Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rant #323: Good Time To Be a Monkee

With the good vibes that I got for my Micky Dolenz post yesterday, I thought I would delve a little bit deeper into what the other former Monkees are doing with their lives more than 40 years after they hit it big as members of the Pre-Fab Four.

Although the public associates them only with that magic 1966-1970 time period--and mainly with the 1966-1968 run of their TV series--Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith have never rested with their laurels, always moving ahead to do something new and different with their lives.

Sure, they will always be Monkees--Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will always be Beatles, that is just the way it is--but they haven't really looked back, or at least looked back enough that they have been engulfed by what was then versus what is now (yes, a play on the name of their 1986 comeback hit).

Peter Tork has had probably the roughest go at it of the foursome. He left the group in 1969, supposedly formed a group named Release which didn't release anything, was in and out of the news as drug and alcohol woes stunted his professional growth, but in the late 1970s, he began a personal and professional resurgence that continues to this day.

In addition to being a part of the Monkees resurgence in concert and on record, Tork formed a blues band, Shoe Suede Blues, and has toured the country in small venues with this ensemble. In early 2008, Tork added "advice columnist" to his extensive resume by authoring an online advice and info column called "Ask Peter Tork" at the webzine The Daily Panic, located at thedailypanic.com.

Diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer, he beat the cancer initially, but it returned about a year ago. He is currently in remission.

Davy Jones is the quintessential teen idol, and was voted the No. 1 teen idol of all time by a poll a few years back. After the Monkees, Jones continued to sing and act, and did extensive stage work back in his native England. He also graduated to the role of Fagin in Oliver (remember, he was the Artful Dodger as a kid on Broadway).

Along with Tork and Dolenz, he was a part of the Monkees resurgence, and he is the one former Monkee who has never escaped the title of teen idol. In fact, a local Long Island band, Sorethumb, recorded a song, "I Wanna Be Your Davy Jones," which Jones participated in via a video for the song.

He still sings and acts all over the country, and he lives on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. He recently married a much younger Telemundo presenter, and he looks about 20 years younger than his age.

Michael Nesmith has the most successful post-Monkees recording career of the foursome, having hits "Joanne" and "Silver Moon" in the early 1970s. He went on to form Pacific Arts, one of the first companies devoted to music video, and yes, he inherited the Liquid Paper fortune from his mom, which I am sure helped matters when things were slow.

He recorded numerous solo albums, won a Grammy award, and even joined the Monkees on tour (briefly). He also recorded Justus with his former bandmates, a terrific album if you can find it. It fell through the cracks, but was a fine recording.

He still records on occasion, oversees a think tank, and pops up here and there when the cause interests him.

And, oh yes, I forgot about this yesterday, but Micky is starring in a SyFy TV movie with the likes of two other former teen idols, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany!

Those are pretty thumbnail glimpses into the post-Monkee lives of the foursome. I am sure you can find more on the Internet about their current whereabouts.

But let's face it--the listing of Micky Dolenz yesterday as the top Yahoo trend shows that people are still interested in these guys all these years later. Sure, they were a "manufactured image, to that we all agree," as taken from their film, "Head," but they managed to make their mark in time during a very special time in our history.

I doubt they will ever get together as a band again, but the memories that they have given us more than makes up for that.

And yes, I still have my albums, 45s, comic books, bubblegum cards ...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rant #322: Hey Micky!

I turned on my computer this morning, and I have it set to open up on the Yahoo home page.

It opened up as it normally does, and my eyes were steered to the "Trending Now" area. For the past couple of months, Yahoo has been listing 10 items--whether people or events or really anything--that are hot trends on its search engine. It is updated throughout the day, and I highly suspect that advertising has something to do with the listings, as well as clicks.

Anyway, it has become a handy tool to see what major celebrities are up to, and also to see who is not long for this earth and has passed away.

Anyway, this morning, I did what I usually do, and who comes up as the No. 1 trend right now?


For the uninitiated, Micky Dolenz is the multi-talented musician/actor/writer/director/inventor and all around jack of all trades who happened to play drums for the Monkees, TV's answer to the Beatles. The Pre-Fab Four--along with Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith--were the top pop group in the world in the mid-1960s, with hits like "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer." Along with their weekly TV show, they also starred in what I consider one of the greatest films of all-time, and at least a major cult item, "Head."

After the Monkees run, Dolenz went on to become a big-time director in England, and still recorded on occasion. When the Monkees became huge again via MTV in 1986, he went on tour with Jones, Tork, and very briefly, Nesmith. Later, he became a DJ on New York's WCBS-FM while balancing recording, acting and directing work.

He has acted on Broadway, written a few books, and creating a device for hanging pictures on a wall.

So, why is he the No. 1 trend right now?

It's for a variety of reasons. He is linked up with Fred Willard as one of the celebrities who has contributed his name to a series of trivia books, and Willard is hot once again as an Emmy nominee for his work on "Modern Family."

Dolenz also has a new CD coming out which has gotten good advanced press. It is called "King For a Day," and on this CD, he covers songs written by Carole King. This is nothing to be sneezed at, as you might remember that Dolenz was the voice on numerous Monkees songs written by King and her former husband, Gerry Goffin, including "Pleasant Valley Sunday."

Evidently, Dolenz used a number of his 1960s cohorts to record this CD, including former bandmate Peter Tork, who is recovering from throat cancer, and Mark Lindsay, onetime lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders.

But he also used musicians from something called "My Record Fantasy," a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp that allows fans to rub elbows with famous artists.

So more than 40 years after his greatest triumphs as one of the Monkees, Dolenz is hot again.

