Friday, February 26, 2010

Rant #203: Snow More!

Well, we were pelted by snow again today. I don't know how many inches we are going to get, but there's plenty of ice mixed in, so it is pretty bad.

I woke up like I normally do at 4:30 a.m., looked outside, and saw that we were basically snowed in.

The problem is that today is payday at work. They do not believe in direct deposit, so I figured I would have to come in today, if only to get my check.

And no, they don't believe in a weather alert system either. Thus, nobody ever knows if we are open or not (this has been a major point of contention between myself and my employer, but again, I have to be careful, I need my job).

Well, I shoveled and dug out my car as best I could. Within 10 minutes of shoveling, it looked like I didn't even do anything, because everything was covered with snow.

I ate, found out that my wife had a delayed opening (she works in a bank) and that my son had no school today (they wisely closed the schools and informed people early), and then went to my car and drove to work.

The going was slow, real slow. Nothing had been plowed, and people were being very careful, as I was.

The highway I take was a joke. It hadn't been plowed at all, and there were plenty of cars on it, including mine.

The main street by my work was not plowed, and I could have gotten into a major accident. As I slowed down (not that I was going fast, but there were a number of cars at one intersection), I lost control of the car, and it plopped into the sidewalk. Luckily, no one and no other cars were there. I just backed up and went on my way again.

And the thing was, this was about 1/4 of a mile from work.

I got to work, and that is where I am now.

It is still snowing cats and dogs, and I must be crazy, but in these times that we are in, I need my paycheck badly.

Yes, I give you permission. Call me nuts. Go ahead.

Because you know what---

I am.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rant #202: A Madoff By Any Other Name ...

One of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff's daughers-in-law wants to change her last name because she claims that her family has been open to a lot of ridicule and threats because of the infamy that name has taken on.

Stephanie Madoff, who is married to Madoff's son Mark, wants to change her--and her children's--last name to Morgan. Her husband has given his OK to this change.

I guess that is a good choice, but still links her family up with a name that reeks of privilege.

Does the name J.P. Morgan ring a bell? Doesn't she want to distance herself from money matters entirely by changing her and her kids' last name?

I mean, at this point in time, the Madoff name is nearly as bad as having a last name of Hitler. Or maybe even Woods.

Here are some last name suggestions I can think up:

Jeter: Derek is the darling of sports, and has been for years. It might be a good name to use to earn back some respectability.)

Obama: If she had decided to do this a year ago, maybe it would have worked. Now, I am not so sure.

McGwire: In the 1990s, absolutely. He brought the power of the home run back to baseball. Now, admitting to using steroids, I doubt it.

Leno: No good. He is looked at by some as the evil-doer who did in Conan O'Brien.

O'Brien: A traditional name for sure, but if Conan O'Brien doesn't do something quickly, his name will fade away, so maybe this is a good one to choose.

Letterman: Only use this name if the family can keep its pants on.

Woods: See above.

Maybe the best suggestion would be to go without a last name. Look what it has done for Cher, Madonna, Liberace ...

I've got it! Here is the name they should use:

LAPKA! I have used it for nearly 53 years and it is beyond reproach.

Nah, wouldn't work.

I guess Morgan isn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rant #201: Going Down With Female Sailors In Submarines

The Pentagon is going ahead and looking into lifting the decades old ban prohibiting women from serving aboard Navy submarines.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates notified Congress in a letter that he signed this past Friday that the Navy intends to repeal the ban on women sailors on submarines, and Congress now has 30 days to discuss the matter.

Why have female sailors been banned in the first place?

Well, I think it is kind of obvious. Submarines are sort of a makeshift city serving in the depths of the ocean. There are very, very tight quarters down there, which means women must be segregated from men, again for obvious reasons.

But the thinking now is that if women could serve in leadership roles in Iraq and Afghanistan--and for that matter, in every branch of each of the services--the time might have come for them to be serving in submarines.

Proposing it and doing it are two different things. If female sailors get this right, then existing submarines must be retrofitted to accommodate them. They must have separate quarters, separate showers and bathrooms, etc. Setting these things up on a submarine that has already been built--and which already has tight quarters--looks to me to be a nightmare.

