Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rant #571: Katia?

Back to hurricane talk ...

I hate to tell you this, but another one may be on its way to our shores.

Tropical Storm Katia is gaining strength as it moves across the Atlantic, and weather forecasters say that it could become a hurricane later today.

Katia has sustained winds near 65 mph with additional strengthening expected.

The storm's forecast track shows it could become a major hurricane over the weekend.

Right now, Katia is centered about 985 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and is moving west-northwest near 21 mph.

And if you were wondering, the storm's name replaces Katrina in the rotating storm roster because of the catastrophic damage from the 2005 hurricane that devastated New Orleans.

They certainly don't want to use that name again--ever.

But Katia? What kind of name is that? I never heard of the name before.

The name, pronounced KAH-tyah, evidently it is a variant of Katya, but my very brief research shows that some claim it is of Russian origin, others claim it is of Spanish origin.

Whatever the case, is this the second such storm that will hit the East Coast this year?

I don't know. Of course, I hope not.

But the other day, while watching the storm coverage on local TV here, one of the meteorologists said that it could happen with this storm. He discounted the storm after Irene, which I think was named Jose, and said that this one, Katia, was one to keep an eye on.

Although Irene was nothing more than a whimper in my neck of the woods, I know for others, it was a nightmare.

So who needs another hurricane?

(And by the way, my sister's name is Gail. I know that's not Gale, as in strong wind, but it's close enough.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rant #570: The Birth of "Frankenstein"

Now that we can talk about something else other than the hurricane, let's get into something that is even more macabre.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London on this day in 1797.

To some, this name means absolutely nothing.

To others, this name, and the date of her birth, probably conjures up the thought, "Who cares about someone born more than 200 years ago?"

And to others, the name sends chills up their spines.

That is, after all, the way it should be, as Shelley was the creator of the character of Dr. Frankenstein and his even more famous monster.

Shelley's own life was dogged by many personal tragedies, including the deaths of many of her children and the drowning death of her husband that preceded her own death at age 53 of a brain tumor.

But in her short life, Shelley created a real monster, one that would not only outlive her, but whose very name conjures up images of a mad man.

Legend has it that Shelley and her husband, who traveled in very rarified circles, spent the summer of 1816 with some hoity-toity types, including Lord Byron, in Switzerland. On an evening which was filled with much rain and fog, Shelley was dared by her hosts, including Byron, to come up with an idea for a "ghost" novel, and thus, "Frankenstein" was born.

The story was supposed to be a short one, but due to husband, who believed that the story could be much longer, Shelley doggedly added to her tale, and it was published in novel form, as "Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus" in 1818.

Shelley continued to write after the deaths of her husband and all but one child, but her life was cut short by serious illness.

Through the centuries, the story of "Frankenstein" has reached epic proportions.

Although the Frankenstein in the title refers to Dr. Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, many people still believe the monster is named Frankenstein. The novel has been adapted for stage and screen and for television, and the character of the monster symbolizes everything from fear to cereal, as its likeness was used for the cereal Frankenberry, with no Dr. Frankenstein in sight.

And the character has been the subject of satire. "The Munsters" TV show featured esteemed actor Herman Munster as the patriarch of the Munster clan.

And, of course, "Young Frankenstein," Mel Brooks' fond take on the doctor and his monster, is seen by some as one of the best films of all time. And to backtrack, the original "Frankenstein" film is, itself, seen as a masterpiece of 1930s cinema. Colin Clive played the doctor, while Boris Karloff played the monster.

And let's not forget that the monster even took a bride in the movies. "The Bride of Frankenstein," although not as good as its predecessor, was an excellent sequel, one of the earliest of the film sequels.

So Shelley's creation has stirred us, and has also made us laugh.

Although she lived a relatively short life, her legacy will probably live on for many centuries more.

To take a play on an old movie title, "Frankenstein Cannot Be Destroyed!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rant #569: Goodbye, Irene

So Hurricane Irene came and went. I know that a lot of people in a lot of areas got hit really hard by the storm, but in my neck of the woods, save a couple of tree branches that broke away and fell to the ground on my property, we had nothing.

And I mean nothing.

Sure, we had lots of wind and rain, but we really didn't have anything I haven't seen 100 times before.

And by the way. we live about a mile from the Great South Bay.

Surrounding areas did get hit. I know that in Lindenhurst, Long Island, people were getting around by using boats. And these are on streets that usually have only automobile transportation.

Other areas, like Freeport and parts of Queens, got hit really bad, with new canals formed on what were at one time busy thoroughfares.

In Brooklyn, the news showed video of my late grandmother's old apartment building on Ocean Parkway and Cortelyou Road. Several large trees fell on this property.

Mass transit in New York City was shut down completely, and rail service was shut down in the suburbs.

Some people lost electricity, and haven't yet gotten it back.

Certainly others suffered in the New York area, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

Not that I have a crystal ball or anything, but I kind of figured this.

As I previously mentioned in another Rant, my family and I were vacationing in Florida when Hurricane Charley hit. I remember the pitch blackness of the night, and the loudness of the wind and rain that were pummeling where we were staying.

I experienced none of this with Hurricane Irene, which, when it finally got to my neck of the woods, had been downgraded to a tropical storm.

It reminded me of what we had when my son was bar mitzvahed nearly three years to the day of the coming of Hurricane Irene. There was lots of wind and rain, but not much else.

But I swear to you, the people made it worse.

I went shopping in Friday evening after work, and it was as tumultuous as I have ever seen it in the supermarket. Normally, I shop on Saturday morning, but I had to work on Saturday and we were supposedly having a small get together with some relatives to celebrate my son's 16th birthday (which I mentioned was on the same day as last week's earthquake).

