Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rant #665: P.K. Limited Music

Today is a crossover day, as I am linking this blog up with my Colgems Records Blog at http://colgems.blogspot.com/.

I want to highlight a pop group from the late 1960s and early 1970s to which I hope you would give a listen to.

P.K. Limited held down the fort as the Colgems label was on its last legs.

Colgems had one main artist--The Monkees--and a slew of one shots, wannabes and acts that simply fell through the cracks.

P.K. Limited was one of these under-appreciated acts.

The group--originally known as The Loved Ones but actually Dan Peyton and Marty Kaniger, two songwriters for Screen Gems/Columbia Music--recorded numerous tracks for the label, with some being used as singles, others as soundtrack music, primarily for the film "Getting Straight."

They kept the label going right before it was absorbed by Bell Records.

I really don't have that much other information on them, other than to say that they churned out a couple of pretty nice songs at the end of the 1960s and into the very early 1970s.

Peyton vanished off the face of the earth, but Kaniger re-emerged in the 1970s as a member of the band Big Daddy. This group took current tunes and recorded them 1950s doo-wop style. They put out a few albums in the 1970s and 1980s, and are still around, I believe.

Again, P.K. Limited never had a hit record, and I doubt too many people have heard of them, but they put out some fine records in the late 1960s, and they are worth a listen.

Go to the Colgems blog site for some MP3s of their work.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rant #664: Eating Underground

This was an extremely slow news weekend.

Nothing much happened to report on, at least where I live.

But one story did make some news.

A legislator in Manhattan is proposing that eating be banned on the New York City subway system.

That's right, banned.

The bill, proposed by state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan), stipulates that anyone caught eating in the subway gets a $250 fine.

Evidently, the proposal came up as criticism of people's cleanliness habits on the subway mounted.

Another bill proposes to ban garbage pails on the subway.

Thousands of people use the New York City subway system to get to work throughout the five boroughs. When I worked in Manhattan, I certainly used it, and yes, you do see all kinds on the subway.

As far as eating, you see people eating candy bars, drinking a can of soda, munching on chips.

And you also see people eating full meals, like spaghetti, tacos, pizza, you name it.

And they often don't clean up after themselves.

So the thousands of pounds of leftover food that has to be cleaned up from the subway cars each and every day is often the dinner for the millions of vermin that live and breed in the subway.

The legislator said that with this ban, the vermin population will go down, because these pests literally live off the discarded food that subway riders leave on the subway and don't eat.

It's a fine idea, but it will be completely impossible to enforce.

The New York City subway has taken generations to and from wherever they had to go. It is as much part of the city framework as, let's say, the Empire State Building is.

It is often the only free time straphangers have before they get to their work or other destinations.

Eating on the subway is part of its ambience. Vendors hawk every type of food right at platforms on even on platforms.

How is the city going to ban eating on the subway with it so part of the New York City culture?

They can't. It would be an impossible task.

Sure, they banned smoking on the subway, but honestly, that was more a health issue.

When you eat a slice of pizza on the subway, you are really only hurting yourself, with the extra calories you are piling on.

I would instead run an informational campaign, alerting straphangers that it is polite to clean up after yourselves, not leave food on the train when you exit.

I think that that, ultimately, would be the best way to lessen the mess that the subways have to put up with.

And remember, the fast food is named "Subway" for a reason.

Not that that really matters at all, but the subway is what it is, and no legislation banning food on the subway will ever work.

It is a waste of time and a waste of taxpayer money.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rant #663: Sweathog Memorial

As a teenager, I really enjoyed ABC's "Welcome Back Kotter."

The show was about a class of remedial students known as "The Sweathogs," who were perpetual students in their high school.

Then one day they get a new teacher, Mr. Kotter, and all of a sudden, while they didn't become good students, they become at least students who cared--about their teacher, if nothing else.

The show was about as old fashioned as could be--one wonders what today's TV would do with such a show--but it was a hit.

John Travolta came out of that show, as did Gabriel Kaplan, as did Robert Hegyes.

Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on the hit show, died yesterday. He was just 60 years old.

The actor, born in New Jersey, did many other things in show business. Right after "Kotter," people kind of forget that he was a regular on "Cagney and Lacey."

But in my mind, he will always be Juan Epstein, the Jewish/Puerto Rican member of those Sweathogs.

The show was probably the first to openly show kids who weren't brains or even average students. In today's world, they would probably be labeled as Special Ed kids, but back then, that monicker meant something much different than it means today.

Juan Epstein was the real comedian of the bunch, and he even looked a bit like Harpo Marx, but with a Latin accent.

Hegyes played the role to perfection. In real life, he was a mix of Hungarian and Italian, but his looks lent him to a role like this.

The Sweathogs' comic hijinks made Travolta a star, and the others became kind of his, and Kaplan's, support act.

