Friday, April 29, 2011

Rant #494: A Royal Pain In the Butt

Do you care about the royal wedding, which is taking place as I speak?

Sorry, I don't.

I don't care about the pageantry and everything else that goes along with this nonsense.

The networks are covering this as if it is the most important story in the world--which it isn't--and this morning, I went from channel to channel during the early morning news shows, and this is what they were feeding to us.

Why any American would care about this is beyond me. We could have had a king here, but George Washington said that he wanted to be known as President.

So why the gushing over what is happening across from the Atlantic Ocean.

I have a theory, and it is based on my wife's fascination with this event.

I think this is a female thing.

Even in today's modern world, young girls are brought up to believe that they will one day meet their own knight in shining armor, a man who will sweep them away off their feet into wedded bliss.

Women like to feel like queens, and you roll this into one ball, and you get this fascination with what is going on over there.

Men don't have this fascination because we know we will meet the right girl at one time or another. There is no fairy tale to it.

Honestly, I don't know a single male who cares about this wedding, but it seems that every female does.

Do remember the Princess Diana saga? This person, to me, was about the least fascinating person in the world, but her travails of being a royal wife made international headlines.

On a personal note, yes, I am recording the wedding for posterity ... not mine, but I guess my wife's. She insisted that I record it for her, just as she wanted me to record Princess Diana's funeral.

Being the good husband, I did what she wanted. Heaven knows when she will watch this, but it will be ready today.

I know I will have no interest in watching this, but my wife, like just about every woman, just loves this type of stuff.

Me, I really don't care.

Let's go Yankees!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rant #493: Today's My Birthday!

Fifty-four years ago today, on April 28, 1957, I came into this world.

Yes, my condolences to my parents--and my mother in particular--but they wanted me, they got me.

I am pretty sure they wanted a boy as their first child, so I satisfied that need. The last name was going to be passed on to another generation--hooray!

I was the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild in my family. That's a lot of responsibility, isn't it?

And I guess I was better than a pet, because they couldn't get allergic to me, like one becomes allergic to a dog.

But although I didn't need walking, in those pre-Pampers days, whew--I probably needed lots and lots of changing.

And my mom did it all, because my father did not do things like this.

He was a very loving dad, but he refused to change me when I pooped. He brags about it to this day.

Anyway, after thousands of poops now, I am 54 years old, and I don't feel a day over 53 years old, even though I am just that.

It is bleary outside, but I am cheery inside.

I am going to celebrate the day by working. What else can a poor boy do?

Celebration? There won't be one. I would love to have a big party, but it is not in the cards right now.

My wife gave me a kiss this morning and wished me well, and that is all that matters.

I will probably get some gifts tonight after I get home. My parents already gave me some cash, which is a fine gift. And it is green, so it fits into our current environmental concerns.

Who else is born today? Off the top of my head, one of the world's most beautiful and talented actresses, Ann-Margret, comic/late night talk host Jay Leno, the incredibly untalented Jessica Alba, and the equally untalented Saddam Hussein.

Boy, our parents must have been pretty busy to lead up to this day!

And I thank my parents for having the foresight to bringing me into the world. Without them, how would I have gotten here?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rant #492: Ballantine Blast!

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first of Yankees outfielder Roger Maris' 61 homeruns that he hit in 1961.

He hit the homer off of Detroit Tigers' pitcher Paul Foytack at old Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Maris would hit another 60 homers that season, eclipsing Babe Ruth's 60-homer record from 1927.

This accomplishment ignited a debate that has gone on through the ages--on both sides of the plate, so to speak.

The first argument was that Maris should not have the record, or at least his feat should be accompanied by an asterisk in the record book, because he hit his homers during a 162 game season. Ruth hit his homers in a 154 game season, so the thinking was that since Maris had eight more games to do it in, his record wasn't up to what Ruth did 34 years earlier.

Baseball commissioner Ford Frick contemplated doing this, but it never happened, although the debate has lingered now for 50 years.

The latest debate is something a bit different.

The debate centers around who has the real single season homerun record--is it Maris or Ruth, or is it Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds?

Ruth was fueled by hot dogs, cigars, beer and probably lots of women in his homer hitting, while Maris was fueled by Camel cigarettes and beer.

Those vices are bad enough, but McGwire and Bonds are another story altogether.

McGwire hit 70 homers and Bonds hit 73, but chances are they were juiced--the ballplayers I mean--with steroids, making their performances somewhat tainted.

Mind you, McGwire and Bonds took steroids when they weren't illegal in Major League Baseball.

But it is still looked at as cheating. They weren't the only ones who did it, and they had to have the talent before taking these things to reach those totals.

But their records are thought to be tainted by some people.

So who really holds the record?

By the numbers, it is Bonds, who is also the all-time homerun leader.

But purists will now support Maris as the single-season leader.

To me, a record is a record, and both Bonds and McGwire accomplished their feats when steroids were not illegal--yes, stupid to take, as it ultimately harms your body--but not illegal at the time.

