Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rant #1,093: Thanksgiving/Hanukkah Mix

Don't fully believe everything that you read about the supposed mix of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that is happening this year.

Yes, the holidays do collide, but not in the way that the media is portraying it.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

Remember, Jewish celebrations begin at sundown.

Tomorrow is Thanksgtiving.

Tomorrow is also the first full day of Hanukkah.

So, to be exact, Thanksgiving falls on both the first full day of Hanukkah as well as the second night of the celebration.

Sure, it is important, because Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration, but the way the media is portraying it, both holidays open and close at the same time, which is not true at all.

I haven't even bought everything for Hanukkah yet.

I traditionally will buy everything that I still need tonight, after work.

I have been doing that for years, and I will do it again this year.

It is better for me. The stores are pretty much empty in anticipation of the Black Friday rush.

This year, of course, it makes a problem, because the first night of Hanukkah is tonight.

But I have told my family to wait for me, I won't be home very late, and we can celebrate when I get home.

Right now, it is stormy outside, and honestly, my allergies are really bothering me.

But tonight, I will put that all aside, and have a great beginning to a nice holiday ... err ... holidays.

Not good English, but a fine celebration nonetheless.

I will also take a few days off from this column, so I will next speak to you on Monday.

Have a great holiday ... err ... holidays.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rant #1,092: Wrestling With Boredom

As I said just yesterday, my weekend wasn't very much of anything. With my wife working, my son and I basically didn't do very much of anything, but I also said that things were going to pick up very soon.

And I meant that they would pick up literally the very next day.

After a long day at work--and I do mean a very long day--my son and I took in WWE Raw at the Nassau Coliseum.

This is the show that is broadcast live on the USA Network, and it is the flagship show of this multi-billion dollar corporation based in Connecticut.

The show for us was actually nearly four hours, as they also put on a web-only WWE Superstars show prior to Raw going live.

Anyway, we were sitting in the rafters yesterday, and although we were pretty far away from the action, we could see everything pretty well. There was some obstruction with all the gizmos they have above the ring, and sometimes the lights that they used to illuminate the ring for TV got in our way, but generally, we were OK with the sight lines.

Honestly, I was bushed yesterday, and I felt myself yawning through just about the entire thing.

This started when we got to the Coliseum, and we were charged $25 for parking, up $5 since the last time we were there six months or so earlier.

And this is for a place that is going to be torn down in 2015 yet.

Then, the next indignation is that security had us line up outside before they would allow us into the Coliseum.

It was a bitter cold night, and the only things that saved us were that 1) we were dressed appropriately for a late autumn night in New York, and 2) there was little or no wind, which was starkly different from the previous night, when winds upward of more than 50 miles an hour were charted in our area.

When we got patted down and finally entered, it was warm as could be, which was fine with my son and I, and this followed throughout the next four hours.

As I have said before, this really is the modern circus, and WWE treats its fans better than any other sports organization I know. For the four hours we were there, it was really non-stop entertainment all the way.

For me, I don't get personally involved, like when I see the Yankees or Knicks in person. I generally cheer for the bad guys, my son for the good, so it makes for a fun evening.

We even saw several people there that we knew, and we exchanged pleasantries before the jumping, punching, slapping, and brawling took place.

And yes, there were so many kids there--and, I mean, little kids--that if clowns would have come out, I would not have been surprised.

Instead, we got to see John Cena, Big Show, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, and the like.

I guess they are like clowns, too, as the entertain the crowd, but much more athletically than anything most clowns could do.

The show was over by about 11:15, and we were home slightly past 11:30. We were in bed by 11:45, and I woke at my customary time of about 4:40 or so.

As I write this, my wife just woke up, and my son will be soon to follow.

Back to the mundane, I guess, until next time ... which should be soon.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rant 1,091: Weak-End

When my wife has to work an entire weekend, it puts a crimp in anything that my family wants to do, and this weekend was one of those.

She is a bank teller, and as you can imagine, with the holidays just around the corner--and Hanukkah and Thanksgiving converging this week for the first time since 1888--things are busy at her place of business.

So my son and I were left alone, and well, we didn't do too much.

Food shopping was the first order of business on Saturday, and later in the morning, my son has his bowling league, so that was No. 2.

That was pretty much it for the weekend.

On Saturday, as is customary, I went out and brought in our dinner: pizza, salad, and for my son, Taco Bell.

I watched the Knicks game--they lost, of course--and that was pretty much it.

Sunday was even a less busy day, if that is possible.

As my wife went to work, I decided that I would move my LPs around, clearing off another shelf and allowing the albums to breath a little bit.

This took about two and a half to three hours. The records kept falling--the shelves aren't really made for LPs, but that is what we use them for--and I was bushed, bruised and battered at the end of this.

We are talking about moving hundreds of LPs, and let me tell you, it was not easy. Every bone in my body hurt by the time I was finished.

I watched some TV--some old "My Three Sons" episodes, the black and white ones--and I then settled down to watch the Nets game--and yes, they lost too.

My wife came home, we had dinner, and my wife and I pretty much fell asleep by 8 p.m. or so.

This weekend was not too exciting, but it will probably be the dullest few days I will have for the rest of the year.

More about that tomorrow.

I always say during weekends like this that, "At least I wasn't at work ... ."

... But it's back to work I go today, where there is never a dull minute.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rant #1,090: 50 Years

I cannot believe that today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Fifty years is a long time, and on the other hand, it really isn't.

I can remember so vividly where I was, what I was doing, and what I did in the aftermath of his murder.

I am going to set a precedent here by re-running, in part, a Rant that I made way back in 2010, on Nov. 22, then the 47th anniversary, Rant #380, which I titled "Our Bleakest Moment."

It pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say then, and three years later, it still does.

Here is the edited Rant:

"It is hard to believe, but 47 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade.

Kennedy was the last of our beloved Presidents, the last President whose picture hung in people's homes. Sure, we have found out that he was a surly, womanizing adulterer in the intervening years, but back in 1963, he was a "rock star" before that was acknowledged as a way that one handled themselves.

He was young, vibrant, had a beautiful wife, young kids, and he pointed to the vitality of the United States.

When he died, I think our innocence went with it. The 1950s clearly ended, and the 1960s--the years of protest, war, murders, and many other eye-opening events--truly started.

I have often told this story, and I may have even told it here, but I will tell it again.

I was in first grade in P.S. 165, a good grammar school that still stands (under a different name) in Flushing, New York. I was six years old.

I seem to remember that it was nearing the end of the day in Mrs. Gold's classroom. All of a sudden, the next door teacher ran into the room in tears and screamed, "The President has been shot!"

A few moments later, the principal came on the PA system, explained what happened (or at least, gave us an update on what happened), and we were let out of school.

We ran home in horror, and I can remember sitting in front of our old black and white Dumont TV and being mesmerized by the images I saw. I even remember calling my mother into the living room when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby on national television.

And yes, I remember John John saluting his dad as the flag-laden coffin passed him.

In the 47 years which have passed, so much has happened. John John and Jackie are gone, Caroline moves along, Ted is gone and so is Bobby, who was also murdered just a few years later ... and the Kennedys are no longer much of a force in our political scene.

I, personally, have grown from a young child to a man, with my own family and responsibilities.

But that moment--when the teacher burst into the room with the news--is something that I will never forget.

I will never forget where I was when we heard he had been shot.

It is one of the touchstones of my life, and probably for most Baby Boomers who were old enough to remember that moment."
Now, incredibly, it is 50 years since that moment in time that will stick with us forever.

It is hard to believe, isn't it?

And TV continues to be the center of the coverage, with numerous specials dedicated to that moment in time.

I really don't know if I am going to watch any of them. How many times can you go over the same thing?

This is an incident that still touches us like no other moment--save, quite probably, 9/11--in at least my own lifetime.

We were the kids of that generation, the people that JFK was something of a father figure to. Many of his policies laid the groundwork for what we would experience while growing up into adults.

Unfortunately, his beacon was snuffed out way too early. 

There is no telling where his presidency would have gone if he had lived. 

He was much more conservative in his politics than his brothers were, but conservative or not, the general populace loved this guy, and to me, he was our last, final across-the-board popular President.

Now, it is 50 years ...

Have we grown as a country, as a planet, as a world since this event happened?

With all the senseless gun violence that still fills up the news today, I just don't know.

I think the jury is out on that one.

But one thing I do know is that that moment in time, 50 years ago today, will seemingly never burn out. This will be looked at for many generations to come, and will be debated forever.

The world did change when JFK was gunned down, and I know the life of every baby boomer--me included--changed too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rant #1,089: ARod A'Leaving

Fallen New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez bolted out of his performance enhancing drugs arbitration hearing yesterday.

He called the entire process, which he had previously backed, a "farce," disagreeing with the ruling that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig did not have to testify at these hearings.

On a radio show yesterday, Rodriguez further labeled the process as a "witch hunt" and he took on  Selig in the process.

ARod said something to the effect that, "Selig is retiring, and he wants my head in his trophy case" or something to that effect.

ARod is both right and wrong in his assertions.

He did use PEDs. He has admitted to using them early in his career.

Of course, he is not on trial for those past deeds, but for possible more recent use of these drugs, which he reportedly obtained from the closed Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, which has since closed down.

He was one of several players cited. Those players took their medicine, so to speak--suspensions--and have since moved on.

ARod has always denied his involvement in this, and has fought since day one to have his name unsullied.

The way I look at it, he has made his bed, and now he has to lay--or lie--in it.

And because of that, he is correct.

These hearings have become something of a witch hunt, but since he is the only one being judged, what more--or less--could it actually be?

MLB has come up with some nefarious ways to gain information, from some smarmy individuals, and this has come out at these hearings, if you want to believe everything you read.

The heat got too hot for ARod yesterday, and he left the hearing in disgust.

Many people are on ARod's side, saying he is being persecuted because he is Hispanic, because the Yankees want to get out of his enormous contract, because baseball wants to be rid of this cancer ASAP, because yes, Selig is retiring.

My take is that the 211-game suspension that they foisted on ARod in the first place was ridiculous in its length.

MLB has gone to extreme means to present evidence against him, and ARod, on the other hand, has gone to extreme means to exonerate himself.

Because of this, they are butting heads like two stubborn billy goats.

When the hearings conclude, and an arbitrator makes his decision, I think you will find that ARod will have been found to have used PEDs from this clinic, but there is no way that he is going to get such a suspension.

He might get 50 games, he might get a little more, and he might get less.

Or he won't get anything at all.

And if that happens, it will set a precedent, and other players will fight like cats and dogs when they are found to have used PEDs.

Look, athletes have been using "stuff" since the late 1960s to better prepare them for game. If you need any evidence of that, simply read Jim Bouton's classic "Ball Four," and you will read that even in 1968, players were using uppers to get ready for contests.

Of course, this has morphed into drugs that supposedly enhance your skills, and dozens of players have been found guilty of using them.

ARod is one of them. And he probably used them recently, just likes many other of his peers.

He was one that was caught.

And suffice it to say that if he doesn't get his way, he will further this process by bringing it to a federal court.

