Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rant #100: Accidental, My Foot!

The way words are used in our language is often tied into different trends that shape these words that we use. This also extends to the use of phrases that tie together words to have meanings that are also based on current trends.

Case in point is the use of the word “accidental” when referring to drug overdoses. If I hear “accidental” and “overdose” used in the same sentence one more time to lessen the gravity of what the drug user did to himself, I think I might inject myself with something.

Remember the case of Adam Goldstein, better known to some as DJ AM? He died “accidentally” from a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine, the medical examiner's office recently ruled.

The toxicology report showed the 36-year-old had several drugs in his system, some illegal, some not, when he died: cocaine, OxyContin, Hydrocodone or Vicodin, anti-anxiety drugs Xanax and Ativan, Klonopin which also controls anger, Benadryl, and Levamisole, a drug apparently used to cut cocaine.

The cause of death was acute intoxication due to the combined effects the drugs, the medical examiner's office said. The dosage of each drug was not released.

To me, there is no such thing as an accidental overdose. If you use illegal drugs, or a combination of illegal drugs and supposedly legal ones, how can you consider the death accidental?

You are putting yourself in major harm’s way by using illegal drugs and mixing these drugs, and that is what Goldstein did. Sure, I don’t think his aim was to kill himself—although I don’t think that that was ever completely ruled out either—but that is what he did.

When you use illegal drugs, they are not regulated, so you could be getting different levels of “power” when you ingest these things. You might get a good dose, you might get one that is bad—and maybe even mixed with other substances. The bottom line is that you don’t know what you are getting.

And then mix these illegal drugs with supposedly legal ones—but ones that can become deadly without a doctor prescribing them or at least watching over their usage. Even over-the-counter drugs can be lethal if used the wrong way, as the cough syrup problem that was around a few years ago showed.

Since Goldstein dealt with the devil, so to speak, when he was ingesting all of this stuff, I wouldn’t call his death accidental.

He simply played Russian Roulette—and lost.

To me, that is not accidental. That is, more to the point, taking your life in your own hands. Goldstein may have been a superb DJ, but his spins of records led to his life spinning out of control, which led to his death.

Accidental? No. Stupid? Most definitely, Y-E-S.

P.S.: 100 rants! Here's to at least 100 more!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rant #99: The Beatles Save the World!

To demonstrate that people still have some good taste in music, the re-release of the Beatles’ album catalog is sending people back to record stores and other places selling CDs.

EMI Group PLC says consumers in North America, Japan and the U.K. bought more than 2.25 million copies of the Fab Four's re-mastered albums in the first five days after their Sept. 9 release.

On Billboard's pop catalog chart, the band had 16 titles in the top 50, including all 14 re-mastered CDs and two box sets, one stereo, one mono.

The Beatles' original U.K. studio albums were released to coincide with the sale of "The Beatles: Rock Band" on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, and the ploy is working to perfection; I will bet a good percentage of the purchasers of these CDs are younger than age 25.

And that is great. The generation that has been inundated with the likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, T.I. and countless other trash acts making garbage that today is called “music” is gravitating to music that really is music, music that says something, and music that has withstood the generations.

Yes, I am talking like an old fuddy duddy, but so be it. The Beatles’ music is timeless, and I am glad that a new generation is hearing, and grooving, to this stuff.

Yes, I know they are being introduced to it by playing a video game, but you know what, if that gets them, then that is fine. If that is the way they get to hear music that they would not normally hear, then I am all for it.

In fact, I am very proud, in a personal way, because the other night, my 14-year-old son asked me to download all of the Beatles’ LPs onto his iPod, which I already had, of course, and I happily obliged his new-found passion for the Fab Four.

And to make sure that he had everything, he rattled off about a dozen songs, and yes, they are now on his iPod …

Next to 50 Cent, Eminem and T.I., but heck, you have to start someplace.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rant #98: Never To Be Forgotten Or Forgiven

On Sept. 24, Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson whose remorseless witness stand confession to killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate in 1969 shocked the world, has died of brain cancer, making Atkins the first of the convicted killers to die. She was 61.

At the time of her death, she had been in prison longer than any woman currently incarcerated in California, and her passing comes less than a month after a parole board turned down the terminally ill woman's last chance at freedom on Sept. 2.

These murders were among the most vicious assaults ever documented, and cast a pall on the “mellowness” of the late 1960s youth movement embodied by the Woodstock generation.

Tate, the 26-year-old actress who appeared in the movie "Valley of the Dolls" and was the wife of famed director Roman Polanski, was one of seven murdered in two Los Angeles homes during the Manson cult's bloody rampage in August 1969.

Atkins confession from the witness stand rankled the public. Among her quotes while on the stand was that she had no remorse for what she did because (and I paraphrase) “I did it with love.”

Atkins subsequently apologized for her acts numerous times over the years, saying that finding Christianity had given her a new perspective on the acts that she had committed.

Nonetheless, she never won parole, even while on her deathbed. In fact, Tate’s younger sister recently said that Atkins did not deserve parole because she had lost out not only on having her sister, but she had lost a nephew that would have been 40 years old this year due to Atkins senseless rampage.

If memory serves me correctly, Atkins was sent on her mission to not kill Tate, but to rub out music producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son.

Melcher, a big-time producer at Columbia Records who did work with numerous acts including Paul Revere and the Raiders, had had conversations with Brian Wilson about possibly recording the music of a very young Charles Manson. When nothing came of the idea due to a violent confrontation that both Melcher and Wilson saw between Manson and another man, Manson became further outraged, and vowed to get Melcher.

Melcher had lived at the address Atkins was sent to by Manson, but had recently moved out with his then girlfriend, Candice Bergen. Polanski and Tate rented the house, and reportedly were not targeted; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anyway, Atkins passing will be a cause for joy of many people. Her callousness on the witness stand is permanently etched in many memories, and although she was not a troublesome prisoner, she and her cohorts belong behind bars as long as they live, as does Manson, who people forget never killed anyone—but his manifestations of being God as well as the ringleader of this band of drugged-out leeches cannot ever be forgiven anytime soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rant #97: Baring Ones Soul On National TV

When people like you and I have burdens to bare, we often lookto our friends, relatives and loved ones as people who will offer a shoulder to cry on.

When celebrities have their burdens, they write books and go on network television to vent their frustrations.

The latest celebrity to go this route is Mackenzie Phillips, the former child star and long-time drug abuser, who recently went on Oprah Winfrey’s daily gabfest to not only push her book, but also to tell the world a deep, dark secret: she had had a long-term inappropriate relationship with her father, John, the leader of the classic Mamas and Papas pop group.

Phillips said she had been abused for many years, to the point that the relationship had become consensual. It was only terminated because Phillips became pregnant, and thought her father might have sired the child (she had been married during this period, so it was either her husband or her father).

