IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

STARTING FIVE

RESPECT (Just A Little Bit)

Hey nineteeen, that’s ‘retha Franklin/You don’t remember the Queen of Soul…

Detroit’s own Aretha Franklin, vocal giant, passes at the age of 76. Among her hits:  “Chain Of Fools” “Think” “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like), “I Say A Little Prayer” and of course, “Respect.”

2. Who Stole The Mets?!?

Jose Bautista, washed up in Toronto earlier this season, had 7 RBI in yesterday’s win

On Monday, a season-high five home runs in an 8-5 win against the Yankees. On Wednesday, a then season-high 16 runs against the Orioles. Yesterday afternoon, a franchise-record 24 runs (on 25 hits) against the Phillies.

The Mets have 66 hits in their past four games. Is this the same team that surrendered 25 runs to the Nats on July 31st? Or the one who in May scored 2 or fewer runs in 13 games? The headline: “Famine Or Feast In Flushing.”

Worth noting: The Mets being the Mets, they did beat the Phils 24-4 but then lost the nightcap of the doubleheader, 9-6. Two games, 30 runs, one day, one win, one loss.

3. Sam Or Teddy

Rookie Sam Darnold started in a preseason game for the New York Jets last night. He was 8-11 with no touchdowns and one pick. Teddy Bridgewater, late of Minnesota and missing a season with injury, relieved and went 10-15 with a TD pass and a pick.

Will there be a divided locker room in Florham Park? Too early to tell, but the Jets did trade away the store to take Darnold at No. 3. Sooner or later, he’ll be their Namath. Or at least that’s what they’re banking on.

4. Free Medical School!!!

NYU: Prognosis Positive

No, it’s not a joke. Thanks to gifts from donors, including a $100 million donation from Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, New York University Medical School is offering its students FREE TUITION, effective immediately (man, are those students who signed up for that four-year military scholarship gonna be chapped).

Tuition at NYU was $55,000 per year, not covering room and board, but in an announcement during first-year orientation yesterday, the school announced that it would be FREE. I mean, can you imagine hearing that if you were a student?!?

Personal side note: A good friend of ours attended NYU med school and in the middle of his final year dropped out to join the world of private equity. He’s barely over 30 years old now and doing very, very well. Part of the reason NYU is doing this is because it’s seen too many smart young people pursue other fields (private equity, finance, etc.) that are more lucrative without having to start out in a $250,000 hole (and that’s excluding undergrad loans).

p.s. Think about how many applications NYU is going to receive this fall.

5. The Last Blockbuster

There already were more than enough good reasons to visit lovely Bend, Oregon (we suggest the mountain biking), but did you know it is also home to the last Blockbuster store on earth? For most of us, our last view of a Blockbuster was when Kim Wexler went on a relaxathon binge after her auto accident at the end of Season 3 of Better Call Saul. But that was supposed to be a clever homage to the year 2003. Turns out one can still go and rent the DVD of Jurassic Park, if that’s your thing.

Music 101

I Say A Little Prayer

What a voice.

Remote Patrol

Vietnam

Netflix

If you missed Ken Burns’ exhaustive and illuminating 10-part documentary on the Vietnam conflict when it originally aired on PBS last September, now you can see it all here. It’s a modern history lesson that may not go well with the “America First” crowd. For example, did you know that Ho Chi Minh quoted Thomas Jefferson when he declared independence for his country from the country that had occupied it, France, for a century?

On Rayshawn Jenkins

by John Walters

The thought occurred to me, more than once: You only have a couple hours before you head out for your paying job slinging vodka sodas to the masses; is this really how you want to spend that time? Maybe you should do a few sit-ups. Mop the living room. Phone a relative who’s still speaking to you. Something.

Alas, it is a chronic condition in me. If something smells off, I want to address it. That’s part of the reason I do what I do (when not stuffing limes in the tops of Corona bottles) and part of what gets me into so much trouble. But just like Dexter couldn’t stop from murdering bad people, I can’t shut my mouth when I see a glitch; particularly when, and this is the source of most of the loathing that comes my way, the masses do not share my opinion.

A few notes to get out of the way before we begin: I like Jeff Pearlman, the author of the story I am going to address, and consider him a friend. We’ve been friends since we were both reporters at Sports Illustrated in the Nineties. I admire and share his passion for writing (like me, he writes a blog on his own time and unlike me he interviews writers for a podcast nearly every week) and we even played on the same hoops team for a few years (Jeff has a patented fake jump shot that he’d inform the referees about prior to the game, like a quarterback informing a ref about a trick formation, so that they’d be ready for it; half of them still whistled him for traveling).

Jeff is a good egg. And he’s in Maui with family right now so in no way am I trying to disrupt his holiday. Also, and I’m the first to admit it, Jeff is a far more successful writer than I am. I don’t measure writers against one another, but if I used Ty Webb’s method of measuring golfers against one another (“By height!”), well, Jeff is taller than I. Finally, both of us write for The Athletic, although Jeff is more of a regular.

None of this—zero, zilch, the empty set—is personal. It’s about the writing. Jeff and I both grew up, sort of, in the SI editorial system where at least two editors, usually three, combed through your story, not to mention a fact-checker, a copyreader, and then a late reader. That experience taught me, taught us, to be your own harshest critic before you pushed send. To ask yourself the questions you figured Michael Bevans or Peter Carry or any of a number of highly cynical and skeptical editors would ask once the story appeared on their screens.

Rarely does one have time, in this era of clickbait and Slack and SEO headlines, to pore over stories critically. Anyone practicing journalism online today will tell you that ordinarily one to two editors will peruse your story and as often as not miss the spelling error in your piece (among other things; and hopefully there will only be one typo). That’s not a condemnation of editors, by the way: it’s an indictment on the sheer workload they have now as opposed to when we had more staff at SI than do most websites now and were  only putting out one magazine a week. 

All that said, I want to play journalism professor here with Jeff’s piece on San Diego Charger defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins, which appeared earlier this week in The Athletic, which you can only read if you have a subscription to The Athletic, which—A-Ha!, it’s all a ruse to incite a spike in subscriptions to The Athletic (you’re welcome, guys). I encourage you to subscribe if you have not done so already, and I add that it’s going to be most difficult to follow past this paragraph if you cannot read the story from August 14 titled “Rayshawn Jenkins Is Not Angry, And That Is Some Kind Of Wonderful” (and I’m not even going to get into why the title poaches a John Hughes movie title).

