Tag Archives: Charlie Pierce

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

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

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

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

Couple major points I have been mulling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a crazy world we live in.

Sandy Hook Elementary prepares to re-open, four years after the horror. An inspiring story of an Olympic swimmer with Crohn’s Disease. And a beautiful tribute to a mom from an NHL star

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It’s been nearly four years, and it still seems kind of unfathomable, doesn’t it?

A man walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 12, 2012 and killed 26 people, including 20 children, some as young as 6 years old.

It was supposed to change everything, the great Charlie Pierce writes in this piece that I highly, highly urge you to read. A man slaughtering children, with an arsenal of weapons on his person, was supposed to finally, finally, finally be the massacre that made Americans demand that our elected legislators in Congress do something about gun control, and how incredibly easy it has been to kill fellow citizens.

From Pierce: “The NRA and its hirelings used the slaughter of children to line their pockets. The Republican majorities in the Congress hid behind the drapes, and Sandy Hook slipped into memory, one more station on an endless road to an armed and dangerous Golgotha.”

But as you know, nothing changed, and I don’t want to go off another rant about guns here. Instead, read this piece by Pierce about Sandy Hook Elementary getting ready to open once again in a few weeks (it’s at a new location, thankfully), and think about the power of the human spirit, and how even in a place where such horror occurred, there can be positive thoughts like this one:

“Our school is built on being nice to each other, as our principal, Dawn Hochsprung, always said and preached,” said Newtown First Selectman Michael Llodra.

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I hope the children of Sandy Hook have nothing but happy days in their sparkling, $50 million new school.

But it’s an absolute tragedy that it had to be built at all.

**Next up today, a happier story from my man Joe Posnanski, who’s going to be all Olympics, all the time for a few weeks for NBC Sports. Joe always writes best when he writes about his family, and this week he wrote a beautiful story about Olympian Kathleen Baker, whose Crohn’s disease mirrored that of Joe’s daughter. Baker had to completely change her training and re-adjust her goals, but she made the Olympics anyway.

I loved this story, and not just because I, too, have Crohn’s (a much, much, much milder form than Joe’s daughter or Baker does, though.)

It’s a great read.

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**Finally, The Player’s Tribune, the Derek Jeter-founded website that allows athletes to speak directly to fans, continues to put out tremendous content.

Bobby Ryan, an NHL star, lost his mother, Melody Stevenson, to cancer recently, and the loss understandably devastated her son.

Ryan’s father was incredibly abusive, and he beat up his wife almost to the point of killing her one night in 2000. Bobby and Melody fled to avoid him, and Ryan’s father was eventually caught and sent to prison, and then it was just Bobby and Mom, trying to make a life for themselves.

From Ryan’s piece:

As I reflect on our time together, there’s something I really need to tell you — and for the world to hear me say it: Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much.

Thank you for putting your life on the back-burner for several years just so that I could be happy. I know you didn’t have anyone to lean on, but you understood how much I needed you, and so you gave me all of yourself.

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a professional, for showing me that no matter what obstacle you may be facing, the best approach is always to just put your head down and go to work.

Thank you for helping me get through the eighth and ninth grades when neither of us really knew what we were doing with the whole home school thing. I still can’t believe we pulled a 3.0 GPA.

Thank you for playing so many roles in my life. You were my only parent for so long, but when it was time you were still able to let me go so that I could learn about the world on my own. I know how difficult that was for you. One of the biggest reasons I am where I am today is because you put me in a position to succeed. And not only succeed, but succeed on my own.

The whole thing is great. And after you read it, if you’re able to, call your mother. I know I did.

The triumph of “Selma,” an extraordinary film. A mom builds a Hogwarts castle out of Lego. And a 109-year-old woman reveals secrets of long life

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Some movies, you just know you’re going to love.

