Monday, December 30, 2019

Sean's Best and Worst of 2019

Just in time for the start of 2020, here is my best and worst of 2019.

Best Movie I Saw In The Theater/Airplane: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

On Friday, January 11th, I boarded a flight from Washington Dulles airport to Dallas-Fort Worth for my annual-ish hockey road trip. I realized the night before that I had an economy ticket, meaning that I was allowed only one item that fits under the seat. Any other bag would need to be checked for $25 or $30 each way, so I successfully fit everything for my weekend trip into my backpack including a 2011 Kindle in the hopes of downloading the United app for in-flight entertainment. Although the Kindle was too old to download the app, it worked on my phone, so I watched documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" on a very small screen. What a film! First, Mr. Rogers is iconic and an excellent subject matter. Then, the clips, and especially interviews with people who knew Fred Rogers the best, were outstanding. It definitely got a little dusty a few times during the flight. How this film didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary is one of the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Because of this oversight, I fully expect the 2019 film A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (which I also saw) to receive several nominations with Tom Hanks winning for Best Supporting Actor.

Worst Movie I Saw In The Theater: Angry Birds 2

The problem was that I never saw the original Angry Birds, so it was difficult to follow along. Actually, the movie wasn’t that bad, and there’s an amazingly deep voice cast including Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Sterling K. Brown, Awkwafina, Peter Dinklage, Tiffany Haddish, and more. My frustration is that I took 5 year old Pedro Tulo to the movies, and he chose to see Angry Birds 2 over Toy Story 4. I tried to convince him that Toy Story 4 would be a better movie, but it’s really difficult to persuade Pedro Tulo once his mind is made up. We still haven't seen Toy Story 4.

Best Song: Bad Guy by Billie Eilish

As always, my criteria for best song is that I have to feature the song in a blog post at some point during the year. My best song for 2019 is by a teenager who hadn't heard of Van Halen when asked. She's also really talented and recently earned 6 Grammy nominations including those in the biggest categories like Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.

An honorable mention goes to Here We Go by Dave Grohl with Elmo and Big Bird.

I love this song!

Worst Song: Bad Guy remix by Billie Eilish with Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber's verse in the remix version of this song is totally unnecessary and simply not nearly as good as the original.

Best Television Show: Barry

This was the most difficult category for me. I watched both seasons of both "Succession" and "Fleabag" in 2019 which are outstanding shows that deserve all of the recognition and praise they receive. My pick though is another show that I started watching in 2019, Barry. This HBO show features Bill Hader (of Angry Birds 2 fame) as a hit-man who joins an acting class. Hilarity (and murders) ensue! I guess you'd call this a dark comedy or a funny drama if that's a thing. Anyway, I'm always entertained by the show and love the acting by Stephen Root, Henry Winkler, and especially Anthony Carrigan who plays a "nice" Chechen mobster named NoHo Hank. He makes the show.

Worst Television Decision: ABC Cancelling Speechless

I don't have a worst TV show. I pretty much watch the shows I know that I'll like and even then I don't have time to watch what I want. For example, I have over 40 episodes of "This Is Us" and "Modern Family" saved on my DVR that I haven't seen yet. Even the shows that my kids have watched this year like "American Ninja Warrior Junior" and various cooking competition shows have been fine. It may not have been the best parenting decision to let the kids watch The Masked Singer, but we are fascinated by the reveal of who is behind the mask. It's probably not appropriate to have them chant "TAKE IT OFF" though.

That's why I'm creating a worst TV decision category. I don't understand why ABC cancelled "Speechless," a show about a family where the oldest child of three has cerebral palsy. They could have made this a heart-warming drama, and there are definitely some touching moments, but it was a really funny show. USA Today even included Speechless in its top 25 shows of the 2010s. It deserved more than three seasons, especially since it would have been fun to see how the writers dealt with JJ going to college. ABC could have made room to fit the show in its schedule, even if it's only a 12-episode season. Here are a few clips to remember the show.

