Tweet off dude

What do Bashar Al-Assad, Kim Kardashian, Snooki, Nicolas Maduro and Donald Trump have in common?

If you feel a little loopy just trying to answer the question, I understand.

Given my teacherly disposition, I will make it multiple choice:

(a) Five people I nor you will likely ever have dinner with nor care to

(b) Five people whom nearly all of us wish their 15 minutes of fame were over

(c) Five people who regularly tweet, as in more times a day than they likely poop or sneeze

(d) all of the above

All are worth answers, but the full credit response is…… Drum roll please, unfortunately (d). Yes D for Donald Trump or D for dimwits who really think the world wants to know what is on their mind more often than they eat. Five modern day sophists who have added to the historical progression of thought by kindly donating several daily 140 character brainfarts to the written record. Five of our more enlightened and of course, well-intentioned souls who have exhausted every other possible means of communicating with their fan base before opting to tweet.

Here’s a sampling of the President-elect’s tweets from Friday.

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Sorry in advance if my sarcasm is unappreciated. Perhaps I am underestimating the viral power of the social media version of having electrodes perpetually hooked up to our brains. Perhaps I am also underestimating the power of compact philosophies, tweet-sized aphorisms like “I think therefore I am” or “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”.  After all, Yogi Berra made an indelible name for himself with his famous Yogi-isms like “If there is a fork in the road, take it”.

But this isn’t about the pun-ish, self-deprecating wit and wisdom of one of the Yankees greats. Nor is it about the enduring power of proverbial comments. This isn’t even about the role of Twitter, which gives millions of us starstruck or at least slightly overcurious and  under attentive souls including myself the chance to follow our favorite icons or catch up on what is trending such as #donuts or #Christmasjingles.

This is about a man who is six days away from becoming the most powerful person in the world and has a seemingly untreated addiction to tweets. And it’s not as if he is sharing mundane details such as ” I had Boston cream pie for my lunch dessert and it was off the chain” or “Go Tom Brady. You’re the only guy with a better life than I have” or even “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”.  Those would actually be catchy glimpses into his unique thought process.

No. Our president-elect prefers to use Twitter to make bold policy proclamations, play verbal games of uncle with unsupportive celebrities and most likely, deal with his insomnia in the way most 70 grandfathers of five do, by settling discomforting grudge matches with anyone who deigns to try to get under his skin. The man who famously had someone ghostwrite the “Art of the Deal” now wants to do the writing himself in the wonderful high art platform of social media.

Mr. Trump, once accused of being callous, narcissistic, manipulative and you name the other pathologies, must show his 5 million followers that he is also, well, a little sensitive. Where is Oprah when we need her most. Or Freud.

To provide tangible evidence of the sources of my bewilderment, I am going to post a few of Trump’s more prominent twitter exchanges, or as I would like to call it, Twittantrums. As a burgeoning journalist, I should probably be grateful for Trump’s candor and compulsions.

But as a relatively well-informed citizen and regular voter, I am perplexed. So much for old adage of sticks and stones….. More on that later. For now, I will select four exchanges out the 2100 tweets Trump has posted since declaring his intention to run for president. I will let you decide if he picks his battles wisely.

(1) If you can’t catch him, then at least try to scare him on Twitter. Trump v. El Chapo

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-Fortunately your plan to build a big wall will certainly prevent El Chapo or any of his pals from entering the U.S.

(2) Trump v. Alec Baldwin – SNL is a longstanding satirical show with a heavy bend towards political satire. Trump actually has hosted the show twice and claim to have loved it both times. He along with hundreds of other candidates has been parodied. But clearly the love is lost once you become president-elect.

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Trump hosting SNL in November 2015…

One year later…

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(3) Donald Trump vs. Mark Cuban – My billions are bigger than yours.

If Trump should like anyone this world it is Mark Cuban. They have Texan sized egos, a fearless approach to business, and love bringing their egos/unique brand of entrepreneurial opportunism to the big screen. But somehow, and go figure that there would be some software glitches this election season, they ended up on opposite teams. Frankly, I wish Mark Cuban had run on the Democratic ticket. Here’s a little Trump snippet from earlier this fall,

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Note to Donald.  This was one of your lamer tweets. I doubt”failing” at Benefactor keeps Mr. Cuban up at night.

(4) Today’s Twittantrum – Trump vs. Civil Rights leader and longstanding congressman John Lewis. Amazingly Trump and Lewis are about the same age (Lewis is 76). And I give Trump credit for aging and choosing wives well. But Lewis has fifty years of experience in public service, which includes being re-elected over twenty times and taking many blows to the face while leading Civil Rights marches in the 60’s.

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I would add more but I have two fears. One, I might begin seeing these tweets as so absurdly entertaining that I follow Trump on Twitter. Two, I might think there is a method to his madness and begin tweeting more myself. So before I drift into the oceans of hypocrisy, I will offer Mr. Trump some free, Freudian styled advice. After all, he seems to be very receptive to what others say about him.

(1) Get help. As one who has spent time in 12 step groups, I know that compulsions don’t have to dominate our lives, with the exception of eating cheese or cheese popcorn. Seek a Tweeters Anonymous group near you or simply ask your newfound higher power for guidance as to best presidential practice. My guess is over-tweeting is a gateway drug and not so presidential.

(2) Give your tweets the old 24 hour rule. This of course will involve something slightly neurotic like leaving a draft of your desired tweet in your phone “notes” or sending a text message for yourself but if there is something so urgent that you must share with the world, perhaps something that pierced your skin, sit on it for a day.

(3) If you can’t sleep at night or wake up really early, grab a book. Just read, one it will tire your eyes out at night and two, you might find reading to be a nice diversion from the pressure of reducing profound thoughts into 140 characters.

(4) Tweet, but tweet with a slant – This is an allusion to an Emily Dickinson poem about truth. If you are tempted to fire back at Alec Baldwin, try a different approach like “hey Alec, if you are ever in DC, I could use a stunt double so I can get some golf in. Come on by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave when you’re in town. And bring your wig.#MSNLGA”

(5) Get some thicker skin over the next six days. Most presidents get criticized, ridiculed or even lampooned quite frequently. Get used it. Millions of people won’t like you here in the U.S. and billions worldwide. It’s part of the job of being the boss.

(6) If you really like social media that much, maybe appoint yourself White House Social Media strategist or even better, become your archenemy – a journalist.

(7) If you really want to engaged in playful verbal combat, follow me @anamebyanyother. I’m up for the challenge and let the truth be told,  could really use some more followers.

You can even tell me to…. “tweet off dude”. I won’t take it personally.

I hereby resolve for you to….

It’s that time of year again, or should I say that time of new year, a time when we get all warm and fuzzy towards family members we could hardly remember still exist and casual acquaintances from whom we borrowed packing tape in February.

And this is before the first drink.

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Then after that first glass of wine, when we turn on CNN to watch the last two of its 17 hours of continuous Oprah-show like countdown to the dropping of the crystal ball, the euphoria kicks into high gear as we send Gettysburg Address-sized heartfelt wishes to our gardener, home insurance representative, AC repairmen and most vile Trump supporting acquaintances.

Yes, this is New Years, a time when we used to spend the last 10 second countdown with complete strangers wearing white hats and blowing into kazoos in some downtown hotel ballroom, where two glasses of $26 champagne erased the remorse from just having spent $175 on a pear salad, rabbit carpaccio and a bowl of lobster bisque.

But if now you are either normal or a  renewal believing, neurotic, pseudo-mature soul like myself, you spend the waning hours of the year closely surrounded by loved ones, and pile of long-neglected clothes you are now folding to take to Goodwill.

You are also starting to conceptualize your new year’s resolutions, a few of which you have absolutely no intention of keeping such as running a half-marathon, checking your phone apps less and cutting down on your intake of caffeinated beverages.

The plan also includes a handful you must keep in order to stave off immediate and perhaps permanent peril. These include but are not limited to: not buying any more houses, finding a full-time job, removing the four year old Pangea-sized mold stains from the kitchen ceiling and not engaging in  red-light political discussions with pick-up truck drivers who don “Don’t Tailgate or I’ll fully exercise my second amendment rights” bumper stickers.

One of the beauties of the new year is that for at least the first 16 hours, including the ten you spend sleeping, you genuinely feel transformed, so chock full of resolve that you read Psalm 31 twice, put your MasterCard on autopay, and pick up your dog’s poop from the neighbors rock garden.

Speaking of which, I’m still getting used to the whole dog poop scooping and dispensing habit. It feels phony. As if I really feel bad that a biodegradable fertilizing Twix bar-sized turd has been donated to a small parcel of turf my neighbors never step foot on.

Nonetheless, along with Layla’s poop, here’s what I hope gets left behind in the sound, fury and absolute cosmic surreality of 2016 and what we can hopefully bring more into the limelight in 2017.