This was cancelled, of course, but not knowing this at the time, I did my shopping that night.

There were literally hundreds of people shopping in the supermarket that night. You couldn't move in the aisles.

And you couldn't get water or bread or milk that evening.

People started buying up these things earlier in the week, and by Friday night, there was nothing to be had.

Funny, I was on the line waiting to check out, and I found a carton of bottled water laying in the carts they use to put things back that people take but they end up not buying. So I grabbed the carton and put it into my cart. Almost immediately, some guy runs over to me and asked me where I got it from. I told him that he was out of luck, as I got it from the pile of items that were to be returned to the shelves. He ran away in disgust.

People panic. They really do.

And who do you blame for this? Why, the media.

The media has a job to cover this weather event, but I think they overdo it a bit. Wall to wall coverage, like we got beginning on Friday and running throughout the weekend, is a bit much, especially for a weather system that really didn't do a whole lot of damage in most areas of the New York metropolitan area.

Yes, it did wreak havoc in many areas. But in most areas, there was just a lot of wind and rain.

To devote something like 48 hours straight of coverage like this gets people into the crazy mode, and I think people were getting crazy on Friday night.

Do you really need all of these provisions? And if something really bad happened, how long do you think you were going to be able to drink those several containers of milk that you bought? Remember, no electricity equals no refrigeration equals spoiled milk.

Again, I am not lessening the horrible damage that the hurricane caused both in the New York metropolitan area and south of this area. I saw some pictures and video, and it really was horrible.

There were even some deaths.

But I am happy to say that where I am, the damage was minimal.

But you would think that the apocalypse was right around the corner by the way some people behaved.

And I hear that after the next storm, which I think is called Jose, peters out in the Atlantic Ocean, there is another storm that is started to rev up by the coast of Africa that weather forecasters are keeping their eyes on.

And its name will presumably start with the letter "K," just like Katrina did.

Oh, woe is me. Will we have more of this frenzy if and when that becomes something to worry about?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rant #568: Hello, Irene (Part 2)

As much as I dislike writing about this thing again, I guess I must, because there really isn't much else going on in my neck of the woods.

Gov. Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in New York, and people who live in areas near the water are starting to be herded out of their homes to safer ground.

Many events have been cancelled, postponed, or moved to a different time. The Jets vs. Giants preseason football game, originally scheduled for 7 p.m., has been moved up to 2 p.m. The Yankees games in Baltimore over the weekend are threatened, although the Orioles have refused to play a doubleheader to get them all in. The Mets games vs. the Braves at CitiField have not been moved, at least not just yet.

People are buying up things in the stores as if we will be meeting Armageddon on late Saturday and into Sunday. I am sure that the supermarket chains here are reeling in millions of dollars during this panic period.

People are worried that cell phone service will be disrupted during the storm, and I have one word to say to them:


Saturday appears to be fine until the evening. Sunday appears to be a total washout.

But from what I understand, that will be it.

Of course, if it gets near land--and even if it doesn't--there will have to be some cleanup, but it will take place on a sunny Monday.

Again, I am talking about New York. I am not talking about North Carolina, which should get hit pretty good by this hurricane.

But I am several hundred miles away from where the hurricane will hit the hardest. I was in that area driving home from my vacation with my family just a few weeks ago, and I can tell you, when it rains down there, it really rains. We drove through some of the worst rain I have ever seen when we were down there, and I can only imagine that a hurricane will go beyond that 100-fold.

But where I am, it will be lots of wind and rain, but that is about it.

I hope.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rant #567: Hello, Irene

We've been through an earthquake on the East Coast this week, and now the time has come to look at the next odd disturbance that is supposed to come upon us here in the East.

Depending on where you are on the East Coast, Hurricane Irene is supposed to be hitting us either today, tomorrow, on Saturday, or on Sunday.

The storm pummeled the Bahamas earlier this week, hit North Carolina today, and will slowly move up the coast. It should hit New York late Saturday and into Sunday.

I am sure the religious zealots are saying that we are getting these disturbances because we are sinners, and we now have to pay for our sins.

New Yorkers, like Californians, are full of sin. Me too, I guess.

Anyway, as I said in my previous post, my family and I have been through one major hurricane, Charley in 2004. I would hate to think another one of that magnitude is coming to my doorstep this weekend.

Some are already calling it the East Coast version of Hurricane Katrina.

That may be going a little bit too far, but some people are scared. Those in North Carolina--where the hurricane will supposedly be at its worst point--are reasonably concerned. Many are patching up their homes as best they can to survive the expected onslaught, others are just getting the heck out of the state until this thing blows over.

In New York, we are kind of taking a "wait and see" attitude about the whole thing.

By the time it reaches here, it should be way out in the ocean. That doesn't mean it will be harmless, but I am sure we can withstand the rain and wind that this thing will generate.

I live less than a mile away from the water, but it is a long mile, being on the other side of a good stretch of roads. I am sure that people who live on the water are concerned, and I guess they should be.

But me, I am prepared for the wind and the rain, and that's about it.

I am hoping that I am right, and that this is nothing more than a blip to the summer.

Funny thing, we are supposed to get a lot of rain today in an unrelated system, so we just might be water-logged even before this thing supposedly comes to our doorstep.

We'll know for sure on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rant #566: Shakin' All Over

Did you feel it too?

If you lived on the East Coast, from Virginia all the way up to New England, you probably felt a shaking sensation at 1:51 p.m., because we had an extremely rare earthquake in this part of the U.S.