Let's hope this does not happen.

He should get a fair penalty, but he should get a suspension, no doubt about it.

Whether it is what MLB wants--or what ARod thinks is fair, for that matter--awaits the baseball world.

Normally over the winter, I would be most interested in trades and waiting for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training in Florida and Arizona in February.

I still am interested in that, but this situation has to trump all of that.

Until it is over, baseball is sort of in chaos, a tumult brought on by one player who wants to clear his name, even if it is as dirty as one of his old baseball uniforms.

We'll see what happens. Even non-baseball fans should be interested in the decision that will be made probably next month.

A holiday present for fans? Not really, but at least it will close the book on one of the most nefarious episodes in professional sports history.

Or will it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rant #1,088: Horror Scope

I don't normally look at my horoscope, but today I did just that.

Here is what it had to say:

"It's still not a good time for entering agreements or trying to get anywhere with job searches. You are much better off staying home and working on your issues there -- if that's possible."

Heck, I would love to stay home and "work on my issues"--but on the other hand, I want to get paid for working on "issues," so I have to go to work.

It is funny how horoscopes are supposed to directly mirror what is going on in your life, but they never really do.

I don't have any agreements pending, and I am not looking for a new job.

I've been at my current place of work for 17 and a half years, I am 56 years old, so who else is going to hire me anyway?

I don't know what the horoscope means by "issues," other than the fact that at work, we are trying to put together our December issue of the magazine I am associate editor for.

And as for staying home, as I said, I would love to do just that!

But it doesn't put food on the table.

I remember that during the days of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and the like, they used to have on, on occasion, a psychic or a horoscope person, who supposedly would be able to predict the future.

I remember one in particular, Joyce Jillson, a willowy, very pretty blond with a great body who had failed as an actress (she was in this film called "Superchick," I mean, that should tell you all you need to know) and had moved on to doing stuff like this.

And she was very successful at it, having a syndicated column seen by millions of people every day.

She would tell us basically what we wanted to hear about the future, and I guess that is all she was supposed to do.

But I always thought that if she could accurately predict what was going to happen, why didn't she win the lottery?

Yes, Merv and Johnny are both gone, as is Jillson, and it is all a bunch of nonsense.

I think I will do exactly what my horoscope says for me not to do and see how it plays out. 

What have I got to lose?

And if everything goes awry, then I can say that my horoscope was accurate, and I will become a believer!

No, on second thought, I will just go with the flow today.

I don't need anything to disrupt my life, especially right before the holidays come around.

Joyce Jillson, R.I.P.

You have been gone for some time now, I didn't believe a word you said, but at least you were nice to look at when you were here.

And that was more important than a horoscope to this Taurean, any day of the week.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rant #1,087: Chutzpah!

The word "chutzpah" is a Yiddish word meaning nerve, but really having a lot of nerve, and guts to do something outlandish to express your displeasure.

It often provides one with a sliver of revenge, too.

Well, I think I found our "Chutzpah Man of the Year' for 2013.

A man in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., upset at his ex-wife and her boyfriend, bought the house right next to where they are living, which is chutzpah itself.

But what he did beyond that really is Chutzpah personified.

In addition to purchasing the house, he also installed a statue, which his next door neighbors can clearly see, that is of a fist with an upraised middle finger.

I guess he believes he can taunt his ex-wife and her paramour by not only being next door, but having this statue in plain sight of them.

First of all, I guess this is a fantasy of any divorced person, especially early on in their divorce, to get back at the other side.

Heck, I wanted to do that too when it happened to me, but honestly, at least with me, it didn't last very long, I moved on with my life, and moved on for the better.

But some people not only want to get back at their ex-spouse, they want to make a clear statement, and that is what this guy did in a very novel way.

I know that in my neighborhood, such a statue wouldn't last for very long.

It is portraying something vulgar, so it would have to come down quickly.

I don't know how long this statue will last in that community, but yes, the man made a major statement.

Longer lasting though, will the guy be able to get along with his neighbors? Will his ex-wife and her boyfriend be able to get along with him?

I mean, they live right next door to each other, statue or no statue.

Thank goodness my ex and my family are separated by some miles in distance.

I think to this day, that is a better situation for both of us, even though we have been divorced for well more than 20 years.

But in the case I spoke about, chutzpah is chutzpah, the guy did what he had to do, and he probably feels really good about it.

Good for him.

Chutzpah is nice when it works.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rant #1,086: The Attack of the Bobble Heads

No, that is not the name of a new low-budget horror movie that will make millions at the box office.

But lately, bobble heads have infiltrated my life.

Well, sort of.

For the holidays, I bought two sets of bobble heads to give as presents.

You know what bobble heads are.

They are those dollish-type figures that have a head perched on the top that wobbles.

They have been around forever, but in the last couple of years, with computer technology being what it is, they have really been making a presence, because for the first time, they actually look like the person they are portraying.

Remember bobble heads in the 1960s? That is the first time that I ever saw these things. People would put them in their cars, and the first bobble heads I ever remember seeing were the New York Mets bobble heads that came out around 1965 or so.

I lived in Queens, New York, at the time, and lots of people had these things in their cars to represent what their favorite team was.

They always had cherubic, almost child-like faces on them, as if they were plastic, wobbling angels.

And yes, I remember the Jesus bobble heads that also came out around the same time.

Again, these had cherubic, almost child-like faces, too, but at least they had beards and long hair, too.

But you could get away with a Jesus bobble head that looked like an angel, for obvious reasons.

I cannot find a picture of one of these, but I do remember them.

Now, years later, bobble heads made a comeback in the early 2000s. It seemed that you could make a bobble head out of everybody, and you could even make them of yourselves if you wanted to pay a premium price for one.

