Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rant #910: Race to the Finish

While the Supreme Court discusses overturning the gay marriage ban in California--a measure that was voted on by the citizens of that state, and rejected--and the Obama Administration decides whether it wants to file a friend of the court brief supporting gay marriage, let's go back to a different time, when others were fighting for their rights as citizens.

The time was 1967. Civil rights were at the forefront of controversy in this country. Spearheaded by leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, blacks were challenging the establishment to be recognized as full citizens of this country, not token members.

Marches were held from New York City to Selma, Ala., and elsewhere, to ensure that people of color were getting their just due.

Hollywood, with its ultra-liberal notions that exist to this day, was taking notice. There was a natural pairing of the civil rights community and the Hollywood community, and those ties are still strong today, related to other groups looking for equality.

In 1967, a film came out of Hollywood that kind of defined the time period. Even those that weren't strong in their civil rights views embraced the film, and it stands today as a model for getting your point across without hitting your viewers over the head ... well, not too much, anyway.

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," directed by Stanley Kramer, the same guy who gave us the monumental farce "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" just a few years earlier, set then-conventional views about matrimony on its ear with this film.

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play suburban parents--to me, they looked too old to be parents of a young 20-something, more like grandparents--who think they are of the liberal mind, but that thought process is severely tested when their daughter, played by Katharine Houghton, comes home with her fiancee.

He is a good looking guy, smart, versed in all relevant matters of the day, but lo and behold, he is a black man, played by Sidney Poitier.

The entire film is basically a study of four people in some type of conflict related to this situation, and finally, at the end of the film, Tracy, in his last film appearance--and yes, he was also in "Mad, Mad World" as the cop who becomes a con man--makes one of the great Hollywood speeches, this one about race and acceptance.

It raised a question that is still important today: What is a liberal? And it also raised another important question: I believe I am a liberal, but if a certain situation directly affects me, how liberal am I really?

Those questions still reverberate today.

Hepburn won an Oscar for her role, but Tracy really should have won one too, as, well, should have the rest of the cast, and Kramer as director.

But anyway, the music for the film was a whimsical score written by Frank DeVol, who later was the bandleader on another farcical project, this one TV's "Fernwood Tonight."

But for this project, the tune "The Glory of Love" permeates the movie.

The concept of "love" was changing, and who to love was certainly changing, and who one could love was in a metamorphosis.

You didn't have to agree with the concept put forth by the film, but it set out to say what it had to say, and with the musical score as its background, it said it, and said it very, very well.

Just as a side note, the film was remade a few years ago, with the roles reversed, a white guy marrying into a black family. The less said about that film the better.

But this original film, and its thought process, resonates even today, with the current debate on gay marriage at the apex.

I am not going to get into a debate here about the merits or demerits of such a situation, but I will tell you that way back when, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" had a major impact on the way we think, and on acceptance.

I will let you draw your own conclusions on the current situation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rant #909: Looking For An Iceberg

I heard about this yesterday, and just ending my family's cruise like we did, it is kind of strange, isn't it?

Some crazy billionaire has invested his money into building a replica of the star-crossed Titanic vessel, which, as we all know, hit an iceberg and never made it to its destination.

The ship, being built in China, should be ready by 2016, and supposedly, hundreds of people want to sail the ship.

The maiden voyage of this ship will follow the same exact route as its namesake did, and will be styled in the same way.

In fact, cruisers are urged to dress in period costumes of the day of the original vessel.

Meals will also replicate what was served on the first Titanic.

Why do people want to be on such a boat, and why is there a need for such a vessel?

Well, I guess people feel that lightning can't possibly strike twice. What happened to the first Titanic simply can't happen to the second.

And I guess there is a bit of nostalgia associated here.

To this day, the Titanic stands as the world's most famous cruise ship, even if it just made one trip, and never completed that trip.

Its original billing as "the ship that cannot sink," and the fact that it actually did fail, is a testament to the fact that talk is very, very cheap.

And I guess the last "Titanic" film really put the idea in people's heads that this might be a good idea.

Having just been on a cruise, I don't know if such an idea is a good one.

We had one night where the boat rocked more than Chuck Berry ever did, and I was holding onto the bed for dear life.

I can only imagine what the original passengers felt like when their ship was sinking.

It is scary being out in the middle of nowhere with only water around you from every side.

I guess this is not for people like me, it is for people with a sense of real adventure, literally thumbing their noses at the history of the original Titanic and putting Mother Nature on notice that nothing can stop them, not even She.

I just hope they have enough life boats this time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rant #908: Let's "Shout" About Lulu

On the Saturday before last, when I was away on vacation, someone visited our shores, probably for the first time in ages, and performed for supposedly the first time in the New York City Metropolitan area.

Who was this performer, and is it true that during her nearly 50-year professional career, she never performed in the Big Apple?

Marie Lawrie, better known as Lulu, has been one of the most popular entertainment personalities in England since the early 1960s. She became internationally known through her role as one of the combatant students in the film "To Sir, With Love," and she took that song to No. 1 in 1967.

