Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rant #627: My Dad's Day

I am happy to announce that today is my father's birthday.

He turns 80 today.

I can't tell you how much I look up to my father as the patriarch of my small but vibrant family.

He has truly done it all in his 80 years, and still has lots to do in the future.

He grew up on New York's Lower East Side, the first child of my grandparents. They had come to the United States from Europe and my dad was the first of four children they would have.

My father was very smart, and also an excellent athlete. He skipped a grade or two, played basketball in school, but education was almost secondary to work.

My grandfather owned a butcher shop on Delancey Street, and my father worked there at a very young age, and continued to work there as an adult.

He went into the Marines, and was a cook. After his tour of duty ended--he was supposed to go to Korea but never went due to a mixup of orders--he returned to the butcher shop.

By that time, the family had moved to Queens. Subsequently, my father met my mother, and the rest is history.

I was their first born, and I think since the moment I was born, I looked up to my father as my ideal.

He was a hard worker, supported my family as best he could, and he took a chance in life--a major chance--and it paid off handsomely.

He had driven a cab on occasion even while a butcher, but at the prodding of a friend, he went into it full time.

My grandfather's store was about to close, due to a changing neighborhood and the city's plan to build a roadway right through the store on Delancey Street, a plan that never came to pass.

But he left the butcher business to drive a New York City medallion cab full time, and he still does--at 80 years old.

In fact, today, right as I type this, he is driving a cab, picking up passengers and taking them wherever they want to go.

At 80 years old.

No, he doesn't own his own cab anymore, and works for a fleet.

No, he doesn't work five or six days a week anymore, just three.

But he works, he is strong, and he could go on like this for many years to come.

He loves his family, his days off, his TV, and his work.

He and my mother will be married 56 years in January, and they might very well be married 56 more years for all I know.

My parents are grandparents to five kids, one girl and four boys. They love their grandchildren dearly, and are very involved in their lives.

They know my father as "Zaydy," a Yiddish term of endearment meaning grandfather. My father wanted to be known that way to honor his own grandfather, who spoke very little English but was a highly intelligent man, a man of dignity.

As for me, I look up to my father as someone I have always aspired to be. Sure, we have had arguments and haven't seen eye to eye on everything, but I believe if I could be like him, I will be a better person.

I have tried to pass on these attributes to my own kids, with varying degrees of success.

They are still young; I don't know if I have been successful, and won't know for years to come.

Anyway, here's to my dad, one of the most important people in my life.

Another 80 years of vim, vigor, spit and blood, sweat and tears.

That is how he would want it to be anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rant #626: Through the Hoop

Now onto some better news ...

The NBA's 2011-2012 season will actually be played.

On early Saturday morning, the owners and players agreed, in principle, to a deal which would salvage the season.

Again, this is a tentative deal, and if it passes both the owners' and players' wrath, we will see a 66-game season this year, beginning on Christmas Day.

I am happy that the NBA season might be saved, but I wish they would have waited until this thing was 100-percent approved by both parties.

But I know why they announced a tentative agreement when they did.

It was the Thanksgiving weekend. People were out to shop 'til they dropped.

And now, they had a reason to buy NBA merchandise.

You can bet that merchandise sales--like T-shirts, jackets, hats, and every little chotchka imaginable--dropped while the two sides were haggling.

People were getting turned off big time.

But now, with an agreement supposedly in hand, people could show confidence again in the NBA, and buy its merchandise with pride.

There is always a tie-in to why things happen, isn't there?

The owners seem to have won this duel. They got their percentage of basketball-related income--BRI, another new acronym that we really don't need--to a more manageable level, and that is really all they wanted, wasn't it?

Sure, there are other things that they wanted, but this was the big thing, carving up a billion-dollar pie to their advantage.

But, raspberries to both sides.

With so many people out of work, underemployed, and miserably employed, and with so many people finding it hard to put food on the table during this prolonged recession that we are in, for millionaires to be fighting with billionaires like this puts them out of the realm of reality.

At least baseball gets this, years after their own strike, and ratified their own collective bargaining agreement without any fanfare or acrimony at all.

More importantly, all the industries that feed off an NBA season, like ticket takers, vendors, and restaurants, took a hit with this.

Of course, the players and owners claim they care about these people, but, c'mon, do they really? If they did, they would have settled this thing a long time ago.

And again, it is not yet a done deal, so while I would love to get some Knicks tickets for my son and myself, I am not reaching into my wallet just yet.

Let's see what happens.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rant #625: Glad the Holiday Is Over

I always look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday break. It gives me four days to recharge my batteries, and when I go back to work, I dive right into whatever I am doing.

And it is great to have four days off to share with my family.

Well, this year, I am not happy to say that I am glad the break is over. It wasn't the greatest holiday in the world for me.

Oh, yes, I did what I normally do. I bought everything I need for Hanukkah prior to the holiday and prior to the dreaded Black Friday. And I really did well. I got everything I wanted to get for family and friends.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my sister's house this year. Although we didn't spend that much time there--my mother is a little under the weather--it was fun.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rant #624: How Will You Choose to Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Well, it is the day before the Thanksgiving holiday.

And the day before the day before Black Friday.

How do you choose to spend your holiday?

My family and I will be celebrating the holiday at my sister's house this year. For the past several years, we have made the big turkey at our house, but this year, it will be over at my sister's abode.

My parents will be there, and it will give me a chance to see three of my nephews.

I don't know if I will see my daughter. She has been out of sight, out of mind for the past few weeks. I don't really know why.

On Black Friday, I plan to not get involved in all the sales hoopla of the day.

Last year, I got a terrific deal on a computer for my mother, which I bought for her 80th birthday. It was something I could not pass up, so, for the first time in memory, I got up real early on this day, and waited in line for the store to open. And I got the last one they had at such a price.

This year, my pocketbook will hopefully rest for that day.

But you never know ...

This is the oddest holiday period of the year, going from one extreme to the next.

Thanksgiving is such a joyous holiday, very family oriented. I really like that aspect of it, and it is my favorite holiday on the calendar, along with Passover, which, similarly, is family oriented.

