Monday, October 31, 2011

Rant #607: Lucky Seven (Billion)

First off, happy Halloween.

Second, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for winning the World Series.

Now, we can get to the meatier stuff on the menu.

Today, our world is supposed to welcome its seven billionth member. The United Nations is calculating that today is the day.

I don't know how this is calculated, but supposedly, 51 babies are born every minute in the world.

I don't have statistics about how many people die each minute--and thus, are replaced by the newbies--but through some mathematical calculation, we are supposed to reach the seven billion mark today.

And if you thought that most of those people were protesting at events like Occupy Wall Street, that isn't true.

The continent of Asia supplies us with more than half of our world population, with 4.2 billion people living there.

That is so even with our Octomom, who has contributed, what, 14 kids to the equation.

Just who will be the seven millionth citizen of this planet?

I guess it is hard to calculate. Every kid born today will have a chance to be permanently impaled with that achievement.

How would you like the burden of being the seven billionth person on the planet?

Seven is normally a lucky number, but seven billion ... I just don't know.

More babies are born per year than people die, so I don't think the seven billion mark will last that long. So somewhere down the line, we will hit eight billion, then nine billion, and then 10 billion.

It will happen.

Where we are going to put all these people is beyond me. Maybe if we get the space program going again, some of them can populate the moon.

But wherever we put them, it's inevitable. The population is growing and there is little or nothing we can do about it.

Remember the idea of Zero Population Growth? Basically, a man and woman simply replacing themselves down the line with two children, and that's it.

Well, that appears to be a pipe dream. People will have as many kids as they want, and then some.

So move over, make room. Number eight billion is probably just around the corner.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rant #606: Pre-Spook Halloween

I know Halloween is on Monday, and I will have a Rant that day, but since so many adults will celebrate this occasion during the weekend--Monday is, after all, a work day--I figured I would talk about it today.

Halloween just isn't what it used to be.

I remember Halloween as a kids' day, but the holiday has been co-opted by what we used to call "The Establishment." It is now a holiday for adults, and not really for kids anymore.

Adults dress up, have Halloween parties, and act like the kids they were decades before.

Children dress up, have parties, and barely go trick or treating anymore.

What a shame.

My childhood, as I have said many times, was spent in a wonderful--and equally frustrating--place called Rochdale Village, in South Jamaica, Queens, New York.

The place had five sections, a total of 20 buildings, each building with three sections (A, B, C), 13 stories apiece, and about seven apartments on every floor.

Thousands of families lived there, so Halloween was simply the greatest holiday that there was.

We would go from building to building, section to section, apartment to apartment, and get our candy, money, and whatever else people threw in our bags.

We used to get bags and bags and bags of stuff.

It was simply incredible how those bags filled up like they did.

The bags had to be checked, of course, and my mother used to sit down with my sister and myself to go through the contents.

I remember one year, my sister got an apple with pins in it. We knew exactly where the apple came from--an elderly woman in our building--but in those days, you really didn't do much about it. You just knew not to visit that apartment again the next year.

And since I have never really been a candy eater, I gave all my candy to my sister. My sister has a sweet tooth, and believe me, between the Halloween candy I gave her, and the baseball card gum I gave her, is it any wonder that she has had problems with her teeth as an adult?

But Halloween was simply heaven to kids living in my development.

Heck, with all the pennies I got, if I could have kept them all, I could probably buy a slice of pizza today.

But all kidding aside, how can a Halloween like this compare with Halloween today?

It can't. It simply can't.

And that is why Halloween today is a far cry from what I--and probably many of you--celebrated way back when.

I wish it could be the same way today, but it can't.

Today, I basically look at Halloween as a nuisance.

We decorate our home, and put out candy for the kids, but hardly anybody visits.

And since Halloween is on a school night this year, I expect even fewer kids to be out.

So happy Halloween, but don't tell me that the holiday in 2011 is the same as it was in 1967.

It isn't the same thing, no matter where you grew up.

It just isn't.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rant #605: Happy Birthday, Ralph

Ralph Kiner is 89 today.

It is hard to believe that the youthful Kiner is nearing 90, but I guess we all get older.

If you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, you know of Kiner's exploits on the baseball field.

As the 2011 season nears its end, Kiner continues to stand as one of the most feared sluggers in the history of the game.

But to New Yorkers, and especially Mets fans, Kiner is something else entirely.

When the fledgling franchise began operations in 1962, Kiner was the third voice hired to guide fans through the pitfalls--and pratfalls--of the expansion team.

Along with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, Kiner made their first season--40 wins, 120 losses--at least somewhat palatable.

And he stayed with the Mets through the lean years and the good years, back to the lean years of today.

He was with them when they won the championship in 1969 and 1986, and he is still with them.

With Nelson and Murphy long gone, Kiner has been a broadcaster with the Mets for nearly 50 years.

And with that, we come to Kiner's Korner.

This was the long-time postgame show that Kiner hosted after Mets games, then on Channel 9.

The only way I can describe it is that it was sort of "The Twilight Zone" mashing up with a normal sports report.

And although that sounds bizarre, and it was bizarre, it worked.

Guests, usually the star of the game, would appear on the show. In fact, they considered it a badge of honor to appear on the show.

Kiner would often forget who he was interviewing, or would garble their names.

He often forgot the score of the game that was just broadcast, and when he gave the out of town scores, he often messed up who won and who lost.

He often garbled ad copy that he had to read.

And the cheesey set that the show used didn't help either.

It was surreal, but it was highly watchable, even for this dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan. I tried to never miss it.

