Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rant #1,197: Just Not Enough

Yes, the NBA did what it had to do yesterday, and basically banned Donald Sterling for life from the league.

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who made insensitive comments about blacks in a recorded rant, cannot do anything related to his team and the league.

He cannot attend games, he cannot attend Board of Governors meetings, he can't participate in player moves, he can't really do much of anything.

And he was also fined the maximum, which to a billionaire, is nothing but play money.

With an upcoming vote by owners, just a three-quarters majority is needed to force him to sell the team.

Commissioner Adam Silver was strong in his repulsion at what had transpired with Sterling shooting off his mouth against Magic Johnson and then blacks in general.

He even apologized to the earliest black players in the game, the ones who opened the door to the Lebron Jameses and other black players who followed.

Look, Silver had to do something, because if he wasn't quick and thorough about it, players would have boycotted the league.

Former player Larry Johnson, who you never know if his tongue is firmly in his cheek or if he is serious, said that the players should start their own "black" league.

Of course, if he was serious, that wouldn't solve anything, and make everything worse.

But back to Silver.

He did what he had to do, and he was applauded for it.

But he should have gone at least one step further.

With this incident, and past incidents in hand, he should have said that every person who is employed by the NBA--from him to owners, team executives, players, and any periphery people--must take sensitivity training classes related to race, religion, and male/female relations.

With all of its strides, the NBA has had many incidents beyond this latest one that says that yes, it is progressive in some ways, and dinosaurs in other ways.

The NBA was the first league to "allow" blacks to hold positions of authority, including coaches, team executives, and yes, owners.

It was also the first of the major professional sports leagues to allow women to officiate, and it does boast the supposedly first openly gay player.

But it also boasts negative incidents too. The Yao Ming/Charles Barkley incident is one of the worst, the Knicks anti-Semitic rants are another, and again the supposed anti-Asian feelings between certain Knicks players and former teammate Jeremy Lin is yet another.

Also involving the Knicks over the years is a sexual discrimination lawsuit that they lost. Most recently, J.R. Smith was fined a small sum for posting anti-female images on Twitter.

And the use of the N-word still exists in this league, as is the degradation of some of those who happen to be white and play in this nearly all-black league.

I would have thought that Silver would have taken the opportunity to look at the league's history beyond those black trailblazers.

The league started out as a Jewish league, with most of the earliest ballplayers being Jews. Heck, Silver and Sterling are Jews.

As the generations came and went, the league continued to be one of opportunity for those on the "outside" of the WASP populace, and blacks emerged as the greatest force in the league.

While Silver apologized to the trailblazers, he should have apologized to all. It is the league's history that makes it strong, and without sensitivity training, his actions yesterday are almost hollow.

Now back to Sterling. Even if he is "forced" to sell, it doesn't mean that he has to sell. That would take a court action, which isn't going to happen.

And why did it take more than 30 years to "out" this guy? He has had some questionable dealings in the past, both inside and outside of the league. Why did it take until now to get rid of this cancer?

The next thing is that I still have this question: Why was the tape made to begin with?

Conspiracy theorists would say that making the tape pushed the scenario that Sterling, always one of the most hated owners in the league, was going to be pushed out of the league by the making of the tape.

He mentions Magic Johnson, and Johnson just happens to be part of a group that is rumored to be interested in purchasing the Clippers.

So, some would say that the scenario was set into motion by this tape, that certain people wanted Sterling out and Johnson and his group in, and that is why the tape was made.

Hmmmm ...

Look, the NBA had to do something.

My problem is that it didn't do enough, certainly not enough to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again.

Silver has come out of this looking like gold, but to me, he could have done more, and looks more like tin now, easily pliable and bendable at a mere touch.

He should have done more, much more, and what he did simply isn't enough.

Mark my words, we have not heard the last of this. You can bet the arena on that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rant #1,196: Still Alive

That title that I used today could go for a couple of things that I am going to talk about here.

One is the fact that I actually made it through my 57th birthday unscathed.

I had lots to do yesterday, and even when I completed my tasks, I still had a lot more to do.

In the middle of it all, lots of people called me on the phone, and I had some nice conversations.

I always look forward to my birthdays, and based on what I accomplished yesterday, I would say that I hope that my 58th birthday is as fulfilling as my 57th was.

Next on the docket are two incidents that have happened over the span of about three weeks, two incidents that show us that things we might have thought were dead truly aren't.

The first is that neo-Nazi who murdered three innocent people in Kansas.

He shot them without any provocation, other than the fact that they were on the grounds of Jewish institutions in that state.

