Friday, October 30, 2009

Rant #122: Some Random Thoughts ...

Here are some random thoughts for today. None of these deserve a full blog piece, so I thought I would pile them all together.

"This Is It" is No. 1 at the Box Office: So I see that the Michael Jackson concert film "This Is It" is the top grossing film at the box office.

Top grossing, this is it! With the knowledge that Jackson died just a few hours after most of these scenes were filmed, to be able to sit there and watch this ... well, moviegoers must be crazy, sick themselves, or both. If I want to see him, I want to see him when he was young and so, so talented, before he became a freak. I guess that is what YouTube is for.

Jon Gosselin Finds Religion: The reality TV star has seemingly found religion. Evidently, he is half-Jewish, and in his time of turmoil, he is turning to his Jewish roots (on his father's side) to try to deal with his demons.

All I have to say is this--Who is Jon Gosselin anyway, and when will he and his former wife and his girlfriends and his kids and everyone else associated with this nonsense go away somewhere so we don't have to hear about this idiocy anymore?

Lou Dobbs' House Gets Shot At: Happily, the bullet didn't hit anybody. It could have been an errant shot from hunters, but if you believe that, I may have a bridge to sell you.

You just know that somebody was trying to send Dobbs a message, but that message could have killed someone.

Yankees Win, Even Up World Series: All I can say is that this makes me happy. If they had gone to Philadelphia down 2-0, they would have had a steep hill to climb, but one that I think that they could have pulled out anyway.

What can I say. I am a die-hard Yankees fan and I think that they can win this thing--in seven games.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rant #121: Let the Woman Talk!

I hate to put up another World Series-related rant (especially since the Yankees lost to the Phillies in Game One of the series), but here goes.

Yesterday was a historic day for a number of reasons. One that pretty much went un-noticed is that when Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman uttered her first words on the WCBS-AM telecast of the game, she became the first female broadcaster to work a World Series game in a broadcast booth.

Yes, there are hundreds of female sports people covering all the sports on ESPN and on local and national outlets, but Waldman--who also holds the title of being the first woman broadcaster to regularly cover a professional baseball team, and perhaps a pro team period, in her duties with the Yankees--is the only lady to do it.

Professional sports broadcasters are a select group to begin with, and it had been a group without a female member until Waldman entered the Yankees broadcast booth a few years ago.

She is not the first Yankees broadcaster to break down the walls, though. Bill White was the first African-American to cover a professional sports team in the broadcast booth when he came to the Yankees in the early 1970s. He was part of the famed, and very much loved, classic Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer, and Bill White trio that covered Yankees games into the 1990s.

Anyway, Suzyn Waldman, a cancer survivor, deserves kudos for her latest accomplishment.

Sure, she can be screechy and annoying at times--and broadcast partner John Sterling often ignores her entirely--but let's give credit where credit is due.

Congratulations, Suzyn--let's hope you become the first female broadcaster to announce a win for the Yankees in this World Series!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rant #120: I Would Do Anything For World Series Tickets (Well, Almost Anything)

As a die-hard Yankees fan, I would love to be at Yankee Stadium for the first game of the 2009 World Series tonight.

But I don't have a ticket.

Nor do I know anyone who has an extra ticket.

In my case, I would love to take my family to the game. My daughter is away at school, so that means I need three tickets. I will even sit in nose-bleed seats; it doesn't really matter.

However slim my chances of getting World Series tickets, I won't stoop to the low that Susan Finkelstein dropped down to in her attempt to get tickets.

This die-hard Phillies fan allegedly offered sexual favors in order to score some tickets.

She posted on Craigslist--another site to hate for me--and said the following:

"Diehard Phillies fan — gorgeous tall buxom blonde — in desperate need of two World Series tickets. Price negotiable — I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other! S."

Well, a cop went undercover to find out just what she meant. He said he had one ticket, and that he knew another cop who had a ticket. The curvaceous blonde (well, at least according to her ad she is) said that if she could get his ticket, she would take care of him too.

The cop sprung into action, and arrested Finkelstein for prostitution.

By the way, I have relatives with the same last name, but this Finkelstein is not one of them.

Anyway, I still want tickets, but I am not a curvaceous blonde offering any gratuities in exchange for the tickets.

I just want tickets.

Is saying "Please" enough?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rant #119: Baby Love, Not Baby Smarts

Oh, how I cringe when I see something that is pitched to parents to make their little toddlers into something that they aren't. Evidently, I am not alone in my cringing.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Disney is offering a refund to buyers of its “Baby Einstein” videos, which did not turn babies into little geniuses, as Disney claimed that it would.

In a letter threatening Disney with a class-action lawsuit for "deceptive advertising," public health lawyers hired by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood cited a study which found a link between early television exposure and later problems with attention span.

Well, I don't know about that, but why do so many parents go out of their way to try to create their own little Frankenstein monsters?

Television is polluted with numerous ads (especially when there is time to fill on Sunday mornings) for videos and other devices to make babies smarter. Rather than let kids develop on their own, these things claim to make your kids smarter than the average kid--giving them the tools so they can think like a Harvard graduate at a few months old or begin reading Kafka before they can say "Mama."

Yes, I am pushing it a bit here, but the fact of the matter is that these devices are really nothing more than babysitting tools, so that mom and pop can do other things and not watch--or interact--with their toddler at certain times during the day.

A baby will absorb everything--even TV--to a certain extent, but these devices guarantee that your child will be smarter than the average kid who doesn't use these things.

Are today's parents so stupid that they buy into this? Why do little kids need to be able to read at a 12th grade level before they are fully toilet trained? I don't know. I guess the allure of being a "genius" really strikes these parents as an attribute that they want for their kids.

For me, give me your standard, spit-and-dirt-and-piss-and-poop little baby who will learn at his or her own speed. I had two of these types of kids, and they both have worked out fine.