Here goes…

–The first three grafs explore, in detail, Jenkins’ juvenile delinquency: vandalism, fist-fighting, etc. Nothing exactly felonious, but he easily could’ve spent time in a juvenile detention center. Okay, point made: he was an incorrigible youth. We hope this is going somewhere.

–We then pivot to a point made that Jenkins was frequently physically abused by his mother, as were his 17 siblings. That, to him, is normal. Okay.

–Here’s where we begin having problems: “… the Rayshawn Jenkins story that’s supposed to be written… — the one repeatedly spun during his five years at the University of Miami, and now as a professional — is the simple-yet-fun saga of a successful football player with 17 (yes, seventeen) brothers and sisters.”

Firs of all, why in 2018 would anyone be so naive as to think that being one of 18 children is a “simple-yet-fun saga?” Particularly when even the most cursory dive into Jenkins’ background would suggest that even though he is from Florida, he is not one of Pat Williams’ kids. Which is to say, your first question would be, How could his parents afford to raise all of those kids?

—Then comes this:

The stuff was irresistible, and it would be easy for a scribe to smile, nod, follow with two or three more questions (“What’s your wackiest memory?”), then transition to Philip Rivers or Joey Bosa or Jenkins’ development as he approaches his sophomore season with the Chargers. That’s pretty much what we do in 2018.

Pardon me, but is Jeff patting himself on the back, less than a third of the way into the story, for being able to dig beneath the topsoil on Rayshawn Jenkins when so many other of his peers could not? Even if that’s true, why inject yourself into the story here? Why make this about you, which is how I read it?

For reals: Jeff is an excellent interviewer; he’s terrific at getting strangers to open up, which is why he’s such a talented writer. He realizes that most people are dying to tell their stories, often against better judgment. His personality creates a welcome and warm atmosphere for subjects to do so (and often hang themselves; we’re looking at you, John Rocker). All that is great. As an editor, though, I’d advise Jeff that there’s no need to take a bow just five paragaphs in. The story does not require it.

—The next few grafs are backstory, from the date Rayshawn was born up until before he began playing football. I have questions. His pop, Charles, has fathered 14 children from nine different woman. We learn that he was a cook (first, at a Howard Johnson’s, then at a community college). I dunno, call me something awful, but I’m a little curious about what Charles does now. Does he have a job? Does he support any of his children, many of whom are younger than Rayshawn? Has he ever purchased a condom? What makes him spread his seed so indiscriminately and so unabashedly? Maybe I’m getting away from our main subject, but I’d kinda like to know.

–Mom, Terry, was put away in prison for stabbing someone with a knife. What happened to that person? How was she given custody of her kids, Rayshawn included, after she was released? And WHY DIDN’T SHE SPEAK TO THE ATHLETIC FOR THIS STORY? How many moms of pro athletes do you know who don’t want to crow about their sons? She may be the first.

I’m skipping ahead here, but later we will learn that Rayshawn speaks to his parents “semi-regularly.” What does that mean? It reminds me of that Spectrum TV ad that disses DirecTV where the customer calls the dish “pretty ugly” and the installer says, “So you’re saying it’s pretty?” Semi-regularly doesn’t tell the reader what the nature of Rayshawn’s relationship with his parents these days is, now does it? And I think, and call me a cynic, I’d be a little curious about how often the subject of money comes up in those semi-regular phone calls.

—Finally, we meet the true hero of this story: Gary Roland. A former high school classmate of Rayshawn’s dad, he is a youth football coach who, more than anyone, saved Rayshawn’s life. As he did more than a few other future NFL athletes. In every place he is quoted, the man simply gets it. More Gary Roland, please. In fact, he’s a better story. No doubt.

—At last we arrive at the theme of Jeff’s Gary Smith Special, more than two dozen paragraphs in: “Jenkins was lashing out at a society he didn’t understand; football was the lone refuge from an ever-mounting wave of hopelessness.” There’s no doubt: Rayshawn was saddled with some horrific parents and an awful home situation. And this is where it gets a little political: as the progeny of two parents who were born in the south Bronx, both of whom lost a parent and one of whom was shuttled into foster care, I just can’t get on board with the whole “It’s society’s fault!” excuse for every bad action. You may disagree, and I in no way am here to suggest my parents had the upbringing that Rayshawn did. But I also don’t sweep under the rug every crummy thing someone did as a young man with that sentence that Jeff wrote. To Rayshawn’s credit, and he’s quoted often about these incidents, he makes no excuses and takes full responsibility.

—Let’s move on to the knockout punch at Admiral Farragut Academy. At this point in our tale, Rayshawn has moved on to high school and his life has taken on a 21st century Dickensian tone. An altruistic patron has put him on the path to a way out, and Farragut is that ticket. But, according to the narrative, a classmate calls Rayshawn the N-word and Rayshawn punches him in the face, literally knocking him out.

I don’t know if you went to a private high school (I did), but if you did and you punched someone so hard that you knocked them out, not only would you be expelled that day but you might just, again, wind up in juvy. In this story, we learn that the true offender is the person who allegedly called Rayshawn the N-word. This is what Jeff explores: Why can’t the student who used the N-word be expelled, not why can’t the guy who just committed aggravated assault.

Okay, I’m going to get real here: There is NEVER, EVER an excuse to use that word. Ever. Most especially if you are white. No excuse. On the other hand, there are more than a few street-savvy African-American young men and women who know that leveling that accusation is an automatic Get Out of Jail Free card, regardless of the verity. So if I were Jeff’s editor, I’d be asking for the following info: Was there a particular reason that the student called Rayshawn the N-word or did he just approach him out of the blue and utter it? Did the kid deny having used it? Let’s say both sides agreed that he did use it: Does that make it okay to knock him out cold? Was there any punitive action taken against Rayshawn for knocking out a classmate?

None of these questions are answered. I’m left to assume, again somewhat cynically, that Farragut knew it had one of the best football players in the football player-rich state of Florida enrolled, and that may have had a little something to do with how all of this went down.

—”You need to meet the girlfriend.” I’m sorry, this should read, “You need to meet the mother of his child with whom he lives.” I mean, given the home(s) in which Rayshawn grew up, I think this is more relevant.

—There’s a scene at The U, after Mark Richt’s staff takes over, that the first-year safeties coach scolds Rayshawn in front of everyone, in terms of his body language. “You need to do better. I don’t like what I’m seeing.” Granted, this anecdote most likely came from Rayshawn, so props to him for being self-aware and accountable. On the other hand, why is/was he behaving this way? Is it still society’s fault?