He thought they were Jewish, but they weren't. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

When he was arrested for the crimes, he shouted out "Heil Hitler."

Many people, including many Jews, do not believe that anti-Semitism exists anymore. On the Jews' part, many believe that they are so homogenized into society at this point in time that anti-Semitism has faded away, along with their uniqueness about being Jewish.

Well, if this incident didn't demonstrate that anti-Jewish feelings still exist in this world, I don't know what does.

Once Jewish, always Jewish, whether these people want to believe that or not.

And no, I don't believe this is an isolated incident. There are plenty of people who believe the same way that that imbecile did, and would blow away Jews if they had the nerve to do so.

The next instance of "still alive" also involved somebody who happens to be Jewish, but it has nothing to do with his religion, but all to do with his character.

Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA, was allegedly recorded saying some heinous things about blacks, among them that he didn't want his girlfriend to be appearing with any blacks or bringing them to games his team plays.

He allegedly said these things, simply because it still isn't known whether that was his voice on the recording or not.

First off, I wonder why he was recorded, and who did the recording? What reason was there for this to have taken place, in the first place?

Secondly, if the allegations are true, Sterling must really be color-blind, but in the worst sense.

Heck, aren't at least 80 percent of the players in the NBA, and on his own team, black?

Personally, I think the guy is losing it to begin with.

He supposedly said these things to his girlfriend, a woman of mixed extraction who is at least 40 years his junior.

Sterling is also married, and his wife has come out saying that she, personally, is not a racist.

If you hear the tape, and believe it is Sterling who said these things, they really revolved around Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. The Clippers and Johnson's old team, the Lakers, share the same arena, and are hated rivals. I think what Sterlilng meant is that he still considers the Lakers the enemy, and would prefer his girlfriend not appear in photos with the enemy.

But he didn't say that. Magic Johnson morphed into "black," and that is where the problem is.

His own team did a silent protest during their Sunday game, and everybody, from players in the league to the President of the United States, are asking for his head.

Today, this afternoon, is judgment day, and I am sure that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will do everything in his power to try to make things right.

Honestly, I don't know what the league can do, legally or otherwise. Can they force him to sell the team, a team he has owned for more than 30 years as the senior owner in the league?

I don't know what the legal ramifications are, but I do know that this is a firestorm that won't go away so easily.

I also remember that the NBA can be a hotspot for these types of things.

Although many people choose to forget other such incidents, I remember the horrible, anti-Asian things former player and current commentator Charles Barkley said when Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball player, was drafted by the Rockets, some years ago.

I also remember allegations of anti-Semitism that were hurled the way of my beloved Knicks in the 1990s, the teams of Patrick Ewing, teams that were close, but never won the championship.

Unfortunately, both anti-Semitism and racism go underground, but they seemingly never go away, and these two recent incidents demonstrate that we all have to be on our guard, all the time, for such things, whether we like it or not.

Maybe that is one of the downsides of living in a free society like we do, but these things do not just go away.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rant #1,195: The Best of Ranting and Raving #4: Happy Birthday To Me

Today, April 28, is my birthday.

I cannot believe that I am 57 years old today.

To celebrate the occasion, I took the day off from work, but I won't be lounging around today.

I have some work to do related to my son's future that I really don't have time to do if I am at work, so it all worked out that I took today off.

But rather than not provide a Rant for the day, I figured that I would rerun one. What I said a year ago pretty much still holds true, so here is what I said, in edited form, a year ago about my birthday.

"It seems the years have gone fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On April 25, I bought a new car.

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

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

Wow, what a ride it has been.

And I plan on being here many more years.

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

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

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

UPDATE: Things remain pretty good at the Lapka household. 

We are looking forward to our son's imminent graduation from high school, and the question is, what is he going to do afterward? He is not going to college, has a disability that we are trying to get backup for, and he is really like any high school senior, ready to take on the world.

And today, I will be filling out some forms and making some phone calls to make sure that he is able to do just that.

I received some wonderful gifts from my parents, my aunt, my wife and my kids, so everything has been taken care of for today.

Once I am done with the important stuff, maybe I can relax today, but right now, I am revved up and ready to go.

So you have a nice day, I will be back with an original column tomorrow, and I do look forward to the next 57 years on this earth, I really do!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rant #1,194: Tar Heel

Remember yesterday when I explained to those who didn't know, or care, that in the New York Metropolitan Area, sports are almost akin to religion?

Well, Michael Pineda put his name into local baseball lore with what he tried to get away with on Wednesday night.

