Monday, August 31, 2009

Rant #77: "Larger" Obituaries Should Not Take So Much Precedence Over "Smaller" Ones

When you have a public figure like Sen. Ted Kennedy die, it almost seems as if the world stops. Nothing else matters as we grieve for this fallen icon. Even if we weren't truly enamored by him, the Kennedy saga plays out like our own royalty.

Add into this the continued Michael Jackson nonsense, and you get two obituaries, and their continued coverage, that overshadows all other deaths that have taken place during about the same period of time.

One death that you may have missed was of a person who you probably knew better from her songs than from her name.

Ellie Greenwich, who died on August 26, was one of the most prolific songwriters of her generation. Often working with collaborators like Jeff Barry, she churned out a bushelful of hits in the 1960s, including "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" "River Deep, Mountain High," and "Leader of the Pack." That is just naming three of the dozens of hits she had as a writer, and just three of the hundreds of songs that were put out that had her name as a writer.

She personified the famous "Brill Building Sound" as both a writer and a producer. She was one of the first female rock and roll producers, and helped Neil Diamond attain fame as a solo artist during a period when he was primarily known as a songwriter.

She was also the focus of a long-running Broadway show, "Leader of the Pack," which was loosely based on her life.

Another one you might have missed was Drake Levin, the guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who died almost fittingly on July 4.

Although he has become a mere footnote in the history of rock and roll, he was the guitarist of the band when they were first being noticed nationally after being sensations in the Pacific Northwest for a number of years. He played on many of their early hits including "Kicks," the first anti-drug rock song.

He left the Raiders in 1966 when they were achieving mass popularity to go into the military. He later pursued his craft as a session guitarist for a number of popular acts including Emitt Rhodes.

I know Greenwich and Levin were not up to the levels of Kennedy and Jackson, but their deaths--and lives--should be recognized, and not overshadowed by bigger and more world-shaking passings.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rant #76: Woodstock Hollywooded To Cash In With Peace

Is anyone else but me bothered by the recent Hollywoodization of Woodstock by those in the entertainment industry?

No, I was not there (I was 12, and my friend's sister invited me to go along, but I knew my mother would kill me if I went), but I think that Hollywood is taking this one-time experience and molding it into its own vision.

There is a movie out right now, "Taking Woodstock," which is the prime example of this Hollywood vision. It purports to tell the story of Elliot Tiber, an aspiring Greenwich Village interior designer whose parents owned a small motel in upstate New York, near the site of the festival. He held the only music festival permit for the town of Bethel, and offered it and accommodations at the Catskills motel to the organizers of the Woodstock festival.

However, whatever its "noble" intentions may be, it has gotten the story all wrong--at least based on one of the commercials I have seen about the film and some reviews I have seen of the movie.

I have not seen the film, probably won't see it in the theaters, but on the surface, I see some problems, having to do with Hollywood tampering with the product.

The song "Hush" is used as the music in one of the commercials used to promote the film. Well, "Hush" is a great song, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the festival.

As you probably know, it was a big hit for the earliest incarnation of Deep Purple, a band that with all its glory, had nothing to do with Woodstock--meaning that they weren't there, did not perform, probably weren't invited, and probably had little or no idea what "Woodstock" was.

Why is their music being used in this commercial? Who knows.

Another commercial for the film uses Joe Cocker's version of "Feelin' Alright," which is more in keeping with the film's theme. I mean, at least he was there.

I wish Hollywood would get its facts straight, and not appropriate a bit of this and a bit of that to make things more palpable for the viewing public.

I think everyone would agree that Woodstock was what it was, and it wasn't Deep Purple, and it wasn't Hollywood per se, either.

Our local newspaper gave the movie a poor rating, but that doesn't really mean that much. as the reviewer complained that not much screen time was given to the main character's homosexuality, only passing mentions.

Tiber was gay, which I think excited the moviemakers, because for better or worse, gayness is "in" in Hollywood now. It wasn't during the time of Woodstock, so I guess the filmmakers thought they could use this as a subplot, exploring how it was being gay 40 years ago in a country going through a civil rights revolution that did not include gay rights.

Homosexuality in a Woodstock movie? I mean, who really cares about this? Do a movie on Stonewall about the beginnings of the gay rights movement during this time, but why throw in this subplot? What does it have to do with the festival? Why is it being used as a plot device? For that matter, why would heterosexuality be used as a plot device here?

It is being used to satisfy 00's needs in a movie about the 1960s. How lame a reason is that? It is like using hair care as a subplot of a movie on the Civil War.

Heck, it has gotten to the point that I'd much rather watch the really loooooong three-hour documentary about the festival ... at least that was real ... well, sort of real, at least.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rant #75: Argentina Hanky Panky Puts Governor In Hot Seat

Two months after admitting to an affair with a woman from Argentina, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said "folks who were never fans" won't remove him from his elected office early--and this includes jabs from his lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, who said the state cannot solve critical problems with Sanford at the helm.