Then we have Black Friday, a day where all of the animalistic instincts of our species come out. People are generally nasty, rude, vulgar, and hateful, because they are all out to do one thing: buy, buy, and buy some more.

I can live without Black Friday, I really can.

So it is really up to the individual to choose how he will celebrate the holiday.

Will you bask in the joyousness of Thanksgiving, or burn in the insensitivity of Black Friday?

Or will you do both?

Me, I am going to relax as much as I can.

I am very happy to be off from work on both days, so I have what amounts to a four-day holiday to recharge my batteries.

Have a great holiday. Speak to you again on Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rant #623: Time To Remember

Amid all the Thanksgiving holiday cheer, I think we must pause to remember that today is the 48th anniversary of one of the most chilling periods in our country's recent history.

President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in a motorcade in Dallas on this day in 1963.

I have spoken about this event many, many times, and have done it on this blog too.

All these years later, it continues to send shivers up my spine.

I won't rehash my personal story again, although I will say that I was in the school, and we heard about it via another teacher and then an announcement on the loud speaker system. We went home, watched its aftermath, and it has stayed with us for decades.

JFK was the first hero of our generation to die, followed a few years later by Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Whatever you think of those men, for the baby boomer generation, they were living and breathing touchstones for our existence.

But JFK was the President, so it was something much, much different.

The country's leader was gunned down, and we kind of lost our innocence then. This signaled that the 1950s were truly over, and we were moving into a new world, the 1960s, which would end up being probably the most revolutionary decade in our country's history.

Everything was turned upside down during that decade, and JFK's assassination pretty much started all of that to happen.

Remember, he was probably the last President whose portrait hung on walls of our homes.

The U.S. President was revered in those days. He was an icon. He was respected. We believed everything he said, and rallied around everything he did.

After JFK's assassination, things changed. The country changed. And the world changed.

Could you imagine if in 1963 we had the Internet, cell phones, and the like?

No, those were much simpler times on the outside, but very complex on the inside, just like today's world is.

So with the holiday turkey in sight, take a moment to think about JFK.

If you weren't around, read up on him, and read up on the day that the world stopped, at least for a brief moment, when some person decided that he would be JFK's judge, jury and executioner.

Like I said, the chills still run up and down my spine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rant #622: Something to "SMiLE" About

I alluded to this release a couple of Rants back, but now, it's time to review this long-awaited LP.

The "SMiLE" set by the Beach Boys has arrived in stores, and with the holidays right around the corner, it might be time to invest some of your hard-earned cash into buying this release.

It comes in three version, as far as I know: the all inclusive boxed set, which not only comes with several CDs worth of songs, sound-bytes, dialogue and other features, but it also comes complete with the album on vinyl and a couple of vinyl singles.

Then you have the more economical boxed set, with two CDs and a button to wear on your shirt.

Finally, you have the vinyl LP version. This approximates the way it would have been released in early 1967 if the album would have ever seen the light of day.

I opted for the middle ground: the economical boxed set, which at 20 some odd dollars, fit my wallet a little better than the all-inclusive boxed set, which would have run me about $150. imagine the vinyl LPs would have cost me in the $35-$40 range, so what I did was save a little bread for myself.

Anyway, onto the recording.

As you probably know, "SMiLE"--and that is how it was supposed to look--was an album that Brian Wilson was creating for his Beach Boys. So many things got in the way--illness, in-group fighting, drugs, and probably more drugs--that this album never was finished in its entirety, and although it was to be released in January 1967, only bits and pieces of the LP ever were officially released, although bootlegs abound.

Right off, I am going to tell you that this album is not "Pet Sounds." That LP is probably Wilson and the Beach Boys' finest work, and this is not that, it doesn't even come close, if you want my opinion.

"SMiLE" isn't really an album, per se, or an album as we came to know what albums were during the mid to late 1960s.

Sure, there is music on it, but it more of a sound collage than anything else.

The music is often intercepted by noises, other sounds, and really, I think what Wilson was getting at was that he wanted to make this sort of the aural equivalent to being at a carnival, with all the sounds, rides, barkers, and everybody else going at it at once, trying to get your attention.

It's the same thing here. There is so much going on, so much for your ear to nibble on, if you will.

But does it all work?

That is the big question, and my answer is, that I really don't know.

Even after listening to this thing, I just don't know if Wilson's vision would have translated to the acclaim that he evidently so wanted.

He wanted it so much that it might have led to his eventual nervous breakdown.

The centerpiece of "SMiLE" was not, in my opinion, "Good Vibrations," which was being worked on at the same time as the rest of the LP. The centerpiece, was "Heroes and Villains," a weaker song than "Good Vibrations" but still a powerful one.

The song, like "Good Vibrations," did eventually get released, and became a hit single. But as the centerpiece of the LP, all of the bits and pieces given to us here demonstrate how Wilson worked and worked and worked on this song to make it perfect--just like he did with "Good Vibrations."

If I learned anything from this release, it is that "Heroes and Villains" was held in the same esteem by Wilson as was "Good Vibrations," and that miscalculation may have led to the LP's downfall and non-release until now.

Wilson was a perfectionist, a perfectionist stressed out on being perfect, abetted by lots of drugs.

His attempt to get this album right--and to get those two songs to a state of perfection--stuck a nail into this set.

What we have now, more than 40 years after the fact, is Wilson's vision, all right, but what his actual vision for the album was may never be known.

Wilson, himself, released his own version of the LP a few years ago, and it was one of the best albums of the year. But again, it was his vision more than 40 years after the fact.

What was his original vision? What did he want the album to say, what did he want the album to do?

This current album is the closest we probably will ever get to peer into his drug-addled mind at that time.

And for that, it is worth every penny.

If you are looking for a classic, a masterpiece, a master work from one of rock's greatest composers, I don't think you are going to get that here.

I wonder if Wilson, himself, thought that the project was doomed to failure, and that made him work even harder--and ingest more drugs into himself--to try to make it better than it really was.

