Friday, May 28, 2010

Rant #266: Goodbye Gary

I didn't think I would be posting this holiday weekend, but if you haven't heard the news, Gary Coleman died today. The injury he sustained left him in very bad shape, and when the doctors told his wife that there was almost no chance of recovery, she let him die peacefully.

I know that people will point to Gary Coleman and say that he was the prototypical child star: talented but brash, not undertanding the situation he was in, and ultimately, a miserable adult.

But Gary had other things to deal with. His kidney problems left him short of stature, and he always seemed to be fighting the system.

Also, I don't know where all his money went, but he was constantly shucking for money in jobs that were way beneath him.

I wish he would have taken my advice that I put up in a Rant some months ago, where I suggested that he move behind the camera. His invaluable experience--especially to the newest breed of child starts--could have been invaluable.

Instead, he was a constant presence in police stations and on "Entertainment Tonight," and I don't think he ever really got "it": that fame is fleeting. Few people can sustain it their whole lives, and he certainly couldn't.

Seeing him as an adult was a shock. This was one very bitter human being.

I prefer to remember him as he was: that adorable little kid on "Fernwood Tonight" who I could have sworn at the time was a midget; and as the young teenager and the star of "Diff'rent Strokes," where he took a pretty lame show and made it more than watchable.

And that is the problem. I prefer to remember him as a kid, but his kid phase passed years ago. This guy was 40, not 14.

R.I.P. Gary. I hope you are in a better place now and that you are finally at peace with yourself.

Rant #265: Random Rants

Here is a look at some random rants, interesting tidbits that don't deserve an entire rant devoted to them.

Gary Coleman Takes a Fall: Yes, the beloved (and infamous) former child star reportedly took a fall at his home, and sustained a head injury. The injury is a serious one, and the last I heard, he was in critical condition. He is currently in a surgical ICU in a Utah hospital.

Once again, the "Diff'rent Strokes" saga continues.

What makes it all the more bizarre is that this happened on former co-star Todd Bridges' birthday!

Dr. Beach Makes His Best Beach Picks: Stephen P. Leatherman, who calls himself "Dr. Beach" (if he has a son, is he "son of a Beach?"), annually makes his picks for the country's best beaches, and this year, he has chosen Coopers Beach, Southampton, Long Island, as his favorite.

Looking down the list, he doesn't pick beaches that the general public can go to--all of these beaches are pretty exclusive. I don't see Jones Beach on there, if you get my drift.

My favorite beach: my backyard, with our above-ground pool.

PETA's "Horror" Idea: The People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization has asked to lease the notorious "Amityville Horror" house on Long Island to put up an exhibit to show people the real-life horrors that humans inflict on animals.

One of the exhibits that the organization would like to have in the house is metal and concrete pig gestation crate. Each child visiting the exhibit would be given a "crazed and knife-wielding Ronald McDonald doll."

Yes, somehow, I think people will line up around the block to see first-hand how animals are tortured. Heck, don't just bring the kids, bring your grandparents, aunts uncles, even bring your pets to see what they escaped when you adopted them.

I will take the day off, like many of you, on Monday, but I will be back on Tuesday. Have a good holiday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rant #264: An Icon Passes

I seriously doubt that anybody under the age of 50 knows the name of Art Linkletter. But for anyone who is a baby boomer or who knows television history, Linkletter was an icon we all grew up with, all knew, and even when he wasn't much in the public eye anymore, when we did see him we had to smile.

Linkletter died yesterday at the age of 97, and I must say that his passing stopped me in my tracks for a moment.

This guy had the most astounding life that anyone could lead.

Born in Canada to an unwed mother who put him up for adoption, he was taken in by a family which eventually moved to California. His preacher father was a bit hard on him, and Linkletter worked from an early age to help support his family. Later, he literally rode the rails as a hobo, learning about people and life on the way.

He finally entered college looking to be a journalist, but one thing led to another, and he made his way onto radio.

He became a top network radio host in the 1940's. While he emceed the long-running radio (and later TV) series "People Are Funny" (NBC Radio 1942-58, NBC-TV 1954-61), and a short-lived prime-time game show ("The Art Linkletter Show" for NBC), Linkletter will best be known for hosting "Art Linkletter's House Party" (CBS Radio 1945-67; CBS-TV 1952-69), on which the final segment of each day's show, "Kids Say The Darndest Things" (where Linkletter's interviews with children resulted in embarassingly hilarious responses by the youngsters), became a true piece of broadcasting Americana.

Linkletter would ask kids direct questions, and the responses he received were very, very funny. Several best-selling books came about from the interviews with kids on this show, and even today, years later, many of the responses are hilarious.

Linkletter was one of the first, if not the first, pop journalist. He played to his audience, was never sour in front of them, and he was keenly aware of what they liked. He was less a host and more of a people surveyor. He didn't cover the news like other journalists, but he covered people's foibles, and made us laugh at them.

I watched "House Party" as a kid, a very young kid, and I loved the show. He played practical jokes on the audience, but they were so mild, that everyone had a good laugh when the recipient understood what had happened. The show was sort of a milder "Truth or Consequences," which was the first "in your face" game show and was hosted by the then very brash Bob Barker. Linkletter and his show were milder, kinder and for this kid, a lot of fun.