They kind of faded, but all of a sudden, they are back, and better than ever.

I bought two sets for the holidays. One is of Judy Garland as Dorothy of the "Wizard of Oz."

And darn it, it looks just like Garland did during that time period.'

That one I bought for my wife on her birthday. It was kind of a fun present along with her coat and some other things I got her.

The second was for a friend.

I bought two bobble heads of the Monkees, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith.

These came out during the first resurgence of bobble heads in the early 2000s. I personally have had these in my collection since then, and they are in my son's room. He had a whole collection of bobble heads, ranging from "Rocky"--yes, the Sylvester Stallone character--to "The Munsters"--sorry, no Marilyn in that bunch.

But anyway, I know my friend will like this, and yes, those bobble heads are becoming rarer to find, so I just got him two, as they are also becoming quite pricey.

Now I read that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be honoring someone with their own bobble head night during the 2014 baseball season.

Who are they honoring? Maybe Jackie Robinson, perhaps Sandy Koufax, how about Walter Alston, maybe even manager Don Mattingly?


They are honoring Babe Ruth!

The Babe, who was best known for his heroics, and classic eating and other appetites, with mainly the New York Yankees but also the Boston Red Sox, was a coach for the Dodgers for one, single, solitary year in the 1940s.

He desired to manage, but never got the chance, and reportedly, he wasn't even the greatest coach in the world, not being given signals to relay as a third base coach, which is usually that position's job.

Anyway, the Dodgers will be saluting him with his own bobble head night.

That is like the Miami Marlins giving out bobble heads for Mike Piazza, or the Orlando Magic in the NBA giving out bobble heads for Patrick Ewing.

Anyway, they will have their night, and I bet that that bobble head will immediately go on Ebay and fetch a fortune.

Bobble heads, weeble, they wobble, but they don't fall down.

And they also make people money, which is guess if the real reason they exist.

Now, what about a bobble head for me?

Nah, it costs too much and I do fall down on occasion, so I guess I wouldn't qualify.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rant #1,085: Of Godmothers and Godfathers ...

Heck, I thought that yesterday's post would get me in trouble with people who can't understand how I don't like chicken, but it was something else that apparently rankled the Facebook populace when I put up the daily notification of my blog for all to see.

I have godparents.

I am Jewish.

Evidently, to some, those two things do not mix.

I had no idea that they wouldn't, don't, or aren't supposed to mix.

But some Jews and non-Jews are bewildered by this, and further bewildered that being born in the 1950s, in particular, that I had godparents bestowed on me.

It is my understanding that godparents are an entirely ceremonial title in the Jewish community.

The title of godparent really means very little, basically being used to ensure the continued "Jewishness"or Jewish education of the child if due to some unforeseen occurrence, the actual parents cannot raise the child.

The godfather, in particular, may have a special place at the bris--yes, the "cutting" ceremony--but even that is disputed by some.

I am pretty sure that my uncle and aunt on my father's side of the family are my godparents.

Thank goodness that I never had to have them utilize their "godparents" title, and certainly now, at my age of 56, their possible godparent days are long gone.

I am the godfather of one of my nephews, and he is in his 20s, so he doesn't need me, either.

Some think that the godparents thing is very Christian, and not a Jewish thing at all.

And way before we, as a society, seemingly had a homogenization of the religions like we do today to an extent, way back in 1957, I was given godparents by my parents.

This rankles some, but to me, it is such a minor facet of my existence that I only brought it up to tell you about things you probably did not know about me.

Yes, my daughter has godparents--two women from two different families, if I remember correctly--heaven help us all!

My son has godparents too.

Godparents have as much influence on the rearing of their godchildren as Popeye had in the rearing of his nephews Pipeye, Poopeye and little Popeye, and there really is nothing more to say about the matter.

I guess there would be a story here if Marlon Brando had been my real godfather, but that was not meant to be.

Maybe he would have left me a horse's head in his will if he was my real godfather.

No, on second thought, that would not have been a good thing.

Read more about this subject here:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rant #1,084: A Dozen Things That You Did Not Know About Me

I will admit right at the get go that I got this idea from some posts on Facebook that I have read, and have liked.

Evidently, there is a small wave of posts going around listing facts about the people you have "friended" that you didn't know about.

Not that you know every little tidbit about every person that you "friend," but it is interesting what I have been reading about these people.

So I decided to extend this little game over here.

Since I have been doing this blog, my regular blog visitors have gotten to know me a bit, but you can't possibly know everything about me.

So here are 12 things that you did not know about me, with explanations where applicable:

1) According to my mother, I was born about two weeks after my actual due date: I guess I liked where I was and didn't want to leave.

2) My paternal grandfather and my father had a Kosher butcher store on Delancey Street in Manhattan, but there were no plans for me to continue running that store when I became an adult: Mayor Lindsay planned to put a highway through the store, and it closed around 1966 after many years in business. The highway was never built, and the empty lot stands today.

3) I was the first child of my parents, first grandchild of my grandparents, the first in my family to go to college, the first to graduate, not the first to marry (my sister was), but the first to divorce, and the first to remarry (very happily): Someone has to be the first, and I was it.

4) I went to high school with the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Setzer, Jessica Hahn, Joey Buttafuoco, and several other people who became notable as adults: I didn't know any of them very well, but I did walk the same halls as they did at Massapequa High School. And Alec Baldwin's dad was my driver's ed teacher. Six degrees of separation ...

