Friday, July 23, 2010

Rant #305: Off Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Well, not really, because we are driving, but after today, my family and I will be on vacation for about a week and a half.

At about this time every year, my wife and I are burned out from our daily activities, and the vacation comes as a welcome respite from life's little--and big--worries.

We drive to Florida each and every year, or at least since 2001.

I remember the last plane trip we took as a family pretty vividly.

My daughter was still young, so she went with my wife and son. I don't remember much about the trip there--I think I was a little under the weather and so was my son, and my wife forgot her ID but my parents came to the rescue and brought her license to her in the nick of time--but the trip home I remember pretty vividly.

I had recovered by now, but my son was not yet 100 percent. If I remember correctly, he had to be calmed down by the flight attendants. He was not yet six years old at this time, and for some reason, he was freaking out on the plane.

Funny, my wife and I felt funny on that plane ride home even before my son started to howl. I don't know what it was, but we felt something eerie about us on that plane, even though it took off and landed safely.

Not to connect the dots too harshly, but a few weeks later, we experienced the horror of 9/11.

My wife and I talked about it. Sometimes you get premonitions for no reason. But we both experienced it on that ride.

Very weird indeed.

Now we drive, and yes, we lose time, but I think we gain independence. I understand why one has to go through what one has to go through to get on a plane nowadays, but I like the fact that I am in my own car and can virtually do what I want when I drive to Florida.

The 1,200 miles go pretty smoothly, and by Sunday, we will be at our destination.

I really can't wait. I can't wait for the sun, the fun, the radio stations I hear once a year, the TV stations I watch once a year, the swimming, the relaxation, and the fun of being with my family 24/7 for a few days.

So I will be virtually incognito for the next two weeks, as there is no Internet where we are staying.

It will be a nice break for us.

But let me get through today before I get too excited.

And yes, there is Annette again, heralding our yearly jaunt to Florida--even though she was in California when this photo was taken.

Speak to you in August.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rant #304: The Major May Be Minor, But He Has Left the Building Too

Deaths seems to happen in threes.

During this past week, longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard passed away at 99 years old. Just a few days later, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died at 80.

Although the third death in this triumvirate isn't a person that was as well revered as Sheppard and Steinbrenner were, it still hit me, and probably all Yankee fans, hard.

Ralph Houk, who guided the Yankees to two pennants early in his managerial career but was also the manager when they were a last place team, died yesterday at age 90.

Houk played on a number of pennant winning teams with the Yankees in the 1950s as the team's third catcher, which meant that he was the 25th man on the team and rarely played. Although he was a Yankee player for several years, he didn't play a total of 100 games in his career.

But he was an astute baseball man, and the Yankees knew it.

He was their manager after Casey Stengel, guiding them to their last successes in the 1960s, during the heyday of the teams dominated by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.

After a stint as the general manager--he hired the likes of Yogi Berra and Johnny Keane as managers--Houk, who was nicknamed "The Major" because that was his rank during World War II, came down to the field again as manager.

Maris was gone, Mantle and Ford were battling injuries and age, and his teams weren't very good at all.

In fact, in 1966--just two years after being in the World Series--the Yankees fell to last place.

I was nine years old during 1966, and that team--and the teams that followed it during the 1960s and early 1970s--were my teams, when my love of baseball peaked.

Those were the teams of Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Mel Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson, Lindy McDaniel and a whole list of players now forgotten, like Jerry Kenney, Steve Whittaker, Mike Kekich and numerous others.

I lived and died with the Yankees then, and since they were pretty bad, I died more than I lived.

Houk was the manager through 1973, so he was the first manager during the George Steinbrenner era. After the 1973 season, he retired, but later came back to manage the Tigers and the Red Sox.

The things I remember him most for were his on the field tirades as manager and his cigars. Next to Earl Weaver, his tantrums were classic, throwing hats and kicking dirt around umpires, and those cigars that he always seemed to be with smelled even through the TV or newspaper that showed him with his beloved stogies.

Houk, Sheppard and Steinbrenner--what a trio.

And get better soon, Yogi Berra.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rant #303: Tip Her ... Gore

I had an interesting experience yesterday, one that I had not had before.

After work, I took my son and myself to the barber. This is another one of those things that I needed to do before we go on vacation, so I figured that yesterday was as good a time as any to get this done.

I go to a place with about 20 barbers working at once, and it is cheap, at $5 a haircut. I mean, with a bald head, I don't need to go to a stylist. My son's hair is intact, but he really doesn't have to go to a fancier place at this stage of the game, either.

Anyway, we walked into the shop, and they weren't busy, which is pretty unusual. I have seen it where they have 50 people waiting there and 20 barbers working. It can be a zoo there.