If what Phillips said is true, it is a devastating admission about her relationship with her dad. Of course, he is not here to defend himself, and her credibility as a long-time drug abuser has to be questioned.

That being what it is, why is Phillips using the Oprah show as a platform to tell the world about this supposed experience? Is she doing it to hawk a book, or is she doing it to “come clean” to the public at large? Is she doing it to revive her career, or to help other women come out with their own admissions?

Whatever the case, celebrities going on national TV shows to air their dirty laundry is nothing new. Just a week before Phillips, Whitney Houston came out with her own stories about her relationship with Bobby Brown.

And, of course, she came out with these admissions as her new album was being released.

You just have to wonder why celebrities feel the need to unload their feelings in front of millions of people. First off, why not do this with a licensed therapist that can help you deal with these feelings? The last time I looked, Oprah did not have this attribute on her resume.

Secondly, what are the celebrities’ motives for doing this and are the hosts of these shows going for ratings or are they truly concerned for these people?

I do not understand why celebrities’ skeletons in their closets are not handled in a better way. Why must they come on these shows and air their dirty laundry like they do?

Again, I don’t know if Phillips’ story is credible or not. Based on her past, there are lots of questions to be asked about this, and again, her father is not here to defend himself.

But that doesn’t excuse celebrities from using these shows as their own pulpit, not only to expunge some demons but to sell some product.

To me, it just isn’t the right thing to do.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rant #96: Hall of Shame

Kiss, LL Cool J, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, the Hollies, songwriter Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Darlene Love, ABBA, the Chantels, and the Stooges have all been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For what it is worth, this is a pretty weak class. You don’t really have any stand-out performers, and as far as “influences” — the term that the HoF uses to classify the significance of the performers who are nominated and those that get in — there really isn’t much of that here.

Personally, I would like to see the Hollies and Laura Nyro make it. I think they have made enormous contributions to rock and roll in their own way.

During their heyday, I don’t think the Hollies made a bad record. They had a substantial number of hits in the U.S. — “Bus Stop” “The Air That I Breathe,” and “Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress” among them — although they were better known in Europe and elsewhere. They featured one of the most underrated lead voices in rock, Allan Clarke, was the starting point for Graham Nash, and still tour and put out new records today, albeit with just two original members, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott.

And as for Nyro, although it would be a posthumous honor, I think it would be well deserved. She was the hot songwriter of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the songs that she wrote encompassed rock, soul, pop, Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building influences. Just a short list of her biggest songs — “Eli’s Coming,” “Save the Country,” and “And When I Die” among them — should guarantee her spot, and her influence on other female singer-songwriters such as Carly Simon and even Alicia Keyes is enormous.

Since a total of five go in each year, I will have to pick three more: Darlene Love, and maybe Genesis, and after that, I really don't know. Maybe Jimmy Cliff for his reggae influence, but I don’t think he’s a lock.

Of course, as long as Jann Wenner is running the show, you can bet Kiss, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and LL Cool J will get in. Let’s not forget the Dave Clark Five fiasco, when Grandmaster Flash was substituted because Wenner wanted a rap act in. He gave in the next year, and the DC5 entered the HoF, but the bad vibes are still there.

My question: if Kiss is even nominated, how come acts like the Monkees (where Kiss learned their marketing) and Paul Revere and the Raiders (another marketing model) are not in the mix?

Oh, that's right. I forgot.

It's Jann Wenner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rant #95: I'm Off To See the Wizard ...

Seven decades after its original release, can anyone deny that “The Wizard of Oz” is probably the greatest film ever made?

Oh yes, I know about “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” and “Gone With the Wind.” However, “Oz” stands heads and shoulders above these films for one major reason: it can be viewed and enjoyed by a range of people from five to 105. Do the other films appeal to such a demographic?

And fans of “Oz” have a treat in store for them tonight, for one night only. Seventy years after its first screening, the film is headed back to theaters nationwide today for one night as Warner Bros. unveils a technologically updated and improved version ahead of its release on Blu-ray Hi-Def.

When I heard that one of my local theaters was going to show this film in this manner, I bought tickets to tonight’s show without hesitation. I have never seen the film on the big screen, and the chance to see it in all of its HD glory cemented the deal for me.

With my wife and son accompanying me, I know I will see all of the elements of the film that I have seen countless times over: Judy Garland in probably her greatest role along with Jack Haley, Burt Lahr, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton in perhaps their greatest roles; “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”; the yellow-brick road; the adorable Munchkins; the Flying Monkeys; and the famous finale highlighted by “There’s No Place Like Home.”

But this time, it will be on the big screen. HD aside, since I have never seen the movie in a theater before, it will add to the experience. It will be almost like I have never seen the film before.

I can’t wait. And in addition to the movie, there will be some special add-ons, including one documentary, which will enrich the evening.

And no, “The Wizard of Oz” is not my favorite movie of all time. That personal honor goes to “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” which blew me away as a kid in 1963 and is a movie that I still howl at today.

But it is not the greatest movie of all time, not by a long shot.

“The Wizard of Oz” is that movie, and I stand by what I say—and I can’t wait to see “Oz” tonight.

P.S.: We saw the movie, and although there were seemingly problems with its presentation at various points across the U.S., the theater we saw it in had no problems whatsoever. The place was about 75 percent full.

The HD experience was very, very good. The clarity of the print was amazing, especially since this is, let's remember, a 70-year-old film. The colors were vivid, and while the black and white sequences paled in comparison, they appeared to be as clear as can be. I saw things I had never seen clearly before, such as a brook that is near the yellow brick road. The clarity was so good that you could see the water running there.

The sound quality was excellent.

Overall, a great experience.

The documentary that they showed beforehand was not new, and the extras that were advertised were, I think, in that documentary, so they weren't "never before seen" as had been advertised (I paraphrased, but so be it).

There were no souvenirs, such as T-shirts, to mark the occasion, which I was slightly disappointed about, but seeing the film in all its majesty on the big screen for the first time was fantastic!

Rant #94: ESPN Turns Me Off

As I previously said, I hate football (Rant #85, September 14, 2009), or more to the point, I hate all the blather that surrounds this sport, but it gets even worse during fall weekends on Saturdays.

Ever try finding a score or highlight other than college football on ESPN News during the college football season? It is an impossible task indeed.

The crawl at the bottom of the screen is supposed to supply quick summaries of games that are being played during a particular day. On Saturdays during college football season, there are literally hundreds of college football games being played.

ESPN has chosen to provide their scores at the bottom of the screen, and I do mean seemingly every one of them.

Thus, if you are looking for a baseball score during the most important part of the season, you literally have to wait for many minutes at a time before a score comes up. And if you miss the baseball scores, you are sunk, because the college football scores come up again, and you have to wait once again.

