Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rant #953: Coming Out Day

A few weeks ago, I made some comments on a cover of Sports Illustrated featuring voluptuous model Kate Upton.

That cover was her "busting out" day, for sure.

Today I am going to make some comments about another Sports Illustrated cover, this one featuring an athlete's "coming out" day.

Jason Collins, a journeyman player in the NBA who last played with the Washington Wizards and is currently a free agent, came out yesterday, telling the world that he is gay.

He is the first current player in one of the four major team sports to come out as being gay--major male team sports specifically, as I believe a few players in the all-female WNBA have come out--and some are looking at him as a pioneer of sorts.

He got congratulatory messages for his coming out from everybody from Presidents Obama and Clinton to the First Lady, to Kobe Bryant and many other sports and show business celebrities.

Why did he come out now?

The 12-year veteran and Sports Illustrated fully knew what they were doing by having him do this now, which makes it a calculating maneuver on both of their parts.

The NBA is at the height of its yearly frenzy now.

The playoffs are on, and the sports world is tuned in to the exploits of teams like the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, and all the teams that are in the mix to win the league championship.

The Washington Wizards are not in that mix, having a pretty woeful season, preparing for the draft lottery.

So he, and Sports Illustrated, got the biggest bang for their buck, and that is something that has to be taken into account here.

Would Collins have come out right now if the Wizards were in the playoffs?

Very, very doubtful. It would have thrown the playoffs, and his team's chances, into a sideshow next to his admission.

But Collins did what he did now, with the Wizards out of it and his own NBA future in doubt.

Collins is a journeyman player, has never been much of an impact player, but has had a nice career. He has nothing to be ashamed of.

As a player, he is one of the few groups of players who has been in the NBA with his twin. Jason and Jarron--Jarron is the same type of player as his brother, also having a good, but unspectacular career--join the Van Arsdale twins and the current Lopez twins in this select group.

Anyway, what about his admission?

Look, there is no doubt in my mind that he is not the only professional athlete who is gay. Heck, there are probably dozens of others.

But he is the first current, active athlete to admit as such, so he is taking a major chance here.

He is a fringe player, and I am sure he will be fighting for a job next season with some team.

He has gone through a dozen years of not bringing this up. I am sure there were some players who knew about this already, and it really didn't matter to them.

Nor should it really matter to anyone else.

If he is on the team that I root for, and he has the ball at the last seconds of a game, and if he is lucky enough to hit the winning shot, well, he is a hero, a hero not only to me, but to all the fans of my team.

If he misses, well, he is a bum just like anybody else. Better luck next time.

And that is the way it should be. That is the way sports is, and I am sure that Collins would agree with that 100 percent.

And I have to tell you, I don't like the comparisons at all to Jackie Robinson.

Robinson went in as the first black player in the major leagues.

He couldn't hide being black, he couldn't cover it up.

He wore it on his face, and on his sleeve, so to speak.

Collins has been in the league a dozen years, and he was able to hide his sexuality.

Sure, I bet he is now going to be subject to taunts from fellow players and from fans, but please, do not ever equate what he did to what Robinson did, as so many people are stating right now.

Robinson was a true pioneer, for not only blacks, but anyone of any color, creed or background. What he did during a time in our history where tolerance was not within most of our society will live for the ages.

Today, we are in a more tolerant period than 70 years ago. People look past a person's color and sexuality, to a great extent. We have a black president, and many states have given the green light to gay marriage.

I am not saying that Collins will get a full pass here. He will hear it, you know that.

But to come out like this, when he may be at the end of his career anyway, well please, don't compare him to Jackie Robinson, who had to endure this throughout his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Collins did a brave thing, but let's put it in context.

Collins is not Robinson, he is not Hank Greenberg, and he is not any of the group of players who were the first black players in the NBA.

His coming out may have actually ended his career, and I think he is smart enough to know that.

But give him kudos for doing what he did, and let's move on.

(Just as an add-on to this, and I must admit, I totally forgot about this until hours after I wrote this Rant, but Jason Collins is not the first professional male team player to come out as being gay. Years ago, baseball player Glenn Burke, who played briefly for the Dodgers and Angels in the late 1970s, came out, but only to teammates, never publicly. His story only became known to the outside world when he proclaimed his sexuality just prior to dying of AIDS in 1995 and through his autobiography.

I am sorry I totally forgot about this when I wrote this up, but here it is, and if you want more information, go to your favorite search engine and put his name in. You will find that his story was even more interesting than the one that Collins has told us.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rant #952: 56 + 1 (Day)

As I alerted you to on Friday, I did have my birthday yesterday.

I reached the magic number of 56.

I don't know why it is a magic number, but to me, reaching 56 years of age is a milestone, so maybe it is a magic number.

With one day of hindsight under my belt--56 + one day--I can provide to you a good picture of what I did yesterday to celebrate my big day.

How did I celebrate?

The celebration commenced on Saturday. My wife took myself and our son out to dinner at a local Chinese all-you-can-eat place.

There are a number of these in our environs, but most of them are pretty bad.

This particular restaurant is one of the few that is quite good.

So we had a nice meal, then we came home, and I passed out watching TV.

No, not fainted, just fell asleep really early, like at 9:30 or so, maybe even earlier, I just don't remember.

Then for my actual birthday on Sunday ...

I woke up the normal time on Sunday, did my usual things, and had a few of the cupcakes my wife made to celebrate the occasion.

My son iced them, unbeknownst to my wife, which made her angry, but he meant well. He wanted to help my wife with the cupcakes, but he made a bit of a mess.

But heck, it all winds up in my stomach anyway, so it wasn't a catastrophe. We all laughed about it afterward.

I received my gifts. My wife bought me some much needed shirts--I wear them out pretty well, so these should last a while before I need new ones--and my parents gave me some money.

My daughter came over for a time, bought me a lunch bag--the one I am using is still usable but falling apart, so when it goes, I have a new one to use--and my sister called to wish me congratulations. I also spoke to my wife's brother, and he wished me a good day, too.

I then went out, got my son his "much needed" Wii controller--he has had the game for a while, and one of the controllers died last week, we bought a replacement, and it didn't work for some reason, so he needed another one--and then I came home, and as is my tradition, I gave my wife and son gifts too.

I bought my son WWE wrestling tickets for June, when pro wrestling comes to Nassau Coliseum, perhaps for the last time.

I bought my wife iTunes cards, so she can download a show which I think is called "The Walking Dead." She has been catching up with the three seasons of the show on NetFlix, so this way, she can watch the most recent season right now.