—We get to the happy denoument, with Rayshawn eating shrimp somewhere under a lovely Orange County sky. Life is good. He’s made it. But what’s the point, and how have we answered the question as to, as the title posed, why Rayshawn is not angry any more. Is it because he made it to the NFL? Is it the girlfriend who turned his life around or those 16 ginormous paychecks he receives each year, or both? Is he heroic because he made it to the NFL out of such a disastrous childhood or because he’s self-aware enough to recognize that he wasn’t exactly an angel as a kid? Is he going to be a better adult because he just is or because he’ll have the money and fame that will allow him to be?

—Rayshawn Jenkins comes off as a smart, charismatic and, at the age of 24, well-adjusted young man. The problem for me in reading this story is that it doesn’t sound as if any of this happens if he cannot play football. And if people along the way don’t allow certain things to slide simply because he’s so good at football. And seriously, why are we just acting as if his parents’ behavior is what it is and there’s nothing to be done about it simply because this is a “crime-infested” neighborhood? It’s beyond sad that Jenkins and his siblings were put in such an awful situation. That any of them escaped is, yes, miraculous, but I would have put even more emphasis on what negligent parents they were.

A few other thoughts: If this story interested you at all, read Born A Crime, Trevor Noah’s memoir. It’s fascinating, it’s inspirational, it’s heartbreaking and it’s hilarious. Noah’s upbringing was likely more difficult than Jenkins’ but he was fortunate enough to have a seriously wonderful mother WHO LOVED HIM. It made all the difference. There’s not a moment in this story where I believe that Charles loved anything other than getting his **** wet and while Terry may love her son, she’s just so dysfunctional that it might have been better if she’d never had access to him.

Last thing: When I was in my late twenties, I made a SERIOUS mistake covering a story for SI that still haunts me to this day. I was covering the AFC West for a special section we’d do and part of that job was to profile players. Teams worked with us because these were pieces that displayed them off the field in a positive light.

So I met a defensive back who was born on the same date, same year as I. We struck up a conversation and he told me I should profile him because he and his wife ran an Italian restaurant. The team set up the interview, and just he and I were going to spend all afternoon and night together, and head to the restaurant.

I followed the player home and as we approached his front door, he smiled and said, “Now, John, you’re not going to get me in trouble, are you?” And almost on cue a heavenly creature, almost 10 years his junior, met us at the door with two margaritas in hand. This was not his wife. But he lived with her. We spent a couple of very revealing hours together. A few teammates stopped by.

Then we all headed to the restaurant, a bistro his father-in-law started that had progressed  to a minor chain of restaurants, where he and his wife pretended to be on good terms for the sake of the article. It was like an episode of Ballers, only 20 or so years earlier. If I’d had the balls that Jeff had when he wrote the John Rocker piece, I would’ve written what I actually observed. Not what I’d been sent there to observe.

I only share this because, one, as a member of the media you’re often getting played. And two, I admire Jeff because, unlike me, he handled a moment of truth in his twenties better than I did. I want that known.

This has been today’s edition of “Entirely Too Honest.” Feel free to pipe in.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Babe Ruth, Madonna, Sports Illustrated and this site all celebrate birthdays today.

Tweet du Jour

Starting Five

1. Full-Court Press*

*The judges will also accept “The Pen Is Mightier Than LaPen” 

Last week The Boston Globe enjoined newspapers from all across the land to take this day, August 16, to use part of their publications to write an editorial in support of a free press and, by extension, the First Amendment. Here is the lede from the Globe’s own editorial today, “Journalists Are Not The Enemy:”

Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the “enemy of the people.” This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out “magic” dust or water on a hopeful crowd.

Read The Globe‘s editorial in its entirety. Read The New York Times‘ take. 

If you visit The Boston Globe’s website, they’ve taken the time to round up editorials that appear in more than 350 papers nationwide today. Or you can buy one of those papers in your own community.


Of course, you knew that President ME would exert his own use of free speech to return fire.

2. Conway, Beltway, Your Way, My Way

Who knows what possessed Kellyanne Conway and her husband, George, to allow The Washington Post into their home to profile them (Don’t they read her boss’s tweets?). Anyway, they did, and it’s as illuminating about it being a House Divided over one major issue as you might suppose.

As author Ben Terris writes, “[Theirs] is the story of people who love Trump, and the people who are trying to love them.”

Amen to that, Ben.

3. The Pitfalls of Pit Falls

In impoverished parts of South Africa, too many elementary school students have no choice but to use pit toilets, which are exactly what you’d imagine them to be. Recently, two students have fallen in and drowned, which is something even worse than the producers of Trainspotting might have imagined.

More than 4,000 schools nationwide—the irony here being that although South Africa ranks third among sub-Saharan African nations in terms of quality of life, it is quite literally a shithole country—have only pit toilets. In 2014 student Michael Komape died after he fell in; last March another student, Lumka Mkhethwa, suffered the same grisly fate.

Here is an actual line from the story we read: “Komape’s mother fainted when she saw his hand sticking out from a mound of feces.” Can’t even imagine….actually, we can, which is what makes it so horrible.

4. Acuna Matata

What happens when you’re a 20 year-old rookie and you lead off three consecutive games against the same team, the Marlins, with a home run? In the fourth game of that series their pitcher will plunk you with a 97 m.p.h. fastball with his very first (and as it turned out, last) pitch of the game.

The Marlin hurler was Jose Urena, who actually led the Major Leagues in struck batters last season with 14. The good news for Acuna, who was struck in the elbow and left the game one inning later? Because he took at HBP, which is not an official at-bat, he can technically keep his streak alive if he homers to lead off the Braves’ next game.

Atlanta swept the four-game series.

5. Danes Greater Than Foxes


Listen, I remember when Trish Regan worked at CNBC, was a brunette and didn’t look as if she’d just stepped from the beach at Amagansett. Like Maria Bartiromo, though, she’s taking the money and shoveling the propaganda your way. This Danish news man struck back.

Reserves 

Jim Jefferies on Gun Control

We agree with everything the Aussie comedian says here about Americans and guns. Everything. Our favorite shot: the only true argument for having guns is “F**k off, I like guns!” (p.s. Am I the only one who giggled when I heard Jefferies employing an American accent?). Classic line here: “You know what’s good about the musket? It gives you a lot of time to calm down.”

Enjoy.

