photo here, and tell me what anyone could possibly object to.

Little by little, the stigma has fallen away. And every once in a while, it’s nice to see progress in the smiling faces of humans who love each other, like the people above.


**OK, I admit it. After weeks and weeks of pooh-poohing all those who say “Homeland” has taken plausibility and reality and stretched all to hell, and that it’s starting to affect their enjoyment of the show, I’m starting to change my mind.
Sunday’s episode was ridiculous and awesome all at once, but for once for me, the ridiculousness quotient was higher. You’re going to ask me to believe that afterCarrie escapes from Abu Nasir’s clutches, no one at the CIA de-briefs or asks her questions about that, she then wanders back into the abandoned warehouse looking for our favorite terrorist, and where dozens of SWAT team members have failed, she figures out where Nasir is hiding?

Then, after Nasir kills a SWAT team guy (who went in alone, which is also something that would never happen in real life), he doesn’t kill Carrie, and with her screaming and yelling it still takes like five minutes for anyone else to show up? OK, fine.

But in addition to all that, we’re now supposed to believe that Brody’s a good guy, and he and Carrie are truly in love and belong together? Nope.

It sounds crazy, but Saul’s scenes were the best of this last episode. Man, Mandy Patinkin is some kind of great actor. He and Estes are terrific foils.

I have no idea what’ll happen in the season finale; I would love it as a fan of the show if the writers had the cojones to actually kill Brody. I know it might damage the show, and Damien Lewis is so good in his role, but I feel like for the show to have credibility moving forward, Brody must die.

So that’s what I hope for. And I hope the finale doesn’t have me yelling at the TV angrily, like Sunday’s episode did.

**Finally today, you’ve gotta love a kid who gets his time in the spotlight and totally lives it up.
If you had told me when I was this kid’s age that I’d get to dance on an NFL field at halftime in front of a dozen gorgeous Tampa Bay Bucs cheerleaders, I would’ve said you could kill me right afterwards, because life wouldn’t get any better.
Seriously, look how much fun this kid is having! Very jealous of him.

“Lincoln” is a must-see movie. “Homeland” blows me away yet again (even if it’s improbable). And how not to win a half-time contest


Very rarely does a movie live up to the hype.
But Steven Spielberg has created another masterpiece with “Lincoln.” If you haven’t seen it yet, get your tuchus to a movie theater, pronto, and enjoy a wonderful story, great acting from everyone, and beautiful cinematography.

Daniel Day-Lewis is predictably awesome as Abe, and the movie focuses on a very small slice of his life, the fight to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery while the Civil War wages in its final months.
But everyone else in the cast is terrific, too; from Sally Field as the crazy but supportive Mary Todd Lincoln, David Straitharn as Secretary of State Henry Seward, and most of all, Tommy Lee Jones.
Never been a big fan of his, but he absolutely steals every scene he’s in as a progressive Congressman pushing his colleagues against their will to pass the amendment.
It’s a gorgeously shot, beautifully written film that will hopefully be an enduring film about one of our greatest Presidents. Don’t listen to any Negative Nates (like my father) who say the movie is too long and slow; it’s the best work Spielberg has done in a long, long time.

**Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps the most pathetic effort I’ve ever seen from a halftime “make a shot and win a prize” contestant of all time. Seriously, this guy doesn’t even try.


**OK, now to “Homeland.” I’ve read and heard a few things in the last 24 hours about Sunday’s episode; about how the show “jumped the shark” with the incredible implausibility of what happened in the VP’s office, about Carrie’s crazy decision after escaping from Nazir’s lair to not even mention that the CIA might want to check on VP Walden, and about seven or eight other plot points that just took the improbability of the show to a whole ‘nother level.

And you know what? Many of the critics are right.
But I didn’t care. I LOVED Sunday’s episode. I was on the edge of the couch the whole time, and I was totally invested in the Carrie-Nazir discussion of the push-and-pull of terrorism and good vs. evil in the warehouse, and I loved the Saul scenes, and man oh man, I just can’t wait to see what happens in the last two episodes of the year.

I’m drinking the “Homeland” Kool-Aid, and am pretty much willing to let the writers take me whereever they want.

Once again, I have no idea where they’ll go next. Brody should absolutely die this season, and I think killing Walden puts a beautiful bow on the storyline they started last year.
But how can you kill off Damien Lewis when he and Claire Danes have such fantastic chemistry? Very tough call to make.