But Hegyes' character never wavered. To me, he was the true star of the show. Maybe I gravitated to him because his character was openly Jewish--unlike Kotter, who was Jewish but wasn't very open about it--and that endeared the Epstein character to me, since so few openly Jewish characters were on TV then, and for that matter, now.

He had been in ill health for a long time, but when he appeared on the TVLand awards a year ago, there was talk of a "Kotter" reunion show, and Travolta was probably going to participate.

You just know Hegyes would have been there with bells on.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rant #662: Hole-ier Than Thou

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are possibly the most annoying of all Hollywood couples.

They prefer to remain partners, not married, which is fine if that is what they want.

They adopt kids from other countries, as if they are the white martyrs looking to convert the black heathens. There are plenty of kids to adopt here, and if they wanted one of color, there are plenty of kids who would love to call Angelina and Brad parents.

The two are ubiquitous, carting their family off all over the place when they make a movie.

Of course, unlike just about all of us, they can afford, financially, to make their own rules.

The latest news about them is that based on news reports, they are softening their stance on their own possibilities of marriage.

"We'd actually like to, and it means more and more to our kids," Pitt told the Hollywood Reporter.

Obviously, their children are smarter than their parents.

But what riled me is their reason for not getting married.

Evidently, Jolie and Pitt vowed not to get married until all people in our country can get married, i.e., same-sex unions.

First of all, isn't that a holier than thou attitude?

You are basing your own commitment on the rules and regulations of a country that you don't even live in full time? What is that all about?

And who are you to talk about rules and the rights of others?

You are entertainers, not politicians.

More importantly, anybody who believes this nonsense is as full of hogwash as they are.

They aren't getting married because they are simply afraid of the commitment.

They enjoy all the perks and privileges of being married without having that piece of paper.

And with their wealth, what would happen if they split? Who gets what or whom?

Please, don't insult our intelligence by saying that you aren't getting married because not everyone can.

That's like saying that you can't quit smoking until everyone quits smoking.

It is ridiculous, no matter where you stand on the same sex marriage matter.

Even Pitt said it.

"But to be in love with someone and be raising a family with someone and want to make that commitment and not be able to is ludicrous, just ludicrous."

So do it already, and don't bore us with your histrionics about why you aren't doing it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rant #661: Jackie the Hall of Famer

Here's a 50-year anniversary that will likely go pretty much un-noticed.

Fifty years ago today, Jackie Robinson became the first black member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

And he was voted into the shrine during his first year of eligibility.

That doesn't eclipse the day he put on the uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black player in the major leagues. But it is still an incredible accomplishment.

He not only broke the color barrier in the major leagues, he also broke it in the most revered sports hall of fame of them all.

Robinson was the fireplug of the Dodgers during their glory years in Brooklyn, mainly in the 1950s before they left for greener pastures in Los Angeles. He was their "secret" weapon, bringing a whole new dimension of speed and wreckless abandon to the game that was almost more important than the fact that he was the major league's first black ballplayer, setting the tone for all who followed him to this day.

I guess you can say that General Manager Branch Rickey got lucky; not only did he choose the right person to break the color barrier, but he also got someone who could actually play the game to a higher level.

Other sports' color barrier breakers weren't as lucky. For instance, in the NBA, not only was the guy who did it something of a stiff-Chuck Cooper--but it is disputed as to whether he was actually the one who did it. There are others in the mix, and many say it was Sweetwater Clifton or even others.

I don't know what they based "the first" on in the NBA, but whoever it was, he didn't have the grandeur of Jackie Robinson.

And who did it in the NFL and NHL? Who knows?

Robinson could do it all, and do it in spite of barbs from other teams and fans.

And Rickey knew he had something of a thick skin, and he could take it.

Even some on his team hated him.

But Southerner Pee Wee Reese, another Hall of Famer, set the tone.

If a Southerner could accept this man, than anyone could.

And they did, eventually.

Robinson was as important to the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King was, in his own way.

King did it from the pulpit, Robinson from the diamond.

But their efforts led to more acceptance, more understanding, and more opportunity.

Robinson had something of a tough life after baseball, because there were, at the time, no opportunities for old black ballplayers as managers, general managers or executives.

It took another former ballplayer--Tommie Aaron, Hank's brother--to become the first black manager in professional baseball (at the minor league level), but that was yet to come.

Robinson died young, but his legacy lives on.

I will be taking two days off from this blog for some medical testing--nothing crucial--and for some other things, but I will be back on Thursday. Speak to you then.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rant #660: Divorce Split

I am a divorced man.

No, don't get the wrong idea, I am a very happily married man now. I am married to the greatest woman in the world, who I love to pieces.

My first marriage, which didn't last too long, wasn't a good one. The person I thought that I would live with for the rest of my life turned out not to be that person.