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(10)  Out – Tipping. Enough is enough. I now devote a good chunk of my daily thought process and my innately strong math skills to deciding when and how much to tip. Everyone’s wants and thinks he/she deserves a tip nowadays including the volunteer Santa Claus and grocery store clerks for simply doing what we are paying for in the first place. Just the other day, my dentist added a 15% service charge and my pool cleaner refused to add chlorine tablets until I filled his tip jar.  I mean I am a chronic over-tipper, one who in the aggregate has tipped enough to pay for half of Somalia’s graduating high school class to attend FSU, but even my ridiculous conscience can’t take it any more.

In – A one-time tip fee added to my real estate taxes. Say $1200. And distribute it as the powers-that-be see fit.

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(9) Out – Selfies. I get it. Really I do. Taking pictures is fun and sharing them about lets say, falling into a garbage strewn canal is even more fun, but not enough to justify all the commotion your need to take a selfie. Just look in the mirror and share the juicy details about your life in some other mode. Besides, I want to enjoy my leisurely walk without having to stop for you to finish your selfie. Chances are you want a passerby to take the picture anyway so the narcissism really does intrude on others.

In – Polaroids. It’s time to bring them back. The minute of anticipation is quite the hoot and the instant gratification factor is higher too.

(8) Out – The cost of a scoop of ice cream. I have been in denial about this for decades. Paying $5 for a scoop of ice cream is akin to paying $350 an hour for legal services. (Joke alert). But really I should be able to get at least 150 scoops of ice cream for the cost of that”highly” efficient lawyer. The cost of ice cream, Lincoln Road rent costs notwithstanding are unacceptable and given all of the major initiatives Obama passed in 2016 (another joke alert), the least he could do is pressure these sacred ice cream shops to exercise some price ceilings. I am going to boycott ice creams shops for at least three days to galvanize the cost cutting movement.

In – Waiting to get home to eat ice cream.

 

(7) Out – National Anthem protests. With apologies to Colin Kapernick who has become pseudo-enlightened, life here in the good ole US of A is pretty good; in fact someone who shall not be named at this time, plans to make it “great”. So if you really have a legitimate reason to feel disenfranchised, go ahead and take a kneel. If not, you are diverting too much attention to yourself.  However…….

In – redoing the lyrics to the national anthem. Maybe I am running dry on poetic sensibility, but some of the lyrics as such are way too arcane for the 21st century. I think we can do better than “O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming”. Frankly this probably means absolutely nothing to a good chunk of the American population.

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(Graphic courtesy of Donald J. Trump, former celebrity)

(6) Out – Texting. How blasphemous for me to say considering I expend a good chunk of the expertise which came with getting a masters degree in English on how to phrase and punctuate my texts. But all this texting, aside from its likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis, is such a bizarre way to communicate. Instead we should revert to..

In – Communicating as the phone was intended. By actually making phone calls. We speak on the phone so rarely that it’s actually becoming awkward even for the most savvy of communicators to “talk” on the phone.

(5) Out – New England Patriots. I know they will likely win the Super Bowl and I spent most of my childhood in New England, but enough is enough.  The Pats are the NFL’s version of auto-renew. Enough winning, enough Brady, enough winning with just the practice squad, enough is enough.

In – And no I did not just return from a “ski” trip to Colorado, but yes, the Miami Dolphins. They apparently drank Trump’s new Kool-Aid the last few months.

(4) Out – Vladimir Putin. Listen one Napoleon was enough. As was one Cold War. We get it. You like power and miss the USSR. But isn’t winning your own election enough of a power play. If we really wanted a Russian to infiltrate our corridors of power, we would make Anna Kournikova the Interior Minister, or Head of Something powerful.

In – TBD. But definitely not the Filipino President nor anyone Putin has a bromance with.

(3) Out – Fox and CNN. You made oodles of profit off the election. But you both wield too much power and not enough objectivity. Trump would still be the host of Celebrity Apprentice if it wasn’t for you.

In – Books and Newspapers, except for ones that do continual election polling.

 

(2) Disclaimer – I am no Scrooge but I can play one in my blog.

Out – Christmas Jingles, especially in Miami.

If I die of premature brain cancer, it’s not going to be because of all that Mountain Dew I downed in my twenties. It’s because of two songs which I will only allude to; one is that Mariah Carey “All I want for Christmas” nonsense and the other is “Last Christmas I gave you my heart”. Maybe I will believe in Trump’s promise to make America great again as long as he permanently banishes both of those jingles, along with a few others from the airwaves.

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I mean for God’s sakes, the average temperature in Miami this month has been 82 degrees. Christmas is inherently a beautiful holiday but here it’s merely an excuse to play naked mini golf or go jet skiing all day.

Give the Christmas jingles here four days of retail and radio time. Maximum. I am not trying to Scrooge this but I simply can’t connect with slight bells a sleighing when I am applying SPF 70 to most of my body.

In – Playing the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet during the holidays. Or music from The Nutcracker

(1) Out – worrying. Really. Even though pretty much everything that happened in 2016 was cause for worry, and I inherited a bit of the worrier gene, I say lets apply some reverse psychology and a little Bob Marley to all the chaos and just take it all in stride.

In:  Becoming more yogi, or Yoda, or Yogi Berra or even Yogi Bear-like.

So there you have it. My collective resolutions which will naturally be more of a case of do as I say rather than do. But given the last resolution, I’m going to stay optimistic. I am going to click “no tip” at the bagel shop, not text anyone including the AC repairman for at least two hours today and maybe even start reading a new book.

Besides you know what they say about resolutions. Actually I don’t know what they say so I am going to make up my own quote:

“They are fun to make and even more fun to break.”

Happy 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse me for yawning, but 2016 was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop even at a (Jeb!) rally.

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I am going to turn in my Year in Review a bit early. I’ve been on a “just get it out of the way” kick of late, actually paying bills and writing papers before deadline. Besides let’s face it, 2016 was a rather boring year with the exception of all the “fake” happenings so there’s not much else to do.

“Objectively” speaking pretty much nothing out of the ordinary happened. No cloud-splitting, rock the boat types of challenges to the existing order, nothing so unexpected that we started singing trite song lines like “The changes they are a coming”. Nothing.

Scientifically speaking, I think it’s safe to say it was such a dull year, the earth slowed its orbit around the sun. continental drift and plate tectonics as we know it ceased, gravitational pull reversed course as did population growth.

Things felt so humdrum it was as if all 7 billion of Earth’s inhabitants were perpetually stuck at the DMV while simultaneously completing Sudoku puzzles and reading the metro section of their local paper. It was that soporific.

And we needed it. We needed an emotional break from all the sound and fury of 2015 when things just got out of hand. We just needed a year to catch our breath to prepare ourselves for the chaos to come in 2017. Just in the first six months alone, South Korea will welcome a new presiden and 2018 World Cup qualifying begins in Trinidad & Tobego and Curacao.

Things will be absolutely insane.

Besides, I’m sure many S. Floridians are already reeling from the fact that Dolphin Stadium changed its name for the first time in at least decades and Hialeah elected a new mayor in so ethically impeccable a manner that not even the Russians could complain.

And I will go out on a limb to my 10,000 blog followers by stating that I am sure most of you feel exactly the same way about 2016.

If there are going to be monkey wrenches, curveballs and major developments that throw off our mental paradigms, we need to be forewarned.

Could you imagine how unprepared we would have been if lets say a former reality TV show founder/real estate mogul/inspiration behind the movie Jackass was elected president of a once-establishment dominated, free-election promoting nation lets say, ah well lets keep it local, the good old U.S. of A?

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Could you imagine if a baseball team from a Windy-ish city that hadn’t won a World Series since Theodore Roosevelt was president all of sudden ended the drought and captured the elusive crown?

Sorry for mistaking windmills for giants.

Could you imagine if Cuban dictator, the last breathing link to the Jurassic era and eyewitness to the great meteorite said to have killed off the dinosaurs, finally kicked the bucket? Miamians would go running down 8th street with the same enthusiasm and a few more pots and pans as when Lebron decided to take his talents to South Beach.

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Could you imagine if 2016 was the type of year when people used guns for reasons others than protecting themselves against Dick Cheney on a seasonal hunt? Could you imagine the uproar if there was any gun-related violence at all?

Needless to say, if any of the aforementioned events took place, you would accuse me of hanging out in trendy coffee shops in a more liberal-minded state, lets say, Colorado.

Dream on friends. Not 2016. This was a white bread, what you see is what you get type of year. No Steve Harvey moments when just when you have been told things are supposed to be one way, we find out to be the exact opposite.

Here’s just a little bit of proof of how boring 2016 was.

Charlie Sheen didn’t make the news. Neither did Sri Lanka’s top table tennis and billiards players. Alabama won the BCS. Serena Williams won Wimbledon. Alabama elected a Republican governor. There were fewer than 10,000,000 accidents on the Palmetto Expressway. The media admitted it misreported one or two stories. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing.

