Celebrity Death Pools Make a Killing

Original article at Columbia News Service (archived here).

The reviews are coming in:

Looks like someone Dugg it.

Stiffs.com seemed pleased with my work. And I now write for Columbian Ewes Service, apparently. I guess. After all, Columbian Ewes need representation, too.

Elizabeth Taylor hasn’t been this popular since “Cleopatra.” The Rev. Billy Graham, who was recently ranked the most influential preacher in the world, has another No. 1 ranking – one that he’d rather not have. And Fidel Castro, after many near misses in the past, might finally accomplish this year what many have long hoped for him.

Strange as it sounds, people are rooting for them to die this year.

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Slate Will Either Love or Hate This…

Part of Slate’s application was to write a critique of Daniel Smith’s Why I Hate Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I decided to have some fun with it. Not sure if this will help me get the job, but it should make me stand out, right?

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is iconic.

But Daniel B. Smith thinks it’s moronic.

The pictures are nice, but the text is bland,

How it has sold 29 million copies, Smith doesn’t understand.

The text is hackneyed and the plot is formulaic,

Smith considers this book to be boring and prosaic.

Eric Carle is the man who’s caused all this pain,

His inane prose has nearly driven Smith insane.

You see, all of Carle’s books are written the same,

You have insects eating things or bears playing a game.

With different species of bears, he has Mother Nature to thank,

Carle can write a new series and laugh all the way to the bank.

Smith says children’s books are supposed to teach,

And it’s not just children that they’re supposed to reach.

Children’s books are for parents, too,

After hundreds of readings, he’s ready to sue.

For emotional distress and the tort of assault,

Cause after reading this drivel, the author’s at fault.

Smith craves metaphors and symbols that Carle’s books lack,

Especially when compared to the works of one, Maurice Sendak.

His books have political symbolism and historical context,

And keep children and parents enthralled from one page to the next.

Of course, if it’s complicated subtext he wants and not banal gobbledygook,

It’s surprising he doesn’t consider “The Butter Battle Book.”

Dr. Seuss’ Cold War tome has everything Smith could hope for,

There’s complexity, moral ambiguity, and even the threat of blood and gore.

With rhymes that challenge any cynical, analytical, tough-tufted mind,

Kids will love it for the pictures and story, and leave “Caterpillar” behind.

But ultimately, this article is notable, not for what he leaves out,

Rather, it’s conventional wisdom that he looks to flout.

While parents will likely appreciate Smith’s rant,

Stop reading this book, they most likely can’t.

After all, bedtime reading is where the kids are strong,

And 29 million kids can’t be wrong.

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If “Tessie” is Playing, the Red Sox Won

My first story for Columbia News Service. It was about how sports teams play certain songs when they win games. (Archived here)

Sports and rituals go hand in hand. Some players refuse to change their socks when they’re on hot streaks; others refuse to shave. Michael Jordan always wore his college shorts underneath his NBA uniform, Wade Boggs always dined on chicken, and former Detroit Tiger Mark Fidrych ate the dirt on the mound whenever he pitched.

Teams are no different. The Red Sox play “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning at every home game. For the Yankees, it’s “New York, New York” after every game, win or lose.

Some teams have taken it a step further and have rituals only for when they win.

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At a Crossroads: The AMA and Health Care Reform.

Other versions of this were published by The Columbia Journalist and the Huffington Post

At a Crossroads: The AMA and Health Care Reform.

As Ronald Reagan was transitioning from Gipper to Governor, he had a short-lived career as a recording artist. Unlike some of his later Hollywood contemporaries, like Kevin Bacon, Steven Seagal, Jennifer Lopez, and William Shatner, Reagan’s recording career was for a very limited and specific purpose.

Simply put, he was frightened at the prospect of socialism in America and he was determined to do something about it.

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Philip Rivers Grants Wish

From the Archives: In honor of my least favorite quarterback in the NFL, I thought I’d recycle this article I wrote for a sports humor website a couple of years ago. I was inspired to write it after Philip Rivers taunted a bunch of Indy fans during the 2008 NFL Playoffs. Since the Colts and Chargers are the top two seeds in the AFC, maybe history will repeat itself this year?

Eight-year old Timmy McCormick was suffering from cancer and was told he had about year to live. He was in terrible pain and could barely muster the energy to get out of bed, let alone go outside to play with his friends. The only time he spent out of bed was to go to the bathroom to throw up, a side-effect of his chemotherapy. Timmy was depressed and in low spirits. He had lost all of his hair. He had no friends to play with. He had almost no shot at survival. Timmy did not have much to live for and both he and his family knew it.

The only time he seemed to be able to forget his pain and be happy was when he watched his beloved San Diego Chargers play football. His parents signed him up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Timmy, a loyal San Diego Chargers fan, only had one wish. He wanted to spend a day with the quarterback of the Chargers – his idol, Drew Brees.