She had a few other mild hits here--including her rousing version of "Shout" which was a major hit record in Europe--and over the years, in Europe, she became more of an all-around entertainer, and it is safe to say that everyone in England knows who Lulu is.

Over here, however, after that one song, it was kind of a struggle to get her music heard.

She's done rock, pop, soul, country, even disco, placed 11 songs on the Hot 100 from 1964-1981--including her only other Top 20 American hit, "I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)" from 1981--she has recorded with David Bowie and the Dixie Flyers, been married to a Bee Gee, done stage, film and TV work, but alas, in the U.S., she has been pretty much pegged as a one-hit wonder.

So that is why it is incredible that on Saturday, Feb. 16, Lulu made her New York Metropolitan area concert debut at B.B. King's.

Or was this really her debut?

I beg to differ.

It may have been her debut in New York City, but it definitely wasn't her debut in this area. I can vouch for that.

During the early summer of 1967, as a 10 year old, my family made our only visit to the legendary Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey. This park was heralded on WABC and other stations as the fun place to be in the 1960s, as you could go on the numerous rides and even swim there if you wanted.

We went there, and I remember that we went on the Swiss Bobs ride. We didn't realize how fast the ride was, and for the first and only time on such a ride, I got sick. I felt nauseous after the ride ended, and dizzy, and I remember I needed to sit down to calm myself.

My parents found a bench for me to sit on, and I think one of them took my sister on some other rides while I sat and calmed myself.

The bench that I sat at was part of the performing area at Palisades, which I don't think any one of us realized.

After sitting for maybe a minute or two, popular New York disk jockey Hal Jackson came on, and I started to perk up. He announced that he had a new talent to spotlight that day, and out came a kind of roly-poly looking young lady with big earrings and poufed up blond hair.

She was announced as Lulu, and as one of the stars of the upcoming film "To Sir, With Love."

To mild applause--since nobody knew her here, although back home, she was a star at this time--she began to sing, but not the title song to that movie.

She sang "The Boat That I Row," a minor Neil Diamond-penned song that nobody knew.

She sang the song and to my recollection, that was the only song she performed.

And that was it. I was better and we moved on.

Why that song?

"The Boat That I Row" was the original American A side to the "To Sir, With Love" single, and that was so both here and in England.

The song did chart here--it reached a paltry No. 115--but was a big hit in England, so that side was initially pushed by the record company.

But what happened is that when the film opened in the late summer, disk jockeys turned the record over, and were playing "To Sir, With Love" more than the original A side, pushing that song to No. 1 here.

Over in England, that song was never pushed as a "hit" side, and remained as a B side.

So over here, probably more than a month prior to the film being released, no one knew that the song and the movie of the same name would become smashes.

But I do remember Lulu back then, and looking at her now, it is hard to believe that she is the same person.

She isn't so round anymore, and she is a mature, beautiful woman, probably in her mid-60s by now.

So, any news reports that said that this was her first New York Metropolitan area gig were wrong, because I saw her way back when, even if she only did one single, solitary song.

I guess I wish I could have been there, but being where I was that Saturday, I guess I was happy, too.

Maybe next time ... .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rant #907: Back In the Saddle Again

Yes, my family and I have returned from our vacation and back to the same old, same old thing.

That's life. That's what people say.

Anyway, we had a good trip. We were supposed to stop at four ports--the Bahamas, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk--but our ship had to bypass the Bahamas due to rough seas.

So we only stopped at three sites, but it was fun nonetheless.

And the food ... well, there was plenty of it. You can watch yourself all you want, but the food is there, at all times, and, well, you are on vacation, so you just about have to try everything.

Of the three stops, the one to San Juan was most interesting, because it was the only one where we took an excursion.

These trips have become quite expensive, but rather than just stay in the immediate area--like we did for the other two stops--in San Juan, we took a trip to the Bacardi Rum factory and then to the downtown area.

The tour of the rum factory was pretty interesting, even for a non-drinker like me. You saw how they make the rum, and the history surrounding the company and why many consider their product the best of its kind.

Sure, it is set up for tourists, but it is pretty interesting.

We then traveled to the downtown area, which resembles Manhattan, but on a lesser scale.

You can find just about anything in San Juan, from the cheapo tourist shops to the tony ones, from Burger King to "Brooklyn style" pizza.

We visited the President's walk, which was quite interesting. Only a handful of Presidents have visited Puerto Rico, and there are statues of each one. In the same area is their memorial to Puerto Ricans who have served in the military and lost their lives, and also a Holocaust Memorial.

Near the end of that trip, our bus got slammed into by another bus, and the side of our bus was hit, with the side view mirror ripped off. Nobody was hurt.

Like I said, just like Manhattan ...

St. Thomas was nice, as was Grand Turk. Grand Turk was especially nice because you don't have to go far to reach the beach from the ship. It is virtually right there. The water is clear, but like in the Cayman Islands, the sea floor is not sand like we are used to--it is full of jagged rocks.

But Jimmy Buffet's Margarativille is right there, too, and the restaurant and pool are there for your pleasure, and we took advantage of that, and stayed by the pool part of the time we visited.