Most of the shows are reportedly gone, as most shows of this nature simply weren't thought to be anything that anybody would care about years later. How wrong that is! I would love to see some of the old shows again.

Kiner has slowed down some in later years. He suffers from Bell's Palsy, which greatly impacted his speech. He doesn't hold court at his Korner anymore, and he only occasionally joins those manning the booth, including former major leaguers Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.

But he does appear during numerous games, and when he comes into the booth, you know that you are home. This guy knows baseball as well as anyone, and his Hall of Fame credentials notwithstanding, he is someone that you really have to stop and listen to. The insight he gives on baseball is really second to none. He knows what he is talking about.

When Kiner, Murphy and Nelson manned the Mets' booth, the were part of the heyday of New York baseball on television and radio. With the Yankees, you had their classic team of Phil Rizzuto, Bill White and Frank Messer.

Through these broadcast teams, you not only found out what was happening on the field, but off the field too, like what Rizzuto was going to have for dinner, or whose birthday it was.

It was heaven. Either you loved these guys or you hated them. I happened to love them. They looked at baseball as what it was--a kids' game played by grown men--and they went with it, full steam ahead.

So happy birthday, Ralph. Even though I am a Yankees fan, I always look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rant #604: Nudey Booty

Reports are that Lindsay Lohan will be appearing in a photo spread for Playboy.

She was paid between $750,000 and $1 million for this photo spread.

Her representatives are denying that it is for a nude spread, but heck, you don't pay that type of money to see any woman with her clothes on in this magazine.

We all know that Lohan has had numerous problems with the law, flaunts authority, and thinks she lives on a different planet than the rest of us.

Her family is no better. Her mother, Dina, also lives on another sphere, and her father, Michael, is a real piece of work himself, just being picked up for some type of domestic dispute with his ex-girlfriend.

The younger Lohan better get her money while she can. She is about the oldest-looking 25 year old that I have ever seen. And without the makeup, she probably looks about 40.

Hollywood has no patience for former starlets, and that is what Miss Lohan is becoming. With her numerous brushes with the law, she is headed for the dumpster, so the time is ripe now to get her into such a layout.

The way she is going, five years from now might be way too late.

And heck, the money ... I would pose nude for about a quarter of that, but who would want to see a 54-year old guy who has been around pose in the altogether?

I wouldn't even want to see that.

Do I want to see the issue that Lohan appears in?

No, not really. I haven't seen a Playboy magazine in ages. I had a subscription once, but let it lapse.

There are younger and prettier women than Lohan, women who have taken care of themselves and their lives much better than she has.

But then again, they are not Lindsay Lohan.

She has this allure that the press loves, a bad girl who you can't take your eyes off of.

She flaunts authority, which is something we all want to do, whether we admit to it or not.

And yes, she is pretty, with a terrific figure, and that helps. If she looked like Olive Oyl, no one would care.

So good luck to Lohan. Maybe this will put her on the straight and narrow, or help her pay her bills.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rant #603: Slogan=Dollars?

You knew it would come to this.

A couple on Long Island is trying to get a trademark for the "Occupy Wall Street" slogan.

With it, they reportedly intend to place the slogan on various items that they can make a buck from, including T-shirts.

The couple claim all they want to do is "spread the word" about the protests.

Please, give me a break. Isn't this very thing just what the protesters are railing about?

Greed, that is what it is, and whether you agree with the protesters or not, that is what this move by the couple, from West Islip, is all about.

The are attempting to grab a brass ring while it is hot.

I guess they have a right to do this. Just about anything can be trademarked, but this slogan, in particular, is kind of a rant for people who are fed up with the financial ways of our society. Trademarking this slogan would run counter to their arguments, no matter what the people who want to trademark the slogan claim.

It's co-opting the movement.

Looking back, there is at least one other symbol of a "movement" that was similarly co-opting, and means very little today because of it.

Although he didn't create the peace symbol, Pablo Picasso popularized it in the late 1940s. By the mid 1960s, the peace symbol was everywhere, and it was adopted by the younger generation. It came to symbolize the need to end the Vietnam War.

Today, you find the symbol everywhere, even on expensive jewelry. What does it mean today?

As singer Edwin Starr's immortal words in his song "War," "Absolutely nothing."

I mean, "Occupy Wall Street" is not a smiley face.

Whether the trademark goes through is another thing, but can't you just see 20 years from now someone carrying a Gucci bag with the words "Occupy Wall Street" emblazoned on it in sparkling letters?

Oh, what a sight that would be!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rant #602: Comedy Just Isn't Funny Anymore

As Friday was Friday, Saturday and Sunday were Saturday and Sunday for myself and my family.

Nothing with nothing.

So my wife decided to rent a few movies from the local Redbox machine.

How bad can the movies be for a dollar apiece? Even if they were awful, for a dollar, you can take a chance.

Well, we saw two stinkers, we sure did, and it addresses a problem that I have seen recently with comedy.

Comedy isn't funny anymore.

Maybe the times have passed me by, but I simply do not laugh at today's comedies, whether big screen or small screen.

I just don't find them funny.

I guess all the scatalogical references, all the sex references, and all the drug/drunk references turn me off too much.

I love to laugh as much as the other guy, and believe me, I am far from being a prude, but the constant pounding of comedies with these "jokes" and situations, well, it just isn't funny.

Take the first movie we saw, "Zookeeper."

Look, I wasn't expecting "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" here, but I expected something more from Kevin James, since his show, "The King of Queens," was probably the last TV show I really laughed out loud at.