Part I:

Part 2:

Note: Port Arthur is no longer the largest gun-related massacre. Congratulations, America!

Music 101

I Confess

Because of the era and perhaps their style and name, The English Beat was found in the record bins under “New Wave.” But they were really something closer to a ska band and you never even hear a keyboard or synth. Also, they were fun. This is from 1982. Worth noting: In their native England, they were simply known as The Beat.

Where In The World*

*Because television, in a nod to environmental activism, is recycling garbage most of this month. Also, because one of you asked for it.

 

Answer tomorrow.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters


 Starting Five

“Dog” Days Of Summer

Yesterday on The Worst Wing: The president calls former White House aide/Season 1 contestant Omarosa  “that dog”….Sarah Sanders says that she cannot “guarantee” there’s no tape of the president using the N-word…Omarosa—finally, Trump and the big “O” are associated—says that Trump totally knew that the leaked Hillary emails were about to be released before they were released which, if true, well, ball game…oh, and Paul Manafort’s defense team declined to call a witness, because either he cannot wait to get to prison or he can’t wait for Trump to pardon him.

Meanwhile, the entire GOP remains silent. Nice job, nice effort.

2. Blame In Bethesda

Loh

Sixty-three days after the death of Jordan McNair and, more to the point, four days after ESPN put out its story, University of Maryland president Wallace Loh got in front of a podium and put the blame—legal and moral—squarely on the university’s shoulders. So there’s definitely a settlement in the works.

What the Terps did not do is explain why, if the athletic trainers were at fault for McNair’s death from heat stroke that took place during a May 29 workout, that it was strength coach Rick Court with whom they “parted ways.” The due process of the investigation will play out, but at a university that still hasn’t forgotten the death of Len Bias 31 summers ago, we don’t see head coach D.J. Durkin surviving this. In terms of his job.

What we do know is that the crisis at Maryland has taken some of the heat off Urban Meyer. Even if Zach Smith apparently did hide a DUI from him.

3. The Killer B’s

Batting ninth, Jackie Bradley Jr. went 7 for 12 in Baltimore last weekend, with two home runs, a triple, and a double.

Betts, Benintendi, Bogaerts, Bradley, Jr… Martinez. Okay, not every stud in the Red Sox lineup has a surname that begins with a “B,” but most of them do. Boston won again last night, 2-1, against the Phillies to move 51 games over .500 (86-35). They are now on pace, with their .711 win percentage, to finish with the best regular-season record since MLB moved to a 162-game season.

The Yankees (75-34) are 7-2 since being swept in Fenway and they’ve still fallen half a game back of the Sawx, to 10 back. The last time a team finished 30 or more games over .500 and 10 or more games out of first place was 1906. At the time there were only 45 states.

p.s. It’s not in “Remote Patrol,” but they’re at the Phillies on the ESPN tonight at 7 p.m.

4. Death and Basketball

One moment, and two lives (and those of the people in their orbits) changed forever.

We haven’t seen this story get too much media play, but two Sundays ago in New York City a Wake Forest assistant basketball coach, Jamill Jones, punched a man and killed him. The victim, Sandor Szabo, 35, and of Boca Raton, Fla., was in town for his step-sister’s wedding.

It was after midnight, Szabo was drunk, and he mistook Jones for his Uber driver so he began knocking on the window of his car. This was in Long Island City, which is just over the East River from midtown Manhattan. Jones got out of the car and punched Szabo in the face. The punch and the fall caused multiple cranial fractures and Szabo died.

Jones turned himself in to the police four days later. He has been charged with third-degree assault but look for that charge to be upgraded at least to manslaughter. Rule No. 18: Nothing good happens after midnight.*

*And by “good” we don’t mean fun; you know what we mean.

5. Nation Building

On the list: Would you like to go here?

Sometimes when I am bartending a small party, particularly if it’s business professionals who seem ill at ease socializing with one another, I try to break the ice with a quiz. I have a couple, but here’s one that stimulates the gray matter (if you have the answer without Googling it, go ahead and put it in the comments). We did this just last week and after that the folks at the private-equity firm loosened up some (certainly, the alcohol helped, too). Here it is:

There are no countries whose names are two or three letters long. There are ten countries whose names are four letters long. Name them.

Reserves

Triple A’s

The Nashville Sounds, the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s, won their 15th straight game on Tuesday night, tying a franchise record. More impressive, the A’s were playing sub-.500 ball when the win streak began. They’re now 66-55. We foresee the film MoneybAAAll being made if this keeps up. Worth noting: the Sounds have a player named Boog Powell, but he’s no relation to the former Major Leaguer who was the 1970 AL MVP.

Acuna More Taters

Atlanta Brave rookie Ronald Acuna hits his fifth home run in as many games. He’s also hit a leadoff homer in three consecutive games, including both games of a doubleheader yesterday. Acuna has 19 home runs on the season.

Music 101 

Man’s Job

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y04BH-mLFzk&list=RDY04BH-mLFzk&t=67

One of the few missteps of Bruce Springsteen‘s career was the idea to release two albums on the same March day in 1992: Lucky Town and Human Touch. Either by itself is not a great album, but if he had just culled the best cuts from both he’d have had a Boss-worthy album. Our suggested track listing for Lucky Touch: “Lucky Town,” “Man’s Job,” “Roll of The Dice,” “Human Touch,” “If I Should Fall Behind,” “Better Days” and “My Beautiful Reward.”

Remote Patrol

The West Wing

“Internal Displacement”

Netflix

Season 7, the final season of TWW, is our least favorite, but there’s one stand-out, vintage episode that harkens back to the early years. Remarkably, it was written by Bradley Whitford (who plays Josh Lyman; we believe it’s the only episode penned by a cast member) and he wrote it as a star turn for female cast mate Allison Janney.

What makes it so terrific? It has classic walk-and-talk banter, characters placed in morally difficult positions, and moments of hilarity. It also not so subtly puts a woman, C.J. Cregg (Janney), in charge of our country for the day and all she does is possibly prevent World War III and help solve a humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Finally, the episode is book-ended with reunion scenes between C.J. and Danny Kincannon (Timothy Busfield) at a restaurant that even includes a scolding of alpha types who attempt to treat servers like sub-human minions.

There’s a moment near the end of the episode where C.J., exhibiting maturity not often seen in her male peers, comes around to someone else’s line of thinking as opposed to stubbornly holding her position. If you know the moment I’m talking about, and you know the reaction that her olive branch gets from Lyman (Whitford does not give himself many lines, but he does allow himself the funniest moment in the episode), well, it’s a priceless scene.