The only thing I have to show for it are a few battle scars, finances that are still creaky, and a beautiful daughter.

Nothing else.

But I kind of know what Newt Gingrich is going through as he tries to march toward the Presidency.

No, there were no infidelities involved in my first marriage, and my then wife and I weren't into having an open marriage like Gingrich is purported to have suggested to his then wife.

But I kind of knows how he feels anyway.

He has been married a few times, appears to have a good, solid marriage with his current spouse, yet all this nonsense continues to creep up about how his other marriages failed.

In 2012, we are still chastising people because they were part of a failed marriage.

On my end, my divorce impacted everything from my credit rating to my social relationships with others.

Thank God I met my current and future wife. She set me on the right course in so many ways. We'll be married 19 years this June and have a great son too. I love her dearly. She is the greatest thing to happen to me ever.

Anyway, when my first wife left me, I immediately contacted all my credit cards companies. Many of the cards we had were jointly held, so I wanted to protect myself from my soon to be ex-wife maxing them out.

Everything went pretty well. I managed to remove her name from just about every card, but the Discover card gave me a major headache.

Not only did they cancel my card immediately, they asked for immediate payment of my balance.

They were the only card to do so. I guess that was their policy back then, when they were run by Sears.

And I noticed that the "divorced man" label stuck to me like glue.

Every time I had to fill out an application for something, my marital status was questioned.

Is it anyone's business that I was divorced?

I guess certain entities thought it was, because of the money thing.

I paid child support, not anything directly for my ex-wife's upkeep (no alimony, using an antique term), so why should it have mattered to anyone?

But it did.

So, whatever I feel about Newt Gingrich, I get where he is coming from.

His past marriages really shouldn't have a bearing on whether he would be a good President.

Yes, I know that infidelity is not an attribute we want our Presidents to have, but heck, even JFK--whose inauguration anniversary is today, back in 1961--had his flings, as did Bill Clinton.

But they didn't get divorced.

Ronald Reagan was divorced, but somehow, it rarely came up when he was President.

And that was good, very good.

Sometimes, people just fade away from each other. There's no fooling around, just flailing around.

So why hold it against someone that they are divorced?

In 2012, where we look the other way for so many other "indiscretions," why is this even an issue?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rant #659: Marky Mark and the Funky Hunch

Again, we have an entertainer shooting off his mouth on something he knows absolutely nothing about.

In a recent interview with Men's Journal, actor and former rapper Mark Wahlberg made a remark about the 9/11 attacks that is making a lot of people think that he must be an idiot.

Wahlberg was originally scheduled to fly on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center, but he ended up taking a different flight a week earlier. When he spoke to the magazine about what could have happened if he didn't change his plans, the former Marky Mark said, "If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn't have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, 'OK, we're going to land somewhere safely, don't worry.'"

Yes, it appears that Wahlberg truly believes that he is like many of the characters he plays on screen, characters who routinely save the world without batting an eyelash.

But to give him some credit, Wahlberg quickly apologized for the remark. He was reported to have said by several outlets that his comments were "irresponsible and that "to speculate about such a situation is ridiculous to begin with. I deeply apologize to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention."

When are celebrities going to learn to shut up and do what they are being paid huge bucks to do? Although he did apologize, Wahlberg's remarks are completely insensitive to the plight of all of the passengers--all of them true heroes--who perished as a result of the terrorist incidents in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., including those on Flight 93.

And to all of those on the ground who lost their lives as a result of these cowardly attacks.

I don't know what gets into these people when a reporter sticks a microphone in their faces. They get this "high and mighty" ego stance, and shoot off their mouths with nothing but blanks.

The world is their pulpit, and I guess they feel the need to share their thoughts, however insipid, with everyone on the planet.

My goodness, these people are nothing more than entertainers, they are not heads of state or policy makers.

Talk about your craft, your new movie, your new recording, but please, don't talk about things that are way beyond your possibility of understanding.

Shut up already!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rant #658: Catch Us If You Can

Today, director John Boorman is 79 years old.

This certainly isn't as momentous an occasion as was yesterday's birthdays of Betty White and Popeye, but it will do for today.

And rather than go over this guys celebrated history--including being the director of "Deliverance," one of the greatest films of the 1970s-- I want to focus on his very first directorial effort, 1965's "Catch Us If You Can," known in the U.S. as "Having a Wild Weekend."

The Beatles were red hot back then, and their "A Hard Day's Night" set the standard for teen films revolving around pop stars, and pretty much still does.

With the success of that movie, every British rock band with a hit on the charts seemed to be looking to make movies to expand their reach. Herman's Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, and Gerry and the Pacemakers all made films during this time period, with most of them being out and out flops, trying to copy the "A Hard Day's Night" style with dopy storylines and music that couldn't match the Fab Four's output.