I interviewed him about 20 years ago in Manhattan as he was on the guest list for Paul McCartnery's first classical piece, "Liverpool Oratorio." The work was going to be performed in New York City, and Dolenz has been friends with McCartney since his Monkees days.

I found Micky to be as grounded a celebrity as I had ever interviewed. He knew where his place was in the world of entertainment, and he knew how lucky he was. He had just released a children's LP, which garnered very good reviews, and he was happy to talk about that, and the Monkees years, and just about anything with me.

So yes, I will go out and get a copy of his new recording.

And better yet, he is still around. When I see somebody who is over 60 in that trend area, I grimace--has this person kicked the bucket?

Not only hasn't Dolenz kicked the bucket, he is filling it, with more great music.

No monkeying around here; this guy is extremely talented. I will give you my review when the CD comes out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rant #321: The Party Line On Cellular Phones

I hate cell phones.

No, I really don't hate cell phones, but I hate what they enable people to do, such as talk and text message on the phone while they are driving or completely ignore where they are while they are on the phone in a supermarket, or even have them go off in the middle of a movie.

Their use is potentially dangerous, but to some people, well, how could they live without them?

(Of course, they did for the first x amount of years of their lives, and they got along just fine without them.)

In my family, my daughter pretty much has her life revolving around the phone (or is it the other way around?). She does everything from it, and I guess if she enjoys that, that's good. I know she doesn't talk on the phone while driving, so I guess she is using the phone the right way.

My wife has a phone, and she uses it on occasion. She has gotten into texting, but she does not do it while behind the wheel, so I guess that's OK too.

Me, I have a cell phone, but it dates from the turn of this century and is prehistoric in terms of what it can and cannot do. I rarely ever use it.

Now we come to my son. As I told you in a previous email, he has just turned 15. He has had a few cell phones, but they were cheap and he really didn't use them the way other teenagers do.

For his 15th birthday, we bought him a really nice phone, with lots of capabilities, including the Internet. It is an AT&T Blackberry.

When we gave him the phone, I did the basics for him, like inserting the SIM card and getting it to turn on properly. Honestly, I don't know how to do anything else with these types of phones, so I left it to my wife to figure out how to make calls, how to text, etc.

But we haven't figured out how to get onto the Internet. My son likes the other features, but he is very interested in getting onto the Internet through WiFi.

The problem is that we can't figure it out. Forget about me, my wife can't figure it out either. She has read all the paperwork that comes with this thing, and she just can't figure it out. My son can't either. My daughter suggested something, but like my wife told me yesterday, "It's all Greek to me."

I guess we will have to go to our local AT&T store to get someone to explain this to us.

But to get to my point: phones are supposed to be for making calls. All this other stuff--the texting, the picture taking, the Internet--are just extras to get the price boosted on the phone and the plans that you sign up for.

Again, a phone is for making calls. With all the other stuff that you get with these phones, a new type of person has emerged, one that is so self-centered around these gadgets that they seemingly can't breathe without them. They are "phone-aholics," and they are rude, insensitive, and really don't use their brains at all.

Believe me, I've seen it up close. How many times in the supermarket are people blabbing on the phone while you are trying to maneuver around them with your cart--and they just ignore you?

How many times are you in a movie theater, and even though the audience has been asked to turn off their phones, one or two go off right in the middle of the film?

How many times are you driving, and someone is on the phone, and they are driving recklessly, as if they are in their own world?

We, as a society, let these people get away with this nonsense with little more than a slap on the wrist. Forget the supermarket or the move theater, but on the road, if I were "king," I would make any infraction revolving around using a phone while driving much more of a penalty than it is now.

What I would do is that any driving infraction involving a phone would lead to immediate loss of the phone, which would have to be picked up at the local precinct during a specific time period or be forfeited. I would also make the first fine over $1,000, and after three infractions, a person's license would be suspended for 60 days. Any further infractions could cost the person his license for a year or more.

We have to make people understand that a phone is what it is--a way to contact people. It is not a toy, and should not be used when driving.

But we live in the real world, and sorry, my dream is not going to happen.

Now, back to my son. I am sure we will get this thing figured out, but maybe it's a good thing that we don't know how to do this. It will show my son that the world, and him, can live without this nonsense just fine.

I wish other "phone-aholics" would get this too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rant #320: Two Firsts In One Day

Today is the anniversary of two broadcasting firsts. Each one, in its own way, changed the way we watch sports, whether it be on television or on our home computers.

The first anniversary to celebrate is actually the more important of the two. On this day in 1939, the first major league baseball game was televised. It was a doubleheader (remember those?) between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Since then, thousands of baseball games and other sporting events have been televised, bringing into our homes visual moments that we could have only conjured up in our minds during broadcasts of these games on radio. Hearing a game on radio is another unique experience unto itself, but actually seeing the images on a box in our living rooms must have been something really, really special 71 years ago today--and in black and white yet!

The other anniversary is important, only because it offers another way to watch sports. It's not an event that changed things, like the previous one did, but it is nonetheless important in itself.

On this day in 2002, the first major league baseball game was video streamed online. The game involved the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, and just 30,000 subscribers were able to see this game in this way.

While this is not the preferred way to watch sports, it gave viewers another alternative. Now, just about every game can be seen online with a subscription, which is quite pricey.

And again, compared to the actual first television broadcast of a game, this particular anniversary is pretty minor.

However, the funny thing is that while 30,000 subscribers watched the streamed game, I will bet that many less watched the first TV broadcast.

TVs were a luxury few but the wealthy could afford back then, so it is not out of the realm of belief that many less than 30,000 actually watched this game on their sets at home.

TV didn't really become a staple until after World War II, and even then, it really didn't become somewhat affordable until the mid to late 1950s. My mother talks about her family having their first TV in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and actually having parties built around watching the TV--because so few people had one in their homes.

