Monday, December 31, 2007

Story of the Week - Dec. 24-28

Beyond the Grave

yeah, took me a while this week. I Hope it's worth it.

Benazir Bhutto left an email with Wolf Blitzer, of all people, to be read only in the event of her death. The email said, and I'm paraphrasing, "if I die, it's Musharaf's fault." Which shows more foresight that her life was in danger than the act of sticking her head out the sunroof of her car at a crowded rally less than 3 months after an assassination attempt that missed her but killed over 100 other people.

My story of the week, however, has little to do with Benazir Bhutto, except for a simple correlation and an easy "speaking of posthumous correspondence" segue.

Chet Fitch, of Ashland, Orgegon, died in October, at the age of 88. All indications are that he led a happy life, and had lots of friends for whom he was willing to do nearly anything. Including, bargain with God.

Chet, perhaps still new to all the rules up in Heaven and maybe just a little homesick, asked nicely if he might be able to get his Christmas cards out for just one more year. And so, he sat down on a nearby cloud, and filled out his final messages. And this is what he wrote:

Dear Debbie,

I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't tarry there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.
Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch.

As it turns out, Chet had been planning this for 20 years, with his barber, so I imagine God had an idea he wanted to do it, and let him break the rules just the one time. Chet even told his barber "You must be tired of waiting to mail those cards. I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

A week later, Chet took up residence in Heaven.

Talk about foresight.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Real Time Blogging!

Monday, December 24, 2007 9:40am: It's a slow news day. How slow? CNN just ran a package about a Baby Jesus statue that was stolen in Florida and by some miracle replaced...just in time for Christmas. And who replaced the statue? a Jewish man from Cincinnati. It's a story that's built for local news, but with nothing else going on, it's now become a national story. With a follow-up: baby Jesus has been fitted with a GPS device.

I have come to a decision: It's the perfect time for Real Time Blogging! Let's go!

9:43 am: Welcome to the New York Stock Exchange. With the 9 am hour cancelled and our next hit an hour away, I have nothing to do. And neither does CNN. Right now, they've got their own Santa in the studio, surrounded by five kids and ignoring anchor TJ Holmes.

Don't think I'm not doing work. I'm preparing an update for Noon for an affiliate in Detroit, waiting for a call back about the average gas prices in the motor city. When they call back, I'll write it up.

One Stock to watch today is Merrill Lynch. Its shares are up almost 5 percent right now, you really don't care why. One CNBC anchor said its ticker symbol (MER) is the first 3 letters in the word "Merry", so it's fitting (gag me). I always thought of it as "mer", a favorite word of mine that means something boring and non-descript. As in, this blog post right now is pretty mer.

9:50am: Commercial Break.

9:54am: I went looking for a link to the story about the Florida Baby Jesus statue, and I found this incident of Stolen Baby Jesus in Pennsylvania
...and this one in Nyack, NY
...and this one in Texas that was returned after going missing for a year.
...and this one in Idaho
...ok, I found the one in Florida with the GPS. Enjoy.

10 am Market Update: Dow up 86 points, Nasdaq up 13 points or half a percent, S&P up 2/3 of a percent. Thanks, blog, for making me feel like I'm here for a reason.

Somebody should look into whether local news stations are stealing baby Jesus statues.

10:11 am: Commercial break, but when we come back, we'll go to the mall to check out the final hours of the Christmas Shopping season!

These people stole the Donkey, sheep and wise men.

10:15am: Santa's back! Hooray for awkward banter!

10:18am: A Christmas-related story with some substance - the number of people celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem this year is more than double last year's number. Israeli authorities relaxed some of the tough security measures, making it easier for people to get to the West Bank city, and they were able to do so because the situation is relatively calm, especially compared to the last 7 years.

10:34am: Got an answer on Detroit gas prices! Up 6 cents from 2 weeks ago, to an average of $2.87. But you don't care. At least I don't think I have any readers in Detroit.

Now that I have this information, I have an hour and a half to write a 40 second update.

10:38am: Substitute anchor has arrived. 15 minutes to the first update of the day (of 4)

10:51am: back to Santa! And he can't hear anything.