Take “Selma.” You have a biopic about one of the greatest speakers and writers of all time in Martin Luther King, Jr. (and I’m a writer). You set the movie right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement (and the 1960s is by far my favorite part of American history). You get universal acclaim from all the top critics, a whiff of controversy about one of the most underrated and fascinating Presidents ever (LBJ), and yeah, let’s just say it was highly, highly likely that I was going to like this flick.

And when I finally saw it Monday (yes, on MLK Day, just worked out that way since my wife was off from work and could watch our little munchkin), I was as moved, and touched by the movie, as I’d hoped.

This thing ought to be shown in schools, and be fairly required viewing for anyone studying the 1960s, for many reasons.
For one, it very much demythologizes King; instead of the “Godded-up” version we get taught and have heard forever, here is a King who clearly cheats on his wife, isn’t always sure of himself, and worries constantly about whether the move he’s about to make is the right one. David Oyewelo is fantastic as King, and it’s pathetic that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination.

Another reason “Selma” shines is how well it portrays the climactic events at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, when King and Selma residents clash with police while trying to march for voting rights. The direction and cinematography are beautiful, and very different from most “protest battle” scenes you’ve seen in films. (Again, the Academy’s snub of Ava DuVurnay is just ridiculous).

The script is terrific, the supporting actors are superb (Carmen Ejogo’s Coretta Scott King and the young John Lewis, played by Stephan James) and the movie moves through the events of 1965 very smoothly.

Now, the LBJ controversy… there has been much hue and cry over how the movie presents Lyndon Johnson, with lots of old liberal friends and admirers of Johnson saying it unfairly shows him as an obstacle to King, rather than a partner.

I have to say having now seen the movie that LBJ really doesn’t come off that bad. Sure the movie distorts history a little, but it’s a movie, not a documentary. And LBJ does get a wonderful scene with Alabama Governor George Wallace near the end that makes him look good.

In short, see “Selma.” It’s a superb film that will make you see Martin Luther King a little differently, a little more human. A really great movie. (For more on “Selma,” here’s a really great column by Charlie Pierce.)

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**Next up on Good News Friday, this woman totally deserves Mom of the Year right now, and it’s only January.

Alice Finch, a Seattle mother of two, spend a year of her life making an exact replica of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Castle, strictly out of LEGO pieces.

Forty-freaking-thousand LEGO pieces, to be exact.

The photo above is from her Flickr page; check out more of them here.

I SO want to fly to Seattle to play with that thing right now.

**And finally, this made me laugh and smile. Jessie Gallan of Scotland is a 109-year-old woman, which means she was born before the Titanic sank, among other things.

She recently told UK’s Daily Mail newspaper that the “secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.”

Hey, seems to have worked for her. Glad most women disagree with her…

 

The brilliant British game show “Golden Balls” a great psychological study. The best way to quit your job, ever. And paying your electric bill in cocaine? Only in Florida

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So, how’s that government shutdown going for you so far? After one day, I’m sick of it already. So is the brilliant Charlie Pierce, who sums up my feelings pretty perfectly here.

I’m a huge fan of game shows, as I think I’ve said here a few times. I’ve watched more reruns of “Card Shark” and “25,000 Pyramid” than is healthy for a 38-year-old adult male like myself.

So anytime I learn about a new game show, or one that’s been around a while that I’ve never heard of, I get pretty excited.

Especially one as psychologically interesting as this one, that I read about first on Joe Posnanski’s excellent blog.

It’s called “Golden Balls,” (yes, that’s really the title) and it aired in England between 2007-2009. The general idea is this: Two contestants come on the show and work together to build up a pot of money, through a whole series of contests that are too complicated to explain here.
But the basic gist is, at the end of the show there’s a certain large “pot” left, let’s say $75,000 pounds.
And to figure out how it gets split up, the host places two “golden balls” in front of them, with the word “split” inside one, and “steal” inside the other, and asks both players if they choose “split” or “steal.”
Each player is to look at the contents of the ball, and in a few minutes, will reveal which he/she has chosen.
If both players choose “split,” they split the money evenly and everyone’s happy. If both players choose “steal,” then each player gets nothing, zilch, nada.
But if one player chooses “split” and the other chooses “steal,” than the player who said “steal” gets to take the entire pot home.

