Friday, April 30, 2010

Rant #246: May Day Go Away

Tomorrow, May 1, is May Day.

This holiday isn't even listed in my desk calendar. All that is listed is Labor Day in Mexico.

But at one time, May Day was a big holiday here in the U.S.

I remember as a kid, maybe in kindergarten or first grade, that May 1 featured a big celebration at our school. We actually have film of myself and my class in the schoolyard doing some type of dance, and then dancing around a maypole.

I think the whole thing dated back to much earlier times. This was some type of fertility rite (egads!) or something to do with welcoming a good harvest, or something like that.

But May Day took on negative connotations toward the mid to late 1960s, and that's while nobody in this country even bats an eye at the day anymore.

I think it became linked to the then U.S.S.R. and became a "communist" holiday. It was a "workers" day or a "labor" day, and well, that even sounds un-American, doesn't it?

It's a day of political demonstrations and these events are organized by socialist groups, so we certainly can't celebrate a holiday like that here, that's for sure!

That's why, in a democracy, we don't celebrate it anymore.

Believe me, I can understand that entirely.

But I know that at one time we did celebrate it.

And I have the film to prove it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rant #245: Every Dog Has His Day

Now that the birthday stuff is over ...

I heard that a third of married women in a recent poll said that they would rather talk to their pets about their problems.

According to an Associated poll, women say that their pets are better listeners than their husbands.

And it works the other way too. Eighteen percent of husbands said their pets are better listeners than their wives.

I don't know, I have never personally gotten into a conversation with Max, our family mutt (no, not the one pictured here). Even if I did, I wonder how he would react. He would probably kneel and wait for a treat.

And I guess that that is just it. A pet isn't going to talk back to you, ask idiotic questions, or challenge you, no matter what you say.

You can vent with a pet. You can't with your spouse (or can you; my wife and I have done this on occasion).

More importantly, who thinks up these polls anyway? What kind of stupid nonsense is this--and to have the Associated Press linked up with it ... I mean, don't they have anything better to do?

Aren't there any other topics they can think up for a poll?

Isn't there anything else worth polling people about?

There, I've vented to you, and no, Max is not panting at my side here waiting for a treat.

Sorry to treat all of you like a dog or a cat or a fish or a gerbil or a bird.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rant #244: So Today's Your Birthday

Yes, the day has come.

I am 53 years old today.

Let me see, 53 years old ... that means I was born way back in 1957. I was the first child born to Phyllis and Carl and after me, against the belief of many people (my mother told me so), they had another child, my sister Gail, two and a half years later.

I am sure we both aged our parents plenty, but gave them lots of joy too.

But back to me (since it is MY day) ...

I feel good for my age, not that 53 is really old anymore. I certainly feel better than I did two years ago to the day, when I had my gall bladder removed. I never felt so sick in my entire life as I did on that day. Since the operation, I have had some bad health days, but nothing terrible like that.

I feel pretty good, to be honest with you.

I never got into the vices of smoking and drinking ... I don't do either.

My vice, if I have one, is cookies. If you put a package of Oreos in front of me and dared me to eat them, I know that I would--the entire bag.

I have no idea what I am getting from my family this year for my birthday. I am sure it will be a few DVDs, maybe a little cash.

That's fine. At this point in time, I look forward to the cards as much as the gifts.

People have asked me what I am doing for my birthday. Well I can tell you that pretty easily:

I'm working.

Yes, I am going into work today. It's no different than any other Wednesday on the calendar. I will put my nose to the grindstone and work, work, and work some more.

I would prefer not to, but what's a poor boy (literally) to do?

So happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Larry, happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rant #243: You Bet Your Bippy I Didn't Forget Her

Last week, when I listed all the April birthdays coming up--and said that the upcoming birthdays were among the most eclectic list of birthdays you can find on the calendar--there was one birthday that I decided to bypass because the person is now pretty much a footnote on the wonderful, wacky 1960s.

So I decided to give her her own birthday shout out on the actual day of her birthday, April 27.

Before Goldie Hawn became the female shining light on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Judy Carne was the "it' girl.

She had the look, the temperament, the style, and she fit the part.

Long and lanky, with a perfect 1960s haircut, Carne was, early on, the female centerpiece of the cast.

She looked great in a bikini, and had the type of skin you could write on and see what had been written clearly (this was something of a prerequisite for that show).

And she was the "Sock It To Me Girl" as well.

She would stand there in a bikini, or sometimes in regular, 1960s mod clothes, and take a bucket of water all around her. She was so skinny that the water probably added 10 pounds to her weight.

She seemed annoyed, and maybe she was, to be constantly hit by water.

But the audience loved her. Maybe she didn't love it as much.

She left the series after about two seasons to look for greener pastures that she never found. She divorced Burt Reynolds, got into drugs and a whole lot of other things, had a serious injury (I believe she broke her neck), and kind of faded into obscurity, never reaching the pinnacle of success that show-mates Hawn and Lily Tomlin reached.