Then I settled down for the rest of the afternoon, which was going to be sports, sports and more sports.

I watched the Knicks and Celtics battle it out in a terrific game that the Knicks lost. They come back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, when I hope the Knicks close out the Celtics for good.

The game went into overtime, so I missed the Yankees sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays were supposed to be the top team in the division, but they appear to be headed to be this year's Miami Marlins, a team that made many trades to upgrade its roster but which isn't meshing at all.

The Yankees, however, have had one major injury after another, yet they are playing better than anyone could have dreamed. I watched the highlights, and then moved over to non-sports stuff.

MeTV ran a contest yesterday. Every Sunday, they have a four-hour block of themed programming, where they pair old shows by a common theme. Yesterday, they had the viewers guess the theme.

At first, I thought it was guest stars on the shows that they put on who were born on April. 28, because on one of the shows, "The Mod Squad," the guest star was Carolyn Jones, most famous for her role as Morticia on "The Addams Family," who shares a birthday with me. But I soon saw that that guess was wrong. It took me about two and a half shows, and I was able to figure it out.

No, I am not going to tell you what the theme was, because I want to win a trip that they offered, or at least a T-shirt.

Anyway, we had dinner--peppers and eggs, which was very good and very filling--and my family and I settled down to a nice evening, just watching more TV and relaxing.

I went to bed, as did my wife and son, at 10 p.m. and that was it.

Some might say I did absolutely nothing on my actual birthday, but I say just the opposite.

I did plenty. I did exactly what I wanted, which, to me, was the best gift I could have given to myself.

My daughter's birthday is next, on May 15, and I hope she has as nice a day as I had yesterday.

Thanks to everyone for a nice birthday.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rant #951: Another Year Under My Belt

Happy birthday to me.

Well, not just yet, but happy birthday to me anyway.

My birthday is on Sunday, April 28, and since I don't write any Rants on the weekend, I figured I would celebrate a little early.

I will be 56 years old on that day.

It seems the years have gone fast.

My mother has often told me that as a young child, I was clearly "Larry the Menace," getting into everything and being a real pain in the butt.

She has told me a story that one time, she was shopping with me, and visibly pregnant with my sister, who was born at the tail end of 1959. I was so bad that she was standing on line to check out, and another woman actually had the nerve to say to her, "And you want another child?"

I could swear that only yesterday, I was playing in the mud in the grime of my old stomping grounds in Rochdale Village, South Jamaica Queens, New York.

Even though I haven't lived in New York City since 1971, I am a city kid at heart, always will be.

The suburbs have been my home since then, but you can take the kid out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the kid.

Fast forward all these years, and I have several layers of education under my belt, married (twice), have two kids, and a halfway decent job.

Looking back five years, one of the most tumultuous times of my life played out back then, and I prefer where I am now.

On April 24, my car died after being on life support for several months.

On April 25, I bought a new car.

On April 27, I had horrible pains in my stomach, and was rushed to the hospital.

On April 28, I had gall bladder surgery, the best birthday present I ever gave to myself.

Wow, what a ride it has been.

And I plan on being here many more years.

I just had my physical, and other than being a bit overweight and having some minor cholesterol issues, I am fit as a fiddle.

I have a great wife, a great family, so why complain?

So happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Larry, happy birthday to me ...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rant #950: Tattoo You ... Not Me

President Obama has finally taken a stand that I agree with 100 percent.

It has nothing to do with foreign or domestic policy, it has to do with family policy, maybe the most important policy of them all, because it literally sets the groundwork for everything else.

The President told his daughters that if they ever get tattooed, he and the First Lady and First Mom, Michelle, will get the exact design tattooed on the same place on their bodies.

He added, "And we'll go on YouTube and show if off as a family tattoo," he said on NBC's "Today" show.

The President believes that this type of thinking will dissuade Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, from ever getting inked.

Tattoos are a current fad that goes back eons, but the latest craze is really pretty disgusting. The tattoos are large, garish, and stand out like no other tattoos I have ever seen.

I don't like tattoos. I believe it cheapens one's body to make yourself into a walking, talking body of graffiti, although others think it is about expression.

To me, there are better ways to express yourself than through tattoos. It just cheapens what you have.

And today, it seems the more the better--up and down the arm, on the legs, on the chest, and even on the face.

And to me, nothing is more disgusting than seeing a woman with tattoos.

Call me sexist--and I must say that I proudly am--but a woman with tattoos completely turns me off.

Look, I know that many of you will disagree with my, and the President's, views. You believe that tattoos are nice, and the more the better.

Bu heck, I see high school kids with tattoos.

In my generation, you wore your hair long or you wore certain clothes to show what you believed in.

You could get a haircut, and you could wear different clothes if your mood changed.

But tattoos are permanent. They don't come off so easily, except through painstaking laser procedures.

What happens if your mood changes, and you want the thing off?

The cure seems to be worse than the disease to me.

And let's be honest about it. If I am an employer, I don't care how good your qualifications are, if you have a noticeable tattoo, you won't get the job.

As a Jew, we are not supposed to get tattoos. The feeling is that you leave this earth as you go in, and that means without drawings on your body.

Jews were tattooed by the Nazis in World War II, and that is ever more the reason for Jews not to get tattooed.

But that aside, I find them to be a turnoff, plain and simple, so I applaud the President's actions.

I hope his daughters get it.

I don't know what brought this on in the Obama household, but I hope other families do the same thing and take the same stand.

It might not work, but then again, it just might.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rant #949: New York Sports

I am a sports fan.

No bones about it, I am a sports fan.

I have my favorites, of course.

I love baseball and basketball, and I really can't stand football and hockey.

I have always loved baseball. It is the first sport I understood and the first sport I played, and it is as much a part of me as my blood is.

I grew up in an urban environment, and basketball is king in that environment.

I was never much of an athlete, but I always liked playing--and watching--baseball and basketball.

The other sports I can live without, and in addition to hockey and football, I have no use for tennis, golf and soccer.

I also like bowling, too, but that is an individual sport, not really a team sport.

Anyway, right now, sports in my neck of the woods is in a pretty exciting mode.

The baseball season is in full swing, and my Yankees are doing a bit better than everyone--including myself--thought.

I don't know if they are playoff bound, but with all the injuries they have had, many predicted them for a lowly finish.

Right now, they are near the top of their division, and if they can hold on until their many injured players come back--including Derek Jeter--they might make a run for it.

On the other side of the pond, the Mets are also playing way above expectations, led by many young players. I am not a Mets fan, never have been, but I am a baseball fan, and I marvel at the skills and talent level of their young players.

