Friday, April 18, 2014

Rant #1,389: Happy Easter

Today is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter.

Have a good holiday if you celebrate these holidays.

Again, the following is the perspective of someone on the outside looking in, because being Jewish, I don't celebrate either holiday.

However, the intersection of my holiday--Passover--with Easter is pretty interesting, and it makes for a nice time for all of us, because we pretty much either celebrate one holiday or the other.

Yes, it is holiday time!

I grew up in a community that if you were white, you were Jewish, and while I had many non-Jewish friends, really, Easter Sunday was nothing with nothing for me as a kid.

Sure, "Easter Parade" was always on, but quite frankly, the Kosher deli was open, and if we went out to eat, and it wasn't Passover, this is where we went on that day.

As I got older, and we moved to an area where Jews were definitely in the minority, the holiday began to take on a different sheen.

I began to notice that everything was closed on this day, whether we are talking about department stores or the nearest mall.

So we went to the movies, and if we were going out to eat, and it wasn't Passover, the Kosher deli it was, still and again.

Now, in today's times, most things are still closed on this holiday. However, I have noticed more things open. And this includes some fast food places.

However, since it is Passover, those are a no go.

We will go to the movies and then pretty much eat at home this year.

I respect what the holiday is to many, and I am sure "Easter Parade" will be on the TV as it always is.

I know that like during Passover, families will gather and have a nice meal on the holiday. They will reflect on the past year, and look ahead to what is up ahead.

Again, as an outsider looking in, I view Easter as a day of worship, for both your religion and your family.

And really, we should not need a holiday--whether Passover or Easter--to give us an "excuse" to do that.

Have a great holiday, and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rant #1,388: Good Luck To Valerie

During the 1970s, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was pretty much the standard by which all other TV situation comedies were judged.

It had crisp writing, an excellent cast, and while I personally wasn't the biggest fan of the show, it demonstrated how TV sitcoms had changed from the days of "I Love Lucy."

One of the cast members of that show was Valerie Harper, a good looking lady who played Rhoda Morgenstern on the show, the perpetually without a man lady who finally found her man and some level of happiness.

Her character was so popular that it was spun off into the successful "Rhoda" series.

Anyway, with that etched into our minds forever, about a year ago or maybe a little more than that, we were hit with devastating news: Valerie Harper had a type of brain cancer that was going to kill her, maybe in as little as three months.

As celebrities do nowadays, she went on every TV talk show that existed and told everyone her story, and it really was heartbreaking.

It was like she was making amends to everyone in the TV universe before she was going to pass.

But somehow, miraculous things happened in the interim.

Leaving herself in the hands of her doctors, and using different therapies, Harper wasn't going as quickly as many doctors had thought she would.

All of a sudden, the three-month death march was extended.

She showed up on TV again, talking about her therapy, and looking to the future, which most of us thought maybe would stretch out for six months and that was it.

Incredibly, it stretched out a bit more.

She was on "Dancing With the Stars," showed herself to be somewhat fit even with the cancer, and again, continued to talk about her therapy.

And yesterday, depending on what show she was on and what article you read, she is either cancer-free or is in remission, still has the disease, but her prognosis is much better than it was.

Remember, this is a woman, who in her early 70s, was just supposed to live three months tops.

Now she is either cancer free or in some type of serious remission.

Astonishing, isn't it?

Evidently, if you can piece together the various things that were reported, she is going to have to be checked out the rest of her life, because this cancer can hide, but it can't be totally removed from one's body.

Right now, it appears to be taking a break, but Harper must stick with a strict regimen to prolong her life.

This is really incredible, a feel-good story that comes at the perfect time--Easter/Passover--to make anyone feel good about their own lives.

My aunt had a brain tumor--non-cancerous--several years ago. She was vibrant before this happened, and her recovery after surgery was slow, and she continues to recover, all these years later.

The tumor put her down, but not out. She fought, and still fights, and she is winning her battle, even though she has to fight every day.

I think it is the same thing with Harper. She is a fighter, and wasn't going to go down without a strong fight.

And she is winning.

Who knows what the story will be in six months, heck, even six weeks, but right now, she is a winner.

Good luck to her.

I am sure the power of positive thinking has to be part of it.

She said she was going to lick this thing, and she has done just that, at least right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rant #1,387: Playboy, No. 1

If you are a male, you must remember your first encounter with Playboy magazine.

It was probably something that you found somewhere, and you were probably pretty young.

You found it, opened it up, and started to giggle, because you saw naked ladies in its pages.

That is pretty much what happened with me, although a long-ago friend of mine showed me my first Playboy.

It was in his room, hidden under his bed.

He had about five sisters. What more can I say?

Anyway, Playboy has decided to release a page-for-page exact reprint of its first issue, the one with the Marilyn Monroe centerfold, for all to see and buy.

But unlike the 50 cents that the original cost, this one will cost you $9.99.

Who would have thought that a sophisticated men's magazine would sell anyway?

Certainly Hugh Hefner, the guy who currently wears a sailor hat and looks like a dirty old man, thought that it would, and boy, was he right.

