Tag Archives: John Oliver

A hard-working man gets a generous gift from a stranger, changing his life. John Oliver makes a hilarious “movie” about President Harding. And dogs doing lots of funny stuff

And a Happy Friday to you out there in sweltering Web-land, well, I’m sure it’s sweltering somewhere where ever you are.

Lots of good stuff in Good News Friday this week, but this may be my favorite story of the week. A 20-year-old African-American man named Justin Korva was spotted walking to work in 95-degree Texas heat recently by a guy named Andy Mitchell.

Mitchell offered him a ride, and while driving Korva to work at Taco Casa, Mitchell discovered the young man normally walked three miles to work and home again every day. Korva said he was determined to save up money and someday, he hoped, he would be able to afford a car.

Well, Mitchell was very impressed with Korva’s dedication and posted about him on Facebook. One thing led to another, and, well, just watch this video and go grab a Kleenex.

So, so great. The full details of the story are here.

**Next up today, this is one of the most hilarious segments John Oliver has done in a while. When he and his staff got word the Presidential Wax Museum was shutting down, they of course sprung into action, buying five of them.

But it’s what they planned to do with the wax statue of Warren G. Harding that makes this segment awesome. Starring Anna Kendrick, Campbell Scott, Michael McKeon and others, it’s “Harding.” And it’s fantastic.

**Finally today, my wife found this video on the Facebook page of an organization called The Mind Awakened, and I think it’s pretty hilarious.

Inside the brain of dogs, a few examples showing that maybe, just maybe, they’re not the brightest animals in the kingdom. But they sure are funny.

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A mostly TV post, starring the awesome “Billions” and the really great “Better Call Saul.” And John Oliver brings us Eminem vs. New Zealand

Not going to sit here and complain about that awful performance by my New York Rangers last night, a season-ending awful performance. Nope, they’re not worth my time or aggravation.

So let’s start today with a TV post; I haven’t done one of these in a while but just about every show I’m watching these days is in the middle of a fantastic season, so I want to talk about two of them.

First off, it’s pretty rare that a series gets better from Season 1 to Season 2. “Breaking Bad” did it, “The West Wing” did, and maybe a couple others, but usually, quality either stays the same or regresses significantly (see: “The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Homeland,” etc.)

But man oh man has “Billions” been sensational in Season 2, far and away better than a really good Season 1 (Don’t worry, no spoilers about the season finale here, I know it’s only been a couple days.)

Damien Lewis has been so, so good this season, as billionaire Bobby Axelrod, going from cocky-as-hell to scared, from sympathetic to “oh man he’s such an ass,” often in the course of the same episode. Paul Giamatti as U.S. district attorney-turned-governor candidate Chuck Rhoades, has also been fabulous this year.

The show has been hilarious this year (Wags gets the best lines, from his “this deal stinks worse than Billy Batts in a trunk” to his “you mean the petting zoo?”), it’s been a little heartbreaking, and the supporting cast, with new characters like Taylor (whose gender is unknown), and SEC investigator Dake (smarmy and awesome)  being so solid alongside returnees like Wendy Rhoades and Cafferty, has been sensational as well.

The penultimate episode last week was pure perfection, as we got to see a half hour of Axe celebrating, thinking his dirty tricks have ruined Rhoades and his father, to the final 10 minutes when we learn Chuck has been playing Axe the whole time, and the whole situation blew up in Axe’s face.

I cannot, cannot recommend “Billions” enough. It has taken a giant leap forward this season. If you need a new show to binge-watch, this is the one for you.

**Next up, wanted to talk about another show that has been awesome this season (no, not ‘The Americans,” which I worship but hasn’t been quite up to its usual standards), “Better Call Saul.” I had high hopes for this show when it started, given it was a “Breaking Bad” spinoff, though I feared it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself.

But we’re early in Season 3 and it’s still fantastic, and getting better. The two separate, parallel shows, featuring Jimmy McGill on his way toward becoming shyster lawyer Saul Goodman, and ultimate fixer Mike Ehrmantrout trying to figure out the New Mexico drug war and one of its key players, Gus Fring (it is SO damn good to have him back in my life) have both been fascinating so far this year.