So to me, Bonds holds the single-season record.

But Maris--his accomplishment was extraordinary.

And why is he not in the Hall of Fame?

Forget about the homerun hitting, this guy was the real thing. He could hit, field, throw, run--and he won two American League MVP awards, was in the World Series almost every year he played, and was pretty much a solid citizen.

All told, he was one of the best ballplayers of his day.

Why has the baseball world forgotten about Roger Maris, other than the 1961 season?

That is the most important question to be asked now, 50 years after his wonderful accomplishment.

The other stuff is nonsense.

I have to take the day off for medical tests, but I will be back on Thursday.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rant #491: The Day After Sunday

Yes, it's Monday, the day after Sunday.

I don't bet that was a revelation to you, but it is a fact.

Mondays have been written about from many angles, and there are numerous songs celebrating the day from the opposite sides of the pole.

Remember the Mamas and the Papas' "Monday Monday"? How about the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays"?

You can't go from one polar opposite about the day to another more than these two songs demonstrate.

I know that I couldn't get up from bed this morning. But I pushed myself, and I did what I had to do to prepare for the day.

Let's see what's happening.

Passover is just about over, and it will be completed by sundown tomorrow. I have had my fill of matzoh, so I look ahead to when I can have a piece of bread again.

I hope everyone had a good Easter Sunday.

Me, I didn't venture out of the house yesterday, with the exception of when I had to walk the dog.

I didn't use my car, so I fulfilled a requisite of Earth Day, to watch how I use our natural resources.

I watched televised sports the entire day.

I watched the Yankees blow a lead and finally win an excruciating game that when on forever due to rain delays and the poor pitching of the Yankees' relief staff. They beat the Orioles, but the game went on forever until it reached its conclusion.

On the other hand, I watched the Knicks get bounced out of the NBA playoffs by the Celtics. Also excruciating, at least it was quick.

Then, in the evening, I promised my son we would watch one of his WWE wrestling videos. The WWE does not want the public to know that it is a wrestling organization first and foremost, so it does not go under the World Wrestling Entertainment monicker anymore, just WWE, at least as of a week or two ago. This could have fooled me, because what they do, first and foremost, is put on top-level professional wrestling shows. The other stuff they do is low-grade.

So I was busy basically doing nothing this weekend.

The same won't be the case today, as I have a pile of things to do at work.

And that is what makes Monday the most interesting day of the week.

You often go from the relaxation of a weekend to the hectic pace of the work week, all within a few hours.

That's why I find the perkiness of the early morning TV news anchors incredible.

They all look like they are primed for what they are doing, especially the women, who are pretty as peaches in the morning but must be on tons of caffeine.

But whatever the case, they do what they have to do ...

And I have to do what I have to do, so let me run. I will speak to you tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel ... .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rant #490: Happy Holiday(s)

Today is Good Friday, and I wish all my friends a very joyous holiday leading into Easter on Sunday.

And today, coincidentally, is also Earth Day, the 41st anniversary of the celebration of the planet that we live on.

I remember the first Earth Day back in 1970.

What I did to help my planet was take a gas-guzzling bus with a friend into downtown Jamaica, Queens, New York, and go to a bookstore where they had weird and interesting books and magazines. They also had X-rated comic books like Fritz the Cat.

We browsed that store, bought some things, and that was it.

I guess by buying a few books, I saved those books from being thrown out, and thus, helped save my planet from having more garbage than it already had.

Earth Day has waned and grown in importance since then.

Right now, it's on an uptick, because concern in our environment is being revisited right now.

Back in the day, it was called ecology, but I don't know if that term is used now.

But people are more concerned with their planet than perhaps they ever have been.

Look at that horrible oil spill in the Gulf last year. Its effects will probably be felt for decades.

People are also not happy about gas prices. Hopefully, the money guzzling that the oil companies are participating will be looked at and stopped, because gas might be approaching $5 a gallon within a week or two.

Whatever the case, you have three religious holidays--Passover, Good Friday and Easter--and one modern holiday--Earth Day--running into each other.

It kind of makes this time special for just about all of us.

Have a "good" Friday, a nice Easter, and I will speak to you next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rant #489: Record-A-Rama

It was National Record Store Day on April 16. It's a day when local record stores celebrate their existence, and there are giveaways, discounts and other things to keep these stores jam packed with people looking for records, and nothing else.

I don’t know if you noticed, but neighborhood record stores are a vanishing breed, like bookstores and video stores.

Now that kids believe having a file is more important than owning a piece of media, like an LP or a CD, record stores have become useless in their eyes.

Kids believe that record stores are old fashioned, and they would rather sit in front of their home computers and download music than browse through racks and racks of records.

Me, I am from a different generation, where record stores were literally the centers of the universe for some people. They heard the music on the radio, and then went to their local record stores to pick up a copy of the song or a brand-spanking-new album.

The first hit that record stores took was in the mid 1980s, when CDs replaced vinyl as the format of choice for many record collectors. This took away the beauty of vinyl, and made owning music less of owning a piece of art and more of simply having the tracks to play on your CD player.

