Tag Archives: Rachel Maddow

Even for this White House, the child separation border policy is heartless and unspeakably cruel. A fantastic Spanish-language call of a World Cup goal. And the robot that will hug you anytime you want.

There is so much I could rage about, so much pure, unadulterated evil in this story that’s consumed so many of us for the past week, since more and more has come to light about the Trump administration’s despicable practice of separating babies, toddlers and other children from their parents at the U.S. border. About how asylum seekers, people trying for a better life and in many, many cases fleeing violence, persecution and drugs, are coming face to face with a horror that may even be worse.

I could point you to this story about a mother having the baby she was breastfeeding AT THE TIME get ripped away from her by ICE agents. Or this story, an audio recording obtained by ProPublica from inside a detention center, with the anguished cries of small children screaming after being taken away from their parents.

We could talk about the pure evil of Stephen Miller, and Donald Trump, and so, so many in the inner circle of this disgraceful excuse for a human being we call the President.

It is an unbelievable time in American history that we’re living through right now, and I mean that word “unbelievable”  in the sense of, I cannot believe there are people happily defending the idea of forcibly destroying the lives of innocent children.

I don’t have the words. I really don’t. And neither did Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Tuesday night, as she tried to read this breaking news story, about toddlers and babies being held in “tender age” shelters in Texas, crying and screaming all the while.

Rachel Maddow is no squeamish wallflower; she’s seen a lot, been through a lot, covered a lot. And this is how she reacted…

I am truly afraid of what will happen next. Of what the individuals running this White House, who will rot in hell right alongside the worst people who’ve lived, will do next.

God save us all.

**Next up today, from pure evil to pure joy. Telemundo, the Spanish TV network, never gets better ratings in America than when there’s a World Cup. And of course, there’s a World Cup going on now, and people get a tad excited. So do announcers.

So I give you the glorious Telemundo call of Mexico’s first goal on Sunday, giving it the lead against Germany (the game ended up tied).

Man, is this guy happy.

**Finally today, while I know many of you are probably interested in the World Cup (are you aware that 99.6 percent of Iceland’s population was watching their 1-1 tie vs. Argentina on Saturday? That’s amazing. And what the hell were the other 0.4 percent watching, ice fishing?), there is very important non-soccer news out of Germany.

Finally, a robot has is being invented that can perform a hug better than ever. That’s right people, even lovely human contact like hugging has been made better thanks to machines.

Check this out, from the website Digital Trends: At the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, researchers there have been developing a robot that is designed for giving you a hug. And, far from an amusing gimmick, they are convinced that it’s really important.

“A robot hugging a person is a good idea because people may crave the benefits that come from a hug at a time when they can’t get a hug from a person, due to factors such as distance, timing, and health,” Alexis Block, one of the lead researchers on the HuggieBot project, told Digital Trends. “We think a hugging robot could be beneficial in this case because a person can get the support they need without feeling self-conscious.”

The team’s HuggieBot is no diminutive robot beavering away, unnoticed, in the background like a Roomba vacuum cleaner (Editor’s note: Hey, I always noticed the Roomba when it was in “Breaking Bad!”).

Instead, it’s a modified PR2 robotthat stands as tall as an average human, which can be configured to be made extra soft using layers of foam, polyester, and other materials. Its hugs can be further modified according to the firmness of hug you desire (thanks to a pressure sensor) and even the option of having them heated.”

Wow. Who wouldn’t want a heated hug? This is fantastic. God bless science. Check out how the HuggieBot works, below.

 

 

Obama goes out in style in his final State of the Union. A fabulous gun-control ad hits hard. And the Flint water disaster deserves your attention.

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Man, I’m really going to miss this guy.

That’s what I kept thinking when I watched Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the eighth and final one Barack Obama will give as President of the United States.

From the first time I saw him speak, back in 2004 at the Democratic Convention, he’s held my attention and moved me with his words more than any politician of my lifetime (40 years). Whether he’s angry, whether he’s hopeful, whether he’s empathetic, or whether he’s just saying really smart, incisive stuff, Barack Obama has never been boring.