Look, I understand the popularity of college football, and for that matter, college basketball, especially in areas without major league sports. These are those areas' major league teams, so to speak, and people do follow them religiously. I do believe the vast majority of people outside of these areas follow college football because of betting and betting pools, but that is another story left for another day.

The baseball season is coming down to the wire, and not only am I interested in the Yankees, of course, but I am also interested in the other teams that will be in the postseason, including the wild card teams.

If I have to wait many minutes for the college football scores to finish their latest wave, it is ridiculous amount of time wasted.

And forget about highlights on Saturday … does ESPN play any other highlights than college football?

I think the way to get around this is for ESPN to list in the crawl about 10 games at a time, then move onto other sporting news. This way, you don’t have to wait so long if you are interested in something else.

But those shows that only talk about college football … those really have to be either pared down or removed. They go on incessantly during the weekend, and are followed up by shows looking at the NFL, which are equally as tiresome.

And no, you can’t switch to the flagship ESPN for relief, because they basically do the same “blitz.”

The whole thing is a big bore, if you ask me. And yes, the same thing happens during the college basketball season.

Again, these kids are supposed to be in college to be educated, aren't they?

Sorry, the whole thing turns me off.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rant #93: Media Misuses Power of Free Speech

The recent incident where a student at Hofstra University on Long Island said she had been sexually attacked, and then recanted her story when a partial video of the incident turned up showing that the acts were consensual, speaks volumes about how the news media covers such horrific acts—and the unfairness of this coverage.

When the young woman made her charges, four of the five culprits were rounded up and put into prison. When the woman recanted her charges, the men were set free.

However, their names and where they were from were plastered all over the news. Their photos went from one end of the world to the other, and this is without any trial being held.

Sure, they were released from prison when the story was proven to be a false one, but everyone knows who they are because the media jumped the gun on their guilt, when they should have been questioning whether these men should have been in jail in the first place.

Funny, now that the story has proven to be false, many news outlets refuse to publish the woman’s name or photo.

Why was it OK to publish the men’s photos and other information, but not the woman’s?

I believe the media handled this case, and others, irresponsibly. Remember Richard Jewell, who was accused of the Olympic bombing several years ago only to be exonerated? Why was his name and picture plastered all over the place—and this was before the Internet really took hold of the news and almost everything we do.

And there were many other cases. One that comes to mind is the Tawana Brawley case, where several men were charged with a crime that didn't happen. One of the victims was so distraught that he committed suicide.

The Duke University case is another. Several young men were accused of attacking a stripper, but the stripper made the whole thing up. These young men have had to clean their names up since being falsely accused of rape.

I don’t understand the news outlets, and I don’t understand the Nassau County, Long Island, New York, district attorney office for letting the men’s names out.

Oh, I know, these guys are no choirboys, but they aren’t rapists either. The women only made up the story to placate her boyfriend, but it could have doomed these men to a false label—and to some extent, it already has doomed them.

I just wish the news media would show some restraint in cases like this. They jump the gun all too often, and innocent people get eaten up.

And I hope the young men in the Hofstra case are able to pick up their lives, think about getting into such a compromising situation, and move on with their lives. The woman ... well, I hope Nassau County charges her with something. She needs to understand that accusing these men of such a heinous crime is wrong.

Whatever the outcome, the media's abuse of its power just isn’t fair—to the victims (and yes, the men are now victims), to the families involved, and to the public at large.

I hope that the media understands this, but since it continually happens, I would severely doubt it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rant #92: I Choose You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I often wonder how things get into my email mailbox. I have two boxes, one at home and one at work, and sometimes, I get the strangest emails sent to me. Yes, I get spam too, but one email that I recently received, and that I had no idea that I was going to receive, tickled my interest.

Zogby International is a public opinion poll tracker, and their latest poll, which was conducted Sept. 10-14, was very interesting. Based on its research, it has found that Americans like Paul McCartney as their favorite Beatle (27 percent), followed by John Lennon (16 percent), George Harrison (10 percent) and Ringo Starr (9 percent.

Also, 22 percent of those responding to the company’s Zogby Interactive Poll reported that they don’t like the Beatles and 3 percent said that they were not familiar enough with the Beatles to render an opinion.

First, I thought it was very interesting that the pollster conducted this poll during the latest incarnation of Beatlemania, which is being driven by the release of the Beatles Rockband video game and the re-release of the band’s newly remastered LP catalog.

Second, who would have thought that 45 years later, the foursome would be so indelibly etched in our consciousness that such a poll could even exist?

Other interesting poll results show that Democrats (25 percent) are far more likely than Republicans (6 percent) and Independents (15 percent) to say John is their favorite Beatle, while moderates (32 percent) prefer Paul. Liberals (14 percent) are more likely than moderates (7 percent) and conservatives (9 percent) to choose George as their fave moptop.

I don’t know how the individual Beatles would feel about this. They haven’t been together as “The Beatles” since 1970, yet people still identify them with their former band. They each had wide-ranging and successful solo careers, but I guess once you are a Beatle, you are always a Beatle.

I consider myself an Independent, as a don’t belong to a party but I do exercise my right to vote … and usually split my vote between the major parties. With that in mind, my favorite Beatle is … well it has always been Ringo, even when I was a kid and didn’t know a conservative from a liberal.

I guess this poll proves that “Yesterday” is always today, at least when talking about those four lads from Liverpool.

This is only a sampling of the survey. To learn more, go to for more information.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rant #91: Jewish New Year-Rushing Hashanah and Yomming Kippur

Tonight is the start of the holiest period during the year for Jews around the world. Rosh Hashanah commences this period, starting at sundown on Friday, Sept. 18. This holiday continues for the next two days, on Saturday, Sept. 19 and ends during the evening of Sunday, Sept. 20.

On the evening of Sunday, Sept. 27, Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, commences, and lasts a single day, ending on Monday, Sept. 28.

Although I am not a religious Jew by any stretch of the imagination, I do participate in these holidays. They are holidays that ask Jews to examine their strengths, and weaknesses, during the past year and to reflect on how they can improve themselves during the upcoming year. They are holidays of both introspection and group prayer. During Yom Kippur, observant Jews fast, to show their forgiveness to God, and also to show their strength.

It is with this understanding of what the holiday means that I have always had this conundrum with how the rest of the world should look at these holidays. Should the “outside” world recognize this holy time of year or simply ignore it?

Living in New York, where there are a large amount of Jews, has made these holidays pretty well known by the non-Jewish population. In fact, schools are generally closed during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; this year, they will be closed only for Yom Kippur, as Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekend.

I once found out years ago that the reason New York City schools close on these holidays is that since such a large portion of their teachers are Jewish, it was not prudent to open when three-quarters of the teachers would be out.

This year, there are the usual myriad controversies revolving around whether certain events should be held on these holidays or not.