Jimmy so much would like to be a good man and a good, honest lawyer, but circumstances and the worst angels of his nature keep getting in the way, and in the way of fellow attorney Kim Wexler truly falling in love with him.

“Better Call Saul” has had a great slow build, such a great slow build that as brilliant TV critic Alan Sepinwall points out, you want them to hurry up and get to Jimmy becoming Saul, but you don’t want that because the leadup has been so measured and great.

“Better Call Saul” is getting better and better. Can’t wait to see how good it will be next week.

**Finally today, this cracked me up, as “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” almost always does. It’s a short video about a ridiculous court case in New Zealand, involving Eminem, a campaign song, and some fantastic, shocked looks from politicians.

I’m with John, I totally would watch this trial.

http://joeposnanski.com/katie-the-perfect/

Bill O’Reilly’s actually gonna fall, and I’m shocked. A pro tennis match gets interrupted by people having sex. And Stanley Cup playoff hockey making me tear my (little remaining) hair out

Looks like a sacred cash cow, the biggest one on cable TV, is finally being let out of the barn.

I loathe Bill O’Reilly for the same reasons most people do: He’s a smug, arrogant blowhard who acts the fool on television and riles up millions of people with angry rhetoric, often racist and sexist in tone.  He was rude and dismissive during his interviews with Barack Obama when he was President, and his complete disregard for facts was disgusting.

Still, O’Reilly attracts a huge audience and makes a ton of money, and brings in a boatload of cash for Fox News, so I figured he was pretty much bulletproof from any scandal, including the recent New York Times investigation that showed he was a serial sexual harasser.

Let’s face it, TV executives don’t care what their talent does, as long as the money train keeps rolling. But O’Reilly’s advertisers have started running away from him like viewers should have years ago, and Fox is apparently now getting ready to can him.

I’m kind of stunned. O’Reilly’s shtick (and he admits off-camera that it is a shtick) was still pulling in big numbers for Fox. But after the Roger Ailes sexual scandal last year, maybe Fox didn’t feel like fighting this one, too.

Good riddance, Bill O. You deserve all the public scorn you are getting. John Oliver, take it away…

**So this is something you don’t see every day: Frances Tiafoe and Mitchell Krueger are two young American pro tennis players, and Tuesday they were playing a match at the Sarasota Open, a minor-league-level event in Florida that was watched by a crowd of dozens.

Midway through the second set, with Tiafoe about to serve, he hears some very strange noises. At first he thinks it’s from a phone, but nope… it’s a couple having very energetic sex in an apartment a few feet away from the court.

So many things I love about the above video, but the announcer trying to stay calm and explain without explaining what’s going on is great. Also, stay tuned for Tiafoe’s shout at the 1:56 mark, which is I’m sure what everyone else was thinking.

Been watching tennis a loooong. time. Never seen this before. Awesome.

**Finally today, a few words about the delightful agony and ecstasy of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs so far.

My New York Rangers continue to baffle me, but at least they’re still alive and kicking in the playoffs. After blowing a late lead last Friday night and losing in overtime against Montreal (by the way, there have been a ton of overtime games so far this year, which makes me happy, but so many of them have been over so quickly. Come on, give us a triple-OT thriller, NHL!) my Blueshirts decided to not show up Sunday night in Game 3 at MSG, the world’s quietest arena. Truly, they played awful, and I had low expectations for last night.

But what do you know, the Rangers actually played a really strong game and beat Montreal, 2-1, Tuesday night, to even the series at 2. They could’ve scored at least 3 or 4 more goals but as usual decided that shooting the puck was a less attractive option than trying to make the perfect, beautiful pass.

Anyway, the series is probably going to go seven games, which is always nice, because I really want to tear out my four remaining hairs on top of my head.

Besides the Rangers series, I’ve been loving what I’ve seen from the Maple Leafs, who have won two straight overtime games over top-seed Washington and look like they may actually be the beneficiaries of yet another Caps playoff choke.

St. Louis and Nashville both stunningly are up 3-0, and I have no idea why Columbus is playing so poorly in being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh. Also, nice to see the referees have decided not to call any penalties this year (sarcasm).