The current proposal is to retrofit larger submarines for females if this initiative passes. I don't think that that is a good idea.

A better idea would be that for here on in, newer submarines are equipped this way. Thus, the program can take its time to take hold, and when it does, there won't be any problems as far as living conditions inside the submarines.

I don't know when the next submarine is going to be built, so maybe this isn't possible. Maybe existing submarines must be retrofitted, because new submarines are not coming down the pike anytime soon.

I just harken back to the TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," and the tight quarters that were so adeptly shown on this program.

I can't imagine the Seaview to be retrofitted, although you know that if the show was ever revived for current TV, you know it would be.

I would also expect everyone--both males and females--to act accordingly while on a submarine, but you know, if this was a TV show, you just know that there would be onboard romances and other things to stir interest.

But this isn't a TV show.

I think it can be done, but it might take years to put in place.

I think Congress should really think about this and give it its full attention.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rant #200: Superman, Super Price

I see that a copy of Action Comics #1, the issue that featured the debut of Superman, went for $1 million at auction the other day.

This comic book is the holy grail of the genre, the most sought after comic book in history. There are only supposedly 100 of these around right now, and the buyer basically paid double what another collector paid for a copy, because this one is supposed to be in excellent condition.

Well, I don't have that comic book in my collection--I do have a reprint that probably goes for about $20 if I am lucky--but I have about 2,000 comics that I would like to unload.

I have had it up for purchase before, maybe about a year ago. A collector came to my house, bought about 50 comics for a pretty good sum, but he would not take the whole thing for what I considered a decent price.

Comic books were very important to me in my youth. I collected them religiously. I was a big DC Comics fan, collecting Superman, Batman, etc. I liked Marvel too, but my favorite, alas, was Daredevil, not in the pantheon of Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four.

But when I got to college, my tastes changed. I got into records again, and I had to make a decision: buy comic books or records. I went with the music, but never got rid of the comic books.

Most of my collection is from about 1963 to 1976. It is a nice collection, and would be a good starter collection for someone who is interested in comic books but doesn't have anything from this era.

And I want to add, these comic books were read from cover to cover. There maybe aren't any pristine mint comics in this collection, but there are plenty of gems--and like most collections of this sort, probably a couple of clinkers, too.

Anyway, if anyone is interested, please let me know through this blog.

I would really like to sell this collection, but alas, I don't have Action #1 to jump-start this thing out the door.

All I have is a kid's collection from the 1960s and 1970s--it may not be Action #1, but to me, it was once worth more than the $1 million someone paid for that classic issue.

Take it (for the right price)--it's yours.

(And happy 200th blog post!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rant #199: The Same Old Knicks, Sort Of

My son and I went to Madison Square Garden for a Knicks game on Saturday night. We saw the Knicks vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, and predictably, the Knicks lost, but at least it went to overtime.

Although the Knicks lost, my son and I had a good time. We sat in our customary nosebleed seats, but it was a lot of fun.

There is nothing like being at the Garden, in person, for a basketball game. Even though the Knicks are an absolutely terrible team that is going nowhere--even with Tracy McGrady--there is just something about seeing a game at the Garden that stirs up lots of memories and good feelings.

Today, the Knicks will be celebrating their first championship team--the 1969-1970 squad--during halftime of their game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Although certainly not the most talented team in history, this team may have been the most cerebral.

On the team were the likes of Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Willlis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Dave DeBusschere. I truly don't know if the collective IQ of this team was greater than any other, but they played real smart.

They looked for the open shot, passed the ball when there wasn't one, rebounded, defended and played their hearts out. The city embraced them almost unlike any other team at the time (even the Mets, who won the World Series in 1969, did not galvanize an entire city like the Knicks did, because they still had the Yankees to contend with).

I remember going to games back then with my father, and the place was sold out every night. It was hopping, there was a buzz in the crowd that is classic to the Garden, and you just had to marvel at the determination and zeal that that team had.

Flash forward 40 years, and you get the current Knicks squad.

For one reason or another, this team is a complete embarrassment to the fans and to the organization.