After two years of injuries that did not allow him to pitch in a major league game, Pineda had been the "feel good" story of the spring for the Yankees, a 25-year old with a determination to make the big league team now that his injuries were a thing of the past.

He pitched very well, and made the team coming out of Florida in late March.

And once pitching, he did very well, continuing into the regular season.

Then last week, he raised suspicions of something devious happening by pitching at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox with something odd on his arm, something shiny and readily apparent to the eye.

He said it was just dirt, but you only needed limited eyesight to see that it was pine tar, or some other substance that allowed him to get a better grip on the ball in cold, New York weather.

The Red Sox allowed him to slide at Yankee Stadium, but at Fenway Park, things were going to be different if Pineda tried such a thing again.

He started on Wednesday night, and was hit hard in the first inning.

He same out in the second inning, and it was apparent that Pineda had that same, shiny substance on his neck.

Two were out, and he was in the middle of the count when Boston manager John Farrell, a former pitcher himself, came out, wanting the umpires to take a look at Pineda.

They looked at his uniform, his cap, his belt, and lo and behold, they found something on his neck.

Pine tar.

He was ejected, and the Yankees ended up losing the game.

And since last week, we have heard uttered the "unthinkable" in baseball--most pitchers use something illegal on the mound to get a better grip on the ball.

Pineda was caught because he made it too obvious.

This is not about spitballs, using substances to get the ball to move off its natural plane from the pitcher's hand to the catcher's mitt (or to the batter's bat). This is the use of substances to allow pitchers to grip the baseball in a better way, giving them a heightened ability to throw that pitch.

No, this is not as bad as PEDs, but it still is a blemish on the game.

And for the public, this brings a part of the game into the real world--athletes do cheat, so to speak, even marginally, which is what this whole pine tar mess is about.

Pineda rightfully got a 10-game suspension, apologized for his actions--that, by the way, the Yankees knew absolutely nothing about, supposedly, as he just smeared the pine tar on without anybody's knowledge--and now the Yankees are down a pitcher for maybe a start. Since pitchers start every fifth day, and the suspension began yesterday, they might need another starter for a game, maybe two.

But again, with the PED scandal still hovering over baseball, now we have this much more subtle type of cheating to contend with.

And yes, the sports world in this part of the country is talking about this as if it were the beginning of World War III. Such is the nature of sports in this area, which like I said, is almost akin to religion here.

Yesterday's game got the Yankees back where they should be, and even though Pineda continued to be the main topic of discussion, the Yankees came back to win, 14-5, and take the three game series against the Red Sox, 2-1.

Yes, when baseball season begins, you just know that the warmer weather is coming, and it seems the debate about "cheating" in the game will heat up as we get into the warmer months of the year.

Can't wait! Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rant #1,193: Heavy Meddle

If you are not living in New York, or not a sports fan, you have to understand that sports are almost akin to a religion in these parts.

And there is almost nothing more important than baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

The problem with the basketball end of things is that is usually revolves around the New York Knicks, perhaps the worst run franchise in the history of professional sports in America.

There is a cloud hanging over this franchise that never seems to go away, even when some good things are happening, and according to the New York Daily News, that is exactly what is happening right now.

Phil Jackson, former Knick who has won numerous championships as both a player and a coach, now hopes to add executive to his championship resume. He was hired by the Knicks to oversee their badly needing repair basketball operations.

The Knicks were supposed to challenge for the league championship this season, but to the dismay of the team's faithful fans, the team, wracked with injuries and a lousy court attitude, didn't even make the playoffs--made worse by the fact that the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets made the postseason.

Add to that that your star player, Carmelo Anthony, may bolt this summer for another team due to free agency, your starting point guard, Raymond Felton, may be playing on a prison basketball court due to his being arrested several weeks ago for gun possession, and you have many players on the team mouthing off against management, and you have a real bad situation here.

But Jackson is being paid well to fix it, and he seemed to be going in the right direction when he recently fired the entire coaching staff, led by coach Mike Woodson.

But now we hear that there are rumblings that owner James Dolan, who admitted when he hired Jackson that he knows little about basketball, is meddling in Jackson's affairs.

Jackson is supposed to have complete autonomy over the Knicks' basketball operations, but evidently, if you are an owner with deep pockets, you can say what you want and do what you want, simply because you still write the paychecks.

The Daily News has reported that Dolan and Jackson disagree over some personnel decisions that Jackson plans to make or has made. Whether that has to do with the since fired coaching staff, player personnel, or other front-office people is uncertain, but it appears that Dolan is not staying true to his word to stay out of Jackson's way while he cleans house.

