Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rant #747: Jets Fly

I am not a football fan.

I could care less about the NFL, college football, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, or anything else having to do with football.

But when I was younger, I did enjoy football. I was a fan, certainly not as big a fan as I was for baseball and basketball, but I was a fan.

I watched football every Sunday by myself or with my friends, and my team was the New York Jets.

I lost my taste for football when the Jets and Giants left New York proper to play in New Jersey. They can call themselves "New York," but let's face it, they aren't.

Anyway, when I was a football fan, the 1969-1970 season was the time for me.

Just a few months before my bar mitzvah, the Jets won their first, and to date, only, Super Bowl.

Quarterback Joe Namath from the upstart Jets promised a Super Bowl win to everybody, even though the Baltimore Colts were heavily favored.

People snickered. There was no way this David was going to beat this Goliath.

And Namath came through with flying colors, further solidifying the then fledgling AFL as a legitimate league and rival to the long-established NFL, and certainly helping to push through the merger a few years later.

And the Jets had Namath, Broadway Joe, the idol of millions, the heartthrob of millions more.

Namath, believe it or not, turns 69 today, and my, have the years gone quickly.

He was to the AFL way more than Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez are to the Jets of today.

He was their poster boy, much like Julius Erving was the poster boy for the ABA a few years later.

He was talented, handsome, media friendly, and this guy from Alabama sure could play.

And during that game, he played the game of his life.

I don't even remember the score of the game, but I can tell you that that Super Bowl was the only Super Bowl I watched from beginning to end with my dad. We watched the game on our old Dumont black and white TV, which was in our living room when we lived in Rochdale Village, Queens, New York.

My father was much like me at the time, a fan but not a voracious fan like we were for baseball and basketball.

But the game had significance, and we watched it, and yes, we came away happy.

I also remember that when the game ended in late afternoon--in those days, the game was played on a Sunday afternoon--we both went out, picked up some kosher deli, and ate dinner with my mom and sister, who were probably completely oblivious to the fact that the Jets won the game.

But I remember that game, because my father watched it with me.

And Namath made it something grand, and for that, I will always be grateful to him and the rest of the Jets.

So happy birthday, Broadway Joe. At least for about three hours one cold winter's day, you made your mark on my life and probably the lives of millions of other people just like me.

Have a good one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rant #746: Roto-Ruta

During the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a culture of game shows that existed on television that was off the charts.

There were so many game shows on the air that seemingly any celebrity could make a living appearing on these shows on a regular or semi-regular basis.

A while back, I wrote about one of the "queens" of that game show circuit, Anita Gillette. Gillette appeared on just about every game show there was during that time, and just about every one on the East Coast.

Her West Coast counterpart was Ruta Lee, the feisty actress who also seemingly made a living by appearing on these game shows.

Today, Lee turns 76, but 40 years ago, the pretty lady was probably best known for her appearances on these shows, everything from "Hollywood Squares" to "Match Game."

Her life away from Hollywood made her something of a unique personality during those years. Born in Canada as Ruta Mary Kilmonis, Lee became very involved in the plight of her Eastern European relatives during her years in Hollywood, and did so very publicly.

In 1964, she pleaded with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev for her grandmother to be pardoned from a Siberian internment camp that she had been in since World War II. The pardon was granted, and Lee and her grandmother were reunited. She later was granted custody of another relative who had been living in the Soviet Union.

She also did much charity work during her career for other causes.

While these episodes became very public, Lee appeared on a wealth of TV shows that went way beyond game shows. She was on everything from "The Flying Nun" to "Gunsmoke," and while she never had a series of her own, she became one of the most reliable guest stars in Hollywood.

And she was also in a number of films, including "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers," but she was mainly known for her TV work.

And this culminated with her co-hosting duties on a game show--"High Rollers"--with a very young Alex Trebek!

For kids like me, Lee was simply a regular guest on just about every game show I used to watch. She was also on so many of the TV shows I watched that that name stuck in my head for decades.

I mean, you didn't hear the name "Ruta" very often, did you?

Lee is still very active, although the game show circuit is pretty much dead now. She still appears here and there on TV and the movies, but her "glory" days of being one of those ubiquitous actors on TV are certainly in the past.

Here's to Ruta on her birthday. May there be at least one more game show that she can appear on!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rant #745: Trip to the Big City

I am not a country bumpkin, but a trip to the "Big City" is usually an adventure.

It's a nice place to visit, but I definitely would not want to live--or work--there.

Manhattan isn't terribly far away from where I live on Long Island. An hour's train ride on the Long Island Railroad is all that it takes, and that is what myself, my wife and my son did on Sunday.

We went into Manhattan to see a Broadway play, "The End of the Rainbow," at the Belasco Theater right off of Times Square.

The play was better than I expected it to be. It's a downer play, no doubt about that, but it was interesting.

It's about the final days of Judy Garland, and her travails with pills, alcohol and men during those days.

I am sure it is based on fact, although there were probably some liberties taken to make the show more engrossing. And everybody knows the outcome, so it kind of dulled the emphasis of the show.

But let me tell you, the actress who played Garland, Tracie Bennett, channelled the late singer. She looked, sounded like, and became Garland during this play.

Sure, it's basically a one-note story, but this performance has to be seen to be believed. She was absolutely terrific, and the rest of the cast was too.

Surprised the heck out of me, and yes, Bennett is up for a Tony award, and even though this play has received, at best, mixed reviews, she deserves the award hands down.

The Belasco Theater was probably about 75 percent full for the afternoon performance. The downstairs seats were almost all filled, but the balcony was about two-thirds empty.

But we had fun. And we had fun traipsing through Manhattan on a beautiful spring day to get to the theater, and then to get back to the Long Island Railroad.

