Meanwhile, last night…

Three things from our nation’s capital last night…

  1. President Donald Trump delivers first State of the Union address. State of the union? It’s good. No surprises there.
  2. Down the street, at the arena formerly known as the Verizon Center (among other things)… your Washington Wizards defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder, snapping the Thunder’s eight-game winning streak. (Won with over 100 points: Hello, discount at Papa John’s today!)
  3. They both pale in comparison to this news… Redskins… agree to trade for… Alex Smith? What!? Alex Smith? Say it is so! Deal is worth north of $90 million but can’t officially be completed until the new league season begins in March. A lot can fall apart between now and then, but this is huge. Yuuge. On a big news night… this wins.

Money, sports, and politics

Following up on last Monday’s “bidding war” post re: Amazon’s new North American headquarters (“This is bigger than the Super Bowl“), there are these gems from my local weekly, the Loudoun Times-Mirror: two articles on the same page detailing sports-related tax giveaways in the DMV. The first, headlined “What a kick! Land leased for D.C. United Stadium,” describes the deal between Loudoun County (henceforth known as “Sugar Daddy”) and the D.C. United soccer team to bring a “second-division” team (some kind of minor league affiliate) to Leesburg, Virginia. Plans include $15 million for “construction” (I am reaching for my wallet here) and the understanding that the county will build 1,000 parking spaces for the stadium and “provide access to a nearby park-and-ride” during events at the facility. The D.C. United will lease the property for 40 years, exact terms unreported. (Incidentally, the property is valued at $23 million.) What a kick? It’s a kick in the something all right.

Interestingly enough there is another sports-related tax giveaway story just below that describing the soccer swindle. Headlined “Bipartisan plan would ban Redskins bidding war,” I was reaching for my wallet before I finished the title. But here there may be a glimmer of hope. Apparently three politicians (unnamed in the article), one each from Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., have proposed a pact, if you will, barring any public spending on incentives for a new Washington Redskins stadium. (The club’s current lease at FedEx Field in Maryland expires in 2027.) “A” for effort is my initial reaction, though proposing a pact isn’t exactly achieving one, let alone maintaining it. The thing about most pacts is that somebody always cheats. (Unless there’s a guy named Bruno with brass knuckles standing there.) Executive thoughts on this one? A spokesman for new Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said the governor wants to “structure a creative deal” to bring the team to Virginia.

Structure a creative deal? Give me a break.

Cue Mike reaching for his wallet.

Somebody Feed Phil

Exhibit seventeen million or so that the only good programming available on “TV” right now is original content streamed on Netflix is Somebody Feed Phil. Don’t let the stupid title fool you. The show is great.

A sort-of sequel to PBS’s I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (a great show with a great title), Somebody Feed Phil stars Philip Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and a writer or producer of a dozen more movies, TV shows, documentaries, and short films. Phil’s the guy behind the scenes on a lot of what you already know and love.

Somebody Feed Phil (and its 2015 predecessor) give us Phil the actor and congenial host of a documentary-ish travel show about food. No, not about food. Amazing food from amazing out-of-the-way spots all over the world. “Jealous” is the word that describes your reaction to much of it, though Phil’s so charming you’re really not jealous at all; you’re happy for the guy and root for him to find more delicious food all over the world. It’s basically Eat Pray Love minus the pray and a much more down-to-earth version of love. Told by a funny Jewish guy who doesn’t take himself at all seriously, yet has a healthy respect for those he meets and for the cultures he encounters. Bottom line: You literally cannot feel sad watching this show.

Netflix dropped half a dozen episodes of Somebody Feed Phil two weeks ago and I already need more. Much, much more. I still haven’t gotten a straight answer on why the original (which aired on PBS in 2015) wasn’t picked up for more episodes. Especially strange considering that the rebooted version is even more PBS-ish than the original. Hmpf. Goes to show that Netflix just knows what it’s doing. To PBS: We do your shows better than you do them.

Now somebody, please… give me more of this show. Now!

Fuller House

I’m surprised and disappointed in myself that the first words I had to say about Fuller House come nearly two years after its premiere on Netflix in February 2016. Fuller House, of course, is the reboot of the beloved family sitcom Full House, which aired from 1987-1995. The most succinct description I can give for these shows is that Full House was great network television in 1987 and that Fuller House was great streaming in 2016. A touch edgier though hardly racy, Fuller House both reveres and makes fun of its progenitor. It’s a tongue-in-cheek homage, if there is such a thing. It makes fun of what should be made fun of ( early ’90s TV show sap), yet includes just enough sap to make it distinctively part of the overall brand. It really is a grownup version of the original, in every sense of that term. (The little girls from 30 years ago all grew up to be hot women somehow.) It’s DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy’s show now, and the old guys just get to play caricatures of themselves. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

Fuller House does everything right, and does it the way television should be done in these days. Drop 10 or a dozen episodes every eight months or so and don’t take any of it too seriously. Bring out New Kids on the Block for a laugh and have Lonzo Ball show up for a scene and don’t worry so much about the morality play the ’90s version often became. Fuller House is now 44 episodes in, the most recent nine added just before Christmas (strangely called the “second half” of Season Three). I strongly recommend catching up if you’re not on board yet.

Me? I’m just waiting for Season Whatever They Call the Next One.

This is bigger than the Super Bowl

The biggest news story ’round these parts (and through much of the country, I suppose) is the Great Taxpayer Sweepstakes of 2018, winner to receive Amazon’s second headquarters, also known as Shangri-La.

Competition has been fierce among states and municipalities (now down to 20 regional “finalists”) to give the retail giant the biggest, baddest tax break and subsidy arrangement: plans that makes the Bridge to Nowhere look like, well, a bridge to nowhere.