Lets conjure again. Could you imagine how it would feel if really really nutty stuff happened like the smartest (I use the term loosely) Bush son and his 100 million dollar war-chest could not get past 4th place in any GOP primary? Could you imagine if normally self-restrained, gun allergic policemen on a moment of unexpected weakness and higher-than-expected stress, resorted to abnormal uses of force? Could you imagine if some multicultural pockets of Europe had to experience violent terrorist acts or speaking of Europe, a normally mild-mannered and politically neutral country such as Great Britain opted to vote itself out of the EU?

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Again you would say, maybe it’s time to consider spending your free time somewhere other than Colorado folk festivals.

These things don’t happen in our now safe, predictable world. Maybe in 2015. But we learned our lessons, once again redefining ourselves as practical humanoids, constantly keeping things in perspective, learning to separate the important from the trivial, the wheat from the chaff.

In other words, why waste our precious emotional and journalistic capital dithering over “faux” controversies like email servers, Howard Stern-esque lewd videos featuring presidential candidates, Hollywood break-ups, Olympic swimmers involved in post-competition escapades and plagiarized speech lines.

Nah, not the American media and not the discerning masses who would never settle for anything less than the simple, absolute truth. We simply let any attempts at distortion or sensationalism go in one ear and out the other.

Besides we simply don’t have the time.

Which is good because despite our relatively obscure existence, we muggles are active folk.

And for those dozen or so Americans who were snowed for long stretches of time and exhausted all other options other than following the news on the brand new socials media platforms of Facebook and Twitter, here’s what we the crackstaff at our hyperbole-free, truth obsessed publication have determined are ten events worth remembering in an otherwise humdrum year.

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(Other than Ben Carson and Atilla the Hun, the eight most prominent of the 9412 GOP candidates)

(10) The GOP Primary Season

A field of 9412 GOP candidates including the Ghost of Christmas Past, Bob Sagat, Abraham Lincoln, Yosemite Sam and two mild mannered men from Texas and New York whose last names rhyme with Booze and Crump engaged in a several month slog through the cornfields of Iowa and sled paths of New Hampshire, collectively singing “We are Family”.

In Iowa, the aforementioned man whose last names rhymes with Booze, a man whose campaign slogan was “Speak softly and when you do, make sure never to sound like an evangelical preacher” defeated an even more bereft of words candidate ( the one who rhymes with Crump) leaving the second-place finisher to say:

“ Frankly I really look at this whole presidential run as a worthy learning experience, one that will allow me to become a more rounded and gracious person. It’s such an honor to represent the minority white strand of our rich cultural tapestry and I congratulate all of my opponents on realizing that it’s about the journey not the destination.”

Within moments of his comments, the Iowa media took note that Mr.
Rhymes with Crump” had just spent two days in a ski hostel in Colorado.

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(9) Just hear me out

Speaking of Colorado, Kanye West, also from the mild mannered and soft spoken wing of American celebrity, accidentally spent a few days in Colorado learning how to snowshoe and make chai tea from scratch. After his workshops, Mr. West was said to feel a little looser in the lips, noting, in so ever humble a manner, that had he voted, he would have voted for the man whose last name rhymes with Grump, all of this after declaring his intentions to run for president before his children are old enough to vote.

Mr. West, who finally opened up about a host of other socially relevant topics, then went back to Colorado with Anthony Weiner, Ryan Lochte and the Governator himself who was quoted as saying, “ I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman”.

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(Photo courtesy of Donald J. Trump – N.Y. Times photographer)

(8) Speaking of women, 2016 was shaping up to be the year of the woman…….and women bashing.

-Teresa May was elected prime minister of England

– A certain first lady to from Slovenia, knowing that women are good writers, kindly asked the current first lady Michelle Obama to help her with her convention speech.

-Hillary Rodham Clinton, an obscure former lawyer children’s defense lawyer from Arkansas, shocked the world by becoming the first female nominee for president, defeating 37 year old centrist firebrand Bernie Sanders, a capitalist and former hedge fund manager from Las Vegas.

– Beyonce and Katy Perry managed to amass more Twitter followers each than Twitter has subscribers.

– And in an indirect reference to women, Donald J. Trump, otherwise known as the man whose last name rhymes with Crump, accused his rival, Senator Alex Keaton (Hope you appreciate the reference), I mean Marco “My hair is not” Rubio of having small hands, which of course can mean different things to different people. As for the electorate, they went ballistic after hearing the news, leading to this sampling of reactions:

“He can’t handle the economy with such inadequately sized-hands” – Iowa voter

“We need a more hands-on president”, – New York voter, a comment which of course some candidates took literally.

“ I don’t know about you, but I think Trump will now win the GOP nomination hands-down. –

“I’m looking for a bigger and better handyman”.

-A bunch of gymnasts under the age of 17 took a break from snapchatting and and trying to find Picachu’s to do a bunch of acrobatics that most Muggles can’t even perform in a video game.

(7) Snap, save, disappear. Repeat indefinitely even while asleep

Speaking of Snapchat, a clever snapshot, 12 hour half-life app has hit a crescendo as its developers have capitalized upon the optimal attention span of anyone between 5-35 who doesn’t do gymnastics. I am still trying to figure out all the bells and whistles but until some ultra modern interactice platform such as face-to-face communication is developed, we will be able to use Snapchat.

How does it work? Lets say you are sneezing and want everyone to know just how staccato you can do so. Click on snapchat, turn the camera inward and let the world see you in action. The nice thing is it will dissolve in 24 hours so if you want to have the space to lets say, show the last penalty kick in the Copa America, you can snap that too.

Apparently Obama used snapchat to lobby on behalf of Hillary. I guess ten seconds was more than sufficient time.

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(6) Messi pulls a Bret Favre

Speaking of soccer, Argentinians were surprisingly subdued when their beloved national team lost in their third or fourth consecutive final on a big stage.

Bad joke alert…

Not that I really care much about soccer, but I found it interesting that after losing the Copa America or “Copa something Latino” on penalty kicks, national icon Lionel Messi retired from the national team before he even finished shaking hands with the Chilean players. Within minutes, Argentina announced a two week state of mourning. During this fortnight of sorrow and suffering, and not that Argentinians are known for dramatizing things, but sacred cows were slaughtered, human sacrifices were performed, and President Macri vowed to return the Falkland Islands even though they are already British property.

Several months later, when life had returned to normal, Messi unretired to distract his fans from another piece of bad news.

(5) Panama Papers are a problem, but what exactly will they do.

In 2016 billionaires did surprisingly well for themselves. Apparently a billionaire “won” the national election in some tiny Western nation, I use the term “tiny” and “won” loosely. More on that later. But what the Panama papers, a set of legal documents with lots of paper and paper and paper about a network of offshore banks and shell companies, confiscated from a prominent Panamanian law office showed, is that, most countries are already run, or have been run by billionaires.

But rather instead of making billions off loose regulation codes and poor bankruptcy laws, these are simply kleptocrats who stash the billions in offshore accounts in a zillion different places only the kleptocrats and their accountants and their 50 mistresses visit.

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The aforementioned Messi was implicated in the scandal. As were a bunch celebrities although not Charlie Sheen. As was Vladmir Putin, former Brazilian president Lulu Silva and pretty much every other head of state from countries without real traffic laws.

Upon hearing the news, a billionaire who shall not be named declared “ Why didn’t I think of that. I guess I can learn a thing or two from reading the newspaper.”

(4) Pokemon GO.. Play, Even in traffic!

Speaking of reading, for the month of July, pretty much everyone stopped reading. And I mean everyone who had downloaded the Pokemon GO App. I downloaded it too but only for the purpose of appearing to be half cool in front of my students.

Pokemon GO is a app that allowed any adult to get in touch with their inner 10 year old and any ten year old to have another reason to think that adults, particularly adults who try to be like kids, are Martians. The game in which players used 3-D holograms and GPS positioning to try to catch Pokemons virtually placed in Pokestops and other locations ranging from the bottom of the ocean to their employer’s nostrils even got people to exercise, visit public parks and attend classes which were nabbing locations. It was most the most downloaded app in its first week of inception in history and brought new meaning to the word “bumping into your friends”.

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Over 40 million Americans, or just slightly less than the amount who still think Barak Obama is a hologram, played Pokemon GO, but many of these users became human versions of pinballs, banging into light posts, other people, oil wells and other hazards, all the while trying to operate a motor vehicle.

When asked when he liked Pokemon GO so much, 16 year old Sasha Obama said “It’s not like there is anything else going on the world”.

(3) 2016 Olympics in Rio make a splash – Got Zika?

Speaking of the world, the much embattled country of Brazil, a country which despite rampant corruption, corruption, crime, crime and being the epicenter of a microencephalitis  epidemic, was granted the right to host the world’s most prestigious sporting events. Yes the same Brazil that has experienced 425 percent inflation and a government protected kickback scandal that bilked citizens and investors out of billions. This same Brazil, despite having not made any of its infrastructure Olympic friendly until maybe a month before the games, got to host the Olympics.

