Tag Archives: Taylor Swift

Alligator-themed kids birthday parties are a thing in Germany. A beautiful moment as Taylor Swift helps Fallon deal with his Mom’s death. And “Curb” a major disappointment so far this season

Not surprising to anyone who has small children, but I’ve been going to a lot of kids’ birthday parties lately. And I’ve learned that with small adjustments, they all pretty much follow the same format: Kids run around and play, grownups call them to the table for pizza and singing “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy or girl, and then cake is had, maybe some more running around, and bam, everyone goes home.

However, if you live in Hesse, Germany until last week, you had the chance to experience an awesome and terrifying birthday party way different than the boring ones we have here in the States.

Check this out: The Freidberg zoo let adults and children, even at birthday parties, swim with crocodiles and alligators without a cage or any other barrier between man and reptile, as long as a guide was present.

It’s part of their goal to show people that crocs really aren’t that dangerous, and for 15 years the zoo has been letting kids and adults swim with a guide for fun.

How awesome would swimming with crocs be at a  7-year-old’s birthday party? Incredibly awesome, I say. Way cooler than a bowling party or a shindig at a little gymnasium.

“Hey Mom, guess what happened at Timmy’s party today?
“Did you meet nice kids? Get a cool goody bag?”
“No, but a crocodile almost chewed off my left leg!”

But alas, grownups spoil all the fun: A court ruled last week that kids could no longer be allowed to swim with the crocs and gators. Adults, though, still can.

Can you say “bachelor party in Germany?”


**Next up today, there was a pretty magical performance on Jimmy Fallon Monday night, one I just learned about Tuesday. Jimmy’s beloved Mom, Gloria, died on Nov. 4, and quite understandably he didn’t host “The Tonight Show” last week.
He came back on the air Monday, and got choked up talking about his Mom at the start of the show, and how she used to squeeze his hand three times as a kid and say “I love you.”

Well, unscheduled, Taylor Swift came on the show a little later and debuted a new song called “New Year’s Day,” and, well, there’s a line in there about squeezing your hand … just watch this, and then if you’re able, call your mother and tell her you love her.

Man. It got dusty in here watching that. What a beautiful moment at the end from Swift and Fallon. Just wonderful, emotional stuff.

**Finally today, I’ve really really tried to give the new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” the benefit of the doubt. It was gone for so long (six years), and I love it so much, that I wasn’t too worried when only one of the first three episodes was good. I figured that maybe it was like in sports, when teams or players take a little while to get going early in the season.

But no more excuses: “Curb” has had maybe 2.5 good episodes out of seven, and I’m supremely disappointed. There are funny moments here and there, and actually this week’s episode was one of the better ones (Larry and Leon talking about 92 degree rooms was fabulous). But man, every episode has, like 11 storylines going at once and none of them really connect.

There have been some episodes that make almost no sense (the prostitute that Larry befriends getting hooked up with Marty Funkhauser’s baseball-loving nephew?), and a lot of the jokes go on way, way too long even if they were at first, funny.

Makes me sad because I’m such a huge Larry David and “Curb” fan. But this season has just been … blah. Maybe the last few episodes will save it for me. In the meantime, a classic moment from the show’s past made me smile. (Definitely NSFW if you’re listening without headphones)


Good News Friday: Ellen DeGeneres sets a Christian anti-gay pastor straight. A homeless shelter is turned into a 5-star restaurant. And New York City libraries donate Internet to the poor

And a happy Friday to you all; it’s been a bitterly cold week here in NYC, so if you’re reading this somewhere warm, I am glaring at you in anger through the screen (well, maybe not anger. Mild annoyance, maybe.)

First up on Good News Friday today is a really cool story near and dear to my heart. The folks at Break.com teamed up with the Ascencia Homeless Shelter in California to give those less fortunate a five-star restaurant experience, completely blowing their minds, and bringing lots of smiles. (the best part starts around the 2:20 mark).

Small gestures = huge appreciation.

**Next up, Ellen DeGeneres is a trailblazer in many ways, so she still gets her fair share of anti-gay bigots spewing venom her way.

She very rarely responds to them, but the other day on her show she did, and I thought this was fabulous…

**And finally today, the New York City library system is amazing, and I say that from first-hand experience.

But what they’re doing in low-income areas is worthy of high praise. According to this story, the NYPL is launching the nation’s largest Internet lending program, handing out 10,000 free high-speed hot spots to some of the city’s poorest residents.