Looking ahead to a free agent class that will include Lebron James, the Knicks have bankrupted themselves talent-wise to allow for enough salary cap room to make a play at James, Dwyane Wade, and other top free agents.

So what you have on the floor is a group of players who really don't know where they will be next year. David Lee has been the team leader this year, but even he has no clue if he will be a Knick next year.

So when you have that monkey on your back, which way is up?

The Knicks have lost six in a row and 15 of 18. They only thing that is keeping them out of last place is the dreadful Nets.

But on Saturday, there was a spark at the Garden.

I guess it had to do with Tracy McGrady joining the team. He was once a superstar, now he is a guy out to prove himself--to the Knicks or another suitor next year.

There was buzz at the Garden. You can feel it and you could hear it. Knick fans will tell you that the buzz is something special to the Garden. Maybe it has to do with how it was built or its connection to the Long Island Railroad or Amtrak, but when that buzz is present, there is nothing like it anywhere else.

And I know what the buzz is. I was at the first game that Dave DeBusschere played as a Knick, 40 years ago. You could not get a seat. The place was loud, noisy, and boisterous. Everyone knew that DeBusschere was the last piece of the puzzle that the Knicks needed to become champions, and it all played out that night--and later, on May 8, 1969, when they finally won their first championship (a day before my bar mitzvah!).

The fans were excited, and I think the players were too, and this was true 40 years ago, and it was true on Saturday night.

The outcome was pretty much decided from the opening tap, even though the Knicks took it to overtime.

But there was that buzz. Oh, maybe it wasn't the same buzz heard in 1969-1970, but there was a buzz.

The Knicks are awful, but at least for one night, there was that buzz ...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rant #198: Taking the Tiger By the (Tall) Tale

So, Tiger Woods has scheduled a news conference for this morning to discuss his recent woes, and he wants to address them with the public. He wants to iron out everything, make apologies to the world, and move on with his life.

Oh, how sorry I feel for this multi-millionaire who can't keep his pants on!

Why he has to do such a news conference is beyond me. I mean, the only people he is accountable to in this whole episode are his wife, Elin, and his family, no one else.

But people eat this up, and that is why all the major networks will be covering this shindig live today.

But he has some parameters when it comes to the news conference.

He can't be asked any questions by reporters, and the reporters are hand-picked by him.

This is a news conference?

I remember a similar news conference that Michael Jackson had to plead to the public that he didn't molest young children. That really got him nowhere, and the best thing that happened in his career was that ... well, he died, which made so many people rush out and buy his records and proclaim him as the "God" they thought he was.

I don't think Tiger will have to go that route to win back the public.

All he has to do is to win a tournament or two or three--he is just behind Jack Nicklaus as the leader in tournament wins--and the public will pretty much forget this.

Then why the news conference, or what he is calling a news conference?

Well, he lost millions when his sponsors dropped him. This conference is as much to pull back sponsors as anything else.

So when you watch this (and I know you will), and you see Tiger shedding a few tears, you really have to ask yourself:

Is he shedding those tears because he blew his marriage or because he blew his endorsements?

I would say, sadly, that it is the latter.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rant #197: I Need My Mail!

In today's world, email has seemingly taken over from old fashioned snail mail as the easiest way to communicate one's feelings. And unlike a standard letter, the writer can write this up and send it out and have it received almost instantly.

The same goes for paying bills. One push of a button, and payment is made. It certainly is quicker than mailing out your payment.

And it doesn't cost the price of a stamp to send out these things, either.

But wait! There is a certain charm in using regular postal mail as opposed to electronic mail that needs to be addressed.

Certainly, now that the post office is pushing to cut standard mail delivery by one day per week, the public must speak up against such mail malice.

The postal service's take on this is that they are continuing to cut annual losses that they trace to the increased use of electronic mail by the general public. For instance, their first quarter loss was $297 million, and since it reports a loss each quarter, if you add everything up, they are losing money hand over fist.

And people are losing patience with regular mail, as evidenced by the 8.9 percent drop in mail volume.

I like getting mail. I hate getting bills, but I like getting mail. I like reaching into my mailbox and pulling out envelopes filled with offers, announcements, garbage, and, of course, correspondence.

