Thursday, December 31, 2009
Here is my first annual Ranting and Raving New Year's Resolutions.
2010 appears to be an interesting year in our country and for me personally, so I thought I would draw up a couple of resolutions, and then a year from now, see if I was able to hold to them.
I doubt it, but you never know.
1) Don't eat as much as I did in 2010: Yes, this is a common New Year's resolution, but the fact of the matter is that I went to town in 2009. I don't want to do that again. The last few weeks, in particular, have been killers. I am taking the "less is more" philosophy." Let's see if it works.
2) Use my credit cards less: With all the monkey business that credit card issuers are pulling with their cards, I think it is best that I hold back using what I have, and only use them in emergencies. Let me see if I can start paying these things off, and then getting rid of them entirely.
3) Ask for a raise: I haven't had one in three or four years, and although the economy stinks, maybe this is a good time to ask for a raise. Even if I don't get one immediately, I have put the bug in the proper peoples' minds that I need something more, and maybe they will accommodate me later.
4) Listen to myself more when I make a decision: I have a habit of second-guessing myself, and then, when things don't work out, I blame myself. "Why didn't I listen to myself the first time?" is what often goes through my mind. Well, maybe I will listen to myself more in 2010.
5) Be more active: This really ties into No. 1 on the list. I was never very athletic--although I loved and played lots of sports--but in my 50s, I, well, just sit there. Maybe I can become more active, not necessarily exercise, but just be more active, shoot hoops with my son, something like that.
6) Tie loose strings together from my past: Not that I haven't done this, but I want to continue to do this in 2010. I grew up during a wonderful/terrible time in the 1960s and early 1970s in a community in Queens, New York, that I still have many ties to through people that I know. I want to further cultivate those relationships, because they are still strong, even after 40 years.
That is all I can think of now.
I also resolve to continue to write my Ranting and Raving insights each and every week for the foreseeable future. It is a lot of fun, and I know people are visiting ... even though my posts don't receive many comments.
People from the U.S., Europe and other continents around the world do come here, and I have tried to make this site as enjoyable as possible. I resolve to continue to do that in 2010.
Everyone have a wonderful 2010, and I will speak to you again on Monday, January 4.
Posted by Larry at 3:47 AM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
So retail sales weren’t as bad as expected during the days leading up to Christmas.
According to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment, including cash, retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, versus a 3.2 percent drop which was experienced during the 2008 holiday season.
Adjusting for the extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas that was experienced in 2009, the percentage gain was closer to 1 percent.
For a season that was supposed to be so bad, people found a way to buy as many big-ticket purchases as they could muster. They generally stayed away from credit cards, and used cash at hand.
But they made those purchases, of TVs, gaming units, and other items that cost the proverbial “pretty penny.”
Is the recession over? Probably not. I think people shopped around for the best price, and then spent it, rather than what they did last year, when they simply ignored such items.
We still have a large unemployment level in this country, and I don’t know if it is getting better as 2010 approaches. People are not spending like they once did, so I am pretty convinced that the recession is still here, even though we pay actors $20 million a movie, and athletes’ salaries are in another dimension.
They always use teachers as a barometer, but some teachers make six-figure salaries, or at least real good five-figure salaries.
Using myself as a guide, I am underpaid, by my standards of course. And so is my wife.
Based on that, when I can go into a store and not worry about the cost of something I want—including food—then the recession is over.
And not before.
Posted by Larry at 4:14 AM
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I have taken many airplane rides during my life, both for business and pleasure. The last plane trip I took was a return trip from Virginia on business, and that was a few years ago.
I don't like to go on a plane. I am not afraid of riding on one, like some people, but I like to be "in control" when I travel, and I don't feel that I am in control when I take a plane trip.
I would much rather drive to my destination, if at all possible. In fact, each year, my family and I drive to Florida on vacation.
The latest incident, where some religious zealot idiot wanted to blow up a plane, has solidified my resolve:
I will never, ever, go on a plane again ... if I can help it.
Look, I understand that living in New York, you really can't get to Europe by driving there. If I ever have an inclination to go to different countries, I guess that I am pretty much stuck, unless I take a boat there. But from where I am, you can drive to Canada in about five or six hours.
But for traveling on the Eastern Seaboard, I will never take a plane again ... famous last words, of course, but I would like to stick to this decision I have made.
Since 9-11, I have been very hesitant to go on a plane, and even before then, I was not a happy plane traveler. My family and I were on a plane just a few months before 9-11, and both my wife and I felt that there was something wrong with the trip. We couldn't pinpoint it, but something didn't feel right. Nothing happened, but we were happy to get off the plane--and as a family, we haven't used one since.
I guess it has something to do with being in the air. Look, if you are in a car, and something happens, at least you are on the ground. If something goes wrong in the air, where do you go?
And this latest episode--where this idiot snuck in chemicals that he could later mix into an explosive--has sealed the deal for me.
I remember that the last time I took a plane, I just about had to disrobe in order to get on the plane. And then this guy sneaks onboard with these chemicals, undetected. If someone can explain this to me, I would appreciate it.
Sorry, planes are not for me. I would rather take the extra time and drive.
By driving, I won't have a potential terrorist sitting next to me, and that is the way I like it.
Posted by Larry at 4:10 AM
Monday, December 28, 2009
I'm back from the Christmas holiday ... probably a few pounds heavier, but still living large.
I had a few days off from work, and my family and I had a pretty good few days.
Some of the highlights were that we went to the movies--my son wanted to see the new "Chipmunks" movie, and yes, it was pretty dreadful--and I also spoke to a long-lost friend who I hadn't spoken to in probably nearly 40 years. I also will speak to a different long-lost friend who contacted me over the holiday weekend, and will do so later this week.
Also, on December 26, my sister turned 50.
My sister just missed being born on Christmas, which for our family, would not have been that big of a deal, because we are Jewish. But just the same, she was born on Boxing Day, which I know is a big deal in England. You take any gifts that you received that you don't want and give them to the needy.
She was also born on the first day of Kwaanza, which is another story altogether.