Best Book: John Temple

This was John Temple’s year even if he didn’t realize it! Temple published "Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America's Patriot Militia Movement" over the summer, and I also read his 2015 book "American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic" this year. Both nonfiction books are thoroughly researched and filled with detailed first-hand interviews. These books are examples of what journalism and story-telling should be.

Full disclosure. I know John Temple's wife though I haven't talked with her since I was in high school.

I also wanted to share other books that I read this year for no particular reason other than to show off that I read some books!

- Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover
- The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
- Playing Through The Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town by S.L. Price (I thought about writing a blog post about this book and compare Aliquippa to my own Western Pennsylvania community. I still might in 2020.)
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- The Club: How the English Premier League Became the Wildest, Richest, Most Disruptive Force in Sports by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg
- Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
- Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
- The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray
- Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski

Best Sports Moment: US Women's World Cup Win

Not a great year for Pittsburgh sports (I'll get to that momentarily), so to me, the best sports moment was the dominance of the women's national team. I included three videos below based on the round. In the quarterfinal, Megan Rapinoe scored twice in a 2-1 win over the host team France.

Alex Morgan's gave the US a 2-1 lead in the semi-final against England. A lot of people made a big deal about the sipping tea celebration. What a dumb discussion that was. This was a monster goal in a huge match. The celebration was fine.

Finally, with a 1-0 lead part-way through the second half of the final against The Netherlands, Rose Lavelle took a pass near midfield and sealed the victory for the US. She's an assassin!

Worst Sports Moments: Penguins vs. Islanders Playoff Series

Pittsburgh sports fans hoped that the Pirates would be decent in 2019, but I think we knew that seemed unrealistic. The Steelers lost Big Ben in week two and pro-bowlers RB James Conner and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster missed significant time. The fact they have been as competitive as they have been is a credit to the defense and head coach. Still, the most disappointing moment of 2019 was the Penguins getting swept in the first round of the NHL playoffs to the New York Islanders. Look, I don't think most fans realistically thought the Pens were going to win the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay and Boston looked really strong in the Atlantic division. In the Metropolitan, Washington and the Islanders were better than the Penguins all season (and continue to be so far through the 2019-2020 season) and Carolina and Columbus were about equals. Still, with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Guentzel, Letang, and Murray, you didn't expect the team to lose a series 4-0.

Best Blog: The Steel Trap

I really enjoy Heidi's writings. Her first world problems posts are worth the price of admission alone. (I should probably note that there are no fees to read The Steel Trap.)

Worst Blog: All of the blogs that I used to read but aren't around anymore.

I get it. Writing a personal blog takes a lot of time and life gets in the way. I'm going to write more about this soon in a separate post.

Best Podcast (No Budget Category): The Donut Bag

Joey is the hardest working man in podcasting. He puts out 3-4 podcasts a week on Pittsburgh sports, movies, television shows, random drafts, and more. I don't think this man sleeps!

Best Podcast (With a Budget Category): Hit Parade

I only learned about this Slate podcast regarding music chart history in 2019, and I'm only a few episodes away from going through every episode. This podcast was made for me. Chris Molanphy picks a song or artist in each full-length episode and does a deep dive on the song/group/time period with lots of song clips.

Best Sean's Ramblings Blog Post: Kamala, Katy, Ariana, & Demi

I had the most fun writing about what may have occurred when Senator (and now former Presidential candidate) Kamala Harris met with Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato.

Honorable mention to field trips. Specifically, our family vacation to Pittsburgh and taking Pedro Tulo to a DC United game. In addition, The Moose ran for class office.

Worst Sean's Ramblings Blog Post: ............

In late April, I fell asleep in front of my computer and either my finger got stuck on the keyboard or Ziggy sat on the keyboard. The result was a series of periods. According to Blogger, this has also been my most-read post of 2019, and it's not even close. Maybe I need to have Ziggy blog more often.