10:55am: First Update successful! As if there was any doubt, I mean I had like 2 1/2 hours to get ready for it.

10:59am: Right before the 11am reset, a story about Santas running wild in a New Zealand movie theater. Probably on their way to go steal some Baby Jesuses.

11:12am: want a market update? Here: dow's up 82, nasdaq up 15, s&p up 8. mer.

11:14am: Promo for a special on tonight with Roland Martin called "What Would Jesus Really Do?" I think I can find 50 things I'd rather watch tonight on TV:

But first, back to Santa! And now he's not even looking at the camera. But he can hear. Sort of.
anchor: what do some of the children want for Christmas, Santa?
Santa: well, some of them want me to ignore them.

Ok, 50 things on TV tonight at 8pm I'd watch before I'd even think about watching "What Would Jesus Really Do?"
  1. How I Met Your Mother
  2. Cheaper By the Dozen
  3. All the Pretty Horses
  4. It's a Wonderful Life
  5. Antiques Roadshow
  6. A Christmas Story (but if I don't catch it at 8, it's on for the next 24 hours)
  7. Spongebob, Squarepants
  8. The Year in Animals
  9. M*A*S*H
  10. Scrubs
  11. Monday Night Football (Broncos vs Chargers)
  12. Reba rerun
  13. Yankees Classics - game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the game where Reggie Jackson hits 3 HR in 3 ABs (yep, if forced, I'd rather watch an old Yankee game than "What Would Jesus Really Do?")
  14. Happy Holidays from Home Shopping Network
  15. BET Awards '07
  16. Law & Order
  17. Tom Hanks - Inside the Actor's Studio
  18. Halls of Fame with Fran Healy (though, it's pushing it)
  19. Dog Whisperer
  20. The Martha Stewart Show (also pushing it)
  21. Rugrats
  22. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
  23. Double Dare 2000 on Nick Gas
  24. The Santa Clause 2
  25. The Chronicles of Narnia
  26. The last 45 minutes of "Best in Show"
  27. The last hour of "Nanny McPhee"
  28. The last five minutes of an episode of "Curb your Enthusiasm" followed by "Scrooged"
  29. Snakes on a Plane
  30. Mystery Diagnosis
  31. Deal or No Deal
  32. Kids by the Dozen - a reality show about a family with 12 kids
  33. Keeping up with the Kardashians
  34. Classic Boxing
  35. Classic Golf - 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic
  36. American Muscle Car
  37. Good Eats
  38. Nostradamous - 500 years later
  39. CSI:
  40. News 12 New Jersey
  41. Blue Planet
  42. Casper's Haunted Christmas
  43. Skiing
  44. The Weather Channel
  45. Yule Log
  46. Tin Man
  47. Goodfellas
  48. Everybody Hates Chris
  49. MSNBC's Crimes Caught on Tape
  50. Bars and Tone
11:40 am: I just found out that the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants is ringing the Opening Bell at the NYSE on Wednesday. I don't know if I will be able to handle that kind of excitement.

11:50am: re-running the Baby Jesus story! the lady bolted down the Baby Jesus and it was still stolen. But it's "Jewish Jeffrey" to the rescue! "To make Christmas right for everyone."
And the reporter tried to rhyme "mensch" with "sinch". No. Bad.

11:56am: Letters to Santa package! A postal worker in Massachusetts who answers letters to Santa.

11:58: time to see bad Santas in New Zealand. They even kicked over a Christmas tree! The outrage!

12:00 noon: CNN International simulcast begins. And we go on the air in Detroit in 10 minutes. Yay!

12:17pm: lunch!

Too many exclamation points in this post? maybe.

12:24pm: weather update. why are people so concerned with having a White Christmas? Would they be as concerned if there hadn't been a movie?

12:38pm: as usual, not much to criticize about the International broadcast, as long as there's no British tabloid story being overblown.

12:49PM: Commercial for THE FISH PEN. Yes, it's a real fishing rod that's the size of a Pen. It's the Fish Pen!

1pm: Santa rings the closing bell at the NYSE in front of a few people who stuck around long enough to see it.