Sure, we used the TV for entertainment purposes--my daughter loved "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to the consternation of my ex-wife, who claimed our daughter would turn into a lesbian if she continued to watch the show (I kid you not--this is absolutely true, and is in the record at Family Court in Nassau County, New York!), and who has had a couple of boyfriends since, and my son was into Barney as a very small child--but that is all the TV was for, entertainment. And never did I plop my kids in front of the TV for many, many hours at a time.

I guess everyone is so busy today that they just do not have the time to play with their kids for hours on end. I know that I didn't have this luxury either, and the same can be said for my wife (not my ex, but the woman I will spend the rest of my life with, the mother of my son). But mixed in with the TV was playtime. I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing with my daughter's Turtle figures and playing with my son's wrestling figures when he got older. Sure, like most parents, there was only so much I could take--and I often reached my limit--but I did it as much as possible.

So to all of you parents who want little geniuses--just play with your kids, it's the smartest thing you can do for them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rant #118: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This (Again)

This was an extremely busy weekend for myself and my family.

We traveled to Oswego, New York, to visit my daughter who goes to college there. The trip there was horrid, because we hit rain at every turn ... and not just rain, but torrential downpours.

I saw my daughter, and she looked good. She is a senior, set to graduate next May, and she wants to be an elementary education teacher. I hope she can get a position, what with so many teaching positions being cut all over the country.

I saw her apartment, and was pleased with what I saw. She does not live on campus, and her apartment is pretty nice.

We settled down to watch the sixth game of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, only to see that the game had been rained out. I was hoping that the rain that followed us had tagged along with us and moved away from the Bronx, but it was not meant to be.

So, back home on Sunday night (the trip was fine, the weather was great), I settled down to watch the sixth game, and was very pleased that slightly after midnight, the Yankees had won their 40th pennant, beating the pesky Angels 5-2. As I write this, I am pretty bleary eyed, but it was worth staying up and watching the whole thing (and watching the post-game celebration).

Now, it is on to the World Series, and this should be a good one. The Yankees and Phillies are very similar teams. They both have adequate pitching, and both rely on the long-ball. The matchups are terrific at every position, and the games should be a lot of fun to watch, even if you aren't a fan of either team.

During the game last night, Fox periodically flashed up the Giants' football game score. They ended up losing, but I know they were doing this as a "public service" for all of those poor, unfortunate souls who decided to vacate their Sunday night football fix for baseball. The Giants lost, and I grieve for them ...


It's still baseball season, my friends, and until the last out is registered in the 2009 World Series, it will continue to be baseball season.

The Yankees in seven. I can't wait until Game One on Wednesday!

Other observations: In a post-game interview on the field, Fox baseball analyst Ken Rosenthal brought up some negatives from the Yankees past as he interviewed Derek Jeter. "You haven't been to the World Series since 2003 and you haven't won a World Series since 2000 ... ." Then Jeter remarked, "You would have to bring up all the negatives," and he looked agitated throughout the entire interview.

Jorge Posada was being interviewed by Kenny Albert in the champagne-soaked clubhouse. He was standing with his kids, and AJ Burnett was squirting him unmercifully with champagne while being interviewed. Posada turned to Burnett (off camera) in the middle of the interview and shouted, "AJ!" and then something in Spanish. I didn't know AJ Burnett knew Spanish, but I don't think you had to know the language to understand that Posada was really upset over his teammate's behavior.

Finally, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was standing with an assemblage as the various trophies were being passed out. Having no business being there in the first place--he is really a Boston Red Sox fan who really doesn't like baseball too much--he kept on getting on camera, shifting himself so he would be in full view of the camera. He was dying to get some air time, as he is running for mayor again and still is being criticized for running the city like an emperor and casting off the term-limits rule in his favor. Happily, Fox and Albert did not bite, and Bloomberg looked ridiculous as he sashayed into camera view.

Let's go Yankees!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rant #117: Let's All Do "The Mouse" For Soupy Sales

Well, another icon from my youth is gone.

Soupy Sales passed away. He was in his 80s and had been in ill health.

If you are under 50, I don't think you can possibly understand the cultural significance of Soupy, but I will try to explain.

Soupy was a kids' show host in the 1960s, when every station in America seemingly had their own legion of kids' show hosts. They would show episodes of The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, and they would talk to you as if they were your father or grandfather, telling you what was right and wrong.

In the New York viewing area, there were two hosts in particular that fit that mold: Captain Jack McCarthy and Officer Joe Bolton. Each was in the "grandfather" mode, and each day after school, everyone would turn on their shows to both hear their wisdom and to see the Stooges and Rascals.

And then there was Soupy. He was sort of the rogue in this stable, as he wasn't grandfatherly, and even if he imparted any wisdom, it was with a sly wit. He was sort of a thorn in the side of anyone with a "true-blue" feeling of right and wrong, and his show delivered Soupy's meaning of life with a mischievous streak that could not be found on those other shows.

And he had White Fang and Black Tooth and Pooky and many other characters, and his show was hilarious.

And he had pies. He became so nationally well-known that everyone wanted to get pied--even Frank Sinatra.

And he had a semi-hit record, "The Mouse," which helped bring him national fame. It was a top 20 record in New York, and it landed him on a number of variety shows in the 1960s, including The Ed Sullivan Show and Hullaballoo.

He also had the top rock acts on his show, as he was quite musical himself.

Soupy's humor treaded a very thin line way back when. Once, he innocently asked for kids to send him "those little green papers" in their dads' wallets. He received one dollar, was suspended for his actions, and all of us kids forgave him even if our parents didn't, and watched him when he came back.

By about 1966 or so, he had become too popular for the show. He went on to do movies, and later did a lot of radio, a medium where he started out his career decades before. He was also omnipresent on just about every game show that there was in the 1960s and 1970s.

But it was as a kids' show host that I will always remember Soupy. And yes, I use just his first name, because by coming into my living room every day on my family's old Dumont TV, he became my friend, albeit through that box in my living room.