It reached anywhere from 5.8 to 6.0 on whatever scale they are using now, and while it was mild, you would think that the world was ending based on some of the news reports I heard.

Sure, the shaking came unexpectedly, but it really unnerved some people.

I was typing something on my computer at work, and all of a sudden, I felt a tremor. It was like I had vertigo for a second, as I couldn't position myself correctly as I was typing. And my computer was shaking pretty good.

But then it was all over. I doubt it even lasted a minute.

The New York Metropolitan Area wasn't really hit too hard, although many office buildings had workers file into the street--which I heard is the absolutely wrong procedure, as you are supposed to stay where you are, whether in the street or inside. I don't know if this is true or not, but this was part of the hysteria surrounding what happened yesterday.

I know that the Pentagon was emptied, just in case this was an act of terrorism and not an act of Mother Nature.

Anyway, it was over and done with pretty quickly, and that's all anybody was talking about, including me.

Heck, it was my first earthquake.

I have been in some hurricanes. The most recent one was in 2004.

My family and I were vacationing in Orlando, Fla., and lo and behold, Charley was headed straight for downtown Orlando, which is about 20 minutes away from where we were.

Orlando got hit hard, and we got hit, too.

I remember how it turned the blackest black I have ever seen outside right before Charley hit. We lost all power, and I was using a portable TV as a beacon to see where I was going.

My son--who, appropriately, turned 16 yesterday--was little then, and I think he slept in the same room as my wife. I know that that night, I slept on the couch.

The next morning, we saw all the damage, mainly uprooted trees. I remember being on line in a Burger King--the first fast food restaurant in the vicinity that reopened--and talking with other East Coasters who were on vacation about how Floridians panicked due to Charley, and laughing about it.

Well, now I know how East Coasters, in general, panic about an earthquake.

I am sure Californians are laughing at us. They probably get 10 of these types of things a year, and they are used to it.

But, I guess for one moment, I must have been puzzled myself.

What was happening?

But what else can you say about it? We have now had an earthquake in New York City.

What's next--a tidal wave?

With Hurricane Irene on the horizon for this weekend, who knows ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rant #565: I've Had My Fill of Dr. Phil

Who is Dr. Phil anyway?

That is the question I ask to start off this rant, and it is a question that the millions of people who watch his show on a daily basis should really be asking themselves.

This guy, whatever his real credentials are, is a TV creation, nothing more. And his fame and notoriety have often jumped over the edge of reasonability.

I remember when he poked his nose into the life of Britney Spears when she was pretty much at the lowest point of her existence. Her father had taken over care of her finances, her concert tour was panned, she had been going through rough marital times, and her kids were being looked at by the state as being improperly cared for.

Whatever you think of Spears, why did Dr. Phil feel he had the right to poke into her affairs?

To me, it was a publicity stunt to spread his name around the world, get him known as the TV self-help guru who chastises people when he should be looking at his own behavior.

The latest fiasco related to Dr. Phil is the case of a child who was filmed being abused by his stepmother so she and the boy could get onto his show.

A woman put hot sauce in her adopted 7-year-old son's mouth, not to punish the Russian boy for lying, but to create sensational footage to get on the TV show, said a prosecutor in a child abuse case in Alaska.

Jessica Beagley, 36, recorded the punishment on Oct. 21, 2010 for a show segment titled "Mommy Confessions," said prosecutor Cynthia Franklin. The Anchorage woman faces misdemeanor child abuse charges stemming from the footage.

The eight-minute video allegedly shows Beagley confronting her son Kristoff about misbehaving in school and lying, and then pouring hot sauce into the crying child's mouth and not allowing him to spit it out for more than a minute. The footage also shows Beagley forcing the screaming boy into a cold shower before sending him off the bed.

The episode aired on Nov. 17, 2010, and it evidently sparked public outrage in Russia, with some demanding that Kristoff and his twin brother, who were both adopted by Beagley and her husband, be returned to their native country.

The boy is in therapy now for an issue causing his misbehavior. And why isn't the mother in some type of program to cure her behavior, which was downright nauseating.

Beyond the outrage about how this child was treated by his adopted mother, why was this video shown on Dr. Phil's show without the proper background checks? Evidently, this woman has tried to get on the show before, but was unsuccessful. Shouldn't a red flag have gone up?

I am sure Dr. Phil, himself, doesn't screen anything. He lets his staff do it. But he is the big name, the guy being paid the big bucks, so he is responsible for what goes on his show. And he is responsible here.

Why anyone wants to air their dirty laundry on national and international TV is beyond my comprehension.

But to stage an act just to get on a TV show is reprehensible, especially when it involves a helpless child.

Dr. Phil should be ashamed of himself for airing this segment.

And again, I ask, who is Dr. Phil anyway?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rant #564: Window Pain

Now that the Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries nuptials are history, we can all rest easier ...

That is, if you have youngsters in your home and you have protected windows.

A study by Journal Pediatrics has found that more than 5,000 children in the U.S. are injured each year in falls from windows, with many of the injuries occurring from falls from the first and second floors of structures.

The youngest children, pre-schoolers, are at the highest risk, which shouldn't surprise anyone, because they just don't have the knowledge to stay away from open windows. They are more apt to suffer head injuries than teenagers who fall from windows. Teenagers, of course, you would assume should know better.

All told, an estimated 98,415 children were hurt from window falls during the study period, which was from 1990 to 2008. Less than 1 percent of these falls led to deaths, but the survey said this probably isn't accurate, because not all children who die from such injuries are brought to the hospital.