The truly fascinating part happens when the two players discuss what they will do, as they swear up and down to each other that they’ll both choose “split” and be happy with half the money. Watch this clip here for what I’m talking about.

Just brutal, right? I mean, this is human emotion and behavior at its most naked. I watched that clip three times to see if I could detect anything Sarah’s emotions or words that tipped me off to what she was about to do, and I got nothing.

Anyway, most of the show’s interactions happen like this, in this variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. But then there was this episode between Ibrahim and Nick, where Nick totally turns the game on its head. I thought this was brilliant, how he basically forced Ibrahim toward the outcome Nick wanted (it gets good at 2:35).

Anyway, you get the idea. I so wish this show would come to America. Then again, there could be bloodshed at the end of each show, so maybe not.

**OK, moving on, this video went viral Tuesday and I totally understand why. A writer named Marina Shifrin wanted to quit her job, so she did it in the way we all do: She waited until 4:30 a.m., went to her office, put on a Kanye West song, and resigned via YouTube video while dancing hilariously.

I love this so much…, particularly her great dance moves.

And P.S., the company responded with a video of their own.

**Finally today, a story that warms my heart, from Deltona, Fla., a city I have spent quite a lot of time in, very little of it happily (Deltona is not a nice place. I’m sorry, but it’s not. It’s a fairly large city halfway between Daytona Beach and Orlando, with lots of crime; and as my friend and former co-worker in Daytona, Casey told me when I first moved there, “If something bad happens in the world and you want to know who did it, look to Deltona first.”)

Anyway, a man walked into the town’s water office on Sept. 23 and tried to pay his utility bill with… crack cocaine.

Stunningly, that is not an accepted form of currency at the water comission.

I only hope this genius was arrested and reminded that for God’s sake, if you’re paying your bill in drugs, pot is a much better way to go.

Boston. The only thing I can think about today.

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I don’t know what to say about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Monday, except that it leaves me profoundly sad that we have people on this Earth who would do such a thing, and that I’m surprised that I was still surprised when I saw the news first break.

After living through 9/11 and all the terror attacks around the world since then, I didn’t think I could still be surprised by something like this. But when I walked past a restaurant near my apartment on the way home from school Monday, I was stunned at what i saw on the bar TV.

Awful, just awful. I came home and did what I always did as a journalist, and that was to read and watch as much as I could about this tragedy. If you’re not interested in the re-living it, I understand; I’ll try to get back to my usual mix of weird stories and personal rants in this space tomorrow.

But if you are interested, here are some of the more interesting things I found Monday night:

First, a video taken from the scene from The Boston Globe.

**Next, some of the best writing I found. First, a short Facebook post by the actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, who reminds us that as much evil as there is out there, the ledger on the side of “good” is much, much higher.

I thought this short piece by longtime Bostonian Charlie Pierce, writing for Esquire, was jarring and beautifully written:

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Then there was this great comment from a Twitter user named @Hemlock Martinis: “Worth noting that last time someone pissed off Boston, the British Empire lost most of its territory in North America.”

**Finally, one of the first writers who inspired me, the great Peter Richmond, has a moving story up about how reporters need to be careful when covering a tragedy like this. Believe me, he knows from personal experience.

If you read to the end, the story gives you a very surprising an dramatic finish.

The Yankees collapse is complete, for now. A rip-roaring start to the DNC. And a Paralympic table tennis shot you won’t believe

I’m not really a good Yankees fan anymore. Haven’t been one for years; as I’ve said many times, I just don’t follow baseball on a day-to-day basis.

But man, watching the Bombers collapse over the last month has been pretty shocking. And seeing the Baltimore Orioles, who were last relevant when Jeffrey Maier was sitting in the Yankee Stadium bleachers, rise up to become a real rival has been pretty amazing as well.