He was married to his wife for 75 years when he died--75 years! Incredible.

But his personal life as an adult was not without tragedy. He outlived three of his children. One died in a car accident, one (his TV personality son Jack, a success in his own right) died of lymphoma a few years ago, and his daughter, Diane, committed suicide in 1969. Diane fell in with a bad crowd during the late 1960s, and her dad claimed that the use of LSD--linked to Dr. Timothy Leary--led to her death. Even though toxicology reports found her to be clean when she died, Linkletter claimed that the after-effects of drug use killed her, and he became an outspoken anti-drug crusader for the remainder of his life.

His recording, "We Love You, Call Home," which he recorded with daughter Diane prior to her death, won a spoken word Grammy. He also recorded a number of record albums, some of which were directed at the same youthful audience that loved him.

Even as an elderly man, Linkletter was tireless. He owned real estate, a natural energy company, and several other concerns.

I saw him on Larry King about a year ago, and this guy was more effervescent than someone half his age. And for a man in his 90s, he looked incredibly well.

Evidently, he was not well for the last six months of his life, finally succumbing to old age.

His kind will never be seen again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rant #263: The Super Bowl IS NOT Coming To New York

All the talk about the 2014 Super Bowl coming to New York is balderdash.

Yesterday, the 2014 Super Bowl was awarded to the New Meadowlands Stadium, which, surprising to some, happens to be in New Jersey.

The hubbub surrounding this announcement--especially in New York--is confounding. I don't understand how people think that the Super Bowl is coming to New York.

The Meadowlands is not New York.

Listen to one idiot quoted in today's Newsday, a Long Island newspaper that declared on its front page: "2014 Super Bowl Coming Here" (Long Island is in New Jersey--I didn't know that): "I want it to be in New York because everyone has a chance to see it."

Well, if it were in Miami, everyone would have a chance to see it too. Turn on the TV, dummy! And do you think because it's in "New York" that you are actually going to get tickets?

And, of course, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg--who years earlier dropped the ball on the proposed West Side Stadium, which would have been the home of the Jets, who now share the Meadowlands Stadium with the Giants--glommed onto this announcement, stating that it would be a boon to New York City's economy.

If it is being held in New Jersey, how can that be?

Here is what economist Andrew Zimbalist said: "I think this is not great news for the New York City economy. The NFL likes to pretend it is."

As long as the NFL allows the charade to continue that New York City has two football teams--the Giants and the Jets still proclaim they are from New York--this stupid idea that two New Jersey teams are actually New York teams will continue. The fact of the matter is that New York City has no--meaning zero--teams in the NFL. The only New York team is the Buffalo Bills, who play as far away from New York City as Cleveland is.

Just let me get it through people's heads again--a Super Bowl which is being played in New Jersey has nothing at all to do with New York City.

And the people who think that it does are having delusions of grandeur or delusions of gridiron or something like that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rant #262: Wanna Buy a House?

In today's screwed-up housing market, a nice house is pretty hard to find.

Well, I have one for you, if you can afford the asking price.

Let me act as a broker, and maybe I can get a commission when this is sold.

The listing says that 108 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, is up for sale. It is being listed at $1.15 million, so this isn't a foreclosure or anything like that. But it is available.

Do you want it?

Let me tell you the history of the house.

The house used to be at 112 Ocean Avenue, but previous owners changed the address of the house to protect their privacy. People used to come and gawk at the house for years. Sure it was a nice looking house, but that is not why people came to look at it ...

... they came to look at it because it is the infamous Amityville Horror house.

Yes, although the address is changed and it has been refurbished so that it looks nothing like the original home of the DeFeo family, it is THE house.

You might remember, that the DeFeos, including Ronald, lived in the house in the early 1970s. This is the house that was the site for the brutal murders of six family members by Ronald.

That would be bad enough, but you remember the story: George and Kathleen Lutz ended up buying the home, and supposedly spent 28 days being haunted out of their minds, as described in the book "The Amityville Horror: A True Story" by Jay Anson. The book was a bestseller, spawned several top-grossing (literally) movies, and thus, a legend was born.

Well, now the house is for sale. Want it?

I remember that when this mania was at its fiercest, people used to drive to the house at all hours, gawking, throwing garbage and beer cans at it, and generally making themselves nuisances.

Even though I live near the house, I never had such an interest in this site. I think I drove by it once for some reason, but I didn't go there intentionally to see it.

But oh, so many other people did.

I remember once, I was walking on Merrick Road to go to my doctor. A car pulled up with an older man and he asked if he was going in the right direction to see the house. Even though he was going in the wrong direction, I told him that he was going the right way.

I guess I didn't have time for this type of nonsense.

I knew people who knew Ronald DeFeo when they were in high school together. I remember them telling me that if anybody could do something like he did, he would be the one. He was nuts even before the murders.

Anyway, the house is now for sale, and I ask again:

Want it?