Best Play/Musical I Saw: Come From Away

This musical is based on 9/11 and the subsequent days where Gander, Newfoundland in Canada, a town of less than 10,000 people hosted approximately 7,000 people from international flights after the American airspace was closed. There are plenty of lighter moments but with the realization that 9/11 just happened. So so good.

Worse Play/Musical I Saw: None

With three young kids, you think I have time to see lots of plays and musicals?

Thanks for making it all the way through this post. Please feel free to click here to see my best of and worst of the last few years. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Happy Hanukkah 2019

Happy Hanukkah everyone! If you celebrate, I hope that you're enjoying the tradition of eating pickles during the Hanukkah festivities! Here are some videos to get you into the holiday spirit.

The Maccabeats are back with their annual Hanukkah song.

We can't have a song by The Maccabeats without a song by their bitter rival, Six13.

But wait. An Israeli singer named Shefita clones herself to have her own medley.

Did you know that Alton Brown likes latkes?

Someone named DJ Raphi has a dance.

Boris Johnson says Happy Hanukkah.

Finally, I didn't know that I've been missing a Hanukkah laser show my entire life!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Sean's Ramblings 2019 Year In Review

Welcome to my 15th (yes, you read that right) annual year in review, where I take the first few lines of the first entry of each month in order to produce a random and (hopefully) interesting summary of 2019. Please note that these are not my picks for best of and worst of 2019. That will be a separate blog post coming soon. This is simply a summary (sort of) of Sean's Ramblings in 2019.

January: The biggest story in Pittsburgh sports clearly involves the son of now former Riverhounds assistant coach Mark Pulisic. If you haven’t heard, Chelsea signed his son Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for approximately $73 million. Not too shabby.

February: It's been a busy month so far due to forming an exploratory committee to run for President. Apparently, donors aren't all that interested in contributing to a campaign of someone with no political experience or name recognition.

March: Actor Luke Perry passed away earlier this week at the way-to-young age of 52. Perry is best known for his role as Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills 90210.

April: I'm so glad that I'm on my community's email list. I mean, usually the posts have no relevance to me, but every once in a while, something entertaining comes out. Enter Rob (not his real name).

May: In November 2018, Ariana Grande released the song Thank U, Next. The song was Grande’s first number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in 12 countries. Basically, this was a massive hit. The reason I bring up this up today is because of the song’s first line:

Thought I'd end up with Sean / But he wasn't a match.

June: The 38th annual Celebrate Fairfax took place over the weekend and this was my 18th festival. Based on the time I’ve spent at the festival, I can now vote (which I’m actually going to do today).

July: One of my favorite topics to write about on Sean’s Ramblings has been attending live sports events and concerts. From Max Scherzer’s no-hitter (and nearly perfect game) to Fleetwood Mac and Paul McCartney shows to my hockey road trips, it’s fun to look back at events I’ve attended over the years.

August: A good friend of my in-laws is a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan. He even got to be the Pirates alumni manager for a day at a Spring Training game about a decade ago where Terry Francona (the Phillies manager at the time) ribbed him since they were from neighboring towns in Butler County.

September: Over the years, I've had various posts about "Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear" (like these) and "Pittsburgh Athletes with World-Renowned Athletes" or PAWRA (like these). This post, based on the following picture, doesn't fit either of these categories though.

October: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Sports was definitely a big part of my life growing up and continues to be today. I’ve been fortunate to see both the Penguins and Steelers become champions. I’ve also lived in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC, for over 18 years.

November: If you follow sports or the internet, you’re probably already aware of the situation that occurred last week at the website Deadspin.

December: Before I begin this post, I want to share some alternate titles. I Barely Survived Frozen 2. Or How Seeing Frozen 2 Almost Ended My Life.

That's my year of writing Sean's Ramblings. You can click on previous year in review posts here.

Photo of Luke Perry in 2001 by Leslie Hassler/AP
Photo of Jerome Bettis and the Jonas Brothers from Colin Dunlap

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Full disclosure. I wanted this to be a post sponsored by MyPoints. It didn’t happen. On to the post.