On board ship, we also swam, and did things like watch movies and play miniature golf.

Sure, after a while, that also gets to be the same old, same old thing, but the alternative--being at work in temperatures that were half of what they were where we were--makes you enjoy the experience even more.

But now we are home, in the relative cold--although temperatures in my neck of the woods are supposed to be in the high 40s this week--and it's back to work and school time.

We will be taking another vacation in July, to our usual Florida locale, so at least we have something else exciting to look forward to later in the year.

There were some downsides to the trip--the air travel was horrendous, to say the least, with late flights and lost baggage the rule and not the exception--but all in all, it was a fun trip, and we would love to do it again some time.

When we will take another cruise is open to conjecture, but the ultimate vacation really is a cruise.

If you haven't experienced one, at least look into it.

I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rant #906: Going ... Going ... GONE!

Yes, the beauteous Annette smiling at you can only mean one thing--

I am going on vacation.

My family and I usually don't go in the winter, but we decided to do something different this year.

We will be gone for about a week, so there will be no blog posts until February 25.

Please wish my family and I well as we take off into the wild blue yonder.

And say hello to Annette, too, while you're at it.

Speak to you then ...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rant #905: My Funny Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day to all.

This is a holiday that we don't get a day off from work for, but if we don't handle it the right way, we could be on a vacation for a long, long time.

Women tell their husbands that they don't want anything, but if you don't get them anything, you are on their sh-- list for at least the time being.

Greeting card companies make the most of this day. It is one of their biggest holidays of the year, and when looking for a card, you have so many choices: traditional cards, religious ones (this is, after all, SAINT Valentine's Day), musical ones, large ones, small ones ... you name it, they have it.

Although this year, I had a really tough time finding grandparents cards. I did find one, but there must have been a run on new babies during the past year, because there weren't too many grandparents cards to choose from.

Anyway, some people give their loves flowers, others give candy, and others give a lot of other gifts, like jewelry.

Me, I have gone the flowers route a few times, and it is really a nice thing to give on the holiday. Last year, I did that.

This year, I just kept it small. I bought the requisite cards, and I got my wife something small but nice. I can't tell you what I got her because if she reads this, it will upset the celebration.

My wife stays away from the sweets, so candy is out, but I got her something nice.

I just expect a card from her, and that is fine with me.

I always thought of Valentine's Day as the day the man buys the woman something, not really the other way around, so a card is just fine.

So to all the men that read this blog, you better go out and get something for your loved one, because if you don't, you will regret it.

You don't need to go crazy, just buy her something nice.

And for you ladies who read this blog, I hope you aren't forgotten.

The bottom line is, you deserve to be put on a pedestal today for all you do for us men.

So happy Valentine's Day, and remember guys ...

Don't forget!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rant #904: Once There Were Five, Now There Are Two

People come and go in our lives.

Some make a lasting impression, and some basically pass us in the wind.

We meet lots of people during our lifetimes, and some people we never meet, but get to know from afar.

Such was the case with Rick Huxley, who died yesterday way too soon at the age of 72.

I never knew Huxley personally, but I got to know him through his music.

Huxley was the bassist of my favorite British Invasion band, the Dave Clark Five.

The band, affectionately known as the DC5, was in the runners up spot, right behind the Beatles, during the early days of the British Invasion of music that came over to our shores from England.

Their music was known as the "Tottenham Sound," and it was basically foot-stomping, good-time music.

Think of their hits: "Glad All Over," "Bits and Pieces," "Over and Over," "Catch Us If You Can," "You Got What It Takes," ... I could write an entire Rant on all of those big songs that they had.

During those early years, they seemed like not only regulars on every Top 40 radio station in the country, but also on television, in particular, on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Sullivan seemed to like them, like them even more than the Beatles, and they hold the record for male rock and roll performers' appearances on the show.

Huxley was basically in the background in the band, with drummer Dave Clark out front with his name and drum kit and Mike Smith at the keyboards and the lead singer.

But Huxley, along with Denis Payton and Lenny Davidson, made up the backbone of the band, and they were quite strong, belting out hit records and a load of other great tunes, instrumentals too.

They appeared in a few films, including their own "Having a Wild Weekend," and pretty much from 1964-1967, they were ubiquitous, both on record and television.

As the music changed, they did too, but not enough to offset the new, heavier music.

Their popularity zoomed in Europe from 1967 to 1970 or so, but not in the U.S.

For all intents and purposes, the DC5 pretty much ended their run during this time, but unlike other bands from that period, they never really chose to cash in on their success afterward by playing oldies shows and releasing numerous compilations and repackages of their albums and hit singles.

Dave Clark, the mastermind behind the band, had his own reasons, but it made fans furious. Other bands were very happy to come back to play for their fans, but when the DC5 ended, it was really over for the band.

All the members went their separate ways.

Huxley, a native of Dartford, England--the same town that spawned Keith Richards and Mick Jagger--stayed in music, did a few other things, and pretty much faded into the woodwork.