Yesterday at a news conference, Jackson denied that Dolan was putting any pressure on him to rescind his decisions, but the more he denied it, the more it became clearly evident that something is going on behind closed doors that was not supposed to go on while Jackson is supposedly in charge.

What a media circus this has caused, but who believed Dolan, anyway, when he said that he would allow Jackson to do what he wanted in running the organization?

I certainly didn't. Dolan is the son of Charles Dolan, the guy who basically created another dimension of televison with Cablevision. They own the Knicks, Madison Square Garden, and many other New York entities. James, his son, basically inherited the franchise, which is a good thing for him, because without his father, he might be taking your order at McDonald's.

This guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed, as they say.

And he continues to show is ignorance in his running of the Knicks, the toy his father gave him so that he would completely stay out of the old man's way.

Again, the meddling is speculation, but why create such a clamor if there really wasn't some truth in it?

As a long-time Knicks fan, who actually was alive, around and cognizant when they won their only two championships in 1970 and 1973, I cannot believe what this franchise has become, the laughing stock of professional sports.

This was the team of brain power--Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett, Bill Bradley and the rest--and to have them fall like they have during the past 40-plus years is embarrassing.

Let's see if Jackson is able to do what he was hired to do, which is to right the franchise.

Right now, if he opted out of his contract, bolted back to California, and said his OKing a contract to run this team was a mistake, it would not surprise me.

God help the Knicks, whether that actually happens or he somehow stays on and continues to try to right this ship with a hole in its side that many think cannot be repaired.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rant #1,192: I Have Gas

No, not from Passover matzoh.

The holiday ended yesterday evening at sundown, and my stomach held up pretty well.

Everything in moderation, and I think that is how I conquered the dreaded "matzoh stomach."

What I am talking about is gas over the price of gas.

I don't know about where you are, but in my neck of the woods, gas has gone up tremendously over the past few weeks, probably a dime or more from what it was.

And even with that, gas is higher in price this year than last year.

I think the average national price is in the $3.30s, but by me, the price is approaching the $4.00 plateau once again.

If I look around, I can get gas for about $3.75 or so, but most stations are at $3.79 or higher.

Why has gas skyrocketed?

As usual, it has risen because of every excuse in the book.

Let's see ... unrest in the Middle East ... refineries not pumping out what they should for one reason or another ... or perhaps the dreaded "summer mix" of gas that we get in New York, which is different than the "winter mix," and pricier.

No one has yet to explain to me why we have to have "mixes" by season. Isn't gas gas, and wouldn't a standard mix power my car through all the seasons?

And once again the average Joe like me gets the bill.

What else is new?

But also, what can you do?

I need gas to power my car to get to work, to go to the supermarket to shop for groceries on the weekend, even to get myself and my family to the movies on the weekend, if we so choose to do that.

We aren't wasting the gas, it is something that we need to live.

I don't really know what we can do to preserve the gas we have, and use it more wisely.

The days of joyrides are over, and have been over for years.

I guess it is simply supply and demand, and we are just going to have to live with the reality that gas prices are going to go up and down with regularity.

When I first got my driver's license in 1974, I think gas was 67 cents a gallon.

Now, it is more than five times that price, moving up the ladder during the past 40 years.

Who would have thought such things when I first started to drive?

But things are different now, and we are just going to have to live with it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rant #1,191: Wheel Endurance

I am sure you heard about that teen that ran away from home by stowing away in the wheel well compartment of a jet in California that eventually landed in Hawaii.

Somehow, this kid made it out alive, but I don't know how.

For one thing, that part of the airplane is, obviously, not made for human beings to be stowing away in.

Also, with the plane flying at incredible heights, where was his oxygen, how did he hold on, and how did he not freeze or suffocate to death?

Supposedly he was unconscious for most of the ride, but if that is so, then how did he hold on to the plane under those conditions?

And when the wheels were ejected upon landing, how was he not crushed to death?

And, just on the basics, what was this kid running away from to begin with?

I don't get this story, I really don't, but it really opens up a whole can of worms, and like Ricky Ricardo used to say to wife Lucy, somebody has a lot of 'splainin' to do.

How did this kid get on the runway to begin with without being detected? I thought that airports were under high security, but this kid sneaks through ... how so?

It also leads to problems with not only security, but the possibility that people can plant devices on planes that will make them go boom.

If a kid could get in there for no other reason than to stow away on a plane, what about a terrorist, whose only mission is to blow up a plane? Wouldn't that be the perfect place to plant such a device, if it is so easy to get in there?

