Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rant #414: The End of the Year As We Know It

It's the end of the year as we know it ... and in spite of everything, I feel fine.

Yes, I have had pretty good health this year, and I am happy for that.

Over the past few years, I have had some vision problems, have had my gall bladder removed --on my birthday in 2008--and have had doctors tell me that my cholesterol level is up.

Due to stronger medication, watching my diet a little bit more (well, my wife watches my diet more than I do), and some other small changes, I am healthier now than I was a year ago.

However, I am probably still not where I should be. I am overweight, and still have a penchant for cookies of any kind, a failing I have had since childhood, as depicted in the pictures accompanying this rant. (God, was I ever really that young?)

I don't have the vision problems anymore, although I still have to be checked every couple of months for any reoccurrence.

What I am saying, in a nutshell, is that I am good to go for 2011.

I think that things are looking up as I enter my 54th year on this planet.

Sure, I still have tension and stress, but maybe things are going to get better.


Maybe not.

But I have to feel positive. If you don't feel positive, how can you face another dreary year?

I'm a believer, as the song says (by the way, happy birthday to Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones, former Monkees born on the same day to different mothers).

Maybe I'm a daydream believer (notice the Monkees reference again), but I think 2011 will be a good year--or at least better than 2010 was.

So here's to 2011.

Yes, I am playing the lottery this week, and hope to win a bundle.

If that happens, that will make 2011 the best year ever (or 2010, since the ticket will be bought this year).

But even if that doesn't happen, I look forward to the new year.

It should be fun. See you back here on Monday.

I will let you know how the year is going for me then.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rant #413: Sober vs. Drunk

A woman says two intoxicated fans at a Cincinnati Bengals game last year fell on her, breaking her nose and finger and causing other injuries.

The woman and her husband are suing the Bengals, the beer vendor and the county-owned football stadium for negligence, alleging they continued to serve alcohol to "noticeably intoxicated" fans at a 2009 NFL game.

The Bengals, through a spokesman, have declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

We have all been to sports events where fans get a bit unruly. I know I have been to several. The last one was at a Knicks-Nets contest earlier this year at Madison Square Garden, where, when the game was out of hand, some fans in the upper seats near me started to go at it. They were noticeably sloshy, let's say, and I was glad that the game ended quickly, because if it were longer, who knows what would have happened.

As a kid, one drunk challenged my friend's father to a fight during a Yankees-Red Sox game. My friend's father had just come out of the hospital after suffering a heart attack, but as a proud former Army service member, he was ready to go at it, although he was at least double the age of the drunk. Happily, my father talked him out of it.

So this stuff has been going on forever.

What can a team and a stadium do?

They have limited the availability of alcohol up to a certain point in the game. And they will get rid of boorish people who decide that the stadium is their living room.

But the only other option is to completely ban the sale of alcoholic beverages period, which I don't think they will ever do. It's just too much of loss of a revenue stream for them to do this.

So what else can you do? I just don't know, but again, it all adds up to what people can do to watch themselves.

There is nothing wrong with having a beer at a football game. Nothing at all.

However, having seven beers at a football game is wrong. Or coming to the game buzzed and then getting sloshed at the game is wrong too.

I don't understand how people can drink excessively at a game anyway. You are there to watch the game; how can you watch the game when you are drunk as a skunk?

People have to know their limits; you can't expect the team or arena to know every fan's alcohol limit.

Less a ban, I don't know what the solution is.

But like drinking when driving, drinking excessively when you are at a football game or any game, for that matter, is really stupid.

And during this time of year, when many people lose their minds anyway, is not the right time to drink excessively.

So if you have a beer or two, fine. But don't have seven or eight, especially if you are driving.

I mean, what's so fun about being drunk anyway?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rant #412: I Don't Get It ... But Evidently, He Does (And She Does Too)

Well, I am back.

The time off wasn't too great. We saw "The Little Fockers." Pretty much in one ear, out the other. Nothing with nothing. I guess this is the perfect film for the holiday season, the season where people traditionally don't do too much thinking.

My Internet at home went down again. We had a technician in--during a blizzard no less--and he found the problem. It was outside in the "brain" of the device. It works great now.

And yes, about that blizzard ... I don't think it was as bad as predicted, but that doesn't mean it wasn't bad--it was. We were pretty much housebound the entire weekend, and I must admit I have house-a-tosis.

Anyway, during this time, word came out that Hugh Hefner, who is 84 years old, I do believe, has just gotten himself engaged to one of his 24-year-old blondes that he has parading around his house and starring on various TV shows geared to Playboy.

I don't even know her name, but does it really matter? She is blond, is tall and long-legged, has an enhanced figure, and is 60 years younger than her husband to be.

What is it with this guy? It has to be the money. Why else would a 24 year old woman shack up with an 84 year old man?

It can't possibly be anything else but cash, or the payday she thinks she will get when he kicks off. Not to say Hugh has one foot in the grave, but don't tell me that she is marrying him for his good looks and humor.

Well, he has announced that he can still do it (thanks, Viagra!), but still, what can a 24 year old see in a man who is more than three times her age?

He is old enough to be her grandfather ... and her great grandfather.

This is the guy you want to bring home to your parents, who are probably themselves old enough to be his children?

I have a 22 year old daughter. If she brought home an 84 year old guy and looked for my approval, I don't care how much money he has, I would roll my eyes and wonder what my daughter was up to.

Hefner has kids ranging from into their 50s down to their young 20s. You think Hef's younger kids aren't taking notice of their dad's new bimbo?

And what about the older ones--this girl could be their own kid!

I don't get it, but of course, he does.

It's real good for his image, and maybe he can make another kid with this wife, his third.

On her end, financially, it will probably set her for life, especially if she can get pregnant and have a child.

But again, I say this:

Only in America ... and congrats!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rant #411: My Favorite Christmas Song

As a good Jewish person, I collect numerous singles, LPs and digital material related to the Christmas holiday.

You have to understand that there are so few Hanukkah novelty records, videos and such, although they do exist.

And I am not talking about Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song," which I absolutely abhor (it is a ripoff of an earlier song which I think was called "People Who Are Jews," but I can't remember the performer, although it was released on Rhino Records years ago.)

Anyway, a good Jew like me has plenty of stuff in my record collection, everything from Squeeze's "Christmas Day" to Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," and probably everything in between.

And yes, I know that good Jews Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow have all recorded albums of Christmas music, but nothing for their own holiday. No, I don't have them in my collection. I guess I am not as good a Jew as they are.

But let me point you in the direction of my favorite Christmas song. It has been my favorite since 1967, or whenever I first heard it. But it wasn't officially released for some two decades later, although it had been bootlegged continuously since it was shown on national television back in the 1960s.

It is a Christmas song that doesn't even have the word "Christmas" in it.

It isn't even in English.

The song that I am talking about is ...

"Riu Chiu" by the Monkees.

This song is in Spanish, and if you translate it, it is about Christ and the Nativity and many other themes related to the holiday.

But I know that the actual term "Riu Chiu" doesn't translate into English because it actually doesn't mean anything. I think it is the writer's interpretation of the "chirp" of a nightingale.

Anyway, the Monkees performed this on their Christmas episode in 1967. You might remember the episode. A rich, spoiled and friendless young boy--played by Butch Patrick right after "The Munsters" ended its run--is taught the meaning of the holiday by Micky, Peter, Mike and Davy.

I mean, who better to teach the kid this than the Monkees?

The song comes near the end of the episode, and the beautiful vocals will really surprise you. And you thought these guys didn't have talent?

There are a few versions of this song that are available on CDs and on the Internet. The first is the TV version I described above, with all four Monkees participating. The second is a recorded version with all four Monkees, and the third is a recorded version with producer Chip Douglas added to the vocal mix.