And then we have the Knicks.

No team captures the imagination of the general Metropolitan area populace as the Knicks.

They own this area, always have, always will, and when they are going good, everyone roots for them.

Right now, they are going quite good, beating the Celtics last night for the second game in a row in the first round of the playoffs.

With the best team they've had in 20 years--led by Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith--this team has a real chance to win a championship this year.

I am convinced of that.

And then we have the Nets, who might stand in the way of the Knicks as the two teams push for the championship.

In their first year in Brooklyn, the Nets captured the fancy of many fans, and they currently are deadlocked at 1-1 with the Chicago Bulls in the first round of their playoff series.

The Nets will always be the second team in New York, but it is fun to watch them battle.

So right now, New York sports are red hot.

With all the horrible things that have happened in other places lately--including nearby Boston--it is nice to take a break once in a while, and all of these local teams are providing that for fans.

What could be a better tonic right now?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rant #948: A Living Death

This will be an entry about two of our most talented guitarists.

First off, I heard last night that Richie Havens died.

I was not a super Havens fan, but I respected this musician and activist tremendously.

What he could do with a guitar ... well, nobody else could do things like that, nobody I've seen, at least.

He learned to play guitar in a different way than other musicians, and although his technique looked harsh, it produced beautiful melodies.

Now, let me segueway into something, unfortunately, that is akin to Havens' passing in more ways than one.

And let me preface it again by saying how unfortunate what I am going to say is, and how unfortunate the situation I will talk about today is.

It was just announced that Glen Campbell, maybe the greatest guitarist I have ever seen, will not tour anymore.

He has Alzheimer's Disease, and it has gotten so bad that he simply cannot get up on stage anymore and play to audiences.

Campbell was diagnosed with the disease a few years back, but he continued to perform in concert and record albums.

In concert, he was assisted by two of his children, who helped him go through the tunes, acting as almost human teleprompters for him, to keep him on line with his music.

But now, it has reached a point that he can't do that anymore.

He is releasing a new album, which I read will be a "reimagining" of his hits, like "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston."

If I read correctly, he will simply be singing, not playing, on this LP.

Campbell was sort of the touchstone between crossover country/pop music in the 1960s. Along with artists like Michael Nesmith and, to a certain extent, Ray Charles, he helped to bring country music to a wider audience, both with his hit records and his TV show.

Today's country artists would not be where they are today without performers like Campbell.

But he was so much more than that.

He was a session guitarist who played on dozens of rock and pop hits, including those registered by the Beach Boys, Monkees and so many others.

Why he is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is anyone's guess.

But back to the disease that is robbing him of his abilities.

I know all too well about it. My grandmother had it.

She went from an effervescent, very proud woman to someone who barely knew her own name in the course of just a couple of months.

The last time I ever saw her, she was in a nursing home, and I went there to visit with my father--her son--and my son, who was just a baby at the time.

She had no idea who my father was, although she did know me for some reason. She asked me, "Who is that man with you?"

She also asked me why I was holding a baby.

Just a few months earlier, she helped to put her great grandchild to sleep as she cradled him in her arms.

After that visit, my father told me, "If I ever get to that point, I give you permission to shoot me," and he was not kidding.

She died just a few weeks later, and let me tell you, it was what is referred to in Yiddish as a "mitzvah," or a blessing.

No one should have to live like that. It is truly a living death.

There have been advances in research on the disease, but it still exists, and there is no cure.

And like all diseases, it does not discriminate. It can hit any one of us.

Campbell is going through that now, and it has been many months leading up to this point.

By the time his album comes out, he just many not even know that he actually did it, that he was on it.

I hope it does not get to that point, but it just might.

Alzheimer's is a horrible disease, and I personally wish him well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rant #947: Cover Me

So, they finally got the Boston suspect.

Congratulations to the authorities and the people of Boston for not allowing themselves to bow down to this type of terror.

He will be judged by a jury of his peers, and hopefully, when found guilty of his actions, they will deal with him the right way, the only way they can.

'Nuf said on that matter. Let's get back to some fun.

Along with overseeing this blog, and a couple of other blogs that are more or less inactive, I run a bunch of Yahoo sites, some more active than others, but the one that stands out is my Alternative Top 40 site. You can access that site at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlternativeTop40/.

I have been running this site for years, and it is a fun destination for people who are looking for forgotten songs and artists, mainly of the 1960s through the early 1970s, sometimes beyond that point, sometimes prior to that point.

The premise of the site is simple: usually a dozen to about 18 songs are posted, and members of the site have to vote on the six that they like best.

After a week, the votes are tallied, and the songs that get the most votes stay on the chart for up to five weeks, the ones that get little or no response get kicked off, removed for newer songs.

Simple as that.

Each April I run an April Fools poll, where each week, I put up cover versions of popular songs done by artists not necessarily known for those songs or who have covered those songs as part of their song canon.

There are a wealth of these songs out there, and I simply go through my record collection and find ones that are interesting or unusual or just darn good to put up at the site.

This week, the following songs are on the list to be voted on:

Petula Clark - We Can Work It Out
Cilla Black - Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
Micky Dolenz - Sugar Sugar
Beatles - Long Tall Sally
Dave Clark Five - Won't You Be My Lady
John Cougar Mellencamp - Under the Boardwalk
Annette Funicello - Surf City
Al Green - To Sir, With Love
David and Jonathan - A Must To Avoid
Bobby Darin - Clementine
Mindbenders - Off and Running
Who - Batman
George Harrison - Wake Up My Love
Nick Lowe - Baby It's You
Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy
Elvis Presley - Blueberry Hill 

Just about every song is a cover song, with a couple of exceptions. Those exceptions were held over from the previous weeks, such as the songs by the Mindbenders, Dave Clark Five and George Harrison.

But all the others are cover tunes.

Petula Clark, one of my guilty pleasures from the era, covers a Beatles song, while the Beatles cover a Little Richard tune.

Cilla Black, very popular in Europe but virtually unknown here, gives her all on a Cher song, while Micky Dolenz, of Monkees fame, does his best with the Archies' No. 1 hit.

John Cougar Mellencamp does the old Drifters song while he was still kinda Cougar, and beautiful Annette Funicello, who passed away a few days ago, gives the old Jan and Dean tune a female perspective.

Al Green gives a soul slant to the old Lulu tune, while David and Jonathan cover a Herman's Hermits song.

Bobby Darin takes an old ballad and gives it a rock treatment, and the Who take the old theme song from the popular TV show and give it their own buzz.