But not yesterday, so we walked in, and were taken immediately.

I got a woman barber. I have no problem with having a woman barber, and really, it isn't the novelty it was when I was a kid for me to get sheared by a lady.

As you can imagine, my bald head doesn't give the barber much to work with, so after about five minutes, I was done.

As I have been doing for ages, I gave the barber a tip. I think a dollar tip for a $5 haircut is acceptable, amounting to a 20-percent tip.

I happened to have four quarters, so I placed the tip in the barber's hand.

She immediately said to me, "Is that it?"

Well yes, it was, as far as I am concerned.

I turned to her as I was paying my bill, and said, "Is that it? You know, my father is a New York City cab driver, and when he gets tipped, no matter the amount, he says 'thank you.'"

I was also going to say that if she didn't want it, I would take it back ... and give her nothing.

She then denied making the comment, but I repeated to her that she did, and she knew that she did.

I don't think I will allow her to cut my hair again. I don't think I was being cheap, but the chutzpah this woman had was amazing. In all my years of going to get my hair cut, I never remember anyone saying something like that to me after being tipped.

I mean, it's not like I gave her a quarter for her five minutes of work. I gave her 20 percent of the bill ... and yes, if you were wondering, I gave my son's barber the same amount, and he said "thank you."

As you know, a tip is not a requirement when you get a haircut. You do it because you want to do it, and not because it is required.

I just don't get it.

I know that in the old days, barber shops and butcher shops were basically one and the same. Your barber was your butcher, so maybe your tip revolved around your head and a leg of lamb.

But nowadays, you just go to the barber to get your hair cut. That is it, not to argue with your barber about the amount of the tip you just gave them.

I swear, the next time anyone complains about a tip I have given them, I will report them to the manager at the establishment.

As the Cowardly Lion said in "The Wizard of Oz,"....

"The noive!"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rant #302: Moon Landing

I still want to go on vacation, but I guess I can pause for a moment and look at two guys who took the ultimate vacation--to the moon!

Today is the 41st anniversary of the first moon landing with man walking on the moon.

First, Neil Armstrong made his historic walk, and later, Edwin Aldrin did. Several astronauts followed in the next few years, and then our space program was pretty much dead in the water, and still is.

I am not going to repeat things I said in the past about the space program. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I think the manned space program--and primarily with the goal of missions to the moon and Mars--should be revived.

What I am going to tell you about is the majesty of that hot, July day back when I was 12 years old.

My family didn't take too many family vacations, because my sister and I were in camp and, well, it was pretty pricey to go away back then, and still is. If my father didn't work, no money would have come into the house, so most times, vacations were basically staying home and going to day camp.

Anyway, we went away in 1969 to a hotel in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I think it was called Green Acres. I hated these trips, and was bored to tears the whole time. I simply could not wait until we got back, because the moon landing and moon walk were planned events that I looked forward to.

Finally, we arrived home, and watched everything on our black and white Dumont television that was in our living room in our apartment in Queens.

Sure, the images were fuzzy, and not much was happening from our end, but I was transfixed by what I saw.

I remember that there was a real buzz around for what was going to happen. The media covered this as one of the great events of the 20th century--which it was--and as a kid, I remember that one of my favorite cereals--I forget which one--actually had a lunar module that you could cut out of the box and put together, which I did.

And remember that the breakfast drink Tang emerged on every table in America as we planned for this day. Although it was not created specifically for the space program, it was promoted as the drink the astronauts brought with them when they went to the moon--and thus, you had to have it, even if it was putrid.

Those things aside, when it finally happened before my eyes ... well, I could not stop watching.

And I think the whole world watched with me.

It was a glorious moment, and I hope my kids have such a magic--but very real--moment sometime in their lifetimes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rant #302: I Wanna Go On Vacation!

I have to keep telling myself, in answer to that declaration above, that "I will, I will ... "

This is the week leading up to my yearly vacation. We will be going to our timeshare in Florida, and as usual, we will be driving down.

So starting on Friday at 5:30 p.m., I am officially on vacation.

The week leading up to vacation is always a busy one, yet one that drags quite a bit. The anticipation is so strong that it weighs down the days, making them feel twice as long as they normally are.

There is still so much to do leading up to the vacation, and it's not just packing that I am talking about.

It's doing the "little" things, which for me means getting some dental work done, getting my allergy shot and getting a haircut.

It also included getting my car ready for the big trip, and I had it serviced last week. I think that once again it can withstand the 1,200 mile drive.

And why do I drive?

Well, although you lose time by doing it this way, you actually save money, and you certainly save hassle time. The last time I went on a plane--a few months ago for a business trip--I could not believe the delays, both on getting into the airport, checking in, and flying out.