Here, James plays the usual schlemeil, the guy who is in total self doubt about himself and the girl that he needs is right there in front of him.

Animals who can speak is so old already. I used to laugh at Goliath in "Davy and Goliath," and the dog in "The People's Choice" was pretty funny, but in 2011, this is so old hat as to be not funny.

And it wasn't in this movie. Not at all.

Then we have "Bridesmaids," starring comely Kristen Wiig.

Here we have a film about female bonding, in a way, revolving around a wedding party supporting the matrimonial vows of a best friend--or is the girl still a best friend?

This film was marketed as a comedy, a raunchy one at that, but it really isn't.

It isn't funny at all, and it has more dramatic tension than humorous scenes--or scenes meant to be humorous--anyway.

And it isn't funny, unless you like scenes of vomiting, elimination, and constant use of four-letter words.

I don't know, I don't find this stuff funny at all. For the two films, I probably laughed twice.

(I should have known--one of the stars of "Bridesmaids" is the star of the lamentable "Mike and Molly" TV show that I recently railed about.)

Funny, but in between films, my wife and I watched reruns of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on TV Land.

Yes, I know the shows are cut to shreds on this station, but they leave in enough so that you can still laugh out loud, and marvel at the cleverness of these shows from the early to mid 1960s.

Ironically, they ran a show this weekend that I think addresses why I don't find current comedy that funny.

One show we saw had Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) meet up with an old codger that was once his boss. He was Rob's comedy mentor, and Rob offered him a job working for him as one of the writers on "The Alan Brady Show."

When he begins to work with the other writers, he can't come up with a good gag if his life depended on it. He is from the old school (or what was the old school back in 1962 or so).

It isn't working out, and Rob has to let the old man go--but not before tapping into his brain, where he develops, using the old man's ideas, a sketch about--

Comedy not being funny anymore.

And the sketch was a riot!

So even back then, some people found the current comedy scene in 1962 far inferior to earlier times.

Now that is funny.

Today's movies and TV shows go for the lowest laugh, and the laughs simply are not there.

I don't know if it has to do with the lack of talent of the writers and the performers, or that now that everything is permissive, there isn't that much creativity anymore.

But I simply don't laugh at today's offerings. I find them offensive, vulgar, and every other adjective that fits with the term "unfunny."

I am still looking for something new to laugh at.

And I am just not finding it.

And that, to me, is no laughing matter.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rant #601: Just Another Friday

Hello, it's Friday.

It's just another Friday. Another cruel dictator is dead, and Lindsay Lohan is in trouble with the law again.

Ho hum, just another Friday.

Unlike the "Manic Monday" that the Bangles once sung about, today appears to be just another Friday.

What do you think is the greatest "Friday" song ever?

Could it be "Friday On My Mind" by the Easybeats?

How about "Friday's Child" by Nancy Sinatra?

Maybe "Friday I'm In Love" by the Cure?

Or does it even have to have the word "Friday" in the song title to qualify?

If not, how about "Bang the Drum" by Todd Rundgren?

It could be any one of those, but I do like "Friday On My Mind." It has that hook that doesn't go away from your mind too quickly.

But that being said, it's just another Friday.

Didn't that crazy preacher Harold Camping say that today would be the day the world ended? I know he has said this before about other days, but didn't he recently say it about today? And where is Mr. Camping now that we need him?

Personally, this has been a long work week for me, my first full week back at work after my recent vacation. I was at work last week, but I only worked four days, taking off Columbus Day, so this is really my first full week back. It has been difficult getting back in the saddle, but I am there, and not looking back.

And like the old Loverboy song, I am always "Working For the Weekend." I don't care if my family and I don't do much of anything on Saturday and Sunday. Even sitting around doing nothing at home is always better than sitting around and doing something at work.

I name dropped a lot of songs here, but somehow, songs do define the moment.

And yes, I do have "Friday on My Mind," because it's "Almost Saturday Night," as John Fogerty has told us for years and years.

And I can't wait.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rant #600: The Mick

Today would have been Mickey Mantle's 80th birthday if he would have lived. He died in 1995, and although gone for 16 years, he remains the quintessential American sports hero.

Mantle had humble beginnings in Commerce City, Oklahoma. He was the son of a miner, and he was destined to become one too ... although his dad thought otherwise.

As the story goes, seemingly from birth, Mantle was pegged as an athlete. He was named after Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane, and as a youth, excelled at just about every sport he tried.

He played high school football, was tackled hard, and the injury was something far worse: Mantle had osteomyolitis, a bone disease that could be fatal. He lived with intense pain in his legs the rest of his life.

Couple that with the fact that men in his family often didn't live past 40 years of age, and Mantle believed he was on borrowed time, and that seemed to define his life.

A Yankees scout, Tom Greenwald, saw him play baseball after he recovered from the football injury, signed him to a contract, and Mantle toiled in the minor leagues, where people couldn't believe their eyes. This then-scrawny kid could hit a baseball a country mile. He couldn't field at all, and was moved from the infield to the outfield during his minor league days, but he could hit--and run like the devil.

Joe DiMaggio wasn't a spring chicken anymore in 1951, and the Yankees felt his days were numbered. They brought Mantle up to be his successor.

DiMaggio didn't like it, didn't like it one bit. He was not going to give up his position without a fight, and Mantle played the other outfield positions while DiMaggio toiled in centerfield during his last days.

When DiMaggio retired, Mantle took over centerfield, and he was the Yankees' centerfielder through the 1967 season, when he himself was moved to first base to make way for another comet out of nowhere, up and comer and fellow Oklahoman Bobby Murcer.