Bauer called for Sanford to step down, while the impeachment process was being discussed by South Carolina lawmakers.

I guess the lessons learned by Ted Kennedy were not learned by Mark Sanford.

But then again, I am not so sure that Kennedy learned them either.

OK, we know that many marriages end in divorce. My first marriage did, and I rebounded, got married again, and all is well in my house.

Well, all is not well in the Sanford house. His marriage was breaking up, and he decided to have an affair with some hot tamale in Argentina, of all places. Couldn't he find a similar "shoulder to cry on" in his own state? That wouldn't have made it any better, but at least he wouldn't have to use government funds to get to his lover's place of destination like he supposedly did in traveling abroad.

No, Sanford can't perform his functions as state governor under these circumstance, and no, Kennedy could not perform his functions as a senator when he left the scene of his accident in Chappaquiddick decades ago. Kennedy got away with it, but that was 40 years ago, when the Kennedy name was akin to god (see my earlier rant, and yes, the lower case "g" was intended).

No, the Sanford name means nothing to anybody outside of his state, and in these times, when every move made by public people is micro-reported by the media, he can't--and rightfully won't--get away with this. He will have to step down, or he will be removed.

Times have changed a lot in the past 50 years. Do you think Ted's older brothers, John and Robert, would have been able to get away with all of the things that they reportedly did while serving our country if they did it today? I doubt it, and I doubt that Ted would walk away from his indiscretions virtually scott-free today, either.

Sanford is another one of these politicians who believe they are way above the law. In the past, they were. However, in today's open society, where news flows on the Internet in milliseconds, this just isn't so anymore. No, the days of the Strom Thurmonds of the political arena are over, and for that, we can be thankful.

Sanford is a goner, and everyone in his state, and around the country, should rejoice.

He is an idiot, and he got caught literally with his pants down.

He should put his pants back on, pack his bags with his other clothes, and get the heck out of the governor's living quarters, and do it fast, lest the media find out more about this dummy and his dalliances.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rant #74: Ted Kennedy, R.I.P.

I was never a fan of Ted Kennedy. I thought of the three brothers that entered politics (less the older brother, who was a war casualty), in my mind, he was the lamest, and perhaps the most deceitful of the bunch. His liberal politics played havoc with his more-than-immense lifestyle of a playboy tripping Washington during the 1960s and early 1970s.

But you have to hand it to him. He carried the torch of "America's First Family" for decades after the assassinations of his brothers, and even after his own personal tragedies, some of which were brought on by himself.

I guess you have to go back to the touchpoint of his life, one that he would truly wish hadn't happened. His dalliance with Mary Jo Kopechne--and her subsequent death--put a major blemish on Kennedy's life. I truly believe he would have been our President in the 1970s if this incident hadn't happened, but it did, with the 40th anniversary last month. I believe it dogged him the rest of his life.

He had lots of anguish to bear beyond that unfortunate incident. His own transgressions, his wife's alcoholism, his son's cancer, his nephew's rape trial ... it really never stopped for him, although in his later years, he was looked upon by some as something of an elder statesman.

His life was cut short by a terrible disease, but he fought on, with bandages on his head and vigor inside of him.

I will give him that. He was a true fighter. His kind is pretty much gone now.

I know the media will play up his death, going overboard to salute him as a humanitarian. I mean, it's politically correct to do this--look at how you can't say a bad thing about Michael Jackson now, for fear of people dumping on you--but it's really not necessary. He was an enormous talent who had many, many failings that often overshadowed who he was and what he did.

And yes, he got away with stuff (see above) because he was a Kennedy. Let's be honest about that point. He was a Kennedy--American royalty, if you will--and he did things that would have landed others in, let's say, a bad place. But he was a Kennedy, and you can't do things to a Kennedy that you can do to others. Those that would refute this can only go back to the Kopechne incident to see how being a Kennedy helped him ride out this incident, at least legally.

I don't think the Kennedy name has the same luster now, but back 40 years ago, being a Kennedy was like being a god (lower-case "g" intended).

But again, he was a fighter, a true American original. You can't take that away from him (or his brothers, who also had their own lapses in sensibility).

No, I never liked Ted Kennedy, but I respected him. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rant #73: The "N" Word Means "No" In My House (and Car)

Am I out of touch with what is going on or what?

My son’s 14th birthday was on Sunday, and we had some of his friends over to watch the Pay-Per-View WWE Summerslam Wrestling event. One of his best friends slept over that night.

The next day, after work, I had to take my son’s friend home. It is about 20 miles away, and being that it was rush hour, it took some time to get him back to his house.

My son got an iPod Touch for his birthday. It is a pretty nifty little device, but the niftiness of the gadget led me to think that I must be behind the times.