I actually met Soupy about 20 years ago. We talked about his divorces, my own divorce, and videos that he was putting out at the time. He said much of his footage had been lost, but that people contacted him all the time about finding stuff in their attics and garages. He was truly happy that some of this material survived, and you can find a lot of it both commercially and on YouTube.

Anyway, rest in peace, my friend. This guy, who is 52 years old now, will always be a kid at heart because of you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rant #116: Zipper Up For Safety, Zipper Up!

Why is it so difficult for some famous guys to keep their pants on when dealing with the opposite sex? I really don't understand it.

The latest such incident involves Steve Phillips, current ESPN analyst and former New York Mets GM. He supposedly had a three-week affair with some lowly recent college grad who has worked for various sports-oriented services during the past few years.

The problem is that this lady has an extremely big mouth. She has blabbed to anyone who will listen (and you known the media loves this stuff, so they listened) that she had this relationship, and she even had the audacity to contact Phillips' wife and try to contact his child on Facebook (another reason to hate that service).

Anyway, Phillips has taken a leave of absence from his ESPN gig, and his wife as filed for divorce.

Believe me, Phillips does not deserve anybody's pity. He has been caught doing this before, when he was the Mets GM.

And the woman does not deserve anybody's sympathy either. She has said something to the effect that she would do anything to get ahead, and I guess that means sleeping with the proper person.

A few weeks ago, David Letterman got into the same scrap, and throughout recent history, many, many others have been tripped up and fallen hard when their affairs became public. Some have been able to get up and brush themselves off, like Ted Kennedy; others have taken a nosedive into oblivion, like Gary Hart.

I simply do not understand why these guys can't foresee problems when they get involved like this. I know that young ladies may be very tempting to them, but you have to resist the temptation. "Look, but don't touch" should be their motto, but it isn't.

And these young girls, as I said before, really don't deserve any sympathy from anyone. I mean, don't you think they know exactly what they are doing?

I guess it's just that when you pair up males and females, you are going to have indiscretions.

I just wish that the guys would think of their wives and families before doing this, and I just wish the women didn't think they needed to do this to get ahead in the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rant #115: My Comic Book Collection

As a kid growing up in the Rochdale Village co-op development in South Jamaica, Queens in the 1960s and early 1970s, only two things mattered to me: sports and my comic book collection.

Today, as an adult, many things matter to me, but one thing that doesn’t matter that much to me anymore is my comic book collection.

I still have the collection, some 2,000 comics mainly from the 1960s, but also from the 1950s and the 1970s. Most of them are DC comics, although I have plenty of Marvels, and also such labels as Dell, Charlton and Gold Key.

The comics have been sitting in a closet in my parents’ house for nearly 40 years. I have tried to sell them as a lot, with mixed success. I did sell about 50 of them about six months ago, but that has been it.

I tried to interest my kids in this collection, but today’s kids aren’t into comic books. Comic books today are pricier than when I was a kid, when they were a dime, then 12 cents, then 20 cents, and annuals were 25 cents. The people who are reading comic books today are generally older, and they are still highly collectible, especially those from the World War II era and the early Marvels from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I would still like to sell the comics as a lot, which means you get both the good and the bad. You will get lots of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil, but you will also gets some Archies.

If anyone has any interest in this collection as a single lot, let me know. I would like to sell the collection, but I won’t take pennies for it. I want something substantial, maybe averaging out to at least two or three dollars a comic book.

Yes, these are tangible items from my childhood, probably the last vestige of things from my youth, mainly ages 7 to 14, probably the best times of my young life.

But they are sitting there, collecting dust, while they could be enjoyed by somebody else.

Yes, I am looking for a good home for these comic books. And if I don’t find one, they can sit in that closet and grow old as I grow old.

Maybe my future grandchildren, if I have any, would be interested …

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rant #114: And the Balloon Has Burst ...

I know that by now you have heard about the story of the “balloon boy,” who supposedly stowed away on an errant balloon that he supposedly released into the skies last week. His family showed major concern for the safety of the child, an all-out panic ensued, and it ended up that not only wasn’t the six-year-old in the air with the balloon, but he was safe at home as a participant in an elaborate scam that involved his parents trying to pitch an idea for a reality show, and using this incident to interest parties who could make their dream come true.

I will not use the family’s name, because they don’t need any more publicity. The parents are extremely sick people, and perhaps they need the book thrown at them for these two idiots to understand that involving a child in your scheme for fame is not the right thing to do.

These dummies have been courted by the broadcast networks before, and the networks should be ashamed of themselves for doing this. I believe the family was on a network reality show where parents from one family are “swapped” temporarily for parents from another family, and the network cameras record all the fun and hilarity and panic that ensues from such a swap.

How much fun this is! I guess I could kick myself for missing this show.

Anyway, the parents call themselves amateur storm chasers, and I have read that the father believes that there are skeletal remains of human beings on Mars.

Yes, this is the type of person the networks should be courting, shouldn’t they?

For their latest escapade, the Heenes (oops, I did say their name after all) should be prosecuted to the highest extent that the law allows. I don’t know if they realize this, but it costs money to send out a manhunt like the one that was used to find their “missing” child. People are diverted from their normal routines. Law enforcement is tasked to find this child.

All of this is not free.

Throw the book at these two idiots. And yes, that includes removing the children—in addition to the balloon boy, I believe there are a couple of other kids, all relatively young—from the parents authority, at least for a short time, and have Child Protective Services keep an eye on this family for years to come.

Anyone who decides to sacrifice their child for the goal of becoming a “reality TV star” is not a parent. Sure, they can have kids, but I wouldn’t call them parents.

The best thing about this whole scam is that the balloon boy basically spilled the beans on national TV before throwing up a few times.

Heck, the kid is six years old. I think George Washington is looking down on him with a broad smile on his face.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rant #113: Don't Be So Quick To Rush To Judgment

You have probably heard that conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from a group that was looking to purchase the NFL’s St. Louis Rams football franchise. Much was made about such a controversial individual being part of this group, and to increase the group’s chances of winning their bid, they dropped Limbaugh like a hot potato.