1:03pm: "White Christmas" talk again? And one anchor seems to be particularly concerned with maintaining suspension of disbelief when it comes to Santa. For example, Santa doesn't need snow to land on rooftops. Thanks for clearing that up.

1:18pm: In the home stretch. Want closing numbers? No? Here:
DOW closed at 13,549, up 99 points. Nasdaq was up 21, s&p up 12. Whatever.

1:21pm: A reporter interviews men out at malls and asks why they can't get their shopping done earlier.

Macy's has been open 24 hours a day for the last week. Can anybody tell me what you buy at Macy's at 4 o'clock in the morning?

1:23pm: prime time promos, including one for Larry King Live, rerunning a show from a year ago. So in other words it's Larry King One Year Ago. We're even rerunning the same promos, as if we're almost certain nobody's watching.

remember, it's never too late to steal a plastic Baby Jesus.

actually, in March, it's probably too late. And if there's still Baby Jesuses out in March, they deserve to be stolen.

1:26 pm: Water skiing Santa! My day is complete. And it's in Washington, DC, where the water temperature is under 40 degrees.

1:27pm: NORAD says Santa's in Ethiopia. So the water skier is a fake. More suspension of disbelief: Santa is magical. Santa moves at 8 times the speed of light but he can because he's magical. Santa is everywhere.

OK Then, that's enough. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. I'm going home.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Story of the Week -- Dec. 17-21

Get Busy Livin' or Get Busy Dyin'

Before I begin this story of life, death, and well...redemption, (and jokes about New Jersey) I have this:

The 91st richest man in the US died yesterday. His name is Kenneth Hendricks, and he was the CEO of ABC Supply Co, the nation's self-described "largest wholesale roofing distributor." How did he die?

He fell through the roof of his own garage.

For sure, the unfortunate 66-year-old Wisconsin billionaire wasn't put to death by the state of New Jersey, because Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill making that illegal on Monday. New Jersey became the first state to repeal its capital punishment law since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Of course this measure is mostly symbolic, since New Jersey hasn't actually executed anyone since 1963.

"Today New Jersey is truly evolving," said Corzine (obviously he wasn't at a rest stop on the turnpike)
(he meant the state, not the people)
(evidently he hasn't been to a Jets game this year)
(clearly he wasn't in Newark when he made the speech)
(more?) in an eloquent speech at the signing. "Society must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence and undermines the sanctity of life...I answer yes, and therefore I believe we must evolve to ending that endorsement."

The repeal was celebrated by death penalty opponents worldwide, including Sister Helen Prejean, a leading anti-death penalty activist and the author of Dead Man Walking, who attended the signing ceremony.

"There's no place on Earth I'd rather be," (she meant New Jersey, seriously)
(obviously she didn't know where she was)
(clearly she wasn't in Newark when she made the speech)
(no, seriously, she was in New Jersey. take that...everywhere else on Earth!!)
(I could do this all day) she said, and she continued heaping her praises on the Garden State: "the word will travel around the globe that there is a state in the United States of America that was the first to show that life is stronger than death, love is greater than hatred and that compassion is stronger than the need for revenge" (clearly she wasn't in Newark when she made the speech)

New Jersey had 8 men on death row, all of whom previously had little chance of ever really being put to death, and now they have no chance at all. Governor Corzine officially commuted the eight sentences in an order that provided "legal certainty" that the convicted murderers would spend the rest of their lives in jail.

That is, unless they've seen The Shawshank Redemption.

This week, 2 inmates at a jail in Elizabeth, NJ broke out and escaped, in an elaborate and creative scheme that you absolutely would never believe possible.

That is, unless you've seen The Shawshank Redemption.

If you've seen that movie, I don't have to tell you how these 2 guys got out of jail. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and turn on the TV. It's probably on.

Yes, Jose Espinosa and Otis Blunt used the resources at their disposal in the prison to remove pieces of their cell wall, and disguised the hole by tacking up pictures of bikini clad models that they cut out of magazines. A move no guard or prison official seemed to see coming.

Prison authorities have launched a review of security measures, and inmates are now barred from pinning up pictures from magazines on their cell walls, a restriction nobody seemed to consider before, because clearly, inexplicably, nobody had seen The Shawshank Redemption.