Anyway, from 1951 to 1968--and particularly from 1951 to 1964--Mantle was one of the best players in baseball. He could run, he could hit, he could throw, he could play defense, and he had the look of the All-American boy.

And he didn't let anyone down, winning several MVP awards, winning the Triple Crown, and leading the Yankees to several championships.

Off the field, he also led the Yankees. As chronicled first in Jim Bouton's mammoth tome of the times, "Ball Four," Mantle was a drunk, a carouser, committed infidelity pretty openly, and could be extremely nasty.

Although the sportswriters of the time covered up a lot of his personal life, some incidents stood out, including his participating in the legendary Copa incident, where Sammy Davis Jr. was being heckled for being black and Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin got into a skirmish with the heckler.

After that well-publicized incident, the hard-drinking threesome was broken up, with Billy Martin traded away.

Although Mantle was the All-American boy on the outside, he was far from it from the inside. He drank constantly, by his own later admittance playing in several games when he had hangovers from hardy partying the night before.

He had a mistress, although the press made his family into the All-American family, with a loving wife and a gaggle of sons who adored him.

All told, he hit 536 home runs, just missed hitting .300 for his career, and was probably the most popular player of his generation. Think of Derek Jeter today, and Mantle was magnified 100 times more than that.

When people think of the 1950s, they think of Eisenhower, Monroe and Mantle. He typified the era.

When I got interested in baseball when I was seven or eight years old, all the years of playing, and partying, had seemingly caught up with Mantle and the rest of the Yankees. They were a sorry shell of their former selves, but I was a kid, and I loved them.

I have told this story many times, and I will tell it again.

My dad bought tickets to a Yankees game in May 1967, and he took my two friends with us. It was a birthday present to me, a little late one since I was born in April, but I anxiously waited for the game.

The problem was, my mother was not happy, because my father unwittingly bought the tickets for a game on the holiest day of the year, Mother's Day.

Well, we went anyway.

Mantle's Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles. My father had had Oriole Manager Earl Weaver in his cab a day or two before, and the two got to talking. The Yankees were destined for a ninth-place finish that year, and my father asked the seemingly inebriated Weaver if his pitchers could groove a pitch to Mantle during Sunday's game, the game we were going to be at, so we could be there when Mantle hit his 500th home run.

Weaver gave some unintelligible answer, and it was left at that.

Well, Mantle hit his 500th homer during that game, and the 25,000 or so in attendance--including me, my dad, and my friends--saw history that day. The place rocked and rolled for the rest of the game, with those in attendance cheering and yelling and screaming as if twice as many people were there.

Mantle, who was, by this time, a weary first baseman, made an error during the game, but the Yankees held on to win.

So did my dad have a part in Mantle hitting his 500th home run that day? Who knows, but it's fun to think about it that way.

And the next year, during bat day, I got (or my sister got) a Mickey Mantle bat. I got a Bill Robinson bat, but I used the bat she received for years in Little League and on the playground, and I still have it.

Mickey Mantle was "The Mick," "The Oklahoma Strongboy," but to many pitchers, he was poison.

In his private life, he may not have been the All-American boy, but he was as close to one as that generation had seen.

So, on what would have been his 80th birthday--he's as old as my parents--the dawn of another World Series, and my 600th rant, I found it fitting to cover Mickey Mantle, my first favorite baseball player and the idol of millions during his career.

He was the real American Idol.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rant #599: "The Day My Mama Socked It To the Harper Valley P.T.A."

Younger readers of this blog probably do not have the slightest idea what the title of this Rant means.

Others probably forgot what its meaning is after all these years.

But "Harper Valley P.T.A." was a pretty powerful message way back when, encapsulated in a song by country singer Jeannie C. Riley that hit the top of the Hot 100 charts in 1968.

Today, Riley turns 66.

Let's go over the context of the song. A widowed woman, Mrs. Johnson, is taken to task by the local P.T.A. after her daughter brings home a note from school that criticizes Mrs. Johnson's habits, including wearing a mini-skirt, having relationships with the opposite sex, and other behavior which the supposedly staid P.T.A. does not approve of.

Mrs. Johnson is far wiser than the P.T.A., turning the tables on them by bringing up their own individual "behaviors," if you will, of each and every member of the P.T.A.

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, eh?

The song was incredibly popular, one of the few tunes to hit No. 1 on both the pop and country charts. People of all ages got the hook of the song, showing hypocrisy to be a negative thing.

The song was so popular that it was turned into a movie and very brief TV show 10 years after it hit its peak.

Riley had other country hits, but the song was such a phenomenon that it pretty much eclipsed her other output, especially on the pop charts. She never really had another pop hit, with "The Girl Most Likely" only reaching No. 55 and subsequent singles either skirted the bottom of the chart did not chart at all.

Riley herself was something of an anomaly as a country singer herself. When female country singers were pretty strait-laced, especially about their dress, she bought into the current trends, living out the "Harper Valley P.T.A." lifestyle by wearing the current fashion styles, including mini-skirts, of course.

All told, Riley was a successful country singer, and through some trials and tribulations of her own, has emerged as a gospel singer in recent years.

But that song ... it kind of resonates today, doesn't it?

People continue to criticize the behavior of others without looking inwardly at themselves.

I guess it's something of a human thing to knock others while you, personally, are not that angelic either, but it was all bought to the fore by Riley's tune, which continues to get played on almost a daily basis on oldies stations around the country.