When you drive, you put everything in the trunk, get in, and go!

It's along drive--we do it over about a day and a half--but it is a fun drive. It gives us a chance to drive through a number of states on the eastern seaboard, listen to different radio stations--no satellite radio for me--and marvel at the fact that in the evening in the Carolinas, you can pick up WABC-AM in New York pretty much loud and clear.

As I am writing this, I am dragging a bit after a somewhat busy weekend. Come the start of work, I will be ready to go.

And the photo I have posted here features Annette Funicello. If this picture does not signify summer to you, well, I just don't get it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rant #301: Bomb's Away

The other evening, with summer TV boring the heck out of me and no baseball to watch because it was the All-Star break, I turned on ESPN Classic to see what was on there.

Well, let me start off by saying that I now had something to watch.

The station, which specializes in showing old sporting events—some just a few years old, some decades old—was showing the September 1976 baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals at the original, one and only Yankee Stadium. They showed this game, and other shows highlighting the legacy of George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' legendary owner, who passed away this week.

This was the divisional playoffs, game five, and whatever team won this game would go onto the World Series against the mighty Cincinnati Reds.

The place was electric as the game was ready to begin, and the intensity level pretty much stayed the same throughout the entire game.

I know—because I was there.

Two nights ago was the first time I had ever seen the broadcast of the game, which goes down as one of the classic baseball games of all time.

It was a see-saw game the whole way, and then, the top of the eighth came with the Yankees leading 6-3. George Brett, one of the all-time Yankee killers, came to the plate and—

One swing of the bat tied the game, as Brett homered, bringing home three runs.

The score was tied 6-6 going into the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees had not been in the World Series in 12 years, George Steinbrenner had only been running the team for three years. Billy Martin was the manager.

And yes, I was one of the 58,000 in attendance that evening.

First baseman Chris Chambliss strode to the plate as fans cheered on their heroes. The lefty hitter got into the batters box, got himself comfortable and swung at the first pitch from pitcher Mark Littel.

He swung, and the ball rose in the air. Did it have the heft needed to go over the fence?

Yes, it did, and this walkoff homerun is one of the most famous in baseball history.

Chambliss tried to circle the bases, but fans poured onto the field by the hundreds (I couldn’t—I was sitting all the way up in nosebleed land but had beer poured down my back in celebration).

He jumped, fell over, and ran hurdles over hundreds of fans who took it upon themselves to celebrate on the field, a situation that could never happen today with the added security that stadiums now employ.

He never made it to home plate, or at least not when he was rounding the bases. He went into the dugout, and later touched first base—with an umpire present—to make it official.

But no one in the Stadium cared about that. We were too busy celebrating.

On the air, Keith Jackson, Reggie Jackson—right before he signed with the Yankees—and Howard Cosell reported the game as you would think that three announcers not very schooled in baseball (Reggie Jackson was as a player, but not as a broadcaster) would.

Cosell, who often voiced his hatred of the sport, put on a good face during the game, spouting statistics left and right. Keith Jackson, as an old-time football announcer, was very stoic in his presentation.

Reggie Jackson was, well, Reggie Jackson.

I remember that the Stadium actually shook briefly when people were jumping up and down and celebrating, a view that was later corroborated by Yankee broadcaster and Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto. I knew I felt it, but the Scooter’s recollection helped me to know I wasn’t tipsy, the Stadium was.

On the broadcast, there was the now antiquated use of visuals, split screens, and other things we so take for granted today when we watch a sports broadcast.

But at Yankee Stadium, I remember that no one wanted to leave.

When we finally did, horns were honking, you couldn’t get out of the parking garage, and the roads were packed.

Chambliss hit his homer at 11:13 p.m.; I didn’t get home until about 3:30 a.m.

This game is one of the greatest memories of my teenage years, and to finally see it as it was broadcast 34 years ago was a thrill on a boring, summer night that made what was going to be a slow night into something truly amazing.

Now do they have the 1967 game that Mickey Mantle hit his 500th homer?

I was at that one too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rant #300: I Hope I Live To Be 300

This is the 300th post that I have made at this site.

I guess I am in the mood for a celebration.

Since June of 2009, I have posted lots of things about lots of topics--music, TV, films, everyday things like hating to wear a tie, obituaries on everyone from the creator of the Chipwich to George Steinbrenner ...

This place has been a compendium of things that are on my mind that I really need to talk about.

I know people from around the world visit this site, because I have a counter that allows me peaks into who visits. No, it doesn't tell me your name or your street address or phone number, but it tells me where you are coming from as far as physically where, and I find that this site is visited by not just people in the U.S., but those in South America, Australia and Europe, and elsewhere.

I guess I am happy that "my two cents" is making its way around the world.

