Friday, October 31, 2014

Rant #1,314: Halloween's Here



Boo!

Halloween is here today, on a Friday yet. Retailers must be loving this, communities that get overrun by kids looking for trouble are probably hating it.

My perception of Halloween has changed over the years.

As a kid, I loved the holiday, like just about every kid does.

You get lots of candy from your neighbors, and sometimes you get coins.

That is what happened to me as a kid.

I gave all the candy to my sister and mother, kept the coins, and I was happy as a lark (not my costume, I probably went as Batman or Superman as a kid, and one year I know I went as a baseball player, complete with bat and uniform).

I lived in a place with 20 buildings, thousands of apartments, and my friends, my sister and I would traipse up and down our building--and several other buildings--trick or treating, and you never saw so much candy in your life.

We only had two troubling incidents that I can recall. One, toward the end of my trick or treating years (probably 1969 or so), kids were jumping other kids for their treats. I remember somebody I knew got mugged right in the stairway in my building.

The other was that one time, my sister got an apple from a neighbor of ours, and it had more pins in it than you can find at a beauty parlor.

My mother would inspect everything we brought in from Halloween, and really, she shook her head in amazement at this killer apple.

And yes, we knew who gave it to my sister--an old, crotchety woman in our building--but in those days, you just let it pass, and you were happy that the apple was found out. Today, that woman, no matter what her age, would probably be arrested.

And these two incidents happened later in my Halloween trick or treating years, and it leads me to make some comments about today's Halloween.

Way back when I was a trick or treater, Halloween was a fun holiday. There was very little commercial about it, but we did buy costumes and candy for the occasion.

However, in the past 40-plus years, the holiday, in my opinion, has gotten totally out of hand.

This is a kids' holiday, but it has been co-opted by adults.

The entire holiday reeks of commercialism today, with seemingly everyone from McDonald's to the car companies getting into the act.

Adults have Halloween parties, and both men and women do their best to look their worst during this holiday.

Heck, there is even a sexy Ebola nurse costume out now, believe it or not.

And with these parties come a lot of problems, such as too much drinking and just overall bad behavior. Sure, not every party goes these routes, but you can just bet your local police department is looking forward to this holiday as much as they are looking forward to ... well, since it was brought up a little earlier, the coming of Ebola.

Halloween used to be such an innocent occasion, and even though I didn't eat a piece of candy that I got, I really enjoyed the fun of going door to door asking, "Trick or Treat?"

Today, it appears to be more "Trick" than "Treat."

In my community, hardly anyone comes to our door, even though we have holiday decorations up around the house.

Nowadays, you only go to houses of people you know, and parents take their kids around not to every house, but to only the ones where they know the occupants.

How sad that is, that a holiday of pure joy has morphed into one of pure fear.

I know it isn't like that in every community, but let me tell you, I got a real wakeup call a few years back that the holiday had changed from when I was a kid to what was then the present time.

I was driving on major highway on Long Island, and people--mainly kids--were throwing firecrackers at passing cars.

No, this was not my Halloween anymore.

The mischief should be fun, but in the current case, who has more fun during the holiday, the kids or the adults?

If you answered "the adults," you have just reasoned out why Halloween has changed for the worse.

Boy, I am so happy that I grew up when Halloween was something to look forward to, not an occasion to dread.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rant #1,313: Triskaidekaphobia



I will bet that most of you do not know what this word means, and if I didn't look it up, I probably wouldn't have figured it out either.

Triskaidekaphobia means the fear of the number 13 and the avoidance in using it.

It is the perfect word to describe this blog today, as it it the blog's 1,313 post.

And it comes during the Halloween season, which is pretty neat how that worked out.

The only better thing would have it to have happened on a Friday the 13th or at least on the holiday itself.

I came close to doing that.

But back to triskaidekaphobia ...

If you think that people don't have a fear of the number 13, I have news for you, many, many people do have this fear.

For instance, in real estate, many builders have skipped the 13th floor in their elevated buildings, going right to floor 14 from floor 12.

The number 13 has become to be something so negative that people shiver on Friday the 13th, and a whole movie franchise has come out of this fear of that number.

I can tell you that in the Jewish religion, the age of 13 is when a boy is thought to become a man, and bar mitzvahs are generally held at this age, although one can have a bar mitzvah--or bat mitzvah--really at any age beyond 13 (and 12 for girls). Thus, it is a lucky number among Jewish folk.

But the number 13 is feared by many.

Me, I do not have triskaidekaphobia, so I am very happy that this blog has reached another milestone, number 1,313.

We now have the same number of posts as the number of where the Munsters lived, 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

They scared a lot of people because of how they looked, but most of us laughed at this show, and still do all these years later.

13 is an odd number--it really is--and if you either add or subtract the digits, you get an even number, as in 3+1=4 or 3-1=2.