As it turns out, All’s well that ends well. Brazilians got their shit together and the Zika virus stayed off Olympic grounds. And the games themselves went great, with Herculean feats by many known and new stars including Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Katie Ledeckie and a bunch of people from a bunch of countries performing in a bunch of sports no one really knows how to play.

All was well except for one trio of competitors who lets just say, have excess chlorine in their cranial regions. One of the world’s most notorious silver medalists, Ryan Lochte, whose propensity for designer clothing is only eclipsed by his gift for tall tale telling, decided after a night of revelry, to go Johnny Depp on a rundown gas station bathroom near the Olympic village.

However, and the details of the story are so absurd that they don’t merit a full retelling, the combination of chlorine, alcohol and probably some of Colorado’s Coffeehouse finest led Lochte to tell authorities probing his bathroom rage injuries that he and two other teammates were mugged entering the Olympic village.

This story was later, and it’s hard to believe that in law abiding, what you see is what you get 2016, proved to be a lie. Fortunately after three weeks of vilification and late night talk show fodder, Lochte’s story went the way of a snapchat when it was discovered that……

(2) Celebrities can get away with certain improprieties

A man who’s name rhymes with Crump was engaged in an off-the-record conversation about every 60 year old grandfather’s favorite topic, grabbing women by their genitals. Actually he may not have been a grandfather at that point but he was engaged to be married to a sultry Slovenian model and already had four kids. Now maybe what they say about men is true, that they never really grow up but whatever the reason, this man, who one day in the slightly distant future would seek a career change, gave a mini-TED talk about how celebrity status allows one to sort of make his own rules, even in the troublesome gray area of sexual harassment.

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There was some interesting fallout from the video. The subject at hand was in the midst of a campaign for some obscure political spot and upon release of the tape to NBC, millions of women, decency advocates and members of his own party called for his resignation, saying “Politics has always been known for the highest standards of moral decency. We have already come so far in our attempt to de-objectify and empower women. We cannot have indecency and immaturity occupy positions of great influence.”

And what happened. The subject did not heed the calls to drop out of the race. Instead his popularity eventually surged, including among women, leading pundits to say, “There is something rotten in Denmark, or Moscow, or wherever such an illogical outrage is taking place.”

Speaking of outrages…..

(1) The grass is greener on the other side 

2016, despite its almost universal ennui, led millions, if not billions of people to think the grass was greener on the other side. In fact, with respect to the neighbor’s house, my place actually is because my dog poops on his grass at least twice a day. But the itchy feet syndrome applied to lots of countries and institutions which one would have thought were fairly good with the status quo. I’ll name one in particular – Great Britain.

Brits usually are mild mannered folk who pride themselves on a fondness for decorum, bad food and a restless yet regal disposition. But over the summer, they got to have a national referendum on whether they should remain the captain of a 28 nation confederacy known as the Union of European Nations who have bought into an overpriced system of free borders, excessive membership costs and reduced ATM fees for participating members”. Or something simple like that.

The vote was referred to Brexit which is short for Brexit or Bre-xit, a type of epoxy glue.

The 18 million or so voters were enticed by a rumor that the ballot contained subliminal messages about Kim Kardashian and so on this balmy Wednesday evening in June, they hopped into cars, hoarded onto buses and voted on a choice that would forever change the European landscape and make it harder for Slovenians to travel to England to meet golf course owners for conjugal purposes.

After the vote one voter from a rural province near Manchester said, “I’m glad I got that out of the way. I’m not sure what I just voted on but no matter what, whether we have to leave our country, I just really enjoyed the tea and crumpets the pollsters gave me. And that I voted in favor of repairing London Bridge since my granddaughter keeps telling me it is falling down.

brexit

Another voter, this one from Leeds said, “This was so much fun, I think I will find a way for me and some of my blokes to go vote in the American election too.”

Honorable mention:  (1) Rudy Guliani replaces Deepak Chopra as the world’s foremost transcendental guru, and (2) some minor mixup with an email server belonging to someone somewhere who is somewhat important but the issue hardly got any press. (3) Vladimir Putin, formerly known as Lord Voldemort, decided after meeting an older man on Tinder with some Russian business holdings whose name rhymes with Crump, that he wanted to maintain a long distance but more than platonic relationship with him. He proceeds to hack into the Tinder and other accounts of anyone who dared compete for his secret beau’s attention.

So that’s all folks, just a quick rundown of a slow, painfully monotonous year, a year in which fact triumphed over fiction, unity “trumped” division and certain individuals with big hands and small egos showed just how handy they could be.

It was a year with some sad moments too, especially for fans of Prince, the Cleveland Browns, anyone who prefers the logical side of their brain, and the 9401 candidates who did not win the GOP primary.

The nice thing about seeing this uneventful year come to a close is we are forced to look ahead, to greener pastures and hopefully a return to a little more chaos.

Although I kind of enjoyed the calm.

My only lasting complaint is where was Steve Harvey when he was needed most?

#I’m still with her

One day, I will get over Tuesday’s/Wed. early morning election results, or whatever we want to call this presidential competition. TV wields so much power that I am a little surprised they didn’t just have one last debate on Tuesday, then have the viewership phone in its preference American Idol style.

Besides, I think it would have been good to embarrass the candidates a little; make them each sing their favorite song to get a better sense of their true selves.

Chances are Trump would have gone for “I’m just a Gigolo” or “Born in the USA” while Hillary’s song of choice – a Katy Perry jingle or “Run the World” {Note, I have no idea what the latter song is but upon searching  feminist songs, I found out it was a Beyonce title track)

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But I will get over it one day, likely in about four years. By then senility will have kicked in and I won’t even know how to spell president.

I am a not a Trumpophobe, at least not yet. I just don’t have the slightest clue how the guy pulled off the most notorious political heist in American history but that’s going to take awhile to fully process

For my Republican friends, this may be your jumping off point. But I say read on.

America’s heartland reduced this all-to0-vital election into ridiculous twitter tags, dehumanizing labels and vile caricatures of each candidate. It trivialized the discussion and turned what should have been a pivotal turn in American political history into quite the farce. Good for Saturday Night Live, lousy for the other six days of the week.

Yesterday I was in complete shock. Today a combination of denial, anger, and resignation. Shock because nothing went according to form. Denial that the basis on which the decisions were made seems to have nothing to do with the modern day reality. And resignation, because there is no turning back.

I recognize absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I was a Hillary guy from the time she first ran for president. It takes chutzpah for a woman to aim so high, to try to break into the most powerful old-boys network in the world.

There was something appealing, despite the pants-suit threat to male hegemony and slight Machiavellianism that characterized the Clintons. She was resilient, incredibly self-motivated and followed the old dictum of “speaking softly and carrying a big stick”. In short, she was fearless.

Eventually Obamamania caught fire and Hillary had no chance to defeat him. In retrospect, I’m glad it worked out that way because Obama was the right person at the right time, the right person to bring a combination of hipness, intellectualism and historical precedence to the White House. Obama not only broke the color barrier; he also broke the character barrier.

Fast forward seven years. Hillary, fresh off a successful run as Secretary of State {not an easy task given our existing foreign entanglements and those percolating with the Arab Spring}, becomes the Democratic fan favorite and declares her intentions to follow Obama into the White House by declaring on April 12, 2014. ( Ironically the same day I got married).

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She didn’t make her announcement with a lot of fanfare nor bravado. No outlandish comments. No even mentioning of trying to continue the Clinton legacy. Just quiet assurance that she was more seasoned for  the job.

Trying to become the first female president was a Herculean task. No other female candidate had even come close. Look what happened when Palin and Ferraro were chosen as VP’s.  I’m sure Hillary knew challenges awaited, from within the part and of course, from the right. But there was no way to prepare for the all out guerrilla warfare tactics which awaited.

I could go on and on about the ambush she has endured the last 18 months. Sure politics has become a bloodsport, but that doesn’t imply going for the jugular at all costs to decency.

The smear campaign regarding Benghazi and the email server, email server, email server, email server, email server, email server, brought partisan OCD to a medically untreatable level. In fact, if I ever hear the word email server again in a political discussion, I might have to say revres liame, revres liame, revres liame (dyslexia anyone?) to the tune of “Afternoon Delight” just to cope.

Between the ______  _______, the absurd accusations about her health, Clinton Foundation lies and the taglines mentioned on Twitter, Facebook and other social media forums (not to mention the chants at Trump Rallies), you would have thought Hillary had detonated a nuclear bomb on the entire former Confederate region then organized a worldwide gay parade in the Trump Tower..

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This post, one of the more PG I saw, was written by a 55 year old grandmother from St. Louis

Early this year, she was grilled for 11 hours by the GOP Congressional version of the Justice League, with questions so absurd it made sports reporters look like Einsteins.