Charges rose from both sides. Those against Limbaugh’s participation—including Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson—argued that Limbaugh was not the type of person that should be allowed to be an owner of an NFL team because of his “racist” background. Limbaugh fired back that this was just another incidence of “Obama’s America,” and he called both Sharpton and Jackson racial “hustlers” who are always looking to incite controversy.

Although I am no fan of Limbaugh, if he can afford to be part of this group, then he should be allowed to be part of a purchase of an NFL team as a minority owner. Those against his participation claim that he is racist, and his ultra-conservative views are not in tune with the makeup of the NFL.

Well, what a bunch of hooey!

Who said anybody has to be what is "agreeable" in everyone's mold to become a professional sports team owner?

If anybody cares to look over the pond a bit, there is one minority owner in another professional sport that shows that there is a clear double standard to who and who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a professional sports team.

Popular rapper Jay-Z is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Funny, I didn’t hear the least bit of uproar when he became a minority owner of that team, even though his music is racist, anti-woman, and completely offensive.

Here are the partial lyrics to one of his songs, entitled “Trouble,” and yes, I have taken out the offensive language:

unh, you little N-- ain't deep you dumb, you N-- ain't gangsta you gum,
I chew little N--
hock-too, spew little N--, I can only view little N-- like little N--
but in lieu of little N-- trying to play that boy, I phew phew little
N-- with the latest toy
unlike you little N--, I'm a grown ass man, big shoes to fill N--,
grown ass pants
prolly hustled with your pops, go ask your parents its apparent you're
staring at a legend
who, put a few little N-- in the they place before trying to eat
without saying they grace before
blasphemous bastard get your faith restored you're viewing your version
of the lord god
mc little N--, applaud, or forever burn in the fire that I spit at y'all
I rebuke you little N--
the meek shall parish, ill roof you little N--, Im a project terrorist,
cute you little N--
think you in my class subsitute little N-- soon feel my wrath, I mute you
little N--
you a little N--, I shall abuse you little N--, I'm a ill N--,
now shoot you little N--
go somewhere and play, cuz the day I loose to you little N--, no day

Twenty uses of the “N” word in just a single passage of the song … and some say that Limbaugh has a problem?

No, our politically correct society has a problem. Things are acceptable now that were never acceptable before. But today, your skin color appears to dictate whether you are right or wrong, whether people turn the other way or not, and that is just plain wrong.

Again, if Jay-Z can be a minority owner of a professional sports team, why can’t Limbaugh?

I think people should wake up. If Jay-Z is OK, why not Limbaugh?

And just as an afterthought, if a person like Michael Vick can be allowed back into the NFL, why can't a person like Limbaugh be given the green light?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rant #112: MGM Our Gang Collection Recently Released

Warner Bros. Video has just put out a collection of Our Gang shorts from the period after the franchise moved over the auspices of MGM in the late 1930s. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to such a set, and now that it is finally here, I still can’t say enough about it.

The MGM episodes of the Our Gang series are pretty much looked down upon by enthusiasts of this series as being totally inferior to what came before them—and they are. They have also not been as widely viewed as the Hal Roach portion of the series, because they generally were not included in the TV package that baby boomers remember from their youth.

Thus, even though some of these MGM shorts are pretty good, they are not part of our childhood consciousness, so they can’t possibly measure up to even the weakest of the Hal Roach shorts.

Over 50 shorts were made during the few years that the series was part of MGM, and although they generally lack the charm of the earlier Hal Roach shorts, most of these 15-minute features continue to bring us back to a different time and place.

The earlier MGM shorts pretty much continue the storylines of the last of the Hal Roach shorts, and you have the overly familiar Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Butch, Porky and Buckwheat to help the viewer make an almost seamless transition from Hal Roach to MGM.

The problem is that as the kids got older, they were replaced by newer kid actors who simply lacked the charm of their predecessors. This includes Froggy Laughlin, Janet Burston and one Mickey Gubitosi, better known as Robert Blake.

It probably wasn’t the kids’ fault, because the scripts became weaker as the series wore on.

And also, MGM decided to use the popularity of the series to promote various causes, including the war effort. If ever a series was mismatched with a cause, this was one of them. Politics should have never crept into the storylines, but they did, to the detriment of the series as a whole. These “rally ‘round the flag” episodes are excruciatingly hard to watch.

But, if you want to see what happened to the Gang as the series progressed, this set is an absolute must, to say the least.

I wholeheartedly recommend this set, and you can find out more about it at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rant #111: Capt. Lou Goes Down For the Count

Capt. Lou Albano died yesterday. He wasn’t really a captain, but if you watched professional wrestling in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, you knew who Albano was—whether you liked him or not.

Albano was one of the most successful wrestling managers during this time period, managing everyone from Toru Tanaka to the Samoans. He was mainly a “bad” guy, and he knew how to get the audiences riled up with his totally rude behavior.

His look added to this illusion. Albano, with his pot belly sticking out of his Hawaiian shirt, with rubber bands sticking out of his hairy face and a head topped with unruly hair, well, he was a sight for the ages.

Albano was actually a pretty good athlete in his day, and a fair wrestler. But he really rose to the occasion as a wrestling manager, the guy who accompanies his charges to the ring, occasionally getting involved in the bout, and the guy who yelled as much as his attractions in the interviews that were used between matches to spike interest.

Although 95 percent of his career was spent as a bad guy, his last days with WWF—now WWE, and prior to all this, WWF and even earlier, WWWF—were spent as a good guy. He was paired with singer Cyndi Lauper in the 1990s melding of rock and roll and wrestling, which was incredibly successful, and helped to bring professional wrestling to the mainstream.