When you go to Manhattan, you have to expect to see all ravages of humankind, and yes, we saw just that. We saw the legendary singing cowboy, in his cowboy hat and underwear. We saw Lady Liberty, or a guy dressed up as her. We saw Mr. Pothead (I don't know what he actually was called), who wore a box on his head and asked for donations because he needed pot.

And yes, we saw all the beggars and panhandlers and everything else that makes up the Big Apple.

And yes, we saw many "normal" people, out for a stroll or to see the sites or to get somewhere, like us.

It was fun, but I have always hated Manhattan. I hated working there, too, during the couple of years that I had to go into the city Monday through Friday to try to make a living.

I hated the hassle, the hustle, the bustle, and the seemingly complete disregard that a lot of people have for other people that I saw when I worked there.

Everyone seemed to be on their own wavelength, and if anything upset that wavelength, all hell broke loose.

I worked there in the early 1980s, and God gave me a message one day, I swear he did.

I was coming home during mid-week, it may have been a Tuesday or a Wednesday, and I was on my usual train back home to Long Island.

We entered the Jamaica Station, no problem, but as we were exiting, we experienced a bump, and suddenly, my car was off the track.

I was in the rear car, and we had hit something, but was the only car affected. But as I saw us veer off the track and saw Jamaica Avenue come nearer--and as another passenger jumped up to hit the emergency button just as we were ready to go over the side--God spoke to me and said, "You can't do this anymore."

And I didn't. I left my job several months later to go "full time" to graduate school, only to return during a brief respite in the 1990s.

And I hated working in Manhattan then too.

So when I visit Manhattan, I usually go for pleasure, with the safe feeling that after I have fun, I will be going home.

And I had the same feeling on Sunday.

After spending several hours in the heart of the world in Times Square, I had had enough.

It was a good day, but like they say, it's a nice place to visit, but no, I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, no way, no how.

I like where I am now, thank you very much.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rant #744: It's Time

Etan Patz.

Yes, just saying that name brings up memories of that day, 33 years ago today, when the young six year old boy, on his way to his school's bus stop for the first time by himself, somehow left the face of the earth.

He was never found, but his mysterious disappearance sent shock waves not only through his Manhattan neighborhood, but through the consciousness of all parents everywhere.

We became more careful with our children after that. It wasn't like when I was a kid in the 1960s, and you could freely walk around your neighborhood with no sense of danger.

And even police methods were forced to change because of this case. Where once, missing kids were given some time to resurface, now, when a case such as this one is brought to the police, they act on it immediately.

The world changed with Patz's disappearance, and now, that has seemingly come full circle.

All these years later, there has been an arrest made of an individual who claims to have murdered the youngster.

A New Jersey man, 51 year old Pedro Hernandez, has confessed to the killing. He was a teenager at the time, working in a bodega that was right across from the school bus stop.

According to Hernandez, he offered Patz some soda, lured the child into the basement of the bodega--which is now a sunglass shop--and strangled him.

He put the child's body in a bag and dumped it a few blocks away. He later came back for the bag, but it was gone.

Hernandez, who has an arrest record related to several drunk-driving incidents, lived with his family in a suburban area of New Jersey. He has a common-law wife, and a teenage child. He worked at various jobs over the years, most recently at an electronics store and a grocery store.

Prior to this, he mainly worked in construction, but an injury allowed him to receive disability payments.

He was an unassuming person, but one with lots of guilt. Evidently, beginning in 1981, he told relatives that he had committed a horrible act against a child, but he was never investigated for anything.

And those he told also did nothing.

Police methods were different 33 years ago, but you would think that Hernandez would have been a suspect years ago. After he allegedly committed this act, he left his job at the bodega.

This should have given police some cause of concern, but for whatever reason--probably because there was no record of him working there, and he probably worked off the books--no investigation was ever done on him for this crime.

Other have claimed to have committed the act, but they have had some type of false bravado in doing so.

And let's face it, 33 years after the fact, can Hernandez be fully believed?

Evidently, reopening the cold case recently by scouring a building that police got tips on as a possible burial place for Patz opened up the eyes of others, and Hernandez was outed for the stories he allegedly told about the incident to family members.

Now, it is up to the courts.

Without the least bit of evidence, and only Hernandez's eventual testimony to use as a gauge for guilt or innocence, it is going to be difficult to convict this person of the crime.

He said he did it, but several others have said they did it too.

There has to be one grain of evidence that the public does not know about that corroborates his story with what the police know. The public doesn't know about what this is, of course, so if his story matches what the police know, then yes, they will have the right guy.

But Patz's body is most probably, most definitely, gone forever. It was probably burned up in some incinerator 33 years ago.

Why Hernandez allegedly perpetrated this horrendous crime is another shine to this case that hasn't been spoken about yet. If he does testify, this might or might not come out in the wash.

Why does one person kill another? Why does an adult or teenager kill a child? Who knows what goes on in the mind of someone like this?

But if he is the guy, he has lived with this for more than three decades.

And what of Patz's parents, who not only have had to live with the loss of their child for the past 30-plus years, but see their child's name dredged up every few years when a new wrinkle to the case supposedly comes forth?

For instance, for years there was a rumor that Patz actually was kidnapped, whisked off to Israel, was brainwashed, had his name changed, and was living there, never assuming he was the Etan Patz that was involved in this incident.

Then there was the convicted child molester, in jail for years and for the remainder of his life, who has claimed for years that he killed the boy.

Then recently, there was the tip the police received that a handyman might have been involved.

What Patz's parents have gone through these past 33 years is jarring, to say the least.

But they have always been hopeful. Through it all, they never moved and never changed their phone number, always hoping that their son would call home.

Let's hope that the police have got their man now, if for nothing more than to give closure to Patz's parents.

They deserve at least that.

Have a good holiday. Speak to you on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rant #743: A Radio Legend Passes

Veteran New York-area disk jockey Hal Jackson, who co-owned the first black owned and operated radio station in New York, died yesterday at age 96.