Nick Lowe, Bow Wow Wow and Elvis Presley gives their own takes on songs that they covered from other artists, and there you have it.

Nothing shocking, nothing too deep, nothing that is going to rock the world, but it is a fun thing to do each week, and like I said, I have been doing it for years, and I really enjoy it.

After April, the cover versions will be done, and we will move on to songs and artists doing their original songs that I feel are worthy.

So if you want to take a break from the usual nonsense of the week, go and visit the site and join in.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rant #946: Dress-Down Friday

Friday is the last day of the work week, and for me, it provides a breather, of sorts, from the rest of the  week.

No, I don't do less work on Friday. Believe me, my desk is filled with stuff for me to do, just waiting for me to attack it like I always do.

But today is "Dress-Down Friday," or "Casual Friday," or whatever you want to call it, where employees can wear something other than the business clothes they wear the rest of the week.

For me, that means no tie, no button down shirt, no shoes.

Today, I can wear just a regular shirt and sneakers, and I can fit right in as business casual.

Since I hate ties--and in an earlier rant, I told you why--this day is a blessing for me.

The day actually began in the late 1990s and is probably rooted in California business culture, especially in high-tech companies, where the level of dress is secondary to performance.

But the actual roots of this practice go as far back to the late 1940s in Hawaii, where the city of Honolulu allowed workers to ditch the suits and ties and wear Aloha shirts during a portion of the year, and this became officially "Aloha Friday" in the 1960s.

In the late 1970s, when the production of cheaper clothing outside the U.S. became more widespread, some manufacturers campaigned to make a dress-down Friday a weekly event to promote their more casual clothing lines.

According to Wikipedia, some workplaces that have no formal dress codes actually have their workers dress up on Friday. Personally, I have never heard of this, but to me, it would be odd if I dressed down all week only to have to wear more formal attire on Friday.


Anyway, since I have been at my present employer, for the past 17-plus years, we have had dress-down Friday, so for the past near two decades, I haven't had to wear a tie on Fridays, which is a good thing. At the other places I worked, I don't think we had a formal dress code, so it didn't apply, but in this place, four days a week, I have to dress to a higher standard.

Today, thank goodness, I don't.

And when I put on my clothes on Fridays, the more casual approach just signals to me that the end of the work week is near. I can finally see the forest for the trees.

Thank goodness. I need to rest.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rant #945: "The Wizard of Oz" Lives On

The greatest movie of all-time, "The Wizard of Oz," lives on in our collective hearts and minds.

The 1939 film, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, the girl who transports herself to the Land of Oz, was not a big hit when it first came out, but the television generation, namely kids like me, ate it up when it was first run on television, and since the 1950s, it has been a watershed film for my generation and every one after it.

In fact, it wasn't even the first "Wizard of Oz" film, being predated by two silent films, and I think one featured the pre-fame Oliver Hardy from the Laurel and Hardy comedy team.

Since the 1939 film, there have been two major movies released based at on L. Frank Baum's book series, "Return to Oz," a really bad movie, and "Oz, the Great and Powerful," sort of a prequel to the whole thing, which opened this year and wasn't that bad.

There have also been cartoon movies--one with Liza Minnelli reprising her mom's role--and a whole line to toys and other hazeriah (look that word up, but I think you can figure it out) related to the film.

Anyway, a storm has brewed in England over one of the songs on the wonderful soundtrack to the original film, and while it may have flown under the radar in the States, it is an interesting story to look at.

The BBC is up to its ears in controversy as opponents of the recently deceased prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, pushed the tune "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" to the top of its music charts. The song is being used in a campaign to discredit her over what are said to be "divisive" policies while she was in power.

The song is also No. 1 on the British iTunes chart.

The music charts are extremely important in England, much more than they are here. I mean, tell me the No. 1 song on the Billboard or iTunes charts here and you win a debt of gratitude from me.

But over there, the BBC runs its weekly chart show, and it has to play all the top hits. If the song is No. 1, what is a poor radio station to do?

Some think it is in bad taste, others think the song has to play no matter what. Some think it is a way to manipulate the charts to make a political point.

I believe what I have read is that the BBC has played snippets of the tune, but not the full tune, in order to placate both sides, but it only fanned the flames.

Interestingly, during the so-called "Summer of Love" in 1967, American radio had no problem playing this tune, and it had nothing to do with politics, it was all about bubblegum.

An obscure Connecticut-based act, the Fifth Estate, had their version of the song rise to No. 11 on the Billboard charts. It fit right into the emerging bubblegum music scene that would soon see groups like the 1910 Fruitgum Co. and the Ohio Express evolve into hitmakers.

While older kids were preaching love, younger kids wanted music they could call their own, and bubblegum was born. With the success of the Monkees as a template, Buddah Records took this music to another level, creating hits like "1-2-3 Red Light" and "Indian Giver."

The small Jubilee label's Fifth Estate also laid the groundwork for this short-lived movement with its rock and roll cover version of the "Oz" song, and when that song faded off the charts, they actually tried it again with "Heigh Ho," but people weren't buying.

Later, they had a non-"Oz" song, "Do Drop Inn," that bubbled under the Hot 100, but that was it for them, and the group moved into the commercial jingle field.

There was actually a "Best of" CD released a number of years ago on this group, and if you look hard enough, you might be able to find it.

Anyway, my solution to the BBC problem is to play the Fifth Estate's version of the tune, which I am quite surprised has not been re-released over there to capitalize on the controversy.

They won't offend anyone by doing so, only people who will hold their ears when they hear this version as opposed to the original version from the film.

Well, it was just a thought ...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rant #944: A Cowardly Act

Now, with a few days of perspective behind me, I can comment on the heinous incident in Boston, when two bombs were set and went off during the Boston Marathon.

This was a cowardly act by people who hate this country with a passion.

To set bombs at the marathon--and there were actually more than two, the others did not go off--on Patriots Day, no less, sends a message to us that we should heed.

There are people who hate us, absolutely hate us for whatever reason, and they will do anything to make their point.

Right now, we don't know if this was an outsider or somebody from this country who set these bombs, but what we do know is that three people--one a child--were killed in the blasts, and dozens of others were injured and maimed by the explosions.

Little else is known, or at least is being shared by the authorities.

Hopefully, they will find whoever did this, and at least bring justice through our court system to this situation.

They cannot bring back lives and limbs that were decimated by this attack, though.

If it is a domestic terrorist, we must find out why someone who is an American citizen would do this to his own fellow countrymen.