My grandfather worked for the post office during the Depression. He was a postal inspector, looking for who knows what, and he packed a gun.

The post office has changed greatly since those years. Customer service is poor, and how many times have you stood on a line in a post office to get stamps and there is just one attendant handling a line that goes out the door?

But I like standard mail, and I like getting it six days a week.

To take away one day of service will not save scads of money, but it will even further lessen the need for standard mail.

I hope this proposal is shot down.

Of course, if it is, stamps will probably approach 50 cents apiece, but I guess I would be willing to pay it if it kept mail coming to my home Monday through Saturday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rant #196: Dog Show Is For the Dogs

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was just held again at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is an annual event that draws big crowds, is carried on TV by several major cable networks, and it is a show that is always the darling of the media.

I don't get it.

You have people who look like they haven't had a bowel movement for a week parading their "pure-bred" canines around on a leash. They buff and polish these animals, pampering them worse than kings and queens get waited on, and they are then judged on their qualities.

Sorry, I still don't get it.

These purebreds--victims of inbreeding--are ugly animals. They have squirmy faces and look like they haven't ever begged for anything in their lives.

Give me at mutt over these animals anytime!

Mutts have character, and since so many of them started life at shelters (at least my dog did), they do know some suffering.

And they have plenty of character, I can tell you that. I would swear my dog, a mixed breed terrier/pit bull named Max, understands every word I say to him. He is about 13 years old, is as gentle as a soft towel, and his place in our family makes him irreplaceable.

He is a handsome animal, although he won't have any heirs because we went the Bob Barker way and fixed him when he was a puppy.

Sure, he is annoying, especially when he needs to be walked on a cold winter's day. And as he gets older, he is more particular to where he does his duty, so sometimes the walks are longer.

But he is as loyal as an animal can be. It is called unconditional love, and he gives it every day. He is a true canine, a true pet.

I am sure these pure breds have many of the same characteristics, but I liken them to runway models. I don't find runway models very attractive, and I certainly don't find these animals--which, I believe, are cruelly bred by their owners to appear in these pageants--very attractive either.

In fact, I find them to be a bit phony. And I am sure their masters are, too.

In my first marriage, my wife had relatives who were into this dog pageant nonsense. They were as phony as could be, so phony that you could see right through them. They always had what to say to me, in a nice way, about various characteristics I had which bewildered them, including the way I spoke. I took it all in, but understood where it was coming from: from people who treated their pets like they were children.

If I remember correctly, they had a daughter who I always found to be a bit screwed up.

I wonder why: I mean, she was treated the same way as the family pet was; that will make you a little sick in the head, I think.

So, I have come to this conclusion: give me a mutt with character and I will give you a real animal, one that will honor you every day of your life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rant #195: Antidote To Snow: Batter Up!

We received more snow today. Mostly mush, but having it fall on top of what we already have is like pouring salt on an open wound; it is going to hurt no matter which way you turn.

We have gotten a lot more snow than we normally get. I think in my part of the world, we have already reached and exceeded the average for the winter--and there is still 12 days more in February, the full month of March and the beginning of April to deal with.

We will all dutifully dig out, and make the best of it. But there is one antidote to all the white stuff that makes us see light at the end of the tunnel:

Spring training!

Yes, Major League Baseball's spring training camps in both Florida and Arizona are both just about ready to open. Early camp is already open to those players who like to report early.

The regular season is less than two months away!

Baseball represents so much more than any other sport on the American landscape. It represents renewal, nostalgia, and yes, a bit of tedium, as the season plays out over a six-month span.

But it also represents the summer, the heat, the humidity, the sun, sunburn, tans, bikinis ... in other words, heat.

During the summer, as we watch our favorite team make a go for the World Series--won by my team, the Yankees, last season--we will look back at the winter of 2009/2010 without too many fond memories.

But it will be behind us, as we bask in 90 degree heat.

And that is the best thing.

The sweat on our brow will not come from shoveling snow in an endless flurry of disgust; it will come from the sun pulsing on our bodies.

And that type of sweat I kind of like.

So shovel your snow, and be careful about it, but also think that in just two months, this will pretty much be history ...