I don’t like my son to put certain rap music on his iPod; the vile, disgusting, curse-laden stuff really gets my dander up. But, like most kids his age, he is going to find a way to do it anyway, and I discovered this as he played a “song” (I use that term advisedly) for him and his friend to listen to.

Well, the song used one curse word after another (from what I could understand), and the tune, by a black artist, used the “N” word pretty regularly.

When I heard the “N” word, I told my son to shut the thing off. I felt bad for his friend, who happens to be black, and who was listening to this trash.

Well, you know what the kid told me? When I said I didn’t want to hear this trash and the “N” word in the car, he said to me, “It doesn’t matter.”

I replied, “Yes it does,” and I said that word was vile for not only blacks, but for people of any skin color, and it was not a word I allowed in our home or in the car.

The kids moved onto another song without even flinching.

I don’t know, am I out of the loop? And a black kid is saying this to me yet? I know the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” might come into play here, but I don’t know, I think that word is one that should be removed from our language.

I mean, growing up in a black area, I heard the word plenty too, and I heard it plenty from blacks themselves. Back then, the word was pretty much a “touchstone” for a lot of verbal drivel, but today, I think the word has become so commonplace in some rap music that it has become part of our collective culture.

I don’t know, I think that’s not a good thing.

I know, some artists use it to show that they are immune to its connotations. But when it becomes part of our cultural verbiage, I think, as a parent, I have to draw the line.

Another word in a similar situation in today’s world is pimp. If the kids knew what the word represented, maybe they wouldn’t use it like they do. Or maybe they would.

But again, I don’t care about the media. These are words that should be expunged from our language, as are many other terms that represent such human negatives that I won’t repeat them here in any form.

And I am not talking about curses, because we all use them and they will never go away. I am talking about words and phrases that humiliate people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, and have been used against blacks, Jews, Asians and others for decades.

There is no use for these words in our language, and I wish the kids of today understood what these words meant, and stopped using them themselves—and took to task those who did use them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rant #72: I Almost Feel Sorry For the Mets

As a lifelong New York Yankees fan, I rarely care about what the New York Mets are doing. They have always been the second team in this town--even during their good years--and if you want a comparison, the Yankees are to the Chicago Cubs as the Mets are to the Chicago White Sox. The Mets and White Sox exist, but they will always play second fiddle to the other teams, no matter what the standings say.

The Mets will never be the top team in the New York Metropolitan area. The Yankees have been so well established that the Mets can never top them as far as popularity, press, history and success on the field.

That being said, the Mets looked to field an excellent team this year. They has a great roster to begin with, with lots of talent. They signed two top free agent relievers to bolster their bullpen, and they were moving into a long-awaited, brand new park.

I mean, they looked like a winner.

However, what looks good on paper doesn't always pan out on the field, and that is the story of the New York Mets of 2009.

Forty years removed from probably their greatest triumph--the 1969 Miracle Mets beating the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series--the Mets are a beaten bunch if you ever saw one. They have had up to a dozen players on the disabled list due to injuries, and the core of the team--Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and John Maine--are all on that list.

They went from serious contenders to also-rans pretty quickly with so many players hurt.

However, I wouldn't even be writing up this entry if it wasn't for yesterday's game.

The Mets were down, as usual, but were mounting an "Amazin'" comeback. They had two runners on, none out, the tying runs were on base. The runners were set in motion on a hit and run, and Jeff Francoeur hit a liner to journeyman infielder Eric Bruntlett, who did something that had not been done in generations--he ended the game with an unassisted triple play.

I mean, what more can go wrong with the Mets. Heck, with the Yankees, also in a new park, ahead in their division by 7 1/2 games--and just beating the Red Sox last night--I almost feel sorry for the Mets.

Almost. But there was one year in the Mets history where they probably were more popular than the Yankees.

I grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, just a few minutes from the Mets old home, Shea Stadium. I was never, never, ever a Mets fan, always a Yankees fan. But growing up so close to Shea, many of the people I knew were Mets fans. Sure, I knew lots of Yankees fans (most of my friends rooted for the team in the Bronx), but due to what I call "vicinity osmosis," the Mets were the team people rooted for in my old community, which was known as Rochdale Village, once the largest co-op housing development in the world.

Anyway, during that fabled 1969 season, the interest in the Mets was fever-pitched, and waned for the Yankees, although true Yankees fans stuck by their team. However, when the Mets made the World Series, all you heard was Mets, Mets, Mets.

In those days, World Series games were played during the day, with a few at night. We were allowed to bring in our transistor radios, and could listen to the games if our teacher allowed us to. At I.S. 72, some teachers did, while others did not.

The Mets lost the first game to the Orioles, and Yankees fans were happy. But the next four went to the Mets, and the team from Queens was the 1969 World Series winner.