Anyway, playoff hockey makes me very happy, especially all the overtimes.

 

I’m off to Cali-forn-ia for 10 days, whoo-hoo! John Oliver with a great segment on marijuana laws’ unfairness. And the Democrats better stay strong on Gorsuch filibuster

 

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day

California Dreamin, on a sunny day…

Every once in a while a person should fly from one coast to another with an excitable 2.5 year old, don’t you think?

The Lewis trio is off to sunny, drought-ravaged, liberal-loving California today, for 10 hopefully glorious days. The impetus for the trip is that my wonderful mother turned 70 a few months ago and wanted the whole family to go away somewhere nice.

Costa Rica was the first choice, but with Zika still out there and no vaccine, she was understandably wary. So then she settled on San Diego, which no one could possibly disagree with.  Place is 72 degrees and sunny 300 days of the year, who could have a problem with that?

We’re flying to L.A. first, going to hang out with some friends, including this dude who fled his home state for sunnier pastures, angering me greatly (it also angers me when he posts photos from the beach in February, but I’ll forgive him eventually.)

We’re going to stay in a rental house for a week in Padres-ville, and I’m excite to show my little guy the wonders of Sea World (I know, I know, they mistreat the whales, I’ve heard all about “Blackfish.” But I hear it’s getting better), the awesomeness of the San Diego Zoo, and probably LegoLand, where we may never be able to escape because it looks awesome with water rides on Lego boats and my son’s mind will be blown.

Anyhow, should be a lot of fun; California is a great escape from all the GOP destruction of America right now, so I’m going to try not to pay attention to the news for a few days (Call me if there’s a new war, or an impeachment hearing.

All of this is to say, there probably won’t be the usual three-blogs-per-week next week. I’ll have something for Good News Friday this Friday, then probably post some thoughts on our S.D. adventure next Wednesday or Friday, and that’ll be it until Monday, April 17.

Play nice, children.

**Next up today, John Oliver’s fantastic HBO show has been back for a few weeks and honestly I’m feeling a little let down by it; he’s still hilarious, of course, and his zebra sketch was an all-time classic, but I’m a little bothered he’s doing Trump stories every week; we get those so many other places that I come to John Oliver for the less-covered stories.

Anyway, he absolutely nailed his main story this week, a subject very important to me: The ridiculous and cruel way that legal marijuana dispensaries and users are dealt with, and how absurd so many of these laws are (I still can’t get past that pot is considered a Schedule 1 narcotic, while heroin is given a lesser designation.)

Watch to the end, where we see just how impossible it is to stay within the law even if you live in a state that has passed pot legalization. Fantastic stuff, John.

**And finally today, just a few words on the national disgrace that is the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch expected to be approved this week: First, I cannot fathom Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin refusing to filibuster Gorsuch with their fellow Democrats; all four deserve all the scorn and ridicule from my party that they’re getting.

This idea that Democratic Senators are bringing the Senate to a “new and historic low” as gasbag Mitch McConnell says, is ludicrious. The Senate refused to vote on a legit, bipartisan-approved candidate last year in Merrick Garland, an unprecedented move in our history, but the Dems should just roll over and approve the right-wing Gorsuch, who will move the Court right?

I know some of my friends are queasy about McConnell blowing up the Senate rules and declaring that from now on, a Supreme Court justice needs only a simple majority to get on the bench.

But you know what? Call his damn bluff. Demographics and the “leadership” of Donald Trump have made the Democratic Party’s future election prospects look bright, and if McConnell wants to blow up the rules, let him. They’ll come back to bite him in the butt in the future.

Glad Chuck Schumer and most Dems (Heitkamp and Manchin are basically Republicans anyway) are finally showing some spine here. We’re in an awful mess in this country right now, but standing up for what’s right is never a bad idea.

 

The Emmy Awards mostly get it right, except for “The Americans” snub. And the Giants are undefeated, the Browns are still the Browns, and more NFL Week 2 thoughts

tatianamaslany-emmy

The Emmy Awards, my favorite awards show of the year, was Sunday, and my excitement was higher than usual because finally, finally, finally!, the best show on TV, “The Americans,” got a whole bunch of nominations, after being shamefully ignored for the past three seasons.