"Harper Valley P.T.A." really stands for "Anyplace U.S.A.", as the topics talked about in the song really can happen anyplace, anywhere.

And more than 40 years after hitting the top spot on the charts, "Harper Valley P.T.A." still resonates today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rant #598: Former Hotties Everywhere

First, happy birthday to former hotties Dawn Wells and Erin Moran, who celebrate birthdays today.

Now, on to another former hottie who continues to use her mouth in ways that one might never have imagined.

Susan Sarandon called the Pope a Nazi. Yes, a Nazi.

It seems that she was being interviewed at the Hamptons International Film Festival out here on Long Island.

According to news sources, Sarandon said that she had sent the book "Dead Man Walking"--the book that was adapted into a movie that she starred in as a nun--to the Pope, but not the current Pope, the previous one.

She reportedly called the current Pope "this Nazi one we have now."

Oh boy!

Sarandon, who was raised Roman Catholic and graduated from the Catholic University of America, really put her foot into it, didn't she?

For the record, the current Pope, whose real name is Joseph Ratzinger, was conscripted into Hitler Youth at age 14 like most, if not all, young boys of that age in Germany at that time, but according to his representatives, he never participated in the group because he did not believe in its goals.

Sarandon, perhaps, is still feeling pain related to her breakup with fellow actor and big-mouth person Tim Robbins. She has always had a big mouth, never shying away from saying what was on her mind, but I think this one might have sunk her to a new low. although you have to bet that some people believe "once a Nazi, always a Nazi."

Heck, even Ah-nold has some very thin relationship with the Nazis through his father, and certainly Mel Gibson and the Nazis have been on somewhat mutual terms.

And what about Hitler's true legacy, the people car, the Volkswagen? How many of us who denounce the atrocities of Nazi Germany readily get into one of these cars on a daily basis?

What is my point?

My point is that, once again, people who really shouldn't be given credit for being statesman and politicians are being given too much credit for what they've said.

Like Tony Bennett a few weeks ago, Sarandon is no politician. She is just an actress, one with a very big mouth.

And she made the comment at a film festival, not at a political summit.

Sure, her comments really riled Catholics, as it probably should have, but I would simply link the comment with who said it and not take it as if the President said it.

Sarandon is who she is, and she isn't going to change.

Remember, she is an actress, one that was/is easy on the eyes, and nothing more.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rant #597: Random Thoughts

Usually, when I do a Random Thoughts-type of entry, I leave it to Friday, get-away day. I am tired from a week of work, and I figure that if I am tired, readers are too, and it's easier to key on several topics than just one when I write up things like this.

But even though today, Monday, is the start of the work week, there really isn't anything that outstanding out there to devote a whole column to.

So here goes some Random Thoughts.

I Still Wonder About "Occupy Wall Street": I don't know about you, but I am still a little "here and there" about the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

I don't have a problem with the basic idea of this movement, which is to bring attention to the economic tumult that Wall Street and large corporations have foisted on the country. It reminds me of the Third Estate rising against the First and Second Estates during the French Revolution, leading to the Enlightenment, and that was good, and this is good.

But I wonder about the aims of many who are protesting. Are they in it to really force an examination of the issues, or are they there to be seen? Are they knowledgeable individuals, or Dead Heads looking for the next party?

Now we are finding out that this group is being funded, and many of the donations are coming from groups and individuals who are looked at as "tools" of the very corporations the groups are protesting against.

If that is so--and with all the actors and actresses donating money and making their solidarity with the protesters heard, it appears that it is--then aren't the protesters taking money from the wrong sources?

They are being funded through second and third parties of the very institutions they are protesting, and that, to me, is a clear conflict of interest.

Wider ADHD Testing Recommended: My son has this malady and he also has a learning disability. My wife and I have known about these since he was about four years old. In preschool, one of his teachers pointed out that he should get tested, and we did, and found out that he has these things.

It has been difficult, but my son is doing the best he can.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that doctors evaluate all patients age four to 18 who show signs of the condition. This updates the long-standing recommendation that focused on diagnosing and managing ADHD in kids ages six to 12.

This is a good thing, trying to catch ADHD before kids go into kindergarten. And when they look for ADHD, pediatricians will probably find other problems, including learning disabilities, that add onto the problems these kids face with ADHD.

Six to 9 percent of kids have ADHD, so to start treatment earlier is a good thing.

However, the use of drugs is not.

It is my experience, or should I say my son's experience, that the longer you can hold off on the medication, the better. Not every kid needs medication. My son was taking medication for a few years, but as he entered adolescence, we took him off it.

Sure, there have been struggles without it, but I think all in all, he is better off not using anything, just learning to live and cope with what he has.

Texas and St. Louis in the World Series: Congratulations to both teams for making the World Series, They might not have been the best teams on paper, but the Rangers and Cardinals were able to outperform their opponents and have earned the right to meet in the Fall Classic.

It should be a good series. I think there will be lots of offense in this matchup.

And maybe this will be a ratings grabber.

Texas is in the World Series for the second straight year, and St. Louis is one of the nation's favorite teams.

Sure, it's not the Yankees and Dodgers, but people might just tune in this year.

My prediction: Cardinals in seven, although it wouldn't surprise me if the Rangers won in all.

NBA Lockout Continues: I have said it many times and I will say it again: people will find other things to do if there is no NBA season this year.

And the owners and players better get that through their heads.

In this economy, for millionaires to be arguing with other millionaires over how to cut a multi-billion dollar pie is not only ludicrous, it shows how out of touch both sides are with reality.