But in 1959, my mother gave birth to my sister. If I remember the story correctly, she was a breach baby, but the delivery went very well. My father was relieved that my mom and the baby were fine, but he has often said that he also thanked both of them for having the delivery when it happened, because it helped his taxes for that year.
Through the years, my sister and I have had a typical older brother/younger sister relationship. We hated each other at the same time that we loved each other, and we always looked out for each other no matter the situation.
For the first years of our lives, we actually shared a room. It is hard enough for a boy to share a room with his brother, but it is even harder for a brother and sister to share a room, especially as they get older. We had a divider in the room, so her side was as well defined as my side. As we approached our teenage years, our sides became even more defined: I had pictures all over the place of my sports heroes on my side of the room, she had David Cassidy plastered all over the place on her side.
I used to love to scare her. When she went to bed, I would hide behind the curtain and go "Boo!" and she would jump!
As we got older, my mother wouldn't even let me dress in the same room as my sister. When we got dressed for school, she dressed in her room, and my mother took my clothes into her bedroom, and that is where I dressed.
I had friends who my sister probably would have dated if we didn't move to the suburbs when we were of dating age; she also had a lot of friends, but I really never liked any of them. I dated one once, and it didn't work out, which hurt me then, but looking back, shouldn't have really surprised me.
Well, now my sister is a respected member of the community. She has three boys, is married to a great guy with an excellent job, has a great job herself, and she lives in a house in suburbia. What more can you ask for?
We had a little party for her yesterday, and she seems very happy. She had a health scare that was taken care of a few weeks ago, and she now seems as chipper as ever.
I am happy for her, and happy for our parents, who are alive and well and can say that they have two 50-year-old kids. How many people can say that?
And yes, I love my sister. She is a good person, with a good family. We are as different in many respects as two siblings can be, but we do share the same values.
Here's for the next 50! And remember, 50 is today's 30, so who knows how many more birthday celebrations she (and me) will have before we are done!
Posted by Larry at 4:41 AM
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
With so many people running around during this time of year, you might have missed two celebrity deaths that were announced during the past few days.
Connie Hines was one of the stars of the TV show "Mr. Ed," probably one of the dumbest concepts that ever worked on television. Just to remind you, the show was about the Posts, who owned a talking horse that was often smarter than they (or any human on the show) were. Alan Young played Wilbur, who knew that his horse talked, and Hines played his wife, who didn't have a clue until the show's last season.
Hines passed away recently. Although the horse was the main draw of the show, Hines was certainly no slouch. As one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on a sitcom (my opinion), she had the looks to draw males to this cockamamee show. Even though most of the storylines were rather childish, the writers knew what they had in Hines--a potential female blonde bombshell with an incredible figure--and they infused the show with the occasional double entendre joke.
One that I recall was that Hines thought she was losing her husband to his horse (!), and that the horse was more important to him than she was. She was scheming to devise ways to lure him back--get a new hairdo, wardrobe--but the neighbor said something to the effect of "You have nothing to worry about. Your figure is like a refrigerator!"
And yes, that was pretty funny, comparing the buxom Hines to an early 1960s refrigerator.
And then we have Arnold Stang, the bespectacled nebbish actor who had a more than half century career as an actor, a voice actor, and the actor who all nebbishes must be compared with.
He was the voice of Top Cat, so he solidified myself in my childhood as the voice of one of my favorite cartoon characters.
He was also in perhaps the worst movie of all time. He co-starred in Governor Ahnold's first movie "Hercules in New York" in 1969. To demonstrate how bad a movie this was, Ahnold's voice was dubbed in because at the time, his English was wretched.
On the other hand, Stang was in numerous terrific movies, including "The Man With the Golden Arm" with Frank Sinatra, and, of course, my favorite film of all time, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
Stang had a small part in that film, but it was unforgettable. He played one of the gas station attendants--along with Marvin Kaplan--who witness Jonathan Winters' wrath. Winters tears apart the gas station piece by piece by piece, and all Stang and Kaplan can do is watch--or more to the point, run away whenever Winters comes their way.
I think it is probably the funniest movie scene I have ever had the pleasure of watching, and I can watch it again and again and again and laugh as hard as I first did when I saw the movie as a kid.
Hines and Stang are pretty much footnotes in show biz history, but to me, their passings were noteworthy.
Have a good holiday and I will be back at Ranting and Raving next week.
Posted by Larry at 4:57 AM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My daughter goes to school in Oswego. Happily, she just has to finish the spring semester and she is done with her undergraduate studies. She wants to be an elementary school teacher, and personally, I think she will be a good one.
Anyway, she came home on break, braving a five-to-six hour trip from Oswego, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Canada, all the way down to Long Island. The trip was uneventful, according to her, and everything went fine.
Then she started to drive the roads of Long Island, and everything went awry.
From what she told me, she was entering the Long Island Expressway, didn't see a car ahead of her, and slammed into the car.
Happily, my daughter is fine. Also happily, the car ahead of her suffered no damage at all, and the driver of the car was fine too.
Unhappily, may daughter's car, for all intents and purposes, was totaled.
The repair bill is about twice if not three times the value of the care, so it really didn't pay to fix it.
And she just dropped collision on the car, so she was on her own to pay for it.
She asked me for help. I couldn't help pay for it, as I don't have the money. I asked my parents, and they could only give so much too.
Well, one thing led to another, and guess what? I had to buy my daughter a car yesterday night.
In what became a four-plus hour marathon, I took out a loan on a used car.
The agreement I have with my daughter is that I will pay for part of it, but she must pay for the other part. I am already paying for my own car, so paying for two cars is a bit much. When my daughter gets a full time job, she will take over the payments in full.
All of the finagling and doodling and games that are played when you buy a car simply amazes me. The dealer quotes you one price, says he can get you another, they go through all of this phony posturing, and finally, you get a price that is probably higher than you wanted to pay, but not as high as you thought you would pay.
And then about what car you are getting ... they promise you one, and then they promise you another, and finally, you get one that they say is better than the other two, but they are bound to the price.