I don't know about any of that, but I can tell you that SMiLE is worth your while.

I don't know if, when you finish listening to this, you will want to listen to it again and again.

That is my watermark for a classic. Any album that you want to hear again and again is a classic.

I don't think "SMiLE" is that, or even would have been that in 1967.

But it foreshadowed the coming album boom, when acts led by the Beatles took the LP format and made it into more than simply a collection of singles and other songs.

"SMiLE" might put a smile on your face, but is it a classic, a masterpiece.

No. Its legend precedes it, but don't be fooled.

"SMiLE" is a fine album, I think it is at least. But it is no classic, no masterpiece.

I don't think that Wilson regressed with this LP, I just think he got in over his head with a vision that he probably wasn't going to reach, even if he were completely sober.

Don't listen to snooty rock critics. They have no idea what they are talking about.

Go back to "Pet Sounds" and compare.

But get "SMiLE" anyway. You won't be sorry that you did.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rant #621: The World HAS Gone Crazy

I look at the calendar, and it says November 18.

It's a mere six days before Thanksgiving, and a week until Black Friday.

But when I saw this news item, I could have sworn it had April 1, April Fool's Day, written all over it.

NBC and the people that did the failed show "Pushing Daisies" are reportedly teaming up to create a revival of the classic CBS sitcom "The Munsters."

That in itself is an insipid thing to do, but they are really throwing themselves into the dumpster by what they plan to do with the show.

They are planning on making it into an hour long drama.

That's right, an hour long drama.

How can you make a situation comedy featuring a family of oddball characters like this into a drama?

Remember, "The Munsters" was originally a takeoff/satire on one of the creators' original shows.

Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher were the talent involved in the creation of "Leave It To Beaver," one of TV's most beloved sitcoms. The family was perfect--although Beaver was not, which is where most of the comedy came from--but they lived in a perfect city, had a perfect mom, a perfect dad, Wally was the perfect brother, and even Eddie Haskell was the perfect instigator.

A few years later, Connelly and Mosher came up with "The Munsters" as a perfect counterpoint to their earlier show. Here, you had a family of what most of us would call monsters, but they also had the "perfect" family. The only "imperfect" one was Marilyn, because she ... well, she stuck out like a sore thumb.

How can you make this show into a drama? Just the sight of the hulking Herman, the gorgeous but ghoulish Lily, the smart but vampiric Grandpa, and the mite Eddie would have to put a smile on your face.

How can they make this into a drama?

Will Herman be having affairs with the women he works with at the parlor, because his hulking stature also brings with it some other unforeseen prowesses?

Will Lily actually be having an affair with the milkman, because, like her husband, she has certain prowesses too?

How about Grandpa? Will he create a device so he can be a peeping tom on the rest of Mockingbird Heights?

And little Eddie ... is he really a drug dealer/user, and that's why his skin is so green?

Let's not forget Marilyn ... heaven knows what they have in store for this character.

Look, it's not like "The Munsters" haven't been revived several times already.

Not only did some of the original cast appear in the theatrical "Munster, Go Home" (which actually was supposed to herald the show's third season, which never happened) and a TV movie here or there, but other actors have portrayed the family in several TV movies and one absolutely dreadful 1980s show "The New Munsters."

Several years ago, the Wayan Brothers were supposed to be involved with a revival of the show--with an all-black cast.

But to actually make such a comedic situation into a drama ... well, that's why network television is so bad nowadays.

I guarantee they will have a "Charlie's Angels" situation on their hands if this thing ever sees the light of day.

I give it one or two episodes, tops.

And while they're at it, why not make "I Love Lucy" into a drama too. Heck, I always wondered what Ethel saw in the much older Fred ...

Maybe there's a premise here for something really, really big.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rant #620: Somebody's Baby

Amid all the other things happening in this world we live in, I am sure that you heard that the paternity suit against teen idol Justin Bieber was dropped.

The woman dropped her case after Bieber said he would not only take a paternity test to prove his innocence, but would also file a countersuit against her, presumably for defamation of character.

The woman, 20, claimed that she had an encounter backstage with Bieber, 17, and even though the suit was dropped, she is still pressing her claim that he fathered her child.

Yes, and I am sure Bieber fathered many, many more children around the country and around the world since he became a superstar about two years ago.

This has been going on since time began. An "innocent" woman claims that a famous person has fathered her child.

Sometimes, the claim is right on the money, as in the John Edwards situation.

Other times ... well, the women are simply delusional.

Or perhaps they think they will get a quick buck from a celebrity who doesn't want to go through the whole public relations mess that a paternity suit might bring.

I remember an interview that Micky Dolenz--one of the all-time great pop idols as a member of the Monkees--gave to Tom Snyder on the old "Tomorrow" show years ago.

Snyder asked him and Davy Jones point blank about the number of paternity suits that were filed against the two, and the other Monkees, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, during their heyday.

He said something to the effect that, "Yes, many were filed. We used to hook up with other musicians, and compare notes. I would ask another musician, 'Did you get that letter in the mail from the Cathcart family of North Carolina, claiming that you fathered their daughter's child?,' and they would say 'Yes.' The problem was that it was a form letter and we used to get the same letter from dozens of families around the country. Nothing ever came of any of them."

Look, these guys aren't that innocent. Their pop stardom allows them to pick and choose, if they so desire, women (or in today's world, men and women), who they might like to have flings with.

Don't tell me that Bieber and Dolenz are/were immune to that type of lifestyle. That's how groupies came about, and yes, there are plenty of groupies even in today's politically correct age.

Bieber's accuser's lawyer claims that the lawsuit was never officially dismissed, so there is a possibility that it could be reopened.

If I were talking to the accuser, I would say she should move on. She appears to have some type of mental problem, and I would get that taken care of before she continues to proclaim that Bieber is the father.

I never thought I would defend Bieber, but I am now.

Because this time, he is right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rant 619: Wrong Justify ...

Television often brings out the best--and the worst--in those that we watch.