Why would someone who has enjoyed the riches that this country brings to everyone try to destroy it?

What mental capacity to kill would someone like this have?

If this is an international terrorist, we have to ask ourselves some of those same questions, with some additional ones too.

How did the person get into the country?

Is this a random act, or is some organization backing this person?

The fact of the matter is that we let too many people get into this country without checking into their backgrounds.

Probably 99 percent of those from other countries who come here to live, to work, and to begin new lives are here for the right reasons.

But you have a small, very small minority who come here to do terrible things.

They are often educated here, live here, love here, and set up shop here.

In Washington, they are talking about lessening the hurdles that those here illegally have to gain legal status here.

I say just the opposite.

Make it harder to get in here, and make it more difficult to gain legal status if you are here illegally.

Why make it easier when every person who comes here is seemingly, in this day and age, a potential terrorist?

It is a terrible thing to say, but it leads to another point.

Let's stop with the politically correct nonsense once and for all.

People hate us.

For reasons only they know, people hate us, they hate our way of life, they hate that we are the most successful, prosperous country in the world.

They not only hate us, they abhor us, and there is very little we can do about it.

We have to always be aware of this.

If the Boston Marathon incident was caused by an international terrorist, this will reinforce that notion.

We must always look over our backs, and to each side, and most importantly, ahead.

That is, unfortunately, the way life is today.

But let it be known that whoever did this, they will be found, says our President.

I hope he is right. I really do.

But it doesn't change at all what I said.

And it pains me to say this, because three of my four grandparents came here from Europe.

They all came here for the right reasons, became citizens, and loved this country.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for others who come here.

And that is really sad.

But what is good is that the organizers of the Boston Marathon have said that the race will go on in 2014.

We can't let these horrible individuals kill our spirit, and to hear that the race will go on next year shows that that won't happen.

And that is really good.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rant #943: He Took It To the Bank

It sure has been a tough couple of days for obituaries.

I said that yesterday, and I am saying it today.

Here is another person from our youth who has gone onto the great beyond.

Frank Bank, who played the slow-witted bully Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford on "Leave It To Beaver" but who, in real life, was a sharp stock trader who handled the business portfolio of Jerry Mathers and Barbara Billingsley, his former co-stars, died on Saturday at age 71.

Bank had just celebrated his 71st birthday, and at this writing, no cause of death was given.

Bank's character was sort of the direct opposite of the character played by Tony Dow on the show. While Wally was shy, good looking and somewhat confident, Lumpy was a bully, not too bright--he was supposed to be older than the other boys, and although never said, it was implied that he was left back in school a few years--and a boaster.

Of course, he learned the boasting trait from his dad, perfectly played by Richard Deacon as the friend, and inter-company rival, of Ward Cleaver, played by Hugh Beaumont.

Lumpy was supposedly a good athlete, and if you listened to Mr. Rutherford, he was pursued by all the top schools.

Yup, and I bet if he had a bridge to sell you, he would have tried to run that by you too.

As the show developed, the writers played down Lumpy's bullying character, and simply made him the slower-witted partner of Eddie Haskell, played by Ken Osmond.

During his acting career, which pretty much concluded after "Beaver" ended its run in 1963, Bank was in a couple of movies, and at the tail end of the "Beaver" run, he starred in the unsold pilot for "Archie," and yes, he played Archie Andrews in that pilot.

The pilot episode was populated by former "Beaver" alumni, including Cheryl Holdridge, who played the recurring role of Mary Ellen Rogers on the show, and Bank claimed that the reason it didn't sell was that people could not separate his "Lumpy" character from the actor.

Yes, he was that good in the role.

Later, he admitted to "living the life" in Hollywood, and wrote about it in his autobiography that came out a few years ago.

But as an adult, he made his name in stocks and bonds, and was quite well known in that field.

I wonder how many people actually put Bank and his Lumpy character together as one and the same person.

And I wonder if Mr. Rutherford was around, how proud he would have been of the old Lump, err, Clarence, if he went into that field rather than become an All-Pro football player, as his father envisioned.

Anyway, here's to Frank Bank, who as Lumpy, will live on forever in "Leave It To Beaver" reruns.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rant #942: Jonathan the Great

It's been a bit of a rough week and a half on the obituaries front.

First we had film critic Roger Ebert leave us, then almost in rapid succession, Margaret Thatcher and Annette Funicello. 

Now, Jonathan Winters is gone.

Winters was the cherubic-faced comedian who made everyone laugh in the 1960s through the mid-1990s or so. Did you ever meet anybody who didn't laugh when Winters was around?

I laughed, and laughed and laughed some more at this guy. I have many of his comedy records, and I laughed at his antics on TV too.
He, along with Ernie Kovacs, was the first comic who was tailor-made for television. His act was a very visual one, and often didn't transfer over to recordings. You had to see him to laugh at him.

Although his film appearances were few and far between, I laughed most when he played a kind of dim-witted character in my favorite movie of all time, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

In the movie, the main characters--seemingly most of Hollywood at the time--stop to help a car that has gone off the road, only to find a con, played by Jimmy Durante, lying there, and with his dying breath, give those who stopped for him some clues about where a large amount of cash is hidden.

The rest of the movie concerns this group--among them, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar and Ethel Merman--and what they have to do to try to get to the money.

Winters stole the show in this film, but not the money, of course, which went to cop turned crook Spencer Tracy.

In what I consider the funniest five minutes of movie magic that I have ever seen, Winters destroys a gas station, top to bottom, with his bare hands.

If you have seen the movie and know the scene, you know how funny it is.

If not, see below. You don't have to see the rest of the movie to see how funny it is.

Anyway, Winters was the king of improvisation, and his characters--in particular Maude Frickert--influenced many comics who followed him, including Jim Carrey and Robin Williams.
And Johnny Carson's Aunt Blabby character was certainly a close relation to Frickert.

Winters was just flat out funny. He had a dark side--early in the 1960s, he checked himself into a mental institution for a time, and he was a manic depressive--but to his audience, he was hilarious, taking a mere idea and turning it into comedy skits that were both funny and witty.

Winters was 87, so he lived a long life. But with a guy like this, you just get the feeling that he left us way too early.

R.I.P. Jonathan. We already miss you.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rant #941: Gilligan the Best

In a recent poll, Yahoo TV users voted the theme to "Gilligan's Island" as TV's all-time best theme.

I couldn't agree more.

The tune, written by Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of his own universe of TV shows and themes, including "The Brady Bunch" and the pretty much forgotten "It's About Time," wove the storyline of the show into his themes, and that made them memorable.