As you can understand, I could not wait to get out of the showroom. After a long day at work, this is not how I wanted to spend my evening.
But again, this is what a parent does--they go out on the limb for their children. I don't want to give myself a pat on the back--I can't do that right now because I am hitting myself in the head--but my parents went out on the limb for me, and I want to do it for my kids too.
But now I am burdened with another bill.
Not to be sexist, but one day, when she finds the guy she wants to live the rest of her life with, I hope he has plenty of money ... or maybe my daughter will have a lot of cash, and can help support her dear old dad.
Right now, I am cash depleted, that's for sure.
Posted by Larry at 4:24 AM
Monday, December 21, 2009
Yes, in my neck of the woods we were buried in snow this weekend. We received the brunt of the pre-winter storm, a nor-easter that was somewhat unusual in that it hit Long Island during the end of the fall season.
Some parts of Long Island received upwards of 25 inches of show on Saturday through Sunday morning, which I hear is a record snowfall for my area. The whole Eastern Seaboard got hit, with the lower portions (Florida) getting torrential downpours and temperatures in the 50s, while as you moved up through Georgia, the Carolinas and up to New England, just about everybody got lots of snow.
In my area, we received about a foot, which is bad, but certainly not as bad as 25 inches. My wife and I shoveled a good portion of the morning yesterday, and the show was like rice--not that solid--so it wasn't as hard to do as it could have been.
Taking the dog for his morning walks were pretty treacherous, and he had a hard time finding a place to squat. He did--I mean, nothing is going to stop that from happening--and even this morning, he looked for a spot for a while, but finally found one.
As for me, I was fine doing the shoveling yesterday. Then, I was in my car, and I reached over the glove compartment for something, and BAM!, my back went out. I am sure it is somehow related to the shoveling--I haven't done that type of work in a year or so, so I know it stretched muscles that don't normally get stretched like this--but it didn't happen when shoveling, it happened in my car.
Today, my back is still stiff, and sitting all day probably won't do it any good. It will probably take a few days for my back to get back to normal, so I guess I will have to grin and bear it.
Now I hear that we are supposed to get some precipitation on Christmas, but happily, it will be in the form of rain. It will be pretty warm, too, in the 40s, so that is a situation that should melt a lot of this stuff.
The storm happened a day before winter officially comes, so I am wondering if this is an omen of things to come. Will we have a horrible winter in the Northeast this year?
I sure hope not. I am getting too old for this shoveling business, and me and the white stuff haven't had a joyous relationship since I was a little kid sliding down the man-made mountains when I lived in South Jamaica, Queens.
I absolutely hate the snow as an adult, and I rue the days when we get it.
Again, yesterday, at least in my neck of the woods, wasn't that bad, but I feel that the next one could be a real back breaker--if I don't hurt myself again in such a stupid, unexpected way.
Posted by Larry at 5:10 AM
Friday, December 18, 2009
I hate to cross merchandise my two blog sites, because I think that one is totally exclusive of the other. However, there are times when this type of maneuver is valid, and today’s rant is one of those times.
I recently uploaded the mono version of “The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees (Colgems COM-109, 1968), and it is accessible at my Colgems Blog site (http://colgems.blogspot.com/).
It is one of the rarest of all Monkees albums, at it was released at the point in time when mono releases had finally given way to stereo releases. Way back when, record stores (remember them?) often had two sections for their albums: mono for the general listening public and stereo for audiophiles. In mid 1968, mono was just about totally replaced by stereo, so any LPs that were released in the middle of that year in mono are usually pretty scarce.
(Of course, I am talking about the U.S. market. Overseas, mono releases were still being produced in some countries into the 1970s.)
Anyway, this has created something of a major discussion point on my Yahoo Group sites, as members are discussing the merits of the mono over the stereo version and vice versa.
There seems to be a growing market for both vinyl and mono releases in the U.S. Vinyl consumption is up once again, and audiophiles, in a great about face, now search out mono copies of classic LP releases, and not so classic LP releases.
The Beatles mono box set this year—albeit on CD—has been a great success along with the stereo re-releases of their albums, and the interest in mono recordings may be at fever pitch right now.
And I love it. I really enjoy reading about the differences between mono and stereo releases—no matter how small they may be—and this debate has no real “right” answer, it pretty much is personal preference.
And personally, I happen to like the stereo version of “The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees” somewhat better than the mono version. The mono version is muddier, which I am sure pleases a lot of people, but I like the punch of the stereo version a little bit more.
Some will disagree with me, which is OK by me.
But I especially like the discussion, the explaining of key points as to why people like mono vs. stereo and vice versa, and the dedication that people have to vinyl.
We will never fully go back to vinyl as our main recording delivery format, but the dedication that people have to this format is astounding, especially for the recordings of their youth.
I hope the record labels are listening. They have increased their vinyl output, and people are buying even new albums from current artists in this format when they are available.
Long live vinyl—and long live the debate between stereo enthusiasts and those who cherish mono. It is great debate, isn’t it?
Posted by Larry at 5:51 AM
Thursday, December 17, 2009
There is nothing like a good book.
Especially during the winter months on the East Coast, delving into a good book when it is frigid outside is almost like having your own fireplace. It lights you up, warms you, and puts you in a good frame of mind.
That is why, for the life of me, I can't understand the big deal about e-readers.
E-readers are the newest devices that the electronics industry has come up with to bring the book into the electronic age.
Users can download books--and supposedly newspapers, textbooks and other printed matter--from a variety of sources and have them at their fingertips through the e-book reader.
For the college student, this would be a boon to their lives, supposedly, because using an e-reader, they wouldn't be forced to carry around weighty--and pricey--textbooks, as everything would be on the e-reader.
The price might be more cost effective, too. With textbooks costing $100 and up, if you had one on your e-reader for a limited amount of time--say a school semester--you could probably save a lot of money.
But for the casual book reader, or newspaper reader, I just can't see what all the fuss is about.
Sure, it might be nice to store certain things, like newspaper articles, on such a device, but if you just want to read a book, why use an e-reader?
You can curl up with a good book, but can you curl up with a good book on an e-reader?