Carne is 71 today. It's hard to believe, because I have that young, pretty, skinny image of her in my mind, where it will reside forever.

Happy birthday, Judy. You made my Monday nights more than 40-plus years ago.

And I promise, no "Sock It To Me" jokes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rant #242: A Crisis A Day

My father's surgery went fine. This time, he had a competent doctor who knew what he was doing. In fact, the surgery went so well that he went back to work today, and his vision is excellent right now.

Onto the next "crisis" ...

As for our family's television provider, we use Dish Network. The only reason we use it is for the price. Their customer service is horrendous, we don't get all the channels we want, and whenever there is a storm brewing, there is a potential problem with the transmission.

But you can't beat the price.

I recently got fed up with them, and decided that our bedroom TV would get Verizon. I made the appointment about three weeks ago, and the technician was supposed to come on Saturday to hook us up.

I also had an appointment at my car dealer for an inspection and oil change on the same day.

After I had that work done, I hurried home to wait for the technician to come to the house. The hours piled up, but the technician never came.

I gave it a little more time, and then called Verizon. They said I never made an appointment, which was wrong, and I told them so. In fact, I had the work order number in front of me, which cinched the deal.

They sent a technician over in minutes, we were hooked up in no time ... and because I raised a fuss, they gave me the installation for free, a $79 value.

Crisis averted.

The only crisis was watching the Yankees lose to the Angels on the YES Network--one of the channels Dish Network does not carry for a variety of idiotic reasons--on Sunday afternoon.

Oh well, I guess you can't have everything.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rant #241: New Picture Sleeve Blog

I have created a new blog which might be of interest to you.

It is called "Picture Sleeves A Go Go!" and it can be reached at

This will be a vehicle for me to post scans of all of my 45 single picture sleeves onto the Web for everyone to enjoy.

I plan on posting everything I have from the 1960s to the current time, and with the photos, I will also provide short capsules on the performer and the sleeve.

This will be a picture sleeve site only; no music will be featured at the site. However, I may try to cross-pollinate where appropriate. I have so many sites now that I feel that I can do this flawlessly.

Right now, I am just into the letter A, from AC/DC to the Association. That being said, you will see and eclectic mix of material, and sleeves not just from the U.S., but from around the world.

I think looking at these sleeves will give you--and myself--a glimpse into both what was popular during the past five decades as well as seeing what I was into through the years.

I hope you find it as interesting as I have in starting it up.

Again, no music but all sleeves, all the time.

And by the way, please contribute to the site in the form of comments. There is a comment area under each section for you to leave your comments. I will do my best to answer them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rant #240: Eye Hope Everything Goes Fine

Today, my father goes in for cataract surgery. I have taken off the day from work to transport him to and from the hospital where he is slated to have the surgery this morning.

Normally, cataract surgery is a pretty painless, straightforward procedure. It takes about 20 minutes, and the recuperation time is a few days.

Those having the surgery usually claim that they can see better than they ever could, and often don't need their glasses anymore.

Well, with my father, there is a problem. Or should I say, was a problem ... a problem that I hope does not happen again.

Usually this surgery is pretty one-two-three, as I said, but when my father had his first eye done, there was a problem ...

The doctor could not get his cataracts out!

A 20-minute procedure became an hour. I remember my mother and I sitting in the waiting room and wondering what was going on. We said, "Oh, maybe the anesthetic hadn't taken hold," or "Maybe the doctor wasn't ready," or something to that effect.

No, we later learned that the cataracts could not be removed, or at least not be removed by this particular doctor.

Finally, after more than an hour of waiting, we were called into the doctor's office, and she told us that she could not get the cataracts out. She tried and tried and tried, but they would not come out.

We asked her, "What do you mean you couldn't get them out?" and she said she tried, but was unsuccessful. She said he was a one in a million person, because normally, there isn't such a problem.

Well, we took my father home, with a patch on his eye and all black and blue, and he had to wait a day or two or three to have the procedure done again.

This time, it worked, the cataracts were out, and he--and we--survived the ordeal.

And by the way, the original doctor, who couldn't get the cataracts out, retired right after this. Yes, this 30-something doctor, supposedly in the prime of her career, gave it all up. She simply didn't have what it took to continue in her field, and I think this whole episode freaked her out.

Now my father goes back again for the other eye, and I have to tell you, I am a bit nervous. What happens if this crazy thing happens again?

It had better not happen, for the sake of my father and my mom. I don't think they could take another episode like the previous one again.

I know that I can't.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rant #239: We Are the World's Fair

The reason I did not wait until today to post about the 40th anniversary of Earth Day is that today is also another anniversary of something significant in my life, and I must say much more significant than Earth Day was or is:

Today is the 46th anniversary of the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

Just a few months after taking office after the harrowing assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson opened the fair, the first in New York City in decades.

It was sited in Flushing Meadow Park, very much near the Mets' new home at the time, Shea Stadium.

