Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rant #344: How Can People Be So Cruel?

Yes, I know Tony Curtis passed away. Being in "Some Like It Hot" made him a superstar in my book.

But I wanted to talk about something else today, a story that I heard about that really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

It seems that two Rutgers University students illegally taped one of their male schoolmates having a sexual encounter with another man and broadcast the images via an Internet chat program. The schoolmate became distraught, and allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

In this almost eerily modern retelling of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," the dead student, prior to his death leap, left a message on his Facebook page that read, "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."

The two perpetrators, one who was the now dead student's roommate and one who is a female, both 18 years of age, have been charged, and could be looking at five years in prison for their actions.

What motivates supposedly civilized human beings to craft and then carry out such a heinous act?

I wish I knew, but I don't.

The deceased student was a musician, and by all accounts, he was a good student and a fine human being.

But even if he wasn't, why would fellow students--his own peers--even think of committing such an atrocity?

Did his homosexuality bother them? Did his skill as a musician threaten them? Was he somebody that everyone picked on?

Who knows, but it is incredible in this day and age, where political correctness often overshadows right and wrong, that an incident like this could actually happen--and on a college campus yet.

At this juncture, the authorities are still trying to determine whether the body they found is actually the student, and a lot of the information about the case is pretty sketchy.

But if everything ties in together, then you really have to ask how something like this could happen.

Ironically, the campus was in the process of holding seminars related to behavior on campus that are open to students, faculty and employees of the school.

How I wish these two alleged tapers had gone to the seminars. Maybe they would have changed their ways.

But who knows--all we know is that a young man is gone, and simply because two people decided that his privacy was not enough reason to leave him be.

It just does not make any sense at all, does it?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rant #343: Hall of Stain

Yes, it is that time of year again.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its nominations for its hallowed halls, and once again, it is pretty much a crapshoot--with the emphasis on crap--about who will get in this year, and even more focus on what acts were excluded once again.

Let's analyze each of the nominees and why they should or shouldn't get in:

Bon Jovi: Sorry, but we know why they were nominated--to get higher ratings for the broadcast on Fuse.

Alice Cooper: A worthy choice, but remember "Alice Cooper" started off as a band, not as the guy who took its name as his own.

Donovan: Another worthy choice, a guy who epitomized flower power, but, sadly, never escaped it.

Dr. John: No, I don't think he is worthy enough, although many in New Orleans would disagree.

Tom Waits: The same thing here. Why he was even nominated is beyond me.

Neil Diamond: A worthy choice, but only for his work between 1965 to about 1971 or so. After that, it's all dreck.

Beastie Boys: No, they have nothing to do with rock and roll.

LL Cool J: No, he has nothing to do with rock and roll.

Chic: No, they have nothing to do with rock and roll, but I would nominate Nile Rodgers alone from the group if I could.

Donna Summer: No, she has nothing to do with rock and roll.

Darlene Love: The quintessential background singer of the girl group era deserves to get in this time around.

Joe Tex: He is the bridge between rhythm and blues, funk and disco, so if you consider disco a stepchild of rock and roll, then he must get in.

Chuck Willis: An early father of rock and roll, but I don't think his influence was as wide as some think it to be.

J. Geils Band: No, I don't think so, although they did have some great records during their heyday.

Laura Nyro: Her mix of pop, rock, Broadway, gospel and probably a dozen other genres all wrapped up in a ball hasn't ever been challenged.

So there are the nominees. About five or six will get in.

You can bet the house on Bon Jovi. They have to get in or no one will watch this show, or so the HoF thinks by nominating them.

Alice Cooper, Tom Waits and probably Chic will get in, because by allowing them entrance, the HoF can prove just how eclectic it is--and to some, including me, how stupid it is.

The others--even Neil Diamond--might have to wait a bit longer for entrance, although of the remaining few, Diamond probably has the best chance. His influence on Bruce Springsteen--whether Springsteen wants to admit it or not--is enormous. Just listen to "Kentucky Woman" and tell me The Boss doesn't have that song on his iPod.

And he wrote probably the greatest pure pop/rock song of all time: "I'm a Believer."

'Nuff said.

As for the acts that should have been nominated, well, in my estimation, because of Jan Wenner, they probably never will be nominated.

That list includes the Moody Blues, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Chicago and the Monkees.

And what about Michael Nesmith? Keeping him out of the HoF is sort of like keeping Pete Rose out of the baseball HoF--it seems hollow not to have the guy who was the godfather of both country rock and MTV to be shut out, as silly as it is for the baseball HoF to keep its hits leader Rose out, even though he has had his indiscretions.

The only indiscretion Nesmith had was to be with the Monkees--that is Wenner's belief, not mine--and it just doesn't make any sense.

But does the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever make any sense?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rant #342: ESPN's Not On the Ball

Does anyone get as perturbed as I do with the constant over-coverage of football during the baseball season by ESPN?

I really can't stand it. It's the height of the pennant race, several divisions are still not spoken for, and you can't get a baseball highlight on either Saturday or Sunday. Case in point was on Sunday evening into Monday morning.

I could not sleep, so I woke up at about 1 a.m. and put on the TV, looking for the highlights. There were none to be found, just football, football and more football--including over-analysis of every game.

Baseball was relegated to the level of auto racing, and there was actually more golf coverage than baseball coverage.

Sure, the Yankees-Red Sox Sunday night game was being rerun on ESPN2, but during the height of the pennant race, you would think baseball wasn't even being played.