The next hit, and the death knell, was the advent of the Internet, where just about anything was available, but in a file, not in something that you actually held and owned.

Files are nice, but actually owning a record is something else altogether. You get the look and feel of the piece of recorded music, including the artwork and the liner notes.

Well, before record stores go the way of the 8-track tape, there are still numerous outlets for old vinyl, and the rising wave of new vinyl that is out on the market.

I went to our local record store, and the place was jammed. Lots of people—mostly in their 40s and over—were there to search out various used and new treasures.

I feel that I am in my element when I go to a record store. I have thousands of records in my collection, and I love to add bits and pieces here and there to make it complete, or complete in my eyes.

And not everything is available on CD or digitally, so going to a record store can potentially turn up something that you have just got to have.

For a dollar apiece, I bought a Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez) album that I had digitally but not on record; I bought a record about manned space travel that was produced right around the time we set foot on the moon; and I bought a few Johnny Rivers LPs.I bought some other things, like a Lou Monte record (remember "Pepino the Italian Mouse"?), a few old soundtracks, and an album by comedian London Lee, who was the "Little Rich Kid" on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

No, there was nothing there that was very rare, but they were records that I simply didn’t have in my collection.

And much of it is not on CD, and not available digitally.

What is the future of the record store? I think that used stores will still dot the map, and I think that the resurgence of vinyl will keep these stores operating for many years to come.

And, I do think in the future, you will see younger people in these shops too. They will discover that you get a truer sound with vinyl, and since the local megastores like Best Buy either don’t carry vinyl or carry a minimal amount, they will find that the best place to go for this format is the local record store.

Long live record stores, and long live vinyl.

There is just nothing like either one--the digital age be damned!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rant #488: 1-800-Not-What-You-Think

Ever use a 1-800 number?

I am sure that you have.

Even in this day and age of Internet communication, just about every company worth its salt uses such a number, mainly for customer service inquiries.

Well, what happens when you call the number? Do you connect with who you think you are connecting with?

Evidently, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based company doesn't think that when you call such a number, you should get the party you want.

No, this company believes that you should get phone sex services.

PrimeTel Communications, a little-known company that reportedly owns a whopping portion of the 1.7 million 1-800 numbers that are still around, often redirects you to phone sex services when you are making your call.

Just today, I called Newsday because I did not get my paper on time.

Happily, I got Newsday on the phone, and the problem was taken care of.

What would have happened if I got a phone sex operator, or a sex chat line operator?

"Hello, this is Phone Sex USA," the operator might have said in a sultry voice.

"Is this Newsday?"

"No, this is Phone Sex USA."

"All I want is my newspaper."

"No, I know what you really want."

"No, it's 5:30 in the morning, and I don't have my newspaper."

"C'mon big boy, what we can give you no newspaper can."

"It's too early in the morning for this. All I want is the newspaper."

"We know what you want. I will redirect you."

Of course, that would be if I decided to hold the line for that long.

Anyway, who wants to hear this trash?

And the bigger question is, how did this company get control of so many 1-800 numbers, under the noses of AT&T, Verizon and others?

I don't get it. Maybe I should call a 1-800 help line to ask them about this ...

Nah, better not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rant #487: Do the Matzoh! (Part 2)

Tonight is the second night of Passover.

Like the first night, Jews get together with relatives and friends and hold a traditional seder to celebrate the holiday.

The second night gives me a chance to reflect on seders, now and then, in my family.

In the old days--or when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s--we had the first seder with my fraternal grandparents and the second seder with my maternal grandparents.

The first seder was very traditional, as my grandparents were orthodox. Everything went by the book, literally, and the ceremony took more than an hour before we ate our meal. Not only were we there, but my aunts and uncles on my father's side attended.

And then there were the Four Questions.

The Four Questions are traditionally asked by the youngest member of the family. These questions basically ask the reasons why we are celebrating the holiday, and the answers explain the who, what, where, why and when of this festive occasion.

As a kid, during the first night of Passover, my sister and I studied the Four Questions as if we were studying to be in a play. We would read them over and over in the back seat of my father's car, making sure that we knew them, in Hebrew, backwards and forwards.

We did this because we did not want to embarrass ourselves in front of my grandfather. He was a fine man, but he insisted on certain things, and one of them was knowing the Four Questions without any errors.

During the second seder night, it was a little more laid back. My maternal grandparents were more modern Jews, and since it was just my family and my grandparents, there was a lot less ceremony. By the second night, my sister and I knew the Four Questions inside and out, so there weren't any problems.

As my sister and I got older, and my grandparents got older, we held the seder at my mother's house. My grandfather was there, so we did things by the book, although it was a bit looser than it had been.

Now, the two seders I attend, one at my sister's house and the other with my parents, are pretty loose, pretty modern, but very effective.

I kind of think my grandparents would be proud that we continue to carry on this tradition into the 21st century. I don't know if they would go for the looseness, but once my nephews and my son (and when she is there, my daughter) do the Four Questions, I know that in heaven, they are all smiling from ear to ear.