Professional sports leagues will go about their business during these holidays, but this year, one team has changed the starting time of its game on the day of the beginning of Yom Kippur to appease many of its fans who would not be able to attend the game due to their faith.

The Yankees have moved up their Sept. 27 game against the Red Sox to accommodate those fans. The game was slated to begin at 8 p.m.—I would assume it would be ESPN’s Sunday game of the week in this spot—but it will now be played at 1 p.m. in the afternoon.

Other leagues and teams will continue on with their schedules as is, but in New York—where the largest Jewish population in the world still resides—I must give the Yankees credit for making such a nice gesture to those fans who would be impacted by the game being held during the start of the most holy day of the year.

But on the other hand, I am sure people are asking why their schedules have to be turned upside down to placate a group of fans. They paid to see an 8 p.m. game, and now they get a 1 p.m. game. What happens if they can’t be there for the earlier time—why should they be penalized?

When my son was in Little League, the league would, every year, schedule games on the first two nights of Passover. Although Passover is not one of the holiest occasions on the Jewish calendar, it is a holiday which revolves around the family, and the traditional seder, and garners wide participation even among non-observant Jews.

The league, of course, never had a game on Easter Sunday.

My workplace does not give me off for the Jewish holidays, even though the owner is Jewish himself. I have to take the day(s) off as personal days.

Is this right? Shouldn’t everyone be given days off to celebrate their most holiest of holidays, whether it be Yom Kippur or Good Friday?

However, should business stop because a major religious holiday is being celebrated?

I don’t have an answer, and it is something that has puzzled me for years. These are religious holidays, and thus, they are more personal than say July 4 or Labor Day are.

The bottom line is this: do we suspend our usual day's activities because a major religion has one of its holiest days to celebrate?

Rant #90: Big Brother, Big Bore

CBS’s Big Brother--my annual summer guilty pleasure—ended on Tuesday night. The winner of this year’s fly-on-the-wall show was Jordan Lloyd, a pretty southern waitress, who outlasted Tae-Kwan-Do champion Natalie Martinez in a 5-2 vote. Graphic designer Kevin Campbell came in third.

Although I had much anticipation for the show when it premiered in July (Rant #44, July 15), at least for me, the show kind of fizzled as the summer wore on.

I didn’t really find any interesting character on this year’s edition, with the exception of Shima (I don’t know her last name nor do I know if I spelled her first name correctly), the contestant who became unruly and ended up getting kicked off the show.

Otherwise, you had all of your usual types: the pretty girls, the handsome guys, the contestants with great bodies, the gay guy, the tattooed woman, etc.

Again, there was nothing too special about this show this time around.

I actually wanted Campbell, who is openly gay, to win, because I think he was the best player in this very thin lot. He lost a Head of Household competition late in the game, and it cost him.

And to add insult to injury, Julie Chen, the host of this long-running show, was pregnant throughout its entirety, and her garish outfits completely took away any of the buzz that her appearances used to have. In fact, due to her pregnancy, to me, she is no longer “the skinniest woman in America.”

The eventual winner was a nice enough person indeed, and she was fairly pretty. She is also the first female contestant, as far as I know, to actually bare herself on Big Brother’s companion late-night show on Showtime. There has been something of an unwritten rule that this no-holds-barred addendum to the CBS show would not show any female skin, and all the females during the past three years have covered themselves up in anticipation that the cameras would roll regardless on the Showtime show.

Well, Jordan either forgot about this rule or didn’t care, and occasionally she showed all on the Showtime show, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps on purpose. These pictures and videos are all over the Web, but you will have to find them, I really don’t have an interest in seeing them, although naked breasts are never a bad thing.

So, a new season of this money-maker for CBS is currently being cast. If you have three months to spare, try out for the show. I wish I both had the time to spare and was half my age—I would go for it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rant #89: Passings of Two People From My Youth

Forget about Jimmy Carter. I woke up today, opened up the newspaper, and found that two of the favorite personalities of my youth passed away yesterday.

Mary Travers was the Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary, and their sounds could be heard everywhere through the 1960s. Firmly entrenched in the folk movement and everything around it, the trio covered songs written by Bob Dylan ("Blowin' in the Wind') and John Denver ("Leavin' On a Jet Plane") and, along with the Kingston Trio, brought folk music into our living rooms.

Travers became a bit of an icon during her day, with her long, straight blonde hair. She was the archetype for many female singers who followed, includng Michelle Phillips, and that look lasted through the Woodstock era, celebrating the freshness of youth.

More importantly, she had a crystalline voice, which blended well with her bandmates.

Henry Gibson was another story altogether. The versatility of this actor allowed him to move on, well past his days on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" as the often inept poet who recited his meanderings seemingly attached to a prominent flower. Afterwards, he was an award-winning movie and TV actor, with roles in such diverse projects as "Nashville" and "Boston Legal."

But I was personally introduced to him through "Laugh-In." He was one of the original cast members, and those poems, "By Henry Gibson" as he said, which became a catchphrase, usually were funny in their own kind of way. Actually, "Henry Gibson" was more of a character than a real person on Laugh-In, but he made me laugh.

He had other diverse roles in his lifetime, but I will always remember him with that flower.

Both Travers and Gibson enriched my life, and may they both rest in peace.

Rant #88: Jimmy Cuts Crap, and I Don't Care

Jimmy Carter, probably the worst and weakest President that we have had during my 52 years here on this planet, opened up his mouth the other day, and while we must all given a former President his due, this former Chief Executive should be given the boot for what he said.

Carter claims that Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst against President Obams (see my Rant #84, Sept. 11) was not a mere voicing of an opinion about health care. No, according to Carter, it had its links to racism.

The former President believes that many people are still unnerved about our President being a black man—he is actually mixed race—and that Wilson’s tirade was a racist one.

Wilson’s son has come out to say that his father is not a racist, and that the outburst was simply one having to do with his father’s displeasure at the President’s health care program.

However reprehensible the elder Wilson’s actions were, I seriously doubt they were racist.

Why does Carter feel the need to inject a topic that has nothing to do with the real topic here: people being upset at the President’s health care proposal. Whether they are wrong about the proposal or spot on, that is the issue.

Racism has nothing to do with the health care proposal and it certainly had nothing to do with Wilson nincompoop behavior.

What Carter has done is inject a topic that can still be labeled “hot button” into this debate, much like this topic was dumped into the O.J. Simpson trial several years ago by Johnny Cochran.

It had no place in that trial, and it has no place in the current debate.

I would expect such an opinion to be held by the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the world; but for it to be voiced by a former President is disturbing. I think his credibility is certainly lacking here.

In fact, President Obama himself said that the outburst had nothing to do with the color of his skin, and that should end the argument.Also, remember when President Clinton was in office, Hillary Clinton also proposed a health care plan, which was shot down, but somehow, I don't remember people saying that this happened because of either racism or sexism.