I don't know.
Personally, I would rather have the book. I like the touch and feel of a book, and reading pages, I think, will produce less strain on the eyes than reading a page off of a screen.
I think the e-reader--and its possibilities--are akin to what has happened to the dispersal of popular music over the past decade or so.
Previous generations wanted to own, to hold, to handle LPs and 45s and have them in a physical collection of recorded music. In today's world, owning, holding, and handling a physical product isn't that important anymore to so many people. The file is the important thing, and people buy files--not actual physical product--that they can use on their various gadgets, including iPods.
I think it is the same thing with the e-readers. Books and printed matter are thought to be disposable, and not that important to physically have anymore.
Personally, I still love to add to my record collection, and if I want a book, I want a real book, not an electronic one.
Maybe I am old fashioned, but a book is a book.
An electronic book is nothing more than a file.
Give me the book anytime.
Posted by Larry at 9:33 AM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The House of Representatives voted yesterday to level off the increases in volume that are heard during commercials.
And to that, I say, "Hooray!"--but very softly.
The bill, approved by a voice vote, is aimed at stopping TV ads from playing louder than the programs they run with.
Rep. Anna Esboo (D-Calif.) drafted the measure after she found out that it was a common complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
I have noticed that the ads on many stations get so much louder that they are probably at twice the sound level of the shows they are supporting.
And during the holiday season, there are more of them.
I guess this is to get your attention, and if that is the intention, then they get mine. However, I don't think that they are achieving the purpose intended, because I just turn the channel.
I guess I don't like being yelled at, whether it is in person or on TV.
And have you noticed that DVDs also increase the volume when they are trying to sell you something?
I have rented and purchased several DVDs where you literally have to adjust the volume during the commercials many of them force you to watch before you get to the film. Once the film comes on, you have to increase the volume.
I am for anything that makes TV viewing quieter, and I can tell you, ads that increase the volume are a complete turn off to me.
And that's exactly what I do with them--turn them off.
Now, if we can only get some legislation to remove annoying personalities from the TV airwaves, that would really be something.
Posted by Larry at 4:15 AM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Well, I just knew it. That's why I did it twice.
According to a Reuters report, a major international study found that marriage reduces the risks of depression and anxiety, but these disorders are more likely to plague people once the relationship is over.
The study was recently published in the British journal Psychological Medicine. It was conducted in association with the World Health Organization (WHO), Harvard University and a number of other international organisations.
The study of 34,493 people across 15 countries was led by New Zealand's University of Otago, and is based on the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) surveys conducted over the past decade.
It found that ending marriage through separation, divorce or death is linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders, with women more likely to resort to substance abuse and men more likely to become depressed.
The study found that getting married, compared to not getting married, was good for the mental health of both genders, not just women, as previous studies had found.
However, the study found that men are less likely to become depressed in their first marriage than women, a factor Scott said was probably linked to the traditional gender roles at home, as other WMH surveys have shown that as women get better educated, depression rates tend to fall.
The other gender difference the study found is that getting married reduces risk of substance use disorders more for women than for men. This may be explained by the fact that women are usually the primary caregivers for young children.
However, the downside of marriage, the University of Otago study shows, is that ending it has a negative impact on both genders.
I guess the Tiger Woods of the world should pay great attention to this study. Fooling around like he did can not only harm his marriage, but it could lead to other problems for his wife and for himself.
My experience was that once I got it through my head that my marriage was over--and it took some time--I was ready to move on, and I did.
I met the greatest woman in the world, and she stuck by me though thick and thin. We have now been married for more than 16 years, have a great son (to go along with my great daughter from my first marriage), and our union is rock solid.
We have a mutual love and respect for one another that makes our marriage a terrific one. Whenever I see her after a day of work, or on the weekend, I just glow. I know how lucky I am to have this person as my wife.
Again, the Tiger Woods of the world, and all the other philanderers of both sexes, should really examine what they are doing when they get involved with another person, because when you say "I Do," it really means that.
Posted by Larry at 4:28 AM
Monday, December 14, 2009
Yes, it is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Tonight is the fourth night, so by tonight, the eight-day holiday is half over.
Unfortunately for some, the holiday was over a long time ago because it really never began, doesn't exist, and doesn't need to be celebrated.
I am talking about the vandals who routinely desecrate menorahs around the country. It seems a hotbed of this type of behavior is found in my own backyard in Suffolk County, New York.
Yes, the neighboring county to mine (I live in Nassau) routinely has a number of desecrations each year, and this year is no different. Several were reported over the weekend, and I know that before the holiday is out, there will be several more.
Beyond anti-Semitism, I believe this type of vandalism is perpetuated by the belief by many ignorant people that Hanukkah is a second- or third-rate event, simply Jewish Christmas. Why should these symbols be up when there are symbols of Christmas that will cover all of these bases?
This is perpetuated by the media, who cover Hanukkah barely, and when they do report about the holiday, it is as if it were an alternate celebration. I, personally, have taken to task a local columnist for Newsday who last year actually characterized the holiday using those words, and she does it ever year with no reprisal. I didn't bother this year. Why should I waste my time?
Also, famous Jewish personalities are torn during the time of year. Many refuse to exhibit their Jewishness and would rather show how "homogenized" they are into the mainstream. This is particularly prevalent with musicians and singers, including Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and the like, who record Christmas albums but do not acknowledge the fact that they are Jews.
This year, Bob Dylan has joined that group. He wavers between being Jewish and not being Jewish on almost a yearly basis, so this LP is really no surprise, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
Yes, I know that Irving Berlin and Mel Torme set the tone for this type of "from the outside looking in" behavior, but heck, these are celebrated singer/songwriters--if they can write songs about Christmas, couldn't they do the same for Hanukkah?
The major TV networks really don't even mention Hanukkah in their programming--when was the last time you saw a Hanukkah special on a major network?
Several department stores--including Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer--used to have an all-inclusive "holiday" atmosphere in their stores and in their advertising this time of year. A year or two ago, under mounting public pressure, they went back to a wholly Christmas program.