The program, which offers the devices for up to a year, seeks to bridge a digital divide in the nation’s largest city, where studies have found nearly 3 million of the 8 million people lack broadband access.

“It is simply unfathomable that in the digital world in which we live, one-third of New Yorkers do not have access to broadband Internet at home, putting them at a serious disadvantage at school, in applying for jobs, and so much more,” said Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library.

It’s such a simple thing, but connecting those who don’t have the Web, to it, opens up a whole new world. I see it when I’ve substitute taught the last few years here in the city; schools that have computers for the kids to explore the Internet absolutely perform better than those that don’t.

Good for the NYPL. The Internet should be open to all.

Thoughts from a typically wacky Grammy Awards. The 1st-grader who gave the whole school the day off. And I hit a new running milestone that gets me excited


The music, the clothes, and the incredible amount of sparkle: The Grammy always have it all.
As I’ve said many times, I know very little about current music, but I enjoy the Grammys because there’s always a few groups that I like, plus the costumes and behavior are always entertaining.
Here are some thoughts from a typically weird night at the Grammys:

— Thought Taylor Swift’s opening was a nice tribute to “Alice in Wonderland” (that’s what it was, right?) but she was still singing that awful song that I’ll now have stuck in my head for three days. And speaking of She Who Cannot Keep Boyfriends, why did CBS feel the need to show us a second of her dancing in the aisles to every single other performance?
— I love Adele’s music but her awards show speeches are even better. She just comes out, says a few things, and walks off. And she’s almost always funny.
— Outright robbery that Mumford & Sons lost to The Black Keys in Best Rock Performance. But the Mumford boys did get Album of the Year, which is highly deserved. So it all evened out.
— However, my fiance has declared that The Black Keys are “the coolest white boys in rock.” Or at least, “since Dave Grohl,” she added.

— Lena Dunham is dating a guy from Fun. Was this known by everyone else but me?
— Love that Sting came on and played with Bruno Mars. I want to be Sting for just one day. He’s just the coolest. Or maybe Prince is the coolest, I can never tell.

— Kelly Clarkson, we know you love everyone. But do you need to say hello to every single person in the audience before coming on stage to get your award?

 Oh, how I enjoyed all of the “Finally, someone has beaten Chris Brown” jokes on Twitter. What a scumbag.

— Finally, nice to see LL Cool J with a sweet tribute at the beginning of the show, to the power of dreams, and at the end with his Beastie Boys tribute. Who ever thought LL would one day be, like, an elder statesman of rap?

**Who says 6-year-olds don’t have any power in this world? For one day, Blake Harper was awfully powerful.
And popular.

At the Mater Dei School in Bethesda, Md., the principal offered to make a deal with his students on the Friday before the Super Bowl: If any one of three students can make a shot from a certain spot on the basketball court, everyone would get the Monday after the Super Bowl off.
After two older kids missed 3-pointers, young Blake Harper stepped up to the free throw line. If he made it, delirium and a three-day weekend. If he missed, well, everyone had to get up Monday morning.
Check out how Blake did. I love it.

**Finally, I have written periodically here about my (possibly-crazy) quest to run a half-marathon, probably next fall.
Slowly but surely, I’m making progress. I’m now running about five miles per day, three days a week, and this weekend I hit a new milestone: I did my first under-10 minute mile on the treadmill at they gym.
Considering when I started running/training about five months ago I was running 15-minute miles (which I believe was basically fast-walking, I was so slow), I was excited.
Now that I’m under 10 minutes, I want to start running longer distances, 6, 7, 8 miles per outing. But for today, I just want to savor that “9:50” time that showed on the treadmill for the last few minutes.
Long way to go, but I’m getting there.

A little Federer, a little Vedder, and some Grammy thoughts from clueless me

Yesterday was the first Sunday without football since August. That made me a little sad. Sigh.

Fortunately, I had my favorite pro athlete maybe ever playing for a Grand Slam championship Sunday. So that made things a lot better. And then he won, again, by playing exquisitely in beating Andy Murray in three entertaining sets.

Roger Federer isn’t only the best pro tennis player to ever live. He may be better than anyone has ever been at any sport. Yeah, fine, tell me I’m crazy and not objective. But the man is on another level, and I feel privileged to be alive during the age of Federer.

I’ve said it once (actually David Foster Wallace said it first, but I feel it’s worth repeating), and I’ll say it again: The more you play and know about tennis, the more you appreciate how incredible Federer is. I’ve been playing the sport for 27 years, and I’m still amazed at what he does.