The theme talks about the Minnow, which set out with its passengers on a three-hour tour. Of course, a storm ensued, the tiny ship was tossed, and because of the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow wasn't lost, it made its way to an uncharted island, where all the passengers made life as good as they could until they got rescued years and years later.

Why they had their full wardrobes with them for a three-hour tour is another story, but Schwartz was able to tell you the basic premise of the show in under two minutes.

TV theme show writing is a lost art. With less time to tell your story than ever before--with more commercials taking away valuable story time--themes are pretty much a dead area.

There are some shows that still carry a theme--the reboot of "Hawaii 5-0" had to have its theme intact, it is such a part of that show's mosaic--but generally, TV themes are dead.

I think back to the great themes of past TV shows, like "The Andy Griffith Show" theme, the theme to "The Monkees" TV show, even the theme to "Leave It To Beaver," and those short tunes gave you a sense of where the show was going.

Today, themes have generally been scrapped, because there simply isn't enough time to have them as part of the show.

But back to "Gilligan's Island," of course, as you probably know, there are a couple of different themes that that show used.

One was the original theme, which left out some cast members--simply referring to them as "the rest,"--and the other, all inclusive theme, which, of course, I much prefer.

But whatever the case, I applaud the voters for having the sense to pick a theme from a classic show, a show that has lived on for generations, even though critics hated it from the get go ...

Proving once again that the critics don't know much of anything.

And to conclude, yes, I always preferred Mary Ann over Ginger, but that's another story for another time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rant #940: Here In My Car ...

Americans have a love affair/hate affair with their cars.

I know that I do.

I love to drive, and I have driven all over the place.

I drive to work, drive to do the weekly shopping, drive to take my son to school, drive down to Florida almost every year.

We all love to drive, but we lament the upkeep of our cars, including filling up with gas each week.

Owning a car takes a big, big bite out of our pocketbooks.

I have been driving since I was 17, and that was after getting my learner's permit at 15.

I aced both tests on the first try, I made add (gloat, gloat).

Anyway, something has come up in my own family related to cars, and I don't really know what to do.

My son is 17, and I want him to learn to drive. He wants to learn, too, and is anxious to take his learner's permit test.

The problem is that he has a learning disability, and at least right now, he can't possibly pass such a test.

He cannot take tests, because his learning disability is that he cannot retain the facts that he needs to pass such a test, or just about any test, for that matter.

We go over the driving rules every weekend. New York State has a couple of online sites that have practice tests, and he takes these tests, but he routinely fails the tests.

I have him watch me while we are in the car, and I ask him questions about why I do what I do when I am driving.

He knows the basic rules, such as why I am stopping for a specific reason, but once it comes to the questions about reasoning, such as what to do in certain situations where special traffic rules apply, he simply cannot figure out in his head what is right and what is wrong.

Now, you can easily say that if a person cannot pass his learner's permit test, he should not be driving, and that is a valid point.

But to me, the learner's permit test is the biggest hurdle to him driving.

If he could just pass the test, I really do believe that he will be able to pass the actual driving test with ease.

It is the test that irks both me and him.

I have looked up a solution to this problem on the Internet, and the best advice that I get is that in New York State, he can have the test read to him, and he can give out the answers verbally.

That is fine and good, but I don't think that will help him much, because again, when it comes to something where he really has to reason, and to decide what is right and what is wrong, he usually gets fouled up, so a verbal test probably won't help him.

He must learn to drive, because it will expand his possibilities for getting a decent job. He is not going to college at this period in time, and in school, he is in a non-academic program, much of which he experiences away from the school and which he really enjoys.

He has one more year left of formal education, and my wife and I are concerned for his future, especially during this time when our economy is not very good.

He has a summer job at a camp, and he will need transportation to get there.

So driving will expand his horizons. We simply do not know what to do to allow him to pass his learner's permit test.

I don't often do this here, but I am going to do it now: I am going to ask for advice.

Does anybody have any ideas about this? What can we do to help him pass that test that we aren't already doing?

Any advice? I will listen to anything at this point, because I do not know what else I can do to help him.

Maybe you have some ideas ...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rant #939: The Knicks Can Do It!

This is my second basketball-related Rant of the week, but right now, things are going really well for my team, the New York Knicks, so I figured now is the time to gloat a bit.

I have been with this team since 1965. I went to games in the old Madison Square Garden, the new Madison Square Garden, and they are as much in my blood as the Yankees are.

I was around for their two championships, in the 1969-1970 and 1972-1973 seasons. I lived and died with those teams, I really did, and they did not disappoint me.

This year’s team, the 2012-2013 version, isn’t as good as those two championship teams, but right now, they are riding an impressive winning streak--now at 13, with their win against the Washington Wizards last night--that has the entire New York Metropolitan Area thinking that after a 40-year drought, this might be the year that the Knicks bring home the championship trophy.

I remember those other championship years like they were yesterday, and let me tell you, being a city kid for the first championship and new to Long Island with the second championship, I have never seen an area galvanize behind a team like this.

Sure, the Yankees have been incredibly successful, but you had Mets fans who wouldn’t root for the Yankees under any circumstance.

Sure, you have the football Giants, but will a Jets fan ever root for the Giants. Pretty doubtful.

And you have the Rangers, but will Islanders fans or Devils fans ever root for them? No way.

But the Knicks are a different story.

Yes, the Nets are now in Brooklyn, but the Nets have never really been a rival to the Knicks in any way, shape or form, no matter where they have called home.

And now, the Nets’ fan base is developing. It might take years to ever reach even the vicinity of Knicks’ fandom.

Right now, the Nets are to the Knicks as the Clippers are to the Lakers: sort of poor cousins.

When the Knicks are good, it seems that everybody in this area is a Knicks fan, even people who don’t normally follow basketball.

I found this to be so true in 1969-1970, and on May 8, 1970, everybody in New York City was as proud as could be of the Knicks. I am sure people who never followed basketball followed the Knicks to the championship that year, on Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and the rest of the team’s shoulders.

The same could probably be said about 1972-1973, with Earl “The Pearl” Monroe on board, but again, I had moved out to the suburbs by then.

I get a good feeling about the current team now. Sure, there are some great teams in the NBA this year, led by the Miami Heat, a team that just came off a near-record 27-game winning streak.

But the Knicks actually beat them three of four games this year, so there is a chance for a major upset.

Anyway, led by Carmelo Anthony, it looks like the Knicks are for real again. They have a chance to do something terrific, and I am really rooting for them.