And that first issue really did change the world, change the world's perception about women, and changed the world of publishing forever.

There were risque magazines before Playboy which showed off women's bodies--very modestly compared to now--but they weren't mixed with high-brow conversation and talk.

Playboy went one step further than Esquire, basically combining that magazine's wit with the trashy magazines' nudity.

And who else to grace the first centerfold than Marilyn Monroe?

As we spoke about last week, Monroe was the sex symbol to end all sex symbols, and her appearance in the pages of Playboy 60 years ago simply enhanced that image.

And again, by today's standards, she didn't show much, but what she showed was enough ...

Enough to make an empire that lasts to this day.

Will people spend $9.99 for an exact reproduction of the original issue?

Probably, more as a keepsake than anything else.

That issue was pretty tame by today's standards, but back then, it was as risque as possible.

Since that first issue, hundreds of centerfolds have graced those pages, mostly forgotten models who have gone onto careers in just about every area possible, from movies and television to modeling to publishing to being executives at companies large and small.

Many have even gone back home, raised families, and probably showed their young'uns that at one time, they were considered the height of beauty.

But it all started with Marilyn Monroe.

Give Hefner credit. He tapped into something that is in every male--the need to see something they shouldn't be seeing--and he made a fortune doing it.

And it all started with that first magazine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rant #1,386: Matzoh Stomach

We had our seder last night.

I have to say, it was an excellent seder.

We were at my sister's house, and she put on a great get-together.

She led our seder, and we went through all of the rituals.

My aunt was there, which was an added bonus, and everything went well.

Now, today, it is the first full day of Passover, we have our second seder tonight with my parents, and I am sure everything will be just as good as it was during the first seder.

This is also the first full day of the affliction I call "matzoh stomach," which I have gotten to various degrees over the years.

It generally comes when one eats too much matzoh, and since I love matzoh--the "bread" of passover, which is basically unleavened bread--I am prone to having such a malady, which comes and goes very quickly.

Everything eaten during this holiday is very heavy, and certainly, matzoh adds to the heaviness.

So at times, when one consumes lots of matzoh, one feels so bloated and corroded that you feel like you cannot move.

It either stuffs you up or lets you out, if you know what I mean, and the bathroom can be your best friend during this holiday.

Last year, I had absolutely no matzoh stomach problems, but you can't say that the problems are over simply because the previous year you had no problems.

It hits you like a lead hammer to your stomach, and when you have it, you have it.

Hopefully, I won't get it this year, but you never know.

I did not gorge myself with food yesterday, and I think that that is the key to this whole thing.

As long as you don't overeat, you are fine ... I think.

As I am getting older, I simply can't eat as much as I used to, anyway, so it really isn't that difficult to lay off too much of everything.

The problem is that everything is so, so good that you really do have to hold yourself back.

So on tax day, the second night of Passover, I say that I will not get matzoh stomach this year.

It used to be as inevitable as paying taxes, but I think I found out a way to avoid matzoh stomach, and I am going to stick with it!

And, by the way, happy birthday to my youngest nephew, who turns 18 today, and to my old friend from my old neighborhood, David, who turns 57 today.

I catch up with my old friend in 13 days, and matzoh stomach or not matzoh stomach, I plan on celebrating that day in a big way.

By taking a day off from work and not doing very much of anything.

And by that time, this year's Passover will be but a memory, and matzoh stomach, hopefully, won't be around to haunt me.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rant #1,385: Happy Passover

For Jews around the world, tonight is the first night of Passover, which means tonight is the first seder that we have, the first of two during the eight-day observance.

Passover celebrates the Jews' flight from Egypt in Biblical times, and it also solidifies the fact that the Jewish religion remains a strong one.

It is a family holiday, one where young and old alike gather to go over the traditions of the holiday, first and foremost, and at the center of the celebration, the recitation of "The Four Questions."

Matzoh signifies the most visible link to the holiday.

When the Jews, who were kept in slavery by the Egyptians but were later expelled, fled Egypt, they had to do it quickly. Whatever foodstuffs they brought with them had to be used quickly, and thus, any materials that they used to create bread did not have time to rise, and became a cracker-like food known as matzoh.

So matzoh, rather than bread, is eaten on this holiday, and personally, I love matzoh, and for eight days, that is what I exist on.

Matzoh may be the most visible link to Passover, but the most important link during the holiday is known as "The Four Questions," when the youngest children attending the seder ask the adults "Why is this night different than all other nights?"

Actually, anyone can read "The Four Questions," but the younger people usually do it. It is the real centerpiece of the celebration, and it is something that all participants look forward to.

The first two nights are the seder nights, with families gathering to look at the Jews' flight from Egypt, and the modern seders are real family gatherings, with the traditions reinforced.

Modern influences are also included, and new Kosher for Passover foods are always being created to whet the appetites of all who are present.

And other things permeate the seder, including world events.

I am sure this year, many seders will focus on the horrific incident which happened yesterday, when an anti-Semitic gunmen killed several in Kansas for no other reason than they were on the grounds of Jewish facilities.