Only two more episodes. I’m already missing the show.

“Homeland” torturing Brody mentally, and now Nazir’s back. A football legend you’ve never heard of retires. And Key and Peele make me laugh

Too depressed thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to write about it tonight, maybe tomorrow. All I’ll say tonight is this: How many of these occasional flare-ups are we going to see before all-out war really happens? And there’s no turning back once all-out war commences. So depressing. Now, onto the fake terrorists that delight me on Showtime each Sunday night…

Damien Lewis is such a terrific actor on “Homeland” that there are scenes where I truly have no idea whether he’s on board with being a CIA double-agent trying to stop terrorism or not, just by looking at his eyes.
The man has such an expressive face, that Brody can show several emotions at once, and lately, most of his expressions have been confusion and rage. The guy really has had to endure so damn much lately.

I  thought Sunday night’s episode was stellar, even the really creepy “everyone back at the CIA bunker listening to Brody and Carrie having sex” scene. (And poor Saul, you just know that had to kill his soul just a little.)

Brody lost it about two or three times Sunday, but there was his stalker crush/psychologically brilliant partner in this show, Carrie, there to put him back together.
I loved how the show dealt with Brody’s “capture” by Roya and the other bad dude whose name we don’t know yet, though I’m really surprised Quinn didn’t just OK his guys picking up the two terrorists when they had the chance (I know that would’ve ruined the ongoing plot, but still).

I continue to be amazed at how good Clare Danes is, and don’t believe her for a second when she tells Saul she’s got everything under control this time. Bitch be crazy for that Brody.

I also thought the Dana/hit and run storyline finally made some sense, and that I’m glad they’re giving Brody’s wife Jessica some more to do this year.
And now, Nazir’s back. Face-to-face with Brody. Can the future vice-president lie convincingly to the man who saved him? Does Brody turn full-on terrorist again, ignoring his bizarre lust for Carrie?

This show has three more episodes this season to tie us up in knots. What a fantastic, well-crafted piece of work.

**With any luck (and the speed and efficiency of the New York City Dept. of Education), I may start substitute teaching in the city public schools soon.
I would hope my first day wouldn’t go like this; it’s from the Comedy Centeral show “Key & Peele,” and it cracked me up toward the end…

**Finally, it’s hard to believe that someone as successful and smart as John Gagliardi can live so much of his career in the shadows, but that’s what he’s done.
If you’ve never heard of Gagliardi, you’re not alone, but he is definitely worth knowing about.
For the past 64 years, he’s been the head football coach at St. John’s (Minn.) College, a Division III team. He won 489 games and four national championships, with a delightfully unconventional style.

The man had few rules for his program, and the ones he did have were wildly different from the neanderthal policies of most successful coaches:
He didn’t believe in tackling in practice, fearing injury and not believing it was necessary.  Gagliardi never used a whistle in practice, and he demanded his players call him “John,” instead of “Coach.”

He also didn’t let players use words like “hit” or “kill,” and never cut anyone who wanted to be on the Johnnies team, meaning sometimes they had a roster of 200.

“I eliminate the unnecessary,” Gagliardi once told the L.A. Times. “And I think almost everything is unnecessary.”

He was a simple man who loved his job and never dreamed of chasing the brighter lights of big-time sports. He announced his retirement on Monday, at age 86, and I envy that he was able to coach so long, doing something he loved, and on his own terms. (Think of how Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden exited; this is a lot cleaner and happier).

I first learned of Gagliardi in 2003 thanks to this terrific Austin Murphy story in Sports Illustrated. Read it and realize that some of us really do get satisfaction in doing what we love, well, for decades.
And that we don’t all need the glory.

A wonderful story of charity in wake of Sandy tragedy. “Homeland” has Brody all kinds of pissed off. And a small town in Md. enjoys a baseball miracle

There are so many awful stories we’ve heard about Hurricane Sandy: People losing their houses, their businesses, their lives, everything they’ve ever worked for.

But if you look hard enough, even in tragedy you can see extreme acts of kindness. Like this one:

A 19-year-old college student named Zoe Everett found out while at school that both her parents had been killed in the storm when a tree hit the truck they were driving.
Amazingly, her two younger siblings who were in the car survived, as did a third sibling who wasn’t with the family at the time of the accident.