And, well, “The Americans” got shut out. As did “Fargo,” which was incredible, and as did “Better Call Saul,” which was also fantastic. But I don’t know if it’s that the voters are getting smarter or more diverse or what, but the last few years have seen a whole lot of well-deserving shows and individuals get victories.

A not-so-brief recap of the highs (tons of ’em!) and lows (just a few) of the Jimmy Kimmel-hosted Emmys Sunday night:

— First, Kimmel. I thought his opening monologue and O.J. jokes were good, and the Matt Damon bit amused me. But maybe we could’ve heard the winner’s speeches a little more if we didn’t waste 10 minutes on a stupid PB&J bit, huh? Still, overall Kimmel was solid. Though I still think Tina Fey and Amy Poehler should host every awards show, ever, from now on.

— So many deserving winners I’m happy for: John Oliver, who does such important, meaningful and hilarious stories that shed light on under-covered issues; Patton Oswalt, who’s always been under the radar but is always good; Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” was sensational. And “Key & Peele” winning in their last season was fabulous.

— My wife nearly fell off the couch in shock when Tatiana Maslany won for “Orphan Black.” Apparently she’s fabulous in that show (my wife watches, I don’t.)

— Best dressed (again, according to my wife, the fashion expert of the two of us): Regina King, Kerry Washington, Allison Janney. Worst? Kristen Bell looked like she was wearing a leftover Thanksgiving decoration. And the Terrence Howard outfit? Yeesh.

— Great acceptance speeches by Sterling K. Brown, Sarah Paulson (trying to redeem Marcia Clark’s rep, but I wasn’t buying it, Clark blew that case), and Julia-Louis Dreyfus, who got all choked up talking about her Dad at the end. Also loved how genuinely stunned Kate MacKinnon was, shows much these meaningless awards really mean to nominees.

jebbush-emmys

— Of all the people I didn’t expect to see at the Emmys… a Jeb Bush sighting? He was great. If he had shown even an ounce of that personality on the campaign trail, America might not be stuck with the vulgar, talking yam right now.

— Solid death montage this year, but Prince as the hammer? Guy is absolutely a legend, but he’s not exactly a TV star. I guess you could say his MTV videos were revolutionary, but …

— Nice to see “Transparent” win again, and Jeffrey Tambor’s tribute to Garry Shandling was sweet. But I’m surprised neither Tambor nor Jill Soloway made mention of North Carolina’s awful HB2 law.

— Biggest snubs besides “The Americans?” Bokeem Woodbine and Kirsten Dunst in “Fargo,” and HBO’s “All the Way” not getting anything.

— Finally, you think O.J. was allowed to watch the Emmys in his jail cell? I mean, he was pretty much the star of the night.

browns-ravens

**One of those rare stress-free autumn Sundays for me, since the Jets already played on Thursday night (I absolutely loathe Thursday night NFL games, because they’re almost always poorly played, it’s barbaric to make these players play 2 games in four days, and when it’s the Jets, I’m usually too revved up to sleep for hours afterwards).

The early games were pretty dull for a few hours, until we got some outstanding finishes. Some quick-hit thoughts on Week 2…

— So of course the Patriots jumped out to a huge lead thanks to Wonder Boy Jimmy Garoppolo, who then got hurt which meant their 3rd-stringer, Jacoby Brissett, had to come in and the Pats hung on to beat the pathetic Dolphins, 31-24, and now of course Brissett will turn out to be the next Joe Montana and lead New England to two more wins until the ORIGINAL Wonder Boy, Giselle Bundchen’s husband, comes back. Things just always work out for the Patriots.

— I feel like every year I need to publicly thank God that as painful as it is being a Jets fan, it could be worse; I could be a Cleveland Browns rooter. The Browns grabbed a shocking 20-0 lead in the first quarter Sunday over the Ravens, and then, because they’re the Browns, proceeded to give up the next 25 points and lose, 25-20. Thank God LeBron James brought that city a title, because they sure as heck ain’t getting a Super Bowl win anytime soon.