You can look at this two ways. The major holiday this time of year is Christmas, and just like Hanukkah isn't the Jewish Christmas, well, Christmas is not the Christian Hanukkah. I understand that. Majority rules, and certainly, more people are non-Jews than they are Jews.
But I feel that there is a bit of anti-Semitism involved here too. Why even bother with Hanukkah? It doesn't count, especially in relation with Christmas.
And don't get me started on Kwanzaa. To link Hanukkah and Kwanzaa together on the same plane is like linking the Yankees with a sandlot team. Sure, they both play the same game, but on way different levels.
There is nothing wrong with Kwanzaa, and for those that celebrate it, I wish them a happy holiday. However, don't equate a holiday that has been on the books since the 1960s with one that has been in existence for thousands of years.
Anyway, in this politically correct world, we supposedly accept all creeds, colors and beliefs, but do we really?
I feel this more during this time of year than any other. When my son was little, he always asked me why they didn't have any Hanukkah shows on TV, and it was really hard to provide him with an answer that he could understand.
Heck, even as an adult I don't understand it.
When I have relatives--Jewish relatives--who send our family Christmas cards, I know that something is very wrong ... very, very wrong.
This type of behavior only feeds into the vandalism, making it OK to desecrate symbols of other religions, because, heck, Hanukkah doesn't count.
And the wishy washy attitude of public officials on this is particularly disarming.
I look forward to the rest of Hanukkah, and also to Christmas. Both holidays have co-existed for thousands of years, but it is time that the ignorant became enlightened.
Tolerance is golden during this time of year. Let's all practice it.
Posted by Larry at 4:07 AM
Friday, December 11, 2009
This has been a bizarre week, to say the least.
We have the continuing Tiger Woods saga, which shows no signs of stopping. It seems that every day, a new revelation comes out. The latest is that among his “harem” of lovers were several porn stars. And how come every woman that he allegedly slept with wants to talk about it?
And then comes my personal saga, with my doctor making national headlines for selling painkillers to undercover cops at his practice, which is a few yards away from the high school. You just don’t know who to trust nowadays, and this is a person I certainly put a lot of trust in. I am still flabbergasted about his entire mess.
And then we have those two female teachers who decided to get conjugal at the school that they teach in. If this didn't satisfy every young male fantasy, I don't know what could! And yes, both have tenure, so I wonder what New York City Schools are going to do with these two over-sexed educators?
Well, I am wondering what else can happen this week—but I am heartened by the fact that one of my most beloved holidays starts tonight.
At sundown, the celebration of Hanukkah begins. To those who don’t know or don’t realize it, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas—it just falls out nearby to the Christmas celebration in December (most of the time; sometimes it is in November based on the Jewish calendar).
Like Christmas, Hanukkah has its roots in religion--we sometimes forget that, don't we?-- and the history of that religion, which goes back thousands of years. It's not just geared to gift giving, although that is part of it.
The most popular religious symbol of the holiday is the menorah. It contains nine candles. Eight of the candles signify the number of days that the original candelabra burned in the Old Temple. The story is that there was only a thimble-full of oil in this original lamp after the Temple was destroyed, and based on this lack of burning fluid available, the menorah could not have burned for eight days—but it did.
This signifies something of a miracle, and it also symbolizes the hope and belief in God that Jews have.
The ninth candle is to light the other candles during the eight-day celebration.
We give out gifts, one a day, and we eat delicious foods like potato latkes during this holiday. We spin the dreidel, which is something of a minor betting game where participants pick the symbol that the dreidel, or top, will land on. The winner gets whatever was bet.
The gifts are supposed to be small, like a couple of pieces of chocolate, some minor cash, or an apple. But like many Jews, we go all out during this holiday, and yes, I bought my son Beatles Rock Band this year.
So with all the nonsense going on, my touchstone this week is Hanukkah. Christmas is a great holiday, but for me, it is simply a day off.
Hanukkah is my holiday, and with a week like this, I personally need some nice things to happen to my family and I.
And the gifts are nice, even if my mother still buys me some dress shirts and pants for the holiday, just like she did when I was five years old.
Oh well, tradition does not change, and neither does Hanukkah.
Posted by Larry at 3:59 AM
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Yesterday, a doctor was picked up on Long Island for selling prescription painkillers without medical examination for a price. Each of these phony prescriptions netted the doctor several hundred dollars, and during a six-month investigation, "Dr. Frank" was caught on surveillance video making such deals to undercover policemen.
What makes it worse is that the community that he serves has a rampant heroin epidemic among its youngsters, and these painkillers were being used by druggies to feed their habit. The pills could be sold on the street individually for a huge profit, which then could be used to buy heroin.
What makes it even worse is that the doctor was selling the pain killers out of his own office, which is a few yards away from the local high school.
The accused doctor is my doctor, and I am absolutely astonished.
When I read the accounts yesterday, and as the story spread nationally, I couldn't think straight. This was the doctor I entrusted my body to for the past 10 years. In fact, I have actually been going to this office for the past 37-plus years, but the first 27 was with another doctor.
Anyway, I have entrusted my body to this doctor. He was personable, very professional, and gave me no cause for concern. He was always there when I need a physical, or when I was sick, or when I received my monthly allergy shots.
But, as we have learned from the Tiger Woods saga, people can live double lives. They can be one way in certain circumstances, and another way in other situations.
Evidently, this doctor--a family man with several children, some of them very young--led some type of double life. When his trial comes up, I am sure we will find out more about this and the reasons he did what he did.
But, in the meantime, I feel that he let me, my family, and the entire community down.
A doctor is someone you trust with your life. He never did me wrong, or my wife wrong, or other extended family members wrong, but when someone you trust gets tied up in something this heinous, you have to ask yourself if there were any instances when you thought something was awry.
A few months ago, the doctor decided to go the "holistic" route, I suppose, using this term because I really don't know what route he was taking. He seemed to forsake medicine for awhile. He was more into new-age theories and such.
But just when I was going to look for another doctor, he seemingly came back to earth. Later, he took a trip with his family back to his native India, and that seemed to give him his old verve back.