Zoe immediately decided to drop out of school and raise her brothers and sister, and she wrote a short message asking for a little help on a website called WishUponAHero.com.

Zoe was hoping to raise $5,000 to help with groceries and other supplies.

“I now have two goals: Caring for and being guardian of my three younger siblings and keeping my family in the house we grew up in,” she wrote. “I love them more than they could ever fathom and I am ready and willing to put any amount of weight on my shoulders to lessen the load on theirs.”

Through the generosity of strangers who read her post, $56,000 was raised, and the messages of support poured in.

Think of stories like this one (click through to see what people wrote to Zoe) the next time you think the whole world is rotten, full of nothing but selfish, uncaring people.

**The writers and directors of “Homeland” seem to have lost their way a little bit, the past few episodes.
I really liked a lot of Sunday night’s show, especially (as always) the scenes with Carrie and Brody. (It’s awesome how you can’t tell in any scene whether Carrie is really in love with Brody or just playing on him. God, Claire Danes is awesome).

I also thought it was fascinating watching Brody wrestle with who he wished he could be, who he is now, and how he can change who he’ll be in the future.

But the whole tie-in of the Finn-Dana storyline to real-world events really seemed forced and silly to me. First of all, why would his kid being in a hit-and-run be such a huge deal to Walden? He’s not even officially running for President yet, as far as we know.
And second, how is it that Brody seems to have so much power over his “double agent” duties? Couldn’t they basically throw him in jail for the rest of his life at any moment? Yet they seem to be trying real hard to place him.
Still, Sunday night had some great moments; Saul and the female prisoner Eileen were great together; I so wish “Homeland” would use Mandy Patinkin more.

But there are starting to be a lot of glaring holes in the plot, like: Wouldn’t the fact that 6 CIA agents were assassinated lead to some kind of major retaliation or investigation by the government, and wouldn’t Brody’s “deal” have to be revealed to a lot of other people?

“Homeland,” I love you too much to see you go downhill. I’m hoping the next few episodes can hook me back in, like last week’s did.

And oh yeah, more proof “Homeland” is on the pop-culture map: Check out this pretty good spoof on last week’s Saturday Night Live:

**Finally, this story knocked me out when I read it in Sports Illustrated last week, but they didn’t put the story online until this week so I waited to blog about it. Chris Ballard, a terribly gifted writer, has the story of a high school baseball team in Williamsport, Md., who, in the span of three years, saw a famous alumni in the big leagues, and the star pitcher of the 2012 team, die in tragic car accidents.

How the team and the town came together under a coach still in his 20’s is one of the best stories I’ve read in a long, long time.

Check it out here.

Thank God it’s Election Night: Some stuff I’ll be watching closely. “Homeland” starting to confuse me again. And the machine that sorts Skittles

It’s become a cliche to say that election nights are like sports games, because there are two teams, a clear winner and loser, and lots of arguing about what should or shouldn’t have happened.

But if you’re a sports junkie AND a political junkie like me, then man, a Presidential election night is like crack cocaine: Addictive and guaranteed to keep you up for hours.

Of course there are so many important races and ballot initiatives to be decided tonight; yours truly will have the laptops and the TVs set up watching as many results com in as possible; by midnight I’ll be stalking around in our apartment and mumbling about Cuyahoga or Palm Beach County, I’m sure.

Besides the obvious (that Barack Obama will be re-elected President, sparing us Mitt Romney and a return to the policies of George W. Bush), here are six things I’ll be watching most closely: (and please, if you haven’t voted already, please vote today. You lose your right to complain if you don’t.)

1. Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren, Mass. Senate: This has been one of the most expensive and nasty fights in the country, as a true progressive fights a former darling of the Tea Party. Warren should win this, but the polling is so close that I’m nervous.
2. Chris Murphy vs. Linda McMahon, Conn. Senate: Thirty million bucks really oughta buy you a Senate seat, but McMahon is just so unlikable, and so far right, that she’s alienated most of the state’s voters. If she pulls off an upset win, it’s a bad omen for the rest of the night for Dems.

3. Patrick Murphy vs. Allen West, Fla. House of Rep (18th district).: It’s really, really, really hard to be crazier than Michele Bachmann, but West has done it. From declaring that “78 to 81 members of the Democratic party are Communists,” to saying “women that support Planned Parenthood are “neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness,” West is as obscenely nuts as they come.