In the old days, if I were to do something like this, I would have to send around a newsletter to people via snail mail. I would have to get your address and your name, write it, and print it out. I would also have to spend money to send it to you.

Well, in this age that we live in, all that is out the window.

I can write what I want to write, push a button, and it is there for all to see.

Years ago, I put out a fanzine called Hear Again. I had to print it on a copy machine, and it took hours to write up and print out this way. Also, I had to get subscribers, which I advertised for in various ways.

Whatever money came out of this enterprise went right back into it for whatever costs I had associated with the publication.

It was pretty successful in its own right. It went to not only the U.S., but also to Europe and Asia. It won a fanzine award from Goldmine Magazine, the only time they ever gave awards out of this sort. I think it was for "Best Oldies Fanzine," but they didn't even send me a plaque or anything--I read about its award in the pages of Goldmine!

After doing this for a few years, I stopped. It was just too time consuming.

Now, years later, I can do this not on a monthly basis, but on a daily basis, and it takes up no time at all.

The Internet is an incredible thing, especially when it is used the right way. And I think this site uses the Internet the right way.

Anyway, thanks for visiting, please post any thoughts you might have on any of my posts, and keep coming back.

I don't make a dime off this thing, but it is fun to do.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rant #299: I Hate Going To the Dentist

I have to go to the dentist today. I will be leaving slightly early from work to make my appointment later this afternoon.

I know people strive to become doctors, and they go through a lot to become a member of this profession, but why would anyone choose to become a dentist?

It seems to me to be the most masochistic of all doctoral pursuits, although I realize it is necessary.

To want to make a living diving into patients' mouths to make sure their teeth are right, at least to me, seems so much less honorable and fascinating than working on a person's other medical faults.

I know we are far from the days that dentists would literally rip teeth out of the mouths of their patients--I remember that very funny W.C. Fields short where this exercise almost becomes a sexual practice--but why anybody would want to go into my or anyone else's mouth is beyond me.

I guess you could say the same thing for proctologists, but we don't regularly go to one unless we have a problem.

With dentists, we go each and every year.

Personally, I don't have any cavities, but it seems my crowns are coming out of my mouth, I have a chipped filling, and I have gum disease.


I know that today I am going for a cleaning before the major work is done next month. Even with the cleaning, I bleed a lot, due to the gum disease.

Again, I understand the services that dentists offer all of us, and I am grateful that they do so.

I just don't understand why, of all the noble medical areas, they picked this one.

I just don't get it.

Open wide ...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rant #298: The Boss Has Left the Building

It is rare when I do two rants in one day, but today is one of those occasions.

George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the New York Yankees who took over the storied franchise during its dark days and made the team into a worldwide phenomenon, died early today of a massive heart attack. Steinbrenner, 80, had been in ill health for several years.

What can you say about Steinbrenner that hasn't been already said, or will be said, by sports columnists around the world now that he has passed?

He was iconic as well as devious. He was both smart and crude. He was both a bully and a pussycat. He was nasty and he was pleasant. He could joke about himself and take things ultra-personally.

We all are like this at times, but this guy put it all on the front burner as the owner of the most prolific franchise in American sports, and certainly the most recognized franchise around the world.

He completely understood the rules of free agency before anyone else, and used the various nuances that came with this knowledge to his and the Yankees' advantage.

He did what he pleased before anyone else knew the rules.

He demanded perfection from all of his employees, from his best players to the lowest carpet sweeper on the food chain. And when he got perfection, he still wanted more.

He was a man of excess, but he was also a man who helped out former players and others who were indigent, and never craved the publicity that many demand for doing acts of charity.

He took a team that was worth $10 million in 1969, a team that even titanic CBS did not know what to do with, and made it into a multi-billion-dollar franchise.

He was the owner other teams loved to hate, and he had many enemies, so induction into baseball's Hall of Fame isn't a given.

With the All-Star game on tonight, it will be interesting to see what Major League Baseball does to honor the memory of its most famous owner. Remember, this is a guy who rankled lots of people, who paid heavily for illegal campaign contributions, who paid a tramp like Howie Spira to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, his own player at the time.

He was not well liked by everybody.

But Yankee fans either loved him or had respect for him.

First and foremost, he wanted to win, and believed he could do what he wanted to do to make the Yankees a winner.

And although not all the time, he pretty much succeeded.

In his last years, when he was rarely seen or heard from, he saw his vision--a new Yankee Stadium--come to life and he also witnessed the Yankees winning their 27th championship last year.

Since he has been in ill health, family members have run the team, and will continue to do so probably for many, many years to come.

It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do to honor him this weekend, which, ironically, is when, on Saturday, they will hold their annual Old Timers Day. With both Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard gone in the same week, there shouldn't be a dry eye in the house.