Has he been a perfect President? Of course not. I have lots of issues with him the last seven years, from failing to close Guantanamo, moving WAY too slow on drug decriminalization, clamping down on press freedoms and subpoenaing more reporters than any President ever, and there are a few more.

But the good has far outweighed the bad to me, and watching that tremendous speech Tuesday night, I realized how much I’m going to miss him.

I’m going to miss the way he can cut through the clutter with a funny phrase or joke; he had a couple doozies Tuesday, right off the top saying he was going to keep this SOTU speech short “because I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.”

His best line, despite all the ones basically smacking down Donald Trump’s B.S.,” was about denial of reality, when he said “60 years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.”

There was so much I liked about this speech, even knowing that very little gets done legislatively in a two-term President’s final year. Loved the talk about making it easier, not harder, to vote, which sadly goes against what so many GOP governors are doing. Loved his passionate defense of the growing U.S. economy, and really liked his talk of criminal justice reform, years too late though it is.

The President seemed, to me, relaxed and confident; I said on Twitter I thought it was his “I’m Keith Hernandez!” moment. He’s done so much good for so many, that when he walks off the stage for the final time next January, it’s going to be a sad day.

Other things I will miss after watching Obama’s final SOTU:

— Joe Biden, smiling for an hour like a proud papa at his son’s Little League game.
— The TV shots of Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep. I think she stayed awake this year!
— The Michelle Obama screen shots. She is one beautiful, powerful, fierce First Lady.
— Trying to decipher the system these TV networks use when they decide which politicians to identify and which aren’t worth it. I have no clue what their formula is.

— Finally, I’ll miss seeing the history of the first African-American President of the United States. Cannot be overstated how important this man has been, symbolically, to the world.

**Next up, one thing Obama has been talking about lately is gun control, and I have to say, I’m impressed with how committed groups like Michael Bloomberg’s gun control lobby has been. This ad, which I just saw last week, was incredibly powerful and points to what could be a life-saving law change, if it ever happened.

The ad shocked me and will probably shock you. Which is the point.

Finally today, the lead poisoning of the children of the city of Flint, Mich. should be a much, much bigger story, and lead to criminal charges for state officials and maybe even the governor.

If you’re late to this like I was, a quick recap: The city of Flint is very poor, and the state of Michigan, thanks in large part to Detroit, is looking for any way to save money possible. So in 2014 Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron, which has been supplying their clean water for decades, to the Flint River, which apparently is notoriously dirty.

Very quickly, folks in Flint noticed their water was odd colored and odd tasting, and what do you know, the state did nothing about it, said it was safe, blah blah blah. And of course, it turns out the water, when tested, revealed huge amounts of lead in it, which can have horrible effects for children.

Rachel Maddow has been all over this story, I urge you to watch the above clip, and not to be outraged. The Detroit News has more damaging info.

 

“Transparent” is a wildly cool and different new show. Fox News has more fun lying about “voter fraud.” And “Boardwalk Empire” goes out with a bang.

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Sometimes you see a show on cable and say “Man, there’s no way this show could ever be on network TV.”
Then you see a show like Amazon’s new and brilliant “Transparent,” and say, “I can’t believe this show got made, because even cable wouldn’t take a risk on airing it.”

“Transparent” is different from any other show you’ve seen. It stars the always-great Jeffrey Tambor as a divorced man in his 60s who after years of suppressing his feelings, decides to begin the transformation of becoming a woman. In going from “Mort” to “Maura,” he encounters wildly different reactions from his three children, played by Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and the scene-stealing Gabby Hoffman.

“Transparent” doesn’t make fun of Maura, doesn’t try to sensationalize his feelings, and doesn’t go for cheap laughs. It’s a smart, funny, surprisingly warm show that Amazon hopes becomes its first major hit show, so it can compete with Netflix.

Like Netflix does with its shows, Amazon released all 13 episodes of “Transparent” at once; I’ve seen 4 so far and each one has been as good as the rest.

If you want to see a show that’s pretty different from anything you’ve seen, definitely give it a shot.