And wait until the younger brood has their own children! The smiles will be as large as the appetites we bring to this annual ritual.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rant #486: Do the Matzoh!

Tonight is the first night of Passover. Jews around the world begin celebrating the holiday, having seders with their families and friends.

The holiday signifies the plight that Jews endured thousands of years ago while in Egypt, as well as their passage out of that land.

The main symbol of the holiday, at least to me, is matzoh.

Matzoh is unleavened bread, and signifies the rush that Jews were in to get out of Egypt and to the promised land.

They baked bread while on their passage, but due to this rush, they did not have time to let the bread rise.

Thus, matzoh was created.

Matzoh, for those who don't know, is a cracker-like food that is shaped in sort of a board.

You can have regular matzoh or egg matzoh, but it must be Kosher for Passover, or Jews that follow the holiday can't eat it during the next eight days.

So no onion matzoh, no sesame matzoh, no everything matzoh during this holiday for observant Jews like me.

I love matzoh, probably too much. I can probably eat half a box at a single sitting, which is not good for my stomach.

Matzoh is good with butter, but it is better with cream cheese. Slobber it on, take a taste, and you will know what I mean.

During the holiday, some people cook it with eggs, and you have matzoh brye.

Me, I just like it with cream cheese or butter.

And for lunch, it goes really well with tuna fish.

During the seder, a matzoh is hidden for the children to find. If they do, they get a prize.

Usually, the head of the household puts it in a wrapping and sits on it, and that is where the children find it.

I wouldn't eat it after it has been sat on.

We also used to play a game "Find the Crack," where a matzoh is split in two and you have to find the crack, or where the two pieces join.

Take it from me, it is not as easy as it appears to be, not with the natural cracks and crevices of matzoh.

So, if you are Jewish, have a happy Passover.

If not, I thank you for hearing me out, and have a wonderful and joyous Easter.

Me, I'll be eating matzoh for the next eight days ...

And "Matzoh Stomach" is sure to be the result.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rant #485: Tiger Beat Beat Beat!!!!!

Ah, Tiger Beat.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, this was the magazine that every girl from the ages of seven to about 13 had to have.

It was the only place you could find out the latest news and gossip about all of your favorite stars, everyone from the Beatles to Paul Revere and the Raiders to Herman's Hermits to Dino, Desi and Billy to the Monkees to Bobby Sherman to the Cowsills to David Cassidy ...

Yes, I think you get it.

I heard the other day that its founder, Charles Laufer, who published Tiger Beat and other fan magazines that breathlessly covered the doings of teen idols, died at age 87.

The story goes that Laufer was teaching at a Norwalk, Calif., high school in the 1950s when he came up with the idea for a student-oriented magazine called Coaster. He later changed the name to Teen.

In 1965, he launched Tiger Beat, which covered the emerging, very fast-paced world of teendom in its infant stages. At its peak, the magazine sold hundreds of thousands of copies each month.

If you wanted to know the likes of Davy Jones, or wanted to know about Paul McCartney's latest girlfriend, you had to have Tiger Beat.

And this magazine made the use of apostrophes into an art. David Cassidy likes smart girls! Davy Jones is going with Sally Field! Mark Lindsay's desires!

Almost every sentence was punctuated with an apostrophe.

I mean, this was heavy stuff, or at least for a nine year old girl.

And to get the latest love beads (Davy Jones wore them!) or puka shells (David Cassidy wore them!), you had to have this magazine.

My sister collected these magazines, and read them from cover to cover when she was a kid.

She used to cut out the pictures and put them on her wall.

Me, I would take a glance every once in a while.

For boys, the news was negligible. What was important were the photos. You couldn't see photos like they had in Tiger Beat anywhere else.

And, if you wanted to keep up on the latest exploits of Susan Cowsill or Maureen McCormick, well, you had to have Tiger Beat.

Honestly, I have not looked into a Tiger Beat for decades. I guess they still cover the same type of thing--Justin Bieber and the like--for this generation of young girls.

It's a harmless publication, but I wonder how the Internet has impacted its reach.

Again, way back when, it was the only place you could find out what type of pillows Desi Arnaz Jr. liked to sleep on.

Today, that information is readily available on the Internet.

So, is the magazine still relevant?

Who knows, but you have to hand it to Laufer for dreaming it up.

It was pure genius!!!!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rant #484: Katie, Oh Katie

When Katie Couric became the anchor of the CBS Evening News a few years ago, I have to say I was skeptical.

The once proud seat, which became a throne when Walter Cronkite sat in it and later became the electric chair when Dan Rather tarnished it, had become a hot seat with Couric occupying it.

But over the months and the few years that she has been in that chair, I have to say that I have been impressed with her.

When she came in, I think a lot of people looked down on her because she was a well-known personality who was at best a soft news person, much more feature oriented, and with one leg in show business and maybe a toe in news.