I guess you can have it, if you can scare up the cash.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rant #261: What I Consider To Be An Amazing Story

I am still on Cloud Nine regarding my daughter's college graduation, and I will continue to be in that state of mind as long as things continue the way they are.

Let me explain.

I am proud as punch about my daughter, and I think she is going to be a real success as she approaches her teaching career.

And my son is no slouch either.

Let me tell you about my son. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a young age. For a while, we had him on medicine, but he hasn't taken any in years. He is a good kid, but very shy.

Some people wrote him off immediately--I remember one doctor used a term about him that my wife and I not only found reprehensible, but completely unprofessional--but we didn't. We knew he had some limitations, but we found that he is actually a pretty bright kid. He just has to do things at his own speed, which in this "hurry-up" world of ours, isn't often accommodated--even in school.

He played Little League baseball from the ages of 5 to 12. As he got older, it got tougher for him to compete, as, like with the ADHD, at an early age, he was diagnosed with movement problems. This kid could not hold a pencil correctly until he was about six or seven, much less hold a bat. But he did, and he did the best he could.

When it became apparent that he couldn't really compete in baseball anymore, we were really perplexed about what he should get into, because he loves to play sports, even though he is clearly not an athlete--or so we thought.

A few weeks ago, he declared to my wife and I that he was going to go out for the school track team. Honestly, the last time I saw him run was in Little League, and, well, he ran like my mother.

So, we gave him the thumb's up and told him to do his best.

In the meantime, he was diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. The curve was not that pronounced, but needed to be taken care of. He was fitted for a brace and learned to wear it just about 24/7.

In an odd coincidence, he went through a growth spurt at this precise time, grew a few inches, and learned to stand up straight with the help of the brace, Again, this was not pronounced, but my wife and I did see a difference.

Back to track. We asked him how he was doing, and he said he was doing fine. One day, he comes home from school and tells us that he made the school track team. We were both ecstatic and a little befuddled. How did this kid make the track team with the movement problems he has had since being born? And based on what we once saw of him, how could he do it?

(Just so you know, he wears his brace all day, but during sports activities, he takes it off.)

Anyway, two weeks ago, we found out big time.

Although I could not get there in time from work, my wife was at a particular meet, and incredible as it may seem to us, our son won the 55-meter race against four other kids from neighboring schools! My wife said he ran like a gazelle out the track.

He has ran two other races, and finished in third and in second.

We are so happy for him. It is like a confluence of so many things happening at once--the scoliosis diagnosis, the wearing of the brace, the growth spurt, and his own confidence that he can do things that perhaps even he thought were impossible just a year or two ago.

Also, seeing his sister graduate gave him even more confidence.

When he enters high school next year, he is going out for the track team, and I am convinced that he will make it. There will be a lot of hard work to make the high school team, but based on his recent performance, it appears he has a great chance.

And he is determined to go to college. He is a Special Education kid, and works very hard to achieve good grades. We--my wife, my mother and I--study with him on a daily basis, and even though he has much work to do, we think he should do whatever he wants to do in life. If he wants to go to college, let him pursue that dream.

My wife and I are very proud of him. Coupled with my daughter's recent educational success, I can say, like James Brown once said ...

"I feel good!"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rant #260: "Lost" Goes Over the Deep End

The day arrives on Sunday night … the television series “Lost” reaches its long-anticipated finale.

I have very mixed feelings on the show. I have watched it with my wife since episode one, and I have been intrigued with it since that time.

I think the original idea was to make an action-adventure series patterned after the "Survivor" reality series on CBS. Not only did this ABC-produced series go well beyond that, it went, well, very, very far beyond a "Survivor" ripoff.

The first season, and probably the second season, were excellent. When the show dealt with the main characters surviving their plane crash and trying to figure out ways to get off the island, that is when the show had its greatest strength.

It was certainly the most believable part of the show’s history. You really could believe that this could happen to you or anyone else.

I think “Lost” took a major wrong turn when it went away from being an action-adventure show to one heavily leaning on the sci-fi element.

I don’t not like sci-fi (double negative, I know), but I think it hurt this series immeasurably. It also turned off many, many viewers, who exited the show in droves. This stuff about the island being special, that the island was sort of a portal for all things related to the world in which we live, was a bit of a stretch.

When the sci-fi component really hit, it took the steam out of the character development. These characters, which were clearly defined early on, took second fiddle to the mysteries of the island, and that, I feel was a major mistake.

And a major mistake was made during the season when the show was put on something of a break or hiatus, only to come back later in the season. That self-enforced chasm was a mistake that the show never recovered from.

Nor was the writer's strike, which impeded it mid-series.

However, I don’t mean to be crying sour grapes here. The writers created a show that people cared about, which is very rare in the current television environment. The show gave people something to postulate about for the ages.

And sure, it has gone on at least two seasons too long, but at least it did not become the “X-Files,” another excellent show that went on probably five seasons too long.

“Lost” got lost in its own creativity, and whatever happens in the finale, it is the end …

I guess.

I have postulated since season one that the end will show that this entire adventure was in Hurley’s mind. The last scene will show him in the mental hospital, and will show that this was his own way of coping with his own inadequacies.

