Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rant #223: Chocolate Health Benefits Too Sweet To Believe

Well, once again, a new study shows that eating chocolate can actually be good for you.

German researchers found that eating just six grams of chocolate a day--and that is dark chocolate, not the more common milk chocolate--could prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa and potentially protective flavonols, and the ingestion of this type of chocolate seems to help a person's health.

Just what we needed--another study saying that chocolate is good for you!

I am sure that the candy industry is licking its chops once again over this one.

Remember, dark chocolate is much more expensive than milk chocolate, so now, it gives more reasons for these companies to churn out this stuff.

And, of course, people will buy it, thinking that dark chocolate, and dark chocolate alone, will cure their ills.

And they will eat it, whole bars and large amounts, even though the study says that just basically a smidgen a day could help you.

I am almost willing to believe that the chocolate companies will one day list their dark chocolate offerings as "Health Food," and proceed to have these items placed next to vitamins and those types of things.

Let's be sensible about this. Wine has also been listed as healthy when taken properly, but it doesn't mean that binging on wine is the way to good health.

A little bit of just about everything in moderation is OK for you, but you have to add in exercise, a better diet and lifestyle, and your genes into the picture.

These research studies simply give people another set of reasons to chomp down chocolate as if it were water, and it is simply not the way to do this.

Personally, I have never been much of a candy eater.

My scourge is cookies. I love cookies, and yes, some of them have chocolate in them.

But I am not going to try to reason with you that eating five chocolate cookies in one sitting is going to help my heart and general health.

But I am sure some people will reason with themselves that this is true.

What's next? Bubblegum is good for your teeth?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rant #222: Jello Shots

Some of you might have heard about a quaint little case that has reared its ugly head on Long Island.

Two elderly people with nothing better to do in their lives bought several boxes of Jello at a few area markets, took the Jello mix out, and replaced it with salt and sand. They put their concoction in a bag, sealed it, and placed it back in the Jello box. Then they went back to the markets, demanding refunds for tainted products.

Happily, they were caught pretty much from the get go by surveillance video at the markets.

Evidently, the elderly woman has had some mental problems, and her husband, who loved her dearly but was of supposedly sane mind, did what she asked out of love and commitment to this person.

They were caught, and now face various charges.

Their lawyer is portraying them as almost "innocents," not aware of what they were doing.

I don't care how senile a person is, if they concoct a scheme like this, they can't possibly be that senile, can they?

But the love the husband showed for his wife is incredible. Even though he knew she was doing wrong, he went along with this scheme out of commitment to his mate.

Sure he was wrong--as wrong as she was, or even more wrong, since he supposedly knew what he was doing was not above board--but he loved the woman and did what she wanted.

Love is a funny thing. It kind of blinds you, at times. I think it is one of the most powerful emotions that one can have.

Here, the husband's devotion to his wife won out over clear thinking.

I am not absolving the husband at all. He appears to be a squeamish individual.

But that devotion to his wife ...

Love is a funny thing, isn't it?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rant #221: Happy Holidays

This time of year is pretty special, as two of the most revered religious holidays come on top of each other.

Passover begins this evening and lasts for the next eight days. It signifies the Jews' flight out of Egypt, and its greatest symbol, matzoh, reflects the unleavened bread that the Jews ate in their flight. Seders are held tonight and tomorrow night, and religious Jews hold a final Seder on the final night.

Easter allows Christians to reflect on Jesus Christ and upon themselves. This is perhaps the most sacred holiday on the calendar for Christians, and it is preceded by Palm Sunday, yesterday, and Good Friday, coming up this week.

As a Jew, Passover for me is probably the best Jewish holiday on the calendar. Unlike Chanukah, where you are under pressure to buy gifts, on Passover, you aren't under pressure to do much of anything--unless you are cooking and/or preparing for the Seder-- but follow the fabled "Four Questions" and eat until you can't move. All kidding aside, following the Jews' flight from Egypt with the rest of your family is a great tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation, and my kids get a special kick out of this holiday, as I have for all these years.

I am sure the family gatherings that take place during Easter present the same introspection that the Passover Seder does.

So for everyone, happy holiday. I don't have much else to say, but for whatever holiday you follow, these coming days are to be cherished as we meet with our families to study our religious past, present, and future.

So to all, have a nice holiday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rant #220: Misplaced In A Flash

You know how every once in a while you forget where you put something? You know you had it with you, but you just can't find it now when you need it?

Well, I had that experience the other day with a flash drive that my daughter gave me some time back.

I had it with me at work, put a couple of items on it, put it in my pocket, took it home (I presume), and now I can't find it.