However, this whole episode brings us back to square one: did people vote for Obama due to his platform, or did they vote for him because of his race? I would hope it would be for the former reason, although I have never been too sure about that, especially based on the way people like Carter act.

And since he is a black President, are we not allowed to knock him and disagree with him if we feel it is necessary? Would we do the same if he were white? Are white people to be called racists if they disagree with what he is saying? I don't remember minorities being called racists when they disagreed with President Bush.

I am sick and tired of the “political correctness” that some people think should be accorded our first black President. I will say it again: if he is a good President, let’s re-elect him so he can continue to guide us. If he is a bad President, let’s get rid of him during the next election.

And it has nothing to do with him being black, green, yellow, or purple.

I will repeat, I think what Wilson did was reprehensible. However, this is no time to bring up race in this debate. By doing so, Carter is no better than Wilson, venting his feelings at an inappropriate time and place.

Personally, I think Carter is ready for the old age home, and he stands as the only former President in history whose words should not be taken seriously. He was a do-nothing President, and as a former President, he is good for nothing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rant #87: Saint Patrick's Passed Away

Actor Patrick Swayze passed away on Monday after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Swayze could have been labeled as “just another actor,” but I know that my wife and millions of other women loved him.

His two defining movies—“Ghost” and “Dirty Dancing”—highlighted his acting persona, as a leading man who was much more sensitive than most. His roles allowed him to demonstrate a caring side that women loved.

He was so much different than the other leading men of his day—the Stallones, the Schwarzeneggers and the like—that he became something of a standout among brutes. He was originally a dancer, and perhaps that led to his acting persona being what it was.

But you have to hand it to Swayze. He took the diagnosis of cancer—and it was a grim diagnosis—like, well, a man. He admitted that the excesses of his younger days—the drinking, the smoking—probably did not help matters, and may have even led to the cancer.

And he continued to work. He was on the A&E series “The Beast,” which received at best mixed reviews and was recently cancelled. But he was proud to say that he missed minimal time from the series due to his illness.

He seemed to be a nice guy, and you know what they say, nice guys finish last. But although he is gone, he didn’t lag behind the rest of the field. During his final days, he became a true inspiration for all of us, and that, along with his dozens of film and TV roles, is his true legacy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rant #86: Rock and Rolling Away Somewhere Over the Milky Way

The space program has been devalued enormously since it went through its heyday in the mid-to-late 1960s to the early 1970s, but the latest story that has made the rounds shows just how much this program has fallen.

The discovery of a fake moon rock in the Netherlands' national museum brought to light the fact that most of the moon rocks that the U.S. distributed from both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 flights are unaccounted for all these years later.

More than 130 countries received gifts of lunar rubble from both of these the flights, Apollo 11 in 1969 and Apollo 17 three years later. Nearly 270 rocks scooped up by U.S. astronauts were given to foreign countries by the Nixon administration. But the whereabouts of some of the small rocks are unknown.

Some wound up in museums, while some ended up as the personal possessions of those in power at the time. Some have been auctioned off in the intervening years, and these auctions can bring bids in the six figures for these tiny stones, some no bigger than a grain of rice.

You can’t blame NASA or the Nixon administration for the lack of followup to these pieces of history; they were given to the countries as a goodwill gesture, to make them almost part of these lunar excursions, making them a world event, not just one for the U.S.

However, you would think that the countries would know what became of the rocks, especially since they are truly one of a kind since we haven’t gone to the moon in nearly 40 years.

If this happened to works of art, there would be an uproar that you could hear from one end of the earth to the other. But being that they are “only” moon rocks, the silence is deafening, even though they are pretty pricey.

I can’t believe that many of the countries which were given these rocks have no idea where they are today. To me, this is such a special gift that it should have never left the countries’ possession, but seemingly, due to independent research by a few entities, that is exactly what happened.

Heck, I chronicle my record collection better than these countries chronicled their moon rocks. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rant #85: The Football Season Has Started

As a sports nut, this past weekend was a big one, as the 2009 NFL season commenced. Locally, both the Jets and Giants won, and it looks to be another exciting season for the league and these teams.

Well, I could care less.

I was a really big football fan growing up as a kid in Queens, New York. I was a huge Jets fan, and when the Joe Namath-led Jets won the Super Bowl 40 years ago, I watched the game from beginning to end. To this date, it is the only football game I have watched in its entirety with my father, so it is a great memory. It was on in the afternoon (remember those days when the Super Bowl, and for that matter, the World Series, was on during more reasonable hours?), and afterwards, we went to the local kosher deli and got take out, which we brought home and ate as a family with my mom and sister (both of whom had no interest in the game).

Well, that was 40 years ago.

I got turned off by football in the mid to late 1970s. The game is a good one, but the over-analysis of everything killed it for me. How many times can you go over the same play, and do it in new and different ways?

The problem with football is that there is just one game a week, and people pontificate about it all week ad nauseum. It is just boring to go over it again and again and again.

Another reason I lost interest is that our local hometown teams both left New York for New Jersey. No matter what it says on their helmets and uniforms, both the Giants and Jets are New Jersey teams. The only New York NFL team is the Buffalo Bills, and how can you root for them if you live downstate, several hundred miles away, like I do?

So the beginning of the football season is not one of my most memorable times during the year. Phony fans, who care only about betting, suddenly become died-in-the-wool fans, and the whole thing is so stupid that I really can't stand it anymore. Point spreads are more important than who actually won the game. We have a football pool at work (which, of course, I have nothing to do with), and you hear as much about spreads as about the actual game.

And if the participants are considered to be true sports fan, then I am glad that I don't follow football anymore.

And don't get me started about college football and the NCAA in general. The NCAA is much like the WWE. They have created their own world with their own rules, and they go with it. The difference between the NCAA and WWE is that the WWE is acknowledged to be phony, while the NCAA moves along with college students--young kids--as their pawns ... and they are lauded as if they were some divine institution.

But enough about football.

Give me baseball--teams play every day, there is no time for over-analysis, and the season is a six-month roller coaster ride that no other sport can duplicate. In addition, it is the only 12-month sport, as the Hot Stove League covers the other months when the season is not being played.

And baseball fans are the true sports fans. Whether you root for a winner or loser, you stick with your team through thick and thin. Sure, there is betting, but does anybody really care about run spreads in baseball other than people who will bet on anything that moves?

Sorry, I just hate what football has turned into. To quote an old Paul Revere and the Raiders song, "Too Much Talk, and Not Enough Action ... ."

Yes, that is what the opening of the NFL season means to me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rant #84: Bits and Pieces

Here are some news bytes that have come over the wire during the past few days that might not demand a full rant from me, but certainly deserve some mention:

Oprah to Leave Her Show After 24 Years: There have been some rumors lately that Oprah Winfrey would call it a day after her 24th season of the daily gab-fest.

One could only hope that this is so.