But the song is beautiful in all of its incarnations. I have always enjoyed it.

So please watch and listen to the song, and have a very merry holiday.

As a good Jew, I am taking a little Christmas break myself, and will be back here next Tuesday.

Have a great holiday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rant #410: What Do Jews Do On Christmas?

This is a seemingly age-old question.

With much of the country celebrating Christmas, what do those that don't celebrate this holiday do on December 25?

Well, I can't speak for Muslims, atheists, or other groups that don't celebrate the holiday, but I can speak for Jewish people, since I am one.

Rather than go with the flow, like many Jews do--and what I mean by that is that they actually have the audacity to set up their homes as if they celebrated Christmas, including lighting Hanukkah bushes--many Jews, including myself, take a philosophical approach to the whole thing.

We look at it as a day off, and little more.

Sure, the rest of the world, or at least our world, celebrates this holiday, and we are bombarded by the media so we don't forget that fact.

But for me, it is simply a day off.

Sure, this year it is on a Saturday, so I would have the day off anyway, but we get days off surrounding the holiday that we normally wouldn't have off.

So we take slight advantage of being off on the holiday, but really, only a slight advantage.

You've probably heard the term "Jewish Christmas." I find this truly repugnant, but to illustrate what many Jews do on Christmas, I am using it here. I also posted a photo of a Jewish Christmas ornament. Yes, I find this pretty repugnant too.

What Jews do on Christmas while they have a day off is to go to the movies and eat either kosher deli or Chinese food.

Yes, that is what we do.

The movies have always been open on Christmas for as long as I can remember. So we take our families and see whatever movies are playing.

And as for eating, well, the standard used to be that kosher deli and Chinese food were the only things available on Christmas day, but that is changing.

Many fast food restaurants now open on Christmas Day. I know that Burger King started this practice a few years ago, and now other such establishments are following suit.

Honestly, I have no problem with this. I am sure they are paying their workers (or at least I hope they are paying their workers) double and triple overtime for working this day. And on my end, why should I not have this choice of food if that is what I want (probably not, but I should still have the choice).

So now you know what Jews do on Christmas. I am sure many of us go visiting our non-Jewish friends on this day, but it is really funny, most Jews I know go to the movies and eat Chinese food on December 25.

This year, Christmas is even more of a holiday for us, because Hanukkah was so early this year, kind of blending into Thanksgiving. Next year, it will be slightly before Christmas, so everyone can all celebrate at once.

Sometimes, it is nice being on the outside looking in.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rant #409: Electric Larryland

Let me just start off by saying that I have my computer back home from the shop. The technician swears that all I need is a new monitor, and I bought one last night. I came home late, so I didn't hook anything up. I will try to do it tonight. Hopefully, this computer nightmare will be over and done with.

Let's move on. I read in the local newspaper here that the Long Island Power Authority, the local authority which supplies power to Long Island residents and businesses, is offering a $500 rebate on plug-in cars. LIPA said the amount is equivalent to the cost of charging a plug-in electric vehicle for one year or the cost of the optional 240-volt charging station that cuts what could be a 10-hour charging time to about four hours. The rebate will be available until the end of 2011.

That is all fine and good. We should be moving toward purchasing hybrid or electric-only cars to cut our fuel consumption. With gas prices rapidly nearing the $4 mark, anything we can do to save a little money is good.

And yes, political correct police, it helps the environment too.

But wait a minute.

The car manufacturers--many of whom pleaded poverty a year ago--don't appear to be on the same page with the rest of us.

Yes, they are manufacturing such vehicles, but they are pricing them well beyond the reach of the average consumer.

Look at the new Volt, which recently debuted with a big splash as the future of these types of cars. This vehicle, unlike the similarly vaunted Prius, uses plug-in rechargeable batteries running two electric motors. It also comes with a gas engine.

However, it is priced at $41,000, and that is for a car that is pretty much a box with wheels. When you add up all of your costs, the car probably costs about $50,000, or what the gas-eating Hummer used to cost.

Sure, you get a tax rebate and you will save on gas usage, but I don't know if I want to saddle myself with such a huge bill for a car that might last five years or so.

When I was looking for a car two-and-a-half years ago, I really wanted a hybrid, but their prices were well beyond what I wanted to pay. I can't see paying more than $30,000 for a car whose technology has yet to be perfected.

Sure, there are people on this planet who can well afford such cars. Hollywood royalty, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, have told us for years that we should buy hybrids and electric cars to save our environment.

Sorry, Leo, I don't make $20 million a movie like you do, so I simply can't afford this new technology.

I have to drive around with your standard family car, which cost me maybe $20,000 or in that range, and which gets me 24 miles a gallon.

Again, it's nice that the car companies are coming out with such cars--others are supposed to debut in 2011, like the Leaf--but until they are priced affordably, your standard middle class worker making $40,000 or more is not going to go for them.

We will save on gas, but we will bankrupt ourselves in the process.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rant #408: Time To End It All

No, my computer is still not working correctly. And yes, I am writing this on an outside unit.

Everything was fine, I was using it without any problem, and I was hooking up to the Internet just fine on Friday night.

But on Saturday, there were some strange images on the screen, and then, nothing. I tried another monitor, and it once again crapped out on me pretty quickly.

I brought the unit in for repair on Sunday, and they later told me it might be the monitor. Funny, I tried another monitor I had, and it didn't work either. Maybe it's the video card?

Whatever the reason, they are keeping my unit overnight, and perhaps they will find out the problem.

Right now, I am ready to tear out the remaining hairs on my head, which don't number many.

I told my wife that I feel like I have been born under a bad sign when it comes to electronics. I always seem to have problems with them.

This dates back to when I was a teenager, and I got my driver's license. In my early cars, my radio either didn't play or didn't play very well.

In the old days, I can't tell you how many tapes I got stuck in my car tape player.

Also, later on, my stereos always played, or didn't play right. They were adequate, but never really that great.

I have had countless TVs--I was nearly electrocuted by one when lightning hit our roof antenna, frying my TV right after I had manually turned the channel--stereos, computers, VCRs and other electronics, and they all go bad on me.

The latest cycle started in October, when we had a brief power outage and my video recorder died due to the rapid power deflation--and then power surge--brought on by this outage. Luckily, I had a spare one around, so it was relatively easy to switch them.

Later, I bought my mother an inexpensive computer, only to find that its operating system was antiquated, and I couldn't hook up to the Internet.

Over Thanksgiving, I blew out a part of our electrical system when I hooked up a battery charger to one of our wall outlets.

And then we come to this computer, the latest episode of which has driven me nearly to drink.

By the way, my son received a new iPod for the holiday, and yesterday we decided to get it in sync with his computer.

Of course, based on my luck, there were problems.

It took about 45 minutes for the new version of iTunes to download. Heaven knows why, I have downloaded other versions of iTunes in the past, and it takes maybe five minutes, at most, to do.

Then, the songs he selected wouldn't go into the newly installed iTunes. I have no idea why, but somehow, we were able to fix this problem. In fact, the whole thing works pretty well now.

Anyway, I still yearn for the day that the only thing we had to worry about was if the rabbit ears on our TV were in the right position to pick up our local stations.

Frankly, I can't take anymore of this nonsense.

But what am I to do?

It is time to end it all--I mean all the computer/electronics problems, nothing else--and get back to normal living.

Believe me, I am trying.

Let's see what happens with my computer so I can get back to some type of normalcy.

That would be the greatest present I can get this holiday season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rant #407: DAMN!

Former WWE wrestler Ron Simmons' trademark was not a wrestling hold, it was his simple proclamation to the cameras when he found something that irritated him.

"DAMN" he would yell, and then the show moved onto something else.

Well, I can now channel Simmons and say the same thing about my recent computer woes.

My computer odyssey continues, but with a happy ending.