All you heard for the next six months was Mets, Mets, Mets. I couldn't stand it.

So 40 years later--and just after an actual 1969 Mets celebration which featured appearances by many of the 1969 Mets--the team from Queens is dead.

The triple play simply put an asterisk on probably one of the worst seasons in the team's history.

Some people use Woodstock as a measuring stick for 1969. I use the Mets' World Series victory in that regard, even though, at 12 years of age, I was mad as hell at the Orioles for not taking care of these upstarts.

But today, at 52 years of age, the Yankees are the best team in baseball again, the Mets stink, and all is well in the world of baseball.

Let's hope the 2009 World Series brings my favorite New York team a championship this year.

Sorry Mets, nothing awaits for you, with the exception of a very long off season.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rant #71: Obama-Wear Alerts Running Threadbare

Yesterday, I talked about people taking their clothes off; today, I am going to be talking about people keeping their clothes on.

The President and the First Lady have come under a lot of scrutiny about what they wear and how they wear it, and I think the time has come for us, and the media, to move on from this fascination--and criticism--about how our First Family dresses.

The President has come under a lot of criticism for his preference for leisure wear rather than formal suits, shirts and ties. And within that scrutiny has been a lot of upheaval about what type of clothes he wears when he opts for leisurewear--remember the jeans "fiasco" during Major League Baseball's All-Star Game? And how about his swimsuit pictures, remember those?

And as for the First Lady, Michelle Obama's fashion choices are going to be looked at under a microscope, anyway, because of her position as the wife of the President, but what the media has been doing has gotten to the point of being somewhat ridiculous.

They crab about the length of her skirt, her sleeveless attire, and most recently, her wearing of shorts.

I mean, c'mon, her choice of attire mirrors what most women wear when they are at leisure, I would think, and certainly is what women of her age wear.

This is not the 1920s. The First Lady--and she is a young First Lady--should be able to wear whatever she wants without being trashed by others.

Personally, although I don't agree on a lot of issues supported by the President, the one issue I do like is the fact that his and his wife's choice of dress is much like what my wife and I wear. This choice of attire shows that the Obamas are not as stuffy as many, if not most, of their predecessors. They are common people just like we are, at least looking at what they wear.

Maybe that was their plan in their choice of dress, although I doubt it. The President has said that he has had few suits in his closet in the past, and I believe him.

Personally, as I've said before on this blog, I hate ties, and thus, I really hate suits.

But I like the Obamas clothing choices, and I wish the media would get off the perch that they are on and look at more important matters.

And that's the long (sleeves) and short (pants) of it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rant #70: Butt Naked But Why Naked?

I am not going to name names--mainly because they don't need any more press on their "exploits"--but are you as sick and tired as I am of actors and actresses pleading "innocent" when it comes to naked photos and videos of them turning up on the Web?

Adults can pretty much do whatever they want when it comes to their bodies, and if they want to tape or photograph themselves in any stage of dress or undress, that is their right. But keep the video or photos to yourself, and keep them in a secure place. A secure place is not the hard drive of your computer, where the latest celebrity nudie celebration was reportedly stolen from.

Since the days of Pamela Anderson (oops, I named a name), I truly believe that these videos and photos are being used as promotional devices for those in them. I am not talking about the video showing an ESPN broadcaster undressing--that was a pure abridgment of the woman's personal rights--I am talking about the photos and videos showing actors and actresses either naked or engaged or both that turn up on the Web pretty regularly.

Look, we all know that no publicity is bad publicity, and these actors and actresses know that too. So when one of these things surfaces, they get their name in the paper for a day or two or three, and, of course, they let the world know that they either knew nothing about this thing or if they knew about it, it was for their personal pleasure and wasn't supposed to get out to the public.

Sure, OK.

And believe me, these things are so bad--and the explanations are so unbelievable--it almost makes you want to see a real porno film with real porno actors and actresses doing their thing.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rant #69: Where Have All The Ticket Takers Gone?

Another move to get us more in gear for the high-tech world has resulted in a lessening of the "human" aspect of our lives.

This wasn't a big story in the paper, but as I read it, I felt that something was wrong here.

The Long Island Railroad has eliminated ticket takers at a number of stations along its vast line. It believes the stations where the ticket takers were eliminated were ones that did not produce high ticket sales, so why have human beings taking tickets when you can have a machine do it--and do it far less expensively than having a real person dole out tickets?

One of the stations that is impacted by this move is the one that I would use to get into New York City. Honestly, I don't use it much nowadays, but when I did use it regularly, dealing with a human being was a far better way to get my ticket than the way it has to be done now, through a machine.

I know, in these economic times, the Long Island Railroad is looking to cut costs. However, it seems that whenever a big corporation has to cut costs, it cuts people.