Although I don't think streaming broadcasts live on the Internet is as important as watching events on TV for the first time way back when, it shows how much we have progressed--at least electronically--over the past 70 years.

My parents are both nearing 80, and what advances they have seen!

Will my own kids one day say the same thing about me? I doubt it, but with the world moving so fast, you never know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rant #319: Oy Adolph!

As has long been suggested, Adolf Hitler's DNA samples suggest that the dictator of Nazi Germany had Jewish roots, but the DNA also shows that he had African roots, too.

The tests were conducted by Jean-Paul Mulders, a Belgian journalist, and Marc Vermeeren, a historian, and published in a Belgian magazine. The pair tracked down 39 of Hitler’s living relatives throughout Europe and America to obtain saliva samples which ultimately suggest African and Jewish ancestry.

Based on news reports, the Haplopgroup E1b1b (Y-DNA) chromosome found in the samples is rarely found in Western Europeans, but more commonly found in those from Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, as well as in Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

What does all of this mean? It has been suggested for ages that at least part of Hitler's vengeance against the Jews was his reaction to at least one of his grandparents, who historians have suggested was Jewish.

As far as his connection to Africa, check out that one of his links is to Libya, long a stronghold of terrorist violence. Could he somehow be linked to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who has displayed similar reservations about Jews and all those opposing him as Hitler did nearly 70 years ago?

Other than that, it really doesn't mean much else. We know that Hitler was one of the most heinous human beings that there ever was, and can this information possibly change that belief at all?

Probably not. But what the information does is to give at least a glint on Hitler's makeup through his ancestry. Whether that ancestry had anything directly to do with his viciousness is left for pundits, scholars and historians.

Personally, I don't really know what to think. If he had some antagonism toward Jews because of his sour relationship to a close relative, then perhaps he could have used that as a springboard to his across-the-board hatred of Jews. And with the African roots he had, maybe that manifested itself in his rise and dictatorial reign over the Germans, much like Oaddafi has over the Libyans.

Who knows?

It won't change the history books, and it certainly will not humanize Hitler in anyone's eyes. He was the devil incarnate, and now that his roots have been exposed, it doesn't really change anything.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rant #318: Splitsville

I read that the Tiger Woods divorce has been finalized. He and his now former wife and the mother of his children, Elin Nordegren, have agreed on everything from money to parenting.

That is good for the children, and now the two principles can move on with their lives.

And once again, the news reports I read use the word "amicable" to describe the parting of golf's most famous figure and a former nanny.

The dictionary I have says that "amicable" means "friendly, peaceable" and is an adjective that can be used, as it seems to always be used in Hollywood, with the word "divorce." So "amicable divorce" has evolved in our lexicon of phrases ... phrases that don't mean anything.

So how can a divorce be "amicable"?

It can't be. There is no such thing.

Based on my own experience, even if you want it to be nice, there is no such thing as an amicable divorce. Even if you are civil on both sides, how can a divorce be amicable? You've parted ways over something--in this case, Woods' infidelity--so how can the parting be friendly? There has to be some animosity, and if you want to believe the news reports from some months ago, Nordegren was not only devastated by her husband's meanderings, she was downright livid about his affairs.

The two parents can be amicable about their children, but let's face it, in this case, because of Woods' profession, how much will he actually see his kids, and more importantly, be parents to them? Probably not much.

Nordegren will pretty much be the sole parent here, with the kids seeing their father on occasion.

Even in real world divorces, even with joint custody, how much does the non-physical-custodial parent see his children?

In my case, even though I had joint custody, my rights as a parent were constantly abridged. I know that as a child gets older, they need to interact with their parents less and less, but in my case, it got to the ridiculous stage, where I couldn't even go to a parent/teacher meeting without having to go through red tape as thick as tar.

I did speak to her on the phone, but let's face it, that isn't the same as seeing your child in person.

I was shut out of a lot of things that I shouldn't have been shut out of due to the circumstances.

And you can run to court to complain, as I did, but it doesn't change the situation. Judges don't care about anything other than moving things along, and in my case, even though my daughter had an advocate appointed by the judge, I really don't think the judge--or the system--cared too much about our situation.

I remember one instance where the judge--at this point, a judge in the lowly Family Court--told me (I was at this point acting as my own attorney) during a hearing that he didn't believe in joint custody. I had joint custody, and was there to try to get the judge to enforce these terms that both I and my ex-wife had agreed upon, but which were constantly ignored by my ex. My joint custody was put in place by the higher Supreme Court, and I told the judge this--and he threatened to put me in handcuffs and throw me in jail.

That is how much the court cared about this situation.

In my case, what changed the situation was that my daughter learned to drive, and could come over to see me whenever she wanted, not being bound by the constraints put on visitation by the court.

Now, my daughter is an adult, a college graduate, and she lives 300 miles away from me. I try to speak to her once a week on the phone, and I guess that is all I can hope for now.

But an "amicable" divorce simply does not exist in this society, whether you are talking about a high-profile divorce like Woods, or like Alec Baldwin, or many other celebrities, or just average Joes like myself.

And the possibility of an "amicable" divorce will not exist until the laws change and become more flexible in some places and more stringent in others, which will make the whole situation fairer for both parents, and the children they are both supposedly raising.

By the way, New York State finally has "no-fault" divorce, where parents don't have to give a specific reason for their wanting to part ways. This is a good step in the right direction.

So, for those of you who are fortunate that you never have to worry about this nonsense, whenever you read the word "amicable" in terms of divorce, don't believe it, not for one minute.

That's what celebrities want you to believe, but there is no such thing, no such thing at all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rant #317: A Very Special Day

Today is a very special day in my family.

Today is my son's 15th birthday.