I did all the things one would do to find this thing. I retraced my steps, went into the laundry basket and went through my clothes to see if I left it in there, looked on the floor, looked in some other places, but alas, that flash drive is gone, hidden somewhere in a place that I may never find it.

I liked that little flash drive. It stored everything I wanted it to store, and on my recent business trip, all my work went onto that thing.

Heck, I went from New York to Florida and all the way back with this thing, flew a few thousand miles, even made it through security with this thing, and now it is gone.

It is probably somewhere close, in my house. But you know how small those things are--it probably is hidden somewhere.

I asked my family if they had seen it, but they had not.

I even asked the dog. I thought he might have mistook it for a treat. But I don't think so. And no, I am not looking through his poop for it.

So right now, that little flash drive is gone, gone into oblivion.

I miss that little thing.

Oh where, oh where can it be?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rant #219: Robert Culp Spied Out

Robert Culp, the veteran actor and civil rights activist, died yesterday at the age of 79.

Culp was what you would call an actor made for television. Although he did have a number of movie roles--including starring in the groundbreaking sex comedy "Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice"--he is best known for the myriad number of TV roles that he portrayed for the past 50 years or so.

He was one numerous television shows, playing both good guys and villains, and he could do both convincingly because of his talent and rugged good looks.

But he will probably best be remembered by two generations of TV fans--first, for his lead role on "I Spy" opposite Bill Cosby, and then, opposite William Katt on "The Greatest American Hero."

He always had a coolness about him that some may have found smug, but I found engaging.

And in his last prominent semi-regular TV role, on "Everybody Loves Raymond," he chewed the scenery as much as he ever had. You could tell he loved doing the show, and it came out in his performance.

Culp was also a civil rights activist. First, he campaigned for untried--and black--Cosby to play the role of his trainer on "I Spy," and it worked to the hilt for the three seasons the show was on. In fact, Cosby won the acting Emmy a few times while on the show, while Culp won nothing. But Culp later said that he was as proud as Cosby as he could be, and you really believed him. There were no sour grapes displayed here, at least publicly, as the teacher applauded the student.

Then, when Martin Luther King was murdered in 1968, Culp and Cosby participated in numerous civil rights marches and other activities to show their support for his dream.

You didn't have to agree with him, but you had to admire his conviction to things he believed in.

This guy was good at what he did. Not only was he an actor, but he wrote numerous scripts for "I Spy," and often was allowed to change the scripts on the show where he saw fit. I believe he also embellished the pilot episode's script, to make it more current for the time.

He could do it all, and often did.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rant #218: Baseball Tickets Strike Out (Part 3)

Not to bore you with this continuing saga (even though I probably am), but here goes anyway ...

I did not receive a confirmation of my five ticket purchase, so I called the ticket broker once again.

I called them right when they began their day of business, so I waited just a few minutes to reach someone.

I explained the situation, and the person on the other end of the phone was cordial and pleasant.

He told me that my order was being processed, and that he would send me an email confirmation, which I received about a half hour after speaking with him.

So I guess this story is over ... but I haven't received the tickets yet, and won't get them until, I was told, mid April.

Until I have those tickets in my hand--and really, until I go to Yankee Stadium and pass through the turnstiles with my family--this story will not be over for me.

I don't trust these brokers, I don't trust those who sell their tickets through these brokers, and I don't trust the process that puts an honest, hard-working person who wants to take his family out to a ball game into such a mess.

There has to be a better way.

I can think of just one way to obliterate this situation.

And that is to stay home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rant #217: Baseball Tickets Strike Out (Part Two)

Just when I thought things were getting back to some type of normalcy ...

I received an email from the ticket broker saying that the ticket holder--whom I supposedly got tickets from for the Yankees game through a broker--had rejected my offer! I have never heard of this before, but I guess the person got a better offer somewhere else (I guess, I can't think of any other reason).

Anyway, I was told that I had to call the ticket broker back "because they had a comparable deal for me." It even gave me a name to contact, with an extension.

Well, I contacted the broker and the extension, and the person was unavailable.

Not knowing what to do, I contacted the broker again, and actually got someone on the line.

After a few minutes, the whole thing was taken care of, and I got tickets--and five of them, not four as the other person told me about "multiples of two."

But wait a minute, is it really over? I checked my email today, and there is no confirmation of this latest transaction!

I am really upset about this. I don't know who is at fault here--the Yankees, for having their Web site become unmanageable when they released single game tickets; or the broker, who I am starting not to trust, although I have used them before without problems.

Right now, I am in kind of a holding pattern. I simply do not know what to do.