He was in several of Lauper’s videos—including a memorable one as her father in “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”—and he became something of a ubiquitous personality all over TV. Nobody would claim that Albano was an A-list star, but he was always in character, no matter what he did.

At 76, Albano lived a very full life.

And his passing once again signaled that another icon from my youth is gone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rant #110: "This Is ... Paul Anka"

The ongoing saga of Michael Jackson continues, and this time, Paul Anka has somehow gotten into the mix.

It seems that Jackson’s posthumous single, “This Is It,” is actually a collaboration from more than a quarter century ago between the so-called “King of Pop” and the singer/songwriter who had many, many hits of his own including “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” and "Diana."

Word leaked out about the song, and Anka’s lawyers evidently got busy when they heard that the song was actually recorded in 1983 for a planned Anka duets album. One thing or another happened, and the song was not released at that time, but was later released under a different title by a singer known as Sa-Fire.

Anka has publicly stated that nothing untoward happened between his and Jackson’s camps, it is just that they needed to be reminded that he collaborated with Jackson on the song, and should be credited as such.

I guess he can feel confident in saying that, since Anka will now receive 50 percent of all the profits made off the song, which is also the centerpiece of the new Michael Jackson concert film, “This Is It,” which will premier soon.

Some might say that Anka has more than enough money. He’s been a hitmaker and popular performer for more than 50 years, and his “Tonight Show” theme was heard for decades on Johnny Carson’s late night talkfest.

Funny, that song was originally written for and recorded by--under a different title--Annette Funicello!

Also funny about this whole thing is that Anka has been known to (legally) cop other people’s songs himself. Anka’s “My Way” is the English version of a French song “Comme D’Habitude.” Anka wrote the English lyrics, but is often mistakenly credited with writing the entire song.

However, the real story is that Anka heard the song, thought it was an awful song but liked it enough to pursue it, flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to it, and the rest is history—it has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Sid Vicious.

So now, I guess everyone is happy. Anka gets proper credit, the Jackson camp doesn’t have to go through any legal haggling, and the world can hear this “new” Jackson song.

Now that that is settled, maybe we are one step closer to finding out if Jackson’s doctor should be arrested for “killing” the pop singer. I mean, we want to find out the "truth," and we don’t want activist Dick Gregory to starve himself to death much longer, do we (Ranting and Raving, July 30, 2009)?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rant #109: It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Baseball remains king during October, with the Divisional Series featuring all kinds of excitement, even though they also featured three sweeps of four series, with the fourth series being won in four games.

The Cardinals, a team which many picked as favorites to represent the National League in the World Series, fell hard to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers’ three-game sweep was highlighted by a botched fly ball by Matt Holliday which doomed the Cardinals in game two. The Redbirds could not get back in the saddle at home in game three, and the Dodgers were victorious.

The Red Sox lost to the Angels, and the series went only three games because the Angels were able to pull out game three on the road at Fenway Park. Jonathan Papplebon--the Red Sox’s usually reliable closer—gave up a few hits when the Angels were down to their last strike, and the Red Sox could not recover.

The Yankees swept the Twins, and two of the three games were nip and tuck the entire way. In Saturday’s game, a horrendous call by the umpire down the left field line may have doomed the Twins, but by placing at least one runner in every inning of the 12-inning game, the Twins blew it themselves by not executing during crucial moments. And Alex Rodriguez turned around his past playoff performance with three big games. (And I thank you, Kate Hudson. Whatever you are doing for A-Rod, please keep it going.)

Only the Phillies-Rockies series was not determined in three games. Bad calls marred Sunday’s game, as did a snowstorm which postponed Saturday’s game. Yesterday's game featured a big comeback by the Phillies.

I just love this wall-to-wall baseball, and I loved the earlier starting times for the Yankees games. I am sure that that will change when they face the Angels on the West Coast.

But if you love baseball like I do, you had to love this past week. I just couldn’t get enough of it, and how can football compare to this?

It can't.

As a Yankees fan, I look forward to this Friday, as the Yankees try to beat the Angels and move to the World Series, which, due to a late starting date, will most likely be decided in November.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rant #108: Nobel Choice?

I am sure that you heard that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t know if this was a surprise to him—by all accounts, it was—but it was certainly a surprise to many Americans, and not just to those who don’t like him.

What has he done in his nine months in office to deserve such a prestigious honor?

Well, to be honest about it, it is hard to tell. He and his administration inherited many problems from their predecessors, the Bush administration. He has set out to make our government more efficient, but many of the problems that the previous administration had he has too.

He still has us fighting wars in faraway lands, with little or no end in sight. Unemployment is incredibly high, and many people have rallied against him in his health care initiatives.

Then why did he receive this award?

As far as I can tell, the granting of this award to our President has nothing to do with this being a consolation prize to losing out on the Olympics. It has more to do with the international perception of him as something of a “game changer” than anything else.

He has incredible popularity abroad, because he is perceived as someone who will change his office to be more receptive to global concerns rather than simply U.S. concerns.

He has already taken stands in the Middle East—basically putting his fist down and telling the many sides of that puzzle to get things done—and he has done this very early in his Presidency. I think many around the world like this stance because they feel that the U.S. constantly backs Israel in this process. I believe that there are many in this world who would like to see Israel go away, and they perceive that Obama is pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab based on his reaching out to the Muslim community.

And you can't have a better middle name than Hussein, can you?

He seems to be a “green” President as a positive, meaning that he seems to be pro-environment. I think many have viewed previous administrations as anti-environment, although we have the strictest anti-smoking laws in the world in the U.S. Many outside of the U.S. don't consider smoking an environmental problem, they don't even consider it a problem.

And, they absolutely love his wife.

And, let's be honest about it, they detested George Bush.

That, in a nutshell, is why he received this prize. The perception is greater than the output, at least right now, and with the prize in hand, I believe that those who voted to give it to him — probably a voting board that is made up of pretty much anti-American, anti-Israel left-wingers — want him to continue walking on this path, and they feel this will encourage him to do so.