Ah, to be 15 again! Actually, I don't think I want to go back to that time in my life. It wasn't as much fun as perhaps I want it to be now.

But for my son, 15 looks to be a great age. He has gotten a lot taller, more athletic, and smarter.

He is still a kid, albeit a big one, but is moving toward manhood full steam. Heck, he shaves!

This year is actually a big year for him. He enters high school, and he knows it's not kid stuff anymore. He knows he has to continually work hard, and he will work harder than he ever has now that he is in the top reaches of his secondary public school education.

My wife and I were reminiscing about our son's birth yesterday. We remember everything just like it was yesterday: the exact moment we decided to go to the hospital, his actual birth (yes, I was there to see it), and one funny incident.

My son was just born, probably a few minutes old and a few minutes removed from the umbilical chord, which it was my duty to cut. Anyway, shorn of that life line, the doctor first gave him to my wife to hold. She was pretty weak at this point, so they too him from her and gave him to me to hold.

I remember that I walked out of the room and into the hallway of the expectant mother area of the hospital (Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, New York) with glee. After having had a daughter seven years earlier, I now had a son. My "nuclear family" was now complete.

As I walked out with boundless joy, a nurse from out in left field screamed at me, "Get that baby back in the room!"

I honestly didn't even realize that I left the room with my wife still on the table. I was so happy that I guess I didn't know where I was at the time.

Anyway, the rest is history.

He has grown up to be a fine boy. He has his faults, and he has a learning disability which we work on seemingly all the time.

But he is a typical 15 year old boy. He loves sports (as I mentioned several posts ago, he ran track this past spring), girls, his iPod Touch, his computer, and ketchup and chocolate ... maybe not in that order, but he loves them all.

And I think he loves his parents. I don't know if he can tell us that flat out, but I think he does.

I know that he respects his older sister to the nth degree. He is so impressed with her going to, and graduating from, college, that he has declared that even though he has some learning difficulties, he wants to do exactly what she did.

And I wouldn't put it past him.

But right now he is 15, so he is a few years away from doing that. Let him get through high school and we will pick it up from there.

But again, my wife and I worry about him, like any parent worries about their kids, but I really feel the sky is the limit for him.

Let's see how he progresses. I can't wait.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rant #316: Eaten Alive

Andy Warhol once said that eventually, everybody will achieve their own 15 minutes of fame, and with reality television, Hollywood and other show biz stars that come and go in an eye blink, and the photo-op society we have become, boy, was he right.

That's how it is with one-hit bands. They have their one hit, and then fade away forever, although that one hit is indelibly etched on your mind forever.

So it is with a band which was known as Cannibal and the Headhunters. Certainly one of the greatest name choices that there ever was for a band, they had one hit--but it was a real good one--and then faded off the scene, at least nationally.

The one hit was "Land of 1,000 Dances," and even though Wilson Pickett's version of this song charted higher nationally, Cannibal and the Headhunter's Top 30 hit, at least to me, was much, much better.

Who could forget the "Na na na na na, na na na na, na na na na na" opening? As a kid, I found this so infectious. It just grabbed me and didn't let go.

Pickett's version was much more soulful, and it was good, but Cannibal and the Headhunters' version was so, well, tribal, it just got you and once it got me, I was hooked.

And once the song was over and done with, for all intents and purposes, this East L.A. band, made up of young Latinos, was gone. Sure, they made other records and still performed, but I didn't hear their records being played on any New York stations.

It was reported that Richard "Scar" Lopez, a member of that band, died the other day at age 65. He is at least the second band member to leave us, as Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia died of AIDS several years ago.

I just remember that song to be one of the most memorable of my childhood. Believe it or not, I remember a DJ, probably on WABC or WMCA, commenting about all the "crazy" names that rock groups were using back then, and saying something like, "We have the Zombies and Cannibal and the Headhunters ... what's next?"

Although I have thousands of records in my collection, "Land of 1,000 Dances" wasn't one of them. I don't know why, but I never owned the single.

As an adult, in the 1970s, I finally found the song in a used record store, on an LP of oldies. I snatched it up for $1, and I remember playing the record all the way through, waiting for that song.

Once it came on, it brought back so many memories of my childhood. And I think I loved it even more than when I originally heard it in 1965.

So, thank you Richard Lopez, thanks to Frankie Garcia, and thanks to the rest of the band. Your moment in the sun lasted a bit more than two minutes, but boy, were those a great two minutes!

Thanks again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rant #315: Zsa Zsa Ta-Ta (Not Yet, Dahling!)

No, Zsa Zsa Gabor is still hanging onto life as she battles numerous maladies.

I give this woman a lot of credit. She turned down another operation to prolong her life. She has decided that her 90 years old-plus body has had enough, and will live out her remaining days at home.

Zsa Zsa is a strong woman, and her resilience, even at the end of her life, shows that she is a fighter all the way.

How else would you explain her life? She was a star of something, but few could ever figure out what that was.

She was one of three Hungarian-born sisters: Magda, the non-star sister, Eva, who was a star, at least on the small screen, and Zsa Zsa, who was a star of her own making.

The sisters left Hungary when they were persecuted for being Jewish.

The beautiful Zsa Zsa was said to have had numerous affairs with rich and powerful men during the 1930s and 1940s, and she moved up the ladder in Hollywood, appearing in numerous films, including the original "Moulin Rouge."

But she was making more of a name for herself as a socialite, and all the celebrity frills that accompanied her being one of the rich followed her around for the rest of her life, even today, as she supposedly is on her death bed.

She added to this designation by being something of an eccentric. Her appearances on every talk show during the 1950s and 1960s simply added to the frenzy about her being a rich and powerful socialite, but for years, she actually had numerous financial problems, even though she had immense wealth which seemingly went up and down almost by the day.