Baseball remains our national pastime, the only 12-month-a-year game of the four top professional sports. And for a network that has baseball on its calendar--so they have a vested interest in the sport--to give it such short shrift is curious.

And yes, I wrote to ESPN about this, but I got back what I thought I would--a form letter. I realize that a good number of football "fans" are only fans because they are in a betting pool--and that goes for the college game too--but the way ESPN handles this is truly ridiculous.

And yes, I know that ESPN has "Baseball Tonight" on its schedule. But that show only segregates baseball talk and news and clips into a single segment--coverage is not spread throughout the day like it should be.

I think this situation has totally gotten out of hand. And don't tell me that baseball is old fashioned, and not made for the digital age we are in today like football is.

Baseball is as current as today's news, and has been for over a century. And I can tell you that baseball will be at a fever pitch during the next few weeks, and certainly will be at the top of the sports menu in places like New York, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and California as the game goes into the playoffs and the World Series.

But ESPN will probably continue its ambivalence.

I ask the same question:


Monday, September 27, 2010

Rant #341: Single Bullet Theory

Today is the 46th anniversary of the release of the iconic Warren Commission report, which found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade in November, 1963.

Even though that report conclusively stated that Oswald acted alone, people have been arguing about the validity of its finding for decades.

Some say that there is no way that Oswald could have been the lone gunman, because the trajectory of the bullet, fired from his vantage point, could not have struck the President as it did. Some speak of the grassy knoll, where the shot may have come from, but not from Oswald's shot. They speak of so many other theories, including the possibility that organized crime had a hand in this with Fidel Castro, or that our own government did this to cover up Kennedy's leacherous affairs, including one with actress Marilyn Monroe, that had made him a major security risk.

And we have the Zapruder film, which gives us as good a view to what was happening as any other film or evidence that has turned up during the past nearly 50 years.

That we are still debating Oswald's participation in this plot or whatever it was shows the morbid fascination that we still have for Kennedy, one of the most popular presidents--at least with the general public--that this country has ever had.

I guess it also shows another morbid fascination we have, and that is with the Kennedy family itself.

I was six years old when that terrible event occurred in November 1963. I remember it so well, and like millions of other Americans, I watched it unfold on television. It was probably the first time television played such a prominent part in the news of the day, and yes, I was watching when Jack Ruby shot Oswald.

Even though I was a little kid, my memories are so, so vivid.

So, the debate continues. Who shot JFK? What role did Oswald actually have in this plot, if it was a plot at all? If it was a plot, who was behind it?

The debate continues, and probably will outlive us all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rant #340: Putting Your Breast Best, Err, Best Breast Forward

Since I have been writing this blog, I have had the chance to chronicle many things, including American's fascination with the female breast--me included.

This mammary gland is the singular most beloved, vilified, and misunderstood part of a female's body. It is simply a milk source, but it is oh so attractive--and seemingly hated--by so many, including some women themselves.

When some people get a glance of it--or any part of it--they go haywire.

I recently looked at the woman who has made a name for herself by enlarging her breasts way beyond reason, and now, we have the case of singer Katy Perry, who has been yanked from a segment on TV's long-running kids' show "Sesame Street" because she bared a bit too much.

She was a guest on the show, performed with Elmo, and well, the rest is breastory, err, history.

Evidently, the video of her performance was put up on YouTube and some other places, many parents got steamed, and the segment was yanked.

Even though she was covered up with clothing of a sort, Perry just showed too much cleavage in her outfit. The top of the outfit is mesh, but you can clearly see her ample, natural cleavage through the mesh.

Now, whose fault is this anyway--Perry or the producers of the show?

Well, let's face it, they are both at fault here.

Perry, although not a publicity hound like Lady GaGa is, has been known to seek attention like a bee seeks honey. She could have come onto the show with a less revealing outfit, but chose not to.

And the producers of the show ... I mean, c'mon, didn't you know what you were getting with Perry? She is best known for the singing of pretty risque songs, and she had to clean up her "Hot N Cold" tune--the song she was performing on the show--so that it could be used within the context of the program.

I mean, would you hire 50 Cent or T.I. to be on Sesame Street?

In today's day and age, I really think this was a publicity stunt--couldn't the offending cleavage have been digitally blurred or removed?

What this did is get both Perry and Sesame Street an incredible amount of coverage, which obviously, a lot of people think Perry needs--in her clothing, I mean.

So again, the female breast rises to the occasion, never ceasing to amaze anyone, male or female.

It is an incredible part of the human body, and I salute it wholeheartedly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rant #339: The Recession Is Over (!) (?)

I am glad that people in the know in the financial world have declared that the recession is over.

The 2007-2009 recession, which wiped out 7.3 million jobs, cut 4.1 percent from economic output and cost Americans 21 percent of their net worth, marked the longest slump since the Great Depression.

Obviously, these "experts" must know something that most of us don't, because for the life of me, I can't understand why they believe the recession is over--and more to the point, has been over for about a year.

I have no idea why they think it is over. Obviously, they rate different indicators against the norm, and I guess if you base everything on statistics, well maybe the recession is over.

But statistics alone can't make an argument that the recession is over, not in my mind, anyway.

Heck, perhaps I am ignorant, but the recession isn't over--and it isn't going to be over for a long, long time.

We have double-digit unemployment percentages, and there are people who have been out of work for four or five years, and they aren't even counted anymore in the statistics. Thus, you can bet that unemployment is actually in the high teens.