I guess I will call the broker again and demand a confirmation, or I will stop payment.

What else can I do? All I want to do is to take my family to a Yankees game.

It shouldn't be this way, should it?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rant #216: Baseball Tickets Strike Out

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you know that I am a huge Yankees fan. I have been with them through thick and thin, and this past season was one of the most memorable I can remember, as they won the World Series for the first time since 2000.

The new Yankee Stadium, while a beautiful park, is really just a facsimile of the original park. It has all the bells and whistles, but it just doesn't measure up to the old Stadium. And since it is nearly a twin to the grand old park, why did they tear the other one down, anyway?

To cut to the chase, my family and I went to one game last year, and we could barely afford that one. Not only are ticket prices ridiculous, but travel, parking and food can add up to a very, very expensive day ... and it did for us.

We sat in the nosebleed seats because, for starters, I couldn't afford anything else, and second, even if I could, the seats were pretty much bought up already.

After a championship season, I would expect tickets would be hard to come by, but I had no idea that they would be as hard to come by as I experienced them to be on Friday.

Finally, after a long wait, the Yankees put single-game tickets on sale this past Friday. I diligently waited for the day, and when it came, I--and probably thousands of other people--pounced on the team's Web site, hoping to grab something before it was all gone.

Well, I waited an hour, and still, I had nothing.

Again, I was going for the cheaper seats, because that is still all I can afford. I simply can't afford $100-plus a seat for a family of four, nor could I justify it even if I could.

Well, folks, those seats, at least through the Yankees, are gone. They were taken early by either season ticket holders or other lucky people, so I was shut out totally.

I was so desperate that I went to a "secondary site"--a legal scalper--and I got four tickets there ... or at least I think I did.

I actually wanted five tickets, for my family and my son's friend, whose mom has taken my son to Broadway shows and things like that. I really wanted to take this kid to a game. He is really nice, and my son loves him like a brother.

Anyway, I ordered five tickets for a particular game, and when the total came back to me, I saw that only two tickets were purchased, even though I ordered five.

I contacted the ticket broker, and finally, after a long wait, I hooked up with an operator. The operator told me that they only sell tickets in even numbers; in other words, I could not purchase five, I had to either purchase four or six. I begrudgingly said four, and he said he would change my order.

However, my email confirmation came back as two tickets.

So, after hours of trying, I may have only two tickets for a Yankees game.

Just in comparison, my family and I vacation in Orlando where we have a time share. This year, like last, we will be going to a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game--against the Yankees. When their tickets went on sale about a month ago, it took me about two minutes to choose my tickets and proceed to checkout. No hassle, no bother, no nothing.

And I paid less for those seats than the seats at Yankee Stadium, and we are sitting in the middle section, not the nosebleed section.

There has to be a better way to purchase tickets. I have to chide the Yankees for making it so expensive, as well as so impossible, for an average guy to take his family out to a baseball game.

It really stinks.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rant #215: Shootout At the Less Than OK Corral

What can you say about the Sandra Bullock case?

This perky, effervescent actress, the recent winner of the Academy Award for her performance in "The Blind Side," recently found out that her husband, reality TV star Jesse James, had been fooling around with a tattoo model/stripper while she was filming this movie.

She has moved out of their house, and although James is apologetic, their marriage seems headed for the rocks.

Well, this appears to be one of those cases where you can take the white trash away from the boy, but you can't take the boy away from the white trash.

Why James was even attracted to this piece of garbage, who appears to have every spot of her anatomy covered in tattoos, is a mystery. Perhaps his wife didn't have the requisite number of tattoos the overly tattooed himself James has. He goes for women like this; his second wife, Janine, is a hugely popular porn star with huge breasts and equally huge tattoos all over her body.

Anyway, this seems an inopportune time for Bullock to have to deal with this mess.

After years of not being taken too seriously as an actress, the ever popular actress finally hit her stride with this movie. Now, her memories of this film will also include the "when the cat is away, the mice will play" scenario, which might ruin the experience, taking her off the high she was probably on when she filmed the movie and months later, was presented with this award.

Let's face it; Jesse James, like Tiger Woods, Steve Phillips, David Letterman and the like, is a piece of trash who can't keep his pants on. Why he chose this piece of garbage over Bullock is beyond my comprehension, but he made that choice.

It's not the first time a husband has strayed, and it certainly won't be the last.

But when it happens to an All-American girl who is firmly in the spotlight right now, I think it hurts her, of course, but I think it also hurts the general public, too.

If this cad cheated on her, our vision of the All-American family, with the mom, dad, kids and white picket fence, is shattered, and shattered for good.