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Yankees had a double-digit lead in the American League East 47 days ago. Tuesday night, it was down to zero. As in, the Yankees and Orioles were tied for first.

The Yanks aren’t hitting, the pitching hasn’t been near good enough, and injuries are a problem, too. Meanwhile, Baltimore is playing like a hungry team under a really good manager (Buck Showalter) and I can only imagine how nuts Camden Yards will be this weekend, when the Yankees and O’s hook up for a four-game series.

As a Yankee fan, I’m definitely worried that Bobby Valentine’s seemingly crazy July prediction (“the Yankees can be caught,” Bobby V said then) has come true.
Still, kind of neat for baseball to see the O’s back in business again.

**Well that sure was a hell of a start to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night. Great speeches all around, I thought, especially by Deval Patrick (above), who clearly has some fire in his belly. Some quick-hit musings:

— Great keynote speech by Julian Castro (really interesting piece by Charlie Pierce on Castro vs. Rubio here). Guy has a bright future, brighter than just being the mayor of San Antonio. But I’m only half-joking when I wonder if voters in Florida would ever vote for a guy named Castro.

— Happy to see all the speakers hammer home the point that the auto industry in this country is no longer on life support. But sadly, my fiancee and I both wondered whether there are even that many people employed in the auto industry to impact a national election anymore.

— Michelle Obama — wow. What a composed, beautiful speech she gave, from the heart and filled with wonderful personal details about her life with Barack (my favorite line was when she discussed the family sitting around the dinner table, “strategizing about middle school friendships.”)

— Going to be a very interesting 2016 Democratic primary. I’ve loved Martin O’Malley for a long time now (he was the model for Carcetti’s character on “The Wire”) and I think he’ll be in it in ’16. Andrew Cuomo will be running. Biden will probably run again. Too soon for Castro, maybe Hillary gets back in? Will be very interesting.
— Can’t wait to hear what Bubba Clinton says tonite. And Tebow knows Joe Biden could say just about anything.

**Finally, the Paralympics don’t get much attention every four years, but there are plenty of amazing athletes competing in London right now. Here’s one great moment that I saw on Twitter this week, from British table tennis player David Wetherill.

How did he do that?

A perfectly qualified Georgia judge rejected because he’s gay. The toddler with Nirvana as an alarm clock. And two stories from the sports gender wars

I had to laugh when I saw Newsweek’s cover headline this week, declaring Barack Obama “the first gay President.”
Because this country we live in is far, far away from ever electing a gay president. An African-American, sure, we did that. A woman? It’ll happen in the next 15-20 years.
But a homosexual President is still decades away. And a liberal like myself gets reminded of that every time a disgusting incident like what happened in Virginia Wednesday occurs.
A man named Tracey Thorne-Begland is a the deputy state’s attorney for the commonwealth of Virginia. He was nominated to be a judge in the state, and his nomination should’ve sailed through the legislature.
He is, by all accounts, supremely qualified for the position. A terrific prosecutor, he was also a former Navy pilot and well-liked by his peers.
But he happens to be gay, and well, that of course could NOT be ignored. No, it couldn’t, not by someone like Robert G. Marshall, a Republican legislator in the state, who stoked fears that the 45-year-old attorney would allow his sexual orientation to influence his judicial decisions.
Marshall, by the way, is running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia.
“He holds himself out as being married,” Marshall told the Washington Post. Noting that gay marriage is not legal in Virginia, he said that Thorne-Begland’s “life is a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution.”

And so Marshall and some of his fellow GOP members put a stop to Thorne-Beglund’s nomination.
Disgusting doesn’t even begin to describe the actions of the bigoted Marshall. But there are millions like him in America, and many of those people walk the halls of our government.

As long as they are around, “America’s First Gay President” is just a silly headline designed to sell magazines.

**And now, the sleeping toddler in the backseat who happily awoke to the blaring sound of Nirvana. This cracked me up all four times I watched it.