I think she did a good job in this position. She was a "talking head" for sure, but I think she brought a professionalism to the job that was necessary to win back viewers' confidence.

Forget about the fact the CBS's evening news report is at the bottom of the ratings, and has been there for some time.

I like Katie.

Now we hear, and there are no denials, that she is leaving, probably to host her own syndicated show.

There are also rumblings that she might be headed back to the Today show on NBC.

Her contract at CBS ends on June 4, and she will probably leave the network by mutual agreement.

I liked Katie. Unlike most female news anchors, she didn't have the glitz, but she had the chops.

And I really liked that about her.

I like that when I come home from a hard day at work, she is on the screen, rather than your usual male talking head.

Yeah, that is sexist, but this is my blog, and I can say what I want.

And I hope that she comes back, to read the news again, but who knows?

Maybe they will get somebody, male or female, who fills the spot as well as she has.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rant #483: Tickets, Get Yer Tickets (Not)


What more can I say? If you have tickets to your favorite events, you are lucky, or at least you know someone.

Me, I don't know anybody, so I have to get my tickets the old fashioned way--through the team or the venue that is hosting the event.

It has gotten a bit ridiculous to get tickets to various events. Sure, the Internet certainly makes it more convenient to secure tickets, but I have my doubts about if it actually makes it easier.

You can get tickets through the team or venue, but with thousands going online at the same time to secure tickets, does that make it any easier for you?

There is usually a speed bump while you are trying to get tickets--there aren't any in your price range, for instance--and then there are those fees, which are often as pricey as the ticket itself.

Then you have the secondary dealers, who will sell you a ticket, but you are going to have to really pay for it. Sometimes, the tickets on these outlets are double the face value, if not even more.

I have also heard that venues, in order to gauge the popularity of an event, will put up tickets on these sites. Is that fair? The venue itself is boosting its own ticket prices by doing this.

I want Knicks playoff tickets. There is supposedly a pre-sale tomorrow, but I don't have the password. I have tried everything I can do to find it, but I can't.

And how much will the tickets I want be? I am not looking to spend my life savings on two tickets to see one of the games.

This ticket thing has got me riled up. I purchased Yankees tickets through the Yankees, and chose the "print your own tickets" option.

Not only was I charged a ridiculous "processing price" to print my tickets through my own printer, but the Yankees did not make the tickets available to print until about three weeks after they were purchased.

What's going on here?

I don't know, but maybe the scalpers had it right after all.

Pay cash, get your tickets right in your hand, enjoy the event.

Maybe that is the way to do it ...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rant #482: Tools of Ignorance

April 12 is a memorable day if you are an outer space nut, because today is the day that Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth a single time before making a safe landing.

That was back in 1961. I was four years old, and I probably was amazed at the whole thing. Still am.

However, way back in 1877, another momentous occasion happened on this day, and everybody from Johnny Bench to Carlton Fisk to Yogi Berra to Joe Mauer should stop and pause today.

What would their careers have been as catchers if not for the braveness of James Tyng, of Harvard University?

Tyng was a catcher in the very early days of the sport. He didn't feel like getting hit in the face or the head anymore when foul balls came off the bat.

So he became the first baseball player to use a catcher's mask in a game.

Leave it to a Harvard kid to be the first to do something.

A catcher's mask is an ungainly invention, but one that works. It is uncomfortable, must be thrown away when going after foul balls, and is easily stepped on when it is.

Yet, it is the very foundation of a catcher's arsenal of tools.

Today's catcher's mask is very, very different from the one Tyng wore. It is more lightweight, and aerodynamically designed to bear the brunt of foul balls with relative comfort.

And in a nod to Gagarin and other astronauts, the modern catcher's mask resembles an astronaut's helmet.

But it does what Tyng's basic mask did--it protects the face from foul balls.

When I was a kid in Little League, I did some catching. Let me tell you, that mask is annoying. It rubs against you the wrong way and actually, in my mind, cuts away part of your vision.

But I am sure it protected my face from severe hits with the ball. Last time I looked, I didn't have any balls etched into my face, so I guess it worked.

And it's worked for millions of others who have decided--or been told to--be the catcher.

So thanks to Tyng, and his bravery for trying something different.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rant #481: Two Partridges In a Pair Tree

Well, it's not on the level of a Monkees reunion, but two former Partridge Family members got together to play a single song this past Saturday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Danny Bonaduce, the often troubled ex-kid actor who didn't actually sing or play guitar on the show--even though he did lip-sync his musical parts and actually released an album of material during the early 1970s--is now a Philadelphia disk jockey. He has been doing standup comedy for years, and after doing his act, none other than David Cassidy approached him and asked him to play a Partridge Family song.

The two dueted "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted," and that was it.

Evidently, last year Cassidy--who continues to perform and record--and Bonaduce got together, and Cassidy dared Bonaduce to learn some of the Partridge Family songs. In October, the two first did the song together, the first time in 40 years that the two ever sang together.