And "Play Ball!" will be the rallying cry, not "Go Out and Clean the Driveway!"

I can't wait, can you?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rant #194: Rochdale Reunion 2010

Periodically, I am going to be giving everyone an update on an event I have been planning for the past month or so. Even though most of you did not have the same growing up experience I had, I think most baby boomers--and some people younger or older--might be interested.

It involves a reunion of the kids--now in their 50s and 60s--who grew up in this weird, strange place that I have spoken about previously, Rochdale Village, in South Jamaica, Queens.

Built over the remains of the famed Jamaica Racetrack, this is a 20-building cooperative housing development that still bustles in that community. But back slightly less than 50 years ago, my family--and hundreds of other families--were the pioneers of this place, an experimental urban living development that both prospered and failed at the same time during the turbulent 1960s.

We were the development's first residents, and we were the ones who were burdened with making the place a success--or going down the tubes with it as a failure. In retrospect, I think we did a little bit of both.

(And yes, the picture with this rant is me, circa 1965 or 1966, when I was in the development's Little League there. I look like Derek Jeter, don't I?)

Without going into the whys and wherefores of the development. my New Years resolution this year was to reconnect with a lot of the people I grew up with. Even though it has been more than 40 years since I saw a lot of these people, we are kind of joined at the hip because of our experiences growing up in the his wonderful--and at the same time frustrating--place.

I lived there from the age of seven to 14--my formative years--and I have so many memories of the place I could probably fill a good book with them.

So, I got on my high horse about a month ago and proclaimed that we would have a reunion--at my house. The "at my house" theme is important, because that is how we used to invite people over to our dwellings back then, even though we all lived in apartments, not homes.

So far, this reunion has touched a nerve with a lot of people. I have opened up a Facebook site to bring everyone together, and I have over 100 members, and more than 25 confirmations. People may be coming in from all over the country for this thing.

If you are interested in seeing what is going on--or perhpas you are a Rochdale Village baby boomer too--just go into Facebook and look up Rochdale Village Reconnecton Reunion-Summer 2010.

Even if you are not a former resident of this development--which at the time I lived there was a largest cooperative living development in the world--you might be interested in visiting.

I will provide periodic updates on this event during the next five months as I prepare for this gathering.

It should be fun.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rant #193: Father of the Frisbee Flings Out

I heard that the inventor of what became known as the Frisbee died Tuesday. His name is Frederick Morrison, and if I just told you his name without mentioning the Frisbee, you probably wouldn't have known who I was talking about.

Anyway, from throwing pie tins with his soon to be wife, to working on this thing to get it down to what it eventually became, and to linking this thing with the UFO craze in the 1950s, Morrison, maybe unwittingly, created one of the greatest toys ever.

It simpleness really defined its bravado. Just fling this thing, and it will fly. There really weren't any other directions.

Sure, when his idea was bought by Wham-O, and he received lifetime royalties from this sale, the company took the toy to new heights. There is a certain way to fling it for maximum effect, and there are tournaments around the world for the best Frisbee throwers. And there have been variations on the theme, like Frisbee Golf.

But, when all is said and done, it all came from the mind, hard work, and aggressiveness of its developer.

I had one of those early ones, the red one that literally looked like a flying saucer. It ended up breaking, somehow splitting in the middle, rendering it useless. I should have kept it as an artifact of the time, but who knew from this in the mid 1960s?

Anyway, we owe a slight debt to Morrison, because this is a toy what just about everyone can say that they have played with at some time in their life. Certainly for baby boomers like me, that's true.

So Mr. Morrison, rest in peace. You did real good.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rant #192: No Newspaper, No News Is Not Necessarily Good News

I am a traditionalist. I like to get an actual newspaper delivered to my home in the morning, and read it while I eat breakfast.

Today, with the remnants of the blizzard still around, I shoveled at about 5 a.m. in the morning (after shoveling several times yesterday), walked the dog, and sat down to eat breakfast.

But I did not have a newspaper to read while I ate breakfast.

Believe me, with the weather conditions as they are, I am not blaming the carriers, generally adults who are doing this for the few extra dollars it gives them each month. I will let you know that several years ago, while going through my divorce, I also did this type of work for slightly over a year, to get myself above water. It was the easiest, hardest job I ever had. I generally respect the carriers.