In 2008, the band, under a cloud of mystery and intrigue, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clark, Davidson and Huxley were at the ceremony (Huxley at the far right in the above photo), together again for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Clark has since released a wealth of material on iTunes, and today, if you want to hear the DC5, you pretty much can.

But it is the old records that really stand out. For me, the only way to listen to the DC5 is on record.

Huxley was supposedly a heavy smoker, and he had emphysema.

But according to Clark--who reportedly has stayed close with Huxley--he had just spoken to his old bandmate, and Huxley had recently been given a clean bill of health by his doctor.

"He always made me smile and I'll miss that immensely," Clark said. "He was never arrogant and flashy. He was a gentleman and very low key. He was a very, very talented musician and a great friend."

No official cause of death has yet been announced..

But again, those records ... they are the best way to listen to the DC5.

So today, if you can, put one of those old, scratchy records on your turntable and listen, really listen, to their music the way it was supposed to be listened to.

That will really pay tribute to Huxley, and even though as I said I didn't know him personally, I think he would like that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rant #903: Get Out the Bobsleds!

As I told you yesterday, in my neck of the woods, the Nemo storm brought 12 inches of new powder to our streets.

Just a few miles east, they received three feet of the white stuff.

But looking at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, heck, if we got 20 feet it couldn't bowl me over like this cover did.

After shoveling mountains of snow, we get model Kate Upton with her own mountains of ... well, she is certainly dressed to shovel snow, isn't she?

The phenomenon of the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is incredible. This time around, a blogger just happened to somehow have gotten access to the cover, and put it up way before the magazine wanted it to be shown.

The photo was so hot that, well, the cat was literally let out of the bag, and now, other photos have surfaced on the Internet, but none as beguiling as the cover shot.

I am not a subscriber to Sports Illustrated, by the way--I was as a teenager in the early 1970s, when this issue pretty much went by the boards as just another weekly issue--but this particular issue has risen above the rest, coveted by not only men, but by many women, too.

I guess it shows the ideal, but also, it generally shows these women in bathing suits that just about any woman can afford, at about $40 apiece, or is it a piece? I know that is how they price women's bathing suits.

And looking at Upton's bathing suit, or lack of one, well, they say you have to start at the bottom to work your way to the top, don't they?

Anyway, Sports Illustrated did not start this swimsuit issue craze, or at least the annual swimsuit issue was not officially started by them.

In the mid 1960s, the old, venerable Sport Magazine--which my father and I subscribed to for decades--had the first swimsuit issue. It featured female athletes modeling the latest in athletic swimwear.

After doing this for a few years, with little or no fanfare, the magazine dropped the feature, and Sports Illustrated picked up on it in the 1970s, and initially, it wasn't much different than what Sport Magazine showed.

But through trial and error, they found that showing a bit more skin with professional models made the magazine special, and they have been doing a magazine like this each year probably since the mid 1980s or so.

So here we have Upton and several other models modeling swimwear at points across the globe.

It isn't Playboy, and it isn't even Maxim, but on a cold winter's day, a magazine like this can warm the cockels of man's heart, I guess.

No, no one really looks like this--don't tell me these women aren't air brushed in some way--but it is nice to know that some women at least approach this type of perfectness.

And when I look out at the mounds of snow still on our street, I can think of the wonders of Kate Upton.

Natural wonders, both, err, each, err, of them.

Yes, I am a male chauvinist pig, I admit it, and just looking at the cover of this issue reinforces my belief that women are really God's greatest creation.

And now, when you tell me to take out the garbage for the 80th time, I will listen. I will be your slave for your affection.

And I can thank God for that.

(And for Kate Upton, too.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rant #902: Digging Out

Well, we did get hit this weekend, although in my neck of the woods, it really could have been worse.

We got about a foot of snow from the storm they called Nemo.

That isn't too good.

But when you consider that we live about a mile away from Suffolk County, and that county got upwards of two to three feet of snow, well, we have to consider ourselves very, very lucky.

Many employers let their workers out early due to the impending snowstorm on Friday, and mine did too.

Thank goodness.

It allowed me to go food shopping, and get home when it really wasn't anything more than a major hail/rainstorm.

It was slippery, but that was about it.

The heavy snow came a bit later, and herein lies the problem.

Many employers in Manhattan also let the crews off early that day, but evidently not early enough, especially if you drive into the Big Apple.

If workers got off at 3 p.m., let's say, and it normally takes them at least 90 minutes to drive home, and they live in mid Suffolk County, well, a lot of them were stuck.

And I mean stuck, literally.

The Long Island Expressway, known as the "world's largest parking lot" due to the volume of traffic it supports, and the traffic jams that are the byproduct of this volume, came to a standstill late Friday.

Those coming in from Manhattan--and those who work in Suffolk and were simply trying to get home--found that the LIE was in deep-freeze mode.

Since much of the storm came during the traditional rush hour, thousands of cars were stuck on the road, and I do mean stuck.

The snow was so bad from exit 57--where my wife lived when we started dating--to exit 73 that people literally abandoned their cars right smack dab in the middle of the highway.