I left for work yesterday with the understanding that my home Internet was being thwarted by a faulty coaxial cable.

A technician was to come to my house and fix the situation today.

All was fine and good when I arrived home from work yesterday. I ate dinner, had time to speak to my wife and son, and decided that after I walked the dog, I would go and clean up around where I have my desktop computer, so that the technician could do his work with being impeded by my stuff.

Well, I walked into the room with the computer--it used to be my daughter's room, but she hasn't used it for quite a while--and I found that the light on the router signaling the Internet was on!

Yes, I put on the computer, and lo and behold, I got onto the Internet without a problem.

I quickly programmed the other computers in the house, and after a few false steps of my own--putting in the wrong key code--I now had every computer in the house hooked up to the Internet.

How did this come about? How did the situation change so dramatically in such a short time, a matter of hours?

I called my Internet provider today to cancel my service appointment. I told the person on the other line the whole story, and he said the solution was a simple one.

When hooking up a new router, there is some type of lag time between when you hook it up and when it allows you Internet access. According to him, it takes some time for the new router to authenticate all the various codes it needs to be able to provide Internet access, and that is probably why I couldn't access the Internet immediately the night before.

I thanked him and ended the call.

Now, my question is, why didn't the call I made to my service provider the night before yield such an explanation?

If the guy I spoke to would have told me there was some type of lag time, I would have shut down the computer and let it go for 24 hours.

Instead, I wasted more than two hours trying to find out the problem.

Heck, they even ran a diagnostic on my entire system, and they came to the conclusion that the coaxial cable was at fault.

That being said, the end result of this mess is that I am happy. I have home Internet access, and I seemingly don't have to worry about this anymore.

But of course, I am not going to count my chickens before they've hatched. I will monitor the situation each day to make sure that it really is fixed.

But I would have saved a lot of time--and prevented a lot of anxiety--if I would have been told the right story by my service provider.

And thanks to you out there too. You've had to put up with this talk of computer stuff for the past few days. Now I can move onto other things.

Let's see, what is Lindsay Lohan up to ... ?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rant #406: The Saga Continues

No, I still don't have Internet access at home. Let me tell you why.

I hooked up the new router yesterday. I had no problems hooking it up at all.

However, through trial and error, and some help via the help line offered by my service provider, we determined that the problem was not with the router, but with the coaxial cable leading from the computer out of my house.

I scheduled a technician to visit my house tomorrow morning. Hopefully, the problem will be fixed then.

Hopefully ...

This is upsetting my whole household--me, my son, my wife, and my mom, who will be at home tomorrow when the technician arrives.

But what can you do? Technology is nice, but it brings its own set of problems to the table.

I remember when we just had a TV and a phone to worry about. Just a few channels on the TV, and a rotary dial phone that would last a lifetime.

As a kid, I remember that our old Dumont used to go on the fritz every once in a while, and we had that era's high-tech technician actually come to the house and fix the thing.

He was a nice guy, but had female problems, which he told to anybody who would listen, including little old me.

As a little kid, it was the first time I heard the word "divorce," and, of course, based on my own personal odyssey, certainly not the last time.

He would pull out the back of the TV, and put in new tubes or something, and the TV would then work just fine ... in between divorce stories, of course.

But now, 50 years later, we have a whole set of new problems to worry about because of the latest technology.

As Dr. Smith on "Lost In Space" used to say to his own high-tech marvel, The Robot ...

"Oh, the pain, THE PAIN!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rant #405: You Think I Have Problems?

No, I still don't have the Internet at home, so I am continuing to do these Rants at another computer.

But heck, do you think I have problems?

What about the New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers, the New York Mets, and just about every other major league baseball team except for the Philadelphia Phillies?

As you probably know, Cliff Lee, the highly touted--and recruited--pitcher, just signed with the Phillies.

He is making millions with this deal, and could have made many more millions by signing with the Yankees or Rangers, but he chose to join a rotation that is stacked with No. 1 starters, including Cy Young's Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hammels.

The Yankees and Rangers really lost out, because they were pursuing this guy. Now they have to start over, and plug pitching holes with guys who don't nearly measure up to Lee.

The Mets lose out because the Phillies are in their division. But it isn't just the Mets, it's the Nationals, Braves, Marlins ... well, maybe the entire National League because there is no way the Phillies won't go to the World Series now with this starting rotation in place.

Of course, you don't play games on paper, but they look real good.

I think the Yankees will hold their own in the ultra-tough American League East, although the Red Sox have greatly improved themselves. The Rays, the Blue Jays and the Orioles figure to be tough, but I think the Yankees will win out, or at least get into the playoffs again.

The rest of the American League is good, not great, so I would say that it would not surprise me at all if the Yankees and Phillies met in the World Series.

Wow! It's just 10 days before Christmas and I'm talking baseball.

Remember, pitchers and catchers report in February to spring training.

I can't wait.

And by that time, my Internet problem will hopefully be a thing of the past.

What, me worry?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rant #404: Internet, Sminternet

This morning, as I often do, after eating breakfast, walking the dog twice and reading the morning paper before I left for work, I turned on my computer and clicked my Internet icon to get onto the World Wide Web.

To my dismay, I could not get on. I noticed that my router wasn't lit properly--the Web icon was not lit at all--so I immediately called my service provider.

All of this at slightly after 5 a.m. in the morning.

After being on with a technician named Carl (or is it Karl with a K?) and even a call back, we discovered that the router was dead.

I need a new router.

Not to worry, Carl/Karl said. One would be shipped to me immediately, and he said I should have it tomorrow.

What do I do with the old router? I have to ship it back to the service provider. If I don't, I get charged $129 for it.

That's all fine and dandy, but now, at least for a day, my house is not wired to the Internet.

When I was a kid and through my 30s, who knew of such things?

But as businesses began to go online, and more and more homes followed suit, having Internet service became almost a mandatory part of modern life.

Sure, I can hook up a phone line to the computer, but honestly, who wants to bother doing that?

I had Internet service that way for a few years, and boy, was it slow!

As they say, once you are off the phone connection, you can never, ever go back, even in times of need like right now.

So how am I typing this out and putting it on Ranting and Raving, you say?

Well, I am using a totally different Internet connection outside of my home, that's how.

The whole situation stinks, but what can I do? I hope to be house-connected again real soon.

Until then, I have to go back to my pre-Internet life; watching TV, which I do with or without the Internet, and staying away from the computer.

Sorry, no Facebook, no email, no nothing at home.

In a funny way, I welcome the respite, but I guess I will miss at least the availability of these things while I wait for my router.

So it's like a vacation from the Internet, at least at home.

At work, it's still my best friend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rant #403: He Did It!

Please don't misinterpret this rant as an act of bragging.

It is not.

As you know from one of my rants some time ago, my son is a runner. Completely out of the blue, he decided he wanted to run track, my wife and I gave him our blessing, and he ran middle school track and won a few races.

Now that he is in high school, everything is much tougher. He has had a somewhat bumpy time adjusting to high school life, whether it is academically, socially, or otherwise.

He is a special education student with a learning disability, but that does not stop him from giving 100 percent in everything he does.

He also wears a brace for scholiosis.

My wife and I are amazed at the strides this kid has made, and we, at the same time, are nervous about the long road he still has to travel down.

Well, I want to tell you that he ran his first race as a high schooler this weekend.

I think he ran a longer race, but he couldn't tell me because he wasn't sure.

That's understandable for him. It certainly wasn't the sprint races he ran in middle school, that we know.

What was the result?

He lost. He lost big time.

He came in last in his race.

Sure, I would have liked him to win it, or at least have beaten one of the other boys he ran against.

But you know what? My wife and I are satisfied, and very proud of him for competing.

We know he did his best. He is not yet acclimated to longer runs, and he doesn't know how to pace himself.