The teen hasn't been charged with anything yet, but quite frankly, this is an amazing story of survival, and I am sure the kid told authorities exactly how he was able to do what he did.

Perhaps the authorities will learn from this ... and you just know that book and movie deals are ready to come this kid's way any moment, if they haven't already been handed to him while he awaits whatever fate he is going to get.

But the bottom line to this story is why did the kid run away, what were the circumstances of his decision to do this, and how in the heck was he able to manage to survive such an ordeal?

Many others have tried to do this, and have failed. How did he manage to succeed?

Perhaps we will find out in the days and weeks ahead, but whatever the case, I guess where there's a will, there's a way.

But hanging onto a plane for dear life?

I still don't believe it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rant #1,190: A Day For the Record

I trust that everything went well with everyone during the Easter holiday.

Other than my allergies kicking in high gear, it went well for myself and my family.

We had a somewhat relaxing weekend. We even went to the movies to see the new "Captain America" film, which, sadly, I cannot recommend. It was not as good as the original, but lots of people are seeing it, so it does not matter. It is a hit.

Anyway, on Saturday, my wife and I visited our local record store on "Record Store Day," an annual celebration that highlights the virtues of local, independent record stores.

With the big guys--Tower Records, Virgin Records--out of business, the local record stores are it right now, and they must, and deserve to be, supported.

And yes, I said record. These stores sell CDs, but their prime focus is used and new records.

And yes, I said new records, because vinyl is very, very much alive in this age of digital downloads.

We went to our local record store, and the place was mobbed with people looking for the specials that were available during that special day, vinyl releases that probably aren't on CD or available digitally.

The great thing is that most of the people there were college age through probably their mid 30s, which made my wife and I old codgers, but that was fine with me.

If the kids still like vinyl, then vinyl is alive.

Look, I am not knocking CDs. They provide us with our music in a compact form, easy to handle, easy to listen to in our cars.

But it is kind of vanilla. The sounds are too perfect, and to me, that is not the spirit of rock and roll.

And digital files are great too, especially for listening when you want to, however you want to.

But it is not vinyl. Vinyl remains the top way to listen to music, in particular, rock and roll, and that is why I still buy vinyl, both used and new.

On Saturday, my wife and I bought several albums and singles to add to our collection. One of the prizes that we got is called "The Magic of Judy Garland," which is a six-record boxed set of all her hits, both live and in studio. We got it relatively cheap, and to show you what a modern guy I am, I already transferred all the tracks over digitally so my wife can listen to the set in her car at her leisure.

My birthday is coming up, so she also bought me some stuff, which I have yet to see.

I got stuff I honestly wasn't looking for, which is why I love to go shopping in our local record store. You simply do not know what you'll find there on any given day.

I bought singles by the Beatles, David Bowie, Lou Christie, Len Barry, Flo and Eddie, and a few others, a couple of cheap LPs, and that was that.

I did not even look at the specials--although I was interested in "The Wizard of Oz" re-release--because there was too much of a line of people waiting to go through the specials--and perhaps I will go back soon, just to see them in a more relaxed setting, when things aren't as crazy there as they were on Saturday.

It was fun, and since the record store I went to donates a certain amount of proceeds of that day to a charity of its choice, it made everything even better.

Record Day made the weekend for me, and to have my wife there really made it extra special. She likes records too, not to the level that I do, but she also grew up during the time that vinyl was king, and to be honest, hard habits are difficult to break.

Maybe when I go back, I can get her that "Wizard of Oz" record, if it is still there.

We will see, but I will always go back on Record Store Day.

There really is nothing like it!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Rant #1,189: Happy Easter

Today is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter.

Have a good holiday if you celebrate these holidays.

Again, the following is the perspective of someone on the outside looking in, because being Jewish, I don't celebrate either holiday.

However, the intersection of my holiday--Passover--with Easter is pretty interesting, and it makes for a nice time for all of us, because we pretty much either celebrate one holiday or the other.

Yes, it is holiday time!

I grew up in a community that if you were white, you were Jewish, and while I had many non-Jewish friends, really, Easter Sunday was nothing with nothing for me as a kid.

Sure, "Easter Parade" was always on, but quite frankly, the Kosher deli was open, and if we went out to eat, and it wasn't Passover, this is where we went on that day.

As I got older, and we moved to an area where Jews were definitely in the minority, the holiday began to take on a different sheen.

I began to notice that everything was closed on this day, whether we are talking about department stores or the nearest mall.