You have people who are employed, but under employed. Many of them have been out of work for months, and had to take lesser jobs just to put food on the table and be able to keep their homes and pay their bills.

You have people, like my daughter, who graduated college and can't find much of anything out there. The great promises were there during her four years of school, but when it came time to deliver, well, the job wasn't there. She is working, but she is not really doing what she went to school for and her hours amount to a part-time job.

And for those of us who are working, I don't see salaries rising. Mine certainly hasn't, not for nearly four years.

But prices continue to climb. Have you looked at your grocery bill lately?

The Middle Class is getting pummeled right now, but the "experts" say that we are out of the recession, and have been for many months.

It's reminds me of when I was out of work for a year and a half in the 1990s, after the stock market crash and ensuing problems in real estate on the East Coast.

I couldn't get arrested. I applied for over 800 jobs, I was on radio and TV offering my services, I even gave out my resume at our local train station.

I went to the county's employment office pretty regularly. One day I went for a visit, and the counselor who was working with me told me, "One day you are going to be a millionaire, but right now, I don't have any jobs for you."

Yep, right.

These "experts" talk out of the sides of their mouths because they don't know what being unemployed is.

It means you lose your dignity, you lose your very reason for existing.

These idiots have jobs--heck, even our President said that the job picture is brightening.

Yes, and he would work in McDonald's and make seven dollars an hour if he had to, I'll bet.

The only thing most Americans can do in the current situation is that on Election Day in November, vote out all of the incumbents who are running to retain their positions.

I don't care what party they are in--Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, it really doesn't matter. Get rid of all of them. They haven't improved our lives while they are in their cushy positions, so why should we give them our support with our votes?

Get rid of all of them. I doubt any will have to go to the unemployment office, but failure may teach them that life isn't run by statistics.

It is run by people, and people are hurting bad right now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rant #338: Cassingles

You might remember that several rants ago (Rant #325, Sept. 2), I discussed a situation I had with a device that I tried to use, and it wouldn't work, but finally, when I was about to give up, I finally figured out how to use this thing?

The gadget was the Tape Express by Ion Electronics, which allows you to created digital copies of your cassette tapes right on your computer.

Well, I have now found a use for this gadget--to create MP3 files of my cassingles.

What's a cassingle?

From about 1995-1997--just prior to the explosion of the Internet and just after 45s were basically dropped as a format by record companies--cassette singles, or cassingles, made their appearance on the scene.

(I might add that the first version of cassette "singles" actually came out in the late 1960s, and many people still have them in their collections. But 45s were still available then, so what was the point?)

They were tape, they were cheap, the fidelity wasn't that great, but they were sold by record stores across the country. CD singles had also come out at about the same time, but they were often more expensive than these cheaper counterparts, so lots of people stayed away from them, including me.

I personally collected about 60 some odd cassingles. I didn't really like them, but in lieu of 45s, this was about the best I could do. And the great thing about them was that you just popped them into your cassette player in your car, and away you went with the music.

But this phenomenon only lasted about three years, finally giving way to cheaper priced CD singles, and eventually, to digital downloads of your favorite single songs.

These cassingles in my collection haven't been played since I played them the first time in my car, so they are all fresh and ready to go. The fidelity isn't great, but a lot better than I expected.

I am rediscovering music by Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Annie Lennox, Adam Ant and many other artists that came out in this format at that time. These are probably the final "singles" I collected, and it's fun to see where my head was musically during this period when I was in my late 30s.

I am also making MP3 files of radio shows that I taped way back when, some even from the 1970s, like the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder where Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees were featured.

I also have a radio show where I was the featured guest, believe it or not. I talked about my bubblegum music collection on a college radio station from Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey in the late 1980s.

This is all fun, a bit time consuming, but fun nonetheless. And again, the fidelity on some of these tapes is better than I expected.

Sure, it's not as fun as digitally recording your old records, but I must admit I am having a ball!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rant #337: The Boss Is Finally Put To Rest

Last night was a weird night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-6, to take a 1 1/2 game lead on them in the American League East. Both teams are going to the playoffs, but who will win the division is still in question, so these are big games.

But what happened prior to the game was something to remember, and remember forever.

The monument to George Steinbrenner was unveiled to the public in a glorious ceremony that featured the Steinbrenner family, former players, Yankee executives, the Yankee players themselves, and others.

It was a very heartwarming tribute. The family and the others marched to Monument Park and unveiled an incredible monument that dwarfed the others there in size and magnitude.

It listed all the accomplishments that Steinbrenner had made in his 37 years of owning the team.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

The Boss's oldest son, Hank, looks just like his father, so seeing him walk with the rest of the family to this new monument was eerie. You would swear that the elder Steinbrenner was actually in the procession, not his son.

There was Joe Torre, Steinbrenner's whipping boy but incredibly successful Yankee manager, walking in the procession. Torre and the Yankees had had a bad fallout during the past few years, but all was forgiven. Torre was as choked up as he was when he won all those World Series with the team.

Don Mattingly was there, as was Tino Martinez, Roy White, Lee Mazzilli, David Wells, Reggie Jackson, and, of course, Yogi Berra, so it was like a mini-Oldtimers Day.

Then there was the Yankee players paying their homage to their employer. They looked touched by their own presence in Monument Park looking at this new monument. They all left, except for one single, solitary player, and it was not team captain Derek Jeter. It was Mariano Rivera, who stayed around at least five minutes past everyone else. Rivera is known to be a religious man, and he is the only one who knows what he was thinking, but I am sure they were good thoughts.