Whatever you thought of Steinbrenner, and icon has passed from our world, a guy who transcended sports and made "You're fired" a catch phrase way before Donald Trump did.

May he rest in peace.

Rant #297: Afterglow

Boy, this was a busy past week for me and for a lot of other people.

In my end of the world, as you know, I had my neighborhood reunion, and I am still basking in the afterglow of that experience. It is one I will cherish for many years to come.

Also, I watched intently when Lebron James made his decision to go to Miami. Yes, I was one of those dopes who tuned into this travesty on ESPN, but I guess me and nearly 10 million others nearly legitimized this event.

This was a day after I went to the dentist to have my teeth checked out. No cavities, mom, but my crowns are decaying, I may need some new ones soon, and I face months of dentist visits.

This is after a past Saturday when I finally found a new GP doctor and was told that I am in relatively good health (no, I still don't have my medical records).

Yesterday, I watched the Home Run Derby contest, which is basically the day-before pre-game to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, this year being held at Angels Stadium, Anaheim, Calif. David Ortiz, who I respect but hate at the same time for being a member of the Boston Red Sox, won the derby, but the real show is today, when eight Yankees (actually seven, with banged up Mariano Rivera bowing out), manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff leading the American League against the National League.

This game is such a roller-coaster ride, with the AL and NL either being patsies or pummeling the other league year after year.

After a long run of dominance by the National League, the American League has clearly taken over the game, and it hasn't lost since the last century.

Since this is the only All-Star game that is the least bit interesting (and remember, it counts because the league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World Series), I will be tuning in tonight, and hopefully, the American League will continue its dominance.

Last night, my son went to a Broadway show in a camp trip, so I had to pick him up pretty late. The bus was supposed to arrive at a designated location at 11:30, but it didn't get there until near 12 midnight. Consequently, I didn't get to sleep until after 12:30 a.m., and then some nut called us twice at about 2 a.m. in the morning but left no message.

Well. today I am pooped. I got up at my usual 4:30 a.m.--how I accomplished this is a surprise to even myself--and here I am, a little bedraggled, but no worse for wear.

I still feel good about that reunion, and the afterglow, I guess, is keeping me going.

Sure, it will wear off, but at least I had the opportunity to experience it.

Now, for the rest of the day, I have to find a way to function. There's been lots on my plate lately, and, well, I could use a vacation ...

More on that later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rant #296: Old Friends

There's nothing like seeing old friends. Even if you haven't seen them in ages, you can pick up a conversation as if you had been speaking with them continually for years.

This weekend, I finally had my Rochdale Village Reconnection Reunion. The weather was threatening the whole day, and some doubted me for even having it this past Saturday due to weather concerns, but I decided to have it, and boy, was I happy with my decision.

It was overcast the entire day, and there were a few drips and drops here and there, but my barbecue at my house went really well.

About 40 people from my old neighborhood showed up. I was friendly with many of them way back when, and some of them I was very friendly with. Others I knew by name.

But I will tell you, once I saw these people, it was as if we never left each other in the 1970s.

Conversations picked up seamlessly. We talked about everything, including way back when, our current situation, our old neighborhood, our kids, our parents, even baseball.

The guys have more of a presence now, and some of us have lost our hair and are a bit rounder in the gut. The girls are so much prettier than I remember them, but heck, I lived there from age seven to 14 (1964-1971), so what did I know back then?

It was very humid and I was sweating profusely, but the warm reception I got made me feel real good, even in the middle of a hot, hot day.

With the help of my wife and my parents, we got everything going. My wife is a Far Rockaway girl, so there is a connection, because if we swam in the ocean when we lived in the old neighborhood, a bus ride to the shores of Far Rockaway was the way to go.

I think the weather kept some people away, but otherwise, it was a perfect day.

The pictures you see here are some of the ones I took of the people from my old neighborhood. You probably don't know any of them, but they are the faces of the kids of the late 1950s who are in their 50s today.

We have been through a lot, a lot of changes (both good and bad), and we have probably lived two-thirds of our lifetimes right now. But we are all still young at heart, and that is what makes such a reunion so wonderful.

And as we talk about old friends, somebody I did not know personally, but was touched by my entire life, passed away this weekend.

Bob Sheppard, the venerable PA announcer voice of the Yankees for more than 50 years, died this weekend at the age of 99.

Nobody who ever heard his voice at the old Yankee Stadium would ever forget it.

"He is as much a part of this organization as any player," Yankee Captain Derek Jeter said. "He was the one constant at Yankee Stadium. He was part of the experience. He's going to be missed."

Jeter is right, as usual. And in tribute to Sheppard, Jeter will continue to use a recording Sheppard made several years ago to announce the Yankee captain every time he steps to the plate. He will also use it in the All Star Game tomorrow.