But not to worry. He will overcome this.

This was a kid who loved sports but wasn't very good at them.

Then, his back problem was diagnosed, and he has made incredible strides in that regard.

He must wear his brace seven days a week, 24 hours a day. He can take it off while showering, or while participating in athletic events. But he knows he must wear it at all other times.

He has never given us a single problem about wearing the brace. He got into his mind that this would help him, and it has.

Since wearing the brace, his back has straightened out to be much more in line with the rest of his body, and it has enabled him to do things we could only have dreamed about months ago.

Finishing first or last, or somewhere in the middle, is not that important.

He is already a winner as far as my wife and I are concerned.

The sky is the limit for this kid, and we wish him well in his second high school race, which is after school today.

We will be proud of him no matter where he places.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rant #402: Give Him a Hand!

This entire week, I have written about things out of my past, such as my Little League days, the Altamont tragedy, the untimely death of John Lennon and the possible closure of my old public school.

It’s always nice to look back on things. Sometimes, time has a way of making things better, but with the stuff I wrote about regarding Altamont and Lennon’s death, time has only made these things look even more horrible.

Now we have another trip into nostalgia, to an incident that may or may not have happened.

Jim Morrison was posthumously pardoned yesterday for a 1969 indecent exposure conviction in Florida. Morrison, a Florida native, was appealing the conviction when he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971 at age 27. The pardon came a day after he would have turned 67.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asked for the pardon, which the Clemency Board granted unanimously. Crist said he doubts Morrison actually exposed himself during a rowdy March 1, 1969 concert at Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium. The surviving members of The Doors supported the pardon.

At a hearing on the matter, Crist called the conviction a "blot" on the record of an accomplished artist for "something he may or may not have done."

He said Morrison died before he was afforded the chance to present his appeal, so Crist was doing that for him. Board members pointed out several times that they couldn't retry the case but that the pardon forgave Morrison.

"In this case the guilt or innocence is in God's hands, not ours," Crist said.

Funny, I thought the offending body part was in Morrison’s hands.

It gets even more bizarre. Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for the legendary band, said the incident “never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis.”

Only in America …

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rant #401: Gone, Gone, Gone

Well, another relic from my childhood is evidently on line to go up in smoke soon.

Not really in flames, but you will see what I mean as you continue to read this.

My old public school, P.S. 30, Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, New York, has been put on the list as a school that might be closed by the New York City Board of Education soon. Evidently, it has fallen on very hard times, and its academic and disciplinary performance have fallen as a result.

New York City has been closing schools for years, many in minority areas such as the one that P.S. 30 resides in.

Under the current city administration, if a school doesn't meet certain standards, it is earmarked for closure. It doesn't matter what it did in the past. Its current record is all that counts, and evidently, P.S. 30's current record stinks.

But I remember P.S. 30 when it was a brand new school in a brand new neighborhood, a mixed-race school in a brand new mixed-race neighborhood that had all the promise that any new school in New York City in the 1960s had.

There were three schools in the Rochdale Village development: P.S. 30, P.S. 80, and I.S. 72. P.S. 30 was, by far, the best school of the three.

All the schools had dedicated teachers and students who generally wanted to learn. But P.S. 30, being the first of the three schools to be built, was something special. It was the educational backbone of this new community, and it served its community well during those early years.

Prior to the school being built, we had temporary classrooms, some within the massive apartment buildings themselves. It was a pain to go to second grade in those classrooms, but all we had to do was count the days, and our brand spanking new school would be open.

We had such wonder during those days, but 46 years later, it looks like it is crumbling.

And it isn't the only school that is falling down in New York City.

Dozen of schools in New York City have been earmarked for closure. What this generally means, and will probably mean in P.S. 30's case if this plan goes through, is that the kids already in the school will continue to be taught, but no new students will be accepted. Once the final class graduates, the school is turned into an annex school, where various pods of learning, featuring specialized guidance, are created.

I know that the school and the area are not what they once were, but how I hope that P.S. 30 can remain open as it has always been! It wasn't my first public school--before we moved to Rochdale, I went to Flushing, Queens' P.S. 165, a school that is decades older than P.S. 30 but remains open and viable--but P.S. 30 is where I have many of my earliest school memories.

Miss Marlowe, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Plevin, Mr. Borgstead ... gosh, I even remember my teachers!

Whether open or closed, I will always remember that school. I wish it the best.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rant #400: Lennon Remembered

Incredibly, today is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

I, for one, can't believe that so much time has passed since his passing.

I remember the night well, as probably most Baby Boomers do.

In my case, I was what they now call multi-tasking in my room at home back then. I was 23 years old, had my first real job in New York City, was going to school to earn my graduate degree, and was tired as hell from a typical workday.

I was watching TV and recording music for my friend, who was going to graduate school in North Carolina. He had complained to me that the radio stations down there weren't very good, so I was putting the latest sounds on tape for him to listen to.

I had just finished putting Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice" on the cassette, when the program I was watching (which I don't remember), on NBC, was interrupted.

Chuck Scarborough, who to this day remains the news anchor at local Channel 4 here, came in with his booming voice and said something to the effect of, "We have received word that John Lennon, the former Beatle, has been shot. We don't know much more about this now, but Lennon reportedly was shot right outside his residence. We will have more on this later."

I was in shock, but of course just a few minutes later, I heard the words I didn't want to hear, when Scarborough came on again and said, "We have it from reliable sources that John Lennon was shot and killed just outside his Dakota residence. A gunman has reportedly been apprehended. More later."

I had stopped taping after the Ono song ended, and I immediately put on the radio part of my stereo.

Every station--and I mean every station--was playing Beatles music--both on AM and FM--except one.

The original WKTU, the city's top station at the time and which played disco and little else, continued in that mode.

I found this, and still do for that matter, incomprehensible. That station showed its true colors that night.

Anyway, the next days and weeks, all you heard about was Lennon, Lennon, and more Lennon.

Tributes poured in from everyone from everywhere.

There was the memorable scene in Central Park, where young and old gathered for a remembrance of the former Beatle. This was covered locally by Channel 7, and I watched it. There was nothing but silence from the crowd. It was eerie.

I carried my pathos to work on that Monday after Lennon's death.

I remember that one of my co-workers, probably in his late 40s or early 50s, questioned me about why I seemed to be so down in the dumps. I explained it to him, but I know he didn't get it. This was a guy who was born in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and I don't think there was any way he could fully get it.

Lennon was truly the first hero of my generation who died in such a violent way. Sure, JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy preceded him, but we looked up to them as kids. They weren't really from our generation.

Lennon was. And through the "yeah, yeah, yeahs" and "Imagine," he had plenty to say about a lot of things.

Sure, I didn't agree with him on a lot of the things he said and stood up for.

But he was what he was--a man whose success put him in a situation that was almost otherworldly.

He found his peace in New York City, and ironically, he found the end to his life there too.

He seemed to be a nice guy underneath it all.

I am sorry he is gone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rant #399: A Long, Long Time Ago

I always seem to reflect back on my youth, I guess because my childhood was such a good time in my life, mixed in with a lot of nonsense, a lot of things I didn't understand at the time, and lots of things I understood way too well for a little kid.

Yes, I grew up in the 1960s.

There was no better time to grow up than in the 1960s, and probably no worse time. Everything was seemingly new, we certainly shot for the stars with what we thought we could do, and we idealized things, tried to rationalize things, that didn't make any sense into sense.

But I was a little kid, and in 1966 or 1967, I was just nine and 10 years old.

All I cared about was my comic book collection, my baseball card collection, my favorite sports teams (I was into every sport at that time), and when the next pickup stickball, fungo, or touch football game would be.

I played Little League baseball (or what our community had; it was not a sanctioned Little League) from the time I was seven up to 15 years of age. I loved it, and while I wasn't a very good player, I tried real hard.