It seems that no matter what we do or for how long we do it, we are expendable and replaceable by a machine.

Sure, the machine can dole out tickets faster and probably more efficiently than humans can, but you miss the human aspect of a person actually doing this when you regulate this job to a machine.

And, also, you put people on the unemployment line by taking away their jobs.

I just believe there has to be a better way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rant #68: Health Insurance Fiasco

This is a very touchy subject.

I have two forms of health insurance: one provided by my work, one that my family gets through my wife's work. The insurance I have from my work is utter trash. I am forced to get it through my employer; in order to work here, I have to take the insurance (yes, I know, this is illegal, but what am I supposed to do, sue my employer?.

My wife's insurance is through a very well known company, and it is pretty good.

However, there have been times in the past where I had no insurance at all, so I know what some people are going through now.

I do feel that there should be some national health insurance, at least as an alternative to what you have if, in fact, you have insurance.

For those without anything, it is almost mandatory.

I know many Republicans (and others) have chastised the President's plan, but the basic idea behind it is good: to get everyone in this country insured. Some have twisted the language to make it appear to read differently than the way it was intended, and on the other hand, some of the language is poorly written.

I think all sides should get together and iron something out, because such a plan, I believe, is necessary, especially as the Baby Boomers (my generation) move into older age. The far end of this generation will be moving into its 70s before you know it, and something really is necessary to keep everyone insured--from the day they are born to the day they die.

The idea is simple; the execution is tough.

It is something that is necessary, and I hope that everyone can get together and work out a plan that will benefit everyone, whether you have insurance or not.

But please, stop the bickering. It serves no one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rant #67: Working For the Weekend, Not On the Weekend

I don't know how many of you this post will address, but how does anybody work on Saturday and/or Sunday without feeling that they were left out of something?

I have had office jobs my entire working career (with the exception of when I was a teacher for a few years), and office jobs are basically Monday through Friday ventures.

However, in my current job, which I have had the past 13 years, during one roughly three to four week period during the calendar year, my group must come in on Saturday to do some work--and the time has come this year. I am a writer, and we put out a pretty hefty issue in the fall, which we start now, and we must come in on the weekend so that we get the darn thing out on time.

I don't know about you, but the Monday to Friday grind is more than enough for me. I am in the office before 6:30 a.m., and don't leave until 5:30 p.m., five days a week (my choice; because my wife works, I can't put in the extra hours in the evening, so I do it in the morning).

Anyway, when I work on Saturday, I most always do it very early in the morning. For instance, my wife happens to have to work all weekend (she works in a bank that is open just about every day of the year), so I come in at 5 a.m. and work until 8:30 a.m. or so. Even working those hours, I always feel that I am losing a day out of my weekend, I am losing my Sabbath (not that I am religious), and I am dead tired by Saturday evening into Sunday.

It especially hurt when my kids were small, because I had no pep or energy when they wanted to play with me; I was literally the too pooped pop.

I just don't know how people work on the weekend. I guess like my wife, you get used to it to a certain degree. But the weekend is for relaxing, being with the family, and also, for that matter, for gearing up for another work week.

I applaud those who work on the weekend on a regular basis. But for me, Monday to Friday is more than enough.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rant #66: Making Classic TV Shows Into Porn Movies Is Nuts!

Not that I pay too much attention to the world of porn, but several legitimate news organizations have had stories about a recent trend in porn: taking classic TV sitcoms and "sexing them up" for the adult film audience.

Already sexed up takeoffs on sitcoms include those poking fun (and other things) at Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy and, you guessed it, The Brady Bunch.

One of the Brady Bunch movies--there are currently two, with a third one supposedly on the way--is running on Playboy TV this month. I checked it out. It is pure trash--something about the Marcia character sending lecherous messages to the Davy Jones character (yes, DAVY JONES of the Monkees, but not the real Davy Jones, of course, but a porn variation named DANNY Jones, leading a band called The Apes).

I guess she gets punished for her indiscretions, but, of course, in between the punishment comes the usual grunts and groans.

It is pure trash, as I said, but it is funny that they can get away with this type of stuff.

But then again, Hollywood has been ripping off classic sitcoms-to failed movies for decades, so the porn industry has nothing on them.

Does anyone remember The Honeymooners movie? How about Car 54, Where Are You (which I think one of the movie networks is running this month)? There are several others, too, which have polluted theaters.

So if the legitimate movie makers can do it, why can't "legitimate" porn studios?

The list of possible TV sitcom porn takeoffs is endless. I would suggest to the porn industry the following (send my check immediately):

Make Room For Daddy: Daddy is an entertainer, and shows off his fatherhood to all mankind.

The Patty Duke Show: Identical cousins--I mean, just think of the possibilities!

Mayberry R.F.D.: A small town, good looking men and women ... funny things happen in small towns, especially with Emmett the Fix-It man.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Well, there is this ghost that comes to the house, but only Mrs. Muir can see him, touch him, feel him ...