**Next, I haven’t written a lot about the 2014 midterms coming up next week, partly because I’m a depressed Democrat who feels like the Senate is sure to slip into Republican control, and partly because I haven’t had the time to follow this cycle as closely as I usually do. (And honestly, even if the GOP takes the Senate 52-48 or something, it’s not like anything’s going to really change in the next 2 years. Shoot, Congress can’t get anything done right now with a Democratic-led Senate.)

But I’ve been happy to see that Fox News, that bastion of journalistic integrity, continues, as it has ever since it was born, to just make shit up.

Specifically, around election time they love talking about voter fraud. What’s extremely scary is that GOP governors all around the country have used this B.S. “voter fraud” idea to drastically reduce early voting days and hours for citizens, because again, as I’ve said hundreds of times before, if fewer people vote, Republicans think they’ll win. And isn’t that just so damn democratic of them; let’s have less people vote!

Anyway, Rachel Maddow tore down just a small piece of Fox News propaganda the other night, with this scare piece run about Colorado’s “print-at-home” ballot, which of course doesn’t exist.

When the truth doesn’t work for ya, just make stuff up. Fox News, I bow to your greatness in this area.

**Finally, a few words about the “Boardwalk Empire” series finale from Sunday night. (SPOILERS AHEAD, STOP READING IF YOU’RE A B.E. FAN AND HAVEN’T WATCHED YET).

I’ve loved this show from the start, even through some of the bumpy patches in Seasons 2 and 3, when it wasn’t quite confident enough to go away from main character Nucky Thompson and focus on the way-more interesting and charismatic characters like Al Capone, Nelson Van Alden, and Chalky White.

The last two seasons of the show have been sensational, and Sunday’s finale was a really satisfying conclusion. The major storylines wrapped up the week before, with Nucky’s financial downfall, and empire, taken over by Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano, Van Alden trying to strangle Capone and go out in a blaze of glory (yeah, not so much), and Gillian rotting away in a mental institution.

But with much settled, Sunday still was a fantastic episode. I know a lot of people on the Internet guessed that the teenager who suddenly appeared a few episodes back would turn out to be Jimmy Darmody’s son, and he’d take revenge on Nucky, but it still shocked me a little to see the final bullet fly from his gun into Nucky’s face.

And there were two gorgeous, heartbreaking scenes I loved: Capone, knowing he was about to go to prison, having a heart-to-heart with his deaf son, and in the 1897 flashback, watching young sheriff Nucky decide to “give” 15-year-old Gillian to the lecherous, disgusting Commodore, knowing what she was in for but wanting to please his boss and move up in power.

It was a wonderful, explosive, beautifully acted show, and I wish it went on for more than five seasons. But it went out on a really terrific note

 

Some thoughts on the first four days of March Madness (but not on Duke losing). Rachel Maddow on the death of Fred Phelps. And Fallon and Billy Joel tune up

Syracuse v Dayton

Here’s what you won’t be reading today at Wide World of Stuff: A several-hundred word rant on the incredibly disappointing and sucky Duke men’s basketball team, which for the 2nd time in three years got bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by a vastly less-heralded team.

You won’t be reading that because since the game happened Friday afternoon, I’ve had more than 48 hours to stew about it, rant about it to my friends, and basically process it through my sports digestive system.

Instead, I want to talk about some of the other incredible stuff that’s happened in the first few days of March Madness, the greatest event in sports:

— Like the North Dakota State upset over Oklahoma on Friday night, which led to this awesome dancing from players and coach…

And the dancing from that Mercer kid I know I’m already sick of, Kevin Canavari, who played six minutes in their win over Duke but hey, kid’s entitled to celebrate:

— One of the constant themes of just about every upset, or blown lead (I’m looking at you, N.C. State): Missed free throws. It’s the easiest shot in the game, the one where no one guards you, yet every  year at crunch time players miss ’em. Crazy.
— Not shocking that Duke or Kansas lost early, because they were led by freshmen and sophomores. That’s why Mercer, Stephen F. Austin, and North Dakota State’s wins weren’t shockers; those teams have been playing together for years, not months. They know each other’s games so well.