Yes, this was something like a dream.

Sure, I might be wrong, but with this show, anything is possible, and ultimately, that is why it will be remembered …

Until the next “must-see” show debuts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rant #259: ATM Guy Gone Too

Like yesterday's rant about the death of the Chipwich man, here is another death of a person who is little more than a footnote in history, but who changed many of our lives with his invention.

One day, John Shepherd-Barron was frustrated because he was locked out of his bank. Always fascinated by candy vending machines, he somehow melded the two together to come up with the automatic teller machine, better known as the ATM.

The first ATM was installed at a branch of Barclays Plc in a north London, England, suburb in June 27, 1967. Plastic bank cards had not been developed yet, so the machine used special checks that were chemically coded. One of these checks was placed in a drawer, and after entering a personal identification number--something he is not credited with developing--a second drawer would open with cash inside.

His invention was a revolutionary one, because it made banks 24-hour-a-day stops, allowing you to take out money--or now, even deposit cash--24/7. It also made tellers less necessary, and that's the downside of this thing.

But who hasn't used an ATM, even once in a blue moon? I rarely use it, but I do have an ATM card, and in an emergency, I have used it to access cash.

Of course, progress often leads to falling a step back too, and the emergence of ATMs--there are something less than 2 million of these things worldwide--has led to crime in and around these machines.

But, I guess that is something of "collateral damage" to progress. Anything that allows you to have access to your money in an easier way is better than being closed out when you need the cash.

With the Chipwich and ATM inventors passing, what other person who is a footnote to history will die this week? These things happen in threes, so who could go next?

Who knows--remember, these guys are simply footnotes in history, so until they pass, we won't know about the incredible things they have invented.

And I guess that is the way they want it, too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rant #258: Chipwich Sandwiched

When I heard that Richard LaMotta died recently, I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my day.

But Richard LaMotta deserved more than just a shrug.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, after I graduated college and was trying to make my mark on the world, everywhere I went in Manhattan had a pushcart on the corner hawking one thing or another--hot dogs, pretzels ... you name it, you could get it on a New York pushcart, and still can, for that matter.

But back then, another concoction to tantalize the hungry was also being offered on the pushcarts. It was called a Chipwich, and it was probably one of the most simple food inventions ever created. Take some ice cream, put it in the middle of two large cookies, sprinkle some chocolate morsels on it and there it was.

It was a bit more involved than that--how do you keep the cookies crisp while frozen?--but that was the Chipwich.

Well, LaMotta was the creator of this concoction, and he just passed away.

I remember in those days, when I was young and fresh and thought that the world was just waiting for me, the Chipwich was a nice respite from the days where I pounded on doors looking for work.

When they were first introduced, they used to give them our for free in Manhattan.

Then, when they caught on, every pushcart worth its salt was selling them.

Over the years, Chipwich passed through a number of hands. LaMotta made a nice bundle off of them, which he deserved.

But today, you can find the progeny of Chipwiches all over the place, but not the original. Its last owner retired the Chipwich a number of years ago. You can read all about its history at

But I can still taste that Chipwich through my fond memories of it during those days when my youth made me so brash and fearless, but still with lots of doubt about my future.

Looking back, more than 30 years later, the ingenuity of the Chipwich, and my own naivete, pretty much went hand in hand.

And in some ways, I miss them both.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rant #257: Lebron James Sweepstakes

I haven't written a sport rant in a while, but the time has come.

The Lebron James sweepstakes is ready to begin, and the wait may be over for fans of several teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.

He is to become a free agent in a month and a half, so the watch is on.

James, whose Cavaliers were ousted in the NBA playoffs last week, has a major decision to make, one that we would all love to have: which team to play on, translating to which team is going to break the bank to have this player as a member of its roster.

There are other free agents out there, including Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but James is, hands down, the cream of this crop. He is the league's best player, its MVP, and no one comes near him for sheer basketball skills and yes, charisma. He has it all, and he is just in his mid-20s.

Who is going to retain the services of this guy?

The Knicks and Nets play in the most lucrative market in professional sports--especially the Knicks--and he could make even more money by playing in the Big Apple, as remember, the Nets are supposed to be moving to Brooklyn in a few years.

The Bulls can offer Lebron everything, including a new coach to his liking. Plus, even though this isn't New York, playing in Chicago will give him a deserved showcase for his talents.

However, I think the Cavaliers have the inside track. He is an Ohio native, and he has much unfinished business to attend to there.

Wherever he lands, circus-time has begun. The speculation I read about every day is nearly killing me.

And wherever he ends up, he will be a very, very rich man, even richer than he is today.

So, let the sweepstakes begin! I love to see people make as much money as they can, although in James' case, his dollar bills are like pennies to the rest of us.

I should have nurtured my basketball skills a bit more when I was growing up in Queens. Maybe I could have been the Lebron James of my day ...

One can dream, can't they?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rant #256: It's Graduation Day (Part 2)

... or it was Graduation Day on Saturday, May 15.

My family and I journeyed to Oswego, New York, for all the festivities surrounding my daughter's graduation from SUNY Oswego, which took place in the afternoon this past Saturday.