Some people stayed in their cars the entire, frigid night, with no means of support coming anytime soon.

And this made cleanup the next day near impossible.

The LIE was closed down in that expanse of exits, and since so many cars littered the road, cleanup was nearly impossible unless cars were moved--and they were, by heavy construction trucks, if even these vehicles could get through.

They were literally picked up and placed somewhere else so the plows could get through.

Also, since this was the major story of that day, not much was said about other services that the storm hit.

After Hurricane Sandy, people became more aware of losing phone, electricity and other utilities during the storm, and this happened this time too.

Gas was in very, very short supply.

Once again, lines formed at gas stations, but this time it was earlier in the week as we were warned about the impending storm.

I was able to get gas on Friday as I was coming home from food shopping, but dozens of stations ran out of gas. My wife was not able to get gas until Sunday.

Also, thousands lost power, and many thousands of others lost phone service.

Yes, this was a mess this weekend, but things are supposed to get better--kind of.

It is supposed to be pretty warm today--in the 40s--and that, mixed with another milder storm we are supposed to get, bringing a wintery mix of more snow and rain, will hopefully wash a lot of this away.

This has been a lousy winter up to this point for the Northeast, and we are only like half done with it, still having to go through the rest of February, the entirety of March, and into the middle of April until we are in the clear.

Last year, we literally got away with it, as we hardly had any snow.

This year has been a horror, and by the way, thousands of people in our area are still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, still with homes teetering on extinction ... and then this comes and hits us.

Things have got to get better, and I sure hope they will.

But once again, your intrepid reporter basically escaped the brunt of this mess, and for that, all I can say to Mother Nature is the following:

Thank you, thank you very much.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rant #901: "Don't Do It" ... Well, He Did

Looking outside now, it must be the calm before the storm, because it seems to be pretty still out.

As you probably know, the Northeast is supposed to get a major snowstorm later today.

Everybody seemed to be out and about yesterday evening as I was coming home from work, and the gas stations looked like they did post-Hurricane Sandy: lines, lots of honking cars, and everybody in a rush to fill up, as if the apocalypse was coming, not simply a snowstorm.

So how do I put everything in perspective while others are going out of their minds?

I listen to music from my music collection, and I have a good one to talk about today.

In the late 1950s, there was a kids' show on television, "Circus Boy," that was very popular.

It involved a little puff of a kid named Corky who was an orphan and trailed around with the circus, and all the adventures he had while doing that.

No, none of the adventures involved picking up after elephants, but the show made its star, Micky Braddock, a big kid star for a year or two.

When the show went off the air, that was that for this kid. He worked here and there, but he basically went back to being a real kid while his parents worked.

Of course, he couldn't be a real kid, because he lived in Beverly Hills and his dad was a well-known character actor by the name of George Dolenz.

Micky was never that far from show business because of this connection, but he gravitated toward music rather than acting per se.

He was in several garage bands in the mid-1960s, including a band by the name of the Missing Links, and he recorded a couple of single sides that went nowhere but into a vault somewhere.

Of course, this band name foreshadowed something major that happened to him in 1965. He went on an audition for a network TV show and got the part, and the rest is history.

Micky Braddock took his real last name, Dolenz, and so began his Monkees career.

But what happened to those sides he recorded when he was a virtual nobody?

Challenge Records got a hold of them, and released them as Micky Dolenz singles during the height of Monkeemania.

Two sides were released--"Don't Do It" and "Huff Puff"--and the former actually charted, reaching No. 75 on the charts in March 1967.

This often happens to singers who seemingly come out of nowhere and become big starts overnight. They all have recorded before, and some enterprising record company gets the masters and releases the music at the height of the performer's popularity.

It even happened with the Beatles and the music of theirs that was released on Vee-Jay Records after they became huge over here with their music on Capitol Records.

Anyway, "Don't Do It" really isn't that bad a song. It is sort of a slightly manipulated "Louie, Louie" clone, with Micky doing his best with lyrics like, "Don't do it, why don't you do it, don't do it, why don't you do it, don't do it, why don't you do it to me" or something like that if I recall them correctly.

His vocals aren't as smooth as they became during his time with the Monkees, but he gives it a real good try. And as I said, the song really isn't that terrible, so he gets an A for effort on a song that really is nothing more than a C+ at best.

Whatever the case, the release, and the other one that didn't chart (which I also have in my collection) show a future star doing the best with what he was given to do.

After the Monkees, Dolenz recorded numerous singles, none with any success, and he records to this day, recently releasing an album called "Remember," where he covers numerous tunes, including reworking some Monkees material.

But "Don't Do It" was what it was, a lame attempt by a record company to cash in on a perfomer's newly found fame. It is an el cheapo product all the way, from the cheesy picture sleeve to the B side, which was an instrumental and had nothing to do with Dolenz.

Funny thing is that this song refuses to go away. Several years ago, the song was actually re-released in a "disco-type" version.

But listen to it as it was released, and I think you will agree with me that while it doesn't show Micky at his best, he has done much, much worse than this record in his nearly 50-year recording career.