Me and millions of others have given Murphy a boost financially in this race; he’s got a good shot at pulling it out.

4. Richard Carmona vs. Jeff Flake, Arizona Senate: This race is a toss-up between an ex-Surgeon General (Carmona) and a popular GOP Congressman in a very Republican state. If Carmona can pull this off, then the Dems are having a very good night.

5. Marijuana maybe getting legalized:  Not just medically, but altogether. Colorado, Oregon and Washington state all have ballot amendments ending the prohibition on pot this year and in Colorado, polls say it’s likely to pass. This would be a fantastic development, puncturing a hole in the “War on Drugs” and stopping the government from needlessly and stupidly imprisoning minor pot users. Of course, the federal gov’t could come in and stop states from enforcing the relaxed marijuana laws, but let’s see what happens.

6.Gay marriage on ballot in four states: Maine voters seem likely to pass a gay marriage equality amendment, which would be historically huge (first time it’s been voted into law.) In Washington, Maryland and Minnesota, it’s going to be awfully close.
This could be an historic election on so many levels, but even two of those four states allowing all people the freedom to marry the person they love would be so enormous and wonderful.

Final Wide World of Stuff predictions: Obama wins EV, 303-235, Democrats retain Senate control, 54-46.

**OK, here’s an invention the world didn’t need, but is delightful nonetheless: A machine that sorts all of your Skittles for you.

**Finally, some quickie thoughts on this week’s “Homeland,” which wasn’t as awesome as the last two episodes but really, it’s hard to keep up that pace:

— The Dana-Finn hit-and-run storyline is getting more and more ludicrous every week. Dana just somehow stumbles into the ICU and finds the person they hit? And then she somehow finds out the woman died, without knowing her name or anything? I have no idea what the writers’ payoff for this will be, but it better be good because this is a waste of the show’s time right now.

— Great last scene with Carrie and Brody; I don’t think he knew about the ambush in Gettysburg that Roya and Nazir orchestrated, but it is possible. Also, did Quinn survive the ambush? Because he sure looked like a goner at the end of the show.
— Can’t wait until we find out Virgil is actually a terrorist. Come on, two audio screw-ups while they were trying to overhear conversations? And he lost the dude who turned out to be a terrorist in the subway station? Virgil, you’re better than that.

Two stories on bullying, awful in different ways. A terrific “SNL” spoof. And “Homeland” brings Carrie to great highs and lows

Sadly, the issue of bullying doesn’t ever go away. It’s always out there, a nightmare for millions of kids in the world who suffer day after day.

Two stories from that world today, one much more tragic than the other, but both making me sad and angry.
First, you may have heard about the terrible tragedy of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, who killed herself last week but not before leaving behind this heartbreaking video, explaining, in index cards, why she felt she had to take her own life. I know it’s painful to watch, but if you can take it, it’s incredibly moving stuff.

The other bullying story is just one of supreme ignorance. So here’s the deal: Every year, in schools across the U.S. on Oct. 30, there’s something called “Mix it Up at Lunch Day,” sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

On this day, kids are encouraged to sit next to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to, exposing themselves to different kids, breaking up cliques, and maybe making students think twice about bullying someone in the halls.

Only this year, the American Family Association has urged schools not to participate in this worthy program. Why? Well, it’s obvious: They believe the project is “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”

Come again?

Here’s what the N.Y. Times article says: “Although the suggested activities for Mix It Up at Lunch Day do not expressly address gay and lesbian students, the law center itself promotes equal treatment for gays and lesbians and that philosophy then informs the school program, he said.

“Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same,” Mr. Fischer said. “It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.”

I cannot say strongly enough how disgusting I think the American Family Association is. That they can come out against an activity like this shows their own bigotry and closed-mindedness in new, mind-boggling ways.

**This is one of the funnier SNL skits I’ve seen in a while, a “spoof” of the iPhone 5 and its problems.

**Finally, another fantastic episode of “Homeland” Sunday night. (SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT.)

While there were again a few fantastic, hard-to-believe details (why didn’t Brody just walk away from the dying terrorist in the woods when Jess was on the phone with him, why did he have to kill him there?), this was a sensational and tense show. I love that Saul went right to Carrie’s house at the end to show her Brody’s suicide tape, finally pulling Carrie back from the brink after her failed suicide attempt.