Another British rock band that also starred in a movie during this period was the Dave Clark Five, then pretty much the Beatles' main competitor for record sales and heart-throb status.

Led by Drummer/Entrepreneur/Producer and general Jack of All Trades Dave Clark, the band had numerous hits by 1965, including "Glad All Over" and "Bits and Pieces." The time was ripe for a film, and Boorman helmed the movie.

Named after the newest of the DC5 hits, but changed in America for whatever reason, "Having a Wild Weekend" was sort of a downer, especially compared not only to the other British films featuring pop acts, but also based on the DC5's wildly interesting catalog of original tunes and covers.

The stomp wasn't there in the movie, and that hurt it tremendously.

Boorman helmed a film about a guy (Clark) who basically went on a series of adventures, with his bandmates clearly second fiddles to the action, or lack of it, in the movie.

What's worse, the band is never actually seen performing in the film--and what makes this even worse is that the soundtrack is an excellent one, featuring some of the best tunes in the entire DC5 catalog, in my opinion.

And if I remember correctly, this was the first film that I can ever remember where there the emerging drug scene was at the very least hinted at.

The film received mixed reviews and after checking, even some Boorman filmographies inexplicably leave the film out of his directorial canon.

The film has been out on VHS and DVD off an on since the 1990s, and was highly bootlegged before it came out legitimately. It has been shown on TCM numerous times, and the DC5 actually appeared in a couple of other films, but not as the stars as they were in this one.

So, happy birthday John Boorman. With all the major blockbusters he helmed, "Having a Wild Weekend" is a curiosity of its time period, and if you've never seen it, I would definitely give it a go.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rant #657: Sorry, Olive Oyl, It's Popeye and Betty Today

OK, so who is older, the character of Popeye or actress and show business icon Betty White?

Both celebrate birthdays today, but who is older than who?

The records say that the character of Popeye debuted in a cartoon strip called Thimble Theater on this date in 1929.

Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto (or Brutus) and the rest of the gang were so popular, they were pulled out of that strip and they took on a life of their own.

Popeye the Sailor has been around in various incarnations since the Depression. He has continued in comic strips, comic books, cartoons, and even the movies--the ill-fated live action film starring Robin Williams. He even hawks a Spinach brand and even though he isn't directly credited, you know where the Popeyes chicken chain got its name from.

Even though he smokes that pipe, he has become an icon, and has enabled mothers to point to him when their kids don't want to eat their spinach. "Don't you want to be like Popeye?" they have said to their kids for generations.

While the response from the kids probably wasn't, "Well blow me down," Popeye has had an impact on culture.

Betty White was born on this date in 1922, and has seemingly been on our entertainment radar for generations, too.

Starting out as a model--her image was reportedly used on topless strip cards in the 1940s--she has reinvented herself time and time again.

She was one of TV's earliest stars, working in sitcoms before they were even known by that term.

She continued to ply her trade in this genre and married game show host Allen Ludden of "Password" fame.

For years, she was in her husband's shadow, as his game show became a national obsession. She, herself, appeared on the show numerous times, setting the tone for much of her career in the 1960s and 1970s as the perennial game show celebrity contestant.

But as she was appearing on game shows like "The Match Game" and "Password," she as also carving out her niche in several other areas.

She was the first celebrity that I can ever remember that came out for animal rights, and she has always been a major supporter of such organizations.

And she also played the recurring role of Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which cemented her in the minds of sitcom fans forever.

Her husband died, and she never remarried, but White continued to work, appearing on numerous sitcoms and movies.

But a few years ago, due to her appearance in a memorable Super Bowl ad, her name started to shine again. She became the most sought after octogenarian in show business history.

Today, at 90, she leads the ensemble cast of the incredibly successful "Hot in Cleveland" show, and doesn't show her age at all.

So we now know who is older--Betty White is!

But long live both her and Popeye.

To steal a line from the Sailor man, "They're both strong to the finish ... ."

Toot toot!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rant #656: The Way It Used To Be

I have ranted against current TV offerings on many, many occasions on this blog, and I am going to do it again today.

This time, I am going to describe how it used to be on television, versus how it is today.

Today, you have everything basically out in the open on network TV, less nudity, of course.

Any topic is open for discussion, and, of course, that means that sexual talk is right out in the open, even during supposedly family time, at 8 p.m.

Everything can be spoken about related to sex, and I mean everything.

No, you still can't say the F-bomb, but I think we are coming closer to the day when you will be able to say that too.

Now that I have set the table, let's look back 40 years ago and how the situation of "sex" was handled.

I am going to base my observation on a popular, ground-breaking network television sitcom of that day, and one episode where, if the same story was developed today on a current show, you can only imagine what would have went on.

I saw an episode (actually a two-parter) of "That Girl" yesterday. One of the most popular shows of its day, the ABC sitcom starred Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell, and even though it isn't given credit for it, it was the first network sitcom to show a woman pursuing the "American Dream" on her own.