I want my son to experience something like what I experienced way back when, and this might be the year to do it.

Let’s see what happens. The playoffs are right around the corner, and anything can happen during those games.

And, would it be that crazy a thought to think that the Knicks could be NBA champions by the end of June?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rant #938: Goodbye, Annette

I am in mourning today, I really am.

Annette Funicello, who at least to me was America's sweetheart, died yesterday of the affects of multiple sclerosis. She was just 70 years old.

The lovely Annette first came on the scene in the mid 1950s as one of the kid stars of Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club." She was one of numerous kids who were on the show, but she stood out from the rest, not just because of her singing, dancing and other theatrical talents, but because of ...

Well, yes, because of them.

In a much more conservative era than those that succeeded it, the 1950s were one where voluptuous women's figures seemed to be in vogue.

Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Sophia Loren and others epitomized that era, and that led to America's fascination with Annette.

On the show, right before our eyes, Annette was maturing, and let's say, maturing very, very well. Even adults started to watch the show with their kids to see this phenomenon happening.

Yes, this young girl could hold her own in the figure department next to Monroe and the others, and America reveled in Annette's evolving figure.

Both during and after the show, Annette was building up a nice resume. She had become a singing star, with a couple of hits to her name. Sadly, the only record of hers that I own, "First Name Initial," has a beat up picture sleeve that kind of obscures her loveliness, but it is all that I have.

Anyway, she appeared in many, many movies and TV shows, including the remake of "The March of the Wooden Soldiers, "Babes in Toyland," which was far inferior to the original, its only asset, or assets, being Annette.

She also was on many TV shows, and had a semi-regular gig on "Make Room For Daddy."

But even the early 1960s weren't as conservative as the 1950s were, and people seemingly wanted to see what kids were doing in their spare time, especially California kids, and the exploitative genre of the beach movie was created, and was seemingly created to highlight Annette ... and her now very voluptuous figure.

A whole series of cheapo beach movies were released, such as "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How To Stuff a Wild Bikini." Annette and her long-time pal Frankie Avalon starred in many of these, basically portrayed as the virginal couple against the forces of some type of evil.

Now, while these films showcased the figures of Annette and other women--including a very young Linda Evans--Annette's character was such that they had to downplay her assets, so if you watch the films, she is probably the most covered up of any of the female stars of those films.

Sure, those bathing suits showed plenty, but Annette didn't show as much, and that was done purposely.

But whatever the case, these films were like printing money, and each made millions upon millions of dollars in an era where you could show a lot, but couldn't show everything yet on film.

During this period, she married, had children, and rumor has it that she turned down Hugh Hefner's plea to have her pose nude in Playboy. She said she wouldn't do it because, to paraphrase, "Walt Disney wouldn't like it."

As the 1960s wound down, she kind of wound down too. She felt the need to become more of a full-time mother, so she kept her appearances to a minimum. She did appear in one of my all-time favorite films, the Monkees "Head" film, as one of the guest stars, and she was pretty ubiquitous in numerous commercials for Jif peanut butter. And she also appeared on numerous game shows too.

In the 1980s, with nostalgia running high on the 1960s, she was cast with her old pal Avalon in "Back to the Beach," a retro comedy about the beach.

Annette was missing lines, missing her cues, didn't feel well all the time and reports are that she had herself checked out, and the diagnosis was not a good one.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the debilitating illness that can rob one of muscle control, among other things. She finished the film--the movie was so successful that there was talk of more films and even a TV show based on the film--did promotions for it, but then faded off to deal with her illness.

She set up her own MS foundation, and progressively got worse with the disease.

Annette became the face of MS for as long as she could, but then the illness got her, and got her really badly.

At the time of her death, she reportedly was in an MS coma from the effects of the disease. She could not walk, could not speak, and needed around the clock care.

To me, Annette was one of the world's great beauties. She could have used her assets for all they were worth, but at the height of her fame, she decided that domesticity was her preferred way of life.

She will live on forever in all her movies, music and TV appearances as an icon for a different era, one where we knew when to stop when it came to personal sexuality.

Annette, to me, is one of the major symbols of that era, and I don't think that anyone who was around during that period will ever forget her.

I know that I won't.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rant #937: Net Gain

On Saturday evening, my son and I visited the brand spanking new Barclays Center in Brooklyn to take in a Nets game.

I had heard a lot about it from other people who have seen events there, so I figured I would take it in with my son in tow.

I was born in Brooklyn, had roots in Brooklyn for years, but since my grandmother passed away in the early 1990s, my visits to my old home borough have been few and far between.

And during that time, urban blight kicked into the borough, but right now, Brooklyn is actually the hot place to be in New York City, with major retailers, tony shops and high-end residents literally erasing the urban decay and replacing it with the upscale.

We made our way to the game a few hours before it was to begin, as we were coming from Long Island. It is a bit of a trip, made worse by the fact that unlike going to Madison Square Garden, where you take one train into Penn Station, to go to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn during this time of day, you have to take two trains, changing at another of my old hometowns, Jamaica.

It was only a slight hassle for us, as the connecting train was waiting for us as we got there. We boarded the train, and onto Brooklyn we went.

The Barclays Center, literally right across the street from the Long Island Railroad station, looks like a spaceship had landed right on Flatbush Avenue. Sure, you've got the Best Buys and Pathmarks around it, but this huge facility still kind of looks out of place in a neighborhood that was once known for its smaller, mom and pop businesses.

Anyway, we got there slightly early, and waited to get in. Once inside, we made our way to our seats. We were sitting in the upper 200 section, and let me tell you, I do mean upper. This was the steepest climb I have made since we were last at Yankee Stadium, and the lighting all the way at the top is absolutely terrible.

The row numbers are displayed so poorly up there, and the lighting is so poor, that even the usher didn't know where our seats were, and she admitted this to us. But between the three of us, we found our seats, and from there, we were fine.

I went to get food, and you can find just about everything there, from sandwiches, burgers, to pizza. The price is pretty steep--three slices of pizza, one water and one soda cost me $28--but the pizza was actually pretty good.

As was the game. With the place pretty much sold out, the Nets beat the dreadful Charlotte Bobcats 105-96. The Nets were actually outplayed by the horrible, but tenacious, Bobcats team for about 99 percent of the game, but talent finally won out, and the Nets pulled away in the last minute or so.

As a Knicks fan, I was kind of rooting for the Bobcats, but my old Net pride showed. In the rafters of the building were the championship pennants from those years in the ABA when the Nets were one of the dominant teams in that fledgling league.