At various times during my time as a Little Leaguer, I played first base, second base, all of the outfield positions, catcher, and one time--because our regular pitchers weren't around for some reason, I think it was mumps--pitcher.

My teams actually were pretty successful. When I got older, my father was the coach, and we won a few league championships. One was such a big deal that they put up the lights for us. We played one hot spring evening under the lights, with probably a hundred people watching us, and I know we won.

I scored a run by knocking the ball out of the catcher's glove and knocking myself out in the process. You see, the catcher, who we called "Fat Harry," was about 300 pounds when he was 11 or 12. My coach (my father was working, so we had a substitute coach, my friend's dad), told me that if the ball was hit on the ground, run to home and try to score. I did, but I swear to you I was knocked out for a second or two. When I came to, the coach told me that I knocked the ball out of the catcher's glove, and that I had scored. In today's world, I probably would have been checked out for a concussion, but there weren't any ill effects, and I actually stayed in the game and played second base.

Anyway, here is a picture of my team and me when I was about nine or 10 years old, a few years earlier than that game. This was sent to me by one of my old friends who I recently came in contact with again. The two coaches were fathers of my friends; I am the second from the right in the bottom row.

I look at this picture, and I see the joy I had playing baseball at that time. Really, nothing else mattered much. I was good in school, a pretty good kid all-around, so I really didn't have any problems at all.

My main problem was becoming a better player, which I did do, but I never was very good to begin with.

This is a truly great photo, and I thanked my old friend for it. It is a keepsake of a very different time in my life and the life of our country and our world. In some ways, I think it was a better time, at least for me.

But if you want to be honest about it, was it really such a good time? We were just a few years removed from the Kennedy assassination, our boys were still in Vietnam, and there was lots of strife going on in our own country. The worst was still yet to come in a lot of ways, but back in 1966 and 1967, my biggest worry was that the Yankees would actually be in last place (they were, in 1966).

I look back on that period, and I look back with fondness. There was nothing better than being a kid, growing up with so many friends, and not having to worry about much of anything at all.

"I was so much younger then ... ."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rant #398: The End of the Sixties

Today is the 41st anniversary of an event that some say was the end of the 1960s as we know it.

On that day, the Rolling Stones put on a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Alameda County, Calif., and this wild and wooly decade ended right there.

Evidently, the Stones were concerned about security at the concert, and hired Hell's Angels to promote crowd control.

Well, the Stones were right. Things got pretty hairy there.

The aftermath was that the Angels tried to control the crowd with force, which did not work. They ended up killing four concert-goers, including one teenager.

Some say it was the end of the 1960s, the raucous decade where the ideas of peace and love were often upended by violence, because just a few months after the peace and love that occurred at Woodstock, blood was spilled 3,000 miles on the other side of the country.

To this day, few know who to blame for the violence.

Were the Stones so ignorant that they thought the presence of a group like the Hell's Angels would be able to quell violence?

Were the Hell's Angels given just too large a job to fill, and they resorted to the primal instincts of violence, which led to murder?

Were the spectators, as a group, so drugged up and rowdy that death was an unfortunate by-product of this madness?

Who knows, but it made the Rolling Stones even more sinister to many than they had been before, and it's an incident, through all of their successes, that they've had to carry around with them for the past 40-plus years.

Some say they deserve such an albatross; others say it is unfair.

But you have four people who were murdered at this concert, one a kid in his teens.

It shouldn't have happened.

Have we learned anything from this?

Maybe. But you might remember that a decade later, a Who concert led to a stampeded and there was death there too.

You always hear about incidents at concerts, whether it be rock or rap.

Some say it simply has to do with large crowds. Wherever you have a large crowd of people--many of whom are tanked up, if you know what I mean--there is a chance that the worst in them will come out.

Whatever the case, going to a concert shouldn't be an exercise in survival.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rant #397: This and That

With all the hubbub the past week about Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah, I seem to have overlooked some really important things that are happening in our world.

Lindsay Lohan and Mr. Palin Being Considered For “Dancing With the Stars”: Another two reasons to not watch this program.

Earthquake Rocks Long Island: Not in my neck of the woods, though. Heck, if we would have felt it in my part of Long Island, I would have contemplated moving to California.

Cyber Monday Record Sales: Can’t these people get off their fannies and wake up at 3 a.m. on Black Friday and stand out in the cold and rain and do their shopping? Why do they have to do it on work time?

Eminem Nabs 10 Grammy Nominations: See the Lindsay Lohan/Mr. Palin entry above, and multiply the number times five.

10th Anniversary of George Bush Declaring Himself Presidential Winner: Remember, Al Gore sought a recount in Florida, because the state’s “chads” were faulty? Don’t you yearn for those days of such simpleness?

Rep. Charles Rangel Asks Representatives To Vote Against Censure: Sorry, Charles, the jig is up. You have been misrepresenting yourself for years, you were caught, and now it is time to pay the piper.

New York City Eyes Professional Look For Cabbies: Soon they will look like doctors should look; have you seen the dress of doctors lately—they look like cabbies!

Jeter, Yankees Still Can’t Agree on Contract: What a shame. He can’t feed his family on this type of money? When is enough truly enough for these people?

Gil McDougald Passes: One of the lower-key Yankee stars from the golden age of New York City baseball passes on. A true legend all the way.

Just Four Weeks To Go In 2010: Thank goodness. I look forward to the new year. Maybe I will finally get a raise in 2011!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rant #396: Low-Key Hanukkah

The first night of Hanukkah came and went pretty much without a whimper last night in my house.

I don't know if it had to do with the fact that my wife and I really watched our pocketbooks this holiday season--save one gift--or that the holiday this year is so far removed from Christmas, but it was really a very quiet celebration last night.

My son had homework to do, and my father came home from work late, so the celebration was pushed back a bit. My wife and I were knocked out from our respective workdays, and I guess this all led up to a low-key celebration.

We said the prayer for the Hanukkah lights in both Hebrew and English, lit the middle candle, known as the shomash, and then lit the first candle, signifying the first night of the holiday.

Now to the gifts ...

Unlike other years, my son didn't get anything spectacular from us, just some clothes, which he received in full last night, some personal products (he loves the Axe brand), and wrestling videos, of which he already has hundreds, but let's face it, you can't have too many of those, can you?

He will get the wrestling videos, but as is the tradition, he will get them one per night. He will get his second one tonight.

My daughter was already given her present on Thanksgiving because she currently lives 300 miles away from us.

My wife gave me a Beatles T-shirt, a Beatles DVD of their performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and a great video, "The Abbott and Costello Christmas Show" (see, I am not really Scrooge) taken from their appearances on "The Colgate Comedy Hour."

I gave her a couple of CDs, a digital camera (not an expensive one), and a gift card to Dunkin' Donuts, which I think she liked the best out of all the presents I got her.

My mom and dad bought my family a toaster oven, and gave my wife, my son and myself some other small gifts. They gave my daughter something when they saw her for Thanksgiving.

My father got a DVD and a gift card for him and my mom to go to the movies. We gave my mom a video of Lucille Ball on "The Lucy Show," which came in a nice lunch box.

But the big gift was for my mom. It was a combination Hanukkah/Birthday gift, as she turns the big 8-0 on March 11. We bought her a computer, a netbook, so she can go on the computer anywhere in the house.

I think that not only was she surprised, she was astonished!

In lieu of potato pancakes--which I really can't have anymore--my wife bought chocolate covered pretzels, which were OK. You are supposed to have something sweet for the holiday, and this fit the bill.

And then, that was pretty much it. There were kisses and hugs all around, and then we all retired for the night.

Pretty low-key, but that was fine with me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rant #395: Tonight is Hanukkah

Tonight is Hanukkah.