Sure, she had a boyfriend pushing her to excel, but the character of Ann Marie was very driven to become the best actress she could be.

Anyway, on this episode, boyfriend Donald, a journalist, has been sent to Hollywood on an extended stay to cover Hollywood's current take on morals. He is going to be away from Ann for a month, and Ann doesn't like it.

Donald suggests that Ann go with him, work for him, and look for acting jobs in Tinseltown.

Today, Ann would jump at the chance, and there wouldn't be any discussion of her not going.

But back on TV in 1970, there was plenty of discussion.

Ann dad's objected, not only to her going but to her boyfriend paying her to go with him, giving her a salary where she might be losing a month's salary if she just went with him as his "guest."

Dad figured that the two would shack up in a single room, and Donald paying her almost made his daughter into ... well, you fill in the blank.

The two were determined to go together, and they did.

But dad kept tabs on them, and their hotel living arrangement, even from afar.

There was a mixup in rooms, and dad originally thinking he called his daughter's room, got Donald on the phone. Of course, he was wondering why Donald was in his daughter's room, even when Donald explained that there was a mixup and it was actually his room.

And by the way, the rooms were adjoining, separated only by a door--which Ann assured her father was locked, of course.

There were other mixups during their stay, all of which were cunningly handled by the writers and the actors to play up the comedy of the show.

There was one point in one of the shows where the cleaning lady comes in, and Ann had just finished getting dressed for bed. She was in her night gown, and the cleaning lady--why she was up there at night was probably a plot device--inexplicably opens the door between the two rooms, and Donald gets a glimpse of his girlfriend in her not-revealing-at-all nightgown.

Big mistake. Ann would have none of it, and the door was closed as quickly as it opened.

Here is another one: Donald ordered dinner for him and Ann which was to be brought up to her room, because her room was larger.

Well, Dad caught wind of this too, and Ann, trying to stave off this anger, came up with a plan: they could eat in her room--and eat in his room, too--by putting the table with the food through the connecting door, with Donald sitting on his side, in his room, and Ann sitting on hers, in her room.

That way, she wouldn't offend her father.

As almost a side story to the main story, Ann did get an acting job in a commercial, but her acting job forced her to into dangerous situations that made her uncomfortable, and while she was happy to get the acting job, she was unhappy at having to face danger at every turn.

These two episodes depicted the morals that were allowed on network TV back then.

Both Ann and Donald were in a committed relationship, but Ann had to be chaste at any cost, because these two episodes demonstrated the maximum point that shows could go to during that time in talking about adult male/female relationships.

You can only imagine how this would be handled in today's world of network TV, but looking at this 1970 episode from a 2012 perspective, it was quite refreshing.

Sure, you can say that they were able to do more with this subject that they could have done 20 years earlier in the 1950s, and you would be right.

But there is more to it than that.

Creativity was in place here. When you can't write directly about a subject, and you have to write around it, it certainly makes it more creative, more clever, and creates, like in this sitcom, funny situations.

One of the reasons "That Girl" was a hit when it was was that the writing on the show was superb, and this show truly developed that element of the show. Writers were forced to write around a sticky subject, as the nation's mores were changing.

But they did, and bravo to them. The episodes hold up, in their own way, 40 years after they were originally shown.

Heck, the writers of "Mike and Molly," "The Big Bang Theory," and countless others should really be forced to watch shows from 40 and more years ago to see how such situations were handled.

I am sure that they could learn quite a bit from those old shows, and make their current shows better.

But it won't happen, I know that.

I just wish it would.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rant #655: Nothing Much Today

I have to admit, I am usually not at a loss for words, but today I am.

There really isn't too much to report on today.

My life did not change when Kristy McNichol announced that she is a lesbian.

Didn't people kinda know about this already, or at least surmised that she was gay?

And she has been a non-entity for such a long time that I don't really think people care at this point.

Heather Locklear's story is a bit worse.

I heard this morning that she was in the hospital for an undisclosed ailment, and then later, I heard that it may have to do with mixing pills and booze.

What an idiot.

The Knicks have been playing well, but they lost last night, and much worse, let's hope that don't lose Carmelo Anthony for any extended period.

He was taken out of last night's game with a sprained ankle, but that appears to be it.

I have completely lost interest in the Republicans who have the eye on the big prize.

I have come to the conclusion that if any one of these guys runs, they are going to get stomped by President Obama.

Is this the best the Republicans have to offer?

And as for that quote from Mrs. Obama about being "an angry black woman," stop with the racial stuff, please.

Americans look at her husband as our President, not our "black" President, and we don't look at her as anything but our First Lady.

Enough with the racial stuff ... we should have passed that by when we elected her husband to the Presidency.

I don't know what else to say today. As I said, there isn't much happening that I care to report on.