**Finally today, a couple of stories on opposite ends of the sports gender wars spectrum. First, what I find to be a heartening development on Long Island, where a boy named Keeling Pilaro has been playing field hockey on Southampton High School’s girls field hockey team. The school doesn’t have a boys team, Keeling, an 8th grader, loves the sport, and so he played last fall and scored 12 goals.
But of course, parents complained, “he’s a boy,” yada yada yada, and Pilaro was banned.
However, in a rare display of sanity from a high school governing body, Pilaro’s ban was lifted Tuesday, and he will be allowed to play for one more season.
As long as Pilaro isn’t physically dominating his opponents, I see no reason he shouldn’t have the same opportunity to play field hockey as the girls do.

Then there’s the dark side of gender equity in sports, as beautifully described in this story by the great Charlie Pierce on Grantland.com. An Arizona Catholic private school baseball team, Our Lady of Sorrows in Phoenix, has forfeited the state championship game because it refuses to play Mesa Prep.
Why? Because Mesa Prep’s second baseman is a girl, Paige Sultzbach.
And Our Lady of Sorrows is saying it won’t allow its boys to compete against a girl because of “religious beliefs.”

What a crock of you know what. It’s discriminatory and sexist and I hate when people try to hide behind religion to hide views straight out of the 19th century.

A beautiful tribute to the late, great “The National” newspaper. I get bummed at the eye doctor’s office. And a computer repairman with a dirty mind

If you’re too young to remember “The National Sports Daily,” let me try to explain it to you.
Twenty years ago, before the Internet and before there were sportswriters spouting nonsense on TV, there was this idea: A daily newspaper in America, devoted solely to sports. It would come out five days a week, be filled with the best writing on sports in the country, and would have all the info you could possibly want.
The National hired every great sportswriter working in 1990, it seemed: John Feinstein, Mitch Albom, Dave Kindred, Charlie Pierce, Scott Ostler … it was the most amazing collection of sportswriting talent ever seen before or since.

I was in high school during The National’s brief life, and I vividly remember reading it every chance I got. My parents had recently gotten divorced in 1990, and I can still recall going to my Dad’s apartment in Great Neck, N.Y., walking to the newsstand near his place, and buying The National and savoring it.

It was everything I loved and everything I wanted to do, and I dreamed of one day being able to write for such an amazing newspaper.

But, well, there were problems. Distribution was awful, the paper wasted an insane amount of money on travel and salaries, and after a year and a half it folded under a pile of bills.

Why am I telling you all of this now? Because ESPN’s new website, Grantland.com (which is fabulous so far, by the way), did a beautiful two-story piece on The National and its glorious successes and failures. The first part is a hilarious oral history from the men and women who worked there, and the second is a beautiful essay by Charlie Pierce, an ode to the best place he ever worked. I highly recommend checking them out, whether you, like me, miss The National all the time, or if you just want to know what it was like.

**Here’s a little life moment. I went to the eye doctor Friday, and in addition to finding out he grew up in the same town as my cousins in New City, N.Y., I learned something else:
My right eye vision is only 20/30. This bothered me a lot, because nine years ago I had LASIK surgery and they swore to me then that I’d have 20/20 sight.
And as far as I know, I’ve had 20/20 vision since the surgery.
And now I’m down to 20/30.
Maybe I just had a bad day guessing the letters. Maybe the assistant was wrong.
Or maybe, I’m just getting a little bit old.
20/20 was a beautiful thing while it lasted.

**Finally today, here’s a man we all can be proud of. 20-year-old computer repairman Trevor Harwell was arrested after he put spyware on the computers of women that allowed him to take candid photos of them, often in the nude, by having remote access to their machines.

Trevor, sweetheart, there are a lot easier ways to get nude photos of women, pal.

What a sleazebag.