I know that for most of our culture this means absolutely nothing, but for many of us, this holiday, which begins at sundown tonight, reflects the culmination of a year's work, and the time to party and celebrate.

Honestly, in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is not a major holiday. But it is a joyous and festive one, celebrating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt, during the second century BCE (before the common era). After the Jews regained control of the temple, they found that they only had one night's oil for their candelabra, their eternal light. Somehow, through some type of miracle, the oil burned for eight days, hence the celebration of Hanukkah for eight days and the use of a menorah to signify the eternal light.

It's a great family-oriented holiday, and one of my favorite ones during the year (the other of my favorites is Passover).

Now, if you don't want to read some blunt words, don't read below, because I promise you, you are going to get them.

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush or Hanukkah tree ornaments or wreaths.

One holiday has nothing to do with the other.

And if you consider yourself Jewish, you cannot celebrate both.

Christmas is about Jesus, the messiah. Hanukkah, as my explanation provided, has nothing to do with Jesus, and the basic tenet of the Jewish religion is that the messiah has not come yet.

So once again, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas.

Don't ask me if I follow both holidays. For me, although Christmas is a wonderful holiday in an of itself, for me, it is simply a day off from work for me and many of my fellow Jews, nothing more.

And the inundation we receive from the media about Christmas this and Christmas that is, well, annoying. I know some non-Jews who believe that starting to play Christmas songs on certain radio stations starting in October or even earlier is ridiculous.

And who do we blame for this idiocy, where Hanukkah is somehow blurred into Christmas?

Well, I kind of blame many of my fellow Jews themselves.

We have so assimilated into the Christian culture of this country that many of us have forgotten our roots.

Look, I am not a religious Jew at all, but I know, and my family knows, our heritage. We are Jews. We are not Christians.

I am not saying that there is anything the least bit wrong in following other religions. But when Jews decide that they are so assimilated that they forget who they are, that kind of bothers me.

And when people--oftentimes those in my own family--send Christmas cards or Season's Greetings cards to me this time of year, well, don't you think that is just plain lazy on their part?

I am not talking about business associates. I am talking about family members who should know better.

One year many years ago, a relative sent my family a Christmas card. I sent it right back. They figured out why I did that, and quickly sent over a Hanukkah card.

And yes, I blame Hollywood too. Hollywood is a place where Jews have always felt welcome to ply their craft, whether it be as an executive, behind the scenes person, or even in front of the camera.

Yet, Hollywood Jews kind of hide this time of year. I mean, where are the Barbra Streisands, the Neil Diamonds, the Dustin Hoffmans during this time of year? Celebrating Christmas, of course.

They are as phony as a warped sheckel.

When was the last time "Entertainment Tonight" ever asked high-profile Hollywood Jews about how they celebrate Hanukkah?

And when they ask Jews about Christmas, Jews just answer as if it were their holiday.

Well, it isn't.

The No. 1 movie the last time I looked was the umpteenth "Harry Potter" film. Just so you know, its star, Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, is Jewish.

Just so you know.

That's the end of my bluntness. Have a great holiday, whatever holiday you celebrate, and I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with a nice report about how the first night of Hanukkah went.

Mazel tov!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rant #394: Happy Birthday, Dad

After the calamities I experienced the past few days, I am happy to report that there is something good happening today.

My father turns 79 years young today.

And yes, I do mean young. Both he and my mother are the youngest older people I know. My mother has the energy of someone a third of her age (she turns 80 in March), and my father, while a little slower than she is, is as active as one can be at his age.

Proof: he still drives a New York City cab for a living!

No, he doesn't own his own cab anymore--he did for several decades--but he still drives a yellow cab for a fleet three days a week.

And don't think this is easy work.

He gets up at 1 a.m., leaves by about 2 a.m., gets into work by 3 a.m. or so, and begins work for the next 14 or 15 hours or so. Then he drives home, which is oftentimes a trip of two hours or more.

Double that regimen, and you get what he was doing for many decades before that when he worked five days a week (or sometimes six days a week).

He is the guy who brought me up with a sports-minded bent. I wasn't the greatest athlete--although I played all sports--but he was the one who taught me that the first part of the newspaper you turn to in the morning is the sports section.

He is my link to my heritage, as is my mom. With my grandparents long gone, both of them are the leaders of our family--spiritually, mentally, emotionally and religiously.

Sure, he isn't 25 anymore. He has had some health ills, but nothing catastrophic, I am happy to say.

He also has a wry sense of humor, says what is on his mind, and is stubborn as all hell--just like I am.

And I am very proud of him.

So happy birthday, Dad. I hope you have at least 79 more birthdays to celebrate!

And by the way, how is he celebrating his birthday?

He is, of course, behind the wheel of a New York City cab. As we speak here, he is happily at work.

He is a true one of a kind.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rant #393: No, I Am the Turkey

Fulfilling a self-fulfilling prophecy, I had a real rough holiday and holiday weekend.

It all began rather innocently. I arrived home from work after doing my traditional holiday buying on the day before Thanksgiving. I have done this for years now, avoiding the crowds that take over the stores on Black Friday. I came home, with gifts aplenty but still with the feeling that I didn't get everything I wanted to buy simply because the prices weren't that great.

Anyway, I took out my battery charger to charge up some rechargeable batteries. I have done this a thousand times without incident.

I found another battery charger and decided to charge up another battery (yes, one battery) at another outlet.

I plugged the charger into the wall socket. Suddenly, there was a small explosion, a brief flame came out of the wall, and when all the smoke had cleared, I discovered that not only did I blow out the wall socket that I was using, but I blew out a whole bank of them on the kitchen wall--including the one hooked up to our oven!

We were having my sister and her family and my parents over the next day for the holiday, so this wasn't good.

My wife was able to cook the bird in my parents' stove, but it meant for a lot of minor problems.

Happily it went off without a hitch, but the electrician's bill was over $100.

Earlier that day, since my son made his school's track team, I decided to take him outside and have him run for a few minutes, as the coach suggested. He ran, and then I decided to run with him.

Big mistake--I threw out my back and while it's better as I write this, it still hurts and is uncomfortable. I guess I'm not 20 years old anymore.

On Thanksgiving Day, some stores were open. My mother turns 80 in March, so I thought I would buy her a Hanukkah/Birthday gift: a netbook computer. I found a good buy (no, a great buy) at a store that was open, and I went there to purchase the computer. I got one of the two they had.

I took it home, charged it up, and after the festivities of the day, I sat down to see if I could hook the computer up to the Internet. I had problems.

I called my provider, and to make a long story short (an hour on the phone in two separate calls), the operating system that the computer had was not compatible to the Internet service that I was using.

The next day, I brought the unit back to the store, asking for a refund. I had the receipt, and it didn't say on the receipt that the unit wasn't returnable.

Well, the cashier said that I couldn't return it, because there was nothing wrong with it. I had explained the the operating system was not compatible to what I was going to use the Internet on--I wanted to be honest.

Well, when I got turned down, I said something to the extent of, "So if I lied to you and said the computer was broken, you would give me my money back?"

He replied, "Yes."

Well, I didn't stand for that. I got the manager over, and he begrudgingly gave me back my money.

Of course, now I didn't have a computer for my mother, so ...

I did something I swore many times that I would never do. I shopped on Black Friday.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and trudged over to Radio Shack, where they were having a good deal on a netbook.

I was the fifth on line, and when the store opened at 5:30 a.m., I attacked a salesman, just like the other people did, and I got what I came for.

As I proceeded to my car, a woman ran out and screamed at me, "You got the last one!"

I replied, "Well, yes I did," and shut the door and drove away. Perhaps I should have offered it to her and see what she would have paid me for it. Sor-ry!