It took us exactly--and I mean just about to the minute--six hours to trek the 300-plus miles from Long Island to Oswego, a town which reminds me of Mayberry, but on steroids. There is so much old and quaint about this town, but with a college of this size right in it, it has plenty of the new in it too.

The school had so many graduates (undergrads and advanced degrees) that they had to split up the ceremony into two parts, with some kids getting their degrees in the morning and other kids--like my daughter--getting their degrees in the afternoon.

The morning ceremony was going to have some controversy, as John McHugh, the Secretary of the Army, was supposed to speak, but he decided not to come when his arrival was going to spark a number of protests related to his stand on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military stance.

But he wasn't there, and it would not have affected my daughter's ceremony, anyway.

Oswego ran a very tight ship during the ceremony. It lasted maybe 2-plus hours, which isn't much when you consider how many students received their degrees in the afternoon. It had to be at least 500 or so, if not more.

However, they were less tight with their program booklet. My daughter's name was not in there, and I later found out that dozens of graduates' names were omitted from the program. I don't know why.

The guest speaker was writer/activist Naomi Wolfe, and I must say, she was quite eloquent and really not very controversial when she spoke to the assembled throng. She alluded to the situation that was avoided earlier in the day just one time, and very briefly, but not directly, which I think was the way to go.

Finally, it was time to see my daughter get her diploma. We came early, had great seats directly parallel to where my daughter was seated, and she went up with her fellow students and got her diploma, or more to the point, a case for the diploma. She will get the diploma sent to her.

Then, it was over seemingly as quickly as it started. I was so proud of her, and I felt kind of old, in that I now have a daughter who has a college degree, and a son going into high school next year.

In all the hub-bub afterward, it was very hard to get through the crowd, but we found my ex-wife's husband, and he led us to see my daughter so I could take a few photos in her cap and gown for her grandparents.

I saw my ex-wife and her family, said congratulations to all of them, but they did not offer my congratulations. It is pretty much what I expected.

Her mom took our daughter out to dinner after the celebration, and we took her out for breakfast the next day.

Then we bid farewell. My daughter recently got a job as a teaching assistant in Oswego, so she will be staying there at least through the summer, maybe more.

The trip home went well until we approached the George Washington Bridge. With incredible traffic, construction on the Throgs Neck Bridge, and the usual Sunday traffic, it took us over eight hours to get home!

Today, I feel very proud of my daughter, but I am also bushed from the trip. I will make it through today on adrenalin, nothing more.

But it was a great day, and I hope my daughter gets to do exactly what she wants to do with her life.

She worked hard enough to get to this point, and she deserves it.

Psst ... anyone know of an elementary school teaching position that is open ... ?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rant #255: It's Graduation Day

Well, not quite yet, but this Saturday, my daughter graduates college, and will receive her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from SUNY Oswego.

We are driving up from Long Island to witness this occasion. It's a long drive, but it should be fun.

The hotels around the college know that this is their time to make money, so they force parents to pay for a two night stay rather than one. Since my daughter is graduating on Saturday afternoon, if things were the way they should be, we could either drive up on Friday, stay overnight, see her graduate and then drive home. Or we could come up on Saturday, stay overnight, and go home Sunday.

As it is, we have to drive up on Friday and stay over on Friday night and Saturday night and leave Sunday morning.

That is how they do it, and I have heard that that is how they do it in just about all college towns during graduation weekend.

And, they also jack up the price for a room.

That being said, this is something that I am really looking forward to. I am very proud of my daughter, and I can't wait for her to get her diploma.

Since she is the child of divorce, she has had a bit of a rough go at it. I tried to see her every time my visitation allowed when she was younger, but as she grew older, we became a bit more distant. I am not going to say her mother's attitude toward me had something to do with that, but let's not mince words--it did (if you are in a similar situation, I think you know what I mean).

However, once she started to drive, things got a bit easier for all of us. She was able to come and go as she pleased, I got to see her more, and things improved between the two of us.

Now that she has been away at college, the distance has grown in both miles and our relationship. Let's just say that it is not at the best point right now.

But even when we disagree, we still say "I love you" at the end of our conversation--and I really do love my daughter.

I truly hope she succeeds in everything she does.

She has taken a summer job in Oswego, so I probably won't see much of her this summer.

But graduation is the start of the rest of her life, and I look forward to the day.

Since I will be traveling tomorrow, my next post will be on Monday. Have a good weekend.

I know that I will!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rant #254: Work, Work, Work, Work ... Idle Hand's Are the Devil's Playground (?)

Here's another study that bears looking at.

In a study of more than 10,000 British civil servants, researchers have found that working 10 hours or more a day may harm your heart.

People who added three or more hours to a seven-hour workday had a 60-percent greater risk of heart attack, angina and death from cardiovascular disease than those who didn't work overtime. The results support evidence that longer work schedules can lead to poor heath and plays a greater role in heart disease.

Of course, no one would say that working a lot of hours each week can kill you, but evidently, if you want to believe this study, the human body needs time to rebound each day. You can't work all the time and expect that it won't negatively impact your health.