But I am sure that next week, there will be much, much more to speak about.

I am not off on Martin Luther King Day, although I kind of wish I was.

I don't want to miss all the sales that will be offered by stores on that day.

I guess that day is no different from President's Day, as it's nothing but a sales day now.

Or for me, a work day.

See you next week.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rant #654: Wrestling With My Problems

Just a week ago, I was in a pretty big pickle with jury duty. I didn't know where I was going to be for the next month, and I didn't know what was going on with my place of work related to the time I was going to have to take off to serve on a jury.

Everything was a mess.

But a few months back, I bought Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) tickets for myself and my son to see professional wrestling at the NYCB Theater in Westbury (formerly the Westbury Music Fair), and looking back, it served as the perfect antidote to what was ailing me.

It was fun. Period.

The newly renamed Impact Wrestling, doesn't, well, have the same impact on professional wrestling as WWE does, and they know it. The WWE controls probably 95 percent of the wrestling here, and the other 5 percent is divided up between other pro organizations, including Impact.

But since Impact only probably has about 2 percent of the pie, what impact does it have?

The organization has been around for about 10 years or so, started as an alternative to the 365 days/24 hours a day rigors of the WWE.

Impact is a bit different. It has a home base at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., and although there is some traveling involved--they often do house shows and pay per views away from their home base--about 75 percent of the action takes place in Orlando. Thus, the participants aren't always on as they are with the WWE. There is at least a little wiggle room.

On this occasion, they traveled to Long Island for a house show, and the two-hour event featured the usual professional wrestling stuff, like yelling and screaming, prancing, and egging on the crowd, and it also featured a lot of fine wrestling.

Sure, a lot of it is orchestrated, but these athletes do know what they are doing.

Impact Wrestling has inherited a lot of big names from the WWE, including Kurt Angle, Rick Flair and Gail Kim, but it has made its mark by creating its own stars, like Bobby Roode, Velvet Sky and A.J. Styles.

Most of the main roster was there, the bouts were generally of shorter duration, and the crowd--the place was about 75 percent full--seemed to enjoy the goings on.

I know my son and I did too.

And we saw history. Referee Earl Hebner refereed his 100,000th match in his career that night.

For me, for at least two hours, it took my mind entirely off of my jury duty troubles.

And more importantly, it was a bonding occasion between my son and I. He is now 16, and getting older by the day.

I cherish these moments when he and I can get out and witness a sporting event or a concert, and it serves to make us a bit closer.

So thanks, Impact Wrestling. You did your job that night.

Come again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rant #653: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Today is a momentous anniversary for those who can't stand cigarette smoke, or any smoking whatsoever.

On this date in 1964, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued the first government report stating that smoking may be hazardous to one's health.

This seems so trite today. After nearly 50 years of warnings, we know so much more about how the use of tobacco not only can kill the user, but also harm those in the puff's way through second-hand smoke.

But back then, this was a revelation.

You have to put yourself back in time 48 years ago to understand what an incredible development this was.

Tobacco use, and, in particular, cigarette use, was simply thought of as one of those things that you did when you got older.

Many people tried cigarettes, some stayed with it, others either stayed with cigarettes or moved onto cigars or pipes and that is how they got their tobacco fix.

Cigarette advertising was everywhere. Even doctors were used in ads proclaiming that certain cigarettes were better than others.

Stars of TV shows openly smoked on these shows, like Fred MacMurray on "My Three Sons," who was never without his pipe dangling out of his mouth. And in the movies, smoking was as commonplace as eating.

Then, slowly, we started to wake up to the fact that the use of tobacco could actually kill you.

So this proclamation was simply a "small step for man, a giant leap for mankind" way before Neil Armstrong stated those words as he jumped onto the surface of the moon.

Smoking was just so commonplace in 1964. You could smoke anywhere, and not be told not to.

My grandfather on my mom's side was an extremely heavy smoker. He smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes in one fell swoop.

I used to ask him why he couldn't stop, and he said that he just couldn't. I know that it helped relax him of all the stress he had, but I hated to see what he was doing to himself.

I swear, looking at him bathed in smoke probably told me that this wasn't for me, and I never smoked--anything.

He died at age 74. He probably shaved at least a good 10 years off his life by smoking.

But even in the 1970s, smoking was still so commonplace. But as the 1970s moved into the 1980s, smoking started to be banned in certain places, like movie theaters. Soon, smoking was banned in many other places, like sports arenas.

Warnings on cigarette packages became more graphic, and into the 1990s and to the current time, not only is smoking unhealthy, not only does it harm both the smoker and those near them when they are puffing away, but it is also not a cost-effective way to spend your money.

We know so much more about smoking today, but still, so many people smoke.

I guess it is an act of defiance, but these people are killing themselves while they are being defiant.

It is their right to smoke if they want to. It is a legal behavior.