On Saturday, my son and I went to the New York Knicks-Atlanta Hawks game at Madison Square Garden. I bought the tickets months ago--actually, I bought four tickets, two for my son and I, the other for my nephew and my brother in law.

On Thursday, I gave my brother in law the two tickets for him and his son, and we planned to meet at the Garden. The deal was that the ticket for my nephew was his birthday present, and my brother in law didn't have to pay me for either ticket, just get my son and I food and beverages there (as you know, that can cost more than a ticket for each of us).

Well, my brother in law called on Saturday morning, telling me that my nephew was sick and that he tried to get up his second son to use the ticket with him, but he had come in at 3:30 a.m. in the morning and wasn't getting out of bed so quick. His third son had wrestling practice that day, so he couldn't go either. My brother in law asked me what to do with the two tickets. Frustrated, I told him to give them away (there wasn't time to pick up the tickets from him, we had a train to make). And that's just what he did.

We got to the game, and the other party with the tickets came. They were pleasant people, even offered to buy beverages for my son and I, but I was not too happy.

And, of course, as always happens when my son and I go to a Knicks game, they lost (that's five in a row now for my son and I--in fact, I have not been present at a Knicks win since 1985!).

I was not a happy camper by any stretch of the imagination.

Yesterday also started off poorly, but I won't get into those things because they were relatively minor.

My family and I went to the movies, and saw the film "Faster" with The Rock. It was surprisingly good, and I recommend it highly.

Anyway, that was my dreadful weekend. I left out lots of the details because I didn't want to bore you any further, but boy, do I feel bummed out right now.

Gobble, gobble--I am the turkey!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rant #382: We Are All the Turkey

This rant, the last one for this week, is going to be short and sweet.

Sure, we will be eating turkey tomorrow as we celebrate Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays of the year.

But let's face it: as we come to the close of calendar year 2010, we are all turkeys to a certain degree.

The word "turkey" came to mean something else when I was growing up in the 1960s.

When you were called a turkey, it pretty much meant that you were a loser, somewhat inept, or somebody that was taken advantage of easily.

If you were called a jive turkey, that pretty much meant that you were a person that seemed to know what he was talking about ... but ultimately was what we now call a B.S. artist.

Now, getting back to turkeys ...

It seems we have been taken for a ride this past year. We have been promised many things by our government, but they haven't delivered.

Thousands are out of work, home foreclosures are up, and people are generally worse off than when a President they hated so much, and voted in two times to lead our country, was at the helm.

Gas prices are on the rise again, we are still at war, and the last time I looked at my paycheck, it was the same as it was when the previous administration was in power.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. We were told to tighten our bootstraps, but all I see are people like you and me doing that. I don't see the rich doing it.

So, friends, we are all turkeys, and have been given spiels by jive turkeys that we believed ... but using hindsight, we shouldn't have bought into.

So when you eat your turkey, it's not really cannibalism that you are participating in, it's survival.

And right now, most of us barely have our gobble gobble above water.

Have a nice holiday. See you next week.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rant #381: Drive-by Hooting

Have you noticed that drivers at this time of year think they own the road more so than any other time during the year?

I know that Christmas (and for that matter, Hanukkah) are both just around the corner, but the rushing around I've already seen this time of year has been something to behold.

I have seen more people tailgating, speeding, going through Stop signs, and doing other ridiculous things on the road that you would think that in my part of the world there weren't any road rules.

Well, there are, and people are just ignoring them. I mean, they have to rush to buy their holiday gifts, so why should they follow any rules?

Just yesterday, driving home from work, one car cut me off, another was moving into my lane as the car was absolutely parallel to mine (I beeped and put on my brakes, avoiding a collison; the car eventually moved over behind me, and was staying well behind me), and I nearly got hit when a car shot out of a street and assumed everyone saw him (I didn't).

This morning, I was tailgated pretty badly, so the fun continues.

And it's not just in cars. My wife, son and I were in Target this weekend, and as we were exiting, a woman--and I have to give her credit, she did say "Excuse me"--nearly knocked me over with her cart as she was in a rush to leave. Once she got past me, we saw her running, with her cart, in the parking lot.

Why is everyone in such a rush this year, and every year at this time of year?

Those precious gifts that you are over-spending on to show how wonderful you are will still be there, whether you get to them now or five minutes from now. What is the rush?

And I hear that Kohl's is opening at 3 a.m. on Friday, the fabled Black Friday that retailers salivate over during the year. But better yet, Wal-Mart is opening at 12 midnight (although you can't buy your electronic bargains until 5 a.m.).

It is truly ridiculous.

Let's see what happens when I drive home tonight. I am sure I will see more craziness on the road.

Hopefully, I will just see it, and not be a victim of it.

That is my greatest fear.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rant #380: Our Bleakest Moment

It is hard to believe, but 47 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade.

Kennedy was the last of our beloved Presidents, the last President whose picture hung in people's homes. Sure, we have found out that he was a surly, womanizing adulterer in the intervening years, but back in 1963, he was a "rock star" before that was acknowledged as a way that one handled themselves.

He was young, vibrant, had a beautiful wife, young kids, and he pointed to the vitality of the United States.

When he died, I think our innocence went with it. The 1950s clearly ended, and the 1960s--the years of protest, war, murders, and many other eye-opening events--truly started.

I have often told this story, and I may have even told it here, but I will tell it again.

I was in first grade in P.S. 165, a good grammar school that still stands (under a different name) in Flushing, New York. I was six years old.

I seem to remember that it was nearing the end of the day in Mrs. Gold's classroom. All of a sudden, the next door teacher ran into the room in tears and screamed, "The President has been shot!"

A few moments later, the principal came on the PA system, explained what happened (or at least, gave us an update on what happened), and we were let out of school.

We ran home in horror, and I can remember sitting in front of our old black and white Dumont TV and being mesmerized by the images I saw. I even remember calling my mother into the living room when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby on national television.

And yes, I remember John John saluting his dad as the flag-laden coffin passed him.

In the 47 years which has passed, so much has happened. John John and Jackie are gone, Caroline moves along, Ted is gone and so is Bobby, who was also murdered just a few years later ... and the Kennedys are no longer much of a force in our political scene.

I, personally, have grown from a young child to a man, with my own family and responsibilities.

But that moment--when the teacher burst into the room with the news--is something that I will never forget.

I will never forget where I was when we heard he had been shot.

It is one of the touchstones of my life, and probably for most Baby Boomers who were old enough to remember that moment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rant #379: Young At 91

Today, Alan Young is 91.

Who is Alan Young, you say?

Alan Young is the actor who will forever be etched in many Baby Boomer's memories as Wilbur Post, the architect who owned the talking horse on the "Mr. Ed" TV show of the early 1960s.

To be best known as the guy who talked to the horse--and got replies back yet--would make any actor cringe. But Young has seemingly enjoyed the admiration he has received for the past nearly 50 years. He has never steered away from talking about the role, a role that pretty much defined his career.

As a kid--and even, on DVD, as an adult--this show is one of the funniest, and most preposterous, shows that ever aired on national TV.

The premise was that Post and his wife, played by the absolutely luscious (more about that later) Connie Hines, bought a house that just happened to have a stable attached to it. They thought they would live the life in California, Post as a successful architect, and Carol as his dutiful and loving wife.

But what they got along with the house and stable was a talking horse.

Wilbur couldn't believe it at first, but Mr. Ed talked--but only to him. He wouldn't talk to anyone else (until the last season of the show). And this led to some high and lowbrow comedy that as a kid I found hilarious, and as an adult, watching on DVD, I found to be quite irresistible, with lots of in-jokes and sexual innuendo that went right by me as a kid and also went right by the censors.

One such memorable jabber was a conversation between Carol and neighbor Kay (Edna Skinner), where Kay compared Carol's rather voluptuous figure with that of a refrigerator. You had to hear it to believe it!