Could you imagine being a 35 year public servant and having all your contributions reduced to the label of ‘criminal’, ‘killer’ and ‘bitch’? I could possibly imagine this type of labeling in a 1980’s LA gang war, but on a lifelong professional female, much less one contending for the presidency?

If it takes a feminist to lobby on Hillary’s behalf, then call me a feminist. ” A You’ve Come A long way Baby”, quote Gloria Steinem kind of feminist.

Had the shoe been on the other foot, a male candidate would have his opponent deported, on a merciful day.

No one ever labeled George W. Bush a killer, a criminal or a bastard. At least not a label that stuck. The Iraq war cost us over 4500 American lives and more than 30,000 wounded. But no Democratic candidate ever threatened to put President Bush in jail or “hang the bastard”.

No, we don’t speak of our representatives that way unless they have acted on homicidal tendencies. Even then we show restraint of tongue and pen.

This woman hating, character smearing, distortion of all relevant facts went on for 18 months. Hillary didn’t flinch. She was the subject of not one, but two FBI declarations on her _______  _________ use. Innocent of criminal charges both times, the announcement of the last investigation just 10 days before the election with the resolution coming just last Sunday. If this happened to Trump, he would have sued all registered Democrats and the FBI itself.

When Hillary conceded and gave her post-loss formal speech on Wednesday morning, there was no mention of rigged elections, unfair judicial processes or partisan sabotaging of her right to run on real issues. She didn’t blame the bad polling, the TV distortion, the disgusting level of rhetoric about her character.

She didn’t blame a soul, but rather proudly congratulated her opponent and wished him luck going forward.

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There is no way she would have received the same consideration had she won.

I’m sure Donald Trump loves America. In becoming president-elect, he has fulfilled the American Dream  and may make that dream possible for others if he becomes his old free-thinking self.

But he sure didn’t act the part during his campaign. He was a bully with an axe to grind against anyone by whom he felt threatened.

Hillary, meanwhile, just went about the business of breaking more barriers and stressing ways she planned to serve the greater good.

I probably meant to be more satirical in this blog, but I have severe post-election fatigue. Maybe politics makes us lose our sense of humor, not to mention our marbles.

Or maybe I too have OCD

I just needed to rant.

Besides, I’m still holding my breath with Trump. This Trump 2.0 tour seems a little sketchy.

I like people to be who they are not some well-refined reality TV character.

I guess thats why #I’m Still With Her. She was meant to win the presidency,  not an Academy Award

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When fast is slow!

Yesterday was Yom Kippur and the last of the ten days of awe in the Jewish calendar. As the day of atonement, it is the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar and with a full plate of joy and challenges. Pun intended.

On Yom Kippur, I get to do two of my favorite things – sing Hebrew melodies and spend considerable time in synagogue, reading the English portions of the worship service and pretending I know the Hebrew.

But I am also commanded, or at least encouraged to give up two things I hold even more dear to my heart – working and eating. Yes we Jews, as a form of expiating our sins from the previous year and showing a greater reliance on God-provided strength, must fast from sundown on Kol Nidre (the eve of Yom Kippur) to past sundown the next night.  24 plus hours of devotion without the joy of food.

Needless to say, the fast could not be any more slow.

What’s interesting about Judiasm is how it defines sin. We jews tend to make an art form out of guilt but the theology suggests we should do otherwise. When you get to the synagogue, the first tendency is to thank God the day of atonement is only one day because you are guilty of several of the deadly sins and have a fairly long rap sheet to prove it. But when the action begins, you realize you are atoning for more nebulous and elusive sins, like drinking straight from the carton of OJ, misapplication of pride or joy, neglect of the Sabbath, making premature judgments, on others and ourselves.

So even though the fast doesn’t have to apply to the big kahunas of sinning, there are plenty of subtle acts of omission and commission worth having cleaned from the slate.

Speaking of judgment, don’t judge my food intake by my slender build. I’m one of those people who aside from Bingo and Shuffleboard, really likes to go on cruises because of the around-the-clock buffets. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s first to go down and grab a snack, then use the bathroom.

I know I like eating, but it takes Yom Kippur for me to realize that food is  the cornerstone of my life.

fatman-eating

I was well prepared for yesterday’s fast. At  about 5:45 began the se’udah mafseket ( the Jewish version of the last supper. I started gluttonizing, vacuuming as much pasta, fruit, sushi and other easy to eat foods as I could. By 6:15, I had eaten a Michael Phelps-sized meal and was off to house of prayer to begin the atonement.

The opening night service (Kol Nidre) finished around 8:15 and since it ended on an upbeat melody, I was able to sing my way through the next hour. After doing minor house chores and making calls, I was feeling good. Although I opened the fridge a few times out of habit “I can do this I say to myself… Just sleep and when you wake up, only half a day remains. Just think of all the pizza you can eat.”

But reality delayed is not reality denied.

Sure enough yesterday morning I woke up in a ravenous mood. The bunch of bananas? No such luck. The cereal and pancakes I normally eat? Sorry you can look but  can’t touch. The irony is not lost… On a day when I actually need a ton of energy, when I have to follow along a few hundred pages in the prayerbook then go to cover a hearing on Capitol Hill, no food, no coffee, no nada.

At this point, it’s only 8:30 am and I have at least another 11 hours to go..

Somehow I am able to shower and dress nicely. That alone consumes a huge chunk of my reserve tank. Even before I get to synagogue, the cravings kick in. Oh man, I could just really go for some cheese and crackers, or a hard shelled taco with beans, tomatoes and cheese. How bout some toasted pita with hummus? Grapes, strawberries, chocolate milk! Tuna rolls with just a little bit of soy sauce. And this is just what I want for appetizers

By eleven, some combination of the delirium tremens and anorexia nervosa has set in. I am emotionally and physically waylaid and I haven’t even made it to lunch. Did I just say lunch? Oh for God’s sakes (yes another sin, I used the lord’s name in vain), how can I possibly make it through the day when I normally live meal to meal?

The question seems to have about as many answers as the hearing on the Wells Fargo CEO scandal I just witnessed. But I’m off to synagogue again. Yes misery needs company.

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The hardest part about the morning service, aside from the fact that my eyes are too tired to read the Hebrew ( I have seemingly forgotten how to read Hebrew) is the amount of times we need to stand. Every time I get comfortable it’s back on the feet because ark is opened, we are davening or some other sacred ritual like praying for Curb your Enthusiasm to return. At some point, I start seeing milk duds and freshly baked slices of naan bread careening out of the ark. I make it through the morning service. It’s only 1 pm.

On my way back to the car, the appropriate plot conflicts kick into higher gear. I walk by Chipotle, Whole Foods, two cantinas, a 7-11 and my favorite local place, the House of Falafel. “You know God, I really wasn’t that judgmental. And I donated a bunch of money through Go-Fund-Me drives. How bout just an apple? I’ll only eat half.”

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The interior monologue continues but I let the hunger pangs give me a little bit of tail wind. I have to get to school to finish my news feature.

When I get to class, everyone is either drinking coffee, eating lunch or both. They are smiling. I stare in front of the computer hoping for some sympathy but knowing that is a spiritual no-no. One is not supposed to agonize over nor advertise the fast. I try to write but my narrative seems to make about as much sense as an early-days Elton John song.

By mid afternoon, two preconceptions about myself have been reinforced. One, I’m a masochist at heart. Two, I have a little bit of resolve when I set my mind to something. I also have a better sense of what runners experience when they do marathons. At some point, it’s not even mind over matter;  their selves and bodies have become two separate entities. At this point in the day, my body is on its own. It will have to find a way to make it through the next six hours

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‘It happens to a lot of runners at this stage of the marathon, George. It;s called ‘hitting the wall’…’

I finish the unintelligible paper, my body listens to a lecture and by five I am back at the synagogue.

I make it through the next two hours by thinking about everything imaginable. Actually I pretty much just think about family, food, food, food and how lousy my voice is. I’m a little mad at the Sox for not performing in the playoffs but my love for baseball has an element of sin so I catch myself mid obsession.

The service concludes at 7:30 with the final blowing of the shofar. In Judaism it’s called the Neilah. I call it the mercy blow. While many of the congregants smile,  I’m just trying to stand up straight and remember where I am.

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In the banquet room, we say the prayers for the bread and wine. I can barely utter a word. And then my body and self are re-united. Like a jailbreak, everyone hits the deli line, grabbing foodstuffs one never even considered went together. I ended up with a tuna sandwich on pumpernickel with cucumbers, two types of cheese, tomatoies, falafael, hummus, onions and I think chocolate chip cookies in there somewhere.

I also remember going back for seconds and thirds.

By the time I got home at 9, I scoured the fridge but the eating at home somehow still felt taboo. Maybe we atone for a day, but guilt over pleasures, even daily necessities .lingers,

As I write, I am munching on a bowl of cereal and making pancakes. These ten minutes will likely be the highlight of my day..

In retrospect I’m glad I fasted. It got me to see, once again, how much I enjoy food and how much I take my easy access to it for granted.