And that is really the tragedy of this whole thing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rant #214: March Madness Is Just That

As you probably know if you follow this blog, I love basketball.

Even though they are awful, I am a big Knicks fan, and a big NBA fan.

But I do not like college basketball. I know that most of the pros come from college, but I just don't like watching college basketball. To me, it's like watching minor league baseball. It may be close to the real thing, but it isn't the real thing, not by a long shot.

So this is a bad time for people like me, because we are now in the middle of "March Madness," that insane time when just about every college and university in the United States is competing for the NCAA basketball championship.

And, of course, when you have so many teams competing for this prize, you have all the phony fans all of sudden getting interested in teams they never heard of, because they are in some betting bracket at work and hope to win a nice amount of money if their team goes all the way.

I really can't stand this type of behavior. I can see if you follow college basketball all year, but to get into it right now simply because you have placed money on its outcome to me is a bit nuts.

And that is why this nonsense is so popular. Just like events like the Super Bowl, there is a heightened awareness of the event not because of increased interest, but because of the uptick in betting that occurs now.

But we, as a society, play into this.

Why manufacturers are allowed to get into the NCAA tournament and make a buck off of it is beyond me.

Remember, these are supposed to be college kids going to college for an education. I know, I know, that isn't really what they are there for, but, well, that is what they are supposed to be there for.

If a handful of these kids move onto playing professionally, it will be a lot.

And what happens to the other ones, the ones whose basketball careers crest with this tournament? What happens to them?

Well, one example is a story that happened near me, where a kid who competed just two years ago in the NCAA tournament was picked up for being part of a heroin ring.

No, I am not saying that this is the way that those not going pro will go, but it is an example of high expectations softened by reality.

There is nothing wrong with college athletics, as long as they are kept within the athletic mode. With all the posturing, manufacturer participation--including giveaways, contests, and the like--and betting, the NCAA tournament has nothing to do with athletics anymore.

And anybody who thinks it does is as foolish as the NCAA itself, which is allowed to get away with this because it polices itself, and does a real bad job of it.

Nobody wins here. Even our President makes his top picks.

What can you do?

Do like I do. Ignore it. Ignore all the phony "interested" talk at work. Watch something else.

It has worked for me, it can work for you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rant #213: A Voice Is Stilled

No, I am not talking about mine. I went on my business trip, did what I had to do, returned, and basically fell into a stack of work and other things that had to be taken care of. While I am not at a comfortable point yet, I am getting there.

The voice that was stilled the other day was that of Ron Lundy, one of the greatest of the New York AM disk jockeys of the 1960s and 1970s. He died after a long illness, but his voice, and the memories that that voice produced, will live on for the generation that he used to salute by saying "Hello, Love!"

You wouldn't think a guy with a Southern drawl would make it in the big city like he did, but he was a disk Jockey with AM music powerhouse WABC when that station was probably the most important radio station on the planet. Along with other classic AM DJs like Bruce Morrow, Harry Harrison and Dan Ingram, he made that station the top station in the country; you had to have your record on the station for it to be a hit if not just in New York, then across the country.

Tastes changed, and when WABC went talk, Lundy and the others moved over the WCBS-FM, establishing that station as the No. 1 oldies station in the country. That station also changed gears for a while, but with the constant campaigning by fans of the old format and by the classic DJs, that station returned to the oldies format a few years back.

Lundy was a DJ when DJs, the music they played, and the stations that they played this music on, were an incredibly important part of the fabric of New York City and every major city across the country. In New York--and elsewhere, since its signal often reached thousands of miles--everyone listened to WABC, and the station was almost something of an electronic community center, not only delivering the hottest music around, but also news, weather, and local information. It was almost the Internet of its time.

Ron Lundy was a classic. Although not as brash as Ingram and Morrow--he was more in the Harrison mode--he has his own nuances that were so inviting that when listening to him, it was like you were listening to a friend talking directly to you--not over you, under you, or through you, like today's DJs. Sure, the music was the important thing, but when Lundy and the others had time to talk, you listened. You had to, because if you didn't, you would definitely miss something that you would regret later on.

Lundy joins another one of the classic DJs of the time--Scott Muni--in a better place. With these classic DJs not getting any younger, that fraternity will sadly grow over the next several years.

I just hope that they are doing what they love, and what we loved about them.

"This is Ron Lundy from the greatest city in the world"--man, I miss him already.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rant #212: Looking Forward To the Summer

Today, as I am ready to go on my dreaded business trip tomorrow, I look forward to better times.

And better times, to me, means the summer.

So much is happening this summer that I really wish it was here already.