Really? None of them saw the movie? Like, not even the last half hour one night on TNT or something? Really?

What scares me more is if they have seen the movie and just dismissed it as fantasy. Even after they saw inmate 034687 with a lot of pictures up in a particular spot. Andy Dufresne was a genius. These guys are just copycats. They were just seeing if it could work, and hey! It did.

And now, we don't have Tim Robbins, cleaned-up, calmly walking into a bank, wantin' no trouble, we have these guys:

Espinosa, who's awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a drive-by shooting, and Blunt, who's facing robbery and weapons charges. Until these guys are caught, you might want to reconsider your next vacation to downtown Elizabeth, NJ.

Oh right....well anyway, these guys need to be caught and brought back to jail, where their sentences will get significantly longer. But so far, they're still on the loose. Hey, NJ State Police, have you looked here?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Story of the Week -- Dec 10-14

Digesting the Mitchell Report

In late June 1994, I was in my parents' bedroom, busily writing my name on every article of clothing I owned in preparation for camp. I had Sportscenter on in the background (this is back when Sportscenter was good and watching it was a daily ritual). I was about to find out that my favorite baseball player tested positive for Cocaine use. Dwight Gooden did drugs, and he was suspended for 60 games. I was 11 years old, and the news made me cry.

The next day I went to camp and essentially forgot about Dwight Gooden. My dad didn't mention Doc in his almost daily recounts of Met games in letters. With or without Gooden, the Mets were a pretty mediocre team that year, and the year before they had lost 103 games. Two days after I got home from camp, on August 11, 1994, my dad took me to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to watch the Mets play the Phillies. The Mets lost that one, 2-1 in 15 innings. The game ended around 11:30. Half an hour later, The Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike.

In baseball's darkest hour, I wanted nothing more than to see my mediocre Mets take the field as soon as possible with the same flawed, crappy team that featured such overpaid duds as Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen. Even if they were without my favorite player, even if they used replacement players, as a 12 year old kid, I wanted to be able to go to Shea Stadium, and I didn't want to go another year without a World Series.

So I was there on April 28, 1995, cheering my team to a win over the Cardinals. In the first inning, 3 protesters ran onto the field and threw fake money, revealing shirts that said "GREED." But they were in the ballpark. 8 or 9 other people ran onto the field, too. One guy literally tried to steal third base. It was a great day.

The point? In less than a year, I saw my favorite player disappear from the game because he did drugs, then saw half a season and the postseason disappear because of money. And all I wanted was for everyone to just get back on the field and play.

Cut to this week, when 60-80 "favorite players" are implicated by former Sen. George Mitchell for using, buying, or, in some cases, sort of being around and hearing about, performance enhancing substances. And if you're a real baseball fan, you can't be surprised by any of the names on the list (ok, maybe Wally Joyner, but if you actually read the report you'll see that Wally didn't like the steroids and stopped using them almost immediately.) I imagine I'll be digesting the news in this report and the news that comes in its wake for quite a while, or at least until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

First of all, I'm not surprised by anything in the report, and no dedicated baseball fan should be shocked either. Think about it. Roger Clemens is 100 years old and still throws 95 mph. He's been old since 1997, which according to the Mitchell Report, is right around the time he started using steroids. 10 years later he's still going, at times looking less hittable than he did 12-15 years ago? You weren't suspicious?

Yes, steroids bad for you and a lot of people cheated. Let's examine the career of Todd Hundley. He was a decent hitting, good catcher. He was a leader on a hapless Met team and, once Bonilla busted and the Isringhausen/Pulsipher/Wilson dream fizzled out, the face of the team. He was good for 16-18 homers a year. In 1996, right when Mitchell alleges he started using, he hits 41 homers, breaking the Met record and the single-season record for catchers. And he drives in 112 runs. In '97, he hits 30 HR. Then in '98 he gets hurt, the Mets trade for Mike Piazza, they try to put Hundley in the outfield (bad idea) and he's never really the same.

Compare to Clemens, who extends his career with steroids and who knows what else (allegedly) but also does it with a well-documented ridiculous work ethic and workout routine. And also, by comparison, has much more ability. I say the same about Bonds (who I hate, because he's a dick) The guy used steroids, but he was still an incredible player before that. They cheated, but they still belong in the hall of fame.