Anybody who listened to New York radio in the 1960s and early 1970s knew Jackson and his velvety voice, but his story is so much more than that.

He began his career in the 1930s, and eventually became the first black sports play by play announcer, announcing black college baseball games and games played in the Negro League. He set the pace for others, such as Bill White, to break the color barrier in announcing professional sports events.

Jackson moved to New York in 1954 and became the first disk jockey--black or otherwise--to broadcast three different shows daily on three different radio stations.

During his career, he was the first black DJ at several stations.

In 1971, Jackson and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which acquired WLIB and later WBLS. The group operates stations all over the country to this day.

And up until his death, Jackson continued to host the Sunday Classics on WBLS.

Jackson may not have been as well known or as popular as Ron Lundy or Dan Ingram, but in the black community, he was the man, probably the most popular disk jockey of his time, paving the way for other minority DJs to make it in New York and across the country, including Chuck Leonard.

My personal recollection of Jackson is that he hosted a concert at the old Palisades Amusement Park that I just happened to be at.

The story goes that my family and I went to the amusement park, and I got sick on one of the rides, I think it was the Swiss Bobs.

I needed to sit down and get a hold of myself, and we sat in the bandstand that they had there. There weren't too many people there at the time, so I just planted myself where I could air things out.

A few minutes later, Jackson got on the stage and introduced the British singer Lulu to the sparse audience. Lulu had had a number of hits in Europe, but was just breaking here.

I remember that she sang "The Boat That I Row"--the Neil Diamond song which was being pushed by her record company at that point in time--and I don't remember much else.

Of course, a few weeks later, disk jockeys around the country flipped the single over, and "To Sir With Love" became a No. 1 hit in America.

So, for all intents and purposes, back during that day in 1966, that show was this nine-year-old's first concert experience.

Although Jackson isn't considered in the same class as those WABC DJs I mentioned earlier, he was an incredibly successful DJ and business executive who saw an opportunity, and went with it. 

Today, there are so many ethnic stations on the dial in New York--many that whites listen to too--that what he and Sutton did may have been revolutionary, in a way, but it foresaw what was happening in the inner city, and proudly used that phrase in its company title.

Jackson was the man, and I will never forget that concert. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rant #742: Remote Control

Eugene Polley died on Sunday. He was 96 years old.

Other than living a long life, why am I bringing up his death?

This was the guy who helped create what we now affectionately refer to as the "couch potato," as Polley was the inventor of the first wireless TV remote control.

Sure, others will berate him for making us lazy--and still others will knock him for creating a device that allowed viewers to bypass commercials by turning from channel to channel without leaving the comfort of our easy chair--but this guy had a great idea and carried it out.

This new gizmo debuted in 1955 and was only available on Zenith televisions with what was called "Flash-Matic Tuning." The contraption looked like a ray gun--a perfect shape for the flying saucer crazy 1950s--and it was even advertised as a commercial squelcher: "You can even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen" read the advertising copy.

How did it work? According to reports, Polley's Flash-Matic pointed a beam of light at photo cells in the corners of the TV screen. Each corner activated a different function, turning the picture and sound off and on, and changing the channels.

He also had a hand in creating the video disk, and several other inventions that enlivened our viewing habits.

Happily, Polley was not shunned by the industry he helped move forward. In 1997, he was honored with an Emmy for his work in pioneering TV remote controls.

The first TV remote I ever used was in about 1965 or 1966. I believe my friend Howie's family had a TV with a remote, and the TV even had a timer that you turned for the amount of time that you wanted to watch the TV.

My family's TV didn't have any of these gadgets, and I probably didn't have my first remote until the early 1980s or so.

But think of how revolutionary this was.

You didn't have to get up to turn the channel, you could go from channel to channel at a whim, and when commercials came on, you could bypass them.

I remember that when I got my first remote, this is the thing that I found to be so inviting and revolutionary about the whole thing--not having to watch commercials if I didn't want to!


Now, remotes are pretty commonplace, whether you get your TV from satellite, cable, phone, or even simply via over the air. They are as standard for TVs as air conditioners have become for cars.

Nobody blinks an eye about them now--except when they are misplaced or lost. Then everyone goes haywire looking for them.

But let's salute Polley. This guy had a great idea, had the knowledge to carry it out, and produced something that we simply cannot live without.

R.I.P. Mr. Polley. Your creation is American ingenuity at its very, very best.

And related to some previous posts, yes, I was on the air, and yes, you can listen to the show at the following link:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rant #741: Oy Vey! (Part 2)

Yesterday, I spoke about a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews who set up an enclave at New York's CitiField to tell the masses about the evils of the Internet.

Today, well, it's another day, and another story.

According to the Daily News, a woman claims that she was fired from her fashion industry job “for being too busty.”