You have to wonder about such accidents. New York City requires window guards in apartments with children 10 years old and younger, but you can bet that not all windows with children this age are properly protected.

You can also almost understand toddlers being the greatest victim of such falls, because they are curious and don't understand the circumstances of an open window.

But teenagers? Why are they falling out of windows?

Although I don't see any facts about this in the study, I wonder whether the percentage of falls out of windows by teenagers goes up as they get older. In other words, are there more 19 year olds falling from windows than 13 year olds?

If there are, then you have to say that they are probably alcohol and drug related, and probably some of these falls are due to attempted suicides.

I say this because once you are that age, I would think you would know that you shouldn't be leaning out of open windows enough where you could fall.

At any rate, window guards are probably the best protection, and I guess a window guard might even stop a 19 year old from plunging from a window, whether on purpose or accidentally.

Now, the next thing I would ask is about adults. How many fall out of open windows?

Like teenagers, I guess that brings up questions that are far beyond the scope of such studies.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rant #563: Hatred's 20th Anniversary

This is the 20th anniversary of one of New York City's darkest days, and since it made international headlines, one of the worst days in the history of this country.

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, rioting erupted after Gavin Cato, a seven-year-old black kid, was run over by a driver from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Lubavitch community. After striking the boy, the motorcade stopped, the driver checking out what he had done. He was beaten by an angry mob. (I was corrected on this point by someone who regularly checks out this blog.)

A few hours later, once word spread in the community that the child had been killed, there was rioting in the black community, and a group of black teens attacked--and one fatally stabbed--rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum.

The mayor at the time, David Dinkins--New York City's first and still only black mayor--did not read the situation correctly, and fewer than needed police were there to stop the rioting and bloodshed, and this mess was often cited as leading to Dinkins' political downfall.

The Rev. Al Sharpton rose to prominence during this incident, and was one of the main rabble rousers, fanning the flames of hatred in this community while at the same time becoming a national figure.

Crown Heights had already been something of an explosion waiting to happen prior to this incident. With boombox-carrying black kids walking on the same streets with ultra-Orthodox Jews, the two communities basically eyed each other as the enemy, and this incident put everything into perspective.

Now, 20 years later, the incident has, reportedly, served to make the community somewhat closer, although there are still rumblings that haven't died down.

Programs were started almost immediately after this incident to get the two communities together in ways that would not interfere with their own ways of life. I remember news reports that basketball leagues were set up where Orthodox kids could actually mingle, for probably the first time, with black kids living in the same area.

There were also numerous groups set up for adults to begin a dialogue of healing.

The dialogue started, and an uneasy truce was drawn up, which pretty much exists to this day.

However, 20 years ago, that incident divided the city, destroyed the political career of the city's mayor, and took a bite out of the Big Apple that it took years to just partially repair.

Although unnecessary deaths like these are despicable acts, perhaps the legacies of Cato and Rosenbaum have made these communities understand that if they are living in the same neighborhood, they don't necessarily need to like each other, but they need to get along.

Rabble rousers aside, it appears as if each side has learned its lesson.

But there remain hard feelings, especially when it comes to Sharpton. Norman Rosenbaum, Yankel's brother, has decried Sharpton's participation in a panel discussion of the incident and on relations between blacks and Jews which is being held at a Long Island synagogue. Rosenbaum said that it was insulting that Sharpton participate in such a forum since he showed such a lack of sensitivity 20 years ago.

Sharpton subsequently bowed out of the forum. Although defending his actions in Crown Heights, Sharpton acknowledged that "his language and tone has been questioned and at times has been over the line ... . Clearly, the Al Sharpton of 2011 is not the Al Sharpton of 1991."

And there are still some hard feelings about those involved in the deaths and the riots, and the way the legal system has handled these cases.

I guess the real lesson to be learned here is to never forget Crown Heights, because there might be another Crown Heights just around the corner.

You never know.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rant #562: Bachmann Poses For Calendar ... No, Not What You Think

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann will appear in a 2012 calendar put out by a nonprofit conservative women's group.

The "Great American Conservative Women" calendar, organized annually for the past seven years by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, features a full-page photo on its December page of the Minnesota congresswoman in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

And no, she doesn't pose in the altogether.

Bachmann is, without a doubt, the best looking candidate ever to run for President of our country. Sorry Sarah Palin, but in my mind, Bachmann has you beat hands down.

However, Bachmann may also be the most uninformed about cultural events candidate ever to run for President of our country, too.

Her lastest error was saying earlier this week on August 16 that it was Elvis Presley's birthday, when, in actuality, it was Elvis Presley's death day.

She tried to explain that mistake away, tried to cover herself, but hound dog! It didn't work.

And if she doesn't know the difference between a birthday and a death day, what does that say for her competence to run our country?

Maybe you have to give her a pass on her errors. She represents Minnesota, the state that gave us, several years ago, former professional wrestler Jessie "The Body" Ventura as its governor.

But again, Bachmann is good looking, so in our world of video-bites, she always comes out ahead.

Whether she comes out ahead when running for President is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rant #561: Beauty Loves the "Privileged" Life

Salma Hayek is truly one of the world's most beautiful women. The Mexican actress is good looking, has a smashing figure, and I guess she feels she can say what she wants, since she has never had to worry about money.

As a child, unlike many in Mexico, she was raised in a wealthy family, and as an adult, she is married to a multi-millionaire if not billionaire, and she, herself, makes plenty of money.

But to rub it into the faces of her fans is another thing.

"I never understood the point of being privileged if you don't get to have the privileges," Hayek says in the September issue of Allure.