Personally, I think that there are other factors involved in wrecking the human body, but I can't argue that excess work doesn't hurt you. It clearly does. It brings on more stress, and when you have more stress, your sleeping patterns are also fouled up. The body regenerates itself when you are asleep, so if you aren't getting enough sleep, well, the body isn't being given enough time to make itself the best that it can be.

Me, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. each weekday morning, get ready for work, and I am in the office at about 6:10 a.m. each day. I work until 5:30 each day (not including days when I stay a little later for one reason or another), so I have a pretty full workday.

This is my choice. I am a pretty light sleeper anyway, and I have one bathroom with my wife and son next in line to use it. 'Nuff said.

But yes, I am probably not helping myself by working nearly 12 hours each day, not including commuting time.

On the weekend, I sleep a bit more, but my family is always in a rush to get things done, especially on Saturday, and especially if my wife has to work one day on the weekend, which she often does (I work on the weekend maybe two or three times each year).

So that is how it is. Everyone seems to be working more, but I guess we won't be able to enjoy it, because we will be in the ground from all of this work.

Is it all worth it?

I really don't know.

(It isn't. I didn't get my raise I told you about a while back, but I will ask again in a few months.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rant #253: Lena Come Blow Your Horne

Actress, singer, dancer and political activist Lena Horne died over the weekend. She was over 90 years old.

Horne was more than just a show business personality. She transcended a different period in our history, and segued into her later years with a style, grace and beauty that is pretty uncommon.

And let's face it, this lady was one of the most beautiful women on the planet.

She was one of the only black stars to be under contract to MGM in the 1940s. Her most famous movie was "Cabin in the Sky," and her most famous song was probably "Stormy Weather."

She really stuck out like a sore thumb during those years. But she challenged stereotypes, and more often than not, won the battles, if not the wars.

And she did it elegantly.

Horne was in the first Broadway show my parents saw after I was born, the not well remembered although very succcessful "Jamaica." Funny, last year I finally found this show on vinyl. It really doesn't hold up, as it fed into the calypso craze of the late 1950s.

But during its time, it was revolutionary. Not only did it feature an all-black cast, but the lead role was originally written for the king of calypso at the time, Harry Belafonte. When he was unavailable for the role, it was rewritten for Horne. It was nominated for best musical of 1957, and I believe Horne was also nominated.

Later on, I remember her role, as herself, on a classic episode of "Sanford and Son." Fred is on the NBC lot taking a tour, when he hears that Horne is going to be a guest on The Tonight Show. He finds her dressing room, breaks in, and one thing leads to another, and Fred invites Horne to visit his son, little "lame" Lamont. She begrudgingly agrees to visit their home in Watts.

Well, in the meantime, Fred bets his buddies that she will be there, and of course, no one believes him. She shows up, they pay up, and Fred gives all the money to her for the charity event she will be part of.

She was in her 60s then, and she looked like she was in her 30s!

Horne will be missed, not only for her presence, but for her grace in breaking down barriers of every kind.

She was a one of a kind.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rant #252: Weather Or Not It's Spring

Has the weather been kind of bizarre during the past few months?

After a crazy winter--where we here in the East received a ridiculous amount of snow--we are now in spring, and things haven't gotten too much better, or any less bizarre.

I know that where I live, we have gotten all different kinds of weather, sometimes with little warning that we are going to get such a difference in weather than the previous week, or even the previous day.

Take this weekend. We had been getting temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and even had one or two 90-degree days.

The shorts and short sleeves came out, and it looked like the nice weather was here to stay.

Then--bang!--we got hit this weekend with some crazy weather.

Not only did it go into the 30s overnight on Sunday, but Mother's Day was cold and extremely windy. It was in the low 50s and the gusts got into the 50 mph range in some areas. This is after a Saturday where we were supposed to get rain, never did, and temperatures were in the high 70s.

To me, this is not typical May weather. I told my wife that I swore it was October when I looked out the window yesterday morning.

And, to top it off, some of New York's northernmost areas may have even gotten snow this weekend--and this is after they received some white stuff two weeks ago or so.

The middle part of the country has had rainstorms, flooding, tornadoes ... this is really crazy weather, isn't it?

There really isn't much anyone can do but grin and bear it.

Summer supposedly comes next month, and hopefully, it just won't be the name of the season that comes, but nicer weather too.

Isn't that what summer is about?

Right now, the shorts and the short sleeves are in the drawer, but I think they might sit there for awhile. I actually drove to work today with the heat on!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rant #251: It Was 40 Years Ago Today ...

Well, not quite today, but 40 years ago, on May 9, 1970, I had my bar mitzvah.

I went into the whole situation revolving around my bar mitzvah in a previous post: the Kent State and Jackson State shootings, the aftermath, the school situation, and my health.

I won't belabor those points again.

But I do remember my bar mitzvah very, very well.

I was sick, but not as sick as I was on May 8. My parents asked me how I was doing, and I said that I was OK, certainly well enough to do my bar mitzvah speech, known as a haftorah.

It was a Saturday morning service, and I shared the dais with a friend of mine, Danny Blumenstein (who is now an attorney in New York City).