Again, this is not a monumental reunion by any stretch of the imagination. The Partridge Family concept never was much of a put-on, as it was very clear that only Cassidy and step-mom/TV mom Shirley Jones were actually doing anything musically. All of the other actors--including Susan Dey--lip-synced their vocals and musical parts, with studio musicians and singers doing the musical work.

But it didn't stop this concept from selling millions of records in the early 1970s, picking up where the Monkees left off in the late 1960s.

In all honesty, there hasn't been anything like it since then. It was really the golden age of the teenybopper star, and David Cassidy picked up the mantle from another David--Jones that is--as one of the greatest TV-created teen phenoms of all time.

Bonaduce was, well he was there. He was a major part of the the show, but musically, he was nowhere.

And as he grew into adulthood, Bonaduce's life unfolded and unfurled. He has had marital problems, substance abuse problems, problems with the law ... you name it, he has probably done it.

But he seems to be on the straight and narrow now, which is good.

Now, if they could only bring back Dey and Jeremy Gelbwaks (or Brian Forster), and add Suzanne Crough, and get Shirley Jones to reprise her role ... nah, I don't know if I would want to see that after all.

Reuben Kincaid ... can he be lurking in the shadows somewhere?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rant #480: A Black Mark On Education

The debacle that surrounded the hiring of Kathie Black as New York City Schools chancellor is over. She resigned the post yesterday, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, who has a long career in education, will take over.

Black, a former Hearst executive who had absolutely no experience in educational matters--and who sent her own children to private school--lasted barely three months in the job, and was ridiculed from the beginning of her tenure as being out of touch with the very constituents she was supposed to serve.

In a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg--who chose Black to be the school czar--said Black's tenure had not gone as planned.

"I take full responsibility for the fact that this hasn’t worked out as expected," Bloomberg said. "The story had become about her and away from the kids.”

The news comes shortly after Deputy Chancellor John White quit. He was the second deputy chancellor to step down this week and the fourth since Black took over in the fall.

The choice was a mistake from the very beginning. Bloomberg, the Emperor of New York City, has been running rampant during his third term in office. He is making choices and approving policy that goes against the grain of the city, what makes it great, and what needs fixing.

Schools that are under-performing are not improved, they are closed. Teachers are losing their jobs by the thousands, and those still employed are often teaching subjects in which they have little or not background in.

And most of these closures are in minority areas, where schools are often the only stable institution operating in these areas.

The choice of Black just added to the problem. With no education experience, and no allegiance to public school education, she was absolutely the wrong choice to head the New York City schools.

Once the best and proudest educational system n the world, these schools have fallen into disrepair since the mid to late 1960s. When local school boards wrested control of schools from the city in the late 1960s, things began to fall apart, and Bloomberg attempted to stem the tide by retaking control of the schools.

His idea might have sounded good on paper--bring a businesswoman into the fray--and run the educational system like he runs the city.

But you can't run an educational system this large like you run New York City, and Black proved that early on.

She was attacked by conservatives, liberals and people in between. She, herself, made comments that made her sort of like the female equivalent of Bloomberg--rich, poweful, ego-driven, and totally out of control and out of touch, an elitist who is full of arrogance but not full of any ideas.

So now there is in place a person with an educational background who has firm roots in this system. His grandson goes to school in St. Albans, Queens. He is a former kindergarten teacher.

He is a perfect choice for this position, at least on paper.

The city schools are not what they once were. Everybody acknowledges that they are broken.

Can they be fixed? That will be Walcott's job.

Can he do it? We will just have to wait and see.

But one piece of advice I would give him, as a a former New York City school student and former teacher--and coming from a family of teachers, many who taught in the New York City school system--is that you don't fix schools by closing them.

You hire better personnel to make those schools better.

Leaving neighborhoods without their schools is liking taking away the heart of these communities. They may function, but these neighborhoods will be on life support.

Don't close the schools--fix them.

I hope Walcott has a lot of hammers and nails, because it's going to take a lot of elbow grease to fix something that is in such disrepair. Black's tenure put this back years--maybe he is the right guy for the job.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rant #479: Dish it Out-A Blockbuster of a Deal

I truly do not understand Dish Network's purchase of Blockbuster.

These are two former giants that have fallen on hard times. It's like a marriage of one guy who has been married 10 times with a woman who has been married eight times.

There is a reason both are failing at what they do, and a marriage isn't going to solve those problems.

Dish Network is second in a two-team race to DirecTV in the satellite television business. And I mean a distant second in a two horse race.

Dish absolutely cannot compete with the more formidable DirecTV, so it doesn't try to, although it does whether it wants to or not.

Dish prides itself at being the lower-cost provider, and it is just that.

But as always, you pay for what you get.

And with Dish, it is a diminished lineup of stations, especially compared to DirecTV.

In the New York area, you can't watch the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Devils or any other professional sports team with any regularity, because Dish has either taken off their networks (MSG, SNY) or has never had them to begin with (YES, MLB). And when they have them and there is a pricing problem, they just don't negotiate anymore. They take the networks off without warning to customers.

And their customer service is as lame as a limp noodle. Probably lamer.