But something was certainly amiss, but I, and probably all of his "real" patients, did not know it.
Now, I really have to search for another doctor, which is a painstaking process linked up with my health insurance and my personal needs.
I still am in shock, and that shock won't wear off for some time. For a doctor to stoop this low ... well, I just can't believe that something like this could happen to not only me, but my community.
If you can't trust your doctor, who can you trust?
Posted by Larry at 3:42 AM
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Were you ever "hot for teacher" when you were in school?
Well, in a school in Brooklyn, New York, "hot for teacher" was another teacher-and both were female!
The New York Daily News reports that two female Romance language instructors were tossed out of their Brooklyn high school after being caught "undressed" in an empty classroom.
Students at James Madison High School in Midwood were watching a talent show in the auditorium while the two teachers engaged in extra-curricular activities, according to sources.
A janitor stumbled on French teacher and a married Spanish instructor, and told school officials about the incident on November 20.
Both tenured teachers were removed from the classroom while they are being investigated for misconduct.
The episode is the talk of the school. Students even set up a Facebook group to discuss the shenanigans, and it already has logged more than 500 fans.
Students said both teachers were popular, and the photos the newspaper had of the two females show that yes, they are probably Playboy Magazine worthy, if that is a barometer of beauty that once can use.
What happens to these two lovebirds will be decided by the Department of Education, but what a male fantasy: two beautiful teachers engaged in a tryst at the local high school!
I don't know, I never had a teacher that I fell in love with. I had female teachers-and male teachers, for that matter--that I liked, but I liked them for their personalities and their abilities as a teacher. No fantasies here.
I had a teacher in college that I really liked--she was young, pretty and was a good teacher to boot--but a sexual thought never entered my head.
The only teachers I may have "lusted after" in my adolescent mind were on TV--the characters played by Denise Nicholas and Karen Valentine on "Room 222" come to mind.
Now, these two young teachers have lived the ultimate fantasy I guess--and they are probably going to pay for it with their jobs.
Why they did this in the classroom is anyone's guess. They should have carried on somewhere else, but one is married, so I guess their locales are limited.
But so be it. At least for one day, male fantasies have been fulfilled.
And I am sure if they need it, Playboy or some porn maker will not leave them on the unemployment line too long.
Posted by Larry at 4:04 AM
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I don't know if everyone saw this, but another popular wrestler just passed away.
And he passed away before he turned 40.
Known as Umaga, this burly wrestler was one of the hottest athletes in the WWE stable until a few months ago, when he was let go by the organization after supposedly many months of rehab due to assorted injuries.
He was best known as the Samoan wrestler with distinctive tattoos on his face, and he was part of the legendary wrestling family led by Chief Peter Maivia, a clan that includes Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock.
What is going on with professional wrestling? Why are so many of these young men dying at such early ages?
Well, we know from the Chris Benoit tragedy of a few years ago that the sport is rife with drugs, whether it be performance enhancing drugs (PED) or the other illegal kinds, everything from pot to cocaine.
We also know that the sport is bereft of health insurance for its athletes.
The schedule is grueling. The WWE is a 24 hour/365 day job that only a few can handle. Even when some move onto the other top wrestling organization, TNA, the easier lifestyle does not preclude the battering that these young men--and women--get on a regular basis.
It is clear that this beating--both physical and mental--makes many of these athletes old before their time, but the fame and wealth that can be accrued by being part of these organizations seemingly far outweighs, in the athletes' eyes, the possible health hazards.
I think it is time for professional wrestling to be regulated once again, if for no other reason than to see to it that these organizations have even stricter rules related to drugs than they already have--and the rules that they already have seem to be weak and not working.
For every wrestler that gets suspended or kicked out for drug usage--like Umaga--there are probably many others who abuse drugs yet go undetected, because the right tests are not in place.
Sure, other professional leagues have had the same problems as professional wrestling, but I believe their testing, which is in place now, is working to a certain degree.
But professional wrestling is a different animal altogether. To skirt the legal regulations, the organizations have declared themselves to be entertainers, and acknowledge that the results are often, if not all the time, fixed.
This way, they don't have to be regulated by state governments, like they used to be and like their cousin sport, boxing, is.
They are entertainers, and if entertainers need to be tested before they perform, I guarantee very few rock concerts would go on as scheduled, for obvious reasons.
That is why the time has come to re-regulate professional wrestling. Some governance and oversight is needed, because not only have the WWE and TNA created their own worlds, they have created their own rules, and that is just plain wrong.
With some rules in place, a wrestler like Umaga could get the treatment he needs, to continue his life, which I think is more important than him continuing in wrestling.
That oversight is necessary, and needed now.
Posted by Larry at 4:21 AM
Monday, December 7, 2009
What is this hysteria over the swine flue virus anyway?
Every 30 years, we seem to be inundated with reports that a new strain of the swine flu virus--in this politcally correct world, now called H1 N1 so as not to offend pigs, I guess--has come about, and that we all must be innoculated or we will spread the virus to the masses and die.
I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it now.
I am not saying that the virus is one to shun altogether--there are certain groups that should be innoculated, including high risk groups like the elderly and those with weak immune systems.
But this mass hysteria ... well, I don't know about that. The media loves to pick up on a cause, and the cause the past few months has been swine flu.
The Obama administration is also going full tilt into this, and will be getting the innoculation word across through some new ads that we will start seeing soon.
How piggish of all of them!
I guess I am lucky. I am not in a high risk group, and it is really my choice whether I get the shot or not.
But I vote not to get the shot. I don't think I need it, and I don't think the threat is all that great.
True, I am not a doctor, but I just don't feel I should get a shot for a virus that I don't feel I am going to get. And if I do get it, I don't think that it will hamper me that much.
Admittedly, this could be a foolish decree. I could get it, and I could get very sick from it.
But I am willing to take my chances. It seems that most people who do get it recover pretty quick. There is a small minority who get it and get very sick--or even die--from it.
Just like from the regular flu.
I also don't like school children being forced to get the shot. At this stage of the game, I think it is necessary to have a parent's consent before kids get this shot.