— Great note from writer Alan M. Cole on Twitter Sunday: How old is Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri? He once tackled Herschel Walker. Herschel Walker! Who started his pro career in 1984!

— I didn’t think it was possible, but the officiating seems to be getting even worse this year. A bunch of blown calls Sunday, in the Bengals-Steelers and Giants-Saints games in particular. With replay, this stuff is NOT that difficult.

— The Giants are either the worst 2-0 team ever or the luckiest. They tried really, really hard to give away that 16-13 win over the Saints, but New Orleans refused to take it.

— Funniest part of my day: A guy in my usual sports bar was trying to explain how fantasy football worked to his girlfriend, telling her it’s better if this team’s drive stalls because his kicker needs points, and how it’s good when that guy throws an interception, yada yada yada. Poor woman had the same glazed-over look in her eyes that I used to get in Mr. Pizo’s 11th-grade chemistry class. After about 10 minutes, she gave him a look like, “Enough, I just don’t care.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt with best “Lip Sync Battle” performance ever. John Oliver shuts up the GOP about Syrian refugee lies. And Spanish-lanaguage announcers go nuts over Greg Olsen’s TD

And a Happy Turkey Day eve to all of my wonderful readers. I’ve noticed I’ve been rather wordy and “Infinite Jest”-y with my posts lately, so today we’re just going short and sweet (much like my vertically-challenged self!).

Three fantastic videos I greatly enjoyed, that I know you will too.

First, celebrities lip-syncing to famous songs has become a TV phenomenon, and Spike TV’s “Lip Sync Battle” has given us some awesome performances. But from now on, the standard has been set: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, at the top, and a long way beneath him.

Watch as the actor performs an epic, scarily-perfect re-creation of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” video. (If I didn’t embed this properly to start right at the beginning of his song, fast forward to 2:02).

It is beyond sensational.

**Next up, I am so sick and so tired of people I know, people on Facebook, and most frighteningly, politicians on TV who are supposed to KNOW something lying and lying and lying about how “easy” it is for Syrian refugees to enter America, and how there’s no screening process, and everyone just gets right in and wanders around and are free to blow stuff up because all refugees are terrorists!

It is xenophobic, it is disgusting, but more than that, it’s 100 percent factually false.

I urge you to watch this John Oliver clip where he perfectly deconstructs this lie, shows just how arduous it is to be admitted as a refugee, and just for fun, gives us some background on FDR and his pecadillos.

Seriously, if anyone at your Thanksgiving table starts blurting out nonsense about “we gotta keep all refugees out,” please show them this. As a public service (the full clip is here, for some reason it’s not totally available on YouTube).

**Finally today, shout-out to loyal blog reader (and my first cousin) Rob for pointing this out to me Tuesday. We sometimes hear the awesomeness of soccer broadcasters in Spanish getting insanely excited for great plays, but not as much for American football.

But after hearing this call of a touchdown by Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers last Sunday by Jaime Moreno and Luis Moreno Jr. (maybe they’re related?), I pretty much want to hear every NFL highlight called in Spanish. (My favorite part is when they’re screaming at him to dance around the :20 mark.)

Seriously, how great are these guys? And this was just a basic TD; imagine how they’d sound on flea-flicker or a game-winning score! (Actually, we don’t have to imagine. Just found this Olsen game-winning TD on YouTube. God bless the Internet.)

The death of a neighborhood supermarket (ours). The announcer who fell asleep on the air. And John Oliver, brilliant again on prisoner re-integration

FoodEmporium.59th

They are the tentpoles of every neighborhood that makes it unique, that tell you exactly where you are in the world.

I don’t care what neighborhood you live in, you know what I’m talking about. The pizza place with the employees watching some European soccer game on TV while flipping your pies. The dry cleaners, with plastic bags billowing everywhere. The electronics store, with the eager young employees trying to sell you the latest gadget.

And of course, we all have a neighborhood supermarket. It’s a place we visit all the time, and we know its aisles like the back of our hand. We stroll through at least once a week, smile at the cashiers, thank the deli counter woman for giving you a free tasting slice of the new ham, and then go on our way.