Maybe today I’ll buy some food for a homeless guy. I might even try to do another fast sometime soon just to prove I have the willpower.

God knows I’m not up for a marathon

 

 

Welcome to AU Journalism Bootcamp Weeks 1-3. #Writersblockforbidden

Having taught for almost two decades in various venues for various abilities, subjects and objectives, I think I am fairly proficient at teaching. Some days, professionally speaking, it’s about all I can do.

So with a hunger to learn new skills and further develop my voice, I applied to the International Journalism program at American University. I was accepted and following the famous Nike motto,  I am now here in Washington, DC, the city where I finished my undergraduate education and became more aware of just how multifaceted and often bizarre the world is.

I started the boot camp three weeks ago, prepared to write, edit, write, write and edit some more. But writing news features was just the appetizer. For devoted luddites like myself, having to learn videography and audio-filing was a surprise and a stretch, and as you will see with some of my individual and group work, I have a ways to go.

I’m also finding it’s easier to be a teacher than a student. Students have to learn new tricks.

But the exposure and the impromptu challenges have been second to none. Besides, what news junkie can complain about being “forced” to read several daily newspapers to keep up with current events or trolling inside the Beltway to get a good beat on a story.

DC is a fascinating place, particularly with the election season in full swing. And while I admit to being a bit sick of Trump updates,  “Swimmergate” and being cased in sweat, there is nowhere better to learn the Journalism craft.

AU Bootcamp Week 1

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Aside from creating fun news briefs, the feature assignment and story from week 1 was to pick an election topic with DC presence. My story focused on how newly minted citizens and green card holders felt about the two main candidates and immigration issues in general. Finding willing interviewees was initially difficult but with some hustle and serendipity, great soundbites came my way.

Here is the link to my story through Google Docs and Twitter

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17mfP_w2sptGoIABabL6a0Tbv_5Hl9hb-eRPXLCLo868/pub

 

  AU Boot Camp Week 2

This week was the sweatfest. Fortunately my video project partner Aphra and I chose an apt topic – “How to Beat the Heat!. The project allowed me to discover a DC first – The National Building Museum.

Nothing like enjoying a man-made iceberg exhibit to combine learning, fun and escaping the sauna outside.

 

The previous day we did a photo assignment using just our iPhones. This may have been the first assignment I have done either as a teacher or student which required using the phone so it was a welcomed opportunity. I tried to find a microcosm of the National Zoo so I chose the carousel since it involves animals, fun and genuine interactions among families. It also was nostalgic having watched my son Adrian do his first carousel ride there several months back.

Enjoy the photo gallery:

 

 

Week 3:

With the Olympics in full swing, there was plenty of roving reporter news to cover. And with around the clock coverage of the games, an Olympics junkie is sure to see some fairly obscure sports. My group asked locals about their impressions of what they had seen, particularly a sport they may have taken notice of for the first time. Enjoy.

 

Our teaser video courtesy of Videolicious

https://video.videolicious.com/9e141179-9bca-4264-9e76-c4f726ce9126

The main event:

Making this video was a ton of fun. My first interviewee, entirely by chance, happened to be one of my former students. Listening to their responses compelled me to watch the Steeplechase and synchronized diving, neither of which I had ever considered watching.

Social Media Post:

See “What have you been watching” on Instagram

 

Oil Spill Audiofile using Hokusai 2, Audacity and Soundcloud:

Making this video was a ton of fun. My first interviewee, entirely by chance, happened to be one of my former students. Listening to their responses compelled me to watch the Steeplechase and synchronized diving, neither of which I had ever considered watching.

Our last week was certainly climactic. We took off our newsmaker hats and got to see the pros in action by visiting the press gallery at the Senate Building, the Supreme Court, and the grand finale, a White House-sponsored tour of the Old Executive Office Building with Hope Hall, President Obama’s videographer and Digital Media Strategist-in-Chief.

Below is their most virally successful achievement.

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of work. However, for those of you who want a first-hand sprinkling of masterful Olympic journalism, I defer to Dave Barry.

 

 

 

The good old days

I realize that blogging has gone the way of Groupon…. a very useful trend that had its heyday a good five years ago and is now preserved by semi-tradiitionalists, people like me  who in their impulse to blog, are too verbose to tweet and yearn for the relative simplicity of the past.

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I know I get nostalgic, especially when I reflect on what it’s like to teach during this ever so brave new world of digital madness.

I decided to become a teacher in the pre-internet age which was a good seven years BCE (Before cellphones existed).. I was sitting in a history class that I was on the verge of failing (ergo why I switched my major to English) and despite my lousy grades, I was so impressed that someone could be as passionate about teaching 19th European history as I was abut cheering for Larry Bird. I turned to my  classmate and said, I think I want to do what he does.

before_the_internet

My friend laughed, one of those incredulous chuckles. “Oh yea,  well, you better start getting used to long weekends in the library”.

As I recall, I did not spend long weekends in the library, not unless there was a ton of snow and no one to play squash with. But I do remember that during my few periods of determined studying, my only bona fide distraction was a walkman (yes a walkman) on which I listened to the occasional game or alternative music mix tape.

It wasn’t until the internet was already past its embryonic stage that I actualized my plan to be a classroom teacher. But since it was still the 90’s, I can fairly accurately assert we were still in the analog age. Even when I was doing  student teaching for middle schoolers, miscreants whose attention span was just slightly longer than it takes to munch a foot long from Subway, if you taught a good lesson and varied the instructional mode, you could more or less keep their attention on you and the material. In fact, there were a few eager beaver learners who seemed disappointed when the bell rang. In the evenings, my grad school teachers imparted valuable wisdom and my peers were full of rich suggestions for dynamic lesson plans.

Fast forward to the sweet spot of the digital age. I have a few hours of classroom teaching and tutoring experience. And despite watching an excessive amount of tennis and reruns of the Ali G show, my brain still “functions ” effectively. Most days, it seems I’ve gained a pearl of wisdom or two. Regardless , I know the nuances of teaching, when to lecture and when to turn the reins over to the students.  Given a little bit of time, I can even create interactive, multi platform lessons. And best of all for maintaining a scholarly atmosphere, I mainly teach “adults”.

TheBigShortCSHeader

So during any given week, the seeds are planted for optimal teaching and learning. For the purpose of this blog, lets say my situation speaks for a large swatch of teachers who work at similar levels or age groups. And picture this, you have prepared a fantastic lesson that includes discussing the film The Big Short, creating a simulated activity that shows what was going on behind the scenes, even brought in examples that reflect similar activities in each of their host countries. Plus you have had your morning Joe.
…Except there is one minor impediment…

There stands a wall so large that not even Donald Trump could build it, a force field of interference so powerful not even the North Koreans could disable it. I feel it would be an insult to your intelligence to even spell it out. I’ll just use a few of the images. The adults and most of the teenagers caress, fondle, whisper sweet nothings and listen to its every utterance. Given the proper preparation and condiments, they would likely devour it whole. They can do the circuit training of swipe, punch in, press, upload, tag, send, log off, press and mute with their eyes closed.

And then there is the sobering side. Who is on the wrong side of the fence here? Or rather, who is on the wrong side of history? Is it Team Analog, within which we struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time, those of us who either paid attention most of the way through or fell asleep in class? Or Team Digital, able to rent an apartment, sell a couch, upload two pictures to Instagram, “poke” a friend, learn a new idiom and tag themselves in a post all in a single breath?  Perhaps this is TBD, but we know which team is having more fun…

digital addiction

Still, team Analog is convinced that team Digital is losing out. That one day they will wonder why it was worth maxing their ICloud storage space when they could have been focused on reading The Alchemist or analyzing highly relevant op-ed articles from the New York Times. Team Analog is still convinced that one day these millennial behaving adults will be asked to spontaneously recite a verse from a Robert Frost poem and panic because they can’t get Wifi.

Team Digital, meanwhile, thinks Team Analog should wake up and smell the coffee, or if not, at least upload his Groupon purchase using a mobile app.

As I continue teaching to the underinspired, I steal a glance at my phone. I wonder if it’s okay, if it is suffering the pangs of childhood neglect (after all, he is just six months old). All alone on a naked side of the desk, with no one to talk to… oh well at least he is getting fed, legions of group messages and emails…. And then I wonder if I am ok, separation anxiety has not fully set in, but it might soon if I don’t stay focused on explaining the difference between selling a stock short and merely buying at a low price.

My students, on the other hand, need not ask such frivolous questions. They have pictures to tag, texts to send and condos to buy. Besides, their maternal instincts are much stronger. They know better than to leave what is apparently, a very needy child, all to his lonesome.

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Deja Vu…. All over?…Never!