5) My aunt Suzanne, who went under the name Suzanne Parrish, was an actress, and appeared on the night time soap "The Doctors." My cousin, Dr. Donnica Moore, is on TV all the time, giving medical advice on a number of shows: Six degrees of separation again, although I am quite friendly with my aunt, who I see several times each year. She is a remarkable woman, been through a lot but is strong as can be in her own way. I don't really know my cousin, only to say that she is my cousin.

6) I am the father of two, a boy and a girl, and I am the godparent of one: It's my sister's middle boy, who is a good kid who is finding his way in school right now. He was a wrestler in high school, and I had visions of him becoming the next big star in the WWE, but alas, he was injured and it ain't gonna happen. My kids are just normal kids who are growing up real fast.

7) I am 5 feet, 9 inches in height. I was barely 5 feet during my bar mitzvah, but right after having my big day in May 1970, I grew to my current height and never grew another inch in stature: I remember that during June of that year, my mother had to rush out to buy clothes for me, as I had sprouted up so quickly that I didn't have anything in my wardrobe that I could wear.

8) I met my wife through a dating service: Yes, before all the Internet dating services, there was your standard boy meets girl services, and after my first marriage, I felt I needed some help in finding the right girl, and I joined something called Together. After a few dates that they set up, where the girls were nice but I didn't really see anything happening, they paired me with the girl who eventually became my wife. Funny, I worked around the corner from her for a while, and never met her or saw her. Funny how things work out.

9) I was supposed to be in a movie,  a contestant on a TV game show and on a reality show, but never was in any of these things: Many years ago, as a teenage, I was one of many people who won a contest to be in the remake of "King Kong." I was supposed to be in the crowd scene by the World Trade Center, and one of the extras to crowd around the felled big ape. My parents were away on vacation, and since the shooting was overnight, my grandmother, who was watching my sister and I when my parents were away, refused to let me go. Some years later, I took a test to be a contestant on the then brand new Travel Channel's game show "The Travel Game." The show was canceled after just a few episodes--maybe like five of them--and I never got my chance to show my travel expertise. And very recently, I was supposed to be the subject of a show produced by Marlo Thomas of "That Girl" fame. The show was about conquering fears, and I have a fear of riding roller coasters. Anyway, the kibosh was put on that one when Hurricane Sandy struck, and I haven't heard from her production company in a year, so I assume the show is dead.

10) I hate chicken: My father was what they called "a chicken butcher" way back when, and since my grandfather was also part of the business, I have chicken in my blood, but I have always hated chicken. I don't like the smell or the taste, no matter how it is prepared. Everyone in my family loves chicken, so I am like the black sheep ... err, chicken of my clan.

11) I am the only person, reportedly, to have been present in Yankee Stadium to see both Mickey Mantle's 500th homerun and Alex Rodriguez's 500th homerun: I was there in 1967, and then years later when ARod hit his homer. I got coverage from Newsday, but I think it has been pulled offline because it happened several years ago. But several other national newspapers picked up the story, and I was a celebrity for my 15 minutes.

12) I can spin a basketball on my finger and I can make noises by clasping my hands together: As a kid, I was sick with one thing or another, got bored, and taught myself to spin a basketball on my finger. Also, as a kid, I discovered that I could make these noises with my hands, which came in handy as a kid, but not so much now. I can't do either as well as I did them way back when, but every once in a while, I can whip each of these talents out and amaze people with them.

There are probably many other facts that I could tell you, but these are the 12 that came to mind.

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into my world, but as they say, eight is enough, 10 is too much and 11 and 12 ... well, just be happy I didn't make extend this even further.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rant #1,083: "Ups and Downs"

We all go through ups and downs during our lifetime.

Some years are good, some are bad, and some are in between.

And that brings me to this song that I have in my record collection, from a band that has for years received undeserved status as a corporate tool of the burgeoning rock and roll scene in the 1960s.

Paul Revere and the Raiders were a hit-making machine during that decade, but they actually started out in the late 1950s as a Northwestern boogie woogie rock band.

Their first hit, "Like Long Hair," is the epitome of what they were doing then, a tune that owed as much to Jerry Lee Lewis as it did to Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, the guys who were putting this new music on the map, with all others riding their coattails.

Dick Clark, who had his pulse on this scene as host of the then-Philadelphia based "American Bandstand," saw all the trends, and his show rode each and every one.

Things had gotten stale musically in the early 1960s. Yes, there were great songs and artists during the era, but the time was right for something even newer to take over the scene.

Enter the Beatles.

Once the Beatles hit, music changed forever, as did styles, and Clark saw what was happening right on his very show.

The Bobby Vintons and Freddie Cannons, although still popular, were being replaced by long-haired groups that had a different sound than what was happening just a year earlier.

Clark wanted to tap into that even beyond what he was doing on "Bandstand," and that, in a nutshell, was what helped him create "Where the Action Is," a Monday-Friday showcase for what was new in rock and roll.

Steve Alaimo--a talented singer, but one who kind of teetered between the Avalon-type crooner and a new rocker--was the original host, but even on the first few episodes, it was clear who the real stars of the show were.

Paul Revere and the Raiders, with their Revolutionary War get-up and charismatic lead singer Mark Lindsay, stole that show from under Alaimo, and Clark knew he had something by featuring them over his original choice for host.

And he did.

For the length of that series, they were not only the "house band," but the stars of the show, and they became huge stars on the recording scene, with many hits during that period, including "Kicks," "Hungry," and "Good Thing."

Their popularity on the show most certainly paved the way for the creation of The Monkees, as constant time on TV hit it off with younger viewers, who wanted everything that they heard on "Action." That scheme was certainly used in the creation of the Pre-Fab Four.

By 1967, the five day a week grind was showing, and "Where the Action Is" would soon fade from view, but the Raiders continued to have hits.