Speak to you on Monday. Here comes the storm!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rant #900: A Milestone

Welcome once again to the Ranting and Raving Blog.

Yes, less than four years ago I welcomed everyone to this blog, and some of you came, others didn't.

That was fine with me. I didn't start this blog up to change the world.

And now, we have reached the 900th rant, and I think that is something of an accomplishment.

In this society, where things come and go so quickly, having something up since 2009 is something of an accomplishment.

Here's my story.

I am a writer, have pretty much been a writer for several decades.

My regular job is writing about military stores: commissaries, which are supermarkets, and exchanges, which are department stores.

It is a pretty decent beat. One day I can be writing about legislation in Washington, and the next day I can be writing about underwear. It is that varied.

But it also can put you in a box.

I am basically reporting on these things, not giving my opinion, as if there would be an opinion about underwear.

And as a writer, that kind of writing stifles your creative thought.

Again, I am not knocking it. Doing it helps pay the bills and helps to put food on the table each week.

But it stifles your creative thought.

So, back in 2009, I had this crazy idea that in order to ignite my creative thought again, I would go the blog route, start up a blog where I could write about anything I wanted, and express any views I wanted.

And that is exactly what I did.

Sure, I can bet that you haven't agreed with me on everything that I have said here, but that, to me, is part of the fun of it.

A free exchange of ideas is really what this country was built on, and that is the rule at this blog.

If you agree or disagree, that is fine. If you feel the need to express an opinion, that is fine too.

As long as it is done civilly, that is how we do things here.

I have slightly promoted this blog, in particular on Facebook.

I have found that Facebook is a funny place.

On certain sites you can express your ideas, while on other sites, the administrator stifles what you have to say.

That is their right, but I also field opinions on Facebook when I put up a link to this blog there. I often get more opinion on Facebook, because it is easier to post there than here, I have learned.

And I have learned that on Facebook, for some reason, people can get electronically violent if they disagree with you.

Yes, they don't understand what a discussion is.

And that is why I like the blog format. I can put up what I want, and you can comment if you like.

I don't have to agree with you, and you don't have to agree with me, and that is A-OK with me.

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, 900 is a nice number, but this blog will be in the same place for as long as I want to do it, which seems to be forever.

It takes me away from my regular writing, and whether I am talking about vulgar TV shows or my family, you get what you get here, and I am not going to change that format.

If my posts have tweaked you, have moved you, have allowed you to look forward or back, or have sparked you, that is great.

And thanks to my regular fans, because you have helped to make this thing work beyond my wildest imagination. Although somewhat small in number, you keep me going.

And for those who visit here on a less regular basis, or come here via my Facebook link, thanks to you too. Thanks for thinking enough about what I have to say to visit here every once in a while.

(And yes, that photo is of me, from about 1971 or so. I have lost all that hair and put on a few pounds, but I really haven't changed that much since then.)

So, onward and upward. The 1,000th entry is within reach. If we keep going like we are, we should reach that milestone sometime in the summer, in July or so, when the weather is warmer in my neck of the woods and the thought of snow is just about nil.

As it is, we are supposed to get a big snowstorm this weekend, which, as you can imagine, I am not looking forward to by any stretch of the imagination.

But anyway, thanks for supporting the Ranting and Raving Blog since 2009, and I will speak to you again tomorrow.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rant #899: My Grandparents

Today, February 6, is the 38th anniversary of my grandfather's passing.

I think today was the date, although I am not sure. It could have been yesterday, or even tomorrow, but I know that it was sometime in this span of time in 1974 that he left us.

I am a very, very lucky guy. I grew up with my grandparents.

I had four grandparents alive during my childhood years, and beyond.

But my Grandpa Morris was the first one to go, well before the other ones left this earth.

I remember my grandfather to this day as a very, very good man.

He was actually born in England, on a boat that came from Russia, I believe, on passage to the U.S. My great grandmother couldn't hold out, and she gave birth to him there.

Anyway, I don't know the whole story, but he met my grandmother, and they married in the 1920s sometime, I don't know the year.

And in 1931, my mother was born, and some time later, my uncle was born.

Anyway, my grandfather was an extremely intelligent person. He seemed to be very good in things like mathematics, and in another lifetime, he probably would have been one of our leading architects, engineers (what my uncle became), or mathematicians.

But back then, during the Roaring 20s and later the Depression, he took what he could get, and he worked for the Post Office for many years.

I believe he was a postal inspector during Prohibition, looking for bootleg liquor.

He carried a gun, and he knew how to use it. My mother told me that he was so embarrassed to carry a pistol that he never, ever showed the gun to my mother as she was growing up.

This type of work was beneath him, but he had a family, they had to eat, and he did what he had to do.

He was too young to serve in World War I, and too old to serve in World War II, so during the Second World War, he served as an Air Raid Warden.

My birth in 1957 made him a grandfather for the first time, followed by the birth of my sister in 1959. He actually has another grandchild, a girl, who is my uncle's child. She came many, many years later, way after he had passed.

Anyway, by the time I was up and about, my grandfather had retired from the Post Office. I believe he worked in an Army Navy store. He got me my first baseball uniform and my first cleats.