Father Knows Best: Do what Father says, no matter what it is he is saying.

Get Smart: Two secret agents go at it with KAOS (heck, this has to be better than the legitimate movie that came out a few years back!).

Dennis the Menace: Dennis gets into a lot of trouble, especially with Mrs. Wilson, and Mr. Wilson gets steamed.

The Monkees: Since they have done their Davy Jones takeoff--by the way, this guy is neither British nor does he look like the singer at all--here we have four boys living together, playing together ... I better stop.

Leave It To Beaver: Enough said!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rant #65: New Car Gets 230 Miles Per Gallon

General Motors, which is in the middle of probably the worst period in its glorious history, has come out with the news that its new Volt electric car is able to get 230 miles per gallon for city driving, which is much, much more compared with Toyota's Prius, the most popular hybrid car on the road today.

Of course, this claim, which has not been substantiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, comes with a caveat: the car costs $40,000.

Hybrid cars are a wonderful thing: they save on fuel economy by providing a gas/electric riding experience. They save users lots of money on gas, and they are better for the environment.

My beef is not with the hybrid itself or the technology; my beef is with the car companies, for pricing these vehicles way, way too high.

GM's Volt is $40,000. How is the average person going to afford this? As anyone who has recently bought a car knows, with taxes and other things added on to it, your $40,000 really is a sham amount; you will be paying lots more for your car, and if you use financing, you will be paying lots, lots more.

When my 1995 Neon died last year, I did lots of research into hybrids. I figured that it would be sensible for me to buy one. I liked what I saw, but yes, I suffered sticker shock. These cars are priced so much higher than regular cars that it really isn't cost effective for middle class drivers to purchase one. They are only for the wealthy, I'm afraid.

We are so much into greening and preserving the environment now, why are car companies pricing these cars at such a high level? I know we are being charged for the technology, but doesn't this defeat the purpose--to get these cars into widespread use?

I had high hopes when I heard that both Hyundai and Kia were planning on releasing their own hybrids, because they are lower-priced carmakers. At this moment, I haven't heard a thing about these cars--perhaps they failed in making them cost-effective enough to mass produce.

Anyway, GM can take its Volt and its supposed gas mileage--until they price these cars about half what they are charging for this vehicle, I am afraid we, as a country, will continue to spend money on traditional gas-only cars--and that's when we decide to buy new cars, which as you know, isn't happening at a rapid pace right now.

Make a hybrid that is economically priced. The first car company that does that will see a windfall!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rant #64: Kids Growing Up Too Fast On TV

Why is it that being on a television show puts you on the fast track for looking 50 when you aren't even 20 yet?

I don't know what is with this current crop of kid TV stars, but they kind of push the envelope a bit, doing things that even an avowed 50 year old like me would never do, and they look it too.

It is one thing to be 50 and look 50, but it is another thing to be a teenager or in your early 20s and look like you have been around since 1957.

The Olsen twins are a perfect example of this phenomena. I know they are in their early 20s, but do they look like they are oldsters or what? I guess that bathing in your own money ages you a bit.

Miley Cyrus is another teen who is getting to look a lot older than she really is. Her recent "pole vault" aside, is this kid really 16 or 17, or is this is what we are being led to believe?

I guess it is the price of stardom at such an early age. These kids give up their childhood to please others. They aren't grounded at all, and they get into things that really aren't age appropriate.

I think it is also the times. With the Internet continuing to explode, no one's life is private anymore, particularly for kids like this. So everything gets revealed, literally for some young actors, and it ages them not gracefully, but forcefully.

Could you imagine a Ron Howard or an Annette Funicello growing up today? Heck, not only would we know that Annette was blooming before our eyes, but we would know her bra size too.

A number of years ago, my then wife and I were told that our daughter might make a good kid model, so we took her to a couple of agencies, to no avail. It was a cattle call, and my daughter is better than that.

The last straw came when we had a modeling agency representative come to the house to see my daughter. She took one look at her and said, "Her left eye is bigger than her right eye," and I promptly kicked her out of the house. That was it.

I can't imagine parents pushing kids into show business, but for a select few like the people I mentioned earlier, it can be lucrative.

But you lose your childhood. You can never, ever get it back, and it is priceless.

My question is--is all the fame, admiration, and for that matter, aging before your time, worth it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rant #63: I Hate Voice Mail

Well, I don't hate it when it is being used in a private residence.

But when a private company uses it, I despise it.

Just today, I called my local satellite provider to order a pay per view event. I proceeded to get so tangled in the provider's voice mail web that I basically gave up.

You get bounced from one area to another, and none of them answer your questions. The automatic answerer seems kind and sincere, except when you understand that you are talking to what amounts to a robot--and the answers are robotic too.