Passover is my favorite holiday of the year. The only gifts given on Passover are those of families being together, and that is all that is asked.

The holiday takes lots of preparation, lots of cooking, but it is all well worth it.

For my non-Jewish friends, this is an interesting time of year, as the holidays for Jews and non-Jews kind of run into each other.

Palm Sunday was yesterday, Good Friday is on Friday, and Easter Sunday is coming up this Sunday.

To Jew and non-Jew alike, have great holidays this year. Through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these holidays ground us, and really bring into focus what is truly important in our lives.

We all need this affirmation of the family as the most important thing in our lives, and these holidays give us the forum to not only celebrate the holiday, but to celebrate the strength of our families.

So when I am all matzohed out, I really don't mind, because I am with my family, and that is the most important thing, isn't it?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rant #1.384: Marilyn and Elia

A big "so what" little piece of Hollywood's past has turned up nearly 60 years later, but even though at this point it appears to be no big deal, it still is generating a bit of a buzz.

A letter has turned up from 1955 where famed director Elia Kazan admits to his wife that he had an affair with actress Marilyn Monroe.

It says some other things about the time and place, but really, nobody cares about the other things.

All anyone cares about is Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe was the sex symbol to end all sex symbols.

She was beautiful, had an incredible figure, yes, used plastic surgery to get herself to this perfection, was a better than given credit for actress, and yes, she slept around.

A lot, if you want to believe everything you read.

We know that she did have some psychological problems, and probably soothed most of those with her bed hopping, if, again, you want to believe everything you read.

Not only was she married, at different times, to the likes of Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, but she supposedly had affairs with everyone from the Kennedy brothers to Albert Einstein.

Heck, I am surprised my father never had an affair with her, and the same is true for my grandfathers. She supposedly slept with every man alive in the mid 1950s.

Heck, if I was of age, she would have slept with me, too.

Now Kazan comes into the picture. I guess you have to believe this stuff, because why would he confess to his wife if he didn't sleep with her?

But you know, at this point in time, does it really matter?

Monroe has been dead for more than 50 years. Even her death is shrouded in mystery.

Why can't we just let things be, and why do we constantly have to drag her memory through the mud like we do?

I think it has a lot to do with her mystique and the way we judge women, at least during that period in time.

She remains a larger than life figure, a person who is even more popular in death than she was in life.

There were a lot of pretenders to her throne, but nobody has succeeded her.

There are beautiful women in Hollywood, but has any one of them become the sex symbol that Monroe was?

Also, even to this day, men are the ones to sleep around, in particular, Hollywood men.

Heck, if Monroe slept with every man who was alive at that time, then Frank Sinatra probably slept with every women.

Women are not supposed to be having affairs on a regular basis like men are, in particular married women, but as we know, that isn't true.

But Monroe typified a more innocent time, when men were men and women were, well, perfect ladies, not thinking of doing such things.

Well, Monroe slept around, so she went directly against the stereotype.

Why she slept around is the saddest thing about these things that come up from time to time, and yes, the men probably did take advantage of her extremely vulnerable state.

But I just find it amazing that all these years later, people actually care about this part of her life, and heck, I guess I care, because I am writing about it today.

Monroe will always live on as the penultimate sex symbol, but we sully her short life by making her the symbol of sex.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rant #1,383: It Is Only Thursday

This week is dragging, isn't it?

Thursday has always been my least favorite day of the week.

Why, you ask?


It is not quite Friday, not quite the end of the week, and at least since I have been working at my present employer--the past 18 years--I still have to wear a tie on Thursday.

We have a relaxed dress code on Friday, so business casual it is, and I never wear a tie on Friday.

I remember that when I first started working at this place in March 1996, nobody told me that we had casual Friday, so the first Friday I worked there, I came in with a tie.

When I found out that it was casual Friday, the tie came right off.

But again, Thursday is not Friday. We are not at the end of the work week yet.

And also on Thursday, I have to shave. I shave three days a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and any day I have to shave is not the greatest day in my book, at least not Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday I can live with because I am off from work, but the other two days, I shave because I have to go to work, and that doesn't endear the days to me.

I love the song "Friday On My Mind" by the Easybeats, but really, shouldn't it have been "Saturday On My Mind?" If I have Friday on my mind, I still have to work that day, so what makes Friday so special? I realize they are talking about after work time on Friday, but still, it doesn't make sense to me.

Loverboy's "Working For the Weekend" is more in tune with what I am talking about here. I guess we all work for the weekend, when we can recharge our batteries and relax a bit.

Are there even any songs with the word "Thursday" in the title? I can't think of any off hand, but there probably are one or two.

But here we are, it is only Thursday, and right now, approaching 5 a.m. in the morning, I have two work days to go before I can relax a little bit.

What happened to talk of the four-day workweek? That seems to have petered out, although a few years back, it was a hot topic.

But it all goes back to the fact that Thursday is my least liked day of the week ... so near to the weekend, yet so far.

I guess I will just have to work through it.

Let's see, I am 57 at the end of this month, so theoretically, I have just 10 years to go before I retire ...

Hah! That's a joke. I will be "working for the weekend" for the rest of my life.


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