Otherwise, in my mind, the giving of this prize to our President--while it is a prestigious prize--is pretty much a joke. I mean, he was only in office a few days when he was nominated, so what could he have done in just a few days and what has he done during his term in office?

And has this award had any relevance since Yassar Arafat won the award?

And I repeat, they just adore Obama's wife.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rant #107: Chubbsy Ubbsy, You Might Say

Did anybody see the picture of the 19-lbs. baby that made the rounds a few weeks ago? I have posted one of the photos of this kid here that was in one of the local papers. Here, the baby is pictured next to a normal-sized child, and you can see just how huge this kid is.

I can’t imagine any baby being born at such a weight. I think my son and daughter were pretty normal in the weight area when they were born. I think my son was 7 lbs.-plus and my daughter was 8 lbs.-plus.

Both were good sizes for babies, but I just can’t imagine a woman giving birth to a 19-lbs. watermelon, with the pits.

The large baby’s mom had diabetes, which could have effected the child’s weight. Or it could have been some type of glandular problem, none of these or both of them.

All I know is that this kid is enormous. And I feel for the mother, who must have been in great pain or at least discomfort while carrying this butterball for nine months.

Incredibly, there have been bigger babies born in the low 20-lbs variety.

How can the human body withstand such a large-sized baby? Will the mother feel aftereffects, even if she delivered with via a Caesarian Section?

And what will the child’s life be as he gets older? Will he continue to be the biggest one (in width) in his class, or will the child be normal in every way as it gets older?

The child was born in Indonesia. I don’t know what they think about heavy kids—and adults—there, but with our American societal obsession with slimness, would a kid like this be the object of taunts and finger pointing as the boy got older if he still retained such a mammoth weight?

We all knew the "fat boy" when we were kids, or at least saw the fat kid on TV. Remember Norman “Chubby” Chaney, the fat boy in the Little Rascals? Chaney actually died from his obesity as a teenager.

The “rounder” one always gets the laughs. Lou Costello, who was actually quite an athlete, chubbed up for his part in the comedy team of Abbott and Costello to help play off Bud Abbott’s thin physique.

And who could forget Oliver Hardy, who looked absolutely huge next to the paper-thin Stan Laurel?

I just hope that this kid can lead a normal life, and that his heaviness either dissipates over time or is not the object of any ridicule.

People can be pretty harsh about such things, but the fact of the matter is that so few people are really naturally thin that it boggles the mind why heavy-set people are made fun of like they are.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rant #106: Cell Phones Ringing Off the Hook

Do you hate cell phones as much as I do? Do they ring at the most inappropriate times, and are their users “in their own world” when using them, even when it is in a situation where serious injury can occur as a result of using this gadget?

Well, the latest episode wasn’t life or death, but it shows how ridiculous that people have become in regulating their cell phone usage.

A few weeks ago, during a preview performance of the Broadway play “A Steady Rain,” which starts high-profile actors Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, an audience member’s cell phone rang, and then rang again.

Jackman stopped the play, went out of character and asked the audience, “Can somebody get that?” He then paced the stage until the ringing stopped—and he then went back into character as if nothing had happened.

Theatergoers are routinely reminded before a show begins to shut off their cell phones, or to put them on vibrate. However, there are some people who just won’t follow this request—and damn the actors and their fellow audience members when their phones ring.

I have been to movies, to school meetings and to other events where people simply have to interrupt the proceedings so that they can answer the phone. I have been in the supermarket where I have actually had to raise my voice in order to get by a shopper who is on their cell phone and has no idea that I want to pass them as they clog the aisle with their wagon.

At a Yom Kippur service that I attended a few weeks back, the rabbi asked those attending to shut off their phones—and to not put them on vibrate. The rabbi said that she has learned through trial and error that phones on vibrate continue to make discernible noise, and she didn’t want the holiest day on the Jewish calendar interrupted by these sounds.

And while driving, I can tell you numerous times when I had too-close encounters with other drivers who were talking on the phone and/or texting. And the funny thing is that when I give them the horn, they yell at me like I am at fault.

The dumbest thing I have seen with the phone is when people use their phones while on the subway or the railroad. I mean, this is not your personal phone booth, and I really have no interest in your conversation. But when you are in such close proximity to others using phones, you become part of the interchange between the one with the phone and the one on the other end, whether you like it or not. It’s eavesdropping even when you don’t intend to eavesdrop.

Sure, I have a phone, but it doesn’t have the gizmos and gadgets attached to it like most phones do. It is for calling, nothing else, and I only use it when necessary. In fact, I don’t even know the last time I used my phone. Heck, I don’t even know the phone number by heart.

Phones got out of hand when manufacturers added all the gizmos and gadgets to them. If they were just phones, I don't think we would have the rate of misuse that we have now with these phones.

While I don’t back any government regulation when it comes to these phones, I think that personal common sense is necessary when using them. If you were in a conversation with someone, wouldn’t you consider it bad manners to be interrupted by a phone call?

And why do you want to talk on the phone when you have spent God knows how much for a Broadway theater ticket?

Maybe these people have money to burn. I know that I don’t. And I also don’t have much patience for people who think that the phone is somehow part of their body.

And those phones that fit on your ear—I guess everyone wants to be Uhura from "Star Trek"—everyone but me. I long for the days when phones were at home and in phone booths and that was about it.

In New York, Sen. Charles Schumer has sponsored legislation that would require states to pass laws banning texting while driving. If states do not comply, they lose 25 percent of their federal highway funding. Texting is already banned in many places in this country, but people still do it anyway. Others have proposed that automakers come up with cars that do not allow phones to be used at all while the car is moving.

Our worldwide fascination with these phones have become obsessions, and that is not a good call on whatever end of the line you are on. And a solution is needed, and let's put that on quick-dial.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rant #105: It's Baseball Season!

I love baseball. I find it to be exciting, exhilarating, and frustrating, all at the same time. I was a lousy player—although I did play in my community’s Little League until I was 15—but I am a great fan.