Claudia Jean grows as both a leader and a negotiator in just the span of one episode. She’s being presidential, from the way she handles Doug Westin to the manner in which she grows savvier with each successive foreign ambassador meeting. Also, what the Chinese ambassador tells her as his parting shot? We’re 100% with him there. Go watch it.

I really could’ve done without Season 7, as informative as it was in terms of the sausage-making of a presidential campaign. This episode almost made it all worth it. Every major male character on The West Wing has said that Janney was their favorite actor to be in a scene with. This episode illustrates why.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Papa Don’s Pizza*

*The judges will also accept “LoKKKer Room Talk”

Did Donald Trump use the N-word? Should any of us care?

The War of the Word heated up this morning after The Worst Wing’s lone black staffer (former, that is), Omarosa, released a tape in which three staffers discuss the fact that Trump used the N-word and that there is a tape of it.

Here’s what we know: As slimy as Omarasa can be, she DOES have a tape of three White House staffers (herself included) discussing Trump’s use of the N-word (years ago, it should be noted, while he was doing The Apprentice). One of them, Katrina Pierson, distinctly says, “He said it.”

Last night, BEFORE this tape was released, Pierson was asked about this and flatly denied any existence of the tape. This morning, we have confirmation that she is a liar.

Is anyone surprised by any of this? That Trump is a racist? That Pierson is a liar? That Omarosa is a snake? “All the best people…”

2. Bridge Collapse

In Genoa, Italy, a portion of the Morandi Bridge collapses during a heavy storm. The list of fatalities is still being put together, but it appears that at least 20 motorists have been killed. Some vehicles wound up in the Polcevera River below.

3. Amazon By The Months

Shares of Amazon (AMZN) are poised to jump more than another 1% this morning, or about $20 per share, to $1,917. Even the sharpest skeptics of FANG stocks are conceding that Amazon and Google remain solid BUYS. We took a look at what months Amazon has hit each new $100 milepost, beginning at the $500 mark, in the past three years. As you can see, the upward slope is getting steeper.

At this rate, AMZN should crash through the $2,000 barrier by early September if not sooner.

$500…..July, 2015

$600….October, 2015 (3 months)

$700….May, 2016 (7 months)

$800….September 2016 (4 months)

$900….October 2016 (1 month)

$1000….May 2017 ( 7 months)

$1100….October 2017 (5 months)

$1200….November 2017 (1 month)

$1300….January 2018 (2 months)

$1400….January 2018 (1 week)

$1500….February 2018 (1 month)

$1600…March 2018 (1 month)

$1700….June 2018 (3 months)

$1800….July 2018 (1 month)

$1900….August 2018 (1 month)

4. Paying Their Last R-E-S-P-E-C-T-S

By day’s end, the Queen of Soul may be up there in heaven’s choir. Aretha Franklin, 76, is gravely ill and in hospice care. Here she is from The Blues Brothers (1980):

Franklin, a Detroit native, was the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5. Dumb-Strzok*

Strzok

*The judges will also accept “Bowen’s Arrow”

We’re not sure who got screwed worse, FBI agent Peter Strzok or L.A. Clippers analyst (and former NBA defensive stalwart, particularly with the San Antonio Spurs) Bruce Bowen. Both men were fired yesterday for speaking their minds while in an unofficial capacity.

Strzok was fired due to the texts he sent a fellow FBI agent/girlfriend about what a crook/nut-job then-candidate Trump was. Not that he was wrong. Bowen, who played for years under Gregg Popovich, was fired for appearing on a radio show and basically saying that Kawhi Leonard was acting like a spoiled brat and/or getting bad advice. Which he is.

But you see, the Clippers hope to land Leonard as a free agent a year from now and they don’t want anyone associated with them hurting Kawhi’s feelings. So they canned him.

Yes, neither man’s free speech was impugned: no one put them in jail. But it’s kind of sad to see power plays such as these when what the guys are saying is the truth. Then again, if it wasn’t the truth, there’d be no need to pull such a power play.

Music 101

Alone Again, Naturally

Is it possible to do worse than yesterday’s musical selection? We’re going to try. Here’s Irish musician Gilbert O’Sullivan with a song in which the narrator contemplates suicide after his bride leaves him at the altar, then goes on to discuss the deaths of both his parents. What’s more bizarre: that O’Sullivan wrote this song at the age of 21 or that none of it is autobiographical? Let’s go for Door No. 3: the strangest thing is that in 1972 this song spent six weeks at No. 1 (What is WRONG with people????).

Remote Patrol

Scorcese Fest

Goodfellas

7 p.m. AMC

The Wolf Of Wall Street

8 p.m. FX

Has Marty lost something off his fastball in the past two decades? You be the judge.

 

The Film Room: Mission Impossible—Fallout

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

1. Fantastic Feats

On an otherwise slow sports weekend in early August (no NBA, no real NFL or college football and really only the PGA Championship of major import), we were still treated with three incredible moments.

The first: Saturday night in Oakland and A’s rookie centerfielder Ramon Laureano makes the most incredible double play of the season.

We’re hardly the first to say it, but that’s a 321-foot (107 yards) toss that never made the first baseman move an inch. It must have had launch codes. Not to forget that the catch itself was incredible. Haven’t seen a throw like that since Yoenes Cespedes roamed left for the A’s.

Then last night Wayne Rooney, who was supposedly old and washed up, made one of the great individual soccer plays you’ll ever see. Note that D.C. United had pulled the keeper so he had to make this tackle to save the game. Like Laureano, that was just the first half of a two-part incredible feat.

And do pay attention to where we were in stoppage time. There were only 40 seconds or so remaining.

Finally, we turned on the Nats-Cubs game after a 13-hour day at the gig last night to this scene: Cubbies trail the Nats 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs, bases loaded. Max Scherzer has pitched an absolute gem—seven innings, no runs, 11 K’s—for the Nats but his night is over.

In steps Cubs rookie David Bote to pinch-hit in the ninth spot. In 75 previous at-bats, Bote has two home runs. And we’ve all watched enough baseball, plus seen how the Nats’ season is going, to know how this ends. Bote sends a 2-2 pitch to dead center, over the wall.

A nationally televised prime-time walk-off grand slam. Cubs win! Cubs win! (we need Will Ferrell as Harry Caray to call the final pitch of this game for posterity).