"Ups and Downs" was one of them.

Although a pretty minor hit at the time, only reaching #22 on the Hot 100, it was typical of the Raiders' output at that time: catchy, with a great hook, and great lead vocal by Lindsay.

The Raiders had so many hits at that time that they were able to have a "Greatest Hits" album, and the song was included on the compilation just as it was fading from view.

And yes, I do think that people like Jann Wenner, soon to be publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, looked at the Raiders, and later the Monkees, as corporate creations, two acts that allowed bigger corporations to get into the rock and roll game, robbing the music of its spontaneity.

And I think he still thinks that way today.

Anyway, when the show went off, and "Ups and Downs" trailed into the sunset, Clark still saw huge potential in the Raiders, and they starred in his "Bandstand" companion "Happening" shows for a few years, which aired on Saturday afternoon just after "Bandstand"--now in California--ended.

The hits kept on coming, including "Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be" and "Let Me," but the Raiders--that was their shortened name then--hit it the biggest in 1971, without Clark, with "Indian Reservation."

They pretty much faded from view by the mid 1970s, although Paul Revere has continued with the Raiders as a popular show band and Lindsay, who had his own solo career highlighted by "Arizona," has pursued an interesting solo recording/performing career.

But back to "Ups and Downs"--I always liked the song, and even though it was high on the charts, you never hear it on oldies radio.

It's a shame, because although minor, it is a really good song.

Listen to it, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rant #1,082: Weighty Matter

Uh oh!

Is this a precursor to how nasty people get around holiday time?

I went food shopping right after work on Friday evening, because I had a busy weekend and thought I could get this out of the way quicker on Friday than on Saturday.

I do the shopping, and come out to my car. A woman is standing at the car on the right of my car, leaning on her trunk.

As I opened my trunk to put the groceries in, she says to me, "I have been waiting for you for at least 10 minutes," as I turn to her with probably a big question mark on my face.

She then says to me, "You parked too close to my car and I can't get into it."

I checked my car, and I was parked pretty much in the middle of my spot.

I said to her, "I don't know, but let me do what I have to do and I'll pull out and everything will be fine," or something to that extent.

As I hurriedly put the groceries in the trunk, she is going on and on and on about how I parked too close to her car. I told her to just give me a few minutes, and I would be done.

Then she hit the bull's-eye. Evidently, I was not putting the groceries in fast enough for her liking, and she says to me, "Hurry up ... you are holding me up."

I stopped what I was doing and looked at her and said, "I am holding YOU up? How do you figure that I am holding you up?

When I finally took a look at her, I knew why.

She was in her 40s or early 50s, and maybe 5 feet tall, but she must have weighed 400 pounds! Her stomach was so large it was drooping to the floor, and that is why she was leaning against the hood like she was.

And by the way, she did not appear to be sick or out of breath when she was attacking me.

I said to her, "Look, I am putting the groceries in the car as fast as I can. Why can't you go into your car on the passenger's side?" since there was no car parked next to her on that side.

She replied, "I can't, and you are holding me up!"

I absolutely hate people like this. They blame their own failings on others, and quite frankly, I was in the center of the spot, but her bulk would force her to open up the door to her car fully to get in, and even at that, she would have to nudge herself in, as she didn't have a large car, more of a normal size sedan.

I probably shouldn't have done it, but she made me so angry by constantly repeating the "you're holding me up" refrain that I said to her:

"Maybe if you lost some weight you would be able to fit into your car."

I finished and drove off, shaking my head to make sure that I wasn't dreaming this entire episode.

And yes, she probably should lose some weight. You can't expect people to bow down to your every wish like this one if you are about 275 pounds overweight.

I might be sorry I said what I did, but I said it, and yes, I should have shut up, but her constant attacks on me reached a point that I had had enough.

Is this what we're looking forward to as the holidays approach, this type of attitude that we are all due something from everyone?

I hate it, I just hate it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rant #1,081: Birthday Aftermath

Everything went well on my wife's birthday.

She received her gifts--actually her other gifts--because I had already given her jacket to her earlier on.

Her family came over, and we went out to eat at a local fish restaurant.

My family only goes there on special occasions, because it is kind of pricey.

And yes, it was yesterday, but it was worth it, because the food was quite good.

Then we all came back to the house, and we had my parents over, too, and we had cake, and cake, and more cake.

I had so much to eat that it weighed me down to the point that I didn't make 8 p.m. last night, and neither did my wife.

We both fell asleep probably at about 7:30, but she got up to record "The Walking Dead," and then went right back to sleep.

So now, officially, at least on the surface, my wife is one year older than me.

Actually, she really isn't, just five and a half months older than me, but she was born in the year prior to the year I was born in, so, when somebody asks us how old we are, she is, in fact, older than me.

I remind her of that all the time, and yes, I get a nice look when I do that.

But she is young at heart, works out, makes sure what she eats is the right thing, and watches herself like a hawk.

Now, our month of celebrations continues ...

We have Thanksgiving and the first full day of Hanukkah on the same day, and we have my father's birthday right there too.

Yes, today is Veterans Day, where we celebrate all of our veterans of all of our conflicts, and during peacetime, for their bravery in protecting us, and I will celebrate today at work, writing about these very people.

And today, I honor my dad, who was in the Marines during the Korean War. My father in law was also a Marine during the period, and more recently, my brother in law was in the Navy.

But anyway, another happy birthday salute to my wife, my Rock of Girbraltar, the love of my life.

I may have just gotten her a winter jacket, but heck, she is worth at least all the winter jackets in the world to me ...