Since I lived in Queens at the time, we were very near the fairgrounds, and my family and I went to the World's Fair several times during those years. We also went in summer camp, so all in all, I became very familiar with the World's Fair at a very tender age, just seven and eight years old.

This was the greatest thing imaginable to me at the time, probably the biggest thing I had ever been to. This was Palisades Amusement Park times 10. It had rides, exhibits, food, and many, many corporations and foreign countries participating.

Unfortunately, looking back years later, it was one of the biggest busts of all time, especially early on.

I guess the organizers figured that having a World's Fair in New York would draw people to the site in droves, as it had during the 1939 World's Fair, which is most remembered as the fair where people during that time first saw a new-fangled gadget that would change life forever: television.

Anyway, jumping ahead to 1964 ...

People did not come in droves. For whatever reason, this fair did not attract that many people during its first year. It seems that word spread that the fair was mobbed with people, and that turned a lot of people off. Of course, this was a pre-Internet time, only hearsay, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Also, a lot of the attractions didn't work at first, and word spread about this, turning people off further.

I think the real reason that the fair failed early on was that the country was still in mourning. We had just lost our President a few months before, and people were still down in the dumps about it. Were they supposed to automatically cheer up because the World's Fair was here?

But for me, this was the greatest thing I had ever been to in my life. Everything was so big, so huge, and so special to me.

I have nothing but good memories of the World's Fair. I remember riding the Sinclair ride, the "We're a Small World After All" ride, eating different foods I had never seen before in my life, and seeing people from all walks of life populate the site.

I remember the Unisphere, the symbol of the fair, and I remember riding in the front seat behind the wheel of a new Ford (or was it a Chrysler; I don't remember) on another ride. I remember the New York Pavilion, and the ride where you could actually see where you lived on a scaled down replica of New York City.

Although attendance picked up in the second year of the fair, the fair closed in 1965 amid allegations of financial mismanagement. As a little kid, I figured the fair would be there forever, but those dozen or so times I was there, it was like magic.

I know that there have been many other World's Fairs, but to me, this was it. Nothing could be any better.

In the years since, the fairgrounds have been decimated by neglect. Some of the buildings still stand, as does the Unisphere, but you have to cut through weeds and brush to get to it. New York City has to be blamed for this. How could the city let this historic site turn to garbage?

It's really too bad, because for me, the 1964-1965 World's Fair was the greatest thing I ever went to.

And you know what, all these years later, it still is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rant #238: Celebrity Drug Dealer

I am sure that you have read that Michael Douglas' son, Cameron Douglas, was sentenced to five years in prison on drug charges yesterday. He was caught dealing cocaine and methamphetamine.

While the judge didn't buy Kirk Douglas' grandson's story, evidently, numerous family members did, with more than three dozens letters on Cameron's behalf written by family members pleading for leniency.

According to reports, Michael Douglas' letter actually stated that his son was a "victim of celebrity" (my words), being the child and the grandson of a famous person.

Wow, I wish that we all could use such an excuse!

The judge correctly ruled that the younger Douglas may have "bottomed-out" with his drug usage, as so many of the letters stated, but that he was not a good candidate to stick to his drug rehabilitation without jail time. The judge also said that not one letter pointed to the fact that drugs are a detriment to society.

Once again, the privileged believe that because of their success, they can get away with anything. If the younger Douglas is a "victim of celebrity" (my words), wasn't Michael Douglas himself a "victim of celebrity" (my words)? Why didn't he turn out so bad?

This is utter nonsense, and the judge correctly saw through it.

The younger Douglas is a drug pusher, a common one at that, and a scourge to society in his present state of being. He must both be punished and given a chance to rehabilitate himself. Once he does both, he can re-enter society and maybe even make a positive mark on it.

But to claim that he did what he did because he is the son and grandson of famous people is absurd. How many sons and daughters and grandchildren of famous people actually stay out of trouble? I would say that the majority do. You only hear about the ones who don't ...

Such as Cameron Douglas, a felon who tried to get off because his family are enablers.

Maybe they should serve the time with him.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rant #237: Happy Birthday To Us All

From today to the remainder of this month, there are a number of birthdays coming up that feature as an eclectic list of personalities as can found on the calendar throughout the year.

It starts off today, April 20. On today's birthday list is none other than Adolph Hitler, probably the most vile creature of the 20th century. Was there anyone who tortured more souls than this lout? He was the uber-Nazi, the person who delivered the most havoc during World War II. He clearly deserved his demise as the walls were tumbling down around him.

Rocker and Hall of Famer Iggy Pop was born on April 21. Some people say the entire punk movement derived from his stage antics, such as cutting himself with glass as he warbled with the Stooges.

On April 22, we celebrate the birthdays of Jack Nicholson and Glen Campbell. Each was a rebel with his own cause. Nicholson started out in Grade Z movies, but worked himself up to the A list with counter culture flicks including Five Easy Pieces. Campbell was the link between pop and rock and country in the 1960s, having hits of his own, a wildly popular TV show, and working as a sideman for acts like the Monkees and the Beach Boys.