Anyway, I went back outside after finishing breakfast, did some more shoveling, and still there was no newspaper. It is after 7:30 a.m. in the morning now as I type this, and I don't know if we ever received our newspaper.

I know newspapers are a dying breed. More and more, we are getting our news from the Internet. Every newspaper worth its salt has a Web site, and many are even charging for the right to read their full content online.

But I like the look, the feel, and the ease of convenience provided by a real newspaper in the morning.

Sure, I could get my news off the Internet. But you know, even with two laptops and one desktop at my disposal, I just can't see reading this stuff while I am chowing down on my first meal of the day.

What's more, I am on the Internet all day at work ... I don't want to start off the day with it.

Sure, some would call me old fashioned. I know my daughter gets her news 100 percent off the Internet, and probably hasn't read a newspaper in years.

But that is her generation.

Newspapers are going out of business, cutting back with information, and they are not the same newspapers that I grew up with. They are thinner, sleeker, and have far less information than they used to.

But I still like the format. I love starting with the back page--sports--finishing that section, and turning to the front of the paper for the harder news.

Sure, it sounds like a relic, like the LP record, but even records are making a comeback. People simply prefer them--with all their nuances--to CDs.

I feel the same way about my newspaper, and I have to say, it was like missing an old friend today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rant #191: Snow Day

Yes, I took a snow day today, and that is why this rant will be a short one.

Why do companies treat you as if you are a criminal when you take a day off like this?

My son is home, my wife is home, the roads are treacherous at best, the snow continues to come down ... all reasons to stay home today.

Yet, my place of work has no clear definition of what a day off because of such hazardous conditions mean.

Last year, during a similar day, I actually trudged in. I asked the vice president of our company if we were open, and he never gave me a clear answer. I asked the publisher/owner of the company, and I got the same non-response.

We were never let go early, we worked a full day, and I took my life in my hands coming to work that day--all because there was no clear definition of the penalty for taking a day off like this.

And a year later, there still isn't. But I said last year that I would never be duped into going to work under such circumstances again. And I wasn't.

We are a small company, not a mega-conglomerate. You would think that a weather policy would be in place.

But I don't care. I took the day off because it was the safest thing to do for both myself and my family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rant #190: The Blame Game

Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter yesterday. This sets the stage for a potentially sizzling courtroom drama as prosecutors attempt to proved the good doctor caused the singer's death.

According to the criminal complaint, the doctor "did unlawfully, and without malice, kill" Jackson, by acting "without due cautiion and circumspection."

Murray supposedly administered a powerful general anesthetic and other drugs to the singer in order to help him to go to sleep.

As Murray walked by fans on his way to the courtroom, some were reported to cry out, "Murderer!" as he passed them.

Well, the newest courtroom circus will certainly be this trial. Anything having to do with Michael Jackson, either in life or death, is sort of like a circus, so should this be any different?

Jackson was a brilliant singer, dancer, and all-around entertainer. However, he had massive social problems, even if few people want to admit it now that he is in the ground. He was also a drug abuser before the doctor came on the scene.

So where does Murray fit into all of this?

Well, it was under his watch that Jackson died, supposedly under his care. He gave him drugs that are only used in a hospital, not at home. He supposedly was late to the scene, on a cell phone yaking away, when Jackson's body gave out.

But, even though the Jackson family does not want to hear this--and neither do fans who were blinded by Jackson's talent--how much is Jackson himself culpable for his own death?

Look, we know he had insomnia. But to allow a doctor to administer things to your body that are only used during surgical procedures ... I mean, come on, don't you think Jackson should have said no?

How much was the doctor directed by Jackson--and his money--to partake in this episode?

The doctor was on the payroll, so he was another in the succession of "Yes" men that Jackson had in his employ.

Damn the Hippocratic Oath!

The doctor was an enabler, but you have to have one that governs your actions to be an enabler, and Jackson was it.

And where were Jackson's friends and family during this period? Funny, they seemed to all crawl out of the woordwork when he died.

I am sure the doctor will be penalized in some way, perhaps even lose his license to practice medicine in the state of California.