I have no idea if that has any significance at all, just thought I would throw it in for good measure.

So 1,313 it is.

I would have preferred if it fell on the actual holiday of Halloween, which is tomorrow, of course, but I have to say that it is remarkable that we came so close to doing that.

Maybe it was luck that we came close, or bad luck that we didn't.

Maybe the number 13 does have some negatives attached to it.

I happen to like the number.

And tomorrow, we will have what I guess I will call a "successive" number, Rant #1,314, like 13 comes just before 14.

I wonder if that has any significance at all.

Probably not.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rant #1,312: Blood Letting



During the year, when we go to the doctor, we have blood tests done, and we have to have blood drawn to be sent to the lab to do this.

Most people do not have a problem with this.

I have had blood drawn so many times that I feel like a blood pin cushion.

But not everyone is as comfortable doing this as I am.

My wife is terrified of the process, and has been since I have known her.

Last night, after work, she had to have blood drawn as part of her physical.

And as her husband, as I have always been, I was at her side as this ritual was performed by the nurse.

It takes a few minutes to do, but it must feel like days to my wife.

One also has to fast, and that adds to the situation.

My wife is much better than she used to be with this.

She used to get completely dizzy and even faint.

And it didn't necessarily have to had been blood work done on her. I remember her fainting when blood work was done on our son some years ago.

So, as I have always done, I stand by her side, make her look me in the eyes with her own pearly orbs, and Voila!, it is done.

It takes her a few minutes to sit up, she has her orange juice, and she is right again.

Happily, she is also in just about perfect physical condition. She has aches and pains like we all do at this age--she ages another year on Nov. 10--but everything else is pretty much excellent.

Her legs do bother her, but we know that is from her job, standing up all day as a bank teller.

But otherwise, she is as fit as the proverbial fiddle.

She watches herself, and to me, she has the body--both inside and out--of a woman 20 years younger than she actually is.

But whatever the case, she had blood drawn yesterday, and now that has to be processed.

I am sure her blood will show that she is fine in every way that they use the blood for a determination.

I don't mind serving in her stead when she gives blood. I find it kind of gallant, what a husband should do if his wife needs assistance.

It was a long day yesterday, we didn't get home until after 7:30 p.m., but I found it was well worth it.

And in this time of Halloween, what is more appropriate than a column about blood, anyway?

You supposedly can't get blood from a stone, but you can get it from this column.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rant #1,311: Jury Duty



I have been granted jury duty by the State of New York.

My jury duty begins in about three weeks, in mid-to late November. I just got the notice the other day.

I am looking forward to this experience as much as I am looking forward to contracting Ebola.

The last time I had jury duty, nearly three years ago, I almost got fired from my job.

I haven't forgotten that escapade.

This time, I am not in the district court, but the local court, which should make matters better.

And right now I am only a phone juror, although I will bet that I get called to serve anyway.

Let me tell you right out that I have no problem serving at all.

It is my civic duty to do so, and I really believe that if one is called, one should serve.

My problem is with my place of work. They do not take kindly to such civic service.

We are a small place of business, with only a few dozen employees, so the thinking is that if one is out on jury duty, we are missing a major cog, and the company will be held up in whatever it is doing.

They only will pay me for three days of jury duty, and I will be damned if I am going to be using my own sick and personal days--of which we have so few per year--so that I can serve.

So I have to go in there, and if chosen, I have to tell them that I cannot serve because of financial considerations.

I used to be able to go in there and yell "child support," and I would get off the hook immediately, but I can't use that ruse anymore, as my daughter now is 26, and I don't support her anymore.

The last time this happened, in district court, I tried to weasel out of my civic duty, but it really took all of my inner fortitude to do so.

I was chosen for a jury, and I begged to be let off. My place of work was not amused, and the old man who owned the place, who has now passed on, actually threatened to fire me.

Which, of course, is against the law, and he was told so by others in the company.

It is not as easy to get off jury duty as it used to be, and through my own maneuverings with that court, I was finally able to get off after three days of serving.

It wasn't pretty, and I do not want to go through that episode again if I can help it.

So I am simply hoping that I am not needed, and that I am excused over the phone.

If not, I will have to go there, plead a financial hardship, and try to get off of jury duty.

It will not be easy, and it goes against every moral grain in my body to do so, but as you can see, I really do not have a choice.

I want to serve, but I cannot.

Simple as that.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rant #1,310: How I Celebrate Halloween



Halloween is coming right up, on Friday of this week.

It just isn't the same holiday that I grew up with, and I will save another column to talk about that.

Today, I want to talk about how I celebrate the holiday.

I have started to make this an annual ritual, and I did it again this past Saturday night.

I watched "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," not only one of the greatest comedies of all time--as voted on by the American Film Institute (AFI)--but probably the greatest of all the horror/comedy movies.