The entire nation is doing a Binghamton, and mayors and governors all over the country are doing their best Tom Libous impression.

Hey, guys. Listen, you want to do business here. I’ll give you as much of my constituents’ money I can legally give, then I’ll change the laws so I can give you more.

The economic impact of Amazon’s new facility is something on the order of five billion dollars. According to somebody somewhere. The tax-dollar prize package offered by the State of Maryland is said to approach that figure. That’s pretty pathetic. Until you learn that New Jersey is offering seven billion.

I guess I can’t fault Amazon for this little shell game. Gimme, gimme, gimme is what I’d say. Having politicians tripping over one another to give me money? Must be nice. That’s the new businessman, remember. He or she doesn’t really have to build anything or make anything or provide a service. Just know how to cozy up to government officials. And the modern politician? He just has to know how to cozy up to “businessmen.” That’s 100 times worse.

I’m embarrassed that my backyard, “Northern Virginia” as we’ve branded it re: Amazon, is one of the finalists in this game. Not just one of the 20, but one of the favorites, considering that the guy who owns Amazon lives right down the street. Northern Virginia is, in fact, one of three area finalists, as the District itself and “Montgomery County” (Maryland) are also in the running. No doubt Amazon brass is having those three fight one another to get the biggest tax giveaway, a clever ploy from people who know how the game is played. If they put it in either Maryland or Virginia can they finally build that “Techway” bridge across the Potomac from Route 28?

Or better yet, keep it in Montgomery County, caveat being that they’ve got to expand the Purple Line to the Purple, Violet, Indigo, Lavender, and Laughing All the Way to the Bank Lines, and you can only ride them if you have an Amazon Prime membership.

God I wish I weren’t making all this up.

NFL “Final Four” weekend

CBS studio executives were shaking their heads watching last Sunday’s AFC matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. At stake for the teams was a meeting with the New England Patriots the following Sunday. At stake for CBS was a great game versus a terrible game. Pittsburgh versus New England: that’s a great game. Jacksonville versus New England? That’s a walk in the park. Literally. I’ll be taking a walk in the park while the Patriots roll over the Jags, and the rest of America will probably be doing something similar.

In the NFC we’ve got Minnesota versus Philadelphia. That’s a good game, and one I’ll be sure to be home for. That one’s on Fox, the channel that didn’t even exist the last time Minnesota was in a Super Bowl. In fact, neither of those teams has ever won a Super Bowl, and together they’ve got exactly one appearance in my lifetime. I really hope whoever wins that game goes up against New England in two weeks.

But not as much as the people at NBC do.

In case of actual disaster…

Update from Monday’s post: those giant free sample-giving machines are called “Freeosks” (clever!) and the one at my local Walmart did in fact produce for me a delicious Clif Bar Monday afternoon.

Note to self if nuclear fallout is ever set to occur for real (unlike the fake version last Saturday in Hawaii)…

Stock up on Freeosk Clif Bars!

First it was credit cards in vending machines…

Every so often I’m given a glimpse into what the future will really be like, some mind-blowing reality I could not have imagined, even with the ample time and vivid imagination I possess.

So this is it.

I’m a big fan of free samples at stores (actually I think anything free is fantastic), and last week I was treated to such while shopping at Walmart.

I was given my free sample… by a robot.

Oh, it’s even better than that. This wasn’t Rosie the Robot Maid delivering me rolled up ham slices on a tray. This was a giant contraption with the Clif Bar logo, dispensing said product if you texted (follow me here) a particular message to a particular number, then received a confirmation code to enter into the machine’s keypad. This took a few minutes (I’m sure your average preteen could have done it quicker), but then… voila! Clif Bar!

Apparently one can do this once a week. You’d better believe I’m going back today to try it again.

This. Is. The. Future.

The written word hath fury

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock on some distant planet the past week or so there is a new tell-all book about the Donald Trump presidency and its inner workings. The author, Michael Wolff “highlights unflattering descriptions of Trump’s behavior [and] chaotic interactions among senior White House staff.” That’s from Wikipedia, because I refuse to read any actual reviews of the book. Or the actual book.

Wolff originally claimed Trump had granted him access to the campaign and to White House staff, though it seems as if the book is more “Frank Sinatra has a Cold” than the insider access of an authorized biography. Wolff says he conducted more than 200 interviews of people around Trump, and much of the celebration the book has received has centered around what those close to Trump have said about their boss. One way to write a best-selling book these days: get people to say bad things about Trump and quote them on it!

There are two things that strike me about the book. (It’s called Fire and Fury, by the way.) One, on negative comments from those around Trump. Most people say unflattering things about their boss when he or she is not around. I bet not five percent of employees on Earth would say they think their boss is anything but a blithering idiot if they knew he weren’t listening. Have these people never read a Dilbert cartoon? This is what the world really looks like.

Second, on the book’s other major revelation, that somehow Donald Trump didn’t really want to win the election, and that he and his family were disappointed by the result on Election Night.


Same guy who was supposedly colluding with the Russians to get himself elected?

Come on, media. Get your stories straight.

Going old school

This past week I’ve had the opportunity–more than once, actually–to go to my local Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin (as it is called some places), it was announced this week, is cutting back not only on its name, but on its menu as well, reportedly eliminating a few of those silly items no one ever buys like steak and egg breakfast sandwiches and strawberry banana smoothies. Strawberry banana smoothies? At Dunkin Donuts? Yes, this had gone too far.

I tried explaining to my son that when I was a kid there were two items one could buy at Dunkin Donuts: doughnuts and coffee. And coffee was coffee. You either put cream and sugar in it or you didn’t, and it cost about 30 cents.

I knew something was wrong with the world when I couldn’t pronounce half the beverage options at Dunkin Donuts.

I’m happy to see this new trend.