Sheppard was just about as important to the players as the players were to the team. He was Yankee Stadium.

And he died with dignity yesterday morning at his home in Baldwin, Long Island, a stone's throw away from where I live and where my own reunion took place this weekend.

Old friends, yes, they are the dearest friends we have in our lifetimes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rant #295: In the Heat, It's Magic

OK, so Lebron James is now a member of the Miami Heat.

The Knicks, as I figured they would, got a player, Amare Stoudemire, but still don't have a team that is even near competing.

The Cavaliers got bubkis, shafted by their biggest star.

What is a poor boy to do amid all of this bubbermeiser nonsense?

Go to the movies on a hot summer night.

I won free tickets to see a preview of a new Disney flick, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," and my family and I went to see it last night.

My review: although it was a little slow early on, it picked up as the movie wore on, and I must say that I was quite surprised that I liked it!

The plot is pretty straight-forward: Master sorcerer Balthazar Blake, played by Nicholas Cage, recruits a seemingly everyday guy, played by Jay Baruchel, in his mission to defend New York City from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath, played by Alfred Molina.

As you would expect, the plot takes a lot of twists and turns before it settles in to your "normal" good vs. bad theme.

Baruchel's David Stutler is a nerd of the highest order, but a real smart nerd who is into physics like ants get into picnics. He was a nerd even as a kid, but had the hots in fourth grade for Becky, played by hottie Teresa Palmer. On a school outing, she writes him an answer to his note about whether she is his girlfriend.

However, the note blows away into a weird emporium, and David goes chasing after it. There he meets Blake, who says that David is the one he has been looking for for eons, the one who will become the master sorcerer, the replacement for Merlin the Magician.

But it isn't easy as 1-2-3. Not only does David have to team up with Blake to do battle with the evil Maxim Horvath, but he has to battle his own devils in his relationship with Becky, who he has met by chance as a college student.

Sure, this sounds hokey, and it really is. But it is fun, and a perfect family movie for the summer.

Cage seems really into what he is doing--I often get the sense that he is sleepwalking through his roles--but this time, as one of the film's producers, he has a greater stake in the proceedings.

Baruchel is perfect as the nerd. He looks like a young Jerry Lewis, and he has the blips to really go over well with nerds and non-nerds.

Molina does what he can with his role, which is pretty much evil incarnate. He does it with a flair and style that pretty much steals the movie.

Director Jon Turtletaub keeps the action moving pretty steady after a little bit of a bumpy ride early on. The special effects are excellent, and even though with the little capsule I gave you, you pretty know how the film will work itself out, I would recommend this, especially for a family audience.

(And yes, the film does pay homage to the Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in "Fantasia," but I won't ruin it for you by telling you about it here.)

There are plenty of movies out for families, but most of them are computer-generated cartoons. Here is a live-action family film that, while not the greatest movie ever made, still holds up pretty well.

I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Well worth your while to see.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rant #294: Ringo, Ringo, Ringo

Richard Starkey turned 70 yesterday.

You ask, "Who is Richard Starkey?"

And then you say to me, "On a day when Lindsay Lohan is dealt a terrible blow to her career, and what with the Lebron James saga, who the heck is Richard Starkey and why should I care about him?"

Well, the answer is simple: Richard Starkey is the most famous drummer in the world, and was a member of the most popular band in the world.

Richard Starkey, with a little help from my friends, is Ringo Starr.

I am sure that when Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm 64" he had no idea that he and Ringo would actually get several years beyond that number to 70.

And now Ringo has!

Ringo was not the original drummer in the band, Pete Best was. But for whatever reason or reasons--and there were evidently plenty, including Pete's good looks and his ineptitude as a drummer--Ringo came into the game a little later than Paul, George and John, but his impact was felt immediately.

Well, probably not immediately. Ringo wasn't the greatest drummer then, either, and had to be helped out on "Love Me Do" by a session drummer.

But he was what the Beatles needed. He was a decent musician at the time, smart, had a good personality, and wouldn't clash looks-wise with John, Paul or George.

But he became the true personality of the band. Just one look at him during the early days, and you knew that although these guys were serious musicians, they had a bit of fun in them.

And Ringo was it.

In fact, during their heyday, Ringo probably could be called the true heart of the band. No, he didn't write a lot of the tunes, no, he didn't sing too many either, but that backbeat lifted the Beatles to heights never before achieved, and probably never achievable again.

His turns as singer were memorable. Who could argue that "Yellow Submarine" and "Octopus' Garden" are among the most fun songs the Fab Four ever recorded?