Often mixed up with younger sister Eva (Eva was on "Green Acres," not Zsa Zsa), she became more eccentric as she got older, and was prime fodder for shows such as Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show."

Her name Zsa Zsa was the punchline for numerous jokes, and became as famous as such one-name wonders as Cher and Liberace, much of it for her decadence, or supposed decadence.

Whether it was slapping a policeman or going to court against her only child who she thought was robbing her, Zsa Zsa was in the headlines for decades, less as an actress and more as an eccentric, or what the general public considered to be a "celebrity": supposed wealth, fast and famous friends, the bodacious wearing of what we now call "bling," etc.

Yes, she was certainly the Paris Hilton of her time: not much talent, but smart enough to always get her name in the newspapers. And she, in fact, was a Hilton for a period in her life, the wife of Conrad Hilton, who she claimed raped her, a situation that produced her only child, and there was acrimony between mother and daughter for years.

Now, we hear that since she has been home, she is actually in improving health.

To that, I say "Fantastic!"

Zsa Zsa lives! Will there be more headlines coming her way?

You better believe it. And I am sure that's the way she wants it.

(Just one aside: it was reported by the press that while she was in the hospital and supposedly on her death bed, she asked for a priest to deliver her last rites. Being Jewish, I don't understand why she asked for a priest, but again, this just added to the eccentricities that Zsa Zsa has exhibited for decades.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rant #314: The Shot Heard 'Round the World

Sports today is a business. Sure, sports was a business way back when, too, but today it is so blatant that it is ridiculous.

And players, such as Lebron James, have marketed themselves and their talents much like businesses promote themselves.

Back in 1951, sports was a business, but the business side wasn't so obvious. Sports was run by businessmen, but they were more "sportsmen" than anything else. Or at least that's how they were portrayed.

And back on Oct. 3, 1951, the most famous home run in baseball history was hit by a very good, but not great, player by the name of Bobby Thomson.

This was a time that New York dominated the baseball scene, with the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees winning just about every year.

This particular season--an auspicious one in the annals of New York sports and sports in general as it was the rookie season for both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays--the New York Giants trailed the hated Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 1/2 games late in the season, but a collapse by the Dodgers and a surge by the Giants had them tied by the end of the regular season. A three-game playoff ensued, which was settled by Thomson, who hit a homer off Ralph Branca that gave the Giants the pennant.

And who can forget broadcaster Russ Hodges' classic call: "The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant!"

The home run became to be known as "The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff," and even non-sports fans know all about it, as it has become a part of Americana.

Thomson died yesterday at age 86, and although he and Branca were linked together for life by the home run, could you imagine if a similar incident happened today?

First off, ESPN would be all over it. You would see the replay of that home run over and over and over until it had lost its significance.

Sports marketers would offer Thomson the world as far as endorsements. He would become wealthier from things he pitched than from actually playing the game.

Collectors' plates, coins, Christmas ornaments and the like would become a cottage industry revolving around the home run.

Not that Thomson, and Branca, didn't make off well from the home run. They constantly appeared together on TV and on the sports autograph circuit, and I am sure they did very well making the rounds during the past decades.

But if something like this happened today, it would prove a bonanza that was unheard of back in 1951.

And it would be beaten to death on the clip shows that all sports fans watch.

And by the way, Russ Hodges' call, which most people assume was the TV call, was actually from the radio broadcast. Even way back when, marketers were crafty, and grafted that call onto the grainy black and white film of the home run that we have had for generations.

So, with the 59th anniversary of the home run right around the corner, only Branca survives from that classic confrontation. He and Thomson, two very good players who became very good friends due to their link in history, live in any baseball fan's memory, even if they weren't born yet, like me.

I see that film, and the call, over and over in my mind, and it cements one of the greatest moments in sports history, even though I wasn't around yet.

I just wonder what ESPN would do with this, and if people who weren't born yet would have a similar reaction that I do to Thomson's homer, even though I was born roughly six years after it happened.

After the Lebron James "The Decision" debacle, who knows?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rant #313: Really Bad Move

The decision to build a mosque two blocks away from the Ground Zero site in Manhattan clearly demonstrates that political correctness has a stranglehold on this country.

The Ground Zero site, where Muslim extremists attacked the free world on Nov. 11, 2001 by killing, injuring, maiming and permanently impacting thousands of people with the fall of the World Trade Center, is sacred ground in our country. To many, it is where the remains of their loved ones were vaporized. For many, it is the last place that their loved ones ever set foot on this earth.

Muslim would like to build a mosque and a cultural center two blocks away from this desecration, and many people, and many influential Americans, are supporting their right to build there, stating that religious tolerance is what this country stands for, and thus, this facility should be welcome with open arms by New Yorkers and Americans.

My question is: have they completely lost their minds?

Nobody is saying that the Muslims cannot build a mosque and a cultural center elsewhere. But to build it here is ill-timed, ill-mannered, and just not the right thing to do.

Again, Muslim extremists committed the acts at the World Trade Center, and no one is saying that all Muslims are like this. But to build a mosque so close to the site just nine years after it happened shows an unimaginable insensitivity that myself and most Americans do not support.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the emperor of New York, stands behind the Muslims' right to build, as do a number of local and national politicians. On the other side of the coin are a number of other politicians, lead by Rep. Peter King, who believe the building of such a facility is insensitive and uncaring.

Even President Obama has chimed into this situation, first saying he supported the mosque and then backtracking, saying he was for religious freedom but was not going to speak about the sensitivity of building such a facility so close to Ground Zero.