I thought Jessica’s speech to the veterans was excellent, I loved that she’s finally gotten to the breaking point with her husband, and I thought Claire Danes’ acting  was phenomenal throughout.

When Estes at the CIA told her “you didn’t really think you were coming back here to get reinstated,” it was heartbreaking because you knew that’s exactly what she was thinking (and why the heck did the other agent get her hopes up by inviting her to a briefing, anyway?)

I wonder where they’re going to take the show next; truly, it could go a lot of ways. Will Estes try to squelch the suicide tape news, knowing how much it will hurt the VP? Will Carrie and Saul be the only ones with the balls to confront Brody?
Every week this show gets better and better.

Apple-picking and 4-year-olds playing soccer in New England. The Jets come close, which is a surprise. And “Homeland” ratchets up the tension

Sorry there was no usual Monday blog post, but I spent the holiday weekend with my fiance up in New England, visiting some friends of hers.
There’s a reason poets, songwriters and lots of other people have written so much art about fall in New England; it’s really all kinds of beautiful.

We visited a family that had two little kids, so we did all kinds of family stuff, like apple-picking, going through a “mini-Green Monster” hedge maze, and even went candlepin bowling, that bizarre form of the sport they only play up there. (That sport is way too hard; you get no pin action, the ball is tiny and doesn’t spin, and yes I’m making excuses because I sorta stink at it).

I also got to watch a soccer game played by 4 and 5-year-olds; it was like watching swarms of bees all chasing one tiny ball of honey. There were no goalies in this co-ed “game,” the goals themselves were miniature, and nobody really kept score, which was nice.

Concentration isn’t exactly a forte among these future stars; one boy spent most of the game fiddling with his sweatshirt, unable to decide whether to keep it on or off.

It was a terrific relaxing weekend out of the city, even if I had to endure way too many “Gronkowski” and “Brady” jerseys. Massachusetts is one of my favorite states, and in the fall, with the leave starting to turn, it really is something special.

**Ah, the Jets. As someone said on Twitter Monday night, only my beloved Jets can turn what should’ve been a 25-point blowout loss into a heart-wrenching defeat.
Despite playing with a mostly-inept offense, filled with guys most NFL fans have never heard of, the Jets hung in there with the undefeated Texans, losing by only six, and Jets had a shot to win on their last drive.
But man, this team just makes SO many mistakes, probably because it’s not that talented. Mark Sanchez played only OK, throwing so many passes too low that they’re tipped, or too high to be caught. The Jets receivers blew all kinds of plays, the defense missed all kinds of tackles, and once again there was ZERO pass rush.

Plus, they burned two timeouts in the second half because they have no idea what to do with Tim Tebow, getting plays in late and having the wrong personnel. Pathetic how disorganized the Jets coaches are.
They’re 2-3 and while Monday was slightly encouraging, this season has 4-12 written all over it.

** “Homeland” followed up last week’s terrific season premiere with an incredibly tense episode Sunday night (SPOILER ALERT, STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED YET).
The last scene, with Saul watching the previously-believed-to-be-forgotten and destroyed tape of Brody talking to the camera before what he thought would be last season’s suicide bomb attempt, was jaw-droppingly good. I have to believe Saul is now going to spill the beans on Brody, tell Carrie she was right all along, and the whole dynamic of the series may change.
A few other thoughts on a great hour of TV:

— I kept yelling at Carrie for being so damn reckless, especially when she ran back into her source’s apartment while her teammates were in a car surrounded by angry men. It’s ridiculous how many chances she takes and gets away with it.

— I know you’ve gotta suspend disbelief sometimes with this show, but both my fiance and I were incredulous that Brody A, would be allowed in a secret meeting to watch Nasir get killed, B, send a text message TO Nasir without anyone noticing or getting suspicious, C, Nasir getting the text milliseconds before he was about to be killed, and D, the snipers totally missing Nasir because he moved a split second before they shot.

That’s an awful lot for we viewers to accept. I also love how the entire U.S. government goes along with Carrie’s hunch and goes for the assassination plan. Carrie, who just had electroshock therapy.

–Loved the scene with Brody and his ex-Marine mates at the bar. How long can he hold them off from the truth?
–Finally, Brody’s daughter and the VP’s son are totally having sex in the White House at some point this season, right?