So we went to the movies, and if we were going out to eat, and it wasn't Passover, the Kosher deli it was, still and again.

Now, in today's times, most things are still closed on this holiday. However, I have noticed more things open. And this includes some fast food places.

However, since it is Passover, those are a no go.

We will go to the movies and then pretty much eat at home this year.

I respect what the holiday is to many, and I am sure "Easter Parade" will be on the TV as it always is.

I know that like during Passover, families will gather and have a nice meal on the holiday. They will reflect on the past year, and look ahead to what is up ahead.

Again, as an outsider looking in, I view Easter as a day of worship, for both your religion and your family.

And really, we should not need a holiday--whether Passover or Easter--to give us an "excuse" to do that.

Have a great holiday, and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rant #1,188: Good Luck To Valerie

During the 1970s, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was pretty much the standard by which all other TV situation comedies were judged.

It had crisp writing, an excellent cast, and while I personally wasn't the biggest fan of the show, it demonstrated how TV sitcoms had changed from the days of "I Love Lucy."

One of the cast members of that show was Valerie Harper, a good looking lady who played Rhoda Morgenstern on the show, the perpetually without a man lady who finally found her man and some level of happiness.

Her character was so popular that it was spun off into the successful "Rhoda" series.

Anyway, with that etched into our minds forever, about a year ago or maybe a little more than that, we were hit with devastating news: Valerie Harper had a type of brain cancer that was going to kill her, maybe in as little as three months.

As celebrities do nowadays, she went on every TV talk show that existed and told everyone her story, and it really was heartbreaking.

It was like she was making amends to everyone in the TV universe before she was going to pass.

But somehow, miraculous things happened in the interim.

Leaving herself in the hands of her doctors, and using different therapies, Harper wasn't going as quickly as many doctors had thought she would.

All of a sudden, the three-month death march was extended.

She showed up on TV again, talking about her therapy, and looking to the future, which most of us thought maybe would stretch out for six months and that was it.

Incredibly, it stretched out a bit more.

She was on "Dancing With the Stars," showed herself to be somewhat fit even with the cancer, and again, continued to talk about her therapy.

And yesterday, depending on what show she was on and what article you read, she is either cancer-free or is in remission, still has the disease, but her prognosis is much better than it was.

Remember, this is a woman, who in her early 70s, was just supposed to live three months tops.

Now she is either cancer free or in some type of serious remission.

Astonishing, isn't it?

Evidently, if you can piece together the various things that were reported, she is going to have to be checked out the rest of her life, because this cancer can hide, but it can't be totally removed from one's body.

Right now, it appears to be taking a break, but Harper must stick with a strict regimen to prolong her life.

This is really incredible, a feel-good story that comes at the perfect time--Easter/Passover--to make anyone feel good about their own lives.

My aunt had a brain tumor--non-cancerous--several years ago. She was vibrant before this happened, and her recovery after surgery was slow, and she continues to recover, all these years later.

The tumor put her down, but not out. She fought, and still fights, and she is winning her battle, even though she has to fight every day.

I think it is the same thing with Harper. She is a fighter, and wasn't going to go down without a strong fight.

And she is winning.

Who knows what the story will be in six months, heck, even six weeks, but right now, she is a winner.

Good luck to her.

I am sure the power of positive thinking has to be part of it.

She said she was going to lick this thing, and she has done just that, at least right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rant #1,187: Playboy, No. 1

If you are a male, you must remember your first encounter with Playboy magazine.

It was probably something that you found somewhere, and you were probably pretty young.

You found it, opened it up, and started to giggle, because you saw naked ladies in its pages.

That is pretty much what happened with me, although a long-ago friend of mine showed me my first Playboy.

It was in his room, hidden under his bed.

He had about five sisters. What more can I say?

Anyway, Playboy has decided to release a page-for-page exact reprint of its first issue, the one with the Marilyn Monroe centerfold, for all to see and buy.

But unlike the 50 cents that the original cost, this one will cost you $9.99.

Who would have thought that a sophisticated men's magazine would sell anyway?

Certainly Hugh Hefner, the guy who currently wears a sailor hat and looks like a dirty old man, thought that it would, and boy, was he right.

And that first issue really did change the world, change the world's perception about women, and changed the world of publishing forever.

There were risque magazines before Playboy which showed off women's bodies--very modestly compared to now--but they weren't mixed with high-brow conversation and talk.

Playboy went one step further than Esquire, basically combining that magazine's wit with the trashy magazines' nudity.

And who else to grace the first centerfold than Marilyn Monroe?