And so much more.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rant #1,080: My Wife

It is only November 8, but I figure that it is not too early to wish my better half a happy birthday. She will celebrate the day this Sunday, November 10.

I won't tell you her age, but I will tell you that if you looked at her, you would never think that she is that old ... or really, that young.

She takes care of herself, she is in the gym at least three or four times a week making sure that she is in tone, and she looks darn good.

She works, she is my wife, the mother to our son, and she runs our household.

I love her for all of that, and more, because she is very good at handling all of that, balancing what happens outside of the house with what happens inside of it.

Sure, she has her days when all she wants to do is come home and go to sleep, like we all do, but she generally does a fine job making sure that everything is right.

Believe me, I am very lucky to have her as my wife. Sometimes, I almost have to pinch myself to see if I am really awake, that this is all happening, that I am really married to this person.

I really hit the jackpot with this woman, and I do feel that I am maybe the luckiest person alive.

We have now been married for more than 20 years, and it has really gone by in a flash.

When we met, she knew that this was going to turn into something, and I admit that I didn't, but during a real bad time in my life--I was out of work for what eventually became a year and a half--she stuck by me like glue.

I will always remember that.

But anyway, more than 20 years later, she is still the person I married way back when, a woman who I believe is the greatest lady on the planet.

I know I have gotten a bit soppy here, but that being said, here's to my wife, who I love dearly, two days before her birthday, and may she have many, many more.

And for the record, I bought her a winter jacket, and some other more trivial things.

I wish I could give her the world, but I guess the jacket will do.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rant #1,079: Film Anniversaries

While I was busy starring in my own 30-second TV show, two film anniversaries came upon us, and even though I am late on one of them, I figured it would be nice to review them now.

November 6 was the 44th anniversary of the premiere of "Head," the Monkees' one and only film.

It was 1969, the band was past its prime, but then it came out with this movie, one of the strangest, yet most fantastic, films I have ever seen.

The film has no plot, but it has many plots, but what it all adds up to is that this is the movie that killed the hand that fed many, many people from 1966 through 1969, and that was the Pre-Fab Four, the group that was actually the largest-selling recording act during 1967's so-called "Summer of Love," the group that every rock critic worth his or her salt hated back then ...

But seemingly those same people, if they are still around, love now.

I won't go too deep into "Head," because I have done it before in this column; suffice it to say that if you think that the movie is simply a 90-minute version of the TV show, boy, are you in for a surprise!

And if you hated the Monkees' recorded output, you will enjoy music in the movie. It is way different than anything they ever did, and really is superb.

Both film and music hold up to this day, and sure, the film flopped when it came out, but now, the film has been reexamined, and everyone appears to  love the film, and the fans always loved it, so take it for what it is: a film that mirrored its time that you can still watch today.

Another film for the ages celebrates an even greater anniversary today.

Today, November 7, is the 50th anniversary of the premiere of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," the topsy-turvy, star-studded movie to end all movies that made its debut on this day in 1963.

Again, I have spoken about this film here many times, so I won't go too deep into it, but suffice it to say that if you were a star, or a quasi-star, back then in Hollywood, you were probably in this film.

Basically, the film chronicles the ways and means that a group of strangers go about finding hidden loot that they learn about while attending to an old, dying man who was on the same road as they were.

That, in itself, is not funny, but left in the hands of director Stanley Kramer, with a cast that included everyone from Ethel Merman to Jonathan Winters to Mickey Rooney to Dick Shawn to Spencer Tracy to about 100 other big stars, the movie had to be funny, and boy, was it ever!

I was lucky enough to see the full version of this film in a movie theater in Queens, New York that I honestly can't remember the name of.

There were several versions of the film, because movie houses, fearing the length of the movie and the possible lost revenue from showing it less times than a normal film, demanded that there be varying lengths to the movie, so there were about three or four different versions of the film that was shown way back when.

I know I saw the full version--which is now lost--because I distinctly remember seeing the full Three Stooges sketch, where they were firemen, and they try to put out a fire to comic results.

You can get a video of the film today, but it is the shorter version--still good, but not the full one.

Anyway, if you are down in the dumps, this is the film to see.

These are, obviously, two of my favorite films of all-time, and that is why I figured that I would speak about them on their anniversaries.

If just one of you sees either or both films for the first time because of what I have written, I will consider this column well worth it.

If not, it was fun to write, but not as much fun as seeing each of these movies was to me when I was a mere lad.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rant #1,078: Smile, You're On Candid Camera!

Well, not quite, but it will probably be the closest I ever came to being on such a show.

Yesterday, after I voted and as I was exiting the polling place, I had a microphone and camera thrust before me, and I was asked about who I voted for.

No, not "Candid Camera." Alan Funt didn't care about politics; he cared about laughs.

This was the local cable TV news station, News 12, that was in the hallway of the school that I voted in, and they wanted to get the voting opinions of the populace.

I was only too happy to oblige, mainly because it surprised me that they were there.

I got to the polling place a little after 6 a.m., as I always do, so I can vote early and then go to work.

I did what I had to do, and was in the place no more than five or six minutes.

News 12 probably got there around the same time, and set up as I was voting.

I was totally unaware that they were there until I left.

Unlike "Candid Camera"--where the cameras were hidden so as to catch unsuspecting people doing very funny things--the camera I saw was out in front of me, in plain sight.

This very young, tall, overly bleached blond reporter stuck the microphone in front of me, her cameraman taped me, and I did what she and he wanted me to do.

I did give them my opinion.

And yes, I did make the morning news.

I don't have News 12, as that is a Cablevision enterprise, and I have both Dish Network and Verizon on my home televisions (another story for another time).