Blockbuster was once the giant of the video stores. They were over-priced to begin with--a point that nobody seems to bring up--but they had a good selection.

They absolutely killed those mom and pop video stores that opened in the 1980s. Murdered them to oblivion.

But their fortunes began to tumble when tapes gave way to DVDs. There were so many other ways to get the movies that people wanted--including buying them, since prices fell to manageable levels with the advent of DVDs--that people started to ignore Blockbuster.

And when video rental machines came out, and charged $1 for the same movies that Blockbuster was charging nearly $5 for, well, that tipped the scales. Blockbuster has even gotten into this business, but it's too little, too late, especially with streaming video and NetFlix out there.

They have closed thousands of stores, and are a casualty of their own complacence.

And Dish is too.

So what does this marriage mean?

I have no idea. I guess Dish can now market itself in the Blockbuster stores that remain open.

Maybe with their combined resources, they can make something new happen in the delivery of movies to customers.

I simply don't know. On the surface, it looks like a plan doomed to failure.

Maybe these two former giants have something else in mind.

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

If video killed the radio star, then complacence killed the video store.

What Dish Network has in mind--other than probably increasing their rates to customers to pay for this deal--is beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rant #478: Follow the Bouncing Ball

Yes, my beloved Knicks have finally made the NBA playoffs.

It will be the first time in seven years that they will be in the playoffs.

The drought was a long one, take it from me.

One of the NBA's charter franchises--a team that began in the late 1940s when the league commenced play, and a team that dominated in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they won their two championships--had fallen on very hard times since the Patrick Ewing era ended. They didn't win any championships during that period in the 1990s, but they were one of the best teams around.

Then came the past few years, when a good college team could beat this bunch.

They were overpaid, overextended, and under talented.

Although many didn't like the path they were on--including me--they had to take that path to get where they are today ...

Basically a .500 team.

Sure, that isn't very good, but in the land of the NBA, and particularly the Eastern Conference, it is good enough.

Heck, the Indiana Pacers may qualify for the playoffs and not even have a .500 record.

The Knicks added two superstars this year--Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony--and added another player who has seen it all, Chauncey Billups, to their team. It took some time for this team to gel, but they have now won a few games in a row and look confident going into the playoffs.

Who will they play?

All accounts are that they will play the Miami Heat, the team with the three-headed superstar mix of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James.

I don't know how the Knicks will fare against this team--I would prefer them playing the Chicago Bulls, a team that is quite good but one that can be beaten--but at least the Knicks are there, not at home like they've been for the past seven years.

No, I probably won't be at any of the games. It is just too darn expensive.

But I will root from home--finally rooting for something as far as the Knicks are concerned.

If they play Miami, I don't think they will come out victorious, but they will give it a good shot, something to build upon leading into next year.

Let's go Knicks!

We New York fans have suffered enough.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rant #477: What Did They Expect?

This one is going to be direct and to the point.

I will start it off with a question:

What did the people who spent their hard earned money to see Charlie Sheen perform live expect from his show?

Exit reviews were putrid for this show, or diatribe, or whatever you want to call it.

People left the show saying it was the worst show they had ever seen. Many wanted their money back.

And all this comes to New York's Radio City Music Hall in due time.

Remember, Sheen is a psychotic, anti-Semitic, ego-driven hustler who cheats on his wife and kids and has drug and alcohol problems, all of which he doesn't believe are "problems" that he can't control.

And he has now put all of this into a stage show.

And people spent money for this trash.

Sheen is a comedic actor. He is not a standup comedian.

So a one-man show like this can be nothing but a disaster without proper writing and staging.

I think the scariest thing about the show is that watching the news the other day, most people who attended the show seemed to be between 25 and 35 years of age.

Most said they found Sheen to be funny, and that they liked him, but not at this show, where he was alleged to have screamed out over boos, "You can boo all you want, because I already have your money."

My next question is: Why does the 25 to 35 year old age group find this guy funny?

He beats up his wives, uses drugs and prostitutes as if they were toilet paper, and he is absolutely self absorbed.

If it was their sister he was beating up, I doubt they would find him so charming.

And why do people 35 years of age and up find this fool so deplorable?

That is a generation gap that I really think needs some explaining.

Are the younger ones so hardened to this type of nonsense that they pretty much look to bypass it, as if it doesn't mean anything to them at all?

Are older people more tuned in to a troubled, sick human being, and understand that that is what he is?

I don't know, but I wouldn't buy a ticket to see Hitler.

I am not likening Sheen to Hitler, but it is the same premise.

Why buy a ticket to a show featuring someone you know is a screw up?

Why buy a ticket to a show featuring someone who has a load of negative qualities that if he were in your family, you would probably at the very least punch him out?

I don't get it. I really don't.

And I don't get the venues that are staging this nonsense.

Radio City Music Hall, owned by the Dolans of Cablevision fame, are staging this show.

Sorry, I don't get it. Not at all.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rant #476: Comedy Tonight!