I signed up for MyPoints, a website where you earn points for shopping online (and by clicking on emails), in December 1999. I probably figured that my computer was going to die thanks to Y2K,*so I might as well get some points towards purchasing a new computer. The fact that a website has been around for more than 20 years is rather remarkable. How many other shopping websites (not sites like or do you know that are still around from the 20th century? And how many sites have you used consistently for 20 years? Anyway, I don’t do much online shopping, but when I do, I go through MyPoints to earn points. I’ve earned enough points over the years to get probably $1000+ in gift cards to places like Target and Wegmans. Sure, they send me too many emails a day, but I just don’t open many of them. In related news, my one email account has 9,000 unread messages. Not 9,000 emails. 9,000 unread emails. That’s my email account linked to MyPoints and others sites like airlines, hotels, and restaurants. I should probably unsubscribe to things someday.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the start of the post, I contacted MyPoints in the hopes they would sponsor this post. I figured they might like the free exposure in exchange for maybe 7,000 points. They did not reply to my message. With that written, if you’re not part of MyPoints and want to be, please let me know. I’m happy to get points through a referral.

(And maybe MyPoints will see this and decide to give me points.)

* Quick Y2K story. I called the company where I bought my computer in late 1999 to see if it was going to die. They said I would be fine as long as I had Windows95. When I replied that I had Windows 3.1 (less than 2% of computers with Windows had this or an earlier version), the representative said oh and got quiet. The computer survived.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Sean On Sports

I root for multiple college basketball teams. My favorite team is the University of Pittsburgh based on following them while growing up in Pittsburgh. I’ve probably written about this before, but I also support The Ohio State University, San Diego State University, George Mason University, University of Rhode Island, and several others to a lesser degree. One of those other teams is Duquesne University based on growing up in Pittsburgh and knowing people who graduated from there. It’s nice seeing the team doing so well at 7-0 to start the season, and I think their annual game against Pitt should be outstanding this year. Oh but they aren’t playing this year. I know Pitt has won 29 of 30 or some ridiculous number, but it’s a travesty that these two teams aren’t playing.

DC area pizza chain, Paisano's needs to find new athletes to be in their ads. Take a look at this picture.

Santana Moss has been out of the NFL since 2014. Josh Doctson was recently the Minnesota Vikings. AndrĂ© Burakovsky plays for the Colorado Avalanche. That's three of the five guys on this ad. No Nationals even after they just won the World Series? What about someone on the Wizards? The pizza company probably can’t afford Bradley Beal, but promising rookie Rui Hachimura would be good for them.

The Moose calls Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges, "The Duck." I don't think he's trying to be funny; I think he thinks the nickname really is The Duck.

Speaking of the Steelers, take a look at this:

* Ben Roethlisberger: 2 games started with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception
* James Conner: 8 games played with 390 yards (less than 50 a game) and 4 rushing TDs
* JuJu Smith-Schuster: 10 games played with 38 catches for 524 yards and 3 receiving TDs.
* Back-up QB Mason Rudolph got benched for an undrafted free agent.

If I told you all of this before the season, what would you think the Steelers record would be after 12 games? 3-9?

Even though I admit that I don’t follow the NBA that closely, it still seems extremely odd looking at the Western Conference standings (as of Wednesday morning) and seeing Golden State, San Antonio, and even Portland and Oklahoma City doing so poorly.

I’m a fan of Sheffield Wednesday in the English Championship League, one step down from the Premier League. I don’t have ESPN+, so I don’t get a chance to watch any of their games, but I follow along on Twitter to see whether or not they are winning. With that written, I don’t understand anything that is happening off the field. Apparently, the team (and/or owner) put the sale of the stadium as revenue for one season instead of for another season and this is bad. Now, the team may lose points or get relegated to English Football League One, which is the third tier. I’d love for some English football (soccer) expert to explain what’s going on and what might happen.