You can't win here. I still have not ordered the event, and I don't know if I am going to try again.

Give me a real operator anytime. I don't like speaking to robots.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rant #62: Why Are My Era's TV Shows So Slow To Come Out On DVD?

Alluding to my recent The Lucy Show post, I am glad to tell you (If you don't already know) that several of my era's TV shows--I am talking about shows from the mid to late 1960s--are finally starting to come out on DVD.

Sure, the major shows have already been released, but I am talking about the second- and third tier stuff--not just The Lucy Show, but The Patty Duke Show, The Mothers In Law, another season (finally) of My Favorite Martian ... this is a treasure trove of stuff that has been sitting around for way too long in studio vaults.

Once the DVD era arrived, and consumers demonstrated that they would buy old TV shows in this format, studios released hundreds of titles, most of them from the 1970s up to the current day. But there were scant releases from my era, the 1960s. I think that had to do with the fact that so much of those shows were in black and white rather than color. Would consumers buy black and white shows?

Certainly, shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits proved that anthologies would sell no matter what color they were in. But would sitcoms? Studios released titles like Leave It To Beaver, only to release one or two seasons and then nothing else. Others released product in both colorized and original black and white versions, such as Bewitched.

Then all of a sudden, these types of releases stopped. It was easier to get The Facts of Life than it was Beaver.

Now, the studios are mining their vaults again, and with shows like The Patty Duke Show ready to come out, there is no telling what else will find its way to DVD soon.

However, the wait for these titles has been ridiculously long. I hope that the first volume of these titles is followed by succeeding seasons, not stopping altogether like Beaver did with the second season. I notice that My Three Sons has hit a wall with the second part of the first season (another rant--why split the seasons, other than for pure greed?)--but I hope this trend does not continue.

And, for crying out loud, when will the third season of Beaver come out? And where is Dennis the Menace?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rant #61: The Lighthouse Makes Me See Clearly Now

I don't know if visitors to this blog are aware of it, but one of the biggest stories encapsulating the region that I live in--Long Island, New York--is the status of The Lighthouse Project, an initiative which will turn a major, underutilized piece of real estate in the heart of one of the wealthiest counties in America--Nassau County, New York--into a mega-use area containing residential, retail and office space, as well as a new arena which would be the new home to the NHL's New York Islanders and is the centerpiece of the initiative.

The project, in its original form, came under intense scrutiny, as environmentalists claim it will hurt the groundwater situation in the area, while others said it would increase congestion in one of the already most highly congested hubs in the world, while others said that its retail base could never flourish, while others said it would bring thousands of kids into a school system which is already maxed out, while others said ...

Yes, and you wonder why it has taken years for the project to be approved by Town of Hempstead officials.

I know that we are in an economic downturn, but I put my full stamp of approval on this project.

And it has nothing to do with hockey. I hate hockey, by the way.

It has to do with the changing nature of the county that I live in.

The Islanders' current home, Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum was built during a period of great growth and prosperity for Nassau County. Many New York City residents had picked up and moved out of the city during the early 1970s, when this project was built, including my family. The arena signified the growth that Nassau County, and the whole of Long Island, was experiencing.

Things have slowed down during the past 30 years, although many new residents have come to the Island, a large majority of them Hispanic, from South America, Puerto Rico and other places around the world.

The current arena is not an eyesore as some would have you think, but it is sorely in need of a replacement, much like the Mets' Shea Stadium needed to be replaced (notice I did not say Yankee Stadium--the original Stadium should never have been replaced).

Anyway, couple a new arena with new residential housing, new retail, and new office buildings, and you would think you would have a no brainer for this area--but it hasn't been that way. Special interest groups have fought it all the way, although the common rank and file generally has given its thumb's up to the project--or some form of it--for years.

To these special interest groups, I think that if this idea did not exist, they would not exist either. Although they are free to speak their mind, let's face it, nobody would listen to them voice their concerns if it were not for this project.

Charles Wang (pictured), owner of the Islanders, formerly leader of Computer Associates, and the spearhead of the project, has poured millions into the project even before a shovel is full of dirt. He has threatened to move the Islanders if the project does not get done--and with new arenas/stadiums in New York City, New Jersey and elsewhere either built or on the fast forward drawing board, he has many, many options if this thing does not get done.

Admittedly, although very wealthy, he is not the most liked person in this area. He is sort of Long Island's answer to Donald Trump. But in this instance, and maybe only this instance, the general rank and file are behind him about 99 percent.

And that is the most important thing. It seems as if the public is generally backing the project. Not only that, but the local clergy is backing the project too--which may be a first. It is good to have God on your side, although at a rally yesterday, the clergy said something stupid like, "The project will provide jobs for Catholics and non-Catholic workers."

If I am a Jew, do I qualify? How about if I am an agnostic, do I not only burn in Hell, but I can't get a job her either?