Lauren Odes (not the woman pictured above) said two days after getting hired in April as a data entry worker at a Garment District lingerie manufacturer, a supervisor told her the Orthodox Jewish owners were not happy with her attire. Odes said she was wearing a dress that day at the Native Intimates lingerie company, but due to her naturally large bustline, the owners reportedly became outraged.
She agreed to accommodate the owners by wearing a gray T-shirt and black jeggings with rain boots the next day, but again, the female supervisor came with complaints from the bosses.
“Lauren, try taping down your breasts to make them appear smaller,” she said, according to Odes.
The next day, Odes said, she wore a high-waisted black dress that fell to her knees. Once again that didn’t pass muster with her masters, who complained they could see the back of her bra straps.
Odes said she was given a choice — go across the street and buy a “a sweater that comes to your ankles as an outfit,” or cover up completely in a bright red bathrobe with a black guitar motif the supervisor had pulled off the rack.
When she donned the robe, Odes said her co-workers laughed at her. She said after 15 minutes of abuse, she broke down crying and went out to buy another outfit.
While she was shopping, she was fired.
According to celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who is now representing the woman, “She was simply fired for being attractive and for not conforming to the religious strictures imposed by top management.” 
Allred has filed a workplace gender and religious discrimination complaint against the woman's former employer.
“We should not be judged by the size of our breasts or the shape of our bodies,” said Odes. “I understand there are Orthodox Jewish men who may have their views on how a woman should dress and how much she should be covered, but I am Jewish as well and don’t feel any employer has the right to impose their religious beliefs on me."
No, but don't you think Odes should have realized, after the first altercation, that this was how this place was going to act, and if she wanted to work there, she was going to have to conform to their dress code?
Women's attire has become more risque in recent years, and just about "anything goes" in many workplaces now. 
However, there are still rules at many places of work about attire. My place of work has men wear business attire for four days a week--meaning men wear ties, dress pants and dress shirts, and women wear professional attire that doesn't show anything--and on Friday, we can wear more "casual" fare--meaning no ties on the men and women wear attire that doesn't show anything.
Over the years that I have been here, we have had a couple of instances where both men and women have received slight reprimands for what they've worn on casual Friday. 
But women's wear, in particular, has become more provocative in recent years. Women often walk around in the office as if they were at the beach, and it simply isn't professional.

And yes, there is a difference between how men and women are built, and yes, women have to be more careful about what they wear, not only at the workplace, but anywhere, even at the supermarket.
In this case, the woman was dressed nicely, but her "assets" simply popped out at people in a business run by owners who are kind of strict about attire, especially on women.
Say what you will, but management decides workplace attire, and yes, busty women can wear clothing that doesn't accentuate their attributes as much as what this woman wore evidently did.
And remember, this place is run by Orthodox Jews. If you want to work there, conform to their workplace attire rules, or get out of there in a hurry.
I don't know if this case bears any merit--Allred has, on more than one occasion, taken on similar cases which have sat on the fence between cases with merit and cases stinging of "yellow" legalities--so we will just have to see what happens here.
Look, I don't mind a women dressing fashionably for work, but you have to know the workplace.
This women learned about the workplace, but I just don't think she got it, if you know what I mean.
Of course, her former employer could have been more careful as to who they hired. When they interviewed her, what was she wearing--a head to toe body suit?
Whether this case has any merit in a court of law is anyone's guess. 

I will try to keep you abreast of what happens (heck, I couldn't avoid it).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rant #740: Oy Vey!

No, I haven't heard myself on the radio yet. It was supposed to be on last night, but either my recorder gave out or it was never on. I can't figure out which scenario happened yet, but I was recording. I think the thing may have given out. 

Oh well. I think it is on tomorrow. I will try, try again.

But onto other matters.

Did you hear about the latest gathering at New York's CitiField?

No, not the Mets playing another game there.

There was a rally held there yesterday, but only men were permitted to attend this gathering.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews--those from the various Hassidic sects--from around the New York Metropolitan Area and from elsewhere descended on the home of the Mets, 40,000 of them strong, to attend a meeting on the ills of the Internet, how to protect yourself against them, and how to use religion positively on the Web.

That's right, 40,000 men gathered in one place. 

And since there was an overflow, others who couldn't get in were taken care of with a video transmission at another site.

Tickets costs $10 apiece, the venue cost more than $1 million to rent out for this gathering, and tickets were so scarce that they were selling on ... eBay!

You have to give it to this group. They identified a problem in their community, and they are trying to educate the masses about it.

But not everyone agrees.

There was a counter protest yesterday, with others saying that the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community covers up a lot that goes on in their community, including episodes of child abuse.

They point to the horrible death of a young boy last year, who lost his way in the community, and was helped by a man who eventually kidnapped him and did other things to him that I won't go into right now. 

A more recent case in the community is of a girl who claims she was raped by a therapist, but the community is said to be holding the girl up for ridicule of her own actions, holding fundraising events for the therapist.

There have been other recent incidents, and many claim that the NYPD is allowing the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to police themselves rather than keeping the law themselves.

The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community--and I am talking about the Hassidim, not the other Orthodox sects--is an interesting one. It is strong, politically powerful, and open to interpretation by the masses, including other Jews.

They look upon anybody who isn't part of their community as being not Jewish, even if one, like me, was born and raised a Jew.

Many of them look at modern technology as the spewer of evil, and they shield themselves from it as best as they can.

Other segments of their population embrace modern technology.

They are a hard group to figure out, and this latest event demonstrates that when the call comes out, they come out.

My grandparents on my father's side were Orthodox, not Ultra-Orthodox and not Hassidic. The Orthodox like my grandparents generally embrace modern technology, but they usually have an eye out for those who abuse this technology. 

They are generally skeptical people, but they are positive about one thing: God, and their love of the divine being. They will do anything for God, and follow strict rules to show their love and respect for the divine being.

So although news reports have called what happened yesterday an Orthodox meeting, it really wasn't. It was the Hassidim, and you can tell the Hassidim from the Orthodox by the traditional clothes they wear. Very dark, very drab--and not a woman in sight. Women are thought to be around to have and rear the kids, and that is it.

Again, not all Hassidim are like I described, and not all Orthodox are like I described. 

Yes, I went for the stereotype, but on the other hand, I wanted to set the record straight about who is who, in a way.

The evils of the Internet are perpetrated by people who take advantage of its accessibility. I hope that those who attended yesterday's meeting understand that, and that was what was preached there.

I hope so, because anything else would have been a mis-shaping of the truth.

And those Jews are as susceptible to using the Internet for their own gains as any other group.

And I hope that was spoken about too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rant #739: When To Hear Me On the Air

I am a little pressed for time today, so I am going to make this Rant a little short.