Personally, although I respect the woman for her drive to become what she is today, I can’t stand her show, and the “Oprah Nation” is made up of people who should get a life. Her stature as the “Queen of TV” befuddles me, but for some reason, people hang on her every word. I don’t get it, have never gotten it, and will probably never get it.

The last straw was her electioneering for Barack Obama when he was running for President. It was pretty clear that Winfrey was grandstanding for Obama because of his race, not because of his credentials, and although the “Oprah Nation” may have fallen for this, I believe thinking people of all races and backgrounds saw it as bad TV and highly embarrassing to boot.

And where is Oprah now that the honeymoon period for our President is over?

Please, Oprah, go somewhere out of our lives.

Hugh Hefner to Divorce Wife: Well, I bet most people, including the man himself, forgot that he was still married to former Playboy model Kimberly Conrad. This dirty old man has supposedly been whooping it up with girls about a quarter of his age, and Conrad, and the two boys that she had with Hefner, have pretty much been out of the spotlight for more than a decade.

Evidently, Hefner was fine with his estranged arrangement until Conrad recently sued him over some type of real estate deal. Then he got defensive, and said that he has more than taken care of her during their estrangement.

But, of course, his running around with girls old enough to be his great granddaughters while he was still married was OK in his mind.

I don’t know who is loonier here, Conrad—for not pressing for a divorce years ago, and better yet, for marrying this guy to begin with (I know, it was the money)—or Hefner, who has become the proverbial “dirty old man” in his old age.

They deserve each other, and I wish them both the best.

The Joba Rules: Please, don’t get me started on this one. Is this guy a decrepit 52 year old like me who has been through the mill or is Joba Chamberlain a 23 year old athlete with his whole career ahead of him?

You almost can’t argue with the Yankees. Up until now, they have done just about everything right this season, and have the best record in baseball through early September.

However, they are treating this kid like he is the golden boy, and he looks lost out there when he pitches his three innings each start.

Either put him in the bullpen, or let the boy pitch. The Joba Rules should be made illegal.

Joe Wilson Interrupts President During Nationally Televised Speech: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) interrupted the President during his speech about health care on Sept. 9. Although Wilson later apologized for his outburst, did this idiot think he was at a WWE wrestling match or what?

He showed no respect for the office of the President, and made himself, and his views, look real bad. Even if you don’t agree with the President’s health care plan, you generally respect the office of the President, and this action showed immense disrespect for the top job in our country.

I mean, what is going on in South Carolina lately? First you have the philandering governor, then you have this idiot.

I like Obama’s response to this. He said that, “We all make mistakes,” and accepted Wilson’s apology. Thus, he gave Wilson more respect than this dummy gave him.

Touche to the President. You don’t have to like him, but you have to like his style.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rant #83: Nosedive on the Dave Clark Five

Now that the Beatles have received a higher profile through the release of digitally remastered albums and the video game Beatles Rock Band, I turn my attention to a story that has gripped at least a portion of rock fandom for a number of years, although it is probably not that well known outside of that specific fan base.

The Dave Clark Five were the Beatles’ prime competitors during the early days of the British Invasion. From 1964 to 1966 or so, they had a bushelful of hits that put them right up there with the Beatles among the most popular acts of the day. “Glad All Over,” “Everybody Knows (I Still Love You)” and “Catch Us If You Can” were among these hits, and their hard-driving, stomping Tottenham sound—mixed with their clean appearance and overall good looks—enabled them to be mainstays on The Ed Sullivan Show and countless other TV programs during this period when they were all over the radio.

The hits continued into 1967, but with changing musical tastes, the DC5 as they were known, began to fade. They hung on for a few more years, but by 1970, they had disbanded.

Band leader, drummer, writer, producer and overall jack of all trades Dave Clark was one of the most astute businessman in show business, and he was able to retain the rights to just about everything that the DC5 produced during the band’s tenure.

In fact, the other members of the band—Mike Smith, Dennis Payton, Lenny Davidson and Rick Huxley—were paid employees of Clark, which was an oddity back then and remains an oddity to this day.

Anyway, after the band disbanded, through the emergence of the CD as the dominant music format in the late 1980s, the band members pretty much stayed away from any type of spotlight that could have been shown upon them. There were no reunion tours, and the individual members basically did other things that did not garner them much publicity. Clark continued his astute business operations, and added to his fortune.

Record-wise, a few compilations on vinyl emerged during this period, but that was pretty much about it.

In the mid-1990s, there was a glimmer of hope. There was an agreement with Disney’s Hollywood Records which saw one compilation released, but nothing else came from this brief union, and it was allowed to lapse.

Since that time, although the band was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, very little, if anything, has been forthcoming from the band on CD. A digital album of their greatest hits was released to coincide with their Hall of Fame entrance, but that was it.

In the meantime, two band members—Dennis Payton and Mike Smith—passed away.

In a market where you can get countless greatest hits albums and re-released LPs on CD from everybody from Abba to ZZ Top, there is nothing available from the DC5. No actual CDs, no re-released albums, no unreleased material, nothing.

Grey-market releases—less than legitimate offerings—are available, but since Clark owns just about everything having to do with the DC5, the question keeps on getting asked—“Why is there nothing out there on the DC5?”

Clark reportedly is not a person who likes to look back, but ahead, and he considers his musical legacy old hat.

Collectors have been clamoring for re-releases since the early 1990s at least, but even though some positive words by Clark on this front have been uttered from time to time, nothing is imminent.

Various groups on the Internet—made up of members who either chastise Clark or deify him—have kept the flame going, but the fact of the matter is that it is easier to find a “Best Of” of an act like one-hit wonder Keith (remember “98.6”?) than it is to find a similar package for the DC5.

Thus, Clark has been cast as a source of mystery in collectors’ circles, and I don’t think anybody can figure this guy out.

Again, I am not comparing the Beatles and the DC5, but you can readily get any Beatles release that you want ad infinitum, but nothing from the DC5.

I seem to think a good record label could do something nice with their catalog, a la what Rhino Records did with the Monkees catalog or what Sundazed did with its Paul Revere and the Raiders re-releases. These releases would bring the music of the DC5 to the next generation, a generation which, right now, doesn’t know that a Dave Clark Five ever existed.

Clark, ever the businessman, is probably looking at the bottom line here. He doesn’t think he will make much money off of this project, and thus, has balked.

Art be damned! Money isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!

I am glad I still have my vinyl records of this band, an act that I have enjoyed since 1964. But the time has come for my CD player to be used to play the band’s LPs.

Here is my open letter to Dave Clark:

Mr. Clark, if you are reading this, the time is now to release something. No, you won’t make gobs of money, but you will please fans of your old group, many of whom have been with you since 1964 and still keep the flame burning.