As my previous post alluded to, I went to WWE wrestling yesterday with my son at the old arena, and yes, it is old--it had few of the amenities of other arenas, was cramped, and pretty much devoid of any atmosphere whatsoever.

It was new in 1973, but it is real old now.

I say, let's get it done, let's bring a first-class arena to Nassau County and to the region, and let's give people a place to live, work and play. New and long-time residents deserve such an area, and such an arena in which to show off the county with pride.

Heck, if they can build new arenas in Newark, New Jersey, and even propose one for Brooklyn, why can't they build one on Long Island?

Sure, the economy is not good right now, but by the time this thing would be completed--probably 10 years--things could change, and change for the better.

If people are worried about the project's scale, take it from me, having written about real estate, I know that developers always plan big, and can cut down a project on a whim. You ask for the moon, you get cheese, but the cheese is good, too.

Stop stalling and get this thing done!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rant #60: Professional Wrestling Pins Me To the Mat

My son is 13, and he loves professional wrestling--the WWE and TNA. We have been to several shows of each, and tonight, we are going to the WWE show at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

I was into wrestling, too, when I was this age, and my friends and I used to go to Madison Square Garden to see the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, the Sheik, Killer Kowalski, Mr. Fuji and Toru Tanaka, Chief Jay Strongbow, George "The Animal" Steele, Billy Graham and many, many others.

Today, the names have changed--the top wrestlers that we have seen live include John Cena, Triple H, Edge, Sting, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Batista, Cody Rhodes, and Randy Orton--but the format basically is the same, unchanged for decades: pit the good guy vs. the bad guy, the crowd roots for the good guy, and may the chips fall as they may.

Basically, soap opera for boys.

It's just that today, unlike when I was 13 years old, professional wrestling has become a global phenomenon, family entertainment up there with the circus. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and when matches are held, it's like printing money--people fill up arenas, even in a down economy, and the majority of the audience are kids, ages 8-15.

When I was 13, you got proofed when you went to a MSG match--the placards used to say "no one under 18 admitted," but you could always find an "understanding" security guard who would let you in--and it was far from family fun. Lots of blood and gore, and, of course, ultra-violent. I loved it!

Today, professional wrestling is promoted as if each member of the family--mom, pop and the kids, but boys and girls--can get into this, without seeing any brutality.

Well, as we know, professional wrestling has been the focus of many investigations into steroid use, and it supposedly polices itself to a certain degree, because it is neither sport nor entertainment; it falls into a gray area called "sports entertainment" which really isn't policed at all. So both WWE and TNA, and I am sure all the regional associations, try to watch over their wrestlers, but they can't do it 24 hours a day. I won't go into the tragedies, but there have been many.

And all this in the name of "family entertainment."

Well, as I watch the current crop of testosterone-heavy warriors and silicone inflated maidens, I can't help but think that the notion of family entertainment has certainly expanded over the years. In today's world, both "SpongeBob Squarepants" and professional wrestling qualify.

But my son doesn't care, and I guess I won't for the four hours of action we will see tonight. Think of me as I try to keep my eyes open for all of this fun!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rant #59: I Bought My Car Without a Rebate

This weekend, customers rushed to auto dealerships around the country to buy into the government's rebate plan before the money allotted to this plan ran out.

Well, I didn't take advantage of this rebate because I bought my car more than a year ago.

I lament the fact that I could not hold out for a plan that wasn't even in anyone's consciousness back in late April 2008.

Heck, I just needed a car.

My 13 year old Plymouth (yes, Plymouth) Neon was going down the tubes fast. It had so many problems with it, but I kept on fixing it, because I did not want the burden of the cost of a new car as part of my monthly bills.

Even with all its problems, it routinely passed inspection, so even with the repairs here and there, it was still worth it to me.

Well, during the last repair on the car, the mechanic told me that the car's days were numbered, and that it could die on me any day now.

About a week later it did, and I didn't want to repair it again, so I junked it, gave it to a charity, and did some research on a new car.

I basically went into a dealership with empty pockets, and I bought a car that morning, April 25.

Three days later, I was in the hospital, eventually getting my gall bladder removed--on April 28, my birthday (natch!).

Anyway, I got some dollars off here and there for one thing or another, but I did not get a $4,500 rebate. I remember distinctly that about a week after I bought the car, companies started offering gas discounts when you bought a car.

I got nothing extra, just a new car.

Yes, I am still paying it off, and I should be getting this month's bill any day now. I enjoy the car--a Kia Spectra--and it has taken me back and forth to Florida twice. I have put more than 18,000 miles on it since late April 2008.

But no rebate.

Am I envious of those who received a rebate now? No, but I wish my Neon could have lasted just another year--maybe then, my finances would be better and that rebate would have come in mighty handy.

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