Then the procession moved on, and it was almost time to play baseball.

The National Anthem was to come next, but here was the surprise of the evening.

As anyone who has come to a Yankees game during the past 20 years or so knows, when they win, they play Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" after the game. They used to play Liza Minnelli's better, original version if they lost, but they don't do that anymore.

Anyway, who should stride to the microphone but the Chairman of the Board himself ... no, that wasn't him, it was Frank Sinatra Jr.!

Again, like Hank Steinbrenner, Junior looks just like his dad. More to the point, he sings just like his dad!

(Personally, I would have preferred Nancy Sinatra, or maybe even Tina, but this was the surprise of the evening as far as I was concerned.)

Anyway, Frank Jr. did a great job with the anthem, and was led off the field.

And how appropriate this all was. You had the faux George, in the guise of Hank Steinbrenner as part of the family procession. You had the faux Sinatra, in the guise of Frank Jr., sing the National Anthem. And all of this was taking place in the faux Yankee Stadium!

That aside, two teams battled for the next 3 1/2 hours or so, and the Yankees won.

What a night! I am glad I recorded it.

And here's to George Steinbrenner. He was truly a one of a kind person. Maybe not the nicest guy around, but there will never be another George.

He was a true champion.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rant #336: Anyone For Tennis?

I am not a fan of tennis at all. I think the glitzy costumes--as well as the link to so many wealthy people--kind of diminishes whatever athletic prowess these athletes have.

However, today is the anniversary of a publicity stunt that made everyone tennis fans for at least a very brief few hours.

In one of the all-time sports publicity stunts, in 1973, so-called male chauvinist Bobby Riggs lost three straight sets to all-time tennis great Billie Jean King in what became known as "The Battle of the Sexes."

This is an event that could have only happened in the decade of the 1970s. The event was broadcast by ABC, I believe, and just about everyone I know at least tuned in to see how this thing was progressing. I know I did, even though I really didn't like tennis.

What precipitated this male vs. female thing was that Bobby Riggs, a former tennis champion who was way past his prime, proclaimed that any male could beat any female in the sport. He went on every talk show on the air at the time to push his point. He virtually created "trash talking" with the "venom" he directed at women tennis players.

He was the self-proclaimed "court hustler," and hustle he did. He was everywhere.

He eventually challenged King--who was at the height or near height of her fame and athletic prowess--to a match, and she accepted.

You have to remember, this was at the height of the women's liberation movement. Many women did not want to be destined to become homemakers. They wanted to forge their own identity as career people. Many even burned their bras in protest to male dominance.

So this event took shape at the perfect place, at the perfect time.

This was during the pre-cable time, when most people didn't even know what cable TV was, so there was still only a few channels to select from when one wanted to watch TV.

ABC carried the match from the Houston Astrodome, and it was covered by the news media from not only here, but across the globe.

Riggs got creamed, so he didn't prove his point at all.

But to this day, I have thought that this whole thing was a setup, created to promote tennis on TV. At this point in time, tennis was much like bowling, at least on television. It was there, but was not that highly thought about.

This event put it into a different spectrum, one in which it exists to this day.

And get the fella's last name (Riggs); I often thought that that was kind of funny, too.

Riggs died several years ago, and King is looked upon as both an icon for tennis and for civil rights. Tennis draws significant ratings on TV, although to me, it is still a fashion show in an athletic setting, nothing more.

But that event catapulted it into the big time, and whoever you were rooting for, it really didn't matter; tennis was here to stay on TV, and it wasn't going to go away.

Any lady want to challenge me to a game of bowling? I bet I could beat them with my eyes closed.

(Yeah, right!).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rant #335: A Time To Reflect ... and Not Eat

Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown.

For Jews around the world, this is the holiest time of the year, the time where we pause to reflect on what we did the past year and how we can begin anew in the new year.

Even many non-observant Jews follow this holiday, and this is the only time that they venture into a synagogue during the entire calendar year.

Prayer and reflection are paramount here, as is refraining from drinking or eating anything for the duration of the holiday.

Some Jews don't even bathe, watch television, drive cars or do anything but pray and fast during this period, which ends tomorrow night at sundown, or when the shofar is blown at Yom Kippur services.

I, personally, don't go to that extreme. I do go to synagogue, even if it is for a very short period of time, and I do fast.

Fasting is not hard to do. Sure, it takes you out of your routine, but it really isn't that difficult to do for a day.

What is difficult is doing it while you are in synagogue. The constant getting up and sitting down--when the Torah is displayed--makes it very difficult.

I remember in the old days, you would hear women crying in the back of the synagogue. Not eating can do that to you.

I am the only one in my family who can fast like this, and I probably shouldn't continue to do it either. I do take a pill for cholesterol each day, and if I skip a day, who knows what it is doing to my insides. My wife said that I really shouldn't do it anymore, but I will do it until I can't, I guess.

As far as my family, my wife has tried and can't do it, my son the same, my daughter, I know she has tried but she lives 300 miles away in her own world, and my parents just can't do it anymore because of all the pills they take.

So it is left to me in my family to carry on this tradition. Alas, when I have to stop doing it, that will probably be it for my family.

I have to tell you, after I fast I feel very, very good. It is almost as if everything bad in my body has been cleansed out of it by fasting. I might have a little buzz headache, but this is something I have been doing continually since I was 12 or 13, so I am pretty much used to it.