This film certainly led the way to not only all of its Abbott and Costello sequels, but also to a number of other similar-type films, including, to a certain extent,  "Ghostbusters."

The Abbott and Costello film both revived their film careers and revived Universal Pictures, which might not still be around if not for this movie. It made so much money back in the late 1940s and early 1950s that it kept the studio afloat, and allowed Bud and Lou to star in a series of similarly themed films, some very good, some not so good.

The 1948 film sees the boys playing two dimwitted movers, who are hired to move two large crates to a house of horrors.

One crate supposedly has the remains of Dracula, the other the remains of the Frankenstein monster.

This all ties into the fact that Lou is enamored with a beautiful scientist, who just happens to be Dracula's assistant.

Once the crates are delivered, the boys unwittingly release both Dracula and the monster, and tied into Lou's relationship, Lou is being sized for his brain, which will be implanted into the monster by the evil doctor and her own, handsome assistant.

Most of the action takes place in Dracula's castle and at a costume party being held nearby, and at the end, Bud and Lou succeed in destroying both Dracula, and the monster, at least for the time being.

What leads up to all of this is not only clever, but hilarious, and while most of it revolves around the use of Lou's brain--which is supposedly superior to the one Dr. Frankenstein implanted into the monster in the first place--Bud is also part of the hilarity, as is Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman.

In his own Wolfman films, the character of Lawrence Talbot is to be pitied for his affliction; here, he is part of the hilarity. I am sure there are outtakes of this film that are as funny as the movie itself, and when Chaney, stone-faced as always, recites to Bud and Lou the reason why he fears the full moon at night, turning into a wolf, I am sure it took many takes to get it right. Just hearing him tell them this makes me laugh, and I am sure it made them laugh too.

Of course, on film, Lou says the proper reply to this supposed nonsense. As Chaney tells him that he turns into a wolf at night, Costello says, "So do a thousand other guys."

Universal took their most popular franchises, during a down time in their history, put them together, and came up with gold.

The film was so successful, and so well regarded, that is spawned several other "Abbott and Costello Meet ... " films, including movies where they met the Invisible Man (another terrific film), the Killer, Boris Karloff, and the Mummy.

Its success also saved the studio, which was back in the black with this movie.

As one of the few Abbott and Costello films without the use of any routines, it is really the dialogue that spurs the comedy and the action, and the boys are superb in their roles, as are Bela Lugosi, who supposedly had a tough time concentrating with all the craziness that went along working with Bud and Lou, and Glenn Strange as the monster, who handles an impossible role with aplomb, the best comedic Frankenstein monster until Fred Gwynne gave it his 110 percent on "The Munsters."

So I have made watching this movie my ode to Halloween, and even though I was a few days early, I felt it was perfect for viewing on Saturday night, so I watched it.

I must have seen this film 1,000 times already, but I laugh just as hard now as I did when I first saw the movie as a kid.

If you have never seen this movie, if you don't necessarily like Abbott and Costello, or if you want a quick 83 minutes to go by one night--or if you love the antics of the boys as much as I do--this is a must for the Halloween season.

The movie is that good, it really is.

It might not spook you, but it will certainly make you laugh, and put you in a perfect frame of mind to celebrate Halloween.


Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein by crazedigitalmovies

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rant #1,309: Rock the Boat



It has taken me a bit longer to get off my family's recent cruise than I thought it would.

I didn't sleep very well the first few nights back home, and I think I missed the rocking of the boat--which in turbulent waters, really rocked a lot--and I felt as if I were on the boat still, as my body felt like it was rocking for a few days after our trip.

I guess that is what nine days on a cruise ship will do to you.

While on the ship, there was some down time, much of which we spent in our room, which was the size of a good-sized bathroom. Just imagine how big the actual bathroom was if the size of our room was that of a good-sized bathroom!

Anyway, whether it was during the day or in the evening, when we were back in our room, we had the TV on.

And what we watched on TV to pass some idle moments was pretty interesting.

Royal Caribbean does their TV different than Carnival. With Carnival, we seemed to get a satellite feed out of somewhere in Texas, and it was not repetitive, giving us new, fresh stuff to watch in those few idle moments we had aboard that ship.

On Royal Caribbean, we had international channels that were repetitive as all heck, showing the same things over and over and over.

We had CNN International, ESPN International, and some type of hybrids of the Food Channel, CBS, and a few other channels.

They did offer the American League playoff games and football, not reruns, but fresh showings of various games, if that was your fancy.

But I found most amusing their offering of various current TV shows, such as "Mike and Molly," "2 Broke Girls" and "The Big Bang Theory."

I hate these shows with a passion, but they were actually funnier when you did not understand the language.

Since there were more than 3,000 guests on board from about 40 different countries, these shows were not only offered in English, but in Spanish and German too.