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Disclaimer:

This is entirely a work of satirical fiction. All characters, utterances, grievances, references to imminent events, and proximity to family are entirely fictitious, unless of course you agree with me. In that case, we will call it merely satire.
So you are starting to feel good about yourself and rightfully so. It’s 10:45 on a Thursday night and in addition to cleaning up the kitchen, having paid all the monthly bills and trudging your way through 45 minutes of weights in your basement, you have completed a day in which you worked six hours, bought flowers, chocolates, jewelry, took your wife out to a dinner and a short ballet recital, and restocked her supply of size 8 taupe shoes with four inch heels. That is in addition to handcrafting a “Happy 3 year anniversary of the day we went on our second date card”.

To savor the satisfaction, you grab one of the remaining four chocolates, catch your breath and uber reward yourself by allowing 10 minutes of ESPN inhalation. at 10:47, however,  you get blindsided by a revelation. Oh no, there is something I have to do this weekendI. Is it a birthday party? nah, we went to three last weekend. Golf with Ray? Nah, you used up that mulligan. Oh shit, Sunday is International XX Chromosome Day!!
Eureka!!!

eureka

Oh shit, Sunday is International XX Chromosome Day!!
Are you kidding me? What kind of sadistic feminist would make XX Day just three days after the third anniversary of my second date? Or for that matter, what kind of sadist would require relatively new husbands and fathers to commemorate so many days when lets face it, you are still working blood, sweat and tears to change a diaper before the next poop and memorize the lyrics to itsy bitsy spider. Come on, I need a personal assistant for these events.
And then for one second, there is a momentary wave of relief, kind of like what happens when you take your first sip of a cold beer after having turned in your third quarter 10th grade English grades.
Maybe my wife doesn’t know its XX chromosome day. Maybe she is so busy doing motherly things that she simply doesn’t have the time. Maybe all of her friends will forget too. Okay, I won’t cancel that golf game just yet.

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And then an Eddie Murphy sized laugh detonates in your brain. Who are you fooling?

If you are one of the billions of men with wives, parents, siblings, offspring, and a bit of discretionary income, I’m sure you can relate.

As we age, “special days” lose their novelty, but multiply in frequency. And no down payments, dowry-sized gifts or IOU’s will suffice. You have to bring your A game at least 10 times a year. Lets look at the numbers:

Not including the major league acts of penance, there are at least a baseball lineup’s worth of events, New Years, Valentines, your souse and their parents birthdays, anniversary day, engagement day, and if you are in a mixed marriage, Christmas and Chanukah, not to mention Easter, Passover and All Saints Day. This does not even include your siblings and their children’s birthdays, much less your grandparents if they can still remember the date on which they were born.

I realize these events can be reciprocally demanding. At least in theory. But it overlooks three key factors. (1) Women like “events” and the logistics including shopping that go along with it (2) Men are not really good at these things other than making reservations, buying gift cards and tickets for big sporting events. (3) Failure to meet expectations is not mutually binding.

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Then there is the strategic challenge. If you overdo it during the courtship phase, what can you do for an encore? Under-do things and you run a much less future failure risk but you also, well lets just say its a “dog eat dog world out there”.

The dilemma requires at least some munching on the four remaining pieces of chocolate.

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I propose a solution. It plays into a man’s strengths even if it might not win over a large chunk of Hillary Clinton’s constituency. This takes into account that men are usually quite skilled when they get to focus on the big picture, or more specifically, one thing. Let birthdays, Mother and Father’s Day and religious holidays remain as they are particularly if they lead to ski trips or safaris in Tanzania. But for those over 35, lets designate one day, ideally either July 3 or 5 so we are likely to have the day off and some good food on the brain. We can call it IILD (International I Love You Day). The day and all its pomp and ceremony come with a 12 month residual.

Here’s the upside. The possibilities for cards and tokens of affection are endless. You could literally buy any card they sell, or use one that has been sitting in your car for a year. Plus the stores would have to get rid of some of the ultra corny celebration specific ones. You can buy a car, a house, an island, dog, shoe rack with shoes included. Bigger is better. But much like paying your homeowners insurance premium, you are then good till the next year.

And wait, the infomercial isn’t finished. The non-perishable ways of expressing your love are endless too..

I’m fan of this consolidation, so much so that I’ll even send all the chocolate I have left over from the last decade and a few shares of FB stock to the guy who lobbies Congress to make it happen. Shit I’ll even vote for Trump because he will certainly make it “great”.

And I have a funny feeling that people close to us, lets say our wives, might by bullish on it too.

After all, there will be fewer required trips to Sports Authority.

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Well that’s it for my “theoretical” rant. I have a golf game at 2. Oh crap, wait, I know there is something else I have planned for today. I think it involves lunch and a few tokens of appreciation.

It’s coming to the frontal lobe. Oh yes, I remember now. It’s the Kentucky Derby.

Oh wait that was yesterday.

I’ll check the iPhone I just bought for my…….grandmother.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

 

 

 

 

 

And the winner is not…..

Richmond-2015

I have fought many bodily urges to read Dave Barry’s recently published Year in Review. Aside from his unparalleled talent, he also seems prescient enough to write down the newsworthy monthly events in real time. I tend to remember (using the term loosely) on the fly.

Nonetheless, paying homage to Mr. Barry in the form of my review is something I look forward to every Christmas holiday since the option of going sledding, building a snowman or even wearing two layers of clothing is off the table here in sultry Miami. Not to be cynical, but I’m still convinced Miami is in the southern hemisphere and therefore we are in the heat of summer, just having celebrated a virtual July 4th.  Nonetheless, I hope for the six of you who subscribe to my blog and the two or three who rightly fawn over Barry’s writing that there is some speck of originality here.

By almost any metric, 2015 was not a happy year. Unless of course you are a fan of The Golden State Warriors. In that case, you deserve all the vicarious and real thrills that come with supporting a team which prior to the 2014-15 season had about as many professing fans as George McGovern after the 1972 election.

Yes 2015 was quite the stinker. Just ask Charlie Sheen, Ben Affleck, Miss Colombia, not to mention the legions of victims of gun violence, terrorist attacks, Donald Trumps rants and hair gel, El Nino, Russian Airliners and anyone who paid to see a local sporting event other than basketball.

Zodiacally, this was the year of the sheep, which if I really wanted to get metaphoric could generate numerous examples myself included. But I’m choosing an alternate moniker, “The Year of the Dimwit. If ignorance is bliss, then at the bare minimum, 2015 was a Jubilee Year. The highest rated TV show was Jessica Jones (I can’t comment one way or the other), but the highest rated individual program was the Republican Debate (in the spirit of such debates I might be playing with the facts a tad). The highest grossing film prior to Star Wars was Jurassic World which according to pretty much every non-dimwitted reviewer and most Hollywood Insiders, was one of the worst films ever made. And in music, the honors go to Taylor Swift and Adele, both of whom have decent vocal range but would likely struggle to pass the writing portion of the FCAT.

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2015 was a year of exits both good and bad. Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart (both ardent supporters of Trump) had their Comedy Central swan songs. And after 30 plus years of alternately dazzling and tranquilizing audiences, David Letterman exited stage right to be replaced by the aforementioned Colbert.

Speaking of Letterman, it was better late than never. With the days of stupid pet tricks, attaching himself to a wall via velcro and his notorious wrestling shoes a thing of the past, Letterman’s gig with CBS was about as stale as a two week old donut. Colbert is likely a welcome replacement but may be even more excessively cerebral than Dennis Miller was during his stint on MNF.

Still all honesty aside, Letterman was an icon and a standard-bearer for semi-hip, PG Ali-g-styled late night talk shows. So in the spirit of his show-emeritus, I am going to review the year in the Top 10 style. In no particular order, and with particular thanks to my son Adrian who helped me compile the list, here are the 10 most absurd stories of 2015.

Tom Brady

(1) “I think my balls are perfect, a.k.a “Deflategate”.

In what amounts to an even more absurd use of Federal Funds than the Bill Clinton perjury trial regarding Monica Lewinsky, Tom Brady was forced to testify on several occasions about the density of the balls he fondles for the sake of touchdowns. Now I’m not a Patriots fan but when your team wins by more than 30 minutes, the problem is not a ball, but the losing team’s “lack of balls”.

(2) Kim Davis (I won’t dignify her nor smote your eyes with an image)

Her 15 minutes of fame seem thankfully over but not before becoming a firebrand in the Anti-Gay Marriage movement. To briefly recap, a lady on his fourth marriage and likely twelfth box of Krispy Kreme donuts proclaimed she would not fulfill her duty as Clerk of Courts by signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The aftermath was even worse, with evangelical candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz rushing to Kentucky to grandstand for her cause and turn her into the 2016 version of Joe the Plumber. Even the Pope, who yearned for fried chicken straight from the Colonel’s backyard, had a meeting with her under the auspices of “helping her see the light”.