And the Twins-Tigers’ 163rd game proves that baseball remains our National Pastime.

Even after a grueling six-month, 162-game schedule, two teams were tied with the exact same record in their division, the Central Division of the American League. Thus, an extra game had to be played.

The stakes: the winner goes into the playoffs against the Yankees; the loser goes home.

What the Twins and Tigers gave us was probably the best overall game of the regular season, a 12-inning, four-and-a-half hour affair that had more thrills and spills than a rollercoaster ride. The Twins won 6-5, on a hit by Alexi Casilla (pictured), but the real winners were the fans--both in attendance and those who watched at home--who couldn't have asked for a more breathtaking game to end the regular season and send Major League Baseball into the playoffs leading up to the World Series.

As an added bonus, the game was a late-afternoon game, which is great. Kids could watch the game on TBS without fear that they will fall asleep and not be ready for school the next day.

Personally, I came home from work and saw playoff-level baseball without having to look at the clock.

I guess my interest in the game was heightened by the fact that the Twins will now face the Yankees in the American League Divisional Series, but the Tigers and Twins are two gritty teams that are fun to watch, and they did not disappoint anyone during this game.

What made it even more fun is that the game was played at the Metrodome, that Minnesota mistake that seemingly always plays into the hands of the home team. The Twins will be playing in a new baseball-only outdoor stadium next year, but for now, the frenzy of this place sends shivers down your spine, even while watching in the comfort of your living room.

Sure, the NFL will be going into its fifth week, the NHL has just started its season with the NBA will be coming in right behind it, and the collge football season is in full swing, but it doesn't really matter. Until the final out of the World Series is recorded, this is still baseball season.

Three playoff games on tap today ... I mean, it doesn't get better than this!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rant #104: Social Networking or Social Harassment?

I have my personal trepidations about social networking sites. Although I am on a couple of them, I have my doubts about their veracity and their context in our society.

I currently belong to Facebook and Twitter, and I once frequented Delphi. I guess that they are all good for what they do—helping you to stay in touch with people you ordinarily wouldn’t hear from. I just joined, so I am personally networked up to the gills.

These sites are fine if you are trying to locate long-lost friends or keep up with your relationships in this fast-changing world.

However, I think a lot of people use these sites as a replacement for one-on-one social relationships, and I think that is where these sites are totally inept.

It is one thing to join these sites and post innocuous messages about yourself and the world around you.

It is another thing to post messages of hate, upload questionable photos, and/or use these sites to vent venom against humanity.

Several sick people have used these sites to put up vitriol against others, and some have even acted out their aggressions in unfavorable ways, such as the so-called Craiglist killer.

Others just post venom for venom’s sale. On Facebook, my son’s friend was taken to task for being black, and the poster used the “N” word and other derogatory epithets to blast this kid.

Thus, the main problem with these sites is that they are totally unregulated. Anybody who is a member can post whatever they want, and even if the messages are scanned, it can take days before they come down, if they come down at all.

And a lot of people misuse the sites by posting photos of themselves in various stages of dress and undress, opening themselves up to who knows what. And a lot of the people doing these dumb things are teenagers.

Look, the cat is out of the bag. No parent is going to be able to fully regulate what their child does online, but the kids should know better.

And the people who abuse these sites should also know better.

But the sites should know better, too, and provide for a safer environment for those using their services. Sure, there have been security tweaks on most of these sites, but only after something happens.

Now, being part of these sites, I am, I guess, part of the problem. These sites would go away if nobody joined, but people continue to sign up each and every day.

With their growing numbers, I just hope the people running these sites understand that their responsibility moves up a notch every time someone new joins.

But from what I’ve seen, I don’t think they want that extra responsibility.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rant #103: Not a Red-Letter Day For Letterman

It consistently amazes me how seemingly smart, talented people so often get entwined in things that come back to haunt them.

The most recent case in point is CBS late-night talk show host David Letterman, who outed a producer from the show “48 Hours” as the person who had launched a plot to blackmail him with information related to affairs Letterman had supposedly had with female staffers.

The talk show host made this known to a stunned audience on his show during the night of October 1.

First of all, I have to commend Letterman for coming clean to his viewers. Word would have gotten out anyway through the tabloids, and he would have looked even stupider than he does now if that happened.

And that leads me to my next point. Whether working in an office or working on the staff of a major TV show, one of the first rules is that you don’t date anyone in the office, and you certainly don’t have a sexual relationship with them. This is just common sense.

Why did Letterman stoop so low? He has had a committed relationship to the person he eventually married for a number of years now, and has a son through that relationship. Why was he hunting around for more female flesh to conquer?

And the person who was trying to blackmail him—what were his motives? We have since learned that he had a huge child support bill to pay each month, but anybody making more than $300,000 a year like he was should have been able to afford the $72,000 or so he was paying for his two kids.

Heck, making much less, I was able to afford my payments just fine.

I think there are a lot of holes in this story that need to be filled that probably won’t be, at least for us, the general public. How many women were involved? When did this take place? For how long? Did the women cooperate with the accused? Etc., etc., etc.

A couple of women have come out, but since they were all subordinates to Letterman, I would think CBS would run some type of internal investigation of these incidents. If it is proven that Letterman used his power as "the man" to seduce these women--threaten them with a loss of their job if they didn't succumb--I would think that CBS might have to take some punitive action against the talk show host.

Although I feel some compassion for Letterman, he may be a funny guy, but he has proven himself to be not a very bright one.

Oh, I know, there are people so dedicated to Letterman that they will back him no matter what he does, but once again, if it was your daughter who he painted into a corner, wouldn't your views of him change? That is the yardstick that I use, and yes, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed based on this latest episode.