— I know a lot of people don’t like Charles Barkley as an announcer, and I don’t like him sometimes, too. But he is damn funny.

— Dear CBS: We don’t need to see a little boy in the stands crying over Kansas about to lose, SEVEN times in the last few minutes of the Stanford upset over the Jayhawks. I mean, OK, show the kid once for the human drama, but to keep going back to it is cruel.

— I know that No. 15 Eastern Kentucky didn’t end up beating Kansas, and No. 16 Coastal Carolina lost their steam and fell to No. 1 seed Virginia, but those moments, where the underdog is winning in the second half and their bench is going crazy and the crowd starts to believe this really can happen? Best part of the Tournament, every year.

— Best team I saw over the first four days: Wisconsin. Second-best? Florida.

— Finally, I can’t tell you how infuriating I found that Chris Webber/Burger King commercial, though not as infuriating as any Michigan fan surely did. Chris Webber, if you don’t know, was a major star at UM in the early 1990s, leading the Wolverines to two nat’l title game appearances. You won’t find any of those wins Webber led Michigan to in the NCAA record books, because thanks to Webber taking cash and benefits from agents, all those wins were wiped out.

Michigan was also put on probation thanks to Webber, and the sanctions set the program back years.

And now here he is in 2014, 20 years later, wearing a maize and blue Michigan jersey in a Burger King commercial, making money for himself off his association with Michigan basketball! The chutzpah, the gall, the whatever, of Webber to do that is mind-boggling.

**Next up today, you may have heard that Fred Phelps, leader of the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church and one of the most odious human beings who ever lived, died last week.
Rachel Maddow beautifully dissects the “positive” legacy of Phelps. This piece is so worth your time, to reaffirm that so much hate, can breed so much love and compassion:

**And finally, Jimmy Fallon and Billy Joel team up for an awesome musical duet, doing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” thanks to a cool iPad app called Looper.

Seems like Fallon can get his musical guests to do anything.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” batting .500 so far. The lunatic Rick Perry looks all-in. And the man who really, really suffered to win a contest

After last week’s season premiere of the once-brilliant, now barely-hanging on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” I thought Larry David’s show was finally ready for the grave.
Truly, the show hasn’t been as funny the last 3 seasons as it was in its first four, but still, like an addict, I keep going back.
But last week’s premiere, I thought, was quite unfunny, though my friends who are fellow “Curb” watchers disagreed (as did most critics. I don’t know, maybe my standards for the show are too high.)
Happily, Sunday night’s episode was terrific. Really liked the Richard Lewis storyline (though he does look like death warmed over, doesn’t he?), there were some great Marty Funkhouser lines, and it was just a really funny episode.

If the whole season is one good show, one bad one, I can live with that.

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**Well, it’s starting to look more and more like that old secessionist Rick Perry, the batshit-crazy governor of Texas, is going to run for President. He’s now saying God is telling him it’s what he should do, which is always a good reason to run.

This man is scary dangerous, folks, and not just because he’s a tough-talking governor from Texas (we saw how that worked out last time).
Above is just a small example of how scary Perry is; it’s a video compilation Rachel Maddow aired the other night, showing the people who support Perry’s “prayer day” in Texas, which is upcoming on August 6. Needless to say, these people scare the hell out of me.
And Perry wants more just like ’em. He’s going to be a formidable Presidential candidate … up until America (the non-Tea Party wing) actually starts listening to him.

**I don’t know exactly what the prize was in this contest, but these guys have to be a little nuts.
Two Chinese beekeepers competed against each other last week in China in what was called a “bee-bearding” contest.
They wore only shorts, goggles and plugs up their nose (of course), and Lv Kongjiang won by wearing 59 pounds worth of bees on his body.

Good lord some people will do anything to win. Is there enough AfterBite in the world to heal this guy?
And there’s not enough money in the world to pay my mother, whose bee-phobia is legendary in our family, to compete in one of these contests.

The most inappropriate mascot costume, ever. Kansas overturns Roe vs. Wade. And the best ATM receipt you could hope to have

** Finally arrived in N.Y., my new home, last Thursday night. 1,079 miles of driving over two days with my father. We didn’t kill each other. 

