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?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rant #1,307: Vote ... For Privacy

This would have been a great blackout sketch on the old "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" show, or perhaps on the current "Saturday Night Live," but it did happen, it doesn't appear as if it were staged, and I must say, I found it quite amusing.

President Barcack Obama voted early in the Chicago mid-term elections, and he actually showed up at a polling place to vote.

As in many states, the place where you vote is open. You go up to a podium-like structure, place your vote, and leave. It isn't like it used to be, where you go under a curtain and do what you want without anyone seeing you.

Anyway, the President makes his vote, and he is doing so next to a young woman who is also making her vote.

The woman's boyfriend sees this, walks past both of them, and basically tells the President, "Don't touch my girlfriend."

The President does not seem totally amused by this, but he takes it good naturedly, pretty much telling the boyfriend that he had no intention of doing anything to the man's girlfriend.

It is a pretty funny exchange, and you really have to see it to get the full thrust of it. I have provided it below so you can watch it yourself.

At the end, the President actually does give the woman a peck on her cheek, saying something to the effect that "Now he really has something to say," with the kiss and all.

This encounter made me laugh, but also made me think a bit.

Why were any cameras turned on the President as he voted to begin with?

Votes are supposed to be private, and as I said, used to be done behind a curtain.

Why was he recorded making his vote?

Sure, you can't see who he is voting for, but would a camera be turned on him if he were in the old fashioned voting booth?

Perhaps, but you would only be able to see his legs and him emerging from the booth. Here, you actually see him making his vote.

And what about the girlfriend of the man? You actually see her making her vote, too?

Is this right?

And I am sure it also makes some people believe that the whole thing was staged, which I don't think it was, but it could have been.

The President's approval rating has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, with his handling of the ISIS and Ebola crises highly scrutinized.

Could this episode have been staged to make him appear more human, more next-door neighbor-like, more appealing to the American public?

I don't think so, but you know what?

Videotaping people making their vote in polling places really should be banned to begin with, especially now that they are so open, without that curtain.

It really is no one's business to see someone voting, and it is bad enough that you record the President doing so, but what about a supposed innocent being recorded doing her civic duty?

What happened to privacy?

So yes, it was an amusing episode, but it should be the last such episode of its kind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rant #1,306: The Great Return

My family and I are back from vacation, and what a vacation it was.

We went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean--the Explorer of the Seas was our ship--and no, we were not on the cruise liner that had the supposed Ebola patient on it--that was on a Carnival ship.

But outside forces did greatly impact our trip.

We were supposed to go to Bermuda, to St. Maarten, to Puerto Rico and to Haiti, but we never got to St. Maarten, and although we did get to the other stops, the weather changed our boat's schedule quite a bit.

Two hurricanes--one was Fay and the other I don't remember the name of (was it Gonzalo?), but it was the greater of the hurricanes--shifted us to a different course, forcing us to miss St. Maarten entirely.

We did get to Bermuda, but the winds there were up to 40-50 mph while we were there, and we basically blew right through there.

And if you have a cruise that is supposed to stop in Bermuda in the foreseeable future, well, you aren't going there. The second hurricane that I spoke about ravaged Bermuda just a day or two after we got there, and we were told that we were the last cruise ship to dock there before the storm, so Bermuda is off limits for the time being.

Anyway, the two hurricanes greatly affected our course, so we had to bypass St. Maarten, one of our excursions that we had planned and paid for. Being forced to do so since the weather diverted our course, the cruise liner then planned to spend two days in Puerto Rico, and we planned two excursions, but alas, this also was not meant to be.

As Gonzalo, or whatever it was called, moved about the ocean, we had to make just a brief stop in Puerto Rico, just a few hours. We managed to take one excursion around San Juan, and that was that.

We then took the boat to Haiti, and that was probably the highlight of the trip.

Although our time was also shortened there--we had to take a longer course back to reach home to avoid the hurricanes--we had more than enough time there to enjoy the island--the Royal Caribbean way.

What I mean is that the cruise company rents land from the Haitian government and basically sets up shop there on a few coastal miles of the island, so all you get to see is fun, frolic, swimming, and happy people.

As you know, Haiti was ravaged a few years ago, and even beyond that, it was and still is one of the poorest spots on the planet.

But if you get to see the island the Royal Caribbean way, you miss all that, which is fine with me.