Not only am I, and everyone else, expecting nicer weather this summer, but baseball will be in the heart of its season, as my favorite team, the Yankees, defend their championship against the rest of baseball.

It is going to be an interesting season, but I think the Yankees can do it.

My family and I will be going to, hopefully, a few games (if the Yankees ever start selling single game tickets, that is), but we already have tickets for a Tampa Bay Rays game when we go on vacation.

Also, this summer, I am having my reunion barbecue, which I have talked about here several rants ago and which is going full steam ahead right now.

There has been lots of interest in this reunion, and it should be a lot of fun.

Also, this summer, my daughter will be out looking for work as millions of other recent college graduates will be. Unemployment is still very high, and the job prospects for newly graduated kids is very, very bad.

Her degree will be in elementary education, and with a little luck, she will find a job.

If anybody has any "ins" with any school districts, please contact me. A foot in the door is always welcome.

Also, my son will be preparing to go into high school, which can be very nerve-racking. I am hoping that high school for him is better than it was for me. I absolutely hated high school, and I have few good memories of my time before college.

So as you can see, this summer might be quite memorable for myself and my family.

I hope, as the winter days dwindle down to spring, that it will be a memorable one for you too.

Speak to you after my business trip on Monday.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rant #211: Please Mr. Employer, I Don't Want To Go

I have to go on a business trip this weekend. I don't do many of these, but this time, I have to go, because there is no one else who is available to do it.

The problem is that I really don't want to go.

I should stop complaining, actually. Some people get sent to business trips in the heart of nowhere, where there is nothing to do outside of the place you will be staying at and attending the conference or expo you are going to.

On this business trip, I will be going to Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World and one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

The problem is that I would rather not go.

This thing that I am attending is being held over the weekend, which makes things very difficult for me. I use the weekend, like we all do, to unwind and to relax after a hard week at work. Those two days give me some time to reconnect with my family. Even if we do nothing but sit at home, the weekend still serves a purpose.

Well, there will be no unwinding and relaxing this weekend. The company I work for is not sending me to Orlando to sit around the pool--I have to work.

I have to interview several people at this event that I am going to, and we need a quick turnaround in the writing of the story that the interviews will appear in. So, I will be doing interviews all day Saturday and Sunday, and writing at night. I won't be too good of a dinner companion, as I will eat, go back to my room, and put together this story.

I leave on Friday afternoon and come back late Sunday night, and no, my company does not give you any days off if you work the weekend. In fact, they crab when you have to take off time for personal matters.

Yes, they think they own you, and in a way, they do. In this economy, this nearly 53-year old guy does not want to be out on the street in the unemployment line.

So I will go, do what I have to do, and hopefully, it will go well.

But on Monday morning, I will be like a zombie. So don't expect too much here then, and for that matter, next week.

What can I say ... going to Florida and not enjoying what the state has to offer is like going to a pizza parlor and drinking water without having a slice.

What a waste.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rant #210: Rabbis Blox Bagels and Lox

I heard yesterday that some ultra-Orthodox Rabbinical Board decreed that bagels and lox were not kosher anymore, and thus, for those Jews that follow these laws, had become verboten.

I have to tell you right off the bat that I am the only Jew in the world who does not like lox. I have never liked them, don't know what the big deal is about them, and don't eat them.

But millions of Jews--and Gentiles--just love lox.

So you can say that since I don't like them, I am following what this Rabbinical Board said, because I am not eating them.

However, for those that love them, the problem is, according to the Rabbinical Board, that lox--and other fish--contain a certain parasite that now can't be classified. Since it can't be classified, it can't be kosher. Simple as that.

But it isn't simple as that.

The parasite, which is acknowledged to exist, dies out when the fish are refrigerated.

So when you eat the lox, the parasite does not exist anymore.

So other Rabbinical organizations say, go ahead, eat the lox, because it is, in fact, kosher.

Once again, you have groups of the same faith butting heads. One group says no, the other group says yes.

What is a poor Orthodox Jew to do?

Since I am not Orthodox, and since I don't eat lox anyway, it doesn't really matter to me. But it does matter to millions around the world.

It almost boils down to the old question, "What is a Jew?"

Is a Jew someone who keeps a kosher home, or can a Jew be someone who simply follows the Old Testament the way he or she wants to interpret it?

This question is one for the ages, and you can get good arguments going both ways.

I guess that personally, I am a Jew, but because I don't keep a kosher home, I am a heathen to some of my own faith. I don't follow all the holidays, and although my son was bar mitzvahed, as was I, some Jews don't consider me Jewish.