We have seen people fried by what they say on the air--remember Al Campanis?--and I think that the latest crash and burn took place the other day, when former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky answered a few questions put to him by Bob Costas about alleged inappropriate conduct carried out by the coach against young boys.

During the interview, which was played on the air, Sandusky denied--but did not vehemently deny--any illicit interactions with youngsters during his days at Penn State and while running his organization for troubled youth.

Costas asked him point blank if he had any sexual leanings toward young boys, and Sandusky said no, but he came off as being as guilty as sin.


His reactions weren't quick, and they weren't strong, either.

He had to think about each question, repeating each question as if he needed more time to think out a good answer.

Sandusky admitted to taking showers with young boys, some horseplay, even some touching on the leg and hugging, but he denied that he got sexual charges out of any of this. Rather, he said, he should not have taken showers with the boys.

Light the match. He fried himself.

First off, a then 40- or 50-year old man should not, under any circumstances, be taking showers with children. I don't care if it was "innocent," there is no reason to be doing this. None.

And second, the "horseplay" that he spoke about--why did he engage in this behavior at all?

The repugnant thing that this now 60-some year old pedophile tried to do with this interview is justify that what he did was not sexually motivated, but some type of simple interplay with wayward youth.

The guy disgusts me.

The latest angle to this is that now others have come forward and said they were molested by this creep. That's beyond the original eight who claimed molestation.

And then we have another assistant coach, Mike McQueary, who says he not only reported a sexual encounter he witnessed between Sandusky and a child to the proper college authorities, including Head Coach Joe Paterno, but he also contacted police.

In a Nov. 8 email from McQueary to a friend, which was made available to The Associated Press, McQueary said: "I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me."

He also reportedly said in the email that he was "getting hammered for handling this the right way ... or what I thought at the time was right ... ."

He is now justifying his actions too ... and he is no better than the alleged perpetrator.

McQueary was placed on indefinite paid leave last week after school officials said he had received threats.

Why is this all coming out now, years after the fact? That no one thought that Sandusky should be removed from his position as assistant coach and should also be removed from the organization that he created is beyond me.

What it boils down to is that this situation really is an indictment against the entire NCAA system, which has been rife with holes and loopholes for years with few people calling attention to these infractions.

Sports--and primarily football and basketball--is put before anything else at the NCAA. Colleges and universities' educational programs--their primary reason for being--are overshadowed by their football and basketball programs. People in these programs are put on a pedestal, and it's real hard to knock them off.

Why no one is questioning the NCAA about this coverup is also beyond me. The entire environment is suspect, and they foster that environment.

I hope everyone involved in this gets what they deserve. Those kids got what they didn't deserve, and nothing these perpetrators, solicitors, and all those who looked the other way will get will ever make up for what was taken from these kids.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rant #618: It's Over

Two things ended yesterday.

At least for all intents and purposes they ended yesterday.

First, the Wall Street marchers who have camped out at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park have been removed, some forcibly, by police.

The park needs to be cleaned, and more importantly, the owners of businesses in the area, as well as area residents, have had it up to here with the debris, noise, and let's be honest about it, the vermin that have been attracted to this form of disobedience.

I really think most Americans supported the marchers, and other similar events across the country, when they first started out. People were finally getting together to try to alert those in power that they were aware of what was going on and weren't going to take it anymore.

However, over the past weeks, the marchers really have become nothing but squatters. They don't really have any focus anymore, with many factions breaking away from the original intent of those gathering at these events.

It's really flash mobs gone awry. Every freak in the area of these marches have been drawn to them, and reports of rape and other violent acts have become the norm.

They made their point; now it is time to move on.

Then we have a group at the other end of the equation, those making money like they had their own machines printing legal tender.

The National Basketball Association lockout has reached its apex, or nadir, depending on where you stand with the issue, and it appears the season just may be lost because millionaires can't agree with billionaires on how to split a multi-billion-dollar pie.

They haggled back and forth for weeks, but the players have rejected the last offer by the league in a 50/50 split of basketball revenues.

The players have threatened to decertify their union, and the players, in turn, will probably sue the league for anti-trust violations.

In times when the recession is eating away at about 98 percent of us, how can the players--and the owners--justify this game they are playing, one which doesn't involved a bouncing ball or a hoop?

They are as out of touch with what is going on, what the original Wall Street protesters were yelling about, as any group of people could be.

The other thing that links these two "ends" is that at this point in time, does anybody really care about what happens to either group?

Sure, I am sure there is more sympathy for the Wall Street protesters, but I think their welcome has worn thin.

How anybody can support either the owners or the players in the NBA dispute is beyond me.

Quite frankly, I am turned off by both "ends."

I think it is time to move on.

I think the protesters should investigate some more concrete means to get their points across. They are all over the place as far as the issues, and from where I sit, it looks more like a circus than a protest.

The NBA players and owners should look at what is happening in this country and the world, and they should kiss the ground that they are who they are.

It is time to move on. It really is.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rant #617: Onward to 1,000--and Beyond!

Is this the slowest news time of the year or what?

There isn't much going on to waste a column on, so I am going to waste a column on some self promotion.

My lone video on YouTube is nearing 1,000 hits. It's been up several months and quite frankly, I can't believe it even has 500 hits. let alone nearly 1,000.

Sure, popular clips on YouTube often get 1 million or more hits, but I am pretty happy with what this clip has received.

If you don't know about it, it is a less than 60-second clip from my childhood.

I was a big Little Leaguer, playing in my community--my fabled Rochdale Village, South Jamaica Queens, New York--Little League up until I was 15, a year past when my family and I moved away from this development.

I loved to play, even though I wasn't a very good player at all.

And you can see it all in this video.

I suspect that this was taken when I was eight or nine years old, so we are talking about the 1965-1966 time frame. My father took the clip on an old 8mm camera, pretty high-tech for those days.

I won't ruin it for you if you haven't yet seen the video, but my athletic ineptitude is demonstrated by this less than a minute clip.

I guess that some kids are good athletically, and some aren't.

I wasn't. I loved sports, but I really couldn't play any of them.