Do they think about the poor ushers they are putting out of a job, the ticket takers, and so many others who make minimal money and need these jobs to live?

No, they don't.

If I were one of these people, I might sue both sides for taking away my livelihood.

If I had the money.

As it is, I am just a fan, nothing more, and I think both sides are idiotic in their demands.

Let's play basketball, not play on making points that make little sense.

Play basketball and shut up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rant #596: And We Still Love Lucy, Too

Going along with our look at classic (and not so classic) television shows, tomorrow just happens to mark the 60th anniversary of the debut of the situation comedy that set the standard for all the sitcoms to follow.

"I Love Lucy" started out as an idea to bring actress Lucille Ball to television, nothing more, but it snowballed, and the premier of this show raised the standards of the situation comedy to new heights, many of which haven't been equaled to this day.

Ball was pretty much a B-actress throughout her early career, but she worked regularly and appeared in numerous films. She stands as the only actress who appeared with both Abbott and Costello and the Three Stooges on screen.

She was known for her long legs and sharp wit. The henna rinse came later.

Anyway, in the late 1940s, she was achieving fame as a radio comedienne, as the star of a show called "My Favorite Husband." No Desi Arnaz was not her favorite husband at this point in time.

Ball had just married Arnaz, and she wanted to both keep her career moving and make a go at a good marriage.

So she and Arnaz tried to convince studio executives to allow them to bring a show revolving around Ball and Arnaz to the small screen.

Executives initially balked. Who would watch a show with a tall redhead and her husband who spoke with a Cuban accent?

To convince studio executives that they could pull this off, Ball and Arnaz went on a cross-country tour with a stage show, and the audiences loved it.

This convinced studio executives to give the thing a try, but Ball and Arnaz insisted that the show be shot in California. At that time, the center of the TV universe was New York, so how could they shoot a show in California and placate New York executives?

Arnaz decided to film the show using the best available recording devices around at that time, to give it a live feel. He also used different camera angles with three cameras to give the show a more intimate feel. And he used a live audience to give it a stage-type feel.

And most importantly, he and Ball retained the rights to the show, and were able to rerun the show in between new shows.

The show, which also starred Vivian Vance, William Frawley, and later, Keith Thibodeaux, was an out and out hit. It never fell below No. 3 in the ratings, and it made Arnaz, and particularly Ball, into megastars.

And there were those classic episodes: the pregnancy episode, and Vitameatavegimin, and the grape stomping, all the supposed trips they took to Europe and Hollywood, and the allure of watching the wacky hijinks of a redheaded wife of a Cuban bandleader get into the craziest predicaments each and every week--and all in black and white!

Since 1951, the show has never been off the air, and probably never will leave the airwaves. To this day, it is that popular.

"I Love Lucy" set the highest standard for sitcoms that it possibly could, helped create Desilu Studios, one of the more active TV studios of the 1950s and early to mid 1960s, and helped make TV the institution that it became and still is to this day.

So when I watch a show like "Mike and Molly," I have to think: Is this fellow CBS show a poor stepchild of "I Love Lucy"?

Is this how TV sitcoms have evolved over the past 60 years?

Or is this really a devolve?

I think it's pretty much the latter. "Mike and Molly" is what sitcoms have devolved to today, and Ball and Arnaz must be churning in their graves about this situation.

This is what "I Love Lucy" wrought on the world?

I think not, but the popularity of "I Love Lucy" allowed sitcoms to become immensely popular dollar generators for the networks, so, I guess in some tangental way, "I Love Lucy" did wrought on us "Mike and Molly."

It's horrible to believe that, but it's true.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rant #595: Ed, We Miss You

"Mike and Molly" notwithstanding, television wasn't always polluted by trash of this ilk.

Take "The Ed Sullivan Show." Originally called "Toast of the Town," the weekly variety hour showcased every type of act imaginable, from ventriloquists to jugglers to Broadway performers to the latest hit pop acts to Topo Gigio.

It was a three-ring circus every Sunday night at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., and it was hosted by the dullest person on the planet, Daily News newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan.

And that was the charm of the show.

Sullivan knew he wasn't the star, even though his name eventually became even bigger than the show itself.

He was the booker, a presenter, and he basically let the acts do the talking.

Sullivan died 37 years ago today at the age of 73.

I don't think that people who weren't around during the show's heyday can fully comprehend the enormity, or the importance, of this program on the American scene.

The show was even larger than a TV show--it was a weekly event that had to be seen, whether you were watching Elvis Presley from the waste up or the Beatles top to bottom.

The show made news by having on those two bombastic acts.

But it also featured the likes of Roberta Peters, Soupy Sales, Stiller and Meara and George Carlin.

And don't forget Senor Wences.

Whatever was hot in show biz was on the show, whether it was the 5th Dimension, the Supremes or Joan Rivers.

He had it all, and it was clean, wholesome entertainment that the whole family could enjoy together.

If you didn't like an act, it was time to get up and go to the bathroom or get something to eat.

But if you did like the act, well, your anticipation for watching that segment, rarely lasting more than three or four minutes tops, lasted an entire week between shows.

When the Beatles first came on the show in February 1964, I was hooked, and so was an entire generation of kids.

I don't think Sulllivan understood rock and roll at all, but he understood the numbers, the ratings numbers, that is.

He knew that he had to have the hottest acts on the planet on his show, and if the Dave Clark Five had hit songs, well, they had to be on the show.

And they were. And most of these acts considered it a privilege to be on the show.

Sure, Sullivan wasn't perfect.