April 23 sees the birthdays of William Shakespeare and Roy Orbison. As a playwright, Shakespeare was perhaps unequalled, even to this day. His "Romeo and Juliet" stands as the most poetic, oft-imitated work of all time. And as for Orbison, did anyone else have such a voice? His "Pretty Woman" is only the tip of the iceberg in his musical resume.

April 24 is Barbra Streisand's birthday. Love her or hate her, she is one of the most successful recording artists of all time, and has also conquered film, television, Broadway, and just about everything else she has tried her hand at.

April 25 is the birthday of Ella Fitzgerald and Edward R. Murrow. One set the tone for jazz singers, the other for network news. Both are still influential today in these areas, and they are the cloth that all who pursued these fields after them are cut from.

Carol Burnett was born on April 26. After Lucille Ball, Burnett is probably TV's most famous comedienne. She studied the master and took it to the next level. Her comedy show was on for years, and it is still funny years after it left the air.

Ulysses S. Grant was born on April 27. Although not one of our most well-remembered presidents, he was a war hero, and is the answer to the oft-asked question, "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"

On April 28, Saddam Hussein and Ann-Margret were born; the former, almost in the same league as Hitler, one of the most vile human beings ever to walk the face of this planet, while the latter is unquestionably one of the most beautiful women to ever walk this planet. How one day can go from one extreme to another is incredible.

April 29 is the birthday of Duke Ellington and Jerry Seinfeld. Again, Ellington set the tone for all of the jazz musicians that followed him, while Seinfeld took the path of many standup comedians and became an icon for his generation.

Willie Nelson was born on April 30. One of country music's most lasting icons, Nelson influenced just about every country musician to follow him, and he also crossed over to mainstream audiences.

Well, there you have it. Those April birthdays are something, aren't they.

Me, I was born on April 28, so I guess I am somewhere between Saddam Hussein and Ann-Margret ... hopefully leaning to the side of the lady, even though I am every bit the man, just not much like Saddam was.

He was an ogre. I'm just OK.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rant #236: Happy Earth Day To You

Earth Day is Thursday, April 22. This will be, I believe, the 40th anniversary of the original Earth Day, which was held in 1970.

We seem to go through cycles when it comes to being environmentally friendly to our planet.

The hippies and counter culture brought this to the fore way back in 1970, and those hippies have all grown up now, but a new generation is bringing what is now called "greening" to our attention today.

The premise is the same today as it was 40 years ago: we have only one planet, let's not ruin it any further than we already have. Let's be environmentally conscious of what we are doing, and for those tasks that are not earth friendly, let's change them to make them so.

It's a good idea, but to put it into practice is not as easy. Even on the personal front, it takes a long time to unlearn learned behavior. If you have thrown little pieces of garbage out the window of your car since day one--such as gum wrappers, used cigarettes, etc.--it is hard to learn to throw those away in the proper receptacle.

It is also hard to learn to keep your bottles and cans so that you can turn them into your local supermarket for recycling, and the same thing goes for old newspapers.

I remember the first Earth Day, not because it sparked my interest in preserving the environment, but because of what myself and a friend of mine did that day.

I believe the first Earth Day was on a Saturday, or at least we had off on the first Earth Day (maybe it was the Easter break or something like that). I was 13, still living in Queens, it was right before my birthday and bar mitzvah, and my friend and I took the bus into downtown Jamaica, which was a bustling retail area then.

He had heard about an "underground" bookstore--you know, the ones that sold books about pot and had lots of nudie magazines, as well as X-rated comic books--and since we were both into comics, this store had old ones we could buy.

So we trekked into Jamaica, went to the bookstore (I don't remember the name), and looked around amongst potheads, hippies, and other curious people.

It was an eye-opener. I saw my first Fritz the Cat comic book, and even though I didn't buy it, it was a revelation--not every book had Superman in it, and not every woman in the comic books felt the need to have clothes on.

Oh well, it is a childhood memory I still cherish.

But funny, most of the people who would frequent such a store were probably into ecology, spearheading this movement way back when.

Now, those people are at least in their early 60s, if they survived that time. I wonder if they are still into ecology, or if they have left the movement to their children and grandchildren.

And what did I buy that day? I don't remember, but the memory of the day has far outlived the need for me to remember what I bought from that store.

Have a happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rant #235: Record Store Day

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 17, is the annual Record Store Day celebration, which is being held across the country.

You haven't heard about it? Let me fill you in.

Independent record stores are suffering right now. Some years back, just about every community had its local record store. Kids and adults would congregate there, buy their albums and 45s, and hear about local acts who had pressed their own records.

These stores were basically treasure troves of information about acts current and long gone, and the workers in these stores were knowledgeable, and really cared about the music.