My family and I were on vacation, not a Peace Corps mission.

We swam, we ate, and we had a very good time there.

And really, that is how the whole time on the ship went.

There was a lot of down time on the ship, but we did what we could to make the most of it.

We saw several shows--they had one almost every night--we swam in the boat's pools, and we ate to our heart's content.

It was a fun trip, overall a very good experience for us, and some well-earned time away from the daily nonsense we go through.

This was our third cruise. The first two were on Carnival, and the two cruise lines do deserve some comparisons.

If you want to have the ability to party 24 hours a day, you must pick Carnival. The atmosphere on those ships is party hearty, and if that is what you like, Carnival must be your choice.

If you want to relax, you choose Royal Caribbean. You can party plenty on that line, too, but it is more sedate. There is more down time when you have to make your own fun than on Carnival, but if you want to relax, this is the boat to pick.

We are already looking ahead to our fourth cruise, but we won't plan that for a while. Once you have been on a cruise, you cannot go back to a time share or just a stay at home vacation.

A cruise really is the ultimate vacation, and we would love to take another one in 2015 or 2016.

Anyone game to join us?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rant #1,305: Vacation!

Yes, the time has finally come!

My family is going on its well-earned vacation starting tomorrow.

This has been a very, very tough year thus far.

The first 10 months or so have been a roller coaster ride for us, for sure.

We went from exhilaration--my son graduating high school--to the depths of despair--my auto accident.

It really has been tough, but now comes fun time.

We have really and truly earned this vacation.

We have worked hard, we have persevered through a lot of nonsense, and we are still standing.

Kudos to us.

And with vacation comes a break from writing this column.

It has not been a chore, but when I take a vacation, I really take a vacation, leaving behind all my normal stuff and experiencing new things, even for just a short while.

Thus, I probably will not be adding anything new to this column until October 21 or so.

But please don't forget about me, I will be back and probably raring to go on that date.

Vacations are meant to be short.

So as Annette once again wishes us off to the sunset, and the Go Gos warble us to take a break, I bid you a personal adieu, if only for a few days.

Speak to you later this month.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rant #1,304: Shill, Rattle and Roll

Every once in a while I find that it is the right time to shill for something that I want all of you to see.

I can shill with the best of them, and I don't cloud it over by saying that I am doing this for some other, more godly, reason.

No, I shill to shill, to try to sell you on something that I think you might enjoy.

With the untimely passing of Paul Revere over the weekend, which I chronicled yesterday, I thought it might be nice to shill for something else that I do, once a week, that people seem to have enjoyed for the past more than 10 years or so.

I run a Yahoo Group site called "Alternative Top 40," which showcases music that was pretty much ignored, to a certain degree, way back when, from the 1950s to the 1990s, with a focus on what I consider to be the prime years for rock and roll, 1964-1971, when that genre really came of age.

I usually put up between 12 and 18 different songs--album tracks, B sides, forgotten singles, bubbling under songs--and I let my members vote on the songs.

Those songs that get the most amount of votes stay on the poll, those that don't get removed. A song can stay on the poll for a maximum five weeks.

Sure, I put up music from some very popular acts on the site, including the Beatles.

But how about George Maharis?

The "Route 66" TV actor is virtually forgotten today, but he was as hot as a pistol back in the early 1960s, and he actually had a substantial recording career, having a few hits along the way.

He is on this week's poll, as are the likes of James Stewart--yes, that James Stewart--Peggy Lipton, from "The Mod Squad," Don Grady, from "My Three Sons," and several others that even boggle my own mind.

This month, I am doing my annual Halloween-themed poll, "Hollywood Masquerade," where people who really weren't singers stepped up to the mike and warbled as good as they could, trying to capitalize on their often fleeting fame any way they knew how.

Thus, tunes by Stewart--whose fame wasn't fleeting, of course--Lipton and Grady are the likes of the list of songs that are up there this week, and there are plenty of other surprises.

And yes, the Beatles are there too, to keep the sanity from not being too overwhelming, I guess.

So why don't you saunter over to and see what I have put up on the poll this week?

You can join up if you have a Yahoo account. Just do it, it is a lot of fun for me and the members, which number in the few hundred and come from all over the world.

And as an aside, the number one song all-time on this site, the one that has received the most votes, is the Beatles "I'm Down."