I will go even further. My wife's father is Jewish, but her deceased mother was not. She brought up the three children--my wife has two brothers--in the Jewish faith, but she never converted.

So I guess I am even a worse heathen, because to some, I did not marry a person who is Jewish by the laws that some say govern our religion.

Of course, we were married by an Orthodox rabbi, who found nothing inappropriate.

Ah, these types of arguments are what makes the world go around.

But don't pass me the lox. I don't like them.

And for that, some would consider me the worst heathen of all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rant #209: An Atrocity

My son and I went to our second, and last, Knicks game of the year at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, March 6.

To say that the game was an atrocity was actually being kind.

I am willing to bet that in the long annals of history of Madison Square Garden, this would have to go down as one of the 10 worst games ever played at the venerable arena.

The Knicks lost to the lowly New Jersey Nets, 113-93. The Nets, that perpetually vagabond team that will be playing in Newark next season and hopes to someday play in Brooklyn, had won only six games the entire season before facing the Knicks.

Well, after the game, they had won their seventh game, and won it going away.

On Latino Night, the crowd booed the Knicks throughout the game, and you needn't have been bilingual to understand that the boos were derisive.

I mean, the Knicks stink.

At least I can say that we were at a game that set an NBA record. The Knicks missed 18 three-point shots, which is the new record.

And, oh yes, we also got some boxing and wrestling during the game, as to the right of us, there was a fight between some drunks.

No, there is never a dull moment at a Knicks game, even if the excitement is in the stands, and not on the court.

And even though management feels that they have the fans on their side in their long-winded trek to reserve salary space for at least one major superstar signing during the summer, they don't have as much support as they feel that they do.

Don't ask the corporate types in the lower regions of the Garden, who are only at the game to be seen and probably got their tickets as freebies; ask people like me who sat up in Section 415, because let's be honest about it, we're more honest; we're closer to God.

The Knicks are a fraud, and until the thinking changes about what to do to bring this team back to where it should be, it will remain a fraud.

I ask for the upteenth time: what happens if they don't sign Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, or any other major free agent?

Donnie Walsh, the GM who is way past his glory years in this game, and Mike D'Antoni, the coach who somehow got suckered into this deal, are the main culprits in this mess. Walsh even bought himself more time the other day when he said that the plans the Knicks have don't just end in 2010, they might have to stretch into 2011.

Of course, his, and D'Antoni's, contracts end in 2011, so they may be leaving here having accomplished nothing.

What my son and I and a house that was maybe three-quarters filled saw was what amounted to an expansion team, nothing more.

And they are already selling season tickets for the 2010-2011 season!

For shame, for shame.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rant #208: Monkee See, Monkee Do

Here is an instance where my two blogs kind of cross-over into one.

As many of you know, I also run The Colgems Blog, which can be found at For the uninitiated, this blog focuses on the classic Colgems Records label, which was part of the RCA family of labels in the 1960s and very early 1970s.

It had many notables acts at one time or another, including Quincy Jones, the Lewis and Clarke Expedition--featuring future country star Michael Martin Murphey--Sally Field (as the Flying Nun) and Rich Little among its quirky roster.

But the whole thing was possible because of its one real hit-making success, The Monkees. During 1966-1970, the Pre-Fab Four placed four number one albums, three number one singles, and bushelful of other hits on the charts through this label.

Anyway, the reason I am tying this blog and that blog together is that I want to comment on a non-Colgems release, although it involves the Monkees.

Rhino records owns the rights to the entire video and recording history of the band, and one could say that they have milked it for everything that it's worth over the past nearly two decades or so. They have put out Monkees music in every possible way imaginable--CDs, LPs, 45s, CD-Roms, DVD, karaoke, etc.--and there seems no stopping them from continuing to do this for the immediate future.

During the past few years, for real Monkee-maniacs (of which I am one), they have been putting out re-releases of the original albums. But these simply aren't straight re-releases. They come with numerous bonus tracks, in-studio experiments and chatter, different versions of songs, and gems that were never released originally on the Colgems label.

They are currently up to album No. 5, "The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees."

After a string of four straight No. 1 albums on Colgems, this album "only" reached No. 3. It features two of the group's biggest hits--"Daydream Believer" and "Valleri"-- as well as top 40 hit "Tapioca Tundra."

It is perhaps the most interesting album of the first five, because it features the best and the worst of the Monkees, on an album that, for all intents and purposes, signaled the end of Peter, Micky, Mike and Davy as musical forces to be reckoned with, at least within the Top 40.

But what Rhino did with this album is truly remarkable. They have included both the stereo and extremely hard-to-get mono versions of the album, plus an abundance of rare and unreleased tracks and early versions of songs that will have fans beaming.