You will be able to hear my interview on the radio at the following times and sites. All the times are Eastern Time, so if you are in another area, adjust the schedule to meet your time requirements.

Here is when you can hear me on Music Trivia next week. 
Tuesday 4PM
Thursday 4PM
Saturday 3PM Classic Car Gold Network.
Sunday midnight

Please listen, and let me know what you think. I am very interested in feedback about my appearance on the show, so please give me your positives and negatives.

Thanks, and I will speak to you next week. Hopefully, I won't be as rushed as I am today.

Rant #738: (Internet) Radio Killed the Radio Star

So, yes, I was interviewed on Internet radio yesterday, on the Frank Todd show.

It went pretty well, I thought.

He gave me a solid hour to push my various sites--primarily my Alternative Top 40 Yahoo Group site at I got in just about everything I wanted to say about the music that was being played.

I did blank out at his question about the last legitimate, new vinyl 45 I bought in a record store. I believe it was Faith No More's "Epic" or an Alannah Miles song--the followup to her No. 1 hit "Black Velvet" that I still can't remember the name to--but I blanked out on the name Faith No More and I couldn't remember the name of the Miles' song.

Other than that, I think I did pretty well.

He asked me about the site, my taste in music--yes, I told him about my upbringing in Rochdale Village, and the influence it had on my musical tastes--and about my record collection, primarily my singles collection.

I saw how Internet radio runs, that in between his questions and my answers, he could basically drop in the music that he wanted to play from the site. The show, basically, is constructed from the patter between the DJ and myself, and the music is plopped in later.

And there was an eclectic mix of stuff, everything from Tim Curry's "I Do the Rock" to XTC's "The Mayor of Simpleton," and lots of 1960s material or related-to-the-1960s tunes.

It was fun being interviewed. I hadn't done anything like this in years, and I told Todd that if he needs me again, he knows where to find me. He mentioned that perhaps in the future we could do a Monkees-only show, which I would certainly agree to. That might be fun.

And the whole thing was over by 8:30 p.m.

We don't know exactly when the show will run, probably next week, and I will keep you updated on that, because I want to hear it too--and record it for posterity.

So, I guess I became famous overnight, sort of. I don't know how many people listen to these podcasts, but I guess enough people listen to make it worthwhile.

And I hope you listen to. Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rant #737: On the (Internet) Radio

I am going to be interviewed on an Internet radio show this evening for broadcast next week. 

I will be speaking with DJ Frank Tood about my Yahoo/Blog sites, my interest in music, and my record collection. 

This came completely out of the blue, and I readily accepted the invitation. I have been on the radio--or regular radio--a couple of times. A number of years ago, I was on another show, broadcast from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, about my record collection, and I was on the radio when I was out of work many years ago, pleading for a job (nothing came of it).

Getting back to the show I am going to be on tonight, parts of the phone conversation will be recorded and be edited in with the songs that are going to be played. It will be heard on all his stations that carry Music Trivia for two hours next week. The schedule is at

And yes, if I remember, somewhere in the conversation I will mention the place that I grew up in, Rochdale Village in Souith Jamaica, Queens, New York. 

I talk about music all the time here, but one thing that I don't think I've mentioned is that since Rochdale was such a diverse community, we listened to all different types of music--rock, pop, standards, jazz, soul, etc. We listened to everyone from Otis Redding to Frank Sinatra to the 1910 Fruitgum Co., and it was all good. 

I hope to bring that up, but I don't know the line of questioning so I can't guarantee that I can. But listen in next week. 

The music that is being played is not your average Top-40 stuff, but a mix of music that is on my Yahoo sites. Tune in, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rant #736: Passing Fad?

As incredible as it may seem, nearly half the people polled in a recent survey believe that their beloved Facebook is a passing fad.
Forty-six percent of those polled in an AP/CNBC poll say the social networking giant is likely to "fade away as new things come along," while 43 percent predict it will be "successful over the long term."
All of this has come about as Facebook's long-awaited IPO draws nearer. According to the poll, half of Americans say Facebook's asking price is too high.
Just one-third think the company's expected stock market value, which could reach $100 billion,  is OK, while 50 percent say it's too high.
I don't have any money to invest in it, so from my viewpoint, its worth in dollars is irrelevant to me. 
However, its worth in what it is--a social networking tool--is much, much greater.
Those who use Facebook the right way--to connect with others--from their current lives or their past--have no problem with it. It is a major part of their lives, and they visit it often.
However, there are people who use Facebook the wrong way, to further their own personal gains, whether it be for amusement or to hurt others.
Kids of a certain age, let's say those under 15 or 16 years of age, should not be on Facebook.
It is pretty much the Wild West on the site. Anything goes, and it can hurt these young kids to see and be a victim of the nonsense--including bullying and predatory practices--that goes on there.
It can be harmful to their still-developing psyches.
Thus, I feel that Facebook should be a pay service. Users should pay a nominal fee to gain access to what Facebook offers. 
Sure, this won't prevent every kid from getting onto the site, but it will thwart plenty of them from entering a world that they can't yet fully understand.
So, the bottom line is this: I personally like Facebook, I am on it at least several days a week, and I use it the right way, to speak to current friends and people from my past--and to trump up this blog.
But I wish it was regulated a bit more. People shouldn't be able to post things that are harmful to others in a bullying type of way, and I wish that Facebook would take complaints a little more seriously than they do now.
But otherwise, is it a passing fad or something that is more of a trend than a fad?
I don't know just yet, but used wisely, it is a great place to visit, but honestly, I wouldn't want to live there on a full-time basis.
There's more to life than Facebook, and if people are allowing their lives to revolve around this thing, well, I feel sorry for them.

(And what isn't a passing fad is that today is my daughter's 24th birthday. I am very proud of her, and I wish her a great birthday!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rant #735: Dark Shadows Indeed

My family and I took in another movie this weekend, and yes, we went to see the "Dark Shadows" film on Mother's Day.