If I remember correctly, I did my haftorah first. While he did his, I felt a little wobbly, but I had to stand there while he did his. Thank goodness our haftorahs weren't that long.

As is a tradition that some families follow, his haftorah was followed by his family and friends throwing walnuts at him (I have no idea why this is a tradition.) Of course, I got pelted too, not very good as I was wobbly to begin with.

I remember nearly passing out as the walnuts hit me, and I literally left the dais and went outside for some air. My father followed me out, asked if I was OK, and I went back in to complete the service.

As is a tradition, the congregation gave both of us some gifts, including a bible, if I remember correctly.

When it was over, my parents had many friends and relatives over to our apartment for food and fun. I did not have my reception that day; it was held on May 22, due to a restriction on holding "joyous occasions" during a certain time of the year on the Jewish calendar (I can't tell you more because I really don't know more; suffice it to say that my orthodox grandparents would not have come to a reception on that day, so we didn't have one.)

When I got home, I went into my room with my friend Robert (since deceased) as all the hubbub was going on in the rest of my apartment. I remember breathing a sigh of relief, and that sigh seemed to push out all the sickness from my body. From that point on, I was fine.

It was all nerves. (Look at the picture ... that is my sister and I during the candle lighting ceremony at the reception. Look how relaxed I am--if you can't tell, take it from me, I was very relaxed that day.)

You have to understand that I was the first grandchild and great grandchild, the first son, and the first child that my parents had. Upon birth, a lot of responsibility was placed on my head. Having a boy is so important in the Jewish religion, as it is in others, as it carries on the family name until at least the next generation, and all the duties that that entails.

Well, not only did I fulfill my responsibilities by being born, but having a son myself years later continued everything on to another generation.

Anyway, I simply cannot believe that it is 40 years since this joyous occasion (and this sigh of relief). I am pretty much the same person, although I am older, balder, heavier, and a little more disgruntled with things than I was then.

But boy, what a day it was. It was one I will never, ever forget.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rant #250: Gassed Prices

Have you noticed how, seemingly all of a sudden, gas is going up, up, and away again?

Just a year ago, I think we were paying about $2.00 a gallon. Now it has passed $3.00 a gallon, with no end in sight.

Oh, I know, the oil companies have an excuse for everything. They claim that even though the current quantities are plentiful, it takes more to manufacture "summer" gas than "winter gas," and thus, during the summer, the price goes up.

This is balderdash, of course. The price goes up because more people drive than they do during the winter. More people take longer trips, and thus, this is the period that the oil companies can make a real killing.

And they do. Their profits are up, but our salaries aren't. More people are out of work today, and those that do find a job are taking incredible pay cuts, some as much as 50 percent, from what they were making in their previous job.

Yes, the oil companies keep on raising prices.

What's worse, there is absolutely nothing that anybody can do about it.

Sure, you can ride a bicycle, but no, I can't personally get around on one. Maybe to trips to the supermarket, but that's it.

Simply put, we need automobile transportation, and, thus, we need gas.

And you know, that oil spill that we are reading about will also, eventually, be used as an excuse to jack the prices up.

You just know it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rant #249: I Remember the Day Well

As I recounted on Facebook yesterday, May 4 was the 40th anniversary of the student shootings at Kent State.

And 40 years later, I am embarrassed to recount my experience on that day.

For those of you who didn't read my story (probably most of you), here it is.

Some background: I was in seventh grade in 1970, and as a 13 year old, I was pretty much just discovering the world.

I lived in an area, as I have talked about many, many times, by the name of Rochdale Village, Queens, New York. It was an interesting development to live in, to say the least. Built in the middle of a predominately black area in South Jamaica, the neighborhood became a flashpoint for a lot of things during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I was going to I.S. 72 at the time, the center of a lot of the problems between Rochdale and the outside community, so what I put up on Facebook was from that viewpoint, 40 years later.

"Forty years ago today, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fired at Kent State University, killing two students. Does anyone remember the to do that this caused in I.S. 72? A petition was sent around to close the school down in honor of these students, as well as honoring those students who lost their lives in a similar incident around the same time at Jackson State.

To honor these students, the school was closed on May 8. My signature was on that petition--maybe the first one on there--because I was going to take off on May 8 anyway, because my bar mitzvah was on May 9. I figured the whole school should have off, and this crazy thinking evidently worked.

Not to dishonor the memory of the fallen, but my reason for signing that petition had little to do with them and more to do with "why should I have a day off on my record when I can get the whole school to have off?"

Yes, I admit to that. Looking back, that was just a silly junior high kid acting on a whim, but it's true."

I later answered a post by someone who had gone to the area's high school, the since-closed Springfield Gardens High School, at this moment in time. He told me it was pretty intense at the school.

Here is my reply:

"I can imagine, it was probably more intense there than it was at I.S. 72 ... although it was pretty hot there too. If you remember, the press pretty much overlooked the Jackson State incident, deciding to focus on Kent State. This got a lot of people upset, and I think that to quell any possible 'negative' actions directed at I.S. 72 (which was a flashpoint in the community as it was), they just closed us down for the day.