The neighborhood supermarket is always there, dependable no matter what you need. It becomes part of the fabric of your life.

Until one day, you walk in and the shelves look half-empty, there’s hardly any milk or juice available, and you ask one of the regular workers whose face you see all the time what’s up.

“We’re closing,” he said. “Mid-November at the latest.”

This just happened in our neighborhood, and I can assure you my wife and I aren’t the only ones crushed.

The Food Emporium under the 59th Street bridge in New York City, hard by the corner of 1st Avenue, may not look like much to you, even though its location makes it visually stunning to glance at.
To us in the neighborhood, it was special. For one thing, it was so much bigger than most Manhattan markets (I just looked it up and it is 35,000 square feet!), with wide aisles and much bigger selection than any other market in the boro I’ve been to. (Also, the echo you hear in the store from the bridge is awesome)

For another, it’s where we knew everyone, and they knew us. My man Robert behind the hot prepared foods counter would always smile at my son in his stroller, and then toss an extra grilled chicken breast, free of charge, into my order.
There were the identical twin adult women working the register; one day they worked side by side and totally freaked my wife out. They were always smiling, always happy to answer questions.

I’ll even miss the monosyllabic guy at the sushi and fish counter, who always moved things around just a little bit so you’d be confused looking for the salmon.

These people help make up the daily bread of my life, and in a few days they’ll all be out of a job. Food Emporium’s parent, A&P, filed for bankruptcy, and is closing several of its NYC stores.

We’d heard rumors, but nothing was confirmed. Now it’s official and so sad; I walked in on Monday since everything was 50 percent off and found a practically empty place.

Robert behind the counter was gone, and the twins weren’t there, either.

The beat of the neighborhood goes on, but it’s a little sadder, emptier place now.

**Next up, I’ve written a lot about prisoner rehabilitation and re-integration issues on the blog, because it’s an issue I feel deeply about. How shabbily we treat those who come out of prison is a national disgrace, and John Oliver has been the best person on TV highlighting everything wrong with our criminal justice system.

This week he nailed it again with a great, moving story on how poorly those who are released from penitentiaries are re-integrated into society. It’s a 17-minute piece, but it’s fantastic, especially if you can hang in until the end, when we meet Bilal for a live in-studio interview. Just listen to this man, and tell me people can’t change.

Fabulous stuff.

**Finally today, we all know sports announcers have to sometimes call boring games, or call games at crazy hours of the night because the viewers back home in another time zone are watching.

So let’s just all have a chuckle and then forgive Chinese sportscaster Dong Lu, who while commentating on a Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain match last week, in the wee hours of the morning (China time), kinda sorta dozed off.

Listen for the snoring, it’s kinda hard to miss.

Poor guy. I could make A LOT of jokes here about falling asleep and the incredibly slow pace of soccer, but I won’t.

More Red Bull and coffee next time, Dong.

 

A visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum is a powerful experience. John Oliver hilariously starts own church. And my annual tribute to the late great Jim Murray

911Museum.Faces

In New York City, the reminders of 9/11 are never too far from your mind. The new Freedom Tower is hard to miss, and going into Lower Manhattan for any reason always makes me think of what happened there now almost 14 years ago.

Sunday, with my best friend in town from Georgia, we decided to visit the brand-new 9/11 Memorial Museum. I knew it would be painful, but I also knew it was another necessary step to remember that day.

The place is, in a word, powerful. And dazzling. And beautifully specific. And emotional (OK, it took me more than one word to describe it.) We spent about four hours there and saw almost everything, but easily could’ve spent more time.
There are artifacts of that awful day, of course; a piece of the wall of one of the towers that fell; a fire truck that was used by one of the ladder companies racing to rescue the thousands trapped inside the World Trade Center.

There was also an enormous room called a “historical exhibition” of 9/11/01, that takes you through the leadup/history of 9/11, a minute by minute account with witness audio and video, including some chilling voicemail recordings left by those who didn’t survive, and a thorough examination of the aftermath and the War on Terror that George W. Bush led us into.