I do not think that this discussion has anything to do with religious freedom. We welcome all people and all religions here, and no one is saying that the Muslims cannot build a mosque and worship as they please. But to put it so close to Ground Zero is wrong, plain wrong.

For the past nine years, many American Muslims have been trying to make a case that they have no ties to these extremists, and they were appalled at what happened, as Americans, as much as anyone else.

Well, prove it! The insensitive idea of bringing a mosque to this site doesn't prove their case at all. It shows that they are uncaring, uncivil people.

A mosque at this site would plainly highlight that point. It is insensitive to those who lost their lives there, and those who have been permanently impacted by what happened on that horrible day.

What the political correct people are blinded by is their need to be all inclusive rather than do what is right.

Sorry, building a mosque there is not right, and doesn't make Americans feels comfortable with the Muslim community.

Hopefully, clearer heads on all sides will prevail, and this facility will be moved somewhere else. New York State Governor Patterson has offered the group another site which is in that area but further away from Ground Zero. At this point, he has not heard back from them about a possible move.

One can only hope that people will learn something from this escapade: being politically correct, without adding in any forethought or wisdom, is akin to picking a scab off a sore. The scab will regenerate itself, and the sore won't go away.

Don't think that the American public won't remember their leaders who support this mess come election time.

They will, and there will be political consequences for those supporting this idiocy.

And as for American Muslims, please don't look for our sympathy or empathy with your plight.

You aren't going to get it, not if this thing is built.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rant #312: The King of Swat and the King of Rock

Coincidence is a funny thing.

Some people think that things happen at the same time for a reason, while others just think it is coincidence when similar things happen at the same time, place or day.

Well, how would you explain that the two "kings" of their respective avocations died on the same day, albeit 29 years apart?

George Herman "Babe" Ruth, arguably the best baseball player of all time, died today in 1948 at age 53, while Elvis Aron Presley, arguably the greatest rock and roll artist of all time, died in 1977 at age 42.

Each one of them dominated their chosen fields during their heydays. When each died, they were basically way past their primes, but both died having packing in fame, fortune and immortality during relatively short lifespans.

Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, while Elvis charted well more than 100 singles on the Hot 100 chart.

Both were given to amazing feats, both on and off their fields of choice, related to eating, women, and just living life huge.

One was a Yankee, the other born in the deep South.

I guess there are other parallels, although I think you see by the ones that I posted that both of these people were larger than life figures during life, and yes, after life too.

That they both died on the same day is coincidence, I guess.

However, some people believe that famous deaths happen in threes--who else famous died today?

Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, died in 2003 at age 78.

Actress Amanda Blake ("Gunsmoke") died in 1989 at age 58.

Bela Lugosi, the creepy actor, died in 1956 at age 73.

The original Shamu the Wale died in 1991 at age 16.

All of these people (and the whale) made their marks in life, but they really can't compare with Ruth and Presley.

So if things happen in threes, will a current or future person who makes an incredible mark on society pass on this date?

Who knows ...

But I think it will be coincidence just the same.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rant #311: Friday the 13th, The Day

Today is Friday the 13th, the only Friday the 13th we have on the calendar this year.

Are you scared? Are you worried about what catastrophe can happen today?

I'm not. I am not a superstitious person, so I don't believe the day is cursed.

But lots of people do.

Today is the day that if anything goes wrong--much like it can on any day of the week or any date--some people will say, "Well, it happened on Friday the 13th."

The date is so permanently ingrained into our culture that an entire movie franchise--the Friday the 13th movies--annually scare us to the box office in droves.

The number 13 is considered to be bad luck by some people. Even some buildings skip naming their 13th floor the 13th floor, either bypassing it to 14 or using a different number scheme. Where I grew up, the first floor was actually the "ground" floor, and the top floor was the 12th floor. So even though the building had 13 floors, only 12 were acknowledged.

About the only place that I can think of that the number 13 is celebrated is in the Jewish religion, where, when a boy reaches his 13th birthday, he has his bar mitzvah. However, although this is changing, girls have their bat mitzvah when they are 12.

I think a lot of the hysteria revolving around the number 13 has to do with the number that precedes it, number 12. That number is such a "perfect" number--it is perfectly divisible by one, two, three, four, six and by itself--that it stands alone.

You add one more to it, and you get 13. It's a number that is kind of out of sync with everything.

Talking about being out of sync, when you reach 13, you become a teenager. But you are sort of in between being a teenager and being a kid, so being 13 still puts you in a dubious spot.

I remember one bad Friday the 13th experience at work, where someone I worked with got fired on that day a few years back. It ended up being a lucky break for him, because, out of necessity, he went into another line of work, and has been successful at it. If he didn't lost his job on that day, he wouldn't have ventured into something else, so in essence, Friday the 13th was a lucky day for him.

So, have a good day today. If things go wrong, don't blame it on the day, blame it on coincidence. The same thing can happen on the 14th, the 12th, the 28th or even the 1st ...

I guess ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rant #310: The Mothers-In-Law on DVD!

Finally, and after much too long a time in a dormant state, the short-lived TV series "The Mothers-In-Law" has been released on DVD.

Along with a number of other shows, including "It's About Time", this show seemed to fall into the holy pit of TV shows that won't ever be on DVD for one reason or another--but now, it has finally received its official release.

You might remember this show. It ran on NBC from September 1967 to April 1969, and starred Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard as the mothers-in-law to two young newlyweds--Jerry Fogel and Deborah Walley--who marry and live in the garage of Arden's character's (Eve Hubbard) home, which she shares with husband Herb (Herbert Rudley). Ballard (Kaye Buell) and husband Roger (Roger C. Carmel) just happen to live next door, and you can see where there would be lots of comedy in this situation.

During the second season, the newlyweds had twins, and a new grandpa, as Richard Deacon replaced Carmel.