As you know, I have been both looking forward to and dreading seeing this film, both at the same time.

As a big fan of the original TV series, I had always hoped that a real, honest to goodness "Dark Shadows" movie could be done in the present time, the right way, without many restrictions put on it.

However, when I heard that a dreaded "reboot" was going to be made of the TV show, well, I had my trepidations.

But with talent like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp involved, I hoped for the better. And I know that Depp is a fan of the TV show, so I really hoped that the movie would uphold the tradition of the show but move it to the next level.

Sorry, people, the movie was bad, not the worst movie I have ever seen, but a disappointment nonetheless.

It was more like "The Addams Family" than "Dark Shadows," and that is where it made its biggest mistake.

The movie takes place in the fictional Collinsport, just like the show did, and the center of attention is the Collins family, just like on the TV show. And yes, the dysfunctional family of the TV show remains dysfunctional.

But other than that, there is really very little linking the TV show and this movie.

And that is the real shame, and sham, of the whole two hour mess.

Pretty much everything was changed in the movie.

The original Barnabas, played by Jonathan Frid--who passed away just a short time ago--played the role of the sympathetic vampire, a character that you pitied for his foibles rather than for what he did to survive.

Depp's Barnabas is nothing but a one-dimensional character, full of angst and ready to spill it everywhere.

And everyone in the Collins family knows he is a vampire, which takes a major, crucial element away from the story.

The other characters pretty much follow suit in this movie, which details the battle between the Collins family and another company, led by Angelique Bouichard, the witch, to take over control of the village's fish canning business.

All of the characters' personalities and characteristics have been changed for the film, and not for the better. And two characters from the original show--Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters--have been combined into one, for no apparent reason.

The worst one--and the one that provides the best performance in the film, by the way--is Helena Bonham Carter, who portrays Dr. Julia Hoffman as a brazen, sex-filled drunk who desires to be so close to Barnabas that she steals his blood for her own immortality.

As the only actor in the film who gets the character right--even though the characteristics are completely an about face from the TV character's foibles--the actress demands more screen time, but gets very little.

The rest of the cast does what it can with a script that is neither witty nor insightful. Michelle Pfeiffer, as Elizabeth Stoddard, and Eva Green, as Angelique, pretty much play this one out with a paycheck in mind, and the rest of the cast is pretty awful and not well cast.

Yes, there are a few chuckles, but a movie like this should have gotten not only chuckles, but out and out laughter--and at the screening that I saw, there was very little laughter by the audience at all.

And yes, Alice Cooper is in the movie as a backdrop to one of the legendary "balls" held by the Collins family. Barnabas continually calls him "she" and says he/she "is the ugliest woman I have ever seen." That's about the level of the humor you get here.

And yes, if you blink, you will see the shortest cameos of all time by some of the original "Dark Shadows" TV cast. It's at the ball, and if it lasts a full second, it's a lot.

With Depp (as actor and producer) and Tim Burton at the helm, I think they made a huge mistake going for jokes rather than doing this straight. I really think that with this talent, they could have made a really terrific movie based on the show.

But they veered too far from the show to make the satire work, and even looking at it as a comedy--as probably most people will, because they don't remember the show or weren't around when the show was on--it just falls flat, flat as a board, or even flat as in bored.

Satire is very difficult to pull off, but satirical works based on TV shows of the past can work; just witness the first "Brady Bunch" movie.

But the creative people behind the show in question must not only be fans, but they must understand the show from top to bottom--including the characters--to draw laughs from it.

Here, Burton and Depp are fans, that's for sure, but for the life of me, I can't understand how they didn't really "get" the show or get the characters.

At the late morning showing we went to, there were about 30 people in the audience, and it appears that at least right now, people are spending their money on "The Avengers" and forsaking this film.

Although it came in second at the box office this weekend, "The Avengers" killed this movie and quite frankly, everything else in its path.

So it might be unfair to say that "Dark Shadows" is a bomb at the box office.

However, as far as I am concerned, "Dark Shadows" laid an egg and is a bloody mess.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rant #734: Baseball, Not Diamonds

Yesterday evening after work, my family and I did something that we hadn't done in quite awhile--we attended a minor league baseball game.

The Long Island Ducks, the jewel of the independent Atlantic League, played the York Revolution in a doubleheader--yes, an old fashioned, honest to goodness twin-bill--and the Long Islanders swept the team from Pennsylvania by scores of 4-2 and 16-9.

We didn't stay for both games--it was actually quite chilly, and today is a work and school day so we had to call it a night early--but it was fun seeing minor league baseball close to home.

No, there weren't too many diamonds on the field--I would classify this type of baseball as Double-A level at best--but it was still fun.

We had great seats, had a nice dinner in the stadium's restaurant, and while the game isn't involving like going to a Yankees game, it is a nice experience for what it is.

Some of the players logged time in the major leagues, and are using this as a showcase to get back to the Big Time.

Others had cups of coffee in the affiliated minor leagues, and they would at least like to hook up with a minor league team's farm system.

And for others, this is really their last stop in professional baseball, and they are just trying to string it out as best they can.

And that is fine with me. Guys playing for something beyond money is kind of refreshing, to say the least.

You won't see major league-level action here, but for anyone who loves baseball--like I do--you could do worse but to spend some time out at the local minor league team's ballpark.

I had a nice time, and would like to go again--but when it is warmer.

Speak to you again next week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rant #733: Love and Marriage and ... Hot Dog Vendors?

Today, I really had my choice of topics to write about.

I could go the controversial way, and write about gay marriage and the President's new stance on that matter.

Or I could have gone the very low road, talking about the hot dog vendor on Long Island who was found to be selling more than hot dogs from her van.

What's a poor boy to do?