(I admit, during two years I couldn't fast because I was sick.)

So to all my Jewish friends, and to all of those people I know who aren't, Happy New Year to everyone.

And it makes me feel good to say that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rant #334: The Club Clubbed

Yesterday, I reported on a happy occasion, Jackie Cooper's birthday.

Today, I have a sadder chore, as I am bringing to your attention the death of James Winner.

Who the heck, you are probably asking, is--or was--James Winner?

He was a very successful person. He owned hotels, schools and businesses. He was a self-made Pennsylvanian.

He also created something called The Club.

The Club is a device that one puts on the steering wheel of their car to prevent auto theft. The device looks like a heavy metal stick with a claw on it. Put it on your steering wheel, and your car won't ever get stolen--certainly, the bright red color that The Club came in put fear into any crook's mind.

Winner developed The Club after his own car was stolen, and it was, er, a winner. It showed up in various forms all over the place during that decade. But crooks found ways to thwart this device, and it basically became useless as we entered the 2000s, although it is still on the market.

I, myself, used The Club after my own car was stolen the night before I got married on June 5, 1993. I used this device on all my succeeding cars into the 2000s until I bought my newest car two years ago.

And I still have The Club--it is in the trunk on my car. I can't get rid of it. I guess it has sentimental value.

I kind of knew it wouldn't really thwart someone who wanted to steal my car, but I thought just seeing this thing on my steering wheel would be signal that the crook had to perform an extra step to steal my car, so he might pass.

Ironically, Winner died in a head-on car collision in Western Pennsylvania after his sport utility vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic. Two other people also died in the accident. Winner was 81 years old.

I guess The Club couldn't help him in this situation, but I will tell you that it helped me--it gave me peace of mind--when I used it.

Sure, it was probably phony peace of mind, but at least I thought it might work, unlike car alarms, which never stopped anyone from stealing a car.

So I salute Winner, his invention, and the fact that as truly useless as it might actually be, it was one of the great inventions of the latter stages of the 20th century.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rant #333: Happy Birthday, Jackie

Jackie Cooper is 88 years old today.

I know that some of you may not know who Jackie Cooper is, but to my generation, this guy was certainly one of our earliest stars, the guy we watched on TV every day as a member of the Little Rascals in the Our Gang comedies.

Sure, those short films were made decades before we were born, and weren't even new when many of our parents were born. But to a kid like me, Jackie Cooper was it.

He starred in the series during the first series of talkies. The Our Gang comedies began in the 1920s as silent features, but by 1930, when sound was being added to film, the Hal Roach Studios followed suit, and gave a voice to those kids that the kids of the 1920s adored.

Cooper was in the series with the first group of kids that became recognizable on TV years later: Farina Hoskins, Chubby Chaney, and although not a kid, who can forget the shorts with Miss Crabtree, the comely teacher who Cooper and all the other boys were in love with?

When TV was searching for material to put on the air to satiate little kids during the medium's earliest days, they dug up the Rascals, and in the 1950s, they were resurrected for a new generation of kids like me. Although not much seen on the air since the 1980s, their films are readily available on home video, and I have to say, when I watch one, I still laugh until I cry.

Spanky, Alfalfa and the others would soon join the series, but those films with Cooper are truly special, showing a youthful innocence that is almost foreign on screen today.

And Cooper was extremely talented, Oscar nominated as a kid for his role in the film "Skippy." He went on to an interesting career as an adult, starring in movies and television shows (remember "The People's Choice" with the talking dog?) through the 1960s. He also became a studio executive with Screen Gems in the mid 1960s, and his battles with one act that came his way, the Monkees, are legendary.

He also starred in the Superman movies of the 1970s and 1980s as Perry White. And he also became a well regarded director.

Although the Our Gang or Little Rascals "curse" is often over-stated, Cooper skirted well beyond any supposed curse and became a versatile "Jackie" of all trades in Hollywood.

There aren't too many of the Rascals left: Cooper, Dickie Moore, Jean Darling, and Robert Blake are just a few of the handful of those kid actors who are still around today.

But Jackie Cooper was probably the best of them all, and today, I want to wish him a happy birthday, and many, many more!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rant #332: Rethinking The Obvious

Now I hear that the imam behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero is rethinking the building of his Islamic center so near to what some consider to be sacred ground.

He said yesterday that the project could be delayed as a way of cooling down the furor it has sparked across America.

He also said that the spot where the center is to be built should not be considered sacred or hallowed ground.

And yes, he said he is such an American that he pays taxes, is a New York Giants football fan, and, in a report that came out today, he may also be a slum landlord in New Jersey.

Anyway, why is the imam reconsidering this facility being built so close to Ground Zero? If what he said last week was what he really believed, then moving the facility would play into the hands of the terrorists, and spark anti-American feeling throughout the Muslim world.

Then why move the place?

During the past few days, other imams across the country have come out of hiding and said that the facility should be moved. The court of public opinion--in this instance, his fellow religious men, his own peers--have said that the mosque should not be built there.

And the imam is finally listening to somebody other than himself.

And again, even though there are some who believe that people are against this because of their own deep seated hatred of Muslims, I don't believe that is generally the case. Sure, there are plenty of idiots out there, but I think that in general. those that want the mosque moved want it relocated because that site is too close to Ground Zero, not because they don't want Muslims to practice their religion in this country.