The show was sort of a 1960s version of "I Love Lucy," with Arden being Lucy and Ballard being Ethel (or was it the other way around?). In fact, the show is a real artifact, as it was produced by Desi Arnaz himself, who actually appeared on a couple of episodes. Also, two-thirds of the "I Love Lucy" writing team--Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll--wrote most of the episodes.

With such an excellent cast, great writers, and the presence of Desi Arnaz, NBC thought they had a major hit on their hands. It was on Sunday nights, sandwiched between ratings winners "The Wonderful World of Disney" and "Bonanza."

However, the ratings were never great for this show. For some reason, people turned away from the sitcom when it was on. The ratings were so bad that it is amazing that it actually had two full seasons of episodes.

I remember absolutely howling in laughter at this show. I was young then, but the repartee between Arden and Ballard was amazing, much like that of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in their heyday, and even I could see that at my young age.

It was a great show that just never found an audience.

But now, MPI Home Video released the show on July 27 after numerous delays, including rights problems. A number of entities claimed ownership of the show--including Eve Arden's estate!--but that has been cleared up now.

If you want to see a real artifact of the 1960s, this is the show to see. It's sort of I Love Lucy-lite, but it is very, very funny, with both Arden and Ballard absolutely at their best.

Now, how about "It's About Time"?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rant #309: Elvis Is In This Building

As the 33rd anniversary of Elvis Presley's death approaches on Aug. 16, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will be honoring the real King of Rock and Roll with an exhibit that looks at the icon when he was a young man.

The museum plans to celebrate its own 15th birthday with a look back at the year Presley turned 21. An exhibit of photos taken of the singer in 1956 by Alfred Wertheimer will open Sept. 13 at the hall.

According to the HoF, the pictures offer a record of a defining period for rock and roll's most enduring figure, showing Presley in public and private poses as he started to break through nationally.

In addition, visitors also will see a new display of nearly 30 Presley artifacts on loan from the Graceland Archives. They include a shirt and belt the singer wore for 1970 rehearsals, and a Memphis, Tenn., proclamation for a 1961 Elvis Presley Day.

I wasn't around in 1956, but the impact of Elvis Presley on popular culture is enormous. I'm sure that when people caught wind of this kid who was singing this new kind of music, they took notice, and probably a lot of kids learned to play guitar and sing when they saw this guy warbling on The Ed Sullivan Show.

He became a national phenomenon, then a global one, and even in this day and age, with the Internet supposedly bringing us all closer together, it is hard to create such a phenomenon today. In today's world, people are too set in their ways to accept somebody as radical as Presley was in his day.

Sorry, Justin Bieber fans.

Sure, there have been pretenders to his throne, including Michael Jackson, who some claim to be the King of Pop. But like people say that current athletes are better than those from years back, Elvis Presley is much like Babe Ruth; many may think somebody today is better, but I seriously doubt these people know what they are talking about.

Nobody can surpass Elvis' numerous Hot 100 singles, nor can anyone ever surpass his across the board popularity that continues to last well beyond his death.

He is truly the King of Rock and Roll. Nobody even comes close.

Sure, he was not perfect. He indulged beyond belief in everything from food to his relationships. He was squeezed for everything he was worth while he was alive, and the same can be said to be true in death.

But can anyone compare to him? Has there been a singer that has captivated the public as he has and still does?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rant #308: Rod the Dad

I have never been a very big fan of Rod Stewart.

To me, he is the ultimate poseur, not so much singing songs as much as dragging the life out of them by everything he does beyond his gravely voiced singing--the calculated moves, the head movements, the stance, everything like that.

I guess I don't like his style.

But as a rock star, he has had a career that stretches back more than 40 years. And he is such a mainstream personality now, that all the rock star glitz is just about forgotten by those people who bought his cover version albums, which massacred terrific, classic songs yet sold millions.

In fact, if you look at them together, you would swear that Stewart and Barry Manilow are the same person.

Again, I never liked this guy as a performer. And as a man, he has littered the earth with kids by several different mothers--some he had relationships with, some he was married to ... all for a guy who has had his masculinity questioned since the early 1970s.

Well, now word comes out of his camp that he is to be a daddy again, this time with Penny Lancaster, who he has been married to for three years. This relationship previously produced a son, so Stewart will become a dad for the seventh time when he turns 66.

Shades of Anthony Quinn, when this kid becomes a teenager, Stewart will be 79 years old--not really that old in today's world, but let's face it, a 79 year old having a 13 year old son is akin to him being a grandfather to his own child.

Lancaster will be 40 when she becomes a mom again, so she isn't old by any standard, but as a mom, she kind of is, if you know what I mean.

Heck, what goes on between a man and a woman behind closed doors is their business, but I could never fathom having a kid at that age. Sure, it proves that Stewart is virile, but when this kid looks at his or her old man, he or she will really be looking at his or her old man, if you get my drift.

Older men having children at advanced ages is nothing new, and Stewart is one in the line of thousands of men who have children beyond the age of 65 each year. Yet, I somehow think he will be cheating his child of something. Stewart loves soccer, and do you think he will be virile enough to kick around the ball when his two year old wants to do that?

I am not knocking older men, or women for that matter. Heck, I am 53, so I am not going to dig into anyone older than me. But my wife and I had our son at age 38, and let me tell you, it isn't easy for even a 40 year old to keep up with a two year old. Imagine if you are 66 ...

Good luck to Stewart and his wife. And if it is a girl, please don't name the child Maggie May. Give it a sensible name, like Apple or Brooklyn.

But I bet there will be one refrain from the new parents, whether the child is a boy or a girl ...