The use of the word "privileged" her strikes a dischord with me.

What exactly does she mean by the word?

Does she mean that since she has always had money, she is above others who don't?

Does she mean that since she has money, she deserves to get perks that others don't?

Maybe she means something else, but I guess when you have never had to worry about money, you get like that.

Yes some people are privileged, and some people are lucky, and some people are both.

And even more people are neither.

Hayek needs to come down to earth a bit.

I am sure she puts on her bra just like the other ladies, so what makes her more special than anyone else?

Sometimes, people of wealth kind of lose their sense of reality. They don't know what it is to work hard--and I mean a 9-to-5 job, not working on location in some exotic locale--and they just don't seem to breathe the same air as the rest of us.

Although in actuality, they do.

I am not knocking Hayek's talent or beauty. She has a lot of both.

But don't talk down to the masses. It has been proven time and time again that money doesn't bring true happiness. Maybe by saying this she is trying to convince herself that she is happy where she is now. Maybe she's not.

But her comment comes off as being very, very smug.

And that's not a beautiful thing.

Go count your money and stop pontificating about being privileged.

We would be extra privileged if you would just shut your mouth and act.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rant #560: Game Show Icon

I know that to the majority of younger people, the name Anita Gillette means pretty much next to nothing.

Heck, for that matter, even for older people, the name Anita Gillette simply makes them scratch their heads and say they know the name, but they can't figure out why.

Well, today, Anita Gillette turns 75--and on the anniversary of the deaths of both Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley, no less!

Who the heck is Anita Gillette and why should anyone care about her?

To the baby boomer generation, Anita Gillette was the perky, pretty lady who was a celebrity contestant on just about every game show that there ever was back in the 1960s and into the mid-1970s.

Although she was an actress who appeared in many films and TV shows as well as on Broadway, Gillette will always be remembered by my generation as one of the celebrities on "What's My Line," "The Match Game," and countless other game shows.

Most of the shows were based in New York, allowing Gillette to be featured on soap operas like "The Edge of Night" while doing double duty on the game shows.

And she was really good. Regular contestants loved to go to, or be paired up with Gillette, because she really knew how to play these games as well as anyone. Sure, she got paid for her appearances like other celebrities, but I always got the impression that she really enjoyed appearing on these shows, as much for the gamesmanship as for the exposure and pay.

When the game show circuit dried up, Gillette's movie career picked up, and she has been in a number of popular films, including "Moonstruck." And on TV, she has appeared in a number of hits shows, including "C.S.I."

That being said, at least for my generation, Gillette is in the "Game Show Celebrity Hall of Fame," along with the likes of Orson Bean, Charles Nelson Reilley, Jamie Farr, Bret Somers, and Soupy Sales.

I have to admit that when she was on the game shows, I really didn't even know who she was. I knew she was a celebrity, but I didn't know the extent of her talent as an actor.

And to see that she is still going strong through her 75th year is great news.

Happy birthday and many more!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rant #559: WWE: WOW!

Look, I make no apologies that I am a professional wrestling fan. Never have, never will.

I go back to the era when Bruno Sammartino was the dominant wrestler, so my interest in pro wrestling goes back to the mid-1960s.

I admit I fell out of the loop a bit, until my son got interested in wrestling.

There are two major organizations, and many, many smaller, regional groups. The main wrestling organizations are WWE--World Wrestling Entertainment--and TNA--now known simply as Impact Wrestling.

Last night, as I traditionally do for my son's birthday, I bought the SummerSlam pay per view. And no, it isn't cheap.

Usually during these pay per views, you see just what you see on the free (or relatively free, since you pay for the shows with your satellite, cable or phone bills) shows, Monday Night RAW and Friday Night Smackdown.

But last night was something else, mainly because of one match.

I will try to explain the convoluted nature of this match as best I can. John Cena was the WWE champion, having been given the award because his opponent of several weeks ago and the one he lost to for the championship, CM Punk, supposedly left the organization. Punk beat Cena, but then supposedly hung up his WWE jockstrap.

Well, as you know, in the world of professional wrestling, nothing is as it seems.

Punk, who was supposedly suspended for his actions leading up to his leaving the WWE, returned, and claimed that he was the rightful champion. Cena claimed that he was, because he was still there and had the belt.

This led up to a clash between the two champions to determine who actually was the champion.

Sure, that is convoluted, but the buildup to the match was pretty huge. I think the WWE knew that the card that they had for SummerSlam--their biggest pay per view event of the year after Wrestlemania--was fairly weak, and they needed something super for this event to go over with wrestling fans.

Well, let me tell you, it did.

This was one of the best, most exciting matches I have ever seen. Each wrestler pummeled the other for 45 minutes, and you can see that many of the punches, leg kicks, head butts and everything else were hitting the opponents, not like most matches, where the wrestlers miss their opponents by several feet and it is phony baloney all the way.

I am not saying that every hit actually hit the target, but these guys were really going at it.

At one point, each was counted out of the ring, but referee Triple H--who supposedly took over the company from his father in law, Vince McMahon, and officiated because he wanted a fair match and a true champion--wouldn't have it and threw both competitors back in the ring, continuing the match.

Pin after pin was attempted, but none was made until the end, when CM Punk pinned John Cena as the referee missed the fact that Cena had his leg on the rope. When you have your leg on the rope, you have to break your hold or pin, but somehow, Triple H missed this.

So CM Punk was the champ, but it lasted maybe a few minutes. Out of nowhere comes former WWE wrestler Kevin Nash--the 7-footer who most recently was with TNA and is a long-time friend of Triple H--and he beats CM Punk to a pulp.