Note: ESPN Stats reports this is the Cubs’ second walk-off grand slam of the season after only having two such plays in the entire history of the franchise prior to 2018.

2. “This Moment of Serenity”

*The judges will also accept “Leaving On A Jet Plane” 

We get it: What if some “evildoer,” or worse, a radicalized Muslim (!) had stolen that Horizon Air prop jet that seats 76 passengers (officially, a Bombardier Q400) and not 29 year-old Richard Russell, who from the sound of his tone with the air-traffic controller, was strictly out for a joy ride?

But they didn’t. It was Russell. And while we understand the safety concerns—fans were already filing into Safeco Field for a sold-out Pearl Jam concert (how cliche)—we listened to Russell’s audio with the the tower and…

…thought of him as a restless but gentle soul, a self-described “broken guy” who just yearned to have a moment of freedom, to break out of the controlled monotony most of us face. He yearned to really live. At least that’s how we read it. We’re glad no one else was hurt; there was nothing in his voice to indicate that he had any intention of harming anyone.

Like those globe-pedaling cyclists we profiled last week, Russell died at the age of 29 in a crash. But man, that loop-di-loop he did. How many commercial pilots have yearned to do that after takeoff?

p.s. Washington state now is the all-time leader for wild aviation tales: D.B. Cooper and Richard Russell (and, yes, we know Cooper’s flight originated out of Portland but it landed at SeaTac before taking off again).

3. Payeng It Forward

We’d never heard of Forest Man, a documentary that was released last summer, until one of our favorite Twitter follows, Vala Afshar, tweeted about it last week.

In short: Jadav Payeng, a Mishing tribesman in India, was concerned about the deforestation taking place around him. In 1979 he noticed a few dozen snakes had perished on Mashuli Island, where he’d grown up, when they’d washed ashore and had no place to hide from the sun. So the next day he planted a tree. And the next day he did so again.

And Payeng kept doing that, planting one tree per day, for 37 years (note to my friends in Brooklyn: someone really needs to do this in Bushwick). Payeng, through his daily act of conservationalism, created a forest preserve that over the years attracted has attracted a herd of elephants, plus rhinos, tigers and deer.


Payeng created paradise simply by repeating a selfless ritual day after day. There’s a metaphorical lesson in that for us all. There’s also the lesson of how one man can make a tremendous difference for good. If there is a heaven, Payeng is a first-ballot entry. He honestly deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, we think.

4. Durkin Do-Nots

Last week former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy broke a story that rendered a B1G East coach on administrative leave and a week later a trio of current ESPN reporters respond with, “Hold my beer.” Now Maryland coach D.J. Durkin is on administrative leave—our own Stewart Mandel tweeted “Legends and Administrative Leavers”— and we think, unlike Urban, that Durkin’s turtle is cooked.

First, there’s an actual death (Jordan McNair) involved. Second, it’s exactly the type of bullying culture university presidents want no part of. Durkin’s curriculum vitae includes stops at Notre Dame (under Ty Willingham, who was to busy rushing to his tee times to bully players) and Stanford and Notre Dame under Jim Harbaugh (the poultry-hating coach with a travel bug). We’d be curious to see how his coaching style was influenced and by whom.

5. Trumpy Bear

The paws are much larger than the original, no?

It’s too late to take it to last weekend’s white supremacist rallies, but surely there will be more in your future! It’s Trumpy Bear, and the ad we saw on CNBC last week says it can be yours for just $19.95 (in true Trumpian fashion, there’s a quickly spoken throwaway line that informs you it’s TWO payments of $19.95, so really it’s $39.90).

We’ll give them credit. The idea is genius. If you’re part of the MAGA crowd, you may want a Trumpy Bear for those long nights when thoughts of a female president or Robert Mueller succeeding give you chills. If you are on the other side of the fence (or, wall, but Mexico’s gonna pay for it), you may purchase it for the ironic value. Or as a piñata.

Ed. Note: Our birthday is coming up. Please do NOT get us this. Kthxbye.

Music 101

Feelings

What song made you reach for the radio dial—to be clear, not the “Turn It Up!” volume knob but the “Change that crap!” Tuner knob—at warp speed like no other in the Seventies? We’ll go with this 1975 tune by Brazilian one-(*)hit wonder Morris Albert. The soft-rock classic peaked at No. 6 and induced countless bouts of spontaneous vomiting.

Remote Patrol

Mets at Yankees

7 p.m. ESPN

An East Coast Bias spectacular! But hear us out: The Mess are throwing Jacob deGrom (or as my autocorrect tries, often successfully, to inform me, “Jacob Legroom”) and his 1.77 ERA versus Luis Severino and his 15 wins. We’ve got the MLB ERA leader versus a man tied for the MLB Wins lead (Max Scherzer would be the MLB wins leader today were it not for Bote’s grand slam last night).

p.s. Rain is in the forecast….again.

Oscars’ Popularity Contest

by Chris Corbellini

Shark and Awe: Jaws was that rare film that might’ve swept Best Popular and Best Picture (or would’ve at least been deserving)

Show me any guy who ever said he didn’t want to be popular, and I’ll show you a scared guy … Most of the time, the best stuff is the popular stuff. It’s much safer to say popularity sucks, because that allows you to forgive yourself if you suck. And I don’t forgive myself. Do you?

–Jeff Bebe, “Almost Famous”

Now we have a high school yearbook category during an Oscars broadcast: Most popular!

No one can define it yet (really, the Academy’s release stated as much), but Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film category will be an actual thing, and doesn’t it feel like Hollywood wants its head cheerleader and prom king up on stage? This surprises me not at all: the whole industry is a popularity contest from pre-production to final mix to trailer release — unless you are lucky enough to self-finance your own vision and get it up on the screen. But, why now?

Short answer: Television ratings.

Long answer: Television ratings, and a chance to put the creatives of Black Panther on the stage twice.

And let’s not forget that by adding this category you are rewarding the richest people in the theater on Oscar night. If you’re getting a percentage of a movie’s gross, and you should as a Hollywood film producer, and if you are also lucky enough to have helped put together a Blank Panther … which seems like a popular film Oscar lock … then not only will you have paid for your new Malibu beachfront property in cash, but you’re going to win a statue on Oscar night as well.

If I were a documentary filmmaker who likely had to bum some cash off his parents to rent a tuxedo for the occasion, I’d barely be able to muster polite applause for this category’s winner. And I wonder how Spielberg feels about all of this? Sir Steven was known as a “popular” director, which was the ultimate backhanded compliment: He was legendary moneymaker and yet not considered in the same artistic class as titans Scorsese or Coppola until he made Schindler’s List roughly 20 years into his career. Now the Academy has added a category to honor those thrilling films that also made serious coin — which was a category that Spielberg re-invented.