More on Federer’s big win in my tennis blog here. And the wonderful sports columnist Simon Barnes, from London’s Times, typically writes the best take of anyone on the match here.

**OK, I am in no way, shape or form qualified to comment on the Grammys. I believe there hasn’t been any really good music made since 1993 or so. And yet, I was briefly sucked in for a few moments of Sunday night’s show.

Couple thoughts:

— Wanna feel old, if you’re a Gen X’er like myself? As I watched Bon Jovi do “Livin’ On a Prayer” for the 4,868 time, it occurred to me that that song’s been sung in four different decades now. That blew me away.

— I like some Black Eyed Peas songs, and I think Fergie is pretty and talented, but I thought their costumes were atrociously bad. And what the hell was with the dancing robots? I had a weird flashback to a weird 80s video there.

— Is it me or did Taylor Swift look a little like an exact replica of a late 1960s hippie chick while she was singing with Stevie Nicks?

— Why do Michael Jackson’s kids constantly have to be shoved into the spotlight? Hasn’t their childhood been weird enough? I’m just sayin.’

OK, let me wrap this baby up with a real musician who I love. Back in late December, Eddie Vedder was among many who paid tribute to Bruce Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors, which was televised and I missed it. Some of it is on YouTube, though, including this beautiful Vedder cover of “My City in Ruins,” Bruce’s haunting post 9/11 song.


The King of the Open is toppled. And I am stunned.


One last tennis post after a truly wild final weekend at the Open …

Saw some things in a four-hour tennis match I hadn’t seen before Monday.

Saw a guy not named Rafael Nadal push Roger Federer around a tennis court. Saw a guy not named Rafael Nadal blast winners past Federer for three-plus hours and refuse to yield.

Saw a guy named Roger Federer, against an opponent not named Rafael Nadal, looked befuddled and flummoxed on a tennis court. Saw a guy named Roger Federer, against an opponent not named Rafael blow a two sets to one lead, and fall completely apart like a weekend hacker in the fifth set.

As I”m watching this match Monday evening, watching the future superstar Juan Martin Del Potro stage a shocking rally to beat Federer in five sets, I kept thinking, “Are we SURE that’s not Nadal on the other side of the net?

Because, dear readers, for the last five years, only Nadal has been Fed’s kryptonite in big matches like this. So when Del Potro, a 6-foot-6 Argentine (who looks taller) was pounding forehands past Fed in the fourth and fifth sets, I couldn’t believe this was really happening.

Oh, those of us who follow tennis closely knew Del Potro was a comer, a 20-year-old with huge shots and a great mental makeup. But Federer just doesn’t lose Slam finals to guys not named Nadal.

It was wildly disconcerting to see Federer miss so many forehands, and serve so poorly (50 percent of first serves for the match).

Even when Del Potro pushed the match to a fifth set, and the crowd at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was going nuts for the underdog, I expected Roger to come through. Again, he doesn’t lose matches like this.

But the fifth set Monday was scarily reminiscent of the one Federer played against Rafa in the Australian Open back in January. He was broken early, and he never quite was able to come back. It was shockingly one-sided at the end, just like it was in January.

Look, this is probably good for the sport right now. The list of guys who have the mental and physical ability to stand up to Federer is woefully short, and now maybe Del Potro can be the rival that threatens Federer at Slams that Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic can’t quite be yet (or may never be).

But as a Federer fan, Monday was disappointing.

So the U.S. Open ends with the two champions everyone figured we would have. Of course we all saw Kim Clijsters and Del Potro winning it when we prognosticated two weeks ago, right?

God .I love the unpredictability of sports.

Couple other Tuesday morning thoughts:

1. Not sure if I should be happy that Patriots looked so bad in their 25-24 win over Buffalo Monday night, or if I should be mad because Belichick is going to give them hell in practice all week and they’ll come into Sunday’s game at my Jets all fired up and beat my boys 62-3.

2. Kanye West, you made me feel sorry for a pop country starlet today. And that’s hard to do. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Mr. West, quite the musical performer I’m told, got up on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night and interrupted pop tart Taylor Swift’s award acceptance speech, taking the microphone from her hand to say Beyonce’s video was better. Truly awful behavior.  I know, you’re like me: You’re shocked to see a hip-hop guy or a rapper misbehave.

3. I see Serena Williams apologized again. Hey, third time’s the charm. Maybe by her 7th or 8th apology she’ll actually call the lineswoman and say she’s sorry.

4. And finally in honor of the late, great Patrick Swayze…