Growing up was great. I had all four grandparents, and they were all around seemingly all the time. We would visit them lots of weekends, and I really enjoyed being with all of them.

But what a contrast my sister and I had. My mother's parents--Grandpa Morris and Grandma Betty--were New World to the hilt. They were the youngest grandparents a kid could have. They knew everything new, and I remember doing the Twist with my grandmother. She loved to dance.

My father's parents--Grandpa Jack and Grandma Harriet--were as Old World as it came. They were Orthodox Jews, were active in the synagogue, but were more strident in their practices. Even though they raised four highly successful children, I doubt they knew what the Twist was. But Grandma Harriet's smile could light up a room, it really could. Grandpa Jack had a wicked sense of humor that was formed by having a pretty hard life.

Anyway, my Grandpa Morris could help me with my homework, he could watch TV with me, and he could be stern if he had to. I still remember the stare he gave me when I got greedy and poured 7Up into a glass and it got all over the table.

My Grandpa Morris was human. He had his faults. But one fault overran the rest.

He was a smoker, and not just a smoker, but a heavy smoker. He smoked pipes, cigars and cigarettes, usually in one fell swoop. He always had a tobacco product in his mouth. He never stopped.

I think it was a nervous habit, as he would smoke when he was tense. It was also the times. Seemingly every man smoked. Even my father smoked at one time.

When I was little, I would ask him to stop. He simply could not stop.

Then if I remember correctly, one day in the early 1970s, he was coming home from work, and used the train (he never drove). The doors to the train were closing, and a woman was rushing to the door.

Being the gentleman that he was, he tried to keep the door open, and it crushed into him.

He was never the same after that.

He was a relatively healthy man, but that incident allowed a weakness to find an opening.

He had cancer, and by the time he realized that the cancer was eating away at him, it was really too late.

Yes, he did quit smoking, but the cancer was too advanced for anything to be done to help him.

I remember his funeral. He was in an open casket, and I peered over to look, and it didn't look like my Grandpa Morris. I moved away from that casket pretty quickly.

I said something at his funeral. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I know he probably would have liked what I said.

He was really a great man, the type of guy you will never read about in the newspapers or hear about on TV, but he--and all of my grandparents, for that matter--were my heroes. They battled things that my sister and I never had to even think about to try to make our lives better than theirs.

And that goes for our parents, too. Real battlers, real heroes, and real people.

Anyway, my other grandparents all lived to ripe old ages, and they all passed in the mid to late 1990s. They lived to see their grandchildren become adults, and they lived to see my sister and I get married and have children of our own.

I often think about my grandparents, and my Grandpa Morris. I think he would be happy about how my sister and I turned out, and I think he would be happy that he had great grandchildren who are turning out fine too.

Lots of bumps in the road, but I think right now, we are all on pretty solid footing.

I will never forget my grandparents, and I know that my sister and I have spread the wisdom we have learned from them to our own kids. I know that my kids know quite a bit about Grandpas Morris and Jack and Grandmas Betty and Harriet.

They made us who we are today, as have our parents. All good people in a world that is constantly changing, but the one thing that holds steady is that grandparents are very, very important to your upbringing.

I am so happy that I got to know my grandparents very, very well, and that my children and my sister's kids have gotten to know their grandparents pretty well, too.

Maybe one day my sister and I will become a grandparents ourselves, and I just hope that we can live up to the standards set by our grandparents and our parents.

It will be difficult, but I think we can do it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rant #898: Sounds Fishy To Me

Eating fish is supposedly better for your health and your metabolism than eating red meat is.

I like some fish, but I also like red meat. And I hate chicken.

But what do you feed to your kids--fish or red meat? Or chicken?

McDonald's is stepping into the fray, and for a limited time, customers have a choice between Chicken McNuggets and a new Happy Meal introduced by the fast food giant, their first new one in a decade.

Now on the menu is Fish McBites, which are basically small, very small, pieces of fish with a fried coating.

A Happy Meal for the kids, or 10, 15 or 30 little fish balls come in a pack, depending on the size pack you order, and based on reports that I have read, kids might think these things are pieces of popcorn rather than fish balls, because the coating outshines the fish inside.

Go out and get them now, because this is being run as a test, and they will only be available until the end of March, which is also the end of Lent.

I have also read that Pizza Hut has released a smaller version of its pizzas. You can get three to an order, and the idea is that everyone in the family can get their own personal pizza, with the toppings that they want.

So, all of a sudden, size counts again, but now, small is better.

These types or restaurants seem to be starting to run out of viable ideas for their menus. They've gone up, down and seemingly all around with what they offer.

Heck, McDonald's makes the biggest deal every year when they release their McRib sandwich, but does anybody know, or care, that you can get the same type of offering in TV dinners that cost a buck? Check out the el cheapo Banquet TV dinners for proof, and others also make the same thing.

But I know, it isn't McDonald's.

I eat fast food maybe once a week at the most. I like the convenience, and the food really isn't that terrible, as long as you eat it in moderation ... which we know a lot of people don't do.