The three-CDs come in an incredibly put-together box, with a 3D cover and a booklet with extensive information about the making of the original LP.

This is truly a glorious release, one that Monkees fans--as well as fans of 1960s pop--have been waiting for for a long, long time.

Sure, the price is kind of steep--$60 or so--but for this particular release, it is worth it.

No, it doesn't have everything from this period, but it has enough to whet the appetite for the next re-release, the soundtrack to the Monkees' lone film, "Head." As Monkeephiles know, there is an incredible melange of music, stories, and controversies about this film that could probably fill about 10 disks, but it is in Rhino's hands to fulfill every fan's wish to release as much as they can on this rerelease, one which we probably won't see for a few years.

But based on Rhino's past performance, we know that they can do it.

But in the meantime, search out all the re-releases, especially "The Birds, the Bees, and the Monkees." I can guarantee that you will not regret it.

Go to to find out more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rant #207: Everything Going Up, Up, and Away!

I don't know if you have noticed, but gas prices are starting to go up again.

At least where I live, the prices are rapidly approaching $3 a gallon, and I think they will probably go beyond this in due time.

The average price in my neck of the woods is $2.87 for regular gas. That's more than 80 cents more than it was a year ago.

There's plenty of gas around--the Energy Department said yesterday that national inventories are up 7 percent from 2009, while demand is down 3.5 percent.

If we have plenty of gas, why is it going up?

Well, now is the beginning of the time that the oil companies can make their killings. Starting about now, people will begin to drive a little bit more than they did during the depths of winter. Sure, we are still in winter, but this is when their window opens to make more money, and it will continue through the spring and into the summer. There could be adjustments if the demand picks up a bit--which it should--but we are now in the period where you won't see cheap gas prices anymore for several months at least.

Whatever we make for a salary is going into paying for things with higher prices. Although I have read differing opinions on this, have you been to the supermarket lately? Prices are as high as they have ever been.

This leads to the next dose of reality--restaurant visits are down.

The NPD group reported that in 2009, restaurant visits were down 3 percent.

In the past, there was no correlation between visits to higher-end eateries and fast food joints, but now the two are linked, because restaurant visits, across the board, have dipped.

What this means is that people who used to go out to real restaurants aren't just not going to these establishments, they aren't going out to eat, period.

It costs money to dine out, whether you are talking about eating at some fancy place or Burger King. And people don't want to spend the money because they don't have it. And yes, you have to drive to these places, and people are trying to cut down on their driving, especially with prices the way they are going.

This makes supermarket shopping an even more important part of our lives, because people are buying enough food so they can eat in seven days a week. And prices, I feel, are going up at the supermarket, because as fuel prices rise, the price of transporting goods to these stores also rises, and the costs must be passed down to the consumer.

But now I read that supermarket chains like Kroger are also feeling the effects, as their customers aren't spending as much as they used to on groceries--probably because they can't afford it, or are buying less expensive brands or in-house brands to save money.

You see, all these things are tied in.

And no matter what anyone says, we are still in the middle of a very deep recession. Unemployment is still way up, and even people who are working don't have the cash they once had.

And let's not even get into the credit card mess we are all in.

Honestly, I have no answers to any of these problems. I am as much a victim of what is going on as we all are.

Our leaders in Washington must do something about this, and other than saying we have to personally cut back on everything, I don't think they have done a very good job at getting this country back on track to where it should be.

So what is the solution?

Get people in there who can do something. And I don't care what party they are from, just get them in there and let them work their magic.

How much longer can the average person suffer, while our elected officials do little or nothing to alleviate the problems we have?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rant #206: Take a Snooze!

According to new research, a snooze during the middle of the day can restore or even boost your brain power.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley took a group of 39 adults and divided them into two groups. All were given a learning task at noon to test their fact-based memories. Both groups performed at comparable levels on this test. One group was then allowed to take a 90-minute nap. At 6 p.m., both groups were given a round of tasks, and those that were allowed to take a nap performed better than those who weren't allowed to get some shuteye.

What does this prove? I am sure that some will say that it proves that the Mexicans (or at least the stereotype that existed way back when) was right--a mid-day siesta is the best thing for the brain. It helps rest it, and prepares you better for the rest of the day.

Others would say that the test was faulty, because it re-tested several hours after the sleeping group had had their snooze.

Well, I don't expect my employer to allow us to go to sleep during the middle of the day, because the time spent sleeping is time that, they feel, could be put to better use.