Also, if Clemens wasn't using, and he's pitching to Bonds who was and getting him out, that's impressive. If they were both using - still impressive. If Hundley's using and Clemens is clean, then Rocket is working extra hard to get out the juiced up batters. And vice versa. And whether Josiais Manzanillo is using or not, he still sucks and you still don't know who he is.

I'm tired of hearing a couple of arguments, including the "fallen heroes" argument. Roger Clemens is your idol? Really? The player who's been a mercenary for 4 years, holding up his "hometown" team for millions of dollars? The same guy who threw a sawed off bat at Mike Piazza? Barry Bonds certainly hasn't been a role model. Before you even get close to talking about his steroid use you have to get past the fact that he's a narcissistic asshole. John Rocker? (any surprise he showed up in the Mitchell Report?) If you look up to John Rocker, you need psychological help. And if your 10-year-old kid idolizes John Rocker, you both need help.

I'm also tired of the holier-than-thou baseball writers who insist they won't vote anyone alleged to use steroids into the Hall of Fame. You same people exalted Mark McGwire for bringing back the game post-strike (I'm getting tired of this counter argument, too, but I agree with it) knowing full well his head and arms were just unnaturally large. You even uncovered the andro in his locker and let it go once #62 barely cleared the left field wall at Busch Stadium. So shut up with the outrage, be happy that Baseball is finally doing something about this, and put McGwire into the Hall of Fame, and put Bonds and Clemens in in five years, too.

I'm also tired of people caring what President Bush thinks because he used to own the Texas Rangers know what? I'm just tired of President Bush. But that's for another day.

The steroids problem runs so deep that it's impossible to unravel. And I'm in the camp with the people who want to move on. Major League Baseball is right. Attendance is through the roof, and it's not because players are hitting more home runs. It's because the experience of going to a baseball game is as good as it's ever been. The Mitchell Report doesn't leave me jaded. I've been jaded at least since my favorite player got suspended for using cocaine (he's still in prison, in case you've forgotten)

Ballplayers are human beings, they're not saints. And I can't wait until they get back on the damn field already. 8 weeks to pitchers and catchers?

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Full Circle Comes Full Circle

The Full Circle has come full circle. My blog is a year old. And in honor of the (in?)auspicious occasion, I thought I'd treat my loyal readers (nearly a baker's dozen poor souls who are willing to admit they read on a regular basis) and any newcomers or passers by to a sampling of my favorites. I've chosen 5. Feel free to disagree or to pile on your own.

These are in no particular order:

My Camel is Broken - The Negev, Thursday December 21
It was hard to choose a favorite from my 11 part Birthright Israel series. If you haven't read the Israel posts, this is my writing at its best. The "Camel" post is maybe the funniest of the 11, so there it is, but the other 10 are good reads, too. Even the 2nd or 3rd time around.

The Most Important Story (story of the week June 4-7)
The number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq crosses the 3,500 mark, but the media is distracted by Paris Hilton. And I'm confused.

Spell Check and update (story of the week May 28-June1)
I set out to criticize home schooling and then nail ESPN for runining the appeal of the Scripps National Spelling Bee by upping the production value and exploiting its popularity. Kind of the way FOX is about to ruin American Gladiators. That's not why I'm including it in my top 5, though.
A week later, I offered an update when I confirmed that the 2007 National Spelling Bee winner, a home-schooled 13 year old named Evan O'Dorney, had Asperger's, further supporting my opinion that home schooling removes the important social component that a regular school provides. The update showed up on a couple of Asberger's related discussion websites, and I got some rare anonymous comments from passionate AS parents on both sides of the argument.

And Sometimes, It's Like This...
A great "impulse post" and the most concise answer I can come up with to the question "what do you do for a living?"

Foofaraw - President's Day Edition
Soon after The Full Circle was born, I came across the word "Foofaraw" and immediately regretted the title of my blog. I didn't change the title, but I did begin an irregular feature for the blog called Foofaraw - fusses over matters of little importance. This is the sheer best of that feature.

Can't believe it's been a year...

What was your favorite?