Fast food restaurants have been blamed for our obesity epidemic, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. Nobody forces anyone to go into these places, and if you are watching your weight, you don't get stuff from these restaurants.

You can't expect McDonald's to help you watch your weight. Do it yourself.

Anyway, back to the main topic ...

I don't know if I will ever try McDonald's new offering, or for that matter, Pizza Hut's new offering.

I haven't had fish at McDonald's in years; if I want fish as a fast food, I would much rather go out of my way to Long John Silver's, which isn't near where I live but is reachable by car.

And as for Pizza Hut, I haven't been in one in years. My wife used to work for them, by the way.

But I guess for a lot of people, these new offerings give them another choice, and I guess the creation of these new menu items is all about that, isn't it?

And the chains know that too. More choice, more footsteps, more customers, more money.

So eat your Fish McBites and mini-pizzas now, because they are sure to disappear--

Well before the bulge in your waistline does.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rant #897: Super Bowl Funeral

I don't know what is going to be bigger: the just finished Super Bowl or former New York City Mayor Ed Koch's funeral.

In the New York Metropolitan Area, I would say that it has to be Koch's funeral, hands down.

And even elsewhere around the country, Koch's funeral is going to resonate like no other city funeral, probably since Judy Garland's funeral in 1969.

There will be a lot of pomp and circumstance, and people from all walks of life at this funeral. Koch deserved the best, and he will go out strong.

If you didn't already know who Ed Koch was, he was New York City personified in one unique individual, who championed the city through some very dark days in the 1970s and 1980s, when New York City was on its own fiscal cliff.

Starting his time on the national state as a lawyer heavily involved in the civil rights movement, he gradually worked his way up to the top spot in New York City politics.

When you are mayor of New York City, you are really the mayor of the world. In the United States, some people say that the mayor of New York City is second only to the President of the United States in political importance, and Koch personified that to the hilt.

He could take it, and he could give it back too. He had an irascible sense of humor, but when put to the test, he could lay it on thick too.

I think he actually became more popular to the masses when he was finally voted out of office after a couple of terms as mayor.

He seemed to be New York City's own Jewish leprechaun, touting the city at every turn.

Although a life-long liberal Democrat, he supported whoever he wanted in various political races, no matter what their party affiliation.

He also appeared in a number of TV shows and movies, did movie reviews, and you might remember that he followed Judge Wapner as the presiding judge on "The People's Court."

He was really the typical New York everyman, and just about everyone liked him, even his opponents.

So, the day after the Super Bowl, we are really going to have the Super Bowl of funerals in New York City today. All the local stations will be covering this funeral as if a President has passed, and it should really be something to watch.

Politicians, celebrities, and just regular folk are going to be at this thing, and really, it will be less a funeral than a celebration of a man that gave his heart and soul to the city that he loved.

Goodbye Ed Koch. You used to ask, "How'm I doin;?" and the answer is a simple one:

"You done darn good, Mr. Mayor, darn good."

Friday, February 1, 2013

Rant #896: The Charts

I was just looking at the Billboard Hot 100 music chart from this week 46 years ago, and I was amazed at the quality of recordings that made up the most popular songs of the week all those years ago.

Topping the chart for the week of January 28, 1967 was the Monkees' "I'm a Believer," followed by Aaron Neville's "Tell It Like It Is."

The rest of the top 10 went like this:

3) Royal Guardsmen - "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron"
4) Seekers - "Georgy Girl"
5) Mamas and the Papas - "Words of Love"
6) Four Tops - "Standing in the Shadows of Love"
7) Paul Revere and the Raiders - "Good Thing"
8) Lovin' Spoonful - "Nashville Cats"
9) Buckinghams - "Kind of a Drag"
10) Blues Magoos - "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet"

The highest debut single for the week was the Supremes' "Love is Here and Now You're Gone," which came in at No. 47 en route to an eventual No. 1 placement, and the biggest mover--the song that moved up the chart the greatest number of placements--was the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday," which jumped from No. 78 to No. 43 in one week, and eventually it, too, would hit No. 1.

A very interesting chart, woudn't you agree?

I am not going to knock current music here, although I can't see anything today even comparing with what was hot 46 years ago.

But 46 years ago, I was 10 years old, and this was MY music.

There wasn't a song on here that I didn't like way back when, and all these years later, I still love 'em all.

Each one has become a staple of the oldies circuit on the radio, and many of the performers have had long-lasting careers, at least on the concert stage.

Some even continue releasing records today.

The Monkees' Micky Dolenz, fresh off a tour with the surviving Monkees, has a new album out, and the others often record, although not with the same lineups as they had way back when.

It's amazing how this music still pulsates all these years later, and even our kids know many of these songs through their use in commercials, and on TV shows and films.

No, I am not going to say anything bad here about current music. We won't know its real impact, and whether it will still resonate 46 years from today.

Will people know the songs? Will the music be looked at as oldies, and be heard on what will go for oldies stations in the year 2059?

Who knows.

All I know is that the music of my youth still packs a punch, and that makes me very, very happy.


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