The DC5 has already taken a nosedive, we don’t need a full crash at this stage of the game. Mr. Clark, put something out … if not to please yourself, then to please the fans that helped you reach the level you are at today.

“Any Way You Want It,” just do it. And do it now.

(For further information on the DC5, check out

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rant #82: Beatles All You Need Is Wii

Well, today being 09/09/09, it would figure that a lot of strange stuff would be happening today, both real and manufactured.

One of the manufactured events today is the release of the video game, The Beatles Rock Band. It features the usual elements of the popular Rock Band franchise, with one notable difference: this game is completely dedicated to the most popular rock act of all time, the Beatles.

I am not much into video games, but this game--which has a release coinciding with the release of the remastered Beatles LP catalog--could start something of a revolution of its own.

I am all for bringing my music--the music of the 1960s--to the largest possible audience. Even Beatles music gets insignificantly classified as "oldies," and a lot of kids won't listen to it. They don't realize that without this music, and this band, the music they listen to would be dramatically different.

Anyway, while I am not clamoring for a Monkees Rock Band (although that would be interesting, wouldn't it?), I think anything that brings this wonderful period of music to a new audience can't be all bad.

The set is pricey--if you want the whole thing, it will cost you at least $200, and that includes the game, the guitars and the drums--but it might be worth it.

My son is really into Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and I reluctantly bought the Beatles set for him, but he will get it for Hanukkah (I could give it to him for Christmas, but we are Jewish). Anyway, I know he will love this. He is well-versed on the music of the period--my wife and I have seen to that pretty well--and he loves to sit there and play the instruments to the music. He gets a real kick out of it, and as a holiday present, it is something that he knows he is getting, and he is looking forward to it.

I can foresee somewhere down the line a U2 Rock Band set, but with the state of music today, I don't think there are any acts who will have the "legs" to have their music made into a Rock Band or Guitar Hero set. I would say maybe Coldplay, but who would actually buy a set of their music?

But what do I know? The last time I looked, 50 Cent was two quarters, five dimes, 10 nickels or 50 pennies.

Number nine ... number nine ... number nine ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rant #82: Educating The Doubters

President Obama will be giving a speech today which is directed at students in our country's schools. He will stress education, staying with your studies even when times are tough, and he is describing staying with your education as a duty as an American.

That should be it on this story, but of course, naysayers feel the need to add in their own two cents to this speech.

They claim that the President will be pushing a socialist agenda with the speech, and also pushing his health care plan. He has steadfastly said that this speech is directed at students, and will not contain anything having to do with subjects not having to do with education.

The White House even posted the text of the speech online so that everyone can get a clear view of what he is going to say.

Why do people look for things when they aren't there? Other Presidents have given speeches like this, including most recently the original President Bush. There was nary a word on agendas when Bush made his speech. Why are so many people up in arms on the Obama speech?

Obviously, the honeymoon is over for Obama and many Americans.

However, what they should be up in arms about is the "Get Schooled: You Have the Right" television special that will be broadcast tonight on a number of cable networks, including Nickelodeon and TV Land. Its airing is timed to coincide with the speech, and will air when kids are home from their studies.

The guests on the show talk about the role education has played in their lives. This is a good concept, but the guest list ... well, I think they could have picked better people.

Did you see who will be on the show? Among the guests are Kelly Clarkson, LeBron James, and Bill Gates.

Each one of them circumvented the normal credo of "the more education you have, the more chances you will have in life" to achieve lasting fame in their chosen fields.

I had no idea about Kelly Clarkson's background, so I had to go on Wikipedia to find out about this, I learned that her mother was a first grade teacher. So far, so good ... but then I read on ...

"Upon high school graduation, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to The University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, and Berklee, but decided against college because she had "already written so much music and wanted to try it on her own," and she figured "you're never too old to go to college."

Now, let's follow the bouncing ball ... LeBron James is a spectacular basketball player, perhaps the NBA's best overall player. However, educationally, he has just a high school education. If he went through normal channels, he would have gone to college after high school, played for a major school, and then get drafted by an NBA team. No, he didn't go this route. He was so good as a high school player that he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as a teenager. As it is, since he had such a high profile in high school, I wonder how much education he actually received during those years.

And as for Bill Gates ... he is the perfect example how oftentimes education can stand in the way of success. I don't believe he has a college degree--although he did go to Harvard for a while but did little more than work on their computers and did not regularly attending classes--but he went on to great success in the computer field as the founder of Microsoft. If he would have gone for a college degree, who knows what might have happened? You might not even have the ability to read this.

Thus, I think that in these cases, the wrong people are on this show. Should we just settle for high school educations? Is that what it has come to? And the high school education that Clarkson, James and Gates received ... how much did all the studying, test taking, and learning really add to their success?

Yes, people should be up in arms, but not about what the President is doing today.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rant #81: TNA Pinning WWE To The Mat

Well, this reminds me of the days when the National Basketball Association was looking over its shoulder at the upstart American Basketball Association. Although the upstart never could really challenge the more established league, it could send shivers up the older league's spine.

The same thing is happening today between World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Total Nonstop Action (TNA). The WWE will never be upended, but you have to give TNA credit for trying.

TNA was started just a few years ago as a pay-per-view entity, but became so popular that it morphed into a weekly show, which expanded from one hour to two hours a little more than a year ago.

It features the same crazy story lines as WWE does--all taking place in a six-sided ring--but it is much more violent. And it has recently expanded its group of female wrestlers--and I must say, not only are they pretty good looking, but unlike many of their WWE counterparts, they can actually wrestle.

TNA has dug into the talent goldmine created by WWE and picked up such popular grapplers as Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, Bobby Lashley and Kevin Nash.

And it has also created its own talent roster, with such popular wrestlers as A.J. Styles and Traci Brooks leading the way.

WWE has to be somewhat concerned, because a lot of TNA's popularity has come through word of mouth. Their weekly show is on Spike TV, not exactly what you would call a household name in television. They continue to have pay per views, but they are not that popular viewer-wise, from what I hear.

What they have done is build their fan network through their Web site and through YouTube, where their videos get among the most hits registered by that service.

They also go out in the boondocks to do live shows. Although most shows take place at their home base in Orlando, many take place in third and fourth-tier cites, although that is also starting to change.

They also are linked to international wrestling alliances, and import talent from England, Asia, and elsewhere.

So, if you are looking for something different in pro wrestling, I would recommend TNA. I don't think you will be disappointed. The product is not up to what WWE puts out, but their attractive roster more than compensates for this.

One, two, three--the winner is TNA.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rant #80: Phil Spector's Pleasant Valley Jail Day

I don't know if you heard about this, but when I did, I had to laugh.

Music legend and convicted murderer Phil Spector, who complained recently about his prison quarters but later said he wanted to stay where he was, is not getting his wish. He is being moved to make room for inmates requiring outpatient mental health treatment. Spector and other prisoners will be going to Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, Calif., where the other most notorious prisoner is Erik Menendez, convicted with his brother Lyle of murdering their millionaire parents in 1993.