I think this situation will eventually be resolved to most people's satisfaction. Sure, you will get people on both sides of the situation that won't be happy, but I do believe that a decent resolution will occur. And that is why the project will probably be delayed for some weeks or months.

And while Mayor Bloomberg stands on the politically correct side of this situation, why has he allowed strip clubs and porn shops to populate this area? He moved them away from Times Square; why are they allowed to proliferate here?

He should worry more about that--and the crime and unsavoriness that these businesses ultimately bring to any area that they are in--than whether the mosque should be built two blocks away from Ground Zero or not.

I guess they pay their taxes, so he doesn't care where these businesses operate, as long as they aren't in the centerpiece of New York City anymore.

He is not using his brain on this one, shifting the focus from where it should be to something else to feather his political agenda.

Shame on the mayor for that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rant #331: Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest

I figured that since it is a dreary day outside (at least in my neck of the woods), I would report on something much lighter (well, at least for me) than what I talked about on Friday, but no less dumb.

Sheyla Hershey lives!

Who the heck is Sheyla Hershey?

She was trying to achieve fame for having the largest breasts in the world through implants. Her quest ended last week, when she underwent surgery to have her M cup implants removed due to sickness caused by the implants.

She wanted to become so huge that she actually traveled overseas to Brazil to have the surgery done. Implants as large as hers are illegal in the U.S. In fact, to achieve this size, she actually had two implants in each breast!

So Hershey--supposedly an actress of some renown on Spanish TV-- traveled back to her country of birth to have the operation, but after it was performed, Hershey became seriously ill and has since been closely monitored by a cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ron Bucek, and an infectious disease expert, Dr. Shazia Gill, in Texas.

Before the most recent surgery to remove the implants, Bucek performed two other operations to help drain the infected areas, and a special vacuum had been suctioning the infection from Hershey’s body 24 hours a day for months.

She was quoted as saying, "I decided to go smaller--a lot smaller. I just want a normal size like a normal housewife has. I know it's going to be a lot of pain on me because I love to have them, but I realize that my family comes first and I love my daughter and son and they come first. Even though I love to have huge breasts ... I'm going to try to live without it. Hopefully I will be done then and be happy and just running around with my kids!"

How wonderful, how gallant, how brave this woman is!

There are photos of her on the Internet. She is not an ugly woman by any stretch of the imagination. I am sure she had a nice figure before disfiguring herself.

But why do this, and do this to such astronomical proportions?

Look at the photos. The woman looked like a freak of nature.

Why did she feel she had to do this? To please someone else, to please herself?

I just don't get it. I don't understand why women do this to themselves.

And speaking as a male of the species, there is nothing more beautiful than natural breasts--no matter what the size. And nothing phonier than fake ones.

So why do women do this to themselves?

I have no idea. But if this woman isn't one of the most absolutely stupid people I have ever heard about, I don't know who is.

She risked her life to have enormous breasts that look phonier than a $3 bill. And she risked the well-being of her kids, who by all accounts, are fatherless, or at least don't have a father in their lives--and nearly didn't have a mother, either.

All for huge breasts!

This woman is mentally ill. I don't know what she spent on these implants, but first, shame on the doctors who performed these surgeries, and second, I hope she has money left over to spend for psychiatric counseling.

She definitely needs it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rant #330: Dumb But Quick

Ah, the dumb seem to be getting dumber while other things seem to be getting faster.

First, we have the case of that idiot pastor who wants to burn the Quran this weekend to "commemorate" the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He first stated that he was postponing the book burning because he was assured that the Muslims were going to move their Ground Zero mosque to another site. Later, he recanted, saying that a local Floridian imam lied to him about the move. Supposedly, this pastor and the imam are flying to New York to meet with the imam behind the downtown Manhattan mosque, but that the New York imam now says that this is news to him, no such meeting was planned, and he isn't moving the mosque.

Enter Donald Trump, Mr. Over-the-Top (and I am not talking about his hair), who reportedly offered the imam several million dollars and other benefits if he would move his mosque somewhere else.

Leave it to Trump to grab publicity and make headlines with his offer, which evidently was turned down by the imam. But Trump got what he wanted--publicity--so the overture wasn't worthless and useless, at least to Trump.

In a completely unrelated story, Google's search engine now displays results before users can even finish typing their request.

Named Google Instant, this item can cut about two to five seconds off any Internet search.

Well, why does anyone need to shave off two to five seconds off their Internet searches? Are we in such a rush that we need those two to five seconds for something more constructive, like maybe actually doing some real research on the subject we are searching for?

Heck, to take two to five seconds off a search for people like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and yes, that idiot pastor and the imams, will really make my day so much more fulfilling.

Wouldn't it be great if Google Instant allowed you to punch in these people and be rid of them forever?

Now that would be high-tech at its best!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rant #329: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Here is my open letter to the Florida minister who plans on burning copies of the Muslim Quran to protest the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

Dear Pastor Terry Jones:
Please do not go ahead with your desire to burn copies of the Quran to protest the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Your deed serves no good purpose, and could put American troops overseas in peril.

As an American, I also carry a scar from that attack. It is something that I will never forget. I was not there--maybe 40 miles or so away--but I can still smell the burning odor that permeated the air even where I was.

But to burn the holy books of a group of people just because a group of extremists did this is reprehensible.

Hitler burned books during World War II. I don't think you want to be linked to him in any way, so why do what he did? It serves no purpose.

It only serves to incite groups against the U.S. We have so few true friends around the world, and making more enemies is just not too smart.