Here is the complete Top 10 list, and as you can see, there are a few oddities here, mixed in with some songs I am sure you know. Ties are noted by songs placed without a number next to them and the acts that performed these songs.

1) Beatles - I'm Down
2) Hollies - I'm Alive
3) Beatles - Rain
4) Beatles - Not a Second Time
5) Beatles - Doctor Robert
6) Nick Lowe - So It Goes
7) Who - Overture From Tommy
Monkees - Sometime In the Morning
Beatles - Another Girl
8) Tremeloes - Here Comes My Baby (LP Version)
Searchers - When You Walk In the Room
George Harrison - Isn't It a Pity
9) George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
10) Neon Philharmonic - Morning Girl
Gerry and the Pacemakers - It's Gonna Be Alright
Beatles - Long Tall Sally

So like Bob Barker used to say, "Come On Down!" and join the site. You won't be sorry that you did.

End of shill ... for now.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rant #1,303: Paul Revere's Ride

I am sure that you heard by now that Paul Revere, the leader of the seminal rock and roll band Paul Revere and the Raiders, passed away on Saturday.

He had been battling health problems for many months, but it was actually only until recently that he finally retired from the band, a group that he headed since the late 1950s.

He was 76 years young, an ironic age to pass on for the leader of a band celebrating our 1776 heritage.

Paul Revere Dick was the brainchild of one of the most successful, polished and misunderstood rock bands of all time.

Dropping his last name, he played off his Revolutionary War monickered connection, and ran with it literally all the way to the bank.

He named the band the Raiders, the group wore Revolutionary War outfits, and they took the Pacific Northwest by storm in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a party band, when regional bands were setting the pace for the future of rock and roll.

The Raiders were the most successful vocal  Pacific Northwest band--the Ventures were the most successful non-vocal band--to successfully break out of the local frat house and party circuit to the national scene.

Ironically, their first national hit was a non-vocal boogie woogie piano number called "Like Long Hair," but it was with vocals--namely that of frontman Mark Lindsay--that the band would garner their greatest success.

They were rock's greatest showband, what with their outfits, look and performance on stage--a mix of choreography that Busy Berkely would envy and that Mick Jagger-ish rock stance--and they were a perfect fit for TV, and it is through TV exposure that they gained their greatest fame.

They were Columbia Records' first rock act, and through that signing, they were plucked by Dick Clark to be the house band on his seminal five days a week rock showcase to go along with the already successful "American Bandstand," ABC's "Where the Action Is."

The show, in glorious black and white, showcased the hottest rock acts of the day--less the Beatles and Rolling Stones--and even created new short-term stars like Tina Mason and Keith Allison, a future Raider.

However, the show was virtually taken over by the Raiders--at various times including Jim Valley, Phil "Fang" Volk, Drake Levin and Mike Smith--and the hits started to come in droves.

"Good Thing," "Hungry," "Kicks," "The Great Airplane Strike," "Steppin' Out," "Just Like Me," were all punk/pop/rock hits, and the Raiders started to adorn the pages of Tiger Beat and other teen magazines.

They were hotter than a pistol, and Revere, still a major creative force behind the band, and also pretty much their manager and overseer, gave way to Lindsay as more of an out-front creative force of the band.

Lindsay would go on to be the band's main songwriter and producer, and Revere basically watched the books.

They continued to have hits with major TV exposure. Once WTAI ran its course, a whole new set of Raiders became stars on the Saturday afternoon "Happening" shows on ABC.

Now in color, the band--made up at various times by the aforementioned Allison, Charlie Coe, Freddy Weller, Joe Correro Jr. and other musicians--were still at the top of their game.

They were also one of the templates used in the creation of the Monkees, a band created especially for TV and which used the medium as a springboard for their own set of classic hits.

"Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be," "Too Much Talk," "Cinderella Sunshine," and other tunes kept the band on the charts, and Revere oversaw it all, even though the name of the band was now "Paul Revere and the Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay."

They continued to be booked on just about every variety show on American TV, including "The Hollywood Palace," "The Ed Sullivan Show," and the like, and they continued to be hot, with a bit of a softer sound.

When the "Happening" show came to its end, the Raiders dropped the "Paul Revere" and the Mark Lindsay portions of their name. They also dropped the Revolutionary War costumes, dressing in late 1960s appropriate rock garb.