However, during the past few years, chain stores like Best Buy have taken the steam out of these stores, and many, far too many, have closed up shop.

(I might add that I have nothing against Best Buy. I have bought many, many CDs, DVDs and hardware items there. It is a fine store with a limited selection of CDs and DVDs that they believe to be the most popular. And, very importantly, my nephew works for them, so they aren't bad at all.)

Record Store Day not only celebrates the independent record store, it also celebrates vinyl as a vital way to listen to records, even in these days of CDs and digital downloads.

So support your local record store--or if it isn't local, find one close by to where you live.

There will be free concerts, discounts, and lots of giveaways at many of these stores to celebrate the day.

We have such a store in my community, and I think I will visit--and buy some vinyl.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rant #234: Pay Up and Shut Up!

Well, did you pay your taxes yet?

Today is April 15, and today is the day that we all must submit our tax forms to the government so they can be processed. You probably know this, but today is the deadline, although you can get an extension under certain circumstances.

Some of us will be getting back money from the government; others will have to pay the federal and local governments what they owe them.

Some people choose to not partake of this process, while others claim deductions that are unlawful. Still others--very wealthy people--use tax shelters to shield their money from the arms of the government, and/or take tax write-offs that us regular people could never do legitimately.

I mean, what can a poor (and I mean that literally) middle class guy like myself, and my wife, do? We go by the law, and file our taxes each and every year.

Our deductions are minimal. Our son is one deduction (I can't take my daughter, because my ex-wife takes her as a deduction), and our child care expenses during the year are another deduction. Other than that, we don't own property, we don't have enough money to give anything substantial to charities, and thus, we don't have many deductions.

And if you don't have many deductions and make what we make, well, you don't do too well on your taxes.

But we file tax returns each year. At least we can say that. No monkey business here.

And it could be worse.

If you think that April 15 is annually the worst day of the year for you, take heed, it was worse for President Abraham Lincoln.

On this date, in 1865, the President died, nine hours after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C.

So it was a really, really bad day for him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rant #233: Ringing In My Head

The Yankees opened the 2010 baseball season several days ago in Boston against the hated Red Sox, but they finally made it back to Yankee Stadium (not the real stadium, but a good facsimile) yesterday, and played the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they call themselves these days.

The day was also one to remember, not necessarily for the score--the Yankees won 7-5--but because the Yankees hoisted their championship banner and the team also received their championship rings.

Just as a quirk in the schedule, Hideki Matsui, who was the World Series MVP last year but who signed with the Angels a few weeks after the World Series, was there with his new team, but his old team didn't forget him.

He received his ring from his old mates, and was allowed to go over to them and accept high-fives and such.

The Yankees actually played a trick on him, giving him a phony ring initially, but giving him the real ring aftewards.

Other dignitaries were in attendance, including owner George Steinbrenner, who has battled illness during the past few years, and Gene Monahan, the Yankees' trainer for the past nearly 50 years, who is going through his own battle now, against throat cancer. And Yankee stalwarts Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra were also there, giving authenticity to the whole affair.

It was a great day all around.

I know people love to hate the Yankees and what they stand for across the land, but let's be honest about it, they are baseball, American sports, and yes, American greed all wrapped up in one package.

The problems I had securing tickets to a game for myself and my family a few weeks back exemplifies what many people think the Yankees stand for, and I can't disagree with them.

Nonetheless, they are the most famous professional team probably in the world, and I have been a fan since I was a kid.

I love 'em, what can I say.

But they always have targets on their backs, because of what they represent and where they are from. It's easy to hate the Yankees, because so many people love to hate them.

Heck, there was even a great Broadway show and movie, "Damn Yankees," about this hatred people have for the team from the Bronx.

They are highly paid, and last year, they went to the zenith of the sporting world. They don't do it every year, even though people think they do. They have only done it 27 times in their history ... not a lot, but more than any other professional sports organization in North America, if not the world.

It's more pleasing than rooting for the Knicks, a horrible team run by a horrible organization. Whenever I get on my high horse about the Yankees, I have to look at the Knicks, who are to basketball what an enema is to constipation.

I root for teams on both ends of the spectrum, but I bleed pinstripe blue.

I really do.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rant #232: Working Harder Keeps You Employed

A new study put out by MetLife puts into focus what I have been saying for ages: companies are working their employees much harder now, taking out their frustrations on them that have been brought on by this recession that we are in.

According to the study, many companies have increased employees' workloads and put a higher priority on productivity since the recession began.

Also, employers have generally held the line on core benefits, such as life insurance.

Retaining benefits have come at a price for employees: the study found that they have to do more to justify their benefits.

The findings of the study coincide with what I have been saying all along: employers dangle the carrot of benefits in front of you, and you just have to grin and bear the increased workload you are getting.

Nowhere in the study was there evidence that employers were increasing their employees' salaries while extending their workloads; the promise of health insurance has pretty much put that notion to bed.