Then also out of nowhere, Alberto Del Rio rushes out with his "Money in the Bank" suitcase.

Let me explain further. Del Rio, a former Mexican Lucha Libre wrestler and one of the most popular villains in the WWE, won the "Money in the Bank" match at the last pay per view. This entitles him to wrestle for the WWE championship at a point of his own choosing, and he chose this moment to go for the championship.

With CM Punk being spent from the match with Cena and being beat up by Nash, Del Rio didn't have to do much to take the crown away from Punk. It took just a few seconds, but now Del Rio is the WWE champion.

All of this happened as Triple H stared ahead in seemingly complete disbelief as the pay per view ended.

Sure, you have to be a wrestling fan to "get" this. Sure, you know the Nash/Del Rio thing was 100 percent staged. Sure, you know that the whole scenario of the match itself was well planned and thought out.

But the WWE has a way of making this engaging. This is a modern circus, with just one, single ring.

And I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, as did my son.

This match lifted the entire pay per view into another stratosphere, and made the whole night worthwhile.

Congrats to the WWE--they really know how to put on a great, great show.

And I guess congratulations go out to Alberto Del Rio, who is the new WWE champion.

Where the defense of this honor will take him is clearly anyone's guess-- and up to the WWE writers' whims--and in the world of the WWE, just about anything can happen.

CM Punk vs. Del Rio at the next pay per view?

Sounds good to me!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rant #558: Just Friends

Bert and Ernie are just friends.

So says the Sesame Workshop, which oversees the TV show "Sesame Street."

"Bert and Ernie are good friends," the group said in a statement. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves ... they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation."

So there, take that, you imbeciles who want to corrupt everything you see to fulfill your personal agendas.

The creator of the petition to have Bert and Ernie wed is seeking matrimony for the "Sesame Street" chums as a way to make gay and lesbian kids who watch the show feel better about themselves, and to promote tolerance for this lifestyle.

Boy, is this whole thing misguided, to say the least.

You don't take cartoon characters and give them attributes they were never meant to have. You have real, human role models do that, not made up ones.

It is ridiculous, but this situation wasn't the first related to this issue.

For years, rumors have flown that Batman and Robin share more between themselves than just the Batmobile.

And there have been stinks with other made-up characters, including those on SpongeBob SquarePants.

It is incredible what people can see when they want to see something. They see things that simply aren't there.

And this is the problem with sexualizing cartoon characters.

Unless this attribute was put in by the creators of the character, then it isn't there.

From my comic collecting and reading days in my childhood, I seem to remember that the then-modern day Flash, whose alter-ego was Barry Allen, was one of the first superheroes to be married, and for a while at least, it was integral to the plot. Allen was constantly nagged by his wife when he had to go out and perform his duties. She wanted him to quit and return to being a normal husband.

Thus, the creators of the characters gave their creation some sexuality. We assume that he is heterosexual, although that is not really part of the plot, and he is married.

As a young reader, I don't think I really thought about this matter one way or another or at all. I just liked the Flash and his ability to outrun anything on earth.

Sure, I am starting to get clinical here, but that is exactly what those dummies behind the Bert and Ernie thing are doing too. They are giving puppets human characteristics.

But again, they are puppets.

They are not heterosexual, they are not homosexual, they are not sexual at all.

And let's leave it at that. Please.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rant #557: Leave Bert and Ernie Alone

In this politically correct world we live in, nothing is sacred. People can't live well enough alone because it isn't the "right" thing to do in their minds.

Such is the latest case where people have completely lost their vision, striving to use children's characters to further their own political gain.

Hence, the recent movement to have the characters Bert and Ernie get married on "Sesame Street."

Yes, due to the recent nod to the acceptance of gay marriage--and in particular, the legality of gay marriage in New York State--there are some people who believe that no icon should be left unturned by this acceptance, no matter what medium one is talking about.

And that includes those on the ground-breaking children's TV show which has delighted--and educated--generations of viewers since 1969.

Bert and Ernie are among the central characters of the show. Sure, they have lived together for 42 years, but their relationship seems to be more like "The Odd Couple" than anything else. Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, not anything else.

And their very characters are based on Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to begin with.

But some people believe that to push forward gay marriage, such characters must show their "true" side and get with the times.

And they have set up a Facebook page for that very purpose, trying to start a petition to present to producers to get this thing onto the air.

What a load of hogwash!

I have stated my stand on gay marriage in the past, and I won't do so again here, because it serves no purpose.

But to have children's characters support an adult agenda is ridiculous.

These are puppets. They aren't real, but in kids' eyes, they are icons.

But does a six year old think about his or her sexuality? Does a six year old think about such characters' sexuality?

Do they even know what that means?

The move to get Bert and Ernie married simply sexualizes characters who really don't have such thoughts.

They are puppets. They don't really exist.

The tandem of Bert and Ernie is not Ellen Degeneres, who came out on her TV series, nor are they all of the celebrities who have come out of the closet in recent years.

They are kids' characters, not people, nothing more.

It is this type of thinking about Bert and Ernie that turns so many people off of gay rights.

It's beating people over the head with your beliefs, and it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Leave kids' stuff alone. If you want to further gay rights, make stronger anti-discrimination laws, laws that will fully integrate gays into our society.

Don't legislate Bert and Ernie. And don't sexualize them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rant #556: They're Not Coming To Your Town

The Monkees have called it quits.

Although their current 45th Anniversary Tour was quite successful both here and in Europe, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz (less forever holdout Michael Nesmith) abruptly cancelled the remaining dates of the tour.