I start with a story from one of my favorite subjects: minor league mascots:

OK, so a minor league baseball team called the Amarillo Sox, in Amarillo, Texas, decided they wanted to create a mascot. So they asked a costume designer to make a mascot that looked like a sock. And, well, things didn’t quite go as planned. I present to you a photo of the Amarillo Sox mascot:


Yeah, somehow I don’t think parents will want kids “shaking hands” with the Sox mascot. The team says new costumes will be ready soon.

**Yet another state has decided that it can ignore Roe vs. Wade, and basically make abortion just about illegal.
The state of Kansas has put forth some disgusting new laws about the legal practice recently, and Rachel Maddow, as always, brings you the story. This is despicable, the right-wing takeover of state legislatures.

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**Finally, just when you thought you were feeling jealous of rich people … a customer in a bank in the Hamptons found an ATM receipt with a balance of nearly $100 million.

That somebody out there has 100 million bucks in a savings account is shocking enough. That they’d leave the receipt lying around is also stunning.
But the most surprising part? Given how snooty and obnoxious and full of braggadocio many people are in the Hamptons, I can’t believe no one has stepped up and claimed the receipt is theirs.
“Yes folks, that’s how wealthy I am, I’ve got $100 million in a savings account. Now, if you’ll step onto my 78 foot yacht, I can show you the Hope Diamond I’ve got in the kitchen.”

A great story written by a dockworker. South Dakota really doesn’t want to let you get an abortion. And Seinfeld’s cool new website

Great writing can be found anywhere. Not only in the New Yorker, or the Washington Post, or in books.
And there are so many great writers among us, who just don’t have a wide audience.
And I get so much joy out of reading something great by someone I’ve never heard of.
Take John Hyduk. He occasionally does some work for Cleveland magazine, but his regular job is on a loading dock, working the night shift and making sure the soda count is right for the bottling distributorship he works for.
He writes simply, in layman’s terms, but shows us a side of life we hardly ever get to see from a first-person perspective.
Start reading this story he wrote for Esquire. I bet it’s unlike anything you’ve read in a long time.

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**Rachel Maddow, who does excellent work, had this eye-opening piece on the incredible restrictions placed on women who want to get abortions in South Dakota.
It’s disgusting that lawmakers are allowed to get away with what is, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, a LEGAL medical procedure.
Just awful.

**Finally, the great Jerry Seinfeld, who I’m proud to say I saw live in concert at Westbury Music Fair on Long Island in the 80s, LONG before he was famous, has created a new website.

It’s filled with all his old bits from every show he’s ever been on. He parcels them out three a time, every day, and it’s fabulous.
Even if I’ve heard almost all of the jokes already. Check it out here.

Welcome to Michigan, new home for the insane and downright cruel. And some really, really unlucky refs.

I’ve never been to Michigan, except for a few hours spent at the Detroit airport once.
It seems like a lovely place. A world-class university is in Ann Arbor, there’s great culture there, and I’ve got some friends who live there and love it.
But I’ve got two stories to bring to you today, from Michigan, that scare the hell out of me, and really truly make me wonder about the intelligence of state leaders. Michigan just edges out Tennessee in my rankings this week as the most insane state, although Tennessee put up a heck of a fight with this, passing a law that says you can’t use the words “gay” or “homosexual” in school.
But Michigan wins this week with these two stories.

The first came from “The Rachel Maddow Show” last week, and it’s about the shutting down of the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school that helps pregnant teenagers complete high school. This school has a 90 percent graduation rate, and 100 percent college acceptance rates for those who do graduate.
This is a wonderful place. And yet, using dictatorial powers and wrestling control away from local government, the state is shutting it down. And arresting the pregnant teens and others who had the temerity to protest.
Seriously, watch this for a few minutes, and be very afraid of a state run by Tea Partiers  that is simply running roughshod, and doing whatever it wants:

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Then there was this story. Which frightened me even more.

A plan set forth by state senator Bruce Caswell would require that foster children in the state would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores.
Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor  is actually used for that purpose.
He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.
Seriously. This is what the man is worried about. All those foster children running around buying drugs and stereo equipment instead of clothing.