I’m not an Oscar purist, and I doubt such a person exists. So now you can win a Most Popular Oscar, a Best Picture Oscar, or both. Okay sure, go nuts, Academy. What will likely happen next February is a prestige film wins Best Picture, a Star Wars or Marvel movie wins Most Popular, and they’ll try to keep the broadcast under three hours by using a vaudeville wooden hook to drag long-winded winners off the stage (OK, maybe the hook won’t happen. Maybe).

Or, and this is pie-in-the-sky thinking, perhaps some gutsy kid who decided to use his college student loan payments as funding to direct, write and produce a movie of his own will wind up with another quotable Swingers and he’ll win Most Popular, and a career is born. I’ve always been a “try something new” person when it comes to all matters creative, with the understanding that if it isn’t working, you can always go back to the tried-and-true. At the very least, the upcoming Oscar night monologue will have some great material to work with.

By the way, the quote above is not in the actual cinematic release of Almost Famous (which should be awarded a Most Popular Oscar, retroactively), and that’s a shame. It’s in the director’s cut, and I think it’s Cameron Crowe’s innermost thoughts on how a famous lead singer, the definition of a popular kid, sees life as it plays out in front of him. I figure it’s Crowe’s views on Hollywood and pop art as well.

Jeff Bebe’s comment, which died on the cutting room floor, was…incendiary.

And I get it. Yes, the most popular Oscar is the business backslapping itself yet again. Still, speaking as a fan with tastes that veer towards the popular stuff … I do get excited whenever I see the Star Wars opener “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” followed by that opening blast of John Williams’ famous score. It’s like I’m sitting next to the 1983 version of me, and we’re giggling together. For me that’s unique to the movie-going experience, and hopefully for one Oscar night at least, a blockbuster that pulls out such joy in so many will be celebrated with a statue.

And perhaps in 2020 the Academy will go full high school yearbook and add “Best Looking” and “Best Body” to the proceedings, catering to those young folks who are in search of the perfect Instagram selfie. They shall rule the Earth.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet du Jour


Give ’em hell, Alexandria!

Starting Five

J.D. Power & Associates

In Toronto, the Red Sox win their sixth straight and 81st game of the year. They’re guaranteed of a .500 finish with 47 games remaining and we’d forgotten that only five years earlier their DH/slugger/presumptive American League MVP, J.D. Martinez, was CUT by the Houston Astros.

If only the Astros had kept him, they might have won a World Series.

Anyway, Boston is a ridiculous 81-34 and Martinez leads the American League in home runs (34) and RBI (98) and is second to teammate Mookie Betts in batting average (.332).

2. High Nunes

On the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation, another Republican from California is caught on tape making some rather inappropriate confessions. This time it’s Congressman Devin Nunes, possibly the worst member in the House, copping to the strategy of trying to impeach Rod Rosenstein and also to the fact that Trump’s tweets make him cringe. He did so at a GOP fundraiser last week. Dunce.

3. Swinging Gates*

*The judges will definitely not accept “Gatesgate” nor “He’s A Rick House, He’s Mighty Mighty, Just Let It All Hang Out”

In the People vs. Paul Manafort, the prosecution’s star witness, Rick Gates, faces grilling by the defense. Their attempt to throw him off his game: Why should the jury trust someone who has taken part in four extramarital affairs? Our reply: All that does is confirm Gates as a credible Trump crony.

4. About That Assist, LeBron

We explicitly chose a photo where Sweet Pea’s shoulders were not exposed because it’s too hot and bothersome out for Susie B. to get even more hot and bothered

Bully for Cleveland.com, which ran a story explicating that for all of LeBron James significant and earnest altruism, the taxpayers of Cleveland will foot the bill for about 75% of the newly opened I Promise School (it is a public school) and that the University of Akron is on the hook for almost all of those promised scholarships.

It’s not that LeBron is a fraud; he’s anything but. It’s just that the hagiographic interviews by folks such as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and CNN’s Don Lemon never revealed the fiscal breakdown of who was footing the bill. It was lazy reporting all around, and most of us just assumed LeBron was getting the check for the entire meal. Turns out he’s just buying the appetizer.

We have no idea how much it would cost to run a school (unless you’re home-schooled, which then wouldn’t cost so much). And while we don’t want to BLAME LeBron for focusing on education and putting is money to help, we will ask: Why not just launch a small, private school, fund it completely, and use it for at-risk kids? LeBron can more than pay for that.

Here’s an even better idea: Why doesn’t every single NBA and NFL franchise do something like this? At least pour in as much money as LeBron has for the I Promise School.

5. The NCAA Messes Up Again

Duke-bound Zion Williamson would have likely hired an agent

The NCAA announces that in the future the elitest of elite high school hoopsters will be allowed to select an agent and then tells USA Basketball that it will be its job to determine which players fit that description. This reminds of those long-ago summer afternoons when my sister would walk into the den while our parents were both at work and ask me if I wanted to help fold the laundry. 🙂

Anyway, why can’t the NCAA do anything right. Just open it up to anyone; most players are smart enough to know they don’t need an agent in 12th grade and for those delusional enough not to understand it, well, that’s what Darwinism is here for.

Meanwhile, what does this mean for Kentucky hoops?

Reserves

You’re going to need a bigger award

The Academy Awards announces that it will hand out an Oscar for the “Best Popular” film as well, also known as the “Marvel-ous” Award or the “We’re Sorry, Jaws” award or “The Rock” award.

Music 101

Stereo Hearts

In 2011 Gym Class Heroes hooked up with Adam Levine and produced this catchy, smart tune. Levine’s voice is pure honey. And then the gang from Glee covered the song.

Remote Patrol

The Godfather, Part II

3;30 p.m. AMC

I know it was you, Fredo.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet du Jour

Starting Five

Privatize (“They’re Watching You, They See Your Every Move”)

Taking a cue from POTUS, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that he’d rather the company be private. Musk added another tweet saying he’d take shares of the stock to $420 (it was at around $344 when he sent the first tweet) and that shareholders could either sell or remain with the company as it privatized.

Shares of Tesla (TSLA) jumped 10% in the wake of that tweet and even more short-sellers than usual were cursing the South Africa native’s name. You could’ve bought TSLA before last week’s earnings report at $298. Now it’s at $380.