I was never the worst of the group, but I was always chosen next to last or next to next to last or next to next to next to last when we were choosing up sides.

And this clip really shows the world how "good" I was.

Anyway, it is nearing the 1,000 hit level. I am sure I went onto the clip probably 100 times myself for one reason or another, but evidently several others have also taken a look.

I hope they found it as hilarious as I do.

Onward to 1,000--and beyond!

(And yes, that is me today. And that Yankee hat is from the 1970s--I am sure I will be buried in it when my time comes.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rant #616: 11/11/11

Happy Veterans Day. Rather than shop until you drop today, give at least some pause to why we have a holiday today. The men and women who have served our country, and continue to fight wars overseas, are the true heroes of this land, and while some people have called into question why we do what we do during different eras in our country's history, we should all be on the same page with our past, current and future service members.

They should be applauded.

Okay, today also happens to be 11/11/11.

One one, one one, one one.

I would think today would be thought of to be a lucky day for some. That's why the rate of people getting married today--on a Friday--is going to be very high.

And, it's not like we are waiting for a 2/22/22 with any anticipation.

Heck, I will be nearly 65 years of age then. Let's not rush it, I am very happy being 54 right now.

And I am sure, as I brought up yesterday, that my wife is very happy where she is with her age. Well, she probably would love to turn back the clock, but it isn't going to happen.

Anyway, I have to work today. This makes little sense, to be quite honest about it, because it is a federal holiday honoring our veterans and current service members. I just happen to work on a publication that covers military exchanges (department stores) and commissaries (supermarkets), stores that cater to service members and their families.

Why are we open today? I don't know, I really don't.

But it is novel to have 11/11/11, isn't it?

How about young people who celebrate their 11th birthday today--11 on 11/11/11.

That makes the day really special for them.

How am I going to celebrate today?

Other than writing about the people that today's holiday is all about, tonight, I am taking my wife out to dinner to celebrate her birthday, which of course was yesterday.

So I guess I am killing three birds with one stone, celebrating both a holiday that I don't have off for, but should, writing about the people that the holiday is celebrating, and celebrating my wife's birthday.

11/11/11 ... somehow, I am happy there won't be a 22/22/22 in my future.

Have a good holiday, and remember our fighting forces. That is what today is really all about.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rant #615: Happy Birthday!

Usually, when I celebrate a birthday here, it is for some celebrity who has made an impact on my life, usually in some small way.

Well, today I celebrate the birthday of a non-celebrity who has made an impact on my life in a very large way.

Today, I celebrate the birthday of my wife.

I am a lucky guy, I admit it. About 20 some odd years ago, I met this woman through a dating service. I was going through my divorce, and I admit I was lonely. I had a decent job, and it was time to move on from that disastrous first marriage and look for female companionship.

Not wanting to go the bar scene, and not having time to look around myself, I decided to do something completely different.

I signed up with the dating service, then I lost my job. I was laid off, and this was the beginning of a year and a half odyssey to find regular employment.

So here I was, going through a divorce, without a job, and without a clue about what my future would bring me.

It was undoubtedly the lowest part of my entire life.

I had signed up and paid for the dating service, so I figured I would use the service. What did I have to lose?

I went on a couple of dates, but none of them really did much for me. The girls were generally nice, but not my type.

Then, I went to the office, and the woman handling my case asked me this simple question: "What type of girl do you want?"

I hesitated for a moment, and asked her what she meant. She repeated the question. I got it then.

I described the type of girl I wanted top to bottom, and I really mean that, top to bottom.

She set up a date, gave me her number, and we started by talking on the phone for probably a half hour or so. It stands as the longest phone call I have ever had with my wife to date. Neither of us are that much of a phone talker.

Anyway, we went over our likes and dislikes, what celebrity we looked like (people told me at the time I looked like Dustin Hoffman, which I still think is wrong; she said Adrienne Barbeau, who she kinda does look like but kinda doesn't, if you know what I mean).

We then decided to meet at a local Friday's.

I went to the restaurant, and stood outside looking for her.

Then I caught her image.

She was a knockout. Well dressed, nice hair, pretty, nice figure.

I introduced myself and we entered the restaurant.

We talked for several hours about a lot of things. I told her up front my situation, and she seemed to accept it.

I asked her out again, and the rest is history.

My wife believed in me from the get go, and I can't tell you how much that helped me during this period where I didn't know which way was up.

I finally got employment, we got engaged, we lived together for about a year, and we got married in June 1993. We had our son in August 1995, giving my daughter from my first marriage a brother.

I really love my wife. She is my Rock of Gibraltar. I would do just about anything with her, except watch the Ellen Show or The Big Bang Theory, two shows that I hate but she loves.

Anyway, happy birthday to my wife. She is the absolutely greatest thing that ever happened to me.

This Rochdale Village, Jamaica, New York guy couldn't go wrong with a Far Rockaway girl, and I know we will be together forever.

I love you Elena. Have a great birthday!

(No, I won't tell you how old she is. Look at her picture. She is an ageless and timeless beauty to me. And she is like a fine wine, getting better with age.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rant #614: On the Watch

So many things are in the middle of happening right now that I don't know where to begin.

They are stories that are developing right in front of our eyes, and their endpoints are, seemingly, far in the future.

Here are just a few that I, personally, have been watching.

NBA Players Reject Latest Offer From Owners: In an economy where so many people are out of work and so many others are having trouble putting food on the table, don't you find it kind of nauseating that the millionaire players are fighting with billionaire owners over a percentage point or two cut of a billion dollar pie?

There seems to be no end to this, and it will probably go to the courts--not basketball courts--one way or the other if the players seek to decertify their union.

These people live in a different world than most of us, and how both sides fail to see how sickening they are acting is beyond my comprehension.

Herman Cain Continues To Fight Back Against Accusers: The more Cain says he didn't do anything untoward to these ladies, the more I am starting to believe the women.