But I don't believe he was totally at fault here. Jackson had to have known he was getting something out of the realm of what we consider normal to help him go to sleep.

And sleep he did.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rant #189: Hot Dreams

My wife hates the winter.

She absolutely abhors anything and everything to do with the winter: the cold, the wind, the bundling up, and, of course, the snow.

She has lived in New York State her entire life, as I have, but she just hates this season more than the other seasons.

I put up with it; she hates it.

This past weekend, pretty much all of Long Island dodged a huge bullet, as we were at the tail end of that massive blizzard that dumped three feet of snow in some places.

By us, we received a slight dusting, nothing more. We were really lucky.

But now, the weather forecasters are predicting that snow is coming on Wednesday, and this is a bullet that Long Island will have to take this time. We might get a foot, give or take a few inches.

Well, as you can imagine. This makes my wife quite upset. More snow means more headaches.

And she happens to be off from work that day, which makes the situation even more repulsive to her.

When we retire--or whatever we will do when we are in our 60s--she wants us to move to Florida. When we go down there on vacation, moving to that state looks more and more like it might be something that we would do.

But one problem with this: weather patterns are changing.

In December, Tampa saw its first frost and snowflakes in decades. All of Florida has generally had a cooler winter.

By the time we might move there, in the 2020s, we might have to dig ourselves out down there too.

Maybe Hawaii would be a better retirement destination?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rant #188: The Day the Music Died-Two Days Late

Just the other day, an anniversary passed pretty much without a whimper.

It passed me by too.

It was “the day that the music died,” when the 51st anniversary of the terrible plan crash that took three of the music world’s biggest stars from us—Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

The incident was immortalized forever in Don McLean’s song “American Pie,” and for some, it signaled the end of the innocence associated with the 1950s.

I was a little younger than two years old when this incident happened, so I really don’t have any recollection of it at all, except when I later heard about it as I became enamored with rock ‘n roll.

But to some, it is as profound an incident as when President Kennedy was assassinated a few years later.

During their few years entertaining us, Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper—Jiles Perry “J.P.” Richardson—left a huge body of work that, all these years later, has found its way to the newest, high-tech mediums.

The music is out there, one only has to look for it.

Films have been made about the crash, and about Holly and Valens. A film about the Big Bopper was in the works, but I haven’t heard much about it recently.

How does “the day the music died” relate to today’s world?

I don’t rightfully have the answer to that question. I doubt too many kids know about the incident or the people that perished. I doubt that many kids questioned anyone when they heard Madonna’s horrid remake of “American Pie” a few years back.

But the incident—and the song—still have their place in today’s world.

Life is a precious thing, thrown away by people who don't realize this (see Leif Garrett and Gary Coleman rants). The principles involved have grown bigger as our memories of them, as they were, have continued to grow through the latest media.

And if our kids happen to ask us who they were, we can give them the right answers.

The incident is part of history, and kids should know about it too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rant #187: Not Turning Over a New Leif

I am sure you heard that former pop star Leif Garrett was picked up for drug possession yet again on Monday.

After looking weary and shaking violently in a train station in Los Angeles, a police officer approached Garrett and asked him if he had been doing drugs or had any on him. He told the officer that he often shakes nervously when a police officer approaches because of his past history, which has been laden with drug arrests.

Of course, a few minutes later, he fessed up, saying that he had heroin in his shoes.

He was arrested and jailed until his release yesterday morning. His next court date is Feb. 24.

What is it with these 1970s teen idols and pop stars that they simply can't handle themselves in public by the time they get into their 30s and 40s?

Of course, I have ranted extensively about Gary Coleman, the pint-sized actor who gets into trouble with the law almost on a monthly basis.

There have been many others, and here we have Garrett, who at 48 looks about 20 years older because of what he has done to his body with drugs over the years.

You might remember that his sister is Dawn Lyn, who played Dodie during the last three or so seasons of "My Three Sons." She can't help him, because she lives in Europe.

Like all of these former child stars, he has got to help himself before he can move beyond this type of nonsense. He has to get into his head that he is not the teen pop star of "I Was Made For Dancing" fame or the guy who graced plenty of 16 Magazine covers.