Pope Francis laughs with a baby during a special audience with parish cells for the evangelization in Paul VI hall at the Vatican

Pope Francis laughs with a baby during a special audience with parish cells for the evangelization in Paul VI hall at the Vatican September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Tony Gentile TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX1R7MY

(3) Speaking of the Pope, in September the Pope made his first papal visit/pilgrimmage/stadium tour of the United States opting to visit cities that are notoriously terrible at basketball – our Nation’s capital, Philadelphia and New York. In so doing, he filled such team’s arenas to full capacity for the first time in a decade. Seemingly an unscheduled trip to a Colorado dispensary may have also taken place since he proclaimed such liberal ideals that even Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore were tempted to complain. Upon leaving New York, the Pope thanked all well-wishers for giving him free tickets to The Book of Mormon and for allowing him to stream Netflix episodes of South Park on American Airlines.

(4) Speaking of American Airlines, they now charge non-Platinum customers for such luxuries as toilet paper, plastic cups and exiting the airplane. As my case in point, my trip from Miami to Los Angeles last week took over 18 hours, during which time we spent 6 1/2 hours waiting on the runway in Lubbock Texas so that oncoming luggage cargo could be weighed properly. I will spare both you and I with the other details but I must relate that when I asked one of the stewardesses why the delay was taking so long her terse response was “Why are you asking me?”

Clinton Libya

(5) Speaking of asking questions, the Hillary Clinton Benghazi Hearings in which “Bitter political undercurrents festered all day during a contentious showdown that turned into a political endurance test.”, lasted for over 11 hours, or in other words, twice as long as any US Senator worked on a day during the year with the exception of the 4th of July pin-the-tail on the donkey contest.  After a day-long grilling on the details of the attack and how Clinton handled it, the most formative questions included: “How many anagrams can you make from Libya?”, “Who would you put on your Libyan fantasy league Imam team and name any three people in history who have honeymooned either in Libya or one of the adjoining countries.

Steve Harvey

(6) Speaking of Countries, the recently completed “Miss Universe” Contest.

Steve Harvey is a great comedian, a knee-jerk funny host of Family Feud and apparently an author. He just needs some LASIK surgery. You all know the story but apparently much like the 2000 election, the runner-up in the popular vote takes the prize. Based on what he accurately claimed was a much smaller font for the winner than the 1st runner-up and a preference for women who look more like Sophia Vergara, Mr. Harvey accidentally crowned Miss Colombia not Miss Philippines the winner of the contest quite recently run by truth-obsessed Mr. Trump. The screw-up caused mini-riots among Colombian fans in Las Vegas and a major spike in cocaine and prostitute prices for Secret Servicemen on assignment in Colombia.

(7) The Iran Deal.        Speaking of mistakes, I’m fairly liberal and definitely an Obama fan but the nuclear deal completed with Iran in which they agreed to open all nuclear facilities to around-the-clock inspectors, dispose of all fissile material and allow Tom Brady’s equipment manager to deflate their balls in   in return for a lifting of sanctions that could bring Iran in excess of $100 billion in Western Investment, seemed a bit premature. Now this may turn out to be a great deal and I technically lobby in favor of it with anyone who challenges it, but still, I’m not quite convinced Iran is such a team player. Nevertheless, they are said to be ear-marking the billions in new revenue for bids for the 2021 Super Bowl, 2024 Olympics and 20126 World Cup.

FIFA

 

(8) THEIFA, I mean FIFA, I mean THEIFA!  Speaking of soccer, and undeserving criminals… It was made official in 2015 that FIFA has been tainted by corruption. Now these facts have been known by everyone including my 14 month old son and 98 year old grandmother who have never watched soccer for decades, but finally, investigators and the rest of the soccer world saw the light. FIFA president Seth Blatter, a longtime admirer of Richard Nixon and a regular confidante of Bernie Madoff will sooner-than-later be forced to resign but not before he and his cronies have accepted millions of dollars in bribes from such soccer-rich and cash starved countries as Qatar, Russia and South Africa. Blatter continues to plead his innocence by saying repeatedly ” I did not have sex with that Qatari official.”

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(9) Don Francisco and “Sabado Gigante” – Speaking of sex, I mean Saturday variety shows that are filmed on Friday, Sabado Gigante went off the air after 50 plus years. Now a show ending its run as not as absurd as the possibility that some people actually watched the show during its half century airing. I realize that the host Mario Luis Kreutzberger Blumenfeld was not only a trailblazer, and a rags to riches success story child of Holocaust Survivors, but the few moments when I watched the show, usually with the sound off, confused me. I couldn’t tell if it was a commercial, a talent show or an auction for Hooters. Not that listening to NPR’s Prarie Home Companion on Saturday evenings is much better, but still, even Letterman’s gig didn’t last fifty years. Oh yes, how silly I am, it generated big advertising dollars and gave people something better to watch than weekend football.

 

(10) The Greek Debt Crisis – Speaking of money, in June the Greeks held a nationwide referendum to determine whether to accept the conditions of their debt payoff to solvent European nations/bankrollers, especially Germany. They of course voted “no” or as they say in Greece “Ouzo”!!! There were some shades of gray in the vote (maybe 3, not 50) but it wasn’t the vote itself that perplexed me so much as the aftermath. Now I realized that The Greeks are the forebearers of our modern democracy but celebrating the “no” vote  like it was 1999 was a bit absurd. It’s like asking a group of convicted felons to choose between jail time and a job as a bartender in a Vegas night club. In this “transformative” moment the Greeks voted for another round of conditions-free bailouts, and continued the celebration with FIFA officials on the island of “Lesbos” by guzzling German beer and burning BMW’s.

Greek debt crisis

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Phew. I made it. Not in less than 140 characters but still less than Donald Trump would tweet if there were no character limits. That’s my take on 2015. But if you want the real story, don’t ask me. Ask the dimwits.  Ask anybody what they think about anything and they will tell you everything. Why?  Because they know everything. And why is that?  Because they heard it from somebody else on Twitter who happens to know everything. Therefore by association they are omniscient, much like some of the characters to whom I referred.

This was 2015 in a nutshell. As long as you have at least 2000 followers despite the fall of Twitter, you are officially an expert. And if you are one of Donald Trump’s two million plus followers, likely a dimwit.

2016 is just a few days away. I look forward to it, even some future flights on American Airlines and guzzling NPR segments days before the election.

I also want to thank my brain for remembering at least few key events, Dave Barry for making the absurdity so fun, David Letterman, my family for the love, and my mother, father and possibly a few fellow educators for likely being the only ones to read this blog in full, or even read it at all.

Now I can finally read Dave Barry’s version. Happy Almost New Year!

It was me, not you!

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Last night I watched David Letterman’s second to last show (I don’t think he will pull at Brett Favre). I haven’t watched him for a good decade or so,  one because I thought his shtick was getting stale and two, I felt  too old to stay up “late” on a school night.

I grew up with Letterman in his sophomoric prime. He was the master of his domain, with style and substance. The hair, wrestling shoes and his PG versions of Jackass stunts made late night tv so fun, I could resist hunting for nudity on cable at that time of night.

His move to CBS was unwanted and spelled both a personal and institutional change. Letterman became a bit more guarded and the show more commercialized. I watched but with a slightly Letterman-esque cynicism. I thought his grudge towards NBC and animosity towards Leno ( a hell of a good comic) were petty. Dave was supposed to be above the establishment. Now he was becoming a highly paid spokesperson for it.

Despite the move and makeover, thankfully there were some remnants of NBC Dave. In a strange way,  he was a precursor to Ali G, Steven Colbert and the satirical sides of reality TV all in one. He kept his top 10 lists and the unparalleled genius and humility of Paul Schaffer. He gave New York’s immigrant finest a catchy 15 minutes of fame. But despite maintaining some of the bathwater, he played along with the corporate script,  earning more than star athletes do while delivering less punch. Letterman 2.0 may have been winning the ratings game but compromised his comedic soul in so doing.

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I could go on and on, but to be able to cut to a commercial break, I’ll summarize. My loyalties shifted towards Team Leno
who despite his lousy politics, seemed to have more fun and I thought gave better interviews.  Plus he didn’t seem to be interested in the mudslinging and instead did some rather ingenious on-the-street prancing and performing.

So I watched last night’s show hoping to grab a tiny bit of emotional turf before they rebuild the CBS late night stadium again. I was curious if the problem was me or Dave. Maybe I, in my attempt at standing on principle, was the one who had been missing out all these years

Much to my surprise the man of the hour was both old and new Dave. The puckish “I dare you to stop  me grin” was visible but so was the Dave 3.0. The grin sort of says “See I told you so”. He took light shots at allies and enemies, a few of vodka with Bill Murray, and didn’t emote so much as maintain command. A man comfortable in his shoes, with much thinner hair and a refined iconoclasm.  Perhaps he had never lost his punch so much as just used his jabs more sparingly.

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I guess in the end, I was the loser in my near divorce of Letterman. For so long,  I thought he was afraid to let go when in fact it was the city and the institution he built that didn’t want to let go of him. He outlasted everyone in his field and to aptly quote Sinatra, “Did it his way”.

As the great ones do, Dave is getting the last laugh.