As we spoke about last week, Monroe was the sex symbol to end all sex symbols, and her appearance in the pages of Playboy 60 years ago simply enhanced that image.

And again, by today's standards, she didn't show much, but what she showed was enough ...

Enough to make an empire that lasts to this day.

Will people spend $9.99 for an exact reproduction of the original issue?

Probably, more as a keepsake than anything else.

That issue was pretty tame by today's standards, but back then, it was as risque as possible.

Since that first issue, hundreds of centerfolds have graced those pages, mostly forgotten models who have gone onto careers in just about every area possible, from movies and television to modeling to publishing to being executives at companies large and small.

Many have even gone back home, raised families, and probably showed their young'uns that at one time, they were considered the height of beauty.

But it all started with Marilyn Monroe.

Give Hefner credit. He tapped into something that is in every male--the need to see something they shouldn't be seeing--and he made a fortune doing it.

And it all started with that first magazine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rant #1,186: Matzoh Stomach

We had our seder last night.

I have to say, it was an excellent seder.

We were at my sister's house, and she put on a great get-together.

She led our seder, and we went through all of the rituals.

My aunt was there, which was an added bonus, and everything went well.

Now, today, it is the first full day of Passover, we have our second seder tonight with my parents, and I am sure everything will be just as good as it was during the first seder.

This is also the first full day of the affliction I call "matzoh stomach," which I have gotten to various degrees over the years.

It generally comes when one eats too much matzoh, and since I love matzoh--the "bread" of passover, which is basically unleavened bread--I am prone to having such a malady, which comes and goes very quickly.

Everything eaten during this holiday is very heavy, and certainly, matzoh adds to the heaviness.

So at times, when one consumes lots of matzoh, one feels so bloated and corroded that you feel like you cannot move.

It either stuffs you up or lets you out, if you know what I mean, and the bathroom can be your best friend during this holiday.

Last year, I had absolutely no matzoh stomach problems, but you can't say that the problems are over simply because the previous year you had no problems.

It hits you like a lead hammer to your stomach, and when you have it, you have it.

Hopefully, I won't get it this year, but you never know.

I did not gorge myself with food yesterday, and I think that that is the key to this whole thing.

As long as you don't overeat, you are fine ... I think.

As I am getting older, I simply can't eat as much as I used to, anyway, so it really isn't that difficult to lay off too much of everything.

The problem is that everything is so, so good that you really do have to hold yourself back.

So on tax day, the second night of Passover, I say that I will not get matzoh stomach this year.

It used to be as inevitable as paying taxes, but I think I found out a way to avoid matzoh stomach, and I am going to stick with it!

And, by the way, happy birthday to my youngest nephew, who turns 18 today, and to my old friend from my old neighborhood, David, who turns 57 today.

I catch up with my old friend in 13 days, and matzoh stomach or not matzoh stomach, I plan on celebrating that day in a big way.

By taking a day off from work and not doing very much of anything.

And by that time, this year's Passover will be but a memory, and matzoh stomach, hopefully, won't be around to haunt me.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rant #1,185: Happy Passover

For Jews around the world, tonight is the first night of Passover, which means tonight is the first seder that we have, the first of two during the eight-day observance.

Passover celebrates the Jews' flight from Egypt in Biblical times, and it also solidifies the fact that the Jewish religion remains a strong one.

It is a family holiday, one where young and old alike gather to go over the traditions of the holiday, first and foremost, and at the center of the celebration, the recitation of "The Four Questions."

Matzoh signifies the most visible link to the holiday.

When the Jews, who were kept in slavery by the Egyptians but were later expelled, fled Egypt, they had to do it quickly. Whatever foodstuffs they brought with them had to be used quickly, and thus, any materials that they used to create bread did not have time to rise, and became a cracker-like food known as matzoh.

So matzoh, rather than bread, is eaten on this holiday, and personally, I love matzoh, and for eight days, that is what I exist on.

Matzoh may be the most visible link to Passover, but the most important link during the holiday is known as "The Four Questions," when the youngest children attending the seder ask the adults "Why is this night different than all other nights?"

Actually, anyone can read "The Four Questions," but the younger people usually do it. It is the real centerpiece of the celebration, and it is something that all participants look forward to.

The first two nights are the seder nights, with families gathering to look at the Jews' flight from Egypt, and the modern seders are real family gatherings, with the traditions reinforced.

Modern influences are also included, and new Kosher for Passover foods are always being created to whet the appetites of all who are present.

And other things permeate the seder, including world events.