He banned Jackie Mason for supposedly giving the finger to him on the air, and he had feuds over song lyrics with the Rolling Stones and the Doors.

He could be very abrasive, and when he didn't like you, he would let you know it.

But he broke many major acts, and not just rock acts.

He gave the stage to up and coming comics like Carlin, Rivers, Robert Klein and Richard Pryor.

He furthered the careers of comics like Myron Cohen and Alan King, and made national celebrities of Stiller and Meara.

He loved Diana Ross and Petula Clark, and he loved Broadway, everything from "Oliver" to "The King and I."

And don't forget the Muppets.

Sullivan was bland, but he knew talent, and he booked the best talent on the show.

Sure, plate twirlers aren't the most talented people in the world, but he knew that the audience loved them, so he had them on during the 23-year run of the show pretty regularly.

My mom attended one or two shows in the audience, and tickets were as hard to get for those shows as they are now for the Super Bowl.

After the show ended in 1971, Sullivan lamented that CBS didn't give the program two more years so he could bow out gracefully after a 25-year run.

But times had changed by then.

People were losing patience with things that they didn't want to see.

And the TV remote was starting to become more commonplace, and people were changing the channel in the middle of his show to look elsewhere for something they were interested in.

"The Ed Sullivan Show" was a relic of TV's past, and even in 1971, the wear was showing.

So the show ended without that much fanfare, and its host died about three years later.

Bits and pieces of the show are available on DVD, as well as a number of full shows starring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley.

During money-thons, PBS often runs Ed Sullivan retrospectives.

But I simply don't think that the kids today understand the importance of the show and its host.

When the kids' parents were kids, this show was golden. It had it all.

Sorry, the creators of "Mike and Molly" and shows like it can do much, much better.

And the very coincidence that "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "Mike and Molly" are products of the same network--CBS--kind of shivers my timbers.

This is what the so-called "Tiffany Network" calls entertainment today?

Sullivan, the bland host of a televised three-ring circus which lasted 23 years, proved that you can take coal and make diamonds out of it.

May he continue to rest in peace, and yes, I am sure he is turning in his grave at the trash that is around today, stuff that he might have to showcase on his program if he, and the show, were around today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rant #594: Fat Lot of Trash on TV Nowadays

My wife likes the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly," and I record it for her each and every week.

We watch it when it is more convenient for us, which is usually the day after it is aired, so we usually watch Monday's episode on Tuesday.

I have to tell you, I know this sitcom is popular, but for the life of me, I just can't figure out why.

Well, that is not entirely true. I kinda do.

One reason that I think it might be popular is that the two leads, Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, aren't your typical TV sitcom cutie pies. Between them, they probably pack at least 600 pounds of blubber into every episode.

The show follows Mike, a Chicago cop, and Molly, a Chicago schoolteacher, as they set about wooing each other, sleeping with each other, and getting engaged to each other, pretty much in that order.

They will get married on an eventual episode, I am sure.

But they will have to fight their way through fat jokes, sex jokes and drug jokes.

There are no other categories of jokes on the show.

The two main characters are supplemented by a supporting cast which include Swoosie Kurtz, who plays Molly's often drugged out and more often then not sexed out mother; Reno Wilson, as the stereotypical smooth talking black partner cop of Mike; Katy Mixon as Molly's marijuana drugged out, slutty sister; and Louis Mustillo, as the dimwitted, stereotypical Italian fiancee of Molly's mom.

Since premiering in September 2010, the show has gotten good ratings, and McCarthy won an Emmy award for her performance.

But watching this show, I see how television has sunk to the lowest standards possible. This is the only way this show can be so popular.

It simply isn't funny. The show rolls along on, using its fat jokes as its backbone, but it simply isn't funny.

And all the other jokes are stale, and make no sense.

In particular, the marijuana jokes--and there are plenty of them--are a bit alarming, if for nothing more than Mike is supposed to be a cop, and he is in constant contact with Molly's sister, who is an acknowledged pothead.

I have to give credit to Wilson. He takes his stereotypical role and goes with it to the max. To me, he is the only likable character in the bunch.

But seeing how TV has fallen off the cliff in recent years, with more trash on it than I can ever remember, I guess it isn't hard to understand why the show is so popular.

And yes, I will continue to record it for my wife, and watch it with her.

I am an eternal optimist. Maybe there will be something that I will eventually crack a smile to. Maybe the show will get better.

Maybe it can't get better, who knows?

But I will watch the show. I would rather be with my wife than watching something else.

She has had to sit through some stuff I like that she doesn't--she hated "King of Queens," but watched it with me for all the years it was on--so I really don't mind watching this show with her.

I just don't get the point of the show.

And that's the fat of it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rant #593: What Is Occupying "Occupy Wall Street" Protesters?

Now that I am back in the saddle, I have had a chance to really study what is going on on Wall Street and with the protesters who have been there for about a month.

I have a question: why are the protesters there in the first place?

I don't think I know, and the bigger problem is that I don't think they know, either.

Forty years ago, there were various rallies in major cities that took on the Vietnam War. Sure, people had other agendas, such as women's rights and civil rights, but the main focus was on the war.

This latest peaceful protest shouldn't be confused with the earlier one. There are many issues that the protesters have taken on, and based on what I've seen, if you take 10 participants aside and ask them why they are there, you will get at least 10 different answers ...

And maybe 11, 12 or more answers. And maybe even no answers at all.

Originally, people gathered at Wall Street to try to shut it down. They were angered by their belief that big corporations basically were running the country into the ground due to corporate greed, and like what happened during the French Revolution, they wanted to show that the little man had rights too, and that the majority of the people shouldn't be paying the majority of the taxes.