Finally, he Carolina Panthers fired long-time coach Ron Rivera with a month left in the season. From this ESPN article, Panthers owner David Tepper said the decision to fire Rivera now -- instead of letting the organization's winningest coach and a two-time NFL Coach of the Year finish the season -- was made so that Tepper could move forward with finding a replacement without going behind Rivera's back.

"I thought it was time,'' Tepper said. "Why specifically now is I was informed of other teams doing different types of searches out there, and I'm not going to start a search and not tell Ron Rivera I'm starting a search. Too good of a man.''

I don't buy this. Let Rivera finish the season. I'm sure that the owner could have told Rivera privately that he was going to hire a new coach after the season. Plus, is there really that big of a different starting a search now than in 3-4 weeks?

Monday, December 02, 2019

How I Injured Myself At Frozen 2

Before I begin this post, I want to share some alternate titles. I Barely Survived Frozen 2. Or How Seeing Frozen 2 Almost Ended My Life. (Thanks to Chris for this one.) On to the post.

Thanksgiving. A time to come together with family and/or friends and eat lots and lots and lots of wonderful food. The day after Thanksgiving: well, the leftovers are good. Otherwise, um, I guess it's a positive that I didn't see any videos this year of people fighting or rioting at Walmart! Let's start with how my Black Friday began. The Moose and my niece (both 8) woke up sometime very early. They say that it was at 4:00, but it might have been 5:00 or 6:00. Regardless of the time, it was still dark outside, and they thought it would be a brilliant idea to wake up Pedro Tulo and my nephew (both 5). Hilarity ensued! Except that it didn’t. Naturally, all of the screaming woke up everyone including two-year old Luigi. So at just around 6:00, all five kids were awake. Fantastic way start to the day.

Oh, but there’s more. Luigi had too much milk too fast and proceeded to throw up all over me. This is still before 6:30. While Luigi was fine and the kids all settled down with some television and donuts, we decided to take a trip to the movies. I mean, what’s a better way to spend Black Friday than with five kids (along with a theater full of other kids) at Frozen 2?

We arrived at the theater 20-30 minutes before the scheduled start time to get seats. There were no movie star scrambles for celebrities like Otm Shank.

Instead, the kids devoured the popcorn before the previews began, and maybe 2 minutes into the film, Luigi got restless. And by restless, I mean that he started to cry. I quickly took him out of the theater, and after he calmed down a few minutes later, went back inside. While walking up the stairs to our seats, I tripped while holding him. He was a little shaken up but fine. Meanwhile, I banged my left knee into the floor or stairs. Apparently, I shouldn’t carry my kids up or down stairs. It wasn’t too bad at the time, probably because I was too embarrassed about tripping in public.

I limped around a little for a few hours, and then drove home. My knee must have tightened up during the drive, so throughout Friday and much of Saturday, going up and down stairs hurt. I couldn't seem to put much weight on my left leg when alternating stairs. It was okay if I put one foot on one step and the other foot on the same step. Alternating steps (like how a normal person goes up or down steps) hurt.

I’m blaming Josh Gad. No not Josh Gad being the voice of Olaf, Josh Gad himself.

A few quick spoilers from Frozen 2. How does Elsa just let Anna become ruler of Arendelle? Is there no democracy there? So much nepotism.

Elsa is a bad influence for kids. I’m not talking about her strength and independence or about how she tries to help others (in this movie, not the first Frozen where she runs away and abandons everyone, but it’s okay since she “let it go”). No, Elsa travels to really cold places but apparently doesn’t feel the need to wear a coat, gloves, or hat despite exposing her shoulders. I’m sure that there are countless parents battling their kids about wearing a coat in cold temperatures. The kids are probably refusing to wear coats, citing Elsa for not wearing one in the Frozen movies, and then replying, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”

Hot take. The songs in Moana are so much better than the songs in Frozen. And I’ve already forgotten the songs in Frozen 2.

Back to me, my left knee felt better on Sunday, but my right foot has bothered me on and off for the last week or so. I'm a mess!