No reason was given, although speculation abounds about just why they shut everything down.

There were rumors early on in the tour that the threesome were not getting along. That being put aside, the tour went through Europe and the U.S. without any reported incidents.

But yesterday, the whole thing fell through, amid press reports of continued strife, the scheduling of concert dates without the group's approval, and even possible substance abuse problems for Dolenz that needed to be addressed.

"I am writing to confirm that the Monkees tour has been cancelled for reasons that I cannot discuss at this time," Tork said on his Facebook page. "I can only say that it has to do with business matters. I sincerely regret that it is not possible to continue this wonderful tour. I especially regret the inconvenience to those of you whose plans have been disrupted."

Facebook also dropped the Monkees' tour page yesterday.

That still leaves fans in the abyss. What really happened?

The tour appeared to be a success by any stretch of the imagination. I read reports that the recent Hollywood Bowl show drew 80 percent of capacity, an extremely good showing for an act well past its prime.

And except for a couple of blips here and there, the Monkees were selling to high ticket capacities at most of the venues that they played.

Reviews of the tour were generally good, and in Europe, the tour was actually a very big deal.

There was talk of the possibility of new recordings, and during a summer where high-profile concerts were few and far between, the Monkees tour was a standout.

It always comes down to dollars, and I have a feeling that they may have decided that the dates after the initial dates weren't paying them enough. These later dates were not planned for initially, and were added on when the tour picked up steam. In fact, they were going to visit the NYCB Theater at Westbury for a second time on Aug. 26 after having been there in June.

I saw the June show, and they appeared to be in top-notch form.

About the substance abuse reports, it is highly possible. The threesome have had their past personal battles with drugs and alcohol, so you really can't discount the possibility that this might be true.

However, Dolenz's representatives have completely denied that the health of the singer scuttled the tour. They blame the scheduling of dates without the group's approval as the culprit.

Odd, very odd indeed.

If that was the case, why all the secrecy yesterday? And why did they allow this to happen under their noses? It isn't like these extra dates were just scheduled. They've been out there for months.

There is something fishy here, don't you agree?

I believe that this tour date snafu gave them an "out" to a situation that they felt they couldn't get out of without a valid reason. There were probably lots of other things going on, but the one thing that they could agree upon was this scheduling problem, so they bowed out.

Whatever the reason, right now, the Monkees' tour is dead, as are the Monkees.

And it's too bad. But I feel the worst for those who held tickets to the remaining shows.

Sure, they get their money back, but they leave the box office with a bad taste in their mouths.

And this may be it. The Monkees aren't getting any younger, and if they can't put whatever it is that derailed this tour behind them, then that is all there is, folks.

Sure, they will continue to have their solo careers, but you know how it is. They are worth much more together than they are as solo artists.

New Monkees reunion, anyone?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rant #555: "Malph" Birthday

We celebrated icon Lucille Ball's birthday this weekend and in yesterday's entry, but today's birthday celebration is for someone who briefly was a TV icon, who had his 15 minutes of fame and then pretty much faded off the face of the earth.

Anyone growing up in the 1970s probably watched "Happy Days" at one time or another during the decade and into the early 1980s. The show, which began as a brief entry on "Love, American Style" and then graduated to full 30-minute sitcom status, was a 1970s view of what the 1950s were supposedly like.

It was the most popular sitcom of its time, and made major stars out of the actors who were on the show.

Although the show eventually got lost in its own time and place, it was supposed to be about the decade of Ike and Elvis ... and Richie, Potsie, the Fonz and Ralph Malph.

Ralph Malph was the character played by actor Donny Most on the show. Malph was probably the most believable of the main characters. He was the boy next door, with no great physical, mental or athletic attributes. He was never too sure of himself, and pretty much was the fourth wheel to the characters portrayed by Ron Howard, Anson Williams and Henry Winkler.

He told jokes, and told himself that he was a lady's man. But he was the least assured of the characters on the show, the way most of us are when we are teens.

His character didn't last the run of the show, as he was written out when Most wanted to pursue other ventures, although he did come back during the show's final season as a guest star.

Since his height of fame on "Happy Days," Most--most recently known as Don--has been in numerous lesser productions, has done some cartoon voices, and has been talking about doing a film based on the life of LSD guru Timothy Leary for years.

But Most, and his character, seem firmly rooted in the 1970s (or is it the 1950s?), and like several other former TV stars, to the public, he will always be his character. Most is Ralph Malph and there is pretty much nothing he can do about it.

But for the years of the show, he was one of TV's biggest stars, and his legacy can be seen in the "Happy Days" DVDs that are on the market now.

Better to have such a legacy than have none at all, I guess.

Happy birthday, Ralph ... err ... Donny ... Don.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rant #554: We Still Love Lucy

I am feeling much better as we enter the work week. I don't know if I passed the kidney stone or not yet, but one thing that I know passed this weekend was the 100th birthday of America's favorite comedienne.

Lucille Ball would have turned 100 on Saturday, and a few of the cable networks, including Hallmark and Turner Classic Movies, honored her by showing "I Love Lucy" and her early films.

But honestly, that isn't enough.

This redhead--who, as you know, really wasn't, but kept that carrot top going for decades--revolutionized television situation comedies as the star of "I Love Lucy."

With her then-husband, Desi Arnaz as the guiding technical force of the show, the program broke ground in so many areas that it's hard to name them all. From how it was shot to the pregnancy episodes, this show broke ground as much as a ditch digger does.

And the focus was on Lucy, the henna-rinsed actress in a black and white sitcom.