Anyway, such luminaries as Sandy Koufax, Clint Eastwood and Zsa Zsa Gabor guest starred on the show during its time on the air, and through almost constant reruns and now DVDs, the show lives on.

And certainly the theme song lives on. It is one of the best remembered of all the theme songs: "A horse is a horse, of course, or course ... "

Alan Young was the glue that held the show together, completely believable as this normal, everyday guy who was put into an incredible situation.

The best thing is that Young, as an actor, looked like he was having a great time playing this role, a role that for some actors would have probably led them to the nearest psychiatric ward.

So, happy birthday Alan Young, young at 91 and here's to you ...


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rant #378: Not a Laughing Matter

And once again, we visit the obituary column, to bring to you a death that might be overlooked by some, but not here. This guy touched us all, sometimes in the wrong place, and it is time to honor him as he has passed from this earth.

The name Carroll Pratt probably doesn't mean much to anybody but the guy himself and his family, but this fellow is well-known to all of us due to his participation in the creation of something that we have all heard:

The laugh track.

For those few of us who don't have any idea what I am talking about, the laugh track is the background snickering and laughter you hear when you watch countless TV sitcoms. When the joke comes from the mouths of the actors, laughter follows, pretty much on cue, even when the joke isn't funny.

Pratt, his brother John, and Charles Rolland Douglass created the Laff Box, which was basically a series of audiotape loops of different types of laughing. This laughing was used either to stand alone or to augment the reaction from a studio audience.

It really has become ubiquitous with the sitcom, the half-hour comedic episodes that we are all so fond of. Shows from about the mid-1950s to the current time use a laugh track. It almost is a cue for us at home to laugh, too.

Sure, there have been backlashes to the laugh track. Certain shows have bypassed one, often either forgoing any canned reaction or mixing two tapings of the same show into one, and thus having the reactions of two audiences to one situation. "All in the Family" did this, and nobody knew the difference, because the show was not only topical, it was funny too.

But what about shows that simply aren't funny, although they are supposed to be? The laugh track was a necessity. It told us that at least "someone" was having a good time and finding this funny, even if it wasn't a human being per se.

Anyway, Pratt died at 89 years of age, and this Emmy Award winning sound engineer helped to create something that has been part of our lives even though we didn't know it.

I can hear the sound of one hand clapping for his achievement.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rant #377: An Apple a Day ...

So I hear that Apple will now offer the Beatles’ music catalog to the world as part of iTunes.

Whoopee do!

Look, I guess that it’s great to have the world’s most important catalog available to the masses via legitimate means. But I don’t think that this is going to be much of a money maker for either iTunes or the Beatles.

This time, the Beatles were late to the party. When iTunes was new and innovative, Beatles music was not available there, but it doesn’t mean it was not available. People still own the records and 45s, and their music has been available on CD since compact disks made their debut in the early 1980s.

And of course, their music—and every permutation of their music, not just the legitimate releases—has been available online for decades. You just have to know where to look for it. It’s not like the music has not been available, which was the case with the Dave Clark Five. The music has been out there, and by this time, if you don’t have at least some Beatles music in your collection … well, I feel sorry for you.

More to the point, offering the Beatles catalog to the masses is sort of like McDonald’s offering “healthier” food on its menu. It’s nice to have that choice when you go into one of their restaurants, but as far as volume, will these choices ever come anywhere near the volume that a Big Mac generates? Probably not.

It’s nice for iTunes to offer this prestigious catalog as part of its library. But the Beatles have been so available, I can’t see people rushing out and trashing their record and CD libraries just to get a hold of the Beatles mp4s on iTunes.

And for audiophiles, the mp4s Apple is offering don’t come anywhere near the fidelity of CDs or even records. They are certainly handier, but not better sounding.

So with the Beatles catalog in tow, iTunes can now offer single songs or albums from the most famous and influential rock band in history. And just for that, it makes sense for them to have the ability to offer the catalog to those who want it.

But for me— someone who has every Beatles album on vinyl, many singles and CDs of the Fab Four too—it really isn’t that big a deal. No, it’s not a big deal at all. Multiply “me” by millions of others in a similar situation, and you can understand why I, personally, am a little blasé about the whole thing.

But what do I know? I heard later that since their LPs have become available on iTunes, many of their albums are in the service's top-selling albums list. I guess people who already have these things 50 times over want it for the 51st time too. I mean, what is iTunes offering that you can't get elsewhere? There is nothing new, no previously unreleased cuts ... so is the newness having it digitally?

I guess people, even in a severe economic times, have money to burn ... literally.

What’d the Beatles sing? “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on … .”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rant #376: Hey, Hey, They May Be Back

In 1966, a TV-concocted rock group revolutionized both prime time television and the record charts with their mix of rock chops and humor. They became the biggest rock act in the world, and although their show lasted just two full seasons--along with delivering a misunderstood movie and TV special--their legacy has been tremendous.

Flash forward to 1986. The young MTV network, hungry for programming that went beyond the typical three-minute video, programmed the original half hour show, and it became a hit with a new generation of young fans. Three of the original four band members reformed, had a hit single and album, and led the most prosperous concert tour of the year.

Well, it's almost 2011, and hey, hey, it's the Monkees all over again.

Reports are that Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz will once again rejoin as the three-quarter Monkees for a tour in the new year, without, of course, Mike Nesmith, who if he decided to come on board, would probably make this the biggest and most anticipated tour in 2011.

Without him, it's just the three cogs in a four-cog wheel, but it's still impressive.

Why get back together now? The threesome had been successful in a number of tours since 1986, and even recorded two albums--one with Nesmith--of new material since that fabled re-launch.

They have had their differences in the past, and each has forged a solo career singing old hits and incorporating new music into their shows.

But the number 45 has become a very important number in pop culture recently.

No, its not just the speed we played those wonderful singles at on our phonographs. It goes way beyond that.

It seems that the number 45 is important because it sets the stage for the number 50.

Let me explain.

With CD and DVD sales slowing, entertainment companies have tried to come up with a new angle for their classic releases, and the number 45 is that angle.

When a classic movie or album or act hits the number 45, companies release product to celebrate that anniversary. Just this year, "The Sound of Music" was re-released for the umpteenth time, but as a 45th anniversary release. This time, the pull beyond seeing the great movie again is that all the living members of the cast are involved in the promotion of this gem ... and it will certainly lead to another re-release on the 50th anniversary of this movie's debut in 2016.

What I am trying to say is that the 45th lays the groundwork for the 50th, and helps to build a groundswell of anticipation for the 50th.

And that is why the Monkees, or at least three of them, hope to reform in 2011.

The new year is the 45th anniversary of the show's debut, their first album's debut, and their first single's debut.

To provide steam for the 50th, in today's market, you have to promote the 45th.

So that is what they hope to do, if all the pieces fall together the right way.

The Monkees, however, have something else in their favor as they go into this.

Rhino Records has taken great care with their wide and expansive catalog, and has been releasing deluxe editions of each of their LPs with bonus tracks and premium packaging for the past few years. They have been good sellers, but the penultimate Monkees re-release came out just a few weeks ago...

The deluxe re-release of the "Head" soundtrack, followed by the re-release, on both DVD and Blu-ray, of the film of the same title.

This has sparked so much interest, and been so well received, that the soundtrack found its way into the Top 20 of Billboard's top soundtrack chart--and at $60 a pop, and with "Glee" fever all around, this is no small feat.

So this is clearly the time for the threesome to get together, to mine as much public adoration--and money--as they can. There is clearly no better time to do this, and it creates traction for the 50th anniversary in 2016.

Maybe even ol' Wool Hat will come on board by that time, who knows.

So full speed ahead, boys, the Monkees are reportedly back ...

And you thought the reunion of New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys was something!

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