That was fine and good.

But now, with the protests going into their fourth week, and the movement spreading to other cities, I really wonder why these people are where they are.

According to the protesters I have seen interviewed on TV, there isn't now just one thing they are protesting. They are either protesting many things, or at this point, many of them are gathering to simply gather together in the place to be seen, and little else.

It has become something of a freak show, hasn't it?

They are protesting capital punishment, they are protesting our participation in foreign wars, they are protesting corporate greed, they are protesting the actions of the wealthy, they are protesting high unemployment ...

And they are also acting like squatters, just there to be seen.

Some shop owners are even complaining that the protesters aren't cleaning up themselves, and by squatting, people are not going into the shops that are in the vicinity of the protests.

And while they protest corporate greed, they use their cellphones provided by corporate greed mongers like Verizon and AT&T.

Mayor Bloomberg, certainly a target of the protesters since he is a billionaire and runs a billion-dollar corporation, said that the protesters can still do what they want as long as they don't break any laws.

For once he is being smart. Once the poor weather comes, you just know these protesters will disperse to their homes and leave the protesting behind them. There is no reason to waste crucial time and money in policing this bunch when their shelf life is so limited.

The protesters' mindset is also a little off as they plan to take on individuals by protesting in front of the residences of some of the richest people in the country.

Isn't it the American way to make as much money as you can? You can't fault successful people for being successful.

However, you can fault major corporations run by these people, who skirt the law at any given chance.

If the protesters had more of a focus, people would take them more seriously. I know that I would.

And what about celebrities joining the protests? Can you tell me what they are protesting about?

Russell Simmons, Tim Robbins, George Clooney and the like either run huge corporations or are part of the machine of these huge corporations. They make incredible money from these corporations. Their livelihoods are part of the foundation of these corporations.

So what are they ranting and raving about?

The more celebrities take part in this, the more I realize that again, these protests are the place to be seen, and nothing more.

If Simmons didn't live the American dream, and if Clooney and Robbins didn't live their American dream through the huge entertainment corporations, then they would be entitled to vent their frustrations at such protests.

As it is, they epitomize the American dream.

So why are they at these protests?

They profess solidarity with the protesters. But when the day is done, they go back to their cushy surroundings, which they paid for with money provided by these large corporations.

If they gave all their money away and lived like paupers, then I could see what they were doing there.

As it is, they are about as phony as the protests have become.

My advice to protesters: stay with the corporate greed focus, forget about the other issues for now, get rid of the Hollywood phonies, and make your voice heard clearly and concisely.

Right now, these protests are a joke. But they don't have to be.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rant #592: I Have Returned

I have returned.

My family and I took a cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Floria, to Key West, and then to the Cayman Islands and then off to Ocho Rios in Jamaica.

It was a fun trip, our first cruise, but it did have its mishaps.

My son lost his glasses. In the rush to get out of the room on the last morning, he just forgot them.

My wife lost something very personal to her. Let's just say that hopefully the insurance we have will kick in and help us out with this one.

The weather was terrible for most of the trip. We went in and out of violent rain storms while at sea, and even when we arrived at the Cayman Islands, it wss raining.

Not wanting to lose the day in the Cayman Islands, we swam in the rain. The water was crystal clear, which was good, because the ocean bottom was filled with sharp-edged rocks. I have a cut on my left foot's big toe that resembles the coast of Florida. Who knows when that will fully heal.

This former South Jamaica, New York, resident's arrival in the actual Jamaica was interesting, but I don't think I would go back. Seemingly all the natives have their hands out, and they attack you when you are walking around. They are very persistant, and quite rude, if you ask me.

They are even that way in the shops. Perfect example: we went into one shop that had MLB T-shirts and hats on display. I walked over to the display, in my full Yankees regalia--T-shirt and hat. The salesman came over to me, and reiterated to me that the goods there were official MLB apparel.

He then showed me a Boston Red Sox T-shirt!

You don't show a guy dressed in Yankees gear a Red Sox T-shirt. It is like showing a Confederate flag to a Union servicemember.

The guy obviously wanted to make a sale, but he turned pushy, not understanding the nature of what he was doing.

It was also darn hot in Jamaica. When we were there, it was in the 90s, seemingly 100-percent humidity, and it was not raining at all.

Why couldn't the Cayman Islands have been like this?

Anyway, Carnival Cruises puts on a good show on their ships. We went to numerous shows, and the actors and actresses were energetic. We even took in a comedy show, and the comedian, whose name I don't recall, was pretty funny.

And yes, I suffered through the Yankees' loss in the playoffs. I guess it was kind of softened because we were on a boat, not a sinking ship like the Yankees were on.

I have trouble flying. My ears go haywire, and they get stuffed for days and even weeks. Right now, my left ear is stuffed, yesterday it was my right ear. Soon, I will run out of ears to have stuffed.

The food was great, and the waiters and waitresses go for the big tips because of their courtesy and the way they handle themselves. I didn't tip big, but I did tip. I appreciate how they treated us, and especially my father-in-law, who is in a wheelchair.

So anyway, we are home.

Would I go again? Yes, I would. It was fun to be on the big boat, although I could have done without all the cigarette smoke. It is a weird feeling eating as you are moving on the sea, and frankly, I still feel like I am at sea right now. My sea legs are a little wobbly.

But yes, I would go again, probably to different destinations.

And maybe next time with my daughter. She needs a job.

Happy Columbus Day, and I will speak with you tomorrow.

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