The only problem I have with this is that they seem to be coming out of the woodwork. When Cain ran for President in 2004, where were these women? Somehow, even though I am starting to see a pattern of behavior that I don't think befits a potential leader of this country, I think these women are coming forward for other reasons, maybe even the hope of a big payday down the line.

Can Cain survive this? Sure he can. Look at Bill Clinton for evidence of that.

Penn State Scandal Gets Worse: If this isn't the most heinous story of the year, I don't know what is. How school officials can put their football program ahead of the safety of children is beyond my understanding.

And it is getting worse. Although eight cases of abuse have been spoken about, I heard this morning that there actually may be more, many more, children who was abused by Joe Paterno's coach. If this is true, and even if it isn't and it remains eight cases, there are a lot of people with blood on their hands in this case, not just the perpetrator.

And yes, they should all be removed from their positions with the school. And that includes Joe Paterno, who didn't do anything illegal, but didn't do anything right either.

A Dog's Life: This is a more personal thing, but my family's dog is hanging in there. He is sick, and that probably isn't going to change, but he is starting to act more like himself than he was a few days and weeks ago.

Look, we know he is not going to get better, he is just going to get worse. But he seems to be almost "content" with his condition. He has learned to live with it to a certain degree, and even though he is 14 1/2 years old, there seems to be a lot of life in the old boy.

Personally, if he can get through the winter, I will be surprised. But I will tell you this, he will die trying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rant #613: Go to the "Head" of the Class

Yes, I know that Joe Frazier died. He was a monumental boxer, and in his own way, helped change America. Frazier was a legend, and he will be missed.

And yes, I know that Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. Well, you just knew that someone would be blamed for this, rather than the singer himself. Even in the court of law, evidently no one is responsible for his own craziness. I wonder that if Jackson were alive, would he have been brought in for hiring this doctor to administer to him drugs that are normally found only in doctors' offices? I guess we will never know.

And yes, the Beach Boys' monumental "Smile" LP has finally been released. More a document of its time than a straight reissue, it is nonetheless, a must album for anyone who is interested in rock and roll as we know it.

That moves me to a straight reissue that came out last week. It is also a monumental recording, and while it has been re-released several times, this newest issue came out on high-grade vinyl.

The Monkees' "Head" soundtrack album, like "Smile," is a document of its time. It was 1968, things were changing fast, and the Beatles had moved from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "The End" in a "Magical Mystery Tour" that would screech to a halt just two years later.

The world of cinema was also changing. Using French "New Wave" moviemakers as a touchstone, American filmmakers were starting to push the envelope. New freedoms were being realized, and starting in 1968, just about anything was game.

Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson helped to created the Monkees in 1966, and by doing so, brought the first long hairs to network television. They weren't rapists, murderers, druggies or bums. They were literally the kids next door, and Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz fit those roles perfectly. They even became a real band, and in 1967, the so-called Summer of Love, they outsold the flowery Beatles and Rolling Stones combined.

But this was 1968. The wheels were falling off the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" pretty quickly. Their popular show had surprisingly been cancelled, and a segueway to the big screen was inevitable.

So came "Head."

Written, or really, pieced together by then fledgling actor Jack Nicholson after a weekend binge with the boys, the movie served as a death knoll for the Pre-Fab Four as pop idols and also ripped apart not only rock and roll, but moviemaking at the same time.

It took on everybody and everything in Hollywood, and stands as one of the strangest, and most dead-on, movies about Tinseltown that has ever been committed to celluloid.

The problem was that the Monkees' pre-teen audience didn't get it. This was way beyond them. And it was one of the first movies to garner a rating, and it was "M", which back then, made it something like an "R" rated movie is today. Kids aren't supposed to see those types of movies.

And for hipsters, I mean, it was the Monkees, not the Beatles, and not even an appearance by ultra-hip Frank Zappa could save this film.

The movie flopped, and was destined to fade into the mist with the Monkees themselves.

As we all know, that didn't happen. The Monkees have lived on in one form or another as one of the most popular rock groups of all time. The show is also a document of the times, constantly rerun and repackaged for home video viewing. It was recently re-released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the boxed set celebrating the films of Schneider and Rafelson.

And the movie has had more than nine lives, becoming one of the all-time cult classics of that exciting, bewildering era. I mean, it was released the year that both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. That was some year!

Anyway, the soundtrack to that movie has been re-released again by Rhino Records on high-grade vinyl. I received it in the mail the other day, and WOW!, what a re-release it is.

It is every bit as good as the various CD releases of the soundtrack that have been in the marketplace in the past. Its nooks and crannies are still there, but the sound quality is superb, even better than a CD.

The Monkees perform just six songs, but they are among the best songs the group ever recorded. In between are various soundbites that make the album sort of a aural stew rather than a traditional soundtrack.

"Porpoise Song" might be the greatest psychedlic pop number ever recorded. This Carole King song, sung to perfection by Micky Dolenz, is both rhythmic and daring at the same time, and you just can't get the song out of your head once you hear it.

Jack Nicholson, who also put the album together, pulled a switch here, because the shorter version of the song is on the LP. The longer version is actually on the original single. But the album version holds up as the better of the two.

"Circle Sky" is perhaps the greatest mix of rock and roll and country that there has ever been. The power of the Mike Nesmith song is felt throughout, abetted by appearances by Neil Young and Ry Cooder.

It is a real stomper, and once again, Nicholson fooled us, using the studio version to the far superior live--all Monkees--version. But the song is still fantastic.

"Can You Dig It" is a song of its time, and once again, Micky's vocals stand out, and actually bring the song to another level. Its use of Indian rhythms was certainly influenced by George Harrison's delvings at the time, and it is a great tune, as written by Peter Tork.

Side two opens with "As We Go Along," which pretty much explains the entire movie in a couple of minutes' time. Micky sounds like Grace Slick on this tune, and it is also one of his best vocal performances.

Then we have "Daddy's Song," a cover of a Harry Nilsson tune that is Davy Jones' showcase on the LP. Nicholson fools us again, using a different track on the LP than is featured in the film.