At my place of work, I know that my workload has increased measurably. I am now writing for two of our trade books, not one like I had been doing for more than a decade.

Morale is down in my department, because I am not the only one to be given much more to do, with much more "ranting and raving" by our employer and thus, less job satisfaction.

I am not saying this to be a crabapple, but it is what is happening in my place of business.

And raises are not forthcoming, like they used to be.

We used to not have to ask for a raise; we were usually given something small each year, which basically placated us from ever asking for something more.

But those days are gone. Raises are not given in that way anymore.

Although the prices of just about everything have gone up during the past few years, my paycheck still reads the same number.

So, I did what I had to do for the peace of mind of myself and my family ...

I actually asked for a raise!

I haven't had one in a couple of years, and I thought it was a good time to do so.

People are making money during this recession, although I am not. My expenses have jumped several percentage points, and I really could use some extra money in my paycheck.

So I have taken a chance.

The powers that be have not gotten back to me on this yet, but I will get back to you when I find out if it is a "go" or a "no."

I'm banking on the "go."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rant #231: I Sneeze, You Sneeze, We All Sneeze

I have had problems with allergies since I was a little kid growing up in Queens, New York.

And all of these years later, I still have problems with my allergies.

I suffered as a kid something terrible. Back then, the science of allergies wasn't really there yet. Food allergies could be pinpointed pretty easily, but once you got beyond dust and pollen, the other allergies really weren't targeted yet.

I remember not being able to eat as I was sniffling up a storm. I remember that there was a period that I missed a day a week of school for about a month or six weeks at a time.

Then, in the early 1970s, a test was finally developed to chart allergies beyond the basics. I remember that you had to lay your arm flat, and they would inject solution into your arm, in two rows, with a device that resembled a staple gun. Any one of the patches that these injections developed that puffed up meant that you were allergic to the substance.

Of course, the indentations that this device made to my arm were incredible; the cure appeared to be worse than the disease, and I had to wear long shirts for about a month during one summer because of this procedure.

Anyway, although this test found that I had no food allergies, I was allergic to dust and pollen (no surprise), but also horse hair, something called the Jerome tree or bush (I don't recall which one, or perhaps it was both), and the entire season of fall, when the weather suddenly changes.

At 15 years of age, I began getting allergy shots once per month, and nearly 38 years later, I still get them, never stopping. My arms are pin cushions, but I am so used to it that I don't even flinch.

In today's world, the test is so much simpler. It is simply a blood test, and takes as long as it does to draw a vial of blood out of you. Back then, that staple gun test took an entire afternoon.

But now I read that this year is one of the worst, if not the worst, season ever for those suffering from allergies. The wet weather during the last part of the winter and early spring has made the pollen count extremely high.

And I don't have to tell you, I have been suffering greatly as we enter the middle of April.

I am often stuffy, can't breathe, and I am constantly clearing my throat. I have had a couple of bad allergy attacks, where I think that I won't ever stop wheezing and coughing.

And no, I do not has asthma, thank goodness. This is just plain allergies, nothing more.

I can only imagine what asthma sufferers are going through.

What can one do about it?

Pretty much nothing. I have learned that you have to go with the flow. Some days are better than others.

I am so used to this that I just have learned to grin and bear it.

But I can tell you, it isn't pretty. Having allergies is a curse, and unfortunately, I guess I am cursed for life.

There is pretty much nothing I can do about it, but continue to take my shots. I have to go to the allergist to get my shots in two weeks, and I can't wait.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Rant #230: Burn Your Bra!

As breast week concludes, I swear that these things find me, I don't look for them myself ...

Remember in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when many women across America were burning their bras, symbolizing, according to them, their liberation from many things, including their generations-old domination by men?

Well, there appear to be many artifacts of this time period that come to the fore every once in a while.

One of the music-oriented blogs that I frequent, WFMU's Beware of the Blog (, has posted two ditties (with a "t") that exemplify a different era in a different time.

One is by Benny Johnson and the other is by Alex Houston and Elmer, certainly not household names, but their songs, "Burn Your Bra Baby," demonstrate that this phenomenon was not lost among the masses.

Women were making a statement, and men were taking notice!

I do not know what to make of these tunes, or the process of burning one's bra, but all I can say is that these are both uplifting experiences.

And there is a story to go with these tunes that has to be read. I won't go into it here, but it involves mind control! Read it all at the WFMU Blog!

I rest my case on breast week, but not too hard so as to crush the subjects of my reflection.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rant #229: Topless Protest Jiggles the Senses

Well, what can I say, breast week continues ...

I was not out searching for this story, but it found me.

The other day, about two dozen women drew a crowd of onlookers when they shed their shirts and marched downtown in Maine's largest city to promote what they call equal-opportunity public toplessness.

Organizer Ty MacDowell said the point of Saturday's march in Portland was that a topless woman out in public shouldn't attract any more attention than a man who walks around without a shirt.

Of course, this thought is completely ridiculous, but I continue ...