A great Obama speech, breakfast keeps kids virgins, and my wife’s new Mark Harmon obsession

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Thursday is here, and time for another “grab-blog”, a word I just coined to describe a grab bag kind of blog, a smorgasbord of stuff in my head this evening:

** So Barack Obama gave a great speech Wednesday night, really making his case for health care (of course, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson had to show his manliness by screaming out “You Lie,” which was among the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in the presence of the President. Just disgusting. Can you imagine the outrage on the right if a Democratic Congressman had done that?)

But for my (limited) money, his speech to kids on Tuesday afternoon about hard work and staying in school was equally phenomenal. Check it out here.

I will say, though, that he repeated a myth that sadly still lives on: He said Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. Having lived and worked in Wilmington, N.C., Jordan’s hometown, I know this story is 100 percent false. As explained to me by Chuck Carree, who covered Jordan in high school for the Wilmington Star-News, what happened was that the varsity coach at Laney High school, Fred Lynch, told Jordan he wouldn’t play much on varsity that year. So at tryouts, he suggested Jordan play JV, which is what Michael did.

This story has been mis-told so often, even Jordan and Lynch tell it like the cut story is the truth. But it ain’t so.

**So there were two phenomenal stories I heard this week on the brilliant NPR quiz show Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me (a weekly must-listen for my wife and I; Charlie Pierce and Adam Felber just kill me).

First, apparently some enterprising researchers in Japan did a study of 3,000 people and discovered that those who ate a good breakfast when they were teenagers lost their virginity 1 1/2 years later than those who didn’t.

I’m a little baffled by this story, as it leaves me with many questions, the foremost being: Was my daily bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch the reason Kristen Eck never gave me a date? Could I have been gettin’ some all through high school if only I’d have been hungry until lunch? And what are those kids who don’t eat oatmeal or toast doing for those 15 minutes in the morning?

— The other story from Wait Wait that I loved was that of the administrators of Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, declaring that roller-coaster riders will no longer be permitted to throw their arms in the air during the ride when its hot out. Why? Apparently the stench of B.O. has been annoying other park-goers.

God, there are so many jokes to be made here. Like, I would expect this would happen in France, but England? And, given that we’re talking about a roller coaster here, this sure gives new meaning to the term “the smell of fear.”

**OK, so, Mark Harmon. My wife is a wonderful woman, but from time to time she gets temporarily obsessed with things. Like two years ago, she was constantly wanting orange soda, all the time, for like three weeks.

Currently, my beloved is spending every waking moment watching reruns of the CBS show “NCIS.” I have no earthly idea why; it doesn’t seem to be a particularly interesting or creative show, the acting from what I could tell is dreadful, and well, it’s been on forever and she’s never cared before.

I do know she thinks Mark Harmon is kind of hunky, so maybe that’s it. But seriously, she’s watching like three episodes a day. I’ll start to worry if a DVD of “Stealing Home” arrives in our mailbox.

**OK, so I’ve been watching several hours a day of the U.S. Open (here’s my new blog about Melanie Oudin’s exit Wednesday) and I just can’t take it anymore. I have to vent about this Chase commercial that they show every six seconds.

Here’s the premise: Guy and a girl are out on a date, and they go to a restaurant. Woman asks if guy has ever been here before, and he says “no.”  Then he notices on the menu that it says “cash only.” So while the woman is reading the menu and talking about every item on it out loud, our guy gets up, leaves the table, leaves the restaurant, dashes across the street to a Chase ATM, gets money out, then dashes BACK across the street, back into the restaurant and sits back down.

The whole time, the woman hasn’t noticed he’s left; when she finally asks him what he wants, he’s just sat back down and says “the halibut.”

So this is what I’m thinking: Why would a guy want to go out with a woman who is so bubble-headed and full of herself that she doesn’t even notice that you’ve LEFT THE TABLE? Wouldn’t that be a sign that maybe this chick is a little self-absorbed, that she’s just reading the menu and talking to you while you’re not even there?

If I’m Chase commercial guy, I’m dumping this girl and finding someone else.