Finally, we have "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again," a true rave-up that, like "As We Go Along," sums up the entire film. Peter Tork stands out here as both a writer and singer, certainly his best performance as a Monkee.

What an LP! And yes, it comes with its original mirror cover--get it? "Head"--you become the cover when you look at it.

Rhino's re-release comes with a bonus single, a different, live version of "Circle Sky" and a killer version of "Can You Dig It" with a Peter Tork vocal.

Whew! What a record.

If "Head" is not the greatest rock and roll movie of all time, it is right up among the best, and its soundtrack is a testament to that.

It is that good, and this new re-release is a must have for rock and roll fans of any ilk.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rant #612: How Many Lives Does a Dog Have?

Just to keep you up to date on the dog situation at my house, our pet dog Max, who I think was on death row last week, has made something of a recovery.

Ever since the middle of last week, he seems more himself.

Sure, he still has cancer, is dragging his swollen back foot terribly, and he looks like an old dog.

But he is keeping in his bladder fluids and other stuff better now.

He seems peppier, with a lot more play in him, although he won't go after his ball anymore. I guess he doesn't have the pep he once had as a puppy.

And he is eating us out of house and home.

For a sick dog, this dog can eat.

No, that's not a picture of our Max, but I like it anyway.

It's kind of funny. Once my wife and I spoke about putting him down--and spoke about it right in front of him--he seems to have rejuvenated himself. It's almost as if he heard us talking, and doesn't want to go just yet.

Maybe, like an athlete, he is reaching back for one more, even though he is dead tired. Not dead, just dead tired.

I don't know how much longer I give this dog.

The winter is coming, and going in and out of the freezing weather and snow to do his thing might be too much for this mutt.

As it is, he still has trouble going up the stairs.

I told my wife that once he can't go up the stairs anymore--and I have to carry him--that will really signify the end.

But right now, he has gotten a reprieve, from somewhere.

People have been known to live with cancer for years before succumbing to their fate. Perhaps it is the same thing with our Max.

If he continues to take his medicine, and receive the love that we give him, maybe the old boy can last a lot longer than we originally thought he could.

My wife doesn't have the heart to put him down, and even though my resolve is stronger than hers, I think I don't have the heart, either.

He doesn't seem to be in pain, just in a bit of a downslide. And I think he knows it.

But for right now, Max isn't a goner.

If anything, he's a stayer.

But for how long, who knows?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rant #611: Coming Full Cyrkle

This week is a pretty prestigious one in the annals of Rock 'N Roll.

Finally, the Beach Boys' "Smile" album has been released, in a number of different formats, including ....


Yes, the long elusive LP, which was never completed due to a variety of group mishaps, is finally out. I will probably get it soon, and I can't wait. I have so much bootlegged stuff on this album that I can't imagine that the legitimate release can have any more interesting material, but it supposedly has things that were never legitimately or illegitimately released before.

Since you can probably read a million reviews of the Beach Boys' release, I am going to move on to a group that didn't last long, had only two huge hits, and is an act that doesn't have any new re-releases on its schedule.

The Cyrkle was definitely a product of its time, and it's a group that I have always been enamored with.

Meeting in college in Pennsylvania in the mid 1960s, the band--whose core was Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes--produced some of the lightest-weight pop music possible in the mid-1960s.

Heck, they made a lightweight band like the Association seem out-of-sight by comparison.

Named by John Lennon and managed by Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, the band toured with the Fab Four and had two monster hits--well actually one, and one that got a huge amount of airplay.

"Red Rubber Ball" was not written by Paul Simon alone as many think. It was actually co-written by Simon and Bruce Woodley, who was with the red-hot Seekers at this time. It is everything a pop song should be--light, bouncy, with singalong lyrics that don't get too deep.

I have always loved this song. Simon and Garfunkel actually had a live version of this song, but the Cyrkle's version hits the mark.

"Turn-Down Day" was their second hit, and while it doesn't have the effervescence of the previous song, it follows along the same pattern of good-feeling pop.

They had a couple of other chartmakers, including the irresistible "Please Don't Ever Leave Me" backed with "Money to Burn," which I thought was their best all-around A and B side single, and they had some others, but generally, after two LPs and nine singles on Columbia Records, that was pretty much it for them.

But the story doesn't end here.

The put out the soundtrack to one of the early and classic adult porn films, entitled "The Minx."

The film started out as a standard movie, but the producers felt the film needed a bit more pizzazz, and added sex scenes after the main scenes were filmed.

Anyway, this was the Cyrkle's last hurrah, and while it isn't their best stuff, what a swan song it was!

Their total output is available on CD, and you can find these out-of-print collections on

But their story doesn't end there, either.

Both Dannemann and Dawes went into the commercial jingle field, and they wrote jingles for many major products. Dawes wrote the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is" jingle for Alka Seltzer, and that is just one of many that the two put together over the years.

Dawes passed away a few years ago, and Dannemann is still around. In 1980, he and his wife released a tune about John Lennon which I simply cannot find. It is the one Cyrkle-related artifact that I can't locate.

If you are fan of 1960s pop, the Cyrkle is a band to investigate.

Then, get the Beach Boys' release.

You just can't go wrong with either the Beach Boys or the Cyrkle.

You just can't.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rant #610: "Occupy Wall Street" Is Over (Or Should Be)

Making your point is one thing, overstaying your welcome is another.

I think that after six weeks, Occupy Wall Street protesters have made their point. Corporate America is partly to blame for the current economic state of this country. I don't think too many people can dispute that.

They made their point, but now, they are overstaying their welcome.

The ones who are still part of this movement, and who are occupying Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, are becoming parasites rather than protesters.

They are feeding off the initial goodwill that New York City showed them, and they are starting to cross the boundaries of staying too long at the party.

It seems that for every diehard protester, there are hangers on who really don't care about what is going on, but they are in for a free meal.

And based on recent news reports, some of them are also in for a good feel, as at least one "protester" has been brought up on sexual harassment charges.

According to news reports, the protesters are littering the streets, relieving themselves all over the park, destroying businesses in the area, and they are becoming more violent and defiant.