What struck me the most, though, was the room full of faces. Nearly 3,000 people died that day, and the Museum was able to find pictures of just about all of them. You walk through the room and see the photos piled high, one on top of each other, and it just takes your breath away.

I could say lots more about the museum, about why it took so long to open, and about how all the memories of that day came flooding back just a few minutes into our visit.

But I’ll just say this: If you’re in New York, it’s an amazing place to see. And as an American, I think it’s a very, very important one.

**Next up, I haven’t blogged about John Oliver in a while, but his show continues to be the best thing on TV this summer. This clip, from Sunday’s show, is about the continued skullduggery of TV preachers, and how they basically steal money from people.

Watch Oliver’s “investigation” and marvel at how easy it is to set up your own church. The clip is long but hilarious all the way through (And just for fun, call the number at the end, we did and it was great.)

JimMurraytribute

**Finally today, I’m a few days late with this but I still feel it’s important. Every year on or about August 16, the anniversary of his death, I salute in this space the work of the legendary Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived. I still read his old columns sometime, for inspiration, or for a laugh, and the all-time best email I got as a result of writing Wide World of Stuff was from his widow thanking me for remembering him.

And so once again, on the 17th anniversary of his passing (is it possible it’s been that long?), a little bit of Murray greatness.

Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. Here’s an excerpt:

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.

And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

 One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy …  He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snowcapped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. 

God, I miss that guy.

A writer rethinks his love of “The Wire” in light of the Baltimore violence. John Oliver brilliantly skewers standardized tests. And funny men are better in bed (now there’s proof!)

TheWire.ZIrin

Frank Deford, who is by nearly-universal agreement one of the 5-6 best sportswriters who ever lived, used to scoff when people would refer to him derisively as just a “sportswriter.”

I am a writer, he would argue, who writes primarily about sports. His point was that he could have written about any subject you choose and he’d do a good job on it; to call him “just a sportswriter” diminishes his talent and implies that’s all he could do.

Dave Zirin makes me think of that old Deford line, because he’s a terrifically talented journalist, who ostensibly writes about sports but really much more than that, about the intersection of sports, culture, race and politics. I’ve highlighted his work before, and he’s often at his best when he steps outside of commenting on games.

I read this piece by Zirin the other day and have thought about it ever since. Like me and millions of others, he’s a huge fan of HBO’s “The Wire”, partly because it did such a tremendous job showing inner-city Baltimore’s real life, and the constant battle between drug dealers, police, and the racial questions that never go away.

But given what’s happened in “real life” Baltimore the past few weeks, Zirin has taken to re-assessing. He now finds himself angry “The Wire” didn’t address more real-life city issues, like young African-Americans trying to change Baltimore’s schools, or in the season set by the docks, why more black union leaders weren’t shown?

I don’t agree with Zirin here; I think it’s unrealistic to expect a TV show to cover all possible angles/areas of a city, and his criticisms of choices the show made are easy to make in light of what’s going on in Baltimore today.

But it’s a really interesting and compelling article, and I highly recommend it.

**Next up, the brilliant John Oliver took his delicate scalpel to the highly-charged issue of standardized testing in schools on this week’s show, and as usual he did a masterful job.

As a part-time teacher I’ve followed this issue closely, and Oliver hits just about all the right notes, and I’m particularly glad he focused heavily on Florida, which was just about ground zero of the whole standardized testing movement, a movement Jeb Bush basically championed more than anyone.

Just watch that young Florida girl in Oliver’s piece, and tell me we’re not doing more harm than good here.

**Finally today, I’ve been told all my life I’m a pretty funny guy, so I’d like to think not everyone has been lying. But where did that get me with women most of my teen years and through much of my 20’s? Nowhere, that’s where.

If only I’d had a research study, some kind of proof, that funny men are great lovers. If only the University at Albany (N.Y.) had come out with this study before now, I could’ve been like Hugh Hefner or Wilt Chamberlain!

What am I babbling about? Researchers at Albany studied undergraduate females and asked them a bunch of questions, and found that “women are more likely to not only prefer sex with a man who makes her laugh, but they’re also more likely to initiate it more often, straight-up want it more often and physically enjoy it more.