He is simply a 48-year old drug addict, plain and simple.

He must learn to deal with this, get the proper help, and move on.

If he doesn't do this, he will wind up like other child stars who just don't get it and die very young.

So Leif, get a life and get sober. Nearing 50 years of age, isn't it time?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rant #186: Winterized!

The groundhogs have had their say, and according to their findings, we will be seeing more winter this year.

Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous of these weather prognosticators, saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, which was yesterday on Feb. 2. This means that there are six more weeks of winter that we are in store for.

Local prognosticators Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal also saw their shadows, and darned if they may not be right, because as I look outside my window, it is snowing here on Long Island.

It appears the only one who is not in agreement is Staten Island's own groundhog, whose name I don't know. I heard yesterday that he did not see his shadow, so we won't have a long winter this year.

Well, it is three against one. As the snow falls today, I have to say that if I were a betting man, I would place my money on the three.

Sure, this is all nonsense when you look at it, but people's lives are run by the weather. Forecasting the weather is important business. Don't we get upset when our local forecasters get a forecast wrong? Don't we swear up and down when our plans are derailed because of the weather?

And this winter, the weather has been strange, to say the least. The West has received an incredible amount of rain, the Midwest has gotten a little bit of everything, and the East has had lots of snow starting in December.

Maybe we should roll out the groundhogs even more often during the year. They seem to be at least as good as your local talking head weather forecaster is at predicting the weather.

Let me get my shovel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rant #185: To the Moon?

The race back to the moon appears to be over, at least for now, and at least in the foreseeable future and in my lifetime.

Instead of going back to the moon, the Obama Administration wants to invest $6 billion over five years in a commercial taxi to orbit. The idea is to give the private sector the impetus to take over routine flights into space.

About the only good thing that the previous administration of George Bush did while it was in power was to create the Constellation program, which had a goal of putting Americans on the moon once again. Somewhere in the range of $9 billion was spent on the program's development of a new crew capsule, the Orion, and a new rocket, the Ares I.

Well, that is all out the window now.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said it all. "The President's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of U.S. human space flight. The cancellation of the Constellation program and the end of human space flight does represent change, but it is certainly not the change I believe in."

I would have to agree. Scuttling the space program is putting shackles on further improvement in our ways of life on earth. Remember, without the space program, you would not be reading this rant, because compact, workable computers would not have come about without the space program.

Nor would cellular phones, iPods, and many, many other devices that are considered to be standards in our civilization today.

By basically killing the space program, the current administration is also setting back technology at least several decades. My kids won't see the advances I have seen over my lifetime because there won't be a platform for these advances.

I don't buy this latest move, and I hope that Americans see it as a poor decision.

Because that is what it is.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rant #184: Hype, Hype and More Hype

I will preface this by saying that I am not a football fan.

If that statement turns you off, please don't read on, because you won't like what you will read about the sport in this rant.

Anyway, now that the Pro Bowl is over, we have a week of hype, hype, and nothing but hype, leading up to the Super Bowl.

Players from the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints will be asked among other questions:

"How do you feel?"

"Do you think you can beat (either the Colts or the Saints)?"

"How do you prepare for the big game?"

And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on ...

I really hate football because of what it has become. It is about 90 percent hype, 10 percent game, and when you are talking about the Super Bowl, it is really 95 percent hype, 5 percent game.

That is because, if you are really honest about it, there isn't really that much to talk about.

You have the NFL's two best teams, or at least the teams that came out of the interminable playoffs as winners.

They will go head to head in a one game winner take all contest.

What more needs to be said?

Well, football is our national obsession, so I guess there is plenty more to say, or so we are led to believe. And I still say that most people have an interest in this game because they have bet some money on it. They have no real interest in football, but when money is involved, their interest goes up to the sky.

Next Sunday, February 7, is sort of a quasi national holiday. Most eyes will be tuned to the Super Bowl.

However, mine won't be, not even for the half-time show with the Who, or what constitutes the Who nowadays.

I haven't watched a Super Bowl in decades, and I won't be watching this one.

What's on the Food Channel or Travel Channel during the game?

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