Again, my mind could change instantly if the swine flu becomes a threat to myself and my family. But right now, I think it isn't, and thus, I won't be getting the shot.
I take shots enought each year for my allergies--two shots each month for the past nearly 40 years--to be so brazen. I am not afraid of the shot, itself, I am just afraid that the shot is completely unnecessary at this stage of the game.
And I hope it doesn't become necessary any time soon.
I have to tell you, I survived measles when I was a child, several years before they came up with an shot for it. I remember, I must have been about two years old, being quarantined in the house. No one could see me. It was bad, but I survived.
I also had chicken pox in my late 40s. That was not fun, either, but I survived that one too.
I will survive this one, I think, so I will bypass the shot ... at least for now.
Posted by Larry at 3:50 AM
Friday, December 4, 2009
I really thought I was dreaming, especially after my previous rant ...
The Knicks and Nets won on the same day, with the Nets breaking their 18-game losing streak.
Well, I thought I was in a dream-like state then, and maybe I still am, but then I was given this bit of news:
The Dave Clark Five's entire catalog is to be released, only on iTunes, but not CD.
I could swear I was dreaming, but evidently, on all accounts, I am not.
On Friday night, the Knicks beat the Hawks, 114-107 in Atlanta, no less.
During the same evening, the Nets ended their record-setting skid, beating a really sorry Charlotte Bobcats team, 97-91.
And as far as the DC5 news, you can read all about the DC5 releases at www.dc5bitsandpieces.com. And you can participate in a discussion about this announcement at my Dave Clark Five Yahoo Group at http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/DC5/.
I still swear that I must be dreaming, but since I'm not, I thought I would present to you a special Saturday Ranting and Raving entry.
And yes, I guarantee my previous entries on the Nets and Knicks and the DC5 had a major impact on these stories (oh yeah, right!).
Heck, I still say I must be dreaming. Can somebody poke me or something ...
Posted by Larry at 9:04 PM
I grew up in New York City in the 1960s. I was born in Brooklyn, moved with my family to Queens when I was a toddler, and lived in Kew Gardens Hills and South Jamaica--Rochdale Village--Queens until my family and I moved to Long Island right before I was to go to high school.
Thus, basketball is in my blood.
It is the true city game. No matter what community you talk about--rich or poor, large or small, black or white--New York City kids play basketball. Even if it is just shooting a Spalding into a garbage can, kids play basketball there as much as they do anything.
It was certainly like that in the 1960s, and it evidently continues today. This is especially true in poorer neighborhoods, where basketball can be a way out for those talented enough to use the sport as a stepping stone for something bigger.
Anyway, the college game has never been huge in New York City, or at least compared to other places, for probably 40 years or more. Our regional team is St. John's, and they have had a bumpy ride the past few years. Almost every college and university in New York City and its surrounding areas have college basketball teams, but New York City is really a pro town ...
And that leads me to the sorry state of affairs of New York City's two area basketball teams, the Knicks and New Jersey's Nets.
The Knicks, once one of the proudest teams in sports with a rich heritage, are an absolutely horrid franchise, a laughing stock, run into the ground by the likes of Isiah Thomas and the current ownership and executives, including Donnie Walsh. They claim that they are looking toward next year, when numerous top-line free agents are available, to stock up their team as a serious challenger to the title. LeBron James is among a number of enticing possibilities, but what happens if these superstars look at the current state of the Knicks--including their currently dismal and sure to get much worse 4-15 record--and take a pass? What happens to your plans then, and especially since the team does not have a first round draft pick next year?
And then we come to the Nets. This vagabond team--which started out in the ABA in New Jersey, came to Long Island where it had its greatest success, and then went back to New Jersey, bouncing from arena to arena, and the team is now supposed to go to Brooklyn in a new arena in a few years if all legal challenges can be hurdled--is in the middle of perhaps the worse stretch of professional sports any team has seen in history.
The team has started off the season at 0-18, the worst start in NBA history and creeping up on the worst season start in professional sports history. The team has been decimated by injuries, recently fired its coach, and is a visitor in its own environs. There is no end in sight, and the league worst record of 9-73 by the Philadelphia 76ers in the early 1970s looks to be challenged by this team.
So the two teams combined, right now, are 4-33--and this is in a pro basketball crazy city, no less.
The two teams meet on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden for the second time this season. Obviously, the Knicks won the first contest, but it might actually be the best chance that the Nets have to break into the win column before the end of the year.
What a sorry state of affairs for both teams!
With the Giants and Jets having up and down seasons, and the area's hockey teams still trying to prove their potency, the New York area is going through the basketball jitters.
Thank goodness the Yankees are still around--heck, watching the Mets during this past season had to be an easier exercise than watching the Knicks and Nets right now!
Posted by Larry at 4:00 AM
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This is supposed to be the holiday season. Everybody is supposed to be happy, anticipating the end of the year, and the joyous celebrations that are about to come.
It's been a slow news week, or weeks, but one story just keeps on giving:
Yes, Mr. Perfect has shown himself to be anything but.
Every day, new revelations come out about who he was supposedly involved with, what happened during his car accident, why he ran from his home in the first place ... and we, as the news-hungry public, are eating this up like it was Christmas dinner.
Women are also coming out of the woodwork, saying that they had affairs with Tiger. In fact, one woman, with the appropriate name "Grubbs," has said that she had a multi-year romance with the golfer, and has emails and photos and such to prove it.
Well, bully for her! I am sure that Playboy will be calling on her soon, as well as all the other floozies who are chiming in on this major media event.
Tiger, himself, has offered something of an apology, saying that he was a bad boy and will make up for his transgressions.
Heck, it it wasn't for this story, what would we do with our lives? There is nothing really going on now, and the public does not seem to be infatuated with the President's Afghanistan plan yet.
Just think ... if it wasn't for this story, the top story of the day might be that Meredith Baxter came out of the closet!
It's a wonderful time of the year, isn't it?
Posted by Larry at 4:05 AM
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Country music is ingrained in our country's rich musical heritage. Some call it white people's soul music, but whatever it is, it is, from Hank Williams all the way up to the latest country stars.