Sitcoms were relatively new in the early 1950s, as was the entire television medium. Although Ball is given credit as the first real pratfalling female star, she really wasn't. Certainly, Ball took a page out of the manic, and completely forgotten career of comedienne Joan Davis.

Davis was tall and lanky like Lucy was, and she used this to the best of her ability in a number of 1940s comedies, including "Hold That Ghost" with Abbott and Costello.

The further link between Davis and Ball is that Davis' TV series, "I Married Joan," where she co-starred with the future Thurston Howell III, Jim Backus, went after the same type of audience as Ball's show did, and Davis was the comic centerpiece of the show, like Ball was.

The difference between "I Married Joan" and "I Love Lucy" is that the Lucy show had the best writers, the best technicians, and Arnaz, who knew what he wanted and got what he wanted.

But Davis--one of the more popular movie comediennes in the 1940s--deserves to be remembered as the movie comedienne who passed the mantle over to Ball, who generally was featured in light, more sophisticated comedies in her earlier Hollywood days, such as "Stage Door."

That being said, Ball took it and ran with it for the next few decades.

The key to "I Love Lucy" is that Ball--not really a comic before this show although she did appear in numerous comedies in her early career--learned to be a comic on the show, and she did pretty much whatever gag the writers wanted her to do, no matter how outlandish.

We know that she barked orders as much as she took them, but Ball completely put herself in the hands of her writers, and of course, in the hands of Arnaz, who probably knew what she needed to do as a comic more than he knew what she needed as his wife.

Television owes a major debt of gratitude to Ball, who set the pace for everyone from Carol Burnett to such later female TV stars as Roseanne Barr.

And just about every sitcom created since the early 1950s owes its existence to "I Love Lucy."

Ball appeared in three other sitcoms: "The Lucy Show," "Here's Lucy," and the lamented "Life With Lucy."

I watched all of them when they were originally on the air, and now they are all on DVD, except "Life With Lucy," which wasn't as bad as some people claimed that it was.

By that time, Ball was an elderly woman, and a woman of such an age doing pratfalls wasn't looked at too kindly by most people. Slapstick comedy wasn't in, sexual patter was starting to creep into what we watched and laughed at, and the show was looked at by many as old fashioned and out of date.

But she did what she did because she knew how to get a laugh, not like today's actors and actresses and writers, who don't know how to build to a laugh like she did.

Even though she died years ago, I would say she is still missed, as is Arnaz. They knew what they wanted on "I Love Lucy," got what they wanted, and the rest is history.

They were two of a kind, and there will never, ever be anyone else like them on network TV.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rant #553: Pain, Then Questions

The continuing saga of my health, er, continues.

Now, after more than a week on vacation, and then a morning of horror on Tuesday, I went to the urologist yesterday afternoon to find out more about what probably happened to me that fateful morning.

To sum it all up, the results, thus far, are somewhat inconclusive.

It does appear that I had a kidney stone, or might still have a kidney stone, or might have passed part of the kidney stone. The doctor doesn't know just yet.

I was in some discomfort yesterday morning at work in the area where I would be having discomfort, without getting too graphic. I went to the bathroom a number of times, and according to the doctor, I could have passed the stone during that time, leading to the slight discomfort--it was never pain--that I had.

The stone was so small that it could have come out without me realizing it. Or it might have partially come out.

I was checked for that, and also had some other areas checked, and was given the OK to resume normal activities, which I had pretty much done already anyway.

The urologist scheduled an appointment for me for next Friday, and then he will run a series of tests to see if I am done with this thing.

I don't feel bad, but I am still not myself. My appetite is not there, and I feel bloated from all the medication I have been taking.

But I certainly don't feel as bad as I did on Tuesday morning.

I had a decent sleep last night, so I guess what I don't yet know won't hurt me, or at least won't hurt me as much as this little pebble I had inside of me--and still might have inside of me--did the other day.

The one thing it has done is forced me to look at myself, and although this might be famous last words, I have sworn off the snacking and the extended drinking of juice that I used to rely on during the day.

I am drinking lots of water. I probably will go back to my old habits eventually, but right now, I am trying to watch what I eat--and when I eat--a little more vigorously.

Let's see what happens.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rant #552: Relaxation, Then Pain

Yes, I am back.

We had a great vacation. We went to Orlando and Daytona Beach, and did everything good tourists do.

We swam, went to the touristy attractions and restaurants, and had a fine old time doing it.

The drive wasn't bad--1,200 miles one way and I could have gone more--and I was full of vim and vigor the entire trip.

Then we got home.

On Monday night, I had terrible pains in my right side, and I was throwing up to beat the band. I was really sick to my stomach, and I was rushed to the emergency room of a local hospital ...

Where I was found to have kidney stones, or more precisely, a stone that is so small that it barely turned up on the MRI I had while there.

The doctor prescribed various medicines to me, and sent me home, saying that I would be able to pass the stone because it is so small.

Well, I am still waiting for that stone to pass ...

And I am in a bit of discomfort. Not pain, but discomfort.

Yeah, I am sure I don't have to describe where it will eventually make its exit.

I have to go to the urologist today, and hopefully, this thing will be over with soon.

What a way to end a vacation! I really know how to do it, don't I?

Now, I have to keep on telling myself the following, which should look pretty familiar to you:

"We had a great vacation. We went to Orlando and Daytona Beach, and did everything good tourists do.

We swam, went to the touristy attractions and restaurants, and had a fine old time doing it.

The drive wasn't bad--1,200 miles one way and I could have gone more--and I was full of vim and vigor the entire trip."

That trip seems so long ago now ...

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