Also, there were the retired numbers of such great players as Julius Erving and "Super John" Williamson. I used to go to Nassau Coliseum all the time in the 1970s to see this team play, and it brought back lots of memories.

I had not seen the Nets play a home game since the final game of the history of the ABA in 1976, when the Nets won that league's final championship before being absorbed into the NBA, so it was pretty much a thrill to see them again 37 years later, and put up a win. As I said, I was kind of rooting for the Bobcats, but looking back, not really.

I guess I did want the Nets to win.

As the game ended, people slowly filed out of the arena, and I found it interesting that the down escalators were actually working. It's been my experience that at the end of games in arenas like Madison Square Garden, you can use the escalators, but they are turned off for safety reasons, so it is more like using the stairs. Here, the escalators were on. Very curious indeed.

Anyway, we proceeded out to the street, and walked to the railroad station. Our train to Jamaica was waiting for us, and within minutes, we sped off.

The train in Jamaica wasn't waiting for us, and we had to wait about 15 minutes for our connection. Not great, but the weather was nice, so it wasn't that bad.

We got home at about 11:45, so everything went pretty smoothly, I must say.

The Barclays Center is truly a beautiful arena. It has everything a fan would want from an arena, including good sight lines and other amenities.

No, I don't think I would sit so far up again, but all in all, I really liked the place.

As an alternative to going to Madison Square Garden, that is just what it is.

There is nothing like seeing an event in the Garden, but we will visit Brooklyn again next season.

You can count on that.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Rant #936: Thumb's Up

Yesterday, renowned film critic Roger Ebert lost his long battle with cancer.

Ebert was best known for his verbal sparring with fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel on "At the Movies" and various shows which pitted the two against each other, critiquing movies and at the same time, trying to one-up themselves.

It was entertaining television, and became must-see television just to see the two of them go at it.

They were rivals in print, writing for two Chicago-based rival newspapers, and they brought all of that verve to the TV screen.

Some say that movie critics are failed screenwriters or actors, and in Ebert's case, this might have been true.

Few remember that Ebert wrote the screenplay for arguably one of the worst films ever released by a major studio, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," a Russ Meyer concoction, that was about the exploits of a female rock and roll group.

Even by 1970s standards--when sexuality on the screen had finally moved from adult movies to major motion pictures--this movie was bad, really bad, but has become something of a cult classic during the past 40-plus years.

After that fiasco--a period which Ebert actually always looked fondly upon--he stuck pretty much to movies, something he was very good at.

And on the show, when Ebert and/or Siskel gave a thumb's up to a movie, it was a stamp of approval, a film that you could go and see and enjoy.

A thumb's down could kill a film right then and there.

I think that the power of that show was that it was more than two professional film critics arguing about the merits of the latest films.

Neither was what one would call a matinee idol, and it was like you were arguing about how good a film was with your next door neighbor or your best friend. That is what those two brought to that show.

And even though it was a simple premise, they made it work.

I always found Siskel to be the slightly snobbish one, pointing to film as more than art, a very aloof character who thought he knew more than the average fellow about the movies.

Ebert, to me, was more the everyman, the guy who knew plenty about the movies but was more grounded than his fellow critic.

Siskel died several years ago, and Ebert carried on without his TV partner in various forms.

By the way, he is the only film critic with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

When the cancer hit, and it affected his jaw and his speaking, he was bright enough to use the newest technologies to keep his name prominent and his voice heard.

It was just announced earlier this week that Ebert's cancer had returned, and evidently, he went quickly.

So here's a thumb's up to Roger Ebert, who can now argue the virtues of film with his TV partner, Gene Siskel, once again.

I am sure the rivalry is still intact in the great beyond. They wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rant #935: Pay Cuts

It was announced yesterday that President Obama will be taking a 5 percent pay cut on his annual $400,000 salary.

He is reportedly doing this to show solidarity to other federal workers, who face furloughs if an agreement against overall federal pay cuts--called sequestration--is not reached soon.

Bully for the President. It's a nice move, a good cosmetic move, but what actually does it all mean?

Not much, really not much.

Just on the face of it, taking a 5 percent salary cut from his salary amounts to not much at all, especially when you add in the expenses that he gets paid away from his salary.

I mean, when was the last time he and first lady went supermarket shopping or gassed up the family car?

Look, I know, he can't take furlough days off, like what is facing other federal workers if Congress--and he himself--do not come to some type of agreement on these cuts.

But let's look at the federal worker, what he or she faces, and that is where the real problem in this whole thing rests.

If a federal worker is making $50,000, let's say, and he has to take a furlough day off a week for the next six months, we are talking about a major bite from his paycheck, thousands of dollars for people who can least afford it, especially those with families.

Their only perks are that they get just about every holiday off, certainly not the perks the President gets.

These are real people with potentially real money problems coming up if this thing isn't settled, but let's face it; why should politicians really care about the people that they serve and the hardships they are going through?

Many of these elected officials are themselves making nice six-figure salaries, and they get plenty of perks too. And that is just from their jobs as Congressmen. Many of them also get salaries from other positions they hold outside of their elected duties, so certainly enough of them are doing well enough to make them almost aloof and apart from the constituents they are supposed to be serving.

I mean, what salary will they be losing in all of this?

Why the President and Congress have not gotten together yet to stop sequestration dead in its tracks is beyond my comprehension. It greatly impacts so many other things beyond what my focus is here--including the military--that you really have to wonder about these guys and gals we have elected to represent us.

What are their true goals in Washington?

Honestly, if this thing is not resolved soon, cuts are going to impact everyone. It has already happened. Although not necessarily tied into sequestration, look at your own paycheck. It is like we took a hit already, as our paychecks are smaller.

And I don't know about you, but my taxes went sky high.

Personally, I would vote any of our elected officials out of office if they do not produce during their first terms. Of course, people won't do that, but that is the only way, seemingly, to get anything done in Washington.

Bring in new blood, I say, eager people who haven't yet yet been taken in by their own egos as Washington politicians.

I would also limit the Presidential term to six years, and just one single term.

Look, if you can't get things done in six years, why do you deserve another chance?

As we have it now, the President can serve two four-year terms, but what is the first term anyway?

Is it just so he can get his feet wet in the way things are done in Washington?

Heck, I hate talking about this stuff, but let's face it, everyone is affected by it, so it must be talked about.

And when I read that the President is taking a pay cut, well, what's that all really about, anyway?

He should be doing more, much more, to make Americans feel confident again.

Taking a tiny pay cut like this isn't really doing anything, is it?

What is the point?

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