I have thousands of records at home ... 45s, LPs, CDs, cassette tapes ... you name it, I have it.

I am pretty proud of my collection. It mainly spans the years 1964-to about 1990 or so, or from when the Beatles took over the world to when CDs finally overtook vinyl as the recording medium of choice. I have recordings prior to 1964 and after 1990, but the majority of what I have spans that period.

I also have compilations that were produced after that period that include music made during my prime period, but generally, most of the stuff I have was made, executed and performed during the 1964-1990 period.

I have a lot of comedy albums in my collection. Comedy albums are sort of a forgotten art form. What these albums were were basically recorded live performances from top, middle and lower-level comedians of the day.

For every Bill Cosby, you had your Joey Forman, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I really enjoy the comedy albums I have from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, or really the golden age of comedy records.

These LPs basically brought the Las Vegas act right into your living room, and were often played during dinner parties, where men wore suits and ladies wore dresses. As coffee was being served by the hostess, the host would take out his new comedy LP and say he wanted to play it for his guests.

They would gather around the Hi-Fi and listen to--and laugh--along with comics who dressed in tuxedos and often smoked on stage. No bottled water on stage like today!

You have Shelley Berman, Bill Dana, Bob Newhart, Allan Sherman, and of course Bill Cosby, but you also have Don Adams, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Most of these acts you could find on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and that is probably how I first became familiar with most of these artists.

Comedy albums during this period--certainly up to when acts like George Carlin and Richard Pryor let it all hang out in the early to mid-1970s--were pretty staid, mostly G-rated, but some comedy albums were a bit more risque.

Many of these artists got away with a lot of double entendres because they played the "chitlin circuit," or what was known as the black circuit of theaters, playing to almost 100 percent black audiences.

You had Redd Foxx, Lawanda Page, Nipsey Russell, and a whole load of artists whose LPs you really had to search out way back when. Many of them you had to ask for, and they were kept behind the counter.

Funny, many of these artists crossed into the mainstream as comedy opened up a bit in the mid 1960s and early 1970s.

How different the world is today? Is there a comedian who doesn't spout four letter words as quickly as the ears will allow?

Anyway, I have recently rediscovered my comedy albums after a long hiatus of having them but not listening to them. I am trying to digitize each one, and listening to the likes of the acts I've previously mentioned have been a revelation.

Although a lot of the comedy is topical and for the time, a lot of it is timeless.

I was listening to a Pigmeat Markham album the other day--another chitlin circuit performer who crossed over into the mainstream--and the stuff was kind of risque, but not dirty at all, maybe PG.

But it was funny--really funny.

I have to tell you, the comedians today don't do too much for me. I just don't laugh when every word begins with an F. It's sort of using the lowest common denominator to get the cheapest laugh.

I like laughs that are well crafted, like the stuff from the time period I most prefer.

Sure, a lot of it is corny and dated, but it is funny.

Rather than use the F word like they do today, I like comedy that works around that but gets the maximum bang for the buck.

Anyway, if you have any comedy LPs in your own collection, take them out and listen to them again.

Sure, you'll remember a lot of the stuff, but listen to the craftsmanship at hand.

I am sorry to say you don't hear that today.

And as I listen to my comedy LPs, I find that I kind of miss that era of comedy, miss it a lot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rant #475: Not Enough ... Well, You Know What I Mean

The National Center For Health Statistics just released a report, and the baby-making business has seemingly gone the way of 8-tracks and videotapes ... well, not quite, but the findings aren't encouraging.

Births fell 4 percent from 2007 to 2009, the largest drop for any two-year period since the mid-1970s, when Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was in vogue.

The rate--66.7 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44--isn't as bad as the 1997 rate, which was at an all-time low of 63.6 per 1,000 women. But that record could be eclipsed via the 2010 findings, say the researchers.

Among the findings of the report are that births fell for all women--except for those 40 years old an older--and that birth rate pushed up the percentage, because the rate for women ages 20 to 24 was the lowest recorded for that age group, 96.3 per 1,000.

I guess ZPG has come back into vogue, because fewer families are having more than two kids. The report found that almost 75 percent of the births in 2009 were first or second births.

Now, you have to ask yourself why this is the way it is.

Well, the economy has a lot to do with it. People simply can't afford to have kids--or more kids--and are waiting until they are more financially stable to have them.

I guess that is pretty obvious.

But what other factors are playing into this?

I think many women are putting their careers before parenthood.

Even though we like to think--because of all the media madness about this--that women can be "superwomen", not only doing their jobs but having children and rearing them too--that just isn't true across the board.

Women are looking at their careers first, motherhood second.

What this means is that we are going to have a graying generation of parents coming up real soon.

It won't be that outlandish to see mothers--and dads for that matter--who have young kids but are themselves in their 50s and 60s.

I don't know if that is good or bad, but I always had the youngest parents on the block, and when I became a teenager, my parents weren't even 40 yet.

Today, women aren't having kids until they are in their 40s.

Hmmm ... pretty strange how things have changed, huh?

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