No, I am not laughing about what Spector did, as he was recently convicted of murdering a woman he had a relationship with. That is certainly not a laughing matter.

What I am laughing about is the name of his new prison address: Pleasant Valley State Prison--is that a hoot or what? I didn't know the word "pleasant" and "prison" could be used in the same sentence.

Also, the name "Pleasant Valley Prison" brings to mind a hit song from Spector's era. In 1967, the Monkees had a huge hit with "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and although Spector had absolutely nothing to do with this tune — it was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin--that tune could become a hit all over again if the lyrics were changed to reflect Spector's current situation.

So, aspiring singers take note--I want a cut of the profits you make off of this re-worded tune (and don't forget King and Goffin either):

Pleasant Valley Jail Day

The local chain gang down the street
Is trying hard to right their wrongs,
They serenade the prison guard
Who supervises them as they mow the lawn.

Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
Fires burning everywhere,
Rows of cells that are all the same,
And no one seems to care.

See Warden Gray, he's proud today
Because his prisoners are so doomed
And as for Phil, he's so serene,
He's got a toilet right in his room.

Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
Here in Status Symbol Land,
Prisoners complain about how hard life is,
And society just doesn't understand.

Creature comfort goals, they only numb their souls,
And make it hard for them to see.
Ahhh...thoughts all seem to stray
To places far away,
Phil says he needs a change of scenery.
Ta ta ta ta, ta ta ta ta... (etc.)

Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
Fires burning everywhere.
Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
Here in Status Symbol Land.
Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
(A Pleasant Valley jail day)
Another Pleasant Valley jail day,
(A Pleasant Valley jail day)
(fade out)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rant #79: Minnie Mouse and the Incredible Hulk Announce Wedding Plans

I am sure you have heard by now that Marvel Entertainment Inc. , and its subsidiary Marvel Comics, has now been bought by Disney for the sum of $4 billion. Thus, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy will be in the same family as Spider-Man, Thor and the Fantastic Four.

It is certainly not the first time that the worlds of entertainment and comic books have merged. Forty years ago, Warner Brothers bought DC Comics, and that marriage has been a good one for the past four decades.

However, as a die-hard comics fan in my youth—and still the owner of 2,000 comics (anyone want to buy them, contact me directly), I have to shed a little bit of a tear at this announcement.

Comics were my “out” in my youth. The couple of minutes or so it took to read them allowed me to leave my real world for a few moments and jump into a world that put my mind at ease.

Comics were my world, a world that adults generally didn’t enter. Superman, Batman and the rest were there for me, and me only.

Comics were not highly regarded back then. Remember, the mid 1960s were only 10 years removed from the hysteria caused by Dr. Felix Wertham and his “Seduction of the Innocent” wrath, where he testified before Congress that comic books led to juvenile delinquency.

Well, I guess I was a closet juvenile delinquent.

Although DC Comics have been owned by a major conglomerate for 40 years, Marvel’s story is, well, another story.

In the early 1960s, Marvel was more than a competitor to DC, it was an alternative to DC. DC superheroes were all hunk and brawn, with little brain, and were not real in the truest sense of the word.

Marvel superheroes had thought processes, worries like the rest of us, and heck, Peter Parker, a/k/a Spider-Man, lived in Queens, just like I did.

Marvel changed the face of comic books forever. Yes, even DC paid attention, and by the late 1960s, comics became relevant, with stories about drug abuse and racism.

And because of that, they weren’t really for kids anymore.

So, in my mind, the purchase of Marvel by Disney is a double-edged sword. Will Disney take the edge off of the Marvel Universe and make them kid friendly again, or will this marriage have its ups and downs and not work out real well?

I just don’t know. Warner Brothers’ influence on DC has been minimal, but again, we are talking Marvel here.

Will your “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” come out of his shell and dress in the latest designer clothes and drive a Ferrari?

Maybe the Shadow knows, because I certainly don’t.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rant #78: I Wish I Was Allergic To Allergies

I have had allergies all my life. As an adult, I have learned to live with the sneezes and the wheezes as best as I can.

However, I don't like having allergies.

They impact me greatly, and as a kid, I really suffered. Ragweed, pollen, dust ... you name it, and it put me in agony. Officially, I am allergic to all of those, and also to horses, the season of fall (with all the falling leaves), and something called the Jerome tree or bush (I can't remember right now which one).

When I was growing up, not that much was known about allergies, and especially how to treat allergies. I lived in a development that was very windy at all times, with lots of dirt and dust constantly blowing around. I can remember many days when I couldn't eat or sleep or do much of anything because I literally could not breath. Tissues were always at the ready, and there were days when I would use a whole box of tissues, and even that wasn't enough.

In the early 1970s, the treatment of allergies matured. I took what I called "the staple test," where they actually inserted (for lack of a better word) different chemicals into your arm at one time with something that resembled a staple gun, and whatever puffed up, you were allergic to.

Of course, your arm would puff up from all the stress it underwent in the application of all of these chemicals. I remember that I had this done during the summer, and I wore long sleeves for weeks because my left arm looked like I was a drug addict.

Anyway, through that initial testing, it was determined what I was allergic to for the first time in my life, and I was prescribed a regular, monthly regimen of allergy shots. All these years later, I have been getting allergy shots, once per month (usually two shots, one in each arm, although now they combine everything and give it in one arm), since I was 15 years old, or since 1972. They have helped me tremendously. I know people who used to get shots and went off the treatment for a while, only to go right back on when allergies symptoms came back.

Me, I have never been off them.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't suffer. I still do. I still get allergy attacks, and you just have to play them out. There isn't really anything you can do about it. The shots can only do so much.

But I really hate having allergies. Thank goodness I don't have asthma, but allergies are bad enough.

Happily, I know I didn't pass this on to my daughter, who really doesn't suffer too much. My son, well the book is still open on whether he has them or not. At 14, I don't see him suffering like I did at that age, but I do see him occasionally have some problems that just spring up, like mine do.

And no, neither of my parents have allergies. This is totally unscientific, but I have always said that my grandfather (my mom's dad) may have passed something on to me. He was an extremely heavy smoker during most of his lifetime (cigarettes, cigars, pipes), and there must be something in the genes that my mother may have passed on to me through him. I loved my grandfather (he died in the early 1970s), but all of that abuse may have impacted a future generation--me.

And no, because of my allergies, I never even tried a cigarette--and no, none of those funny cigarettes, either. I have often said that doing such a thing would have killed me long ago.

And by the way, the over-the-counter and prescription remedies don't work for me, so I don't use them.

More on allergies: Paul Simon actually had a minor hit in the 1980s with a song called "Allergies." I wonder if he is a sufferer, too?

Pardon me while I sneeze.

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