I love you honey!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rant #307: The Benefits

I am 53 years old, so by my calculator, since the federal government was so nice to raise the official retirement age to 66, I have to work at least 13 more years before I even think about retiring.

And even when I am 66, due to various reasons including money, I will probably work until I can't stand up anymore.

I use my father as an example. He still drives a cab, and he will be 79 in November.

I have heard that people who are hopelessly out of work--those over 60 who have tried to find a job for more than a year without any success--are giving into the system, and filing for Social Security benefits early. Sure, they won't get what they would get if they filed when they were 66, but due to circumstances far beyond their control, they feel they have no choice but to file early.

Social Security is said to be experiencing a shortfall this year as a number of people are filing to collect payments early before their full retirement age. And unemployment is still teetering in the 10 percent range, with some areas of the country well into the double digits.

All of this while our President tells us that the economy is improving while his wife and kids jaunt around Europe.

I remember being out of work two major times in my life. The first time, I was out of work for about a year and a half. Sure, I worked, often off the books, for a portion of that period, but I generally was making next to nothing and couldn't get hired by anybody. During this span, I applied for more than 800 positions, and received back less than 75 rejection letters.

I know all this because I had to--what made matters worse for me was that I was going through my divorce, and this set the whole process back probably about six months, if not more. The court wanted to know how my work search was going, so I had to submit everything to the court for their scrutiny. Talk about making matters worse than they were!

And I paid my child support--or as much as I could afford with the pittance I was getting--and I was in arrears when I finally found something, and I had to pay back what I owed, which I did.

The second time, I was out of work for about three months. My son was only a few weeks old when I got let go. No, companies don't care what your personal situation is when they get rid of you.

Anyway, each time I was offered very little in the way of positives by any prospective employee, and each time, when I was finally offered a job, I took a position with a pretty hefty pay cut. I had no choice.

I don't know what to tell people who are out of work today. It is harder than ever to find something, and find something decent.

I still say that employers are taking out the current fiscal situation on their employees, nickel and dimeing them to death, working them beyond their capacity just so they stay wealthy and afloat. I haven't had a raise in more than three years, but at least I have a job.

And to say "at least I have a job" is the current refrain today. You don't have to like your job, just be happy that you have one.

My daughter is in the job market now, and although she wants to be a teacher, there aren't any teaching jobs available now. So many districts have cut their teaching staffs that it might be a while until teachers are needed. My daughter did find a job as a teaching assistant, but with a teaching degree, she should be making much, much more than she is now. Heck, people working in McDonald's are making more than she is now--but at least she has something to build on.

I mean, she is just 22 years old.

What of the people who have put 30 and 40 years into the workforce, only to be told that they aren't wanted anymore? I went through this myself, and I was on in my 30s when I was laid off and was out of work for more than a year.

The more I was out of work, the more potential employers would ask this question: "Why are you still out of work after all of these months?"

When I would hear this question, all I wanted to do was stick my fist in their mouths. What did they know about being out of work? But I would have to grin and bear it, and reply, "I am out of work not due to anything else but the current financial situation."

It wasn't a lie, it was true.

It must be that much harder when you are in your 50s and 60s and nobody wants to hire you. What do you do?

I hope I never have to worry about such a thing. I guess I am happy that "at least I have a job."

But it really shouldn't be that way, should it?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rant #306: I Am Back ... But I'm Not Too Happy About It

Ah, vacations ...

They take us away from the humdrum existence most of us (me included) live.

At least for a short period of time, we don't have to worry about taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, and what tie to wear to work.

But, even though they are generally short-term, vacations spoil you. You live the good life for this short period, and it's really hard to get back in the saddle again for your usual existence.

I didn't have that tough of a time getting back to "normal" after my vacation ended, but I had such a good time, that I wish my time away could have been extended, even for just a few days.

We drove down to the Orlando, Fla., area as we always do, and the vacation began on a sour note when we hit something and had a flat tire in Maryland. Luckily, we were across the highway from the State Trooper station there, and within a few hours, we were back on the road--with a new tire, less money in our pockets, but confident that we wouldn't have another mishap like this again on our trip.

And we didn't. Everything went smoothly. We swam a lot, ate a lot, slept late--did everything good tourists should do. We know the area pretty well, as we have had this time share since the late 1990s, but so many new things are around that it really captured our imagination.

We went to one theme park, Sea World's Aquatica. My family and I were very impressed with this park, which isn't large, but does not lack for exciting things to do.

They have one attraction that topped them all, for me at least. I forget what it is called--I think it is Koa Rapids or something like that--but all you have to do is strap on a swimming life jacket, go in the water, and the water and current actually pushes you around the course. You don't have to get into a tube or anything, you just are pushed around by the current. It allows for lots of fun, even for those that don't swim, because as long as you keep the jacket on, you can't sink.

And on a near 100 degree day, it was refreshing as all get out.

We went to see a game in the exciting Yankees-Rays series, and even though the Yankees lost, we had lots of fun--except in getting to Tropicana Field. The place can sit about 50,000 fans, but they usually get one-third of that amount in attendance. Even on a good day, they might draw in the 20s or low 30s.

Well, for the Yankees, in a battle for first place, they virtually sold out the place for three nights straight. Since they aren't used to such crowds, the traffic was incredible, some of the worst I have ever driven in. A 90 minute trip to the park took about three hours.

We had decent seats, the place was loud, but the Yankees lost.

Otherwise, everything else was pretty much smooth sailing.

And then we got home and I went back to work.

Work is called "work" because of what it is--it isn't a party. And I have been buried since I got back, and that is why this blog has only been restarted today. I just haven't had time to breath.

But I still think back to this past vacation, and look forward to the next one.

Sometimes, I think it is the only thing that keeps me afloat.

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