I wonder when the first tell-all book about Letterman and his show will come out--and you know it will, especially since the door has now been opened with this latest escapade.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rant #102: When I'm 64 (12 More Years)

Here is my fourth grade class picture. I hooked up with someone on Facebook who I hadn't had contact with in 40 years or so, and he was nice enough to have posted it there. I am in the upper row on the far left in this photo. Boy, was I good looking back then!

Anyway, that photo was taken over 40 years ago. Even though I belong to a number of social networking sites, most of the people in the photo have faded from my memory and I don’t know what happened to them.

Yes, it was a different world back then. Our “iPod” was a pocket transistor radio, and few of us had color televisions. Pay-TV was supposedly just starting at this point, but it wasn’t in my neighborhood in Queens, New York.

I was 10 years old when this picture was taken, and I was a pretty good student. I worked hard, and usually did fairly well in school.

Honestly, the world was beginning to change around myself and my classmates, but you really didn’t know it at that time. Even though President Kennedy was assassinated just four years earlier—and thus, we had already lost some of our innocence—you really wouldn’t know it by this picture. If the date wasn’t on the photo, it could easily have been taken in the 1950s, and not the 1960s (although some of the girls’ clothing would give the mid-1960s away).

However, just a few months after this photo was taken, all hell broke loose in our country. Race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and a myriad of smaller, yet almost equally daunting episodes happened that helped to wash away the varnish of the 1950s and early 1960s that still encapsulated our world back then.

I look at this photo, and I see how much I have changed physically. I lost my hair, I have a couple more creases on my body that weren’t there way back when, I am a bit taller, and yes, a bit heavier.

I had a gall bladder when this picture was taken; now, I don't have one. The only problem I had with my eyes was that I was nearsighted.

I have been through a divorce, and my second marriage, I am happy to say, has been wonderful. I have two kids, one in college, and one who might go there sometime in the future.

When I was 10 years old, I could not imagine that my life would be as it is today. Could anybody in this group have imagined what they would be doing 40 years later?

The one thing that is basically the same for me is that I feel that I really am the same person that I was when I was a young kid, although I am an adult. I still laugh at the same things, have the same beliefs and the same values.

Physically, people say I look about the same as I did way back when (less the hair), and I kind of agree with them.

However, if anyone would have asked me at the age of 10 what I would be doing when I was 52, I honestly don’t think I would have gotten it right. I don’t know what I would have said, but as a starry-eyed kid, I bet I would never have projected what I am today.

Never in a million years.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rant #101: Roman's Holiday May Be Over

When does the statute of limitations run out on a rape case, and does the victim actually have a say in the matter?

This issue has come to light as internationally known director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on a U.S. arrest warrant related to a 1977 child sex charge.

In 1977, Polanski sexually attacked a 13-year old girl he was supposedly shooting photos of for French Vogue magazine. Once charges were filed, he fled the United States and set up residence in France, and was told that if he ever came back to the States, he would be arrested.

His victim has since settled financially with him, and in the past, she has come to terms with the episode, and has even backed Polanski on a number of occasions. She even backed him when he was up for an Oscar for the film “The Pianist,” which he directed. She said in an op-ed piece that I believe ran in the Los Angeles Times that voters (I am paraphrasing) should judge the film and not the man.

The victim, who had acting aspirations as a teenager, now lives in Hawaii and is married with a few kids. She has said that the latest episode to bring Polanski to trial is a waste of time and any measures to bring him to the U.S. should be dropped.

However, the U.S. continues to be interested in this case, and Swiss police detained him on a U.S. warrant as he was going to the Zurich Film Festival to pick up an award.

Does the victim have any say on this case? The incident happened more than 30 years ago, and Polanski has been a fugitive of justice since then. The victim settled with the director, and each has lived out their lives on separate sides of the world.

Why is the U.S. continuing to be interested in bringing Polanski to justice? Nobody will argue that what he did—essentially raping a minor after plying her with drugs—was a horrid thing. But the U.S. has not been able to touch him in more than three decades, why is it pursuing the case now?

I think it is because Polanski is one of the few well-known people in this world who has been able to basically thumb his nose at the U.S. for these many years, and has made a nice living off of these shores. The U.S. could only glare at him for the past three decades, but now, to bring some type of closure to the case, they are pursuing it.

In 1977, Polanski was supposedly going to take a plea bargain from the originally appointed judge, where he would have little or no jail time, and that was going to be the way he repaid society for what he did. However, word leaked out that another judge was going to try the case, and that judge was reportedly not going to be so forgiving, so he fled.

This is an incredibly intricate case because of Polanski’s background, which is full of excess but what preceded by much strife. He is a concentration camp survivor, and his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and his unborn child were murdered by Susan Atkins, a member of Charles Manson’s cult (see Rant #98, September 28, 2009).

In fact, Sharon Tate’s sister has said that Polanski should be let free because the act between himself and the girl was consensual! Somehow, I did not know that such an act between a grown man and a child could ever be a consensual one.

Whatever his background, I think that he should be sent back to the U.S., and when they bring him back, he should be punished, and be punished for running away like he did.

But honestly, what would be accomplished at this juncture by throwing the book at him?

The victim doesn’t want it to happen, but I think her feelings—as an adult—do not really matter. What he did to her those many years ago must be accounted for.

Give him something to do that will help make society better, such as, as part of his “sentence,” have him make a batch of public service announcements related to subjects like date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and the like.

Also, have him work 1,000 hours of community service at a women’s center that deals with brutality against women.

Actually let him see that what he did 30-plus years ago was a horrid act, by dealing with women who have been through it all.

On the other hand, why should he be treated differently than someone who committed the same act 30-plus years ago but wasn’t a celebrity? You can certainly put up a good argument on both sides of the coin here. Maybe jail time is the way to go here. Give him a number like everyone else who has committed the same crime.

As an aside, more than 100 move business folk have come to his side, stating that he should not be arrested. Woody Allen is one of the signers of this petition.

Sometimes, you have to wonder who your friends really are. I think in this case, as far as Allen signing this petition, this is the perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

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