As Rachel Maddow said, “This can’t be real, right? This is cartoon evil.”

But yep, it’s real. In the great state of Michigan.

**Finally today, because people falling down is always funny, a couple of hockey refs who really, really don’t like carpets on the ice:

Confessions of a cell phone addict. And a wonderful Rachel Maddow clip

I spent five days on a cruise ship last week, and I think the most jarring part of the whole trip for me wasn’t the parasailing, or the snorkeling, or the frightening amount of people in America who have lots of tattoos.

It was that from Monday at noon until Friday afternoon, I had no cell phone. No connections whatsoever. No checking voicemail, nothing.

It was wonderful. It was liberating. I was completely disconnected, with no one from the outside world to talk to or check in on.

Honestly, It was also a little bit of torture. Because while I don’t smoke or drink, I do have one addiction.

My cell phone.

Actually, I should say phones, plural, since I have a personal cell and a work cell (I have to have two; I can’t have all the personal calls showing up on the bill for my work phone, and I don’t want to waste hundreds of minutes a month on my personal cell making calls to the Seabreeze volleyball coach. My friend Tony sees me with two and calls me a drug dealer. He thinks he’s funny).

I’m on the phone constantly. I actually get annoyed when I miss a call. Sometimes I call people just to call them, with no real purpose. What can I say, I’m a people person who loves talking to people.

But it’s a real problem when, on the game show Julie and I were on during the cruise, she was asked “What’s the first thing Michael touches in the morning?” and she answered “cell phone” in like three seconds flat.

I don’t think I can break the habit cold turkey, and I don’t want to. Think about how many times a day your cell makes your life a little bit easier. Maybe you’re calling from the road to say you’re stuck in traffic and will be home late. Or you set up an appointment on the way home, saving you 5-10 minutes of work.

I just wish I wasn’t so dependent on it. I enjoyed that feeling on the cruise, and I want to get it back, at least a little at a time.

I’m going to try to wean myself off the phones a little.

But quitting glue-sniffing was probably a lot easier.

**So I must give a hat-tip to Pearlman for alerting me to this great Rachel Maddow clip, from last week. There’s no ranting, no raving, just clear, plain-spoken talk about how deceitful and misguided the media’s coverage of politics has become, and how lying by political groups no longer seems to be a bad thing.

Check it out, it’s worth the 8 minutes.

Another despicable act by the Cheney family. A creepy new Microsoft invention. And remembering Merlin Olsen

More proof that Dick Cheney isn’t the only insane one in the family…

You may have heard about this story by now, but if not, a group called Keep America Safe, a right-wing lobbying group, has launched a line of attack against seven Department of Justice lawyers.

What did these lawyers do, you may ask? Well, they had the temerity, the gall, the absolute chutzpah, to previously do work on behalf of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

So, in the twisted and warped logic of Dick Cheney’s offspring and her fellow moronic brethren, doing work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee makes you an Al-Qaeda sympathizer. Seriously, check out this video they put out, and be frightened:

Look, even conservatives are calling Cheney out on this one. People like Kenneth Starr and Larry D. Thompson (a Bush solicitor general) are saying this is ridiculous, that lawyers defend unpopular defendants all the time, that calling these lawyers “The Al-Qaida Seven” is crazy.

Disgusting. But what I’ve come to expect from a scared, idea-free Republican party, that only knows how to scare people and tries desperately to call anyone it doesn’t like a terrorist sympathizer.

Now, for a truly hilarious take on Cheney’s attack, I turn to the wonderful Rachel Maddow:

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**So this is creepy. Microsoft is developing a new product called “Skinput,” which will actually allow you to turn your body into a touch-screen.

As in, you could listen to your iPod on your arm, or surf the Internet on your inner thigh. I won’t even go anywhere near the 100 jokes I can make about touch-screen fun you can have on other parts of your body.

But this is kind of gross. Check out the demo and the details here.

**And now, a few minutes with the late great Merlin Olsen, aka Father Murphy on one of the best shows ever, “Little House on the Prairie.”