And Gen. David Petraeus warned that your actions could incite extremists to carry out attacks against our servicemembers around the world. Why would you want to put them in greater harm's way than they already are?

Another reason not to do this is that I am sure you are aware that Jews are entering their most holy period of their calendar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days, represent holidays where Jews reflect on their lives. To carry out your actions during such a holy part of the calendar is something of sacrilege.

Although legally you have the right to burn these books, others also have the right to burn the American flag. You say that you are doing this for America, but are you any better than those that burn our flag?

Please, do not carry out your plan. Even some members of your church will not follow you when you do this.

Think sensibly. What is this accomplishing? Is it remembering all those who perished during these attacks, or is it creating further hatred?

Please think about not doing it. That is all anyone can ask.

(And for Rosh Hashanah, I am taking the next day off. I should be back on Friday. Hopefully, by this time, Jones will come to his senses and decide not to do this. I saw him interviewed on the CBS Evening News last night, and he seems open to not doing this if God tells him not to. Hopefully, he will see the light.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rant #328: High School Daze

Today is a big day in my family's world.

Today, my son goes to high school for the first time.

He is not the first one of my kids to go to high school--my daughter was a freshman all the way back in 2002, I believe--but now I guess we have completed the circle. Two kids, two kids into higher education.

My daughter pretty much breezed through high school, and I don't mean that as a positive. I think she was bored, at this point, with education. And I don't mean to make a pun with this description. I just think by this time in her life, she really wasn't that much into education, and she basically got by in high school, doing what she had to do to get in and get out in four years.

Once, she went to college, she returned back to the overdrive mode, and did very nicely.

My son is a different story entirely. He has to work hard for everything. He has a learning disability which holds him back quite a bit. I have helped my daughter with various educational questions she has posed me, but with my son, my wife and I really have to work with him--and his grandmother works with him, too--and it is difficult.

For him to reach high school is just another notch on his belt of achievements.

If you have never been confronted with a child with a learning disability, it is something that can't be explained in a paragraph or two. The only way I can describe it in just a few words is to imagine a person who needs glasses but doesn't have them, or needs a hearing aid and doesn't have them. When they go to school, without these devices, they might be able to get some of the stuff thrown at them, but because they can't see or hear properly, a lot of it goes out the door.

Kids with learning disabilities go through this every day. They have to learn to learn differently than others. And that's what makes it such a difficult task to go up the ladder from grade to grade.

And add to that going to a new school. Remember your first day of high school? It can be a dizzying day. The school is so big, you don't know where your classroom is each period, and there is a lot of hustle and bustle during the first day.

It is so different from the other schools you have gone to, and for the first time in your life, you don't feel like a "kid" anymore.

Oh, I know my son is going to make it. His teachers have told us from kindergarten that he has the drive and the will to succeed. He wants to learn, it's just that he has difficulty doing so.

But he will succeed. He will see to that, and my wife and I--and yes, his sister too, even though she lives 300 miles away from us, as well as his grandmother--will help him.

So, I wish him a lot of good luck today. Those high school years can be the best time of your life, or the worst time of your life. There seems to be no in between. I hope for him that these are days he fondly looks back on.

And I know he will succeed. My wife and I are proud of him for what he has already accomplished, and there is no reason to think that he won't continue to do as well as he can now that he is in high school.

Good luck!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rant #327: The Dupe of Earl and the Day I Labor

Well, Hurricane Earl came and went pretty quickly. It really didn't do much in my neck of the woods, although about 10 miles away or so, Jones Beach got hit pretty heavily by the storm.

Otherwise, Earl came in like a lamb, and left without a whimper.


Now onto today.

Today is Labor Day. Have a nice holiday.

As for me, I labor on Labor Day. Yes, I am working today. And that is after working on Saturday for a couple of hours.

Why I am working is a story unto itself.

The company I work for, and the publication I am an associate editor for, puts out its big issue in November. It is a couple of hundred pages, and needs intense work to be done on it, more than any other book during the year.

I have been working on the 2010 edition for the past three months, if not more, but now, everything is due, and myself and my two cohorts on this issue--the managing editor and the senior editor--are also bearing the same workload I am.

And sure, I have received a bonus or two over the past year, but I haven't had a raise in more than three years. It will be four years in March.

Obviously, I am tickled pink to be here today. It's just the three of us, perhaps someone from our production staff, and maybe one or two of the higher ups. That's it.

Sure, I get a day to compensate for me not being off today. Big deal. I use it in exchange for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and let me tell you, I would rather be at work that day than in synagogue.

For me, it's torture, but I do go. My wife has to work that day, but she will be off on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the day that I can't work because I can't eat. No eat, no work.

So here I am, as bitter as hell that I have to work today, but once I get through today, it will seem like a distant memory.

But right now, I would rather be in bed.

Who ever heard of laboring on Labor Day?

Heck, I've worked about 13 of the last 15 Labor Days, so for me, it's my day to be bitter just about every year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rant #326: As We Await The Arrival of Earl ...

Hurricane Earl has not come yet, at least not to my neck of the woods.

I saw on TV today that it had hit the Carolinas, and it was really blowing up a storm there.

Here, on Long Island, we are literally in a holding pattern. Earl is supposed to arrive, but it won't get here until mid afternoon.

Earl is sort of like a guest that you are expecting in your home. You prepare for the guest as best you can over a number of days. Then the guest arrives, does what he does, and then he gets the hell out of there pretty fast. You put more into the preparation than the time the guest actually is in your environs.