Simply the Raiders, they floundered a bit with hitmaking, trying everything from a soul to a hard rock sound to adapt to the changing musical landscape.

They found occasional chart success, with "Let Me," one of their best songs of that period.

But they found the ultimate chart success with an oft-recorded tune that had been a top-20 hit for a British act just a few months earlier.

Don Fardon had scored a #20 hit with John D. Loudermilk's "(The Lament of the Cherokee) Indian Reservation," a song about how the American Indian experience was fading away from view as our nation was moving on from "things made by hand" to "things made in Japan."

The original song was full of war whoops and a direct indictment of the American progression of life away from the simple things. Not only did Loudermilk record his own version of the song, but many other acts did, including the Lewis and Clarke Expedition.

Lindsay, who claimed to have some Native American heritage, recorded the song as a solo for his burgeoning non-Raiders career, but Columbia decided to release it as a Raiders tune.

Revere pushed the tune from city to city, appearing on local TV and radio stations across the country, traveling on his beloved motorcycle.

The tune--pretty much watered down from the original but with the same message--rose to No. 1 on the charts as "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian), and this set the band off on several more albums and singles, but this was really their last hit.

Lindsay left in 1974, and even Revere pulled up the tent in the late 1970s for a brief period.

He returned in about 1978 or so, and continued the Raiders' legacy pretty much to the present time with a changing cast of performers, now playing up the Revolutionary War connections once again.

They became a highly successful showband, pretty much booked coast to coast for the past 30 some odd years.

Revere left just a few months ago to pursue his biggest fight, one which he succumbed to on Saturday.

Paul Revere and the Raiders are unfairly characterized as a corporate band, even though they were a real band with real roots.

Many people find their music derivative, a mix of everything that was gong on at the time of release, not groundbreaking in the least in any musical area.

However, that is very unfair to the band.

They are the link from the early boogie woogie of rock and roll through the changes in rock that happened because of the Beatles' success--punk turning into rock and roll turning into softer rock--and the progression of rock to a mellower, almost countrified sound in the early 1970s.

They are sort of the missing link that corporate types do not want to acknowledge--hence their lack of presence in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame--but real rock fans know their importance to the history of rock and roll in the United States.

Paul Revere was at the epicenter of it all, and the band's legacy is that sort of in-between Rick(y) Nelson and the Monkees; all of them used TV as a video springboard for a wealth of good music, music that probably would have been hits anyway but were aided by TV exposure.

Think MTV, think American Idol, and there is a definite link there.

And their biggest hit, ironically, had nothing to do with TV exposure, proving that the Raiders were as competent a rock act as there was out there in the 1960s and the early 1970s.

Rest in Peace, Paul Revere, you did it your way, and you did it right.

In fact, it was a "Good Thing" for seven decades.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Rant #1,302: Yom Kippur

Jews around the world will observe the holiest day on the calendar tonight at sundown.

Yom Kippur is the real deal, the Day of Atonement, the day that we have to demonstrate to God that we are worthy of him.

Jews will begin fasting after the solemn meal tonight, and will fast until the end of the holiday, at sundown tomorrow, 24 hours of not eating, not bathing, not doing any of the pleasures that we are accustomed to.

I have to say this: I will be fasting, and it is not difficult to fast, even for this food lover that I am.

The difficult part is that you are supposed to do it while at prayer in the synagogue, and the constant getting up and sitting down during different passages that are read really gets to you after awhile.

I will not do the fast in shul tomorrow, but as I said, everyone has their own way to honor the holiday, and pay homage to God.

After many, many years of attending synagogue during the High Holy Days, I will be doing my penance basically at home.

I am the only one who can fast in my immediate family, so I do it for not just me, but for my wife, my son and my parents.

Again, it is not difficult as long as you don't move around too much, and I plan to not move around too much.

We will break the fast at my sister's house, where I invariably eat to my heart's content to make up for lost time.

My family and I have a lot to be grateful for this past year, and we look forward to a great year next year. We had a rough year, but that can only mean that something better is ahead.

And we do believe that it is.

So if you celebrate the holiday, have a good one, and an easy fast.

If you are not Jewish, at least I have given you a bit of a thumbnail sketch of this holiday, the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar.

Speak to you again on Monday.

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