Unfortunately, because of a long waiting list, as well as a backlog of wishes, Brees had signed with New Orleans by the time that Timmy’s wish request was processed. Timmy, still wanted to hang out with San Diego’s quarterback. So he readily agreed when the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to send Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback met up with Timmy a few weeks ago in order to fulfill the boy’s wish. He came to Timmy’s house and gave Timmy some autographed balls, helmets, and jerseys. He also posed for some pictures with Timmy and threw the ball around with him in the backyard. However, what started as a joyous meeting between a young boy and his football role model quickly turned sour.

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There Will Be Cleavage – A Review of Rob Marshall’s “Nine”

Guido Contini is a legendary and groundbreaking Italian director who has grand plans for an epic film about his beloved homeland. The only problem is he doesn’t have a script. So, he does what any good director would do. He builds grand sets, commissions fancy costumes, runs up a huge budget, and casts big-name stars. Script? Who needs a script? The movie will write itself.

Unfortunately, in the case of Nine, the latest film from director Rob Marshall, life imitated art a little too well.

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AIDS Group Finds Alternative Means of Educating Hondurans

It’s Saturday morning, and four small children are taking free art classes inside an unmarked Bronx brownstone in Morrisania. Nine-year-old Dell Thomas is drawing a portrait of his favorite character, Sonic the Hedgehog, that is accurate down to the rings around his wrists and the spikes on his head. The other kids are in awe of Dell’s talent and start to get discouraged with their own work, but their teacher, Rene Moreira, is quick to reassure them.

“You’re all good,” Moreira says to his students. “You’re all unique and have a creative mind.” The students go back to their assignment, drawing with pencil and then coloring with pastels and crayons.

What makes this art class different from the countless other art programs in the city is who runs it, an organization whose name is splashed on a giant banner draped on the wall.

“Hondurans Against AIDS,” it says, in big blue letters with the Honduran flag juxtaposed with a red ribbon.

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Hondurans Protest in Union Square.

A crowd of more than 60 people gathered in Union Square Park on Tuesday in support of the deposed Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, whose recent reentry into the country he once led has touched off violent protests, governmental repression and international tensions.

The rally, organized by the USA Honduras Resistance Coalition in conjunction with several other human rights and Latin-American political groups, took place on a chilly evening with many protesters thankful that a candlelight vigil was on the agenda. Forming a solid wall along the plaza of the park, the protesters were at first content to stand passively, informing passersby of their purpose by holding up their signs and Honduran flags. That changed as they started marching in a large circle while shouting pro-Zelaya slogans and vowing that “the people of Honduras will continue to struggle.”

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Bike Polo: No Horses, No Rules

People often think of polo as a refined sport played by wealthy men on horseback. What happens when you replace the horses with bicycles, you throw out a lot of the rules, and you add some WWE-style showmanship? You get bike polo – a fast-paced and anarchic sport that’s gaining a cult following in the United States. Victor Li reports.

Thanks to Ellen London (Columbia J-School ’10) for the host intro.

UPDATE (3/18/10): There is a pic of me in action at the Hardcourt Bike Polo website. There’s a comment under it about me needing to get off the decaf, which I found to be pretty funny. If s/he only knew how much coffee I went through on any given day…

Doctor K is In.

BRONX, NEW YORK – It’s Saturday, October 3 and Modell’s Sporting Goods store is having its grand reopening in Bay Plaza in the Bronx. There’s a long line out the front door as scores of people are waiting to get in, but they aren’t necessarily here for the free giveaways, special promotions, and big sales. Instead, many of them have braved the pouring rain for one reason only: to meet one of their baseball heroes.

“I came to meet Doc Gooden and get this ball signed,” said Rafael Rodriguez of the Bronx. “And not only that, to thank him for all he’s done for the Yankees. He’s been a great inspiration for these young kids.”

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Can You Use it in a Sentence? Can You Give Me the Definition? Can You Spell it for Me?

spelling bee champ

Modified and published at The Columbia-Journalist – a showcase publication for outstanding student work at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

For 9-year-old Shivani Angappan, “poinsettia” spelled v-i-c-t-o-r-y. Luckily for her, she didn’t actually spell it that way.

With the poise of someone twice her age and the vocabulary of someone three times as old, Angappan strode to the microphone and proved that she didn’t need spell-check, an iPhone app. or an electronic dictionary in order to spell. In doing so, she won the fourth annual Macy’s and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Spelling Bee Finals at Herald Square in New York City on Saturday, winning a $5,000 scholarship from Kaplan Tutoring, a $500 gift card from Scholastic and a guest spot on CBS’ The Early Show.

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