How about talking about both?

Let's look at gay marriage first.

In an interview on ABC, the President, for the first time, came out of the closet, so to speak, about gay marriage. Under pressure from his party, his vice president, and gay supporters, the President said that he was for the union of two people of the same sex.

If you remember, he had been against it before this time, and even a year or two ago, he said that he was wrestling with his own personal decision about the matter.

This time, he said his daughters helped him make the choice. Evidently, they have friends with gay parents, and they told him that they should not be excluded from anything because they were gay.

OK, sounds good.

What does this do to Barack Obama in his run for a second term?

Well, it gives people another reason to vote for him or not vote for him.

Eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney has come out firmly against the union of two people from the same sex, and if one needed a topic to tip him or her one way or the other, this is it.

Me, I'm pretty much where the President was a year or two ago. I'm not sure that I support gay marriage, more for civil unions. I do not believe that the love that two people of the same sex can share can be anything equal to the love that a man and a woman share.

But I am not as taken by that belief as I was before.

I mean, these people have to live too, and if this is their direction, so be it.

By the way, my family was recently invited to a gay wedding, but we can't do because we are going to be on vacation. Too bad, because it would have been an interesting event to be at.

Anyway, onto the hot dog vendor ...

This individual has been selling hot dogs and other edibles out of her truck on Long Island for several years. The 45-year-old woman, mother of four, has also been selling other things out of the truck.

She claims that yes, she has been selling stripping and lap dance services out of her truck, too, and will flash her huge breasts at the drop of a couple of dollars for a hot dog (you should have seen the news yesterday on TV here--they need to digitally remove her boobs during almost every report--I guess the crews bought plenty of hot dogs).

But police say she is also selling her body to hot dog buyers.

She has been convicted of prostitution, but on the news yesterday, she boldly proclaimed that she would be back at her hot dog stand during the day, all the while saying that the only extra mustard she sold was "her cleavage."

Then, after selling about 20 hot dogs yesterday, she was closed down by police, who claim that she didn't have a valid peddler's license. She vows to get one, in between psychiatric evaluations.

I guess everyone has the right to make a living, and everyone has the right to have an angle.

But this woman is ridiculous.

At 45 years old, she should know better.

And as a mom, she should know better too.

And looking at this woman, you would have to say that some people are probably pretty desperate out there.

There has got to be a better way for both them and her.

President Obama and the "stripping" hot dog vendor in one column.

What will I think of next?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rant #732: Superhero Sandwich

My family and I saw "The Avengers" movie over the weekend. No, we didn't spend extra for 3D, but yes, we did see it, as part of a packed house in our local movie theater.

I was expecting shock and awe, because the reviews were pretty much overly positive. There were a few negatives, but generally, the movie received very good reviews.

Sorry, this won't be one of them.

No, the movie wasn't terrible; it's about 20 steps up from "The Three Stooges" fiasco I described a few weeks back.

But does this movie deserve the raves it has gotten?

Sorry, this is going to be a rant.

The story, or what passes as a story, is that the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to earth with a powerful energy source with which he hopes to hold the earth captive.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D. force, calls upon the Avengers "initiative" to thwart Loki and save the world.

Yes, that is it in a nutshell.

But what other movie features several superhero superstars--and a few non-superstars--to save the day?

You have Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, and two real non-entitities in Hawkeye and the Black Widow.

You also have a big budget, so you get the predictable explosions, car crashes, and general havoc.

You also get a hint that we will see the Avengers again, and certainly see the superheroes in numerous other films.

But what you don't get is the whimsical nature of the individual superheroes' films, and that is what is sorely lacking in this movie.

And I mean, sorely.

Sure, you get Tony Stark/Iron Man's smirks, courtesy of good lines provided to Robert Downey Jr., but you get almost no insight into their characters.

It's like the individual films were there to lay the groundwork for that element, and this film has no room to fit in that aspect to the characters' persona.

The character of Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is sorely wasted here. In this movie, he has as much brain capacity as the Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo and CGI special effects, but he isn't as funny.

Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, continues to underplay the character, but you almost forgive him, because that is what the character demands.

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is a very minor character to begin with, so you don't get too much, and sorry, guys, but the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, only flashes her luscious lips, and little more.

Yes, it is exciting at times, and yes, there is some humor, and even a swift cameo by Marvel's Stan Lee.

But there is little else here. The individual movies are much, much better.

This weekend, we will see "Dark Shadows," and frankly, I am not expecting much.

Early reviews of this movie have been terrible, and I don't expect my review will be any better.

But maybe, just maybe, for the first time in years, I will be surprised by a film.

Maybe this will be the one, maybe not.

I'm leaning towards the latter.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rant #731: Watch the Bouncing Ball

Glad to be back after a hectic day away from here.

Anyway, I am quite happy that the Knicks have made it a real series with the Heat.

Having won that single game took a tremendous load off of their shoulders, and brought the series back to Miami.

No, I don't think the Knicks are going to win this--the latest injury, to point guard Baron Davis, isn't going to help--but at least it makes it more fun.

This matchup is one of many head-to-heads among the best teams in the National Basketball Association, and yes, it is exciting.

But this isn't the only basketball going on right now.

I attended a game yesterday that may not have featured the greatest talent, but it was truly as inspiring a contest as I have seen this year.

The Challenger Basketball League--comprised of teams of Special Education children from different middle schools and high schools on Long Island--played a special game yesterday at Bethpage's JFK Middle School that my son participated in.

It was held as a culmination of a day that was set aside to honor the school's Teacher of the Year candidate, whose name I regrettably can't remember right now. She was followed around by a film crew from ABC, and she will appear on the Kelly Ripa show next Monday, May 14, along with clips of the game.

The game was Bethpage vs. Massapequa, and my son is on Massapequa's team. They lost, but the inspiration that they provided will last far beyond this game.