He had an early, quite impressive solo career too. Although not much of a singer or songwriter, he was able to craft songs that fit both his limitations and strengths, and he had many, many hit records away from his mates--among them "Photograph," "You're Sixteen," and "The No No No Song," the latter one of my favorites.

And now he is 70.

He hasn't let up a bit. He releases an album just about every other year or so, and even though current pop radio won't play anything by anybody over 35 years old, the albums are pretty good.

He tours with his All-Star band, and celebrated his birthday with a concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

He has grown into his looks, and it's funny, but he looks much better than Paul does these days.

And he remains married to Barbara Bach, who in her day, was quite a looker, and still is one.

So, happy birthday Ringo. Here's to at least 70 more years of making us feel good with your music and your panache.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rant #293: Hooray For Lindsay, She's Going Down

Actress Lindsay Lohan inherited some of the best traits of her parents.

She got her hair, her figure and her body from her mom.

She got her facial features from her dad.

Unfortunately for her, she also inherited their brains.

And in soccer language, what she got was NIL!

I am sure that you heard that Ms. Lohan received a 90-day sentence from a judge in a Los Angeles courtroom yesterday. It seems she violated her parole stemming back to a 2007 driving under the influence conviction that she had.

She cried in the court yesterday, "I have to work ... and my schedule is very different" from the one most people have.

Was she talking about her work schedule or her party schedule?

Let's focus on Lindsay's foibles.

She wore an ankle monitor to alert officials about her alcohol consumption, and it went off a number of times while she was partying on the other side of the globe.

She was instructed to attend a certain number of alcohol education classes, but attended many less than she was supposed to.

She was supposed to appear back in the U.S. weeks ago, but claimed that she did not have her passport; it was missing, and she even accused her dad of the theft.

The judge didn't buy any of this, and that's a good thing, even if Ms. Lohan doesn't know it yet.

Ms. Lohan comes from real "white trash with money" stock. Her mother, Dina, a former hoofer, recently had an altercation with a Carvel ice cream shop worker over a free ice cream cake that she thought she was supposed to get. However, Carvel's promotion gave her daughter the right to have a free cake, not the mother.

Her father, Michael. also has substance abuse issues, and he constantly claims that he is broke. However, he has plans for an elaborate second wedding, buys expensive cars, and still claims that he has no money.

Yes, the dysfunctional Lohan clan, Long Islanders like I am, have not learned to live in the world as we know it. They constantly think they are better than all of us, can constantly flaunt the law, and do as they please.

And they have pretty much gotten away with this behavior, until now.

With all their fame, fortune, and notoriety, the Lohans don't have something that most of us have: personal pride. They constantly blame others for their foibles, and not themselves.

The last straw appeared to be at yesterday's trial, and the judge--who also handed Ms. Lohan a 90-day sentence for alcohol rehab to run after her prison sentence--acted accordingly in the doling out of punishment to Lindsay.

Maybe now it will dawn on her, and her parents and family, that they are no better than anyone else.

She will be a prison inmate for 90 days, have a number, and be no better or worse than other incarcerated women in California.

It appears that their string of lies has finally ended.

The string has snapped, and afterward, maybe Lindsay and her family will understand that their lifestyle can't continue as it has played out over the past several years.

It would be a shame for a young person like Lindsay to fall down before she has a chance to really stand up for herself as someone in full possession of all her faculties, and maybe this time out of the spotlight will teach her that you have to fall all the way down before you can stand up.

Let's hope she, and her parents, get that part of this thing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rant #292: Hot, Hot, Hot

Yes, it has been hot in the Northeast recently.

We just went through another day of 90-100 degree heat, and another one is expected today, with yet another one tomorrow. Forecasters say that perhaps on Friday we might get a break, into the weekend, as all this heat will eventually produce some rain.

But boy, it was a hot July 4 weekend!

We had a few barbecues, actually used the backyard, above-ground pool, and even took in a movie to escape the heat.

I know, if you are reading this in a hot weather climate, you are probably laughing at me, saying that you are used to the hot weather because you get it all the time.

Well, we don't, so we are grinning and baring it now.

People are sweltering. I remember as a kid, I lived in one of those areas where they used to open up the fire hydrants--both legally and illegally--to douse the heat. We used to run through the water in the middle of the street. It was fun, but as a kid, I didn't know how dangerous it was, nor did I care.

We also had a fountain nearby that would shoot cascading water all the time. Every once in a while, when there was a breeze, you could barely feel the water if you were playing ball several yards away. It was temporary, but it felt good.

And that brings me to the next topic. My reunion barbecue is slated for this Saturday, and rain is in the forecast. I hope it can hold out for just five measly hours--from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.--so I can pull this off.

If not, then Sunday is the day, but rain is also in the forecast for this day, too.