The P.S. to the story is that I was very sick in the week leading up to my bar mitzvah. By that Friday, I had 105 temperature (no exaggeration) and I almost had to do my haftorah at home in bed.

On May 8, I watched the Knicks on the Connecticut ABC affiliate (WABC in New York carried the game on tape delay) win the NBA championship, and I point to that game as the event that got me going again.

I was still pretty sick the next day, but I had my bar mitzvah in the temple. After it was all over, my health improved tremendously. It was simply a bout of nerves, that is all it was.

So I just remember this whole period as one revolving around my bar mitzvah. However, for most of our country, it had other implications.

But I was a typical 13 year old kid, and I thought the world revolved around me!"

Well, there you have it.

The memory still lingers, and while I am not proud of it, it is a part of my growing up years that I will never forget.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rant #248: They Got Their Man, Freedom Rings True

For those who think Big Brother is watching, well, he probably is.

But sometimes, it's good to have that eye in the sky.

Based on video, the checking of automobile and phone records, and some swift work by the NYPD, FBI and others, it looks like the Time Square bomb suspect may have been nabbed.

Reports are that the person, or the suspect, is a Connecticut man with Pakistani ties. The man was reportedly identified with the help of fingerprints found inside the car that he set to blow up, but didn't.

If this is, in fact, the right person--and police say there may be others involved--then I think he should get the book thrown at him. As I said yesterday, he would have people lined up to pull the plug on him, if we ever got the chance to do so.

Although video may not have been the main element in finding this guy, sometimes Big Brother looking over your shoulder is not such a bad idea.

Sure, video cameras around such a busy area as Times Square will pick up the mundane things people do--chat with friends, scratch their rear end, pick their nose--but it might also pick up something dastardly.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we literally have to have eyes all over to thwart those who believe that our way of life is vile and disgusting to their mentalities.

Sure, I hate the fact that when you fly, you have to do everything but take off all your clothes to get through to where you have to go.

And now they are talking about a national ID card issued to all workers in the country. I don't know if I am so keen about that, but if it protects our liberty, well, then I can't argue with it. I don't like it, but I can't argue that it might save us from these idiots.

Back to the Connecticut man. Evidently, what the police thought was nothing more than a random act, well, wasn't. This guy probably has ties with those out of the country who want to destroy us.

If this is true, then I think we have to protect ourselves to the max.

And if it takes a loss of some of our freedoms, so be it.

Sometimes, you have to lose some freedom to strengthen the freedom we already have, and I think that, for better or worse, the time may be coming where we are just going to have to give some to get some.

We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, and if takes losing a little freedom to maintain that lifestyle, then I am all for it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rant #247: Bomber Bombed Out, So Did Mayor

You probably have already heard about the bomber who tried to blow up Times Square on Saturday evening.

The bomb didn't go off, and the police, using surveillance video and other information that they have, are hot on the pursuit of this nut.

Whoever did this--and several groups are claiming responsibility, although it seems highly unlikely that this was such an organized affair--should be put to death. I don't care if the bomb did not go off, could you imagine if it did? It would have killed hundreds from the bomb itself, and others would have died in the panic.

The intention was to maim and murder, so when they find the dummy who perpetrated this potential disaster, I volunteer to pull the plug on this idiot ... and I will probably have to stand in line, because hundreds, if not thousands of people, would love the chance to do this.

That aside, the NYPD, and in particular, one cop on horseback, is being given credit for thwarting this situation. He was the first cop on the scene, and the first cop to alert others that there that there was a potential for danger.

The officer, from Holbrook on Long Island, is being applauded, and had dinner with the mayor last night.

Yes, it was a job well done.

But what about the street peddlers who initially alerted the cop about the potential dangerous situation?

A couple of the New York stations have identified the vendors, but I don't see the mayor having dinner with them.

If it wasn't for their quick action--along with cab drivers, they know the streets better than anyone--the cop would have never known anything about what was going on. They were the ones that alerted him!

So while I applaud the officer's actions, it was actually the two street vendors who were the true heroes in this situation.

But Mayor Bloomberg never said their names to the press, only called them "concerned citizens."

Look, we know that the mayor looks down on most of the citizens of New York City as peons. He can afford to.

He has never had a good word for these peddlers, and has tried to lessen their presence in the city.

Just last week, there was a protest by many artists who sell their wares on the street. It seems the mayor wants them to stop cluttering the byways of Manhattan.

The street vendors are as much a part of Manhattan as Bloomberg thinks he is. They were there before he got there, and they will be there after he departs.

To not honor their actions during this horrific episode is not only wrong, it is condescending.

But honestly, this did not start with Mayor Bloomberg, Lessening the heroic actions of the general public compared to police and firemen began during 9/11. Remember how police and firemen were referred to as "heroes" while citizens were referred to as "victims"?

Those who went through that horrible episode were as much heroes as the cops and firemen were.

But in the city, you have to use your words carefully, especially when it comes to the unions, which still run the city, so you have to refer to cops and firemen as "heroes," and not include your average Joe in the same breath.

But as far as this current event, what do you expect from a mayor who is as much about money as he is full of hot air?

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