Country music was often thought about as "hillbilly" music by many, and this thought was perpetuated by many of the popular country acts of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as Tennessee Ernie Ford. It wasn't his fault, he and others were just perpetuating this stereotype to get their music heard.
Ford was probably the first real country music performer I can ever remember seeing on TV, and I am not just talking about his appearances on "I Love Lucy." For some reason, I do remember watching his TV show as a young child--I must have liked the way he talked, which was so different than anything I was hearing around my Queens, New York, neighborhood.
Anyway, country music has always embraced television as a platform to get its music heard. Who can forget "Hee Haw," the CBS castoff that lasted for two decades as a syndicated show? It made Buck Owens, Roy Clark and the rest of the ever-changing cast pretty big stars in the late 1960s and 1970s.
But, to finally get to my point, with country so much a part of our musical landscape, I have never been much of country music fan, as a kid or to this day. Maybe I just don't get it, but I just don't like the music, whether it is traditional country music or the watered down, pop-oriented stuff (heavily influenced by the Eagles) that we hear today.
But I always liked Glen Campbell and Michael Nesmith.
Campbell was one of the most sought after session guitarists in pop music in the 1960s. He almost seems like a Zelig-like figure. He played on so many hit singles before the general public knew who he was--everything from the Beach Boys to the Monkees--and he also put out a slew of interesting albums before he became a megastar.
And yes, he became a megastar through the medium of television, as did Nesmith.
The "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" ran for just a few seasons, but the music that came out of that show was substantial. Campbell had his biggest across the board hits during this period--"Gentle On My Mind," "Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman" come to mind--and the playing on that show was legendary.
Sure, a lot of purists probably thumbed their noses at Campbell, but he was one of the people who helped bring country music to the mainstream.
In the intervening years, he has had numerous hits--remember "Rhinestone Cowboy"--and a lot of tabloid coverage due to his herky jerky personal life, but Campbell is, and will always be, the real thing, at least to me.
Campbell, along with Nesmith--for his country-rock in the guise of pop that he did while he was very high profile with the Monkees--are, to me, the unsung heroes of bringing country music to the real mainstream of American music. You can say the same for Ray Charles, whose legendary country/soul/pop crossover albums are certainly part of the equation--but both Campbell and Nesmith used television to get their musical points across, each and every week.
Nesmith has often been derided as a phony, every since his days with the Monkees and the controversy surrounding the musicianship on their early recordings. But starting with the first Monkees album, Nesmith knew exactly what he was doing. Not only did he write, play and produce his own tracks, but, as the Monkees fame grew, he was able to use both his bandmates and top sessions performers to make his music viable.
Although he never had a huge hit on his own with the Monkees, his tunes adorn Monkee albums from the first LP to the next to last one the group produced: "Sweet Young Thing," "Good Clean Fun," "You Told Me," "Salesman," and "Tapioca Tundra" are just a few of his Monkees tunes.
His music also ventured into other areas, such as psychedelia, but I think he was always true to his country music roots. The incredible popularity of the Monkees enabled us to hear country music because it wasn't country music with the Monkees, it was pop. So we heard an evolving country music almost through osmosis.
Nesmith has done so many other things since his Monkees years that it would take another post to list them all, but he is certainly one of the forefathers of modern country music, even though few would acknowledge that fact. His early non-Monkees albums embellished him as a ground-breaking musician, and his hit "Joanne" solidified his legacy during that period.
So, for you Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift fans, go into your parents' record collections and find their Glen Campbell albums, and Monkees albums, and listen up--you will see where your roots really are.
Posted by Larry at 3:51 AM
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
With the Tiger Woods incident turning into a public relations fiasco for the world-famous golfer and his family, a bit of news crossed the wires yesterday that gave me hope that perhaps all of our sports heroes aren't as tarnished as they appear to be.
Sports Illustrated announced on Monday that it will honor Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter with its Sportsman of the Year award.
Jeter is the first Yankee among the magazine's honorees, dating back to 1954. This is remarkable in itself, because during the past 55 years, the Yankees have had a slew of stars play for them, including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly ... the list goes on and on.
And in this world of athletes taking advantage of their celebrity to do stupid things, Jeter appears to be a throwback to a different time, when athletes did their talking on the field and that was about it. No, athletes were not angels during previous generations--certainly Babe Ruth, for one, was not Mr. Perfect by any stretch of the imagination--but at least their transgressions weren't paraded around for all to see.
Jeter does it all on the field, he does it through his charitable foundations, and, of course, he can fill one hand with the championship rings he has earned. He is a winner in all respects, comes from a good, solid family (which I think is part of the reason his swagger is so limited), and he has been blessed to play on teams that were outstanding, including this year's World Series winner.
Yes, as everyone knows, he has also been linked to some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world, but somehow, that part of his life has never been exploited. He has never married, has not fathered children out of wedlock, and pretty much does his "kinoodling," so to speak, away from the cameras.
And as one of the real "rock stars" in sports, it is amazing that the whim of young females has not been part of his life.
And in this star-obsessed world that we live in, his "clean living" is something to be commended.
Look, I know that Mickey Mantle was portrayed by the media of his time as an angel, and it was only toward the end of his career that we found out he was a heavy drinker, a carouser, an adulterer, and many other things about this athlete. Who knows, somewhere down the road we might find out that Jeter is not the person we thought he was.
Look at what happened to the late Kirby Puckett in Minnesota. He also was portrayed as an angel, and we later found it that he was pretty much the devil in disguise.
But somehow, with this guy, I just doubt that he is anything different than the Jeter that we all know.
The Dec. 7 issue is scheduled to hit newsstands on Wednesday, featuring Jeter on the cover, leaning against the 161st Street Yankee Stadium subway stop in full uniform, a photo that was taken after the World Series.
You just have to admire this guy. He is still in his mid-30s, still plays a great game--he not only hit .334 this year, but won a Gold Glove for outstanding defensive play--and his future appears to be a bright one, even when he decides to hang it up.
Posted by Larry at 3:55 AM