The Portland Press Herald reports that by the end of the march, more than 500 people had amassed: a mix of marchers, young men snapping photos, oglers and people just out enjoying a sunny, warm day.

It's not illegal for a woman to be topless in public in Maine, and police said there were no incidents or arrests.

That's good. I am glad nobody got busted for having their shirts off.

What more can you say about this story?

Look, I bet in that crowd were both men and women looking at these ladies with their shirts off.

And no, those women pictured were not at this event.

A topless woman is going to attract attention, and it simply is not the same as when a man takes his shirt off as when a woman does.

I hate to break this fact to the organizer, but you can say that it is the society that we live in, but I say it is just an interesting fact of life that the eye is attracted to this part of women's bodies.

And by the way, I came across this story via a "news update" sent to me each day from a reputable television station in New York City. And yes, they employ numerous females to deliver the news.

I wonder what they had to say about this release. They certainly didn't cover it on their newscasts over the weekend.

But maybe those women protesters should cover it, probably for most of them the sooner the better.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rant #228: Russ Meyer Busts Out

OK, I am going to admit it. I am a Russ Meyer fan.

No, not a fan of the old-time ballplayer, but a fan of the man who created a genre of movies that probably many of you have overlooked: the jiggly film. These weren't porn flicks, they were bouncy flicks.

In the days when there were no movie ratings, but there were underground sexploitation flicks being made by numerous producers, Russ Meyer's work rose above all of them.

Let me keep you abreast of who Russ Meyer was.

Russ Meyer was a pretty well known wartime photographer during World War II. Once the war was over, he decided to pursue what one might call a less virtuous path, producing girlie movies in the age of the 1950s and the dawn of Playboy Magazine.

He populated his movies--little cheapos which didn't cost much and which played at local movie dives and drive-ins--with astoundingly proportioned women. Let's just say that if the Barbie doll was actually a human being, she would have been featured in his films.

Although his movies were made on the cheap, shown in movie houses that you wouldn't take your pet rat to, these films made enormous amounts of money.

With titles like "The Vixens," "Harry, Cherry and Raquel," and "Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill," you just knew what type of flick you were getting.

And yes, after awhile, regular Hollywood took notice, because the money numbers were just too staggering.

He made a couple of legitimate films, including "The Seven Minutes" and "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,"--the latter film was written by movie reviewer Roger Ebert--but his bread and butter were cheapo nudie flicks. They were not XXX-rated, and by today's standards, most of his films would probably get an R rating.

He returned to that genre in the mid-1970s, putting out such films as "Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens" and "Up" and his popularity continued through the 1970s.

That is when I learned about him and his movies, the years I attended college. They were rites of passage for me.

I even had one chance meeting with him.

I was interviewing one of the stars of "Up," the ridiculously endowed Raven de la Croix, for my college newspaper in a movie theater that was showing the film to sold-out audiences.

I spoke with her for a few minutes, and then I asked her, "You told me you had a young son. How does he feel about his mom appearing in such movies?"

Well, before she could open her heavily lipsticked lips to utter an answer, out pops this old guy from a door that was behind me. He screams "Interview Over!" and leads the lady away from me.

I didn't know who this old fart was until I was later told that it was Russ Meyer himself! He had been monitoring the interview from behind this door.

Oh well, I wish I could have gotten his autograph!

Anyway, what this all leads up to is that Playboy Channel in March showed five of his films to celebrate his birthday. Although he died a few years ago, he is still revered in the film community by many. Count Quentin Tarrantino as one of his disciples. I often thought the "Kill Bill" films were Russ Meyer movies without the large breasts.

Anyway, that is my story.

Now at least you know who the man was. His films are available on video if I have generated any interest in you.

Heck, if I can talk about breastfeeding in a previous rant, I certainly can talk about breastwatching in another!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rant #227: Milking It For Everything It's Worth

Recent findings that feeding newborns with breast milk is even more beneficial than once thought is sure to fuel this continuous debate on both sides of the ... er, breast.

It has now been determined that breast feeding wards off or lessens numerous ailments in children, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It can even be a lifesaver for some children.

I know that this gives different organizations additional fuel for the fire when they command new mothers to breastfeed their children, but it also puts women in a precarious position.

With lifestyles the way they are today, I think it is more and more difficult for a women to decide whether she wants to breatfeed her new child or not, whether it is said to be better for them or not.

Breastfeeding is oftentimes awkward, although behind the scenes preparations can make it easier. A child doesn't always have to be at a women's breast to be fed breastmilk, as it can be pumped beforehand.

In fact, this is the way that men can participate, as pre-pumped breast milk can be fed to the child the same way as formula is, through a bottle.

However, having fathered two kids myself, I see the stigma placed on women who don't breastfeed for one reason or another.

Women are literally force fed literature on breast feeding while they are in the hospital to give birth. They are bombarded with information, and I think this bombardment makes those who choose to go another route feel as if they have let down their kids.