2. SI Also Named Names

Yesterday we noted that ESPN was releasing a Top 50 College Football Players list. We’d forgotten that SI had released its 3rd annual Top 100 College Players list back in mid-June (but my page only stopped buffering on Sunday).

Both ESPN and SI have Ed Oliver at number one, but after that I much prefer SI’s list, which is not as agog over quarterbacks and sagely places Khalil Tate, ESPN’s 3rd-rated QB in the Pac-12 alone, as the number one overall QB in the nation (ESPN’s list reads as if Todd McShay wrote it with an eye on how dudes will be drafted as opposed to what they can do on a Saturday).

Clemson D-line: The big unit

What we like even better, and agree with, is SI’s Top 25 team rankings in which they put Clemson No. 1 over Alabama. The Tigers have that mammoth, super-talented D-line and the Crimson Tide has both a championship hangover and what could become a toxic QB controversy (ask Notre Dame fans how that worked out, the latter part, two years ago).

3. Remember Him?

What, as a Notre Dame alum, you should really love about both ESPN’s and SI’s lists is that the Fighting Irish’s returning starter at quarterback, Brandon Wimbush, does not appear on either. Under the radar. Low expectations.

Remember how in love Notre Dame fans and the media were with Wimbush after September and October last season? The Irish were 8-1 and Wimbush, then a first-year starter, had thrown 13 touchdowns versus only two interceptions. He’d also rushed for 13 touchdowns and had four 100-yard rushing games.

Then the wheels fell off at Miami and Stanford, where honestly, Ian Book was the preferred option. It’ll be interesting to see what the lack of fanfare does to light a spark under both Wimbush and this entire Irish squad. Are they overrated in the mid-teens or have people forgotten just how explosive a dual-threat Wimbush can be? We’ll see.

 

p.s. We still believe Wimbush got hurt on that helicopter tackle (at the :37 mark above) near the goal line versus Wake Forest far worse than Notre Dame let on. To us it’s the X-factor of why his season went awry.

p.p.s. What to watch for with Notre Dame offense if you’ve not been paying close attention: Wideouts Miles Boykin (remember him from the LSU game) and Chase Claypool are 6’4″ and 6’5″, respectively, and both upperclassmen with experience. You’ll see a lot of deep jump balls for them this autumn.

4. The Other Tate

Martell in the spring game

SI thinks Khalil Tate is the nation’s best college football quarterback. Two years ago Scout.com believed Tate Martell, out of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman, was the nation’s top prep QB. Martell matriculated at Ohio State, where he redshirted last season.

So Ohio State names Dwayne Haskins, a kid with three years of eligibility remaining, its starting quarterback. And Haskins, like not a few of his Buckeye predecessors this century, has a game that’s better-suited to college, not the NFL. Which suggests he’ll want to hold onto this gig for three seasons. Which is to say we foresee a Jacob Eason-type future for Martell: West Coast hot shot goes east, gets a good look at the pine, follows Horace Greeley’s advice.

Martell, who is only 5’11”, may be waiting to see how L’Affair d’Urban turns out. But it would make sense if he transfers out of Columbus before the season begins, thereby giving himself three potential seasons as a starter somewhere else as opposed to, if he plays this season for the Buckeyes as a clipboard holder, two. Chip Kelly might enjoy his company in Westwood.

5. The Cyclists and ISIS

First, we cannot believe that Outside magazine and/or Jonathan Krakauer did not find this story first. Second, this will be a movie (remember what we said about the McNopoly story? Affleck and Damon have already bid on it).

Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a pair of 29 year-old Georgetown alums both working in D.C.—he for HUD, she in Georgetown admissions—quit their jobs, shipped their bicycles to Africa, and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. That was in July of 2017.

Last week, while riding through Tajikistan on Day 369 of their journey, the couple and two other cyclists were run down by ISIS militants in a car. It was not an accident.

A personal note: I often take off on bicycle excursions on my days off here. Last week I did a 50-miler, on my mountain-hybrid bike, beginning on the Upper West Side, traveling through the Bronx to the Bronx River Pathway (one of the little-known wonders and delights of America’s largest city) and up past the Kensico Dam in upper Westchester.

When I’m on these treks, I often think of how much improved everyone’s mental health would be if they just got out on a bike and experienced the outdoors like this. How people get caught up in all the wrong trappings of societal convention (Do you really want to spend your Saturday attending that 3 year-0ld’s birthday party?) and really are never free.

It’s a tragedy that Austin and Geoghegan were killed. Then again, they had 368 days of wonder and adventure that most people will never, or rarely, experience. And for me the tragedy is that so many of us don’t even realize how trapped we are.

Another aside: I bartended a party on Monday night where I made friends with one man, age 55, who told me he’d retired from the Granite & Mason (?) Union because of an aortic aneurysm. How do you spend your time, I asked him? “Whales!” he said with fervor, and then proceeded to show me photos of whale-watching trips he’d taken in Mexico, California and Cape Cod. It was something he’d only taken up after he’d been forced to retire. “I’m 55 going on five,” said the man, Peter.

He’s lucky enough to have discovered wonder before it was too late. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan were smart enough to figure it out earlier in life. Good for them. I hope no one who knows or loves them is sad or feels regret. They were probably truly happy when it ended.

p.s. The murderers’ motive was to protest Westerners infiltrating their culture, but they used an American invention (the automobile) to carry out their deed. We’ve long since given up explaining hypocrisy to demagogues and/or the people who follow them.

Music 101

Then Came You

What happens when you pair The Spinners, who to this point in their career had a pair of top ten hits, with Dionne Warwick, who’d had seven top ten hits? This 1974 song, which shot to Number One on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1974. Neither act had ever had a No. 1 hit before they hooked up. That’s Bobby Smith on lead male vocals.

Remote Patrol

Margin Call

11:35 p.m. TMC (NOT TCM!)

The Big Short, Too Big To Fail, The Wolf of Wall Street and even both Bernie Madoff films (HBO and one for TV) likely earned more attention than this 2011 film dealing, in a fictitious manner, with the sub-prime mortgage crisis. We contend that this may be the best of them all, or at least in the same league with The Big Short. The above scene is Jeremy Irons at his very best, and you can see from the board room table some of the other actors in this film: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker and Demi Moore. That’s Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock, as the deer in the headlights who actually is the boy genius. You will also catch an excellent, as usual, Stanley Tucci.