What am I going to do if both days are rained out?

I don't know. I really don't know.

I just wish it would rain already. I am at work the rest of the week, so for me, it doesn't really matter.

The weekend does, so let me hope that everything holds out for just those five measly hours on Saturday.

It can't rain on my parade, can it?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rant #291: Happy Day Off!

I actually have the day off today, as a result of July 4 being on a Sunday this year.

Hip hip hooray!

Anyway, I am going to make this entry a short one.

I hope everyone had a good July 4--lots of swimming, barbecues, ballgames and firecrackers (I hope you let the professionals do the firecrackers) for everyone!

We were lucky. It was hot yesterday where were were--in the mid-90s--and the Yankees won their game. We swam, had a barbecue, and then watched fireworks not only on the TV, but through our living room window, where they were shooting them off a few miles away. So we got our fireworks in stereo, I guess.

Anyway, more fun today, I hope, before going back to the salt mine, as Lumpy's dad used to say on the "Leave It To Beaver" show--which, by the way, is finally fully out on DVD!

Anyway, have a good holiday. If you have to work, I pay my condolences to you. And you will get back at me--I have to labor on Labor Day!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rant #290: King James Holds Court

Professional basketball making the front pages of your local newspaper in July?

Well, before you get worried and say "WNBA," I am actually talking about the NBA.

Right in the middle of baseball season, when the pennant races are heating up as much as the weather, we find ourselves in something of a basketball frenzy.

Why, you might ask.

Well, in an unprecedented move in any professional sport that I can remember, a number of top-flight players are free agents, and the maneuvering to grab their talents for a hefty fee is feeding this frenzy.

And nobody holds court like Lebron James, unquestionably the best player of the lot.

He has played his entire career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown team, and now, he is a free agent, open to any and all offers by other teams, including the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets, and the Chicago Bulls.

All of these teams have held court with him, and have created almost a comical situation between the teams, James, the media, and the fans.

While fans line up outside the offices where these wooing sessions are going on, team representatives drive up, passing each other on the road to see James.

The media covers this as if some international dignitary is holding court, and in some respects, James is one, since he is so well known around the globe.

It almost resembles one of those meetings you remember in those old movies, where the king sits on his throne, surrounded by his queen and other members of his court, while a visitor from another land tries to entice the king by bringing him some valuable goods from far away.

It is so comical, but when you think about the money that is being talked about in these meetings, it almost makes you want to choke.

Heck, sign me. I can live with a measly fraction of what they are throwing at him.

A million or two would satisfy me. I don't need any more. I will make due.

Unfortunately, my best days of basketball were over in 1975 or so, or more than 10 years before James was born.

Who will James and the other free agents, including Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, end up with?

Some will probably stay with their teams, others will leave for greener pastures.

But this current frenzy is truly something we have never seen before, not even in the early days of baseball's free agent signings.

And King James holds court. His suitors come from near and far. What will happen?

Who knows, and that makes it all the more fun for us peons, who work 9-to-5 jobs and will never make in a lifetime what James will make in a year.

But that's the way it is. Even in a recession, there is money to be spent.

And teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers and several others will spend until the cows come home.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rant #289: Slow Week

Well, at least I am not going to talk about any of my blogs today.

Nonetheless, this has been a slow week newswise. As we enter the early days of summer, there isn't much going on.

I could have talked about how Marilyn's Monroe's chest X-rays were auctioned off. Honestly, I would rather that her chest have been auctioned off when she was alive than her innards today. But I guess there is always a market for something.

I could have talked about how the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death sparked a worldwide celebration of the man, his music, and the numerous contributions he made to our culture. I am sure those he had inappropriate relationships with were also rejoicing, but for different reasons.

I could have talked about the fact that New York appears to be nudging closer to no-fault divorces. Every other state has it but New York, and I can tell you from personal experience what a nuisance that was. But I managed to live through it.

I could have talked about Hurricane Alex, which is or isn't a threat to the oil cleanup mess in the Gulf depending on who you are getting your news from. Whatever it is, it can't be too good.

I could have talked about the fact that I am going to be in a new book about my old neighborhood, Rochdale Village, Queens, N.Y., which will be released in the fall. I am quoted in there, at least in a footnote, about my school experiences there. The book's title is real long-- "ROCHDALE VILLAGE: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City's Great Experiment in Integrated Housing" by Peter Eisenstadt (like me, a former resident whose brother I used to play ball with). If you are interested in finding out more about this book, look it up in your favorite search engine under "Rochdale Village."

I could have spoken about a myriad of other things, but I decided that this was such a slow week leading into the holiday that I would take a break from my usual banter to highlight my blogs.

But that's all been done. What else can I talk about?

yasmin lawsuit