“Further, women are more likely to feel both protected by and committed to her man if he knows exactly what sort of joke will have her doubled over with a fit of the giggles.”

Can’t argue with science, right? Funny men rule.

A night out celebrating a worthy cause, Friends of Jaclyn. John Oliver defends the IRS, with help from Michael Bolton. And the Stanley Cup playoffs begin!

FOJ.benefit

Last Saturday night my wife and I had the supreme pleasure of attending the annual Friends of Jaclyn Benefit gala for the first time, and it was an experience I won’t forget.

I’ve written about FOJ a few times before on the blog, and wrote a story for the sadly-deceased sports website Thrivesports.com about the organization last year.

If you don’t have time to click through, FOJ was founded 10 years ago by a little girl named Jaclyn Murphy, who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. During a treatment session, her father Denis pointed out a women’s lacrosse poster hanging on the hospital’s walls and told Jaclyn, a budding player, to use that woman as inspiration.

Turns out that woman was Kelly Amonte, the lacrosse coach at Northwestern, and through a mutual friend Jaclyn started talking to Amonte, and her Northwestern team “adopted” Jaclyn, sending her encouraging letters, making videos and inviting her to games near her New York home.

So moved by the experience, and getting healthier, Jaclyn told her Dad that they need to get other kids with brain tumors adopted by college teams, and 10 years later, there are hundreds of pediatric brain tumor patients matched up with teams all across America (That’s the Penn football team, above, with 4-year-old Vhito, their new teammate).

It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, generous people, and my wife and I are proud to be supporters.

At the benefit Saturday, we heard moving speeches from coaches whose teams had adopted children, including one whose team unfortunately saw their adoptee pass away.
We heard from parents of kids cruelly afflicted, like Cindy Bachman, whose son Sterling was diagnosed at 18 months, and has now reached 13 years old, helped along in spirit by the Yale lacrosse team.

And we met some of the FOJ kids themselves, beaming from ear to ear while sitting with some of the teams that came to the event (Shout-out to UConn women’s soccer, who literally brought the whole team).

FOJ doesn’t just match kids up with teams and walk away; they send care packages to kids with upcoming MRIs, make phone calls, email, and basically “adopt” each new kid in the program.

Tears were shed throughout the night Saturday; I’m a softie anyway, but this would’ve made the most hardened cynic cry.
It was a wonderful night for a wonderful organization, and if you’re looking to get involved with a charitable cause that’s a little off the beaten path, and doesn’t get the support of the “big guys,” I wholeheartedly endorse checking out Friends of Jaclyn.

I wouldn’t dream of telling people how to spend their money; all I ask is, spend a couple minutes checking out what FOJ does. Thanks.

**Next up today, John Oliver has once again been killing it in Season 2 of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” but this Sunday’s episode was maybe the best yet.
Today of course is Tax Day, and Oliver had a segment about the much-loathed Internal Revenue Service. But in a delightful twist, he defends the IRS, and does it with the help of, naturally, talented 1980s balladeer Michael Bolton.

**In the words of the great Jim Mora, playoffs? Playoffs!
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, by far the most exciting and fun of the four major sports postseasons (I may be biased since I love hockey so much I’m part-Canadian).

For many reasons, I’m more pumped up than usual this year (and that clip above, showing the insane dedication of NHL players to win the Cup, gets me going every time. You can be sure I’ll be throwing some of the awesome Hockey Night in Canada playoff montages on the blog over the next few months).

For one, the Rangers have a great shot to win the Cup, as the top seed in the East (which of course makes me nervous, my team being the favorite). Second, a whole buncha Canadian teams (five) qualified this year, and Canadian teams always make the playoffs more fun, since their fans are so rabid and loud.)

And third, we’ve got lots of fresh blood this year, seven teams who didn’t make it last year are in it this year.

It all starts tonight. For what it’s worth, I’m picking a Tampa Bay vs. Chicago Stanley Cup Final, with the Bolts winning it.

I of course hope I’m wrong, and get to attend a parade in Lower Manhattan in June.