Many of these kids have physical, social and mental impediments that hold them back from having a regular high school life. Some have trouble focusing because of these problems, and need attendants while in school or on the basketball court to maneuver the rough waters that high school brings.

The score was inconsequential, because it got these kids moving. While, as a society, we talk about kids being more into their electronic devices than into their own bodies, these types of kids are the ones that are often left out of athletics, because many of them simply don't have the mental or physical skills to compete.

My son is lucky in that respect. Although he does have a learning problem, his motor skills are fine, if not up to the level of most high school kids. He has played baseball, ran track, and can handle himself on the basketball court.

Some of the kids we saw yesterday were in the same boat, others better and worse off.

But they competed, and had lots of fun running up and down the court and making an occasional basket.

I salute the kids from both teams, all the kids in this program, and the teachers who oversee it.

They have done an excellent job, and the smiles on the faces of these kids is a testament to the hard work that has been put into this program by all involved.

My family and I look forward to next season. It should even be better than this one was!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Rant #730: An Anniversary, and Some Tidbits

Today is the third anniversary of this blog. I can't believe that I have been doing this so long, but yes, it's true.

What I set out to do with Ranting and Raving was to create an outlet for me to write about what I wanted. As a professional writer, I am paid to write about topics that others want me to write about.

That's fine and good, but you can get into a rut doing this.

So here, at this blog, I am allowed to write about anything, whether it be about the Yankees, Lindsay Lohan, some news items of the day ... anything!

And I am enjoying myself immensely--and I hope you are too.

So here's another column, and I have decided that it’s time to take short peaks at various items that might be of interest to you.

These don’t warrant an entire column of Ranting and Raving, but a little looking into here and there can’t hurt

• Woman Arrested For Bringing Young Daughter Into Tanning Booth: I have never understood the need that some of us have for tanning ourselves. I’m not arguing that black isn’t beautiful, but let’s be honest about it, it’s not safe to fry yourself either.

This case really hit the nail on the head because a mother who supposedly brought her young child into the tanning booth with her herself looks like a red lobster. The women is in her 40s, but I swear she looks like she is in her 70s, or she is some type of red aberration.

She is completely disgusting, and if the charges are true, she should fry, baby, fry.

• New Single From the Reformed Beach Boys Is Out: “That’s Why God Made the Radio” is the first single from the album, and it was released on April 25 to iTunes as a download only.

I don’t accept this at all.

In order to push the forthcoming LP, which arrives in June, their record label should put this out as an honest-to-goodness 45 RPM single, or at least as a CD single. That would whet the appetite for the album.

Remember, this is a band that most people under the age of 40 have no clue about. This is an album that is not going to get played at all on radio, or at least sparingly. The single itself hasn’t received the greatest reviews, but for Baby Boomers, “owning” a digital file isn’t the same as owning something that you can hold in your hand.

Put it out as a 45 RPM single, and make it a “gift” from the band to the fans who have supported them, through many ups and downs, during the past 50 years.

• Andy Pettitte Testifes At Roger Clemens Trial: Okay, answer this one honestly:

Do you have the slightest care about this trial at all?

True baseball fans like myself don’t really care, at this point, about the nuances of this trial. It’s all water under the bridge.

These guys cheated by using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), and more importantly, they may have hurt themselves physically by doing so.

Enough is enough. Did Clemens lie in his previous testimony? Does Pettitte remember, for sure, what Clemens told him about his supposed use of PEDs?

Again, who cares? Play ball!

• Brooklyn Welcomes the Nets: This is another one of these bizarre stories which kind of make me scratch my head. The Nets announced their new logo the other day, and one single, solitary player showed up at the event, the oft-injured Brooke Lopez.

The Knicks are the team of choice for professional basketball in New York, always have been, always will be. The Nets have always played in their shadow, no matter if they played in New Jersey or on Long Island.

Why will playing in Brooklyn change anything?

The Nets should have tried to carve out their own niches somewhere far, far away. If the Seattle Supersonics can move to Oklahoma City and become the only game in town there, why couldn’t the Nets do the same thing, maybe in Montana, or Wyoming, or some other place where major league teams don’t have a foothold. Why Brooklyn?

And the new Barclay’s Arena isn’t in the greatest part of Brooklyn either. Families should watch out; the panhandlers there don’t make it exactly family friendly territory.

• Newt Gingrich Announces End of His Presidential Campaign: This is another one you have to scratch your head about.

What took him so long to do this? Was he thinking that maybe, just maybe, he could stage a miracle and upend Mitt Romney?

Or did he stay on to make some sort of statement, one that only he seems to know, or care about.

I have no idea who I am voting for come November, but I can tell you that I am certainly not voting for anyone named Newt …

Mitt and Barack don’t seem like good names to vote for either.

Whatever happened to Tom, Dick, Harry—or even Larry?

• Mariano Rivera Likely Done For the Season and Career In Doubt: Well, the Red Sox Nation is now rejoicing--the great Mariano has struck out!

Well, he tore his ACL during batting practice when he was shagging a fly ball in the outfield. His cleat got stuck in the turf, and he fell to the ground ...

Along with whatever hopes the Yankees had to win the World Series this year.

Honestly, while this might be the straw that broke the closer's back, so to speak, there is so much more that can be said about this year's Yankees team, and it isn't good.

They have a roster that was severely micro-managed by the suits (re: the Michael Pineda deal, which has a chance to go down as the worst deal the Bronx Bombers have ever made), have aging stars who are on the verge of breakdowns at any time, and they just really aren't that good, period.

But the simple presence of Rivera made them a nick above any other team. 

Without him, they might be dead this year, certainly deader than they would have been with him always ready in the bullpen.

I need to attend to some personal business on Monday, so I most likely will speak to you again on Tuesday. Have a good weekend.

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