And as the movement has spread, the defiance and violence quotients are up. Look at what is happening in Oakland, the site of the Berkeley student protests of the 1960s.

It's becoming not a non-violent protest, but a mob scene, with a mob mentality.

The people who are part of this movement are basically descendants of the people who took over the universities in the 1960s. Many are from rich families, and they use corporate America when they need to, blast them when they don't.

Sure, many are homeless, out of work, in poverty, and are in other forms of personal disarray.

And their initial point was a good one.

But like I have said, they have overstayed their welcome. They made their point, and now it is time to move on.

They have become a joke, not a flashpoint for change.

Trying to shut down docks, office buildings and other commerce generators is not making a point, it is giving reasons for the effected companies to lay off workers.

Is that what the goal is now?

I think the goals have become somewhat frazzled now. People are just coming to the meeting places, with their iPads and cell phones created by corporate America, to be seen. They don't care about being heard anymore, they just want to be seen. And many don't go back to the park, the take the railroad back to their homes in Long Island and Westchester.

Cushy indeed.

And lest we forget, lots of celebrities, who would be down and out and not reeling in millions without the backing of various corporations, are showing up, to be seen.

One person who actually has been in attendance at some of the rallies actually told me that a major celebrity, who shall remain nameless, appeared at the meeting place after exiting a limousine.

C'mon now, let's get real!

I have not been there, and have no plans to. But if you want to believe what you read, this movement, if you will call it that, is populated not by protesters, but by squatters.

I think it is time to close it down, and close it down before there are any more problems.

And if it lasts any longer, you can bet there will be problems, and plenty of them.

And what have the protesters actually accomplished other than bring attention to themselves?

Nothing--absolutely nothing.

And they have become warts to the communities that they have seized.

It is time to use wart remover.

Get rid of them, and get rid of them before this becomes a situation that is completely out of control.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rant #609: Dog's Day Afterthought

As I mentioned yesterday, everything isn't going my way lately.

There are some good things happening, and some bad.

Here is the "ultimate" bad.

My family's dog, Max, a part of our family for 14 1/2 years, is not doing too well right now.

The last time we took him to the vet, this mutt--a mixed breed terrier and pit bull--had a bad left hind leg that he couldn't walk on. We were told that he had cancer in that area, and chances are that it would affect his bowel movement, since the use of his hind legs to squat is essential. Also, the cancer probably would spread.

I look at this dog--not the dog in the photo but he kind of looks like Max--and remember when he was a puppy and then an older dog. He was a house dog, but he had all the pep of a puppy up until about two or three months ago.

One day, after I took him out to do his thing, he almost fell down the stairs. He hurt his left hind leg, and was limping pretty badly.

We took him to the vet, and they did a couple of things to him, and he appeared to be fine.

But then, a few weeks after that, he almost fell down the stairs again, and yes, the left hind leg was bad all over again.

That is when we took him to the vet and was given the word that Max has cancer.

Max is a good, loyal dog. I swear he understands every word I say to him.

And yes, I think he understands that his days are numbered.

I look into his face now, and I see a hollow face, not the one that I remember.

He almost looks like he is asking us to put him down.

And yes, he is losing control of himself ... all over the house.

I have broached the subject of putting him down with my wife. My wife kind of agreed, but now she is backing off.

She just doesn't have the heart to do it.

And honestly, neither do I, although I am realistic, and I know that it is probably the best thing for him.

We were originally going to do this during the weekend on Saturday, but now my wife has said that she simply can't do it.

Max is eating well, and he still barks a lot when he wants food or water or a treat.

But he is a shell of his former self.

We simply don't know what to do with him.

Prior to Max, we had another terrier/pit bull mutt. His name was Mikey.

He had an awful disposition. He was nasty, and very vindictive.

He got old. He had tumors all over his body, and cowered under our bed. He couldn't hear or see very well.

It was a no brainer, and we had to put him down.

That day was a horrible one. My wife was working, but myself, my father, and my son, who was a baby at the time, took him to the pound.

Mikey knew where he was going, and put up a fight, but in the end, it was for the better of all of us, including him.

To see him suffer was probably almost as horrible as his own suffering.

I had nightmares about that dog for six months after we did this. I really did.

I don't like to play God, but I think Max's time may have come.

And like Mikey, I think he knows it.

People claim that animals do not have souls. I don't know about fish, gerbils, hamsters, cats or ferrets, but dogs do have souls.

They know when they have done wrong, and they know when they have done something right.

And I do believe they know when the end is near.

And Max knows exactly what is going on. I am convinced of it.

What to do? I simply don't know.

Do we let him literally shrivel up to nothing, losing himself in every portion of our house?

Or do we put him out of his obvious misery?

Like I said, I just don't know.

Any thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rant #608: All Is Well In My World (Sort Of)

All is well in the world, at least in my world.

That isn't really true. There are some unsettled things.

But generally, everything in my world is copacetic.

Sort of.

The Yankees signed CC Sabathia again to another lucrative contract extension.

That is good.

Kim Kardashian has ended her marriage to a basketball player after less than three months of wedded bliss.

Good. Really, who cares anyway?

The NBA is still not playing games, and the owners and players appear to be in a downward spiral to oblivion.

I am sure that some of you are again saying "Who cares," but I do care.

Millionaires arguing with billionaires over petty money issues is a downer.

And in this lousy economy, it is a punch in the face to families who are having a hard time putting food on the table everyday.

And I like basketball. I really do. So with the prospects of no 2011-2012 season looming, what am I going to do with myself?

Not shovel snow, I can tell you that.

Not now, at least.

At least in my neck of the woods, that fall snow storm brought nothing with it.

Sure, it was weird seeing snow in October, but we didn't get anything, or really next to nothing. Some areas got nearly two feet of snow, which falling leaves fell on top of.

It's too early for that, isn't it?

So, I guess all is well in my world, but to a point.

And later in the week, I have to tell you some bad news, at least on my end, that assures that this week really isn't that great after all.

Stay tuned.

yasmin lawsuit