So while I couldn't watch my little segment at home, I could watch it via streaming video on the Web, and that is just what I did.

I saw myself on the computer at work, and yes, it is always a little unsettling to see yourself--and hear yourself--like that.

But once I got over the initial shock, I think I did pretty well, taken unawares as I was.

As such outlets do, News 12 reruns the same thing for two or three hours, and then they post new reports. I was on the 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. news feeds, and then, I vanished from the airwaves.

But I had time to tell the world through Facebook, alert my wife and mom and sister, and show my co-workers my very less than 15 minutes of fame.

It felt good while it lasted, I guess, but I can't give you an address to see my appearance, because on News 12, once it's gone, it's gone.

I had nobody to record it at home, so my appearance was as fleeting as Tiny Tim's career.

Well, at least I was a TV star for a brief moment.

It was fun while it lasted, I guess.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rant #1,077: Let's Vote!

Today is Election Day, and while for most people it really is what they call an "off-year" election, it is still important to go to the voting booth today and to make your choices.

Me, I am planning to vote out just about every incumbent that there is, with a few exceptions.

That is the only way that I can voice my frustration at what politics have become, an agenda-driven job where the actual politicians put their thoughts and desires ahead of those of their constituents.

If you can't do what you promised that you would do during your term in office, why be elected again and still fumble around trying to do the things that you said you were going to do?

And this is an important election for those who turn 18 this year, because it is their first election.

That would characterize my son. Today is the first election he is going to vote in, and he knows that it signifies that he is no longer a child, that he is an adult.

It is something of a right of passage for these teens; they aren't babies anymore.

He is not a political person, doesn't know anything about the process, but he will participate for the first time today, and the great thing is that he is going to go with my mom, his grandmother, to the voting booth.

One generation guiding the other to the polls.

I go too early in the morning, before work, for him to go with me, so my mother graciously said that she would take him and that they would vote together.

I think that's really great.

I did not tell him who to vote for. I impressed upon him that it is more important to vote than who he should vote for.

He can pick and choose who he wants, and that is fine with me.

So many people drop the ball and don't vote, don't do their civic responsibility, and that is a shame.

So here, you have somebody who is entering the voting booth for the very first time, and yes, it might be a little nerve-racking, but he will get through it.

The last thing I can say is that everyone should go out and vote, even if this year's election isn't up to the magnitude of a Presidential election.

We, as citizens, are responsible for who serves as our elected officials, and even though there are times that these people that we elect in are skunks, at least we know that we were part of the process.

Vote today. Don't forget.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rant #1,076: Phone Daze

I took off on Friday to attend to some personal family business.

Nothing that extraordinary, but sometimes, you just need to take the day off to attend to such things.

When Friday ended, we moved onto Saturday, and my family did our normal things:

Do the garbage.

Do the dishes.

Go food shopping.

Take our son to his bowling league.


But my wife and I--given the chance to do this together, since she is starting to work on the weekends beginning this coming Saturday--did a lot of our holiday shopping.

And yes, we did it together.

Sure, there are always surprises when we buy each other things for the holidays.

But with the holidays all on top of each other this year--and with my wife's birthday just a few days away on November 10--it was just better to do what we had to do, and do it together.

In addition to some other minor gifts that she doesn't know about, I bought her a winter jacket.

Let me tell you, this is some nice jacket, if I do say so myself. It will keep her warm while, at the same time, keep her sexy and stylish.

We bought some other things, but then, in the afternoon, the ultimate happened.

We went to the local Verizon store, and she bought me a cellphone.

Yes, I am probably the last holdout. Sure, I have had cellphones before, but they were pay as you use them devices. They were pretty much phones, and that was it.

Now, she decided that it was a necessity to get me a phone, as we are getting older, and she wants me to have a direct line to her--and she to me--in case of anything that may happen.

So we went to the store, and me, knowing nothing about cellphones--other than I don't really like them, and I don't like what it does to people who use them--looked around, and saw one that I thought was a nice one.

It was a Samsung Galaxy. The one thing I did know is that I did not want anything to do with Apple. Apple wants to rule the world, and they do it, at least partly, through their phones.

When I bought my wife her phone many months ago, I could see that once you use an Apple phone, you are tied into them, especially with iTunes.

I did not want that, and that is probably the only thing I knew at the time, so I went with the Samsung.

After what seemed like a whole afternoon at the place--my wife also upgraded her iPad, don't ask--I left the store with my first real cellphone, my first smartphone.

To say that I am a little afraid of it is an understatement.

I basically put it away for the day when we got home, and helped my wife fiddle with her new iPad--and my son with her old iPad, since he is now the proud owner of her old model that is just less than a year old.

My mind had closed down, and I had had enough. I fell asleep real early on Saturday night.

On Sunday, my wife helped me a little more with the phone. I programmed her phone number into it, and I actually went on the Internet with it. The first thing I went on was a site where I wrote a reply to a column a little while back, so I can say the first thing I ever saw on the Internet on my phone was something I wrote.

Anyway, we programmed in a few other things, and I guess I am good to go.

As you probably know, I am one of those people who have no need to be connected to anybody like some people are. I speak on the phone at work when necessary, but I have never been much of a phone person.

Now, I have a connection to the world at my fingertips, and I don't know whether to feel glad--which I do, I appreciate the gift from my wife--or to feel overwhelmed.

Probably both.

But one thing you can bet on is that you will NEVER see me talking on the phone while driving or texting on the phone while behind the wheel.

I hate it when I see people doing that, have almost had a few accidents because of people doing this, and it is a waste of my valuable time.

Heck, I don't even know how to text yet.

That lesson will come at a later time, I guess.

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