But I wish that my grandfather would have stopped sooner, not at the end of his life.

He missed 10 years. How many more years will people waste puffing away?

I don't know, but I am so glad that I never got into this behavior.

I guess, in sort of a bizarre way, I have to thank my grandfather.

I just wish he had been around a bit longer so I could shake his hand.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rant #652: I'm Back

Yes, I was able to convince the court that I would be under a great financial hardship if I served on the jury for a month, so they let me go.

But really, that is only part of the story.

I vow that I am only going to bore you with this saga for one more Rant--this particular one--and then I will move on to something else.

But I have to say, the way I was treated at work during this episode was heinous at best, borderline illegal at its worst.

I asked for a meeting with the big boss to discuss this problem, and on Friday, I was granted my request.

The meeting ended up being attended by our two vice presidents too.

I outlined a plan where I could be paid while I was away. I offered to work on weekends and come in on days when we did not have a full day at the court. I also offered to do work at home.

Well, this got such a negative reaction and the following questions:

Why were you called to the Brooklyn court if you live on Long Island?

Why didn't you make up an excuse to get out of it?

Why don't you tell them you will be fired if you have to serve for a month?

The other questions were bad, but the final question, as I am sure you know, is not going to hold any water with any court in the land.

You can't fire someone for serving on jury duty. If you do, well, the company will be brought up on charges, and probably sued by the one who is being fired.

But more to the point, I have worked for this company for nearly 16 years, and I also worked for this company briefly on a loan-out basis a few years before being permanently hired.

For them to even bring up firing me ... well, if there was a hole to crawl into, I would have, head first.

I learned a lot about the company I work for.

True, they don't have to pay me for jury duty. They only pay for three days, and that's it.

But it would have been in their best interests if they would have talked this out with me like the caring executives that they think they are.

The ironic thing is that I work on a book that covers the military. We constantly write about service members' rights being abridged. We wear our patriotism on our sleeves here.

But when it comes to an employee who has been called to serve his country as a jury member, somehow, it is a different matter.

They wear phony patriotism on their sleeves. What they actually worship is the all mighty dollar. If it happens to tie into patriotism, that's fine with them.

And this hasn't been the only episode of abuse. We all get it here, and we all have to take it.

The unprofessionalism of the higher ups here is amazing. If they worked for a larger concern, they would have all been fired eons ago for their behavior toward fellow employees.

Well, this particular instance left a real bad taste in my mouth.

I will forever look upon the executives of this company as the phonies that they are. The trump up support for service members and their families, but when a long-time employee is faced with a problem like this, all of a sudden, it is not of their concern.

Believe me, if I could have stuck it out without my paycheck for a month, I would have done so, if for nothing more than to show them that I wouldn't be pushed around like yesterday's garbage.

I don't brown nose anyone, and certainly not in the work place.

But since I couldn't do that, at least I know the true stripes of this company. They are big fishes in a very small pond, they are unprofessional, and quite frankly, if I had another place to go, I would at this point in time.

But since I don't, I am stuck here, and stuck like glue.

I mean, who is going to hire a nearly 55 year old male with my background and experience?

So I just have to grin and bear it.

Again, no more about this. Let's move on.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rant #651: See You Later, I Guess

This may or may not be my last post on this blog for a while.

If you have been following my jury duty travails this week, you know that I was picked for a jury, but the trial I am on might last a full month.

My work refuses to pay for my time off, and I have asked the court to excuse me from the trial because of financial hardship.

My case is now in the hands of the judge. If the judge decides in my favor, that is fine. If not, I am sunk. I will have to do some things financially that I don't want to do in order to survive the month.

My work refuses to pay me past three days.

In their defense, I work for a small company, with about 30 employees. One person off for such a period of time puts a burden on everyone else.

I understand that, and let's face it, there is no law that says they have to pay past the three days.

But on the other hand, my company wears the American flag on their sleeves. We cover military matters, and quality of life of service members is one of the major things we look at here.

There is nothing more patriotic than serving your country, and while it certainly applies to service members, based on my company's stance, it doesn't apply to employees.

Yes, I am serving my country when I am a juror. I did not volunteer for this position, I was called upon to appear.

It is the patriotic thing to do.

So if you are going to wave the flag for service members, then it is wholly hypocritical that you won't wave the flag for me.

I have volunteered to do some work for the company on weekends via email. Since I am a writer, it would entail writing stories for the publication I work on.

Some of the days on the jury will be long days, but the court has said that some days might not be the regular 9 a.m.-5 a.m. timespan. If that happens, I could come into work after the court session for that particular day.

Of course, I am at the mercy of transportation, but I could get in some time at my place of business if that happens.

The bottom line is that I have alerted the court to my plight. I plan on speaking to some people at work today to plead my case.

There is nothing more I can do.