Heck, I don't even see anyone taking a nap during our lunch break, which is from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Like most of us, there are days that I wish I could take a nap. Like right now. I am dead tired, and have been going to bed early at least six of the seven days of the week for many, many weeks. I just can't stay up anymore after a rigorous day at work.

So to those researchers--and I want to believe them, if for nothing else than my uncle taught there in the 1960s--please continue to look into the mid-day snoozes. Maybe one day, you will convince the world that such a thing should be part of our workday. You know, like when we were babies, when we needed to take a nap because, well, our parents needed it.

Keep dreaming ...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rant #205: Scoliosis Part 2

My family and I went to the company that makes the device that will hopefully help cure my son's scoliosis. After a few days of wracking our nerves, the explanation that we received from the person designing this contraption pretty much put us at ease with what has to be done.

Gone are the days when the brace was really that--a metal construction that had to be worn pretty much the entire day, protruded out of clothing, and was very visible, as well as uncomfortable.

Today, the "brace," if that is what you want to call it, is pretty lighweight, made of heavy plastic with foam padding inside.

The best thing is that since my son's malady is the most common form of scoliosis--don't ask me to explain it, I can't--and thus, the most highly treatable, he only has to wear this thing when he gets home from school and while sleeping.

So, in all probability, he will have to wear it between 12-16 hours a day.

This leaves a lot of room for not wearing it, such as when he goes to school and when he plays and works out.

Sure, it will take a lot of getting used to--for both him and us--but it appears to be manageable.

While there, the technician took multiple measurements of different parts of his body, and told us that our son must wear a tight shirt underneath the device so it doesn't rub against his skin.

My son took it all in stride, although I could see that he was a bit nervous.

Pretty understandable, because my wife and I were pretty nervous too.

But it looks like this is something that we, as a family, can kick together.

We should be getting this custom-made device in two weeks or so, and then we will be instructed on how to put it on. There are multiple straps all over it, and we know that it must be tight, but not suffocating. They will show us how to do it.

Personally, after yesterday, I feel I can breathe a sigh of relief. Honestly, I know my wife and I did not know what to expect.

Now that we know, we will beat this thing together.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rant #204: Scoliosis My Eye!

My son has recently been diagnosed with scoliosis.

To explain exactly what scoliosis is, I turned to Wikipedia. It's a source I usually don't quote from, but in this case, I think it pretty much explains it in a simple enough way so even I can understand it.

Here is the definition:
"Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person's spine is curved from side to side. Although, it is a complex three-dimensional deformity, on an x-ray, viewed from the rear, the spine of an individual with a typical scoliosis may look more like an "S" or a "C" than a straight line. It is typically classified as either congenital (caused by vertebral anomalies present at birth), idiopathic (cause unknown, sub-classified as infantile, juvenile, adolescent, or adult according to when onset occurred) or neuromuscular (having developed as a secondary symptom of another condition, such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy or physical trauma). This condition affects approximately 7 million people in the United States."

My wife and I took our son for a general checkup at his regular doctor, and the doctor said that she felt he might need to be checked out by a specialist. He was, and the diagnosis was that he had this abnormality. We found out that children are normally diagnosed at the onset of puberty with this maladay, and that this is the time that it can be most easily corrected.

Today, myself, my wife and our son have an appointment with a concern that is going to construct a brace for my son to wear to help correct this condition. We don't know yet how long or often he will have to wear this contraption, but my son is taking this whole thing like the pro he is. I think my wife and I are more worried about this than he is.

Our son loves to play sports, and played Little League baseball until right before his 13th birthday. He also loves to play basketball, and you would never know he had this thing if you looked at him.

He was never very athletic, but he loves to play sports. He goes to the gym a few days a week, and he is fairly active (although like most kids today, he sits in front of the computer way too much).

But he has it, and we have to take the bull by the horns and deal with it--and attack it. We don't want him to have back and movement problems later on, so we have to deal with it now.

Sure, my wife and I are nervous about this. If he has to wear the brace during the day, it might help him health-wise, but he may be open to ridicule from his peers in school. Going into high school, he doesn't need such a target placed on him.

He is a shy kid to begin with, and any extra attention drawn to him in a negative way might put him more into his shell than he already is.

Add to that that he is a special ed student, and you can see why my wife and I are concerned.

We will find out soon the schedule for this thing. Once we find that out, I think my wife and I will be OK.

My son, well he is our Rock of Gibraltar, he really is. He is taking the whole thing in stride.

Scoliosis is certainly not the end of the world. There are far worse things to have.

But like many parents with children having this malady, we want to tackle it now, so our son doesn't suffer later on.

I think our son will do fine.

My wife and I ... I think we will get courage just from watching how well our son does battling this thing.

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