I think not. My kids were not breast fed, and they have done just fine. My first wife was way too sick to even attempt to do so, and my wife now tried, but couldn't do it. Not every woman is made to be a breast feeder, and those who can't--or choose not to do it--should not be ostracized for their choice.

Women have a choice, whether the proponents of breast feeding acknowledge it or not.

And for those who choose to breast feed, great, that is their right.

And for those who don't choose to breast feed, I applaud them. They have made their choice, and it suits them, and their child.

What is the big deal?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rant #226: Taking the Day Off

I took today off from work. My son is still off from school for his Easter/Passover break, and there is no one to be here with him, since my wife goes back to work today.

So, it was the perfect day to take off.

And I am in the "take off" frame of mind too. Nothing to think about, nothing to worry about in the work mode, nothing.

Yes, the Yankees lost last night, and I am not happy about that, but otherwise, I am worry free today.

Tomorrow is another story. I am going back to work as my son goes back to school, and I will be in the work mode again. Lots of headaches, worries, things I have to do ...

But today, there is none of that.

At least I get one day of peace.

Everybody needs one ...

I thought I would have a quiet day, but it has not worked out that way.

As my son sleeps late, I received a phone call from a doctor I use for my eyes.

The doctor says that every time they try to retrieve payment from my health insurance provider, they are told that I was terminated--a few years ago!

This is as far from the truth as possible. I have been with them for over 14 years, since I began working for my current employer.

The doctor is going to see what can be done.

Well, on a day that I thought would be an easy one, now there is something else I have to worrry about.

No, there is no such thing as a "relaxing day," is there?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rant #225: The Best Month

Now that April Fool's Day is over--and Google goes back to being Google and not Topeka--let's focus on the best month of the year-April.

Sure, I am partial to April because it was the month I was born in way back in 1957 on April 28, but it really is the best month of the year.

Let me give you some proof.

At least in the northeast, this is the month that after the first week or so, we don't have to worry about snow anymore for several months. This is the first full month of spring no matter where you live, so as they say, "spring hopes eternal."

And the weather isn't that crazy. Sure, last year, around my birthday, New York got into the 90s--not to hit that number again until August--but generally, that "April showers" stuff is just hooey. In fact, this year in New York, we had the wettest March on record.

April also gives us hope for the coming summer season. It is a month that kind of teases us into thinking it is warmer than it really is, but it is also the month where we can finally put away the winter stuff and start wearing lighter clothing.

It is also when the baseball season starts. This Sunday evening, the evening of Easter Sunday, the Yankees take on the Red Sox. I mean, it doesn't get any better than this.

Sure, for some, April is the cruelest month. Tax day is April 15, and that is a day that many people just abhor. But I will send in my taxes this weekend, so I have nothing to worry about.

So there you have it. I know that some people would argue with me--a month that features the birthdays of both Saddam Hussein and Hitler can't be all that good--but it is also the month that features the births of Ann-Margret and the current hottie, Jessica Alba, too, as well as Barbra Streisand and Jay Leno ( I can't stand either one of these, but hey, they are popular to some people).

So to me, it is a great month. Just super.

I don't think there is a better month on the calendar. Do you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rant #224: The Smoking Gun

Today is April Fool's Day, and what I am going to write is no joke.

April 1 is also the 40th anniversary on the ban of cigarette advertising on TV in the United States.

President Nixon signed a measure banning this type of advertising on not just TV, but on radio, too.

Not only did it remove some of the most fun commercials off the airwaves--remember ads like "It's a silly millimeter longer, 101"--it was really one of the first moves to demonstrate to the American public that cigarette smoking was bad for your health, and could lead to cancer.

Oh, sure, smokers wheezing and coughing their lungs out in front of you really didn't do the trick.

But when cigarette advertising was banned, it sent a clearer message to the public that we really should smarten up, and not participate in this activity--even though the guy who signed the measure was a smoker himself, as have been most of the presidents we have had in our history, including the current commander in chief.

I know it hasn't worked entirely. Millions of people smoke. I guess they like to do it, but if not for health reasons, then economically, it just doesn't pay to smoke.

My grandfather smoked--cigarettes, pipes, cigars, one after the other--and he smoked himself to death. He died at 74 years of age, and I know that smoking robbed him of several years of life, robbed him of being a great grandfather.

My dad smoked, too, but quit cold turkey when I was born in 1957. He hasn't had a puff since, but often says he gets the urge at times.

Cigarette smoking, and its associated activities, like tobacco chewing, are among the scourges of society. Once you smoke, it seems you are hooked one way or another, even if you stop.

My kids were taught at a young age that smoking was bad for you, and I seriously doubt that either one will ever smoke, and I mean ever smoke anything.

I never did. I guess I saw my grandfather wither away, and it had an incredible influence on me.

Anyway, don't smoke. And if you do, stop now.

You owe it to yourself, and to your family, friends, and loved ones.

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