Somehow, not knowing what the characters were saying made these shows funny, at least to me.

I don't know how many times on "2 Broke Girls" they said breast and boob, because honestly, I don't know what the Spanish and German translations of those words were, but it was funny to see such obviously American characters speaking these languages.

I remember as a kid, I would turn on our local Spanish channels, and would invariably get "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It To Beaver" dubbed into Spanish, and I found them to be funny not knowing what they were saying.

These were funny shows to begin with; watching them in Spanish made them hilarious to watch, in brief doses.

The local Spanish channels still dub in some of their product--mainly movies--but the old sitcoms are virtually gone from these channels, and they show much original programming these days, so seeing these shows on the boat dubbed into Spanish--and German--was a treat, bringing me back to my younger days.

Yes, I have a somewhat warped sense of humor.

Try watching "The Big Bang Theory" and see Sheldon explain the string theory to Penny--in Spanish and German.

Heck, it is way funnier than watching it in English, where I don't find it very funny at all.

Also, dubbing what these characters have to say into another language kind of misses the nuances of the characters when they speak in English.

I have watched "The Big Bang Theory" numerous times, as my wife enjoys the show.

The character of Sheldon is portrayed as something of an innocent, a brilliant person who has absolutely no social graces.

When the material is dubbed into Spanish and German, he sounds more like a bitter, petulant hermit than a brilliant scientist who knows his way around a laboratory better than a nightclub.

I found these things so funny that I recorded a few on my camera. Watch them and tell me what you think.

You might not find them funny at all, but I certainly did, allowing those idle minutes to waft away in no time.

Speak to you again on Monday.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rant #1,308: Nothing Much To Say



I have nothing much to say today, just some random thoughts on a trio of topics.

Here goes:

Ebola, Ebola, Ebola: This is a terrible disease, don't get me wrong. Heck, I was scared when I heard while cruising that a cruise ship had a possible Ebola passenger as a guest, and breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that it was not on the cruise ship my family and I were on.

But don't you think that social media and the TV news might have blown the whole thing out of proportion?

Yes, we have to protect ourselves from this disease, and yes, we should secure our borders a bit more against those coming from countries where the disease is spreading in epidemic proportions.

But it seems that everywhere you turn, it is Ebola, Ebola, Ebola.

Our finest doctors, I do believe, will come up with a cure for Ebola, much like they came up with a cure for measles. It will happen.

I had measles as a child, a few years before they came up with a vaccine to rid us of the worry this disease causes. I was a little guy, quarantined for several days, and came out of it smelling like a rose.

Back to Ebola ...

But if you listen to the media, you would think that catching this thing is as easy as getting the common cold.

It isn't, and the regular media and social media should stop perpetuating this myth that we are all a handshake away from contracting this disease.

Yes, we should be aware of it, but the frenzy around it has become a bit much, I have to say.

Royals Even World Series: Heck, the way the World Series is being covered in New York, I bet people who live here didn't even know that it was being played.

For an area that is so Yankees-dominated, an area that loves the Mets even though they are pretty awful, a region where baseball is truly king year-round with coverage, it is so funny--and sad--at how the World Series is being covered here.

If it is even mentioned at all, it is usually behind coverage of two bad pro football teams, and even the new hockey season and burgeoning basketball season.

On Tuesday, when the championship series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants began, I was watching the local WCBS news program in the early morning, and there was absolutely no mention of the game at all.

Not a single mention.

Have we, in this region, become so blase about the Series because one of our local teams isn't in it?

Are we so spoiled that if the Yankees aren't in the playoffs, at least, we don't care about who is battling for the championship?

How said that really is.

Survivor Begins Another Season: Talk about being blase, does anyone other than myself even watch this show anymore?

It is the same basic premise that was developed from the first show of this series all those years ago to the current season: a group of "castaways" is placed in some remote place and has to basically fend for themselves, voting off those who aren't worthy.

This show has had some added features over the years, but basically, it is the same show that is has been from its beginning to right now.

Richard Hatch, anyone?

CBS has tried to reinvigorate this show by occasionally including D- and even E-list celebrities to the castaway mix--this year it was former controversial baseball player John Rocker, who was voted off pretty early based on his reputation--and it really has not worked at all.

And yes, you do see skin, and I guess that gets a lot of people going.

But at this point in time, just tune in on various shows on cable TV and you will see a lot more of that.

Survivor needs to take a giant step, have the next castaways try to survive in a frigid climate, and see how it plays out.

You won't have the skin, but you will have more game playing, more masterminding, more gamesmanship and more for the audience to grab onto than some guys and gals in their underwear.

Well, I guess I did have something to say after all.

That is really all I have to say today, just bits and pieces of stuff that I have been able to look at now that my family and I have returned home.

How's by you?
 

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