I am not minimizing this event, but I am being realistic. This hurricane is not expected to hit land. It will be out in the ocean. Sure, it will create some havoc for some, but generally, I don't expect it to become the East Coast's answer to Katrina.

Yet every news outlet here is covering this like it was our Katrina. I guess they have their duty to do this, but it pretty much gets to be overkill after a while.

I will be at work when this thing is supposed to hit, and my wife will be, too. My son will be at home with his grandparents, and my daughter is 300 miles away from us in Oswego.

I am more concerned about what it is going to do to the Yankees afternoon game against the Marlins. It's 40 miles away from me in the Bronx, but with the way the Yankees are playing right now, you just don't want them to have a day off. They look really good right now,, with a game and a half lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Anyway, I had a friend write to me the other day about the crazy weather we have had this year. He lives in Florida, and he wrote to me, "It's crazy when you, in New York, are worried about hurricanes and me, in Florida, aren't."

Yes, it has been crazy this year weather-wise, but I am sure I will be here next week on Monday writing Rant #327.

If I'm wrong, well, you won't hear from me as I dig out from the mess this thing caused.

But you can bet the house that I will be here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rant #325: Eureka! I Have Figured It Out!

Have you ever deemed that there is something out there that you need to further your life, purchased this item, and have been completely let down by the fact that you can't figure out how it works?

I have just had such an experience, and let me tell you, it is frustrating.

About two months ago, I noticed that an item I had been waiting to be released finally was put on the market. It is Tape Express by Ion Electronics, a company that creates generally easy to use gadgets that you can use along with your computer to further your musical enjoyment. They make probably my favorite such gadget, their turntable, which comes with a USB wire and which you can use to digitize your old LPs and 45s.

I have a good amount of cassette tapes that I collected through the years. No, I am not inundated with them, as some were, as I always preferred vinyl, but I do have probahly 100 prerecorded tapes and heaven knows how many tapes I made for myself.

With this amount of tape--and with no way to listen to these things anymore--I had heard that Ion was coming out with a simple to use device that came with a USB cable and which you could hook up with your computer and convert what was on the tapes to MP3 files.

The device finally came out a few weeks ago, and I jumped on it. It was relatively inexpensive, which made it even more attractive.

I received the thing in the mail a few weeks ago, and as I customarily do, let it sit for a few weeks more until I found the time to figure it out.

I finally found that time about two weeks ago. I followed all the instructions--including a warning that I had to have iTunes on my computer to use the product (I don't like iTunes), but the product would not work.

I tried everything--re-downloading iTunes, changing various settings, really doing anything and everything to get this thing to work--but it just wouldn't oblige me.

Let me tell you, this was frustrating as all hell.

I wrote an email to Ion's customer service, and they got back to me quickly, but with little information into what the problem was. I also contacted them on their Facebook page, but also to no avail.

I also wrote a note on their review page at This was the first step that I guess I had to take to figure this thing out.

Somebody answered me, told me what to do, but it still did not work. I found out I didn't need iTunes, which was a major step in this process, but the darn thing would not work.

Finally, yesterday, on a whim, I downloaded another program from the Internet that was my last ditch effort to get this thing going. And you know what--it worked! Yes, the device now works, and I can transfer my old cassette tapes to digital MP3s in a snap.

I guess you can call it perseverance, but in the back of my mind, I thought that through trial and error, I could figure it out. And I did.

Once again, I have proven to myself that you should never give up hope when it comes to these types of things. It might take time--mine took several weeks--but it worked out OK for me.

How I wish that life in general was so easy to figure out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rant #324: Earl's Well That Ends Well

Hurricane Earl is pushing up in the Atlantic, and word is that Friday might be a wild and wooly day in my neck of the woods on Long Island.

The hurricane isn't supposed to hit land, but even being off the coast could cause considerable difficulty for residents, travelers, vacationers, and those who have to go to work, like yours truly.

It is supposed to be extremely rainy and windy that day. No, not another Katrina, but plans are being formulated to move out anybody who is on the East End and might be in the most peril from such a weather disturbance.

Me, I am taking it in stride. I've been through such weather troubles before, and as long as you don't panic and do stupid things, you should be fine ... and again, this isn't supposed to be another Katrina, so what's to worry about?

A few years ago, my family and I were on vacation in Orlando, Florida, and a hurricane set down in Orlando proper, about 15 or 20 miles away from us. With the proper preparation--enough food, gas in the car, and batteries for various electrical appliances--we made it through with flying colors.

In fact, that morning, we went to a water park, and stayed until we were told that the park was closing early for the hurricane, which for the life of me, I can't think of the name of right now. Maybe Charley, but I just don't remember.

Anyway, I am not going to tell you it wasn't a bit scary and hairy. Driving home, we heard numerous announcements about the impending hurricane, and we saw long lines at food places and gas stations. But we had prepared early, so it wasn't that big a deal.

The management of our time share warned us about the storm, and told us we had to take in all the furniture on the patio so it wouldn't fly around.

When the storm hit Orlando, I remember we lost power and were in the dark for several hours. My son was young at the time, and I know he was scared, but I had a portable TV, and used that to monitor what was happening, because it was pitch black outside.

The next morning, we surveyed the damage. There were some trees uprooted, leaves all over the place, but happily, my car was not damaged at all.

We made it through!

And I am sure we will make it through Earl, too.

yasmin lawsuit