My question is this: If I were called to military duty, would my place be held until I got back?

Well, I have been called to duty, and my tour isn't for a year or two, just a month.

What's the difference?

I need my place of work to explain that to me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rant #650: Problems, Problems

This jury duty thing has created a major problem for me, a headache that must be taken care of or I am in for it big time.

I told my work about my upcoming month-long jury duty, and I knew they weren't happy, but what can you do? It's not like I volunteered for this.

Anyway, I later found out after coming in for five-plus hours yesterday that they will not pay me for my jury service.

No, they will only pay me for three days.

If I don't get paid, I will for being on jury duty, but just $40 per day.

I can't live on $200 per week for four weeks, and what's more, if I don't get paid from work, I won't be able to pay my bills--including my car bill and my daughter's car bill--and I will be in arrears for several other bills that I have.

And this doesn't even count grocery shopping.

Yes, my wife works, but believe me, her salary can't carry the load for a month.

What I am going to have to do is throw myself at the mercy of the court and ask for an exemption from the jury. I will plead financial hardship.

I don't know how to do it yet--I am going to be calling some numbers this morning to see what I can do.

I will probably have to appear on Monday morning, ready for the trial, and will have to plead my case then.

I hope that they listen to me.

What gets me is my place of work.

We cover things that I would call patriotic. We write about the military, and we are most concerned with their quality of life, and the standard of that quality of life for service members and their families.

These are all patriotic themes.

But when it comes to an employee--who is doing one of the most patriotic things he can do as a regular citizen--my company doesn't back me, they revile me for "not getting out" of my jury duty, as if I can just flip a switch and disentangle myself from this situation.

Believe me, it isn't like it used to be. I have gotten out of jury duty several times before, but this is 2012. The court doesn't want to hear any excuses.

I am doing the patriotic thing by serving, but my company doesn't go for that when it concerns an employee.

Yes, their feelings are based on the fact that we are a small company--about 30 employees--and that there is no law that says that an employee has to get paid by their employer when they are on jury duty.

But what they are doing is not only unpatriotic, it is anti-American.

Now the burden is on me to get out of this.

If I can, fine, but if I can't ... well, then where is my quality of life that my company so proudly upholds for others?

It leaves a real bad taste in my mouth, I can tell you that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rant #649: The Jury Is In

I spent a whole day at jury duty yesterday, and I do mean a whole day. I got there at about 7:30 a.m., and did not leave until 7 p.m.

And yes, I was chosen to be on a jury.

I cannot tell you anything about the case that I am on, but I kind of knew that I was going to be chosen.

Once I got interviewed, I figured that they wanted someone with an advanced education who was from basically a working class background, and I fit what they wanted to a T.

I have to go in today for some further instructions, and then the case starts on Monday. And it could last a month.

I know my employer isn't too happy about this whole thing, but I am doing what any citizen would--and should--do. It is my civic responsibility to serve, if chosen, on a jury.

So starting on Monday, my posts are going to be intermittent, at best.

And I can't talk about the trial at all. I don't want to cause a mistrial, so I can't say anything more than I have already said.

So the posts for about the next month will have nothing to do with the trial. Just the usual mix of opinion, sports, entertainment, and whatever else comes through my head.

So please bear with me. This is going to be very trying on myself and my family and my place of work.

I know Jews are known as "the chosen people," but to get chosen for a jury is another matter altogether.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rant #648: I, the Jury

Happy New Year.

In my last post, I said that I wouldn't be back until tomorrow, but the situation changed late in the day on Friday.

I had received a summons to appear as a phone juror for jury duty in one of the courts in my state. I cannot say which one.

Anyway, I called the court, as instructed, after 5 p.m. on Friday, and lo and behold, I have to appear for jury duty on Tuesday.

So my week is now a mess.

I am off from work today, which in New York State is a legal holiday, but I must start the new year tomorrow as a potential juror.

As you know, this can last a few hours, a day, a year, who knows.

In the past, I was able to get out of jury duty. Yes, I had to appear, but all I had to say was the phrase "child support," and they would excuse me quicker than you can say your name.

They never wanted to get involved in that mess, so they would let me off. It was the only time that I paid child support--nearly 20 years--that I actually benefited from having it.

Now, I don't have it anymore, and I have told my place of business that there is no way I can get out of jury duty this time around.

Hopefully, they won't put me on a jury, but if they do, I am pretty much stuck.

Look, I know it is my civic responsibility to appear as a potential juror and to serve on a jury if called. But it is a great sacrifice to those on the jury to serve.

There are work responsibilities, family responsibilities, and I will admit it, I am not looking forward to the transportation costs.

But serve I must.

So I don't know the extent of my jurorship at this time, which means I don't know if I am going to be posting much this week, if at all.

We will see, but for right now, Roger Wilco and out.

"I'm off to be a juror ... ."

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