I am sure this year, many seders will focus on the horrific incident which happened yesterday, when an anti-Semitic gunmen killed several in Kansas for no other reason than they were on the grounds of Jewish facilities.

Passover is my favorite holiday of the year. The only gifts given on Passover are those of families being together, and that is all that is asked.

The holiday takes lots of preparation, lots of cooking, but it is all well worth it.

For my non-Jewish friends, this is an interesting time of year, as the holidays for Jews and non-Jews kind of run into each other.

Palm Sunday was yesterday, Good Friday is on Friday, and Easter Sunday is coming up this Sunday.

To Jew and non-Jew alike, have great holidays this year. Through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these holidays ground us, and really bring into focus what is truly important in our lives.

We all need this affirmation of the family as the most important thing in our lives, and these holidays give us the forum to not only celebrate the holiday, but to celebrate the strength of our families.

So when I am all matzohed out, I really don't mind, because I am with my family, and that is the most important thing, isn't it?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rant #1,184: Marilyn and Elia

A big "so what" little piece of Hollywood's past has turned up nearly 60 years later, but even though at this point it appears to be no big deal, it still is generating a bit of a buzz.

A letter has turned up from 1955 where famed director Elia Kazan admits to his wife that he had an affair with actress Marilyn Monroe.

It says some other things about the time and place, but really, nobody cares about the other things.

All anyone cares about is Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe was the sex symbol to end all sex symbols.

She was beautiful, had an incredible figure, yes, used plastic surgery to get herself to this perfection, was a better than given credit for actress, and yes, she slept around.

A lot, if you want to believe everything you read.

We know that she did have some psychological problems, and probably soothed most of those with her bed hopping, if, again, you want to believe everything you read.

Not only was she married, at different times, to the likes of Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, but she supposedly had affairs with everyone from the Kennedy brothers to Albert Einstein.

Heck, I am surprised my father never had an affair with her, and the same is true for my grandfathers. She supposedly slept with every man alive in the mid 1950s.

Heck, if I was of age, she would have slept with me, too.

Now Kazan comes into the picture. I guess you have to believe this stuff, because why would he confess to his wife if he didn't sleep with her?

But you know, at this point in time, does it really matter?

Monroe has been dead for more than 50 years. Even her death is shrouded in mystery.

Why can't we just let things be, and why do we constantly have to drag her memory through the mud like we do?

I think it has a lot to do with her mystique and the way we judge women, at least during that period in time.

She remains a larger than life figure, a person who is even more popular in death than she was in life.

There were a lot of pretenders to her throne, but nobody has succeeded her.

There are beautiful women in Hollywood, but has any one of them become the sex symbol that Monroe was?

Also, even to this day, men are the ones to sleep around, in particular, Hollywood men.

Heck, if Monroe slept with every man who was alive at that time, then Frank Sinatra probably slept with every women.

Women are not supposed to be having affairs on a regular basis like men are, in particular married women, but as we know, that isn't true.

But Monroe typified a more innocent time, when men were men and women were, well, perfect ladies, not thinking of doing such things.

Well, Monroe slept around, so she went directly against the stereotype.

Why she slept around is the saddest thing about these things that come up from time to time, and yes, the men probably did take advantage of her extremely vulnerable state.

But I just find it amazing that all these years later, people actually care about this part of her life, and heck, I guess I care, because I am writing about it today.

Monroe will always live on as the penultimate sex symbol, but we sully her short life by making her the symbol of sex.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rant #1,183: It Is Only Thursday

This week is dragging, isn't it?

Thursday has always been my least favorite day of the week.

Why, you ask?


It is not quite Friday, not quite the end of the week, and at least since I have been working at my present employer--the past 18 years--I still have to wear a tie on Thursday.

We have a relaxed dress code on Friday, so business casual it is, and I never wear a tie on Friday.

I remember that when I first started working at this place in March 1996, nobody told me that we had casual Friday, so the first Friday I worked there, I came in with a tie.

When I found out that it was casual Friday, the tie came right off.

But again, Thursday is not Friday. We are not at the end of the work week yet.

And also on Thursday, I have to shave. I shave three days a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and any day I have to shave is not the greatest day in my book, at least not Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday I can live with because I am off from work, but the other two days, I shave because I have to go to work, and that doesn't endear the days to me.

I love the song "Friday On My Mind" by the Easybeats, but really, shouldn't it have been "Saturday On My Mind?" If I have Friday on my mind, I still have to work that day, so what makes Friday so special? I realize they are talking about after work time on Friday, but still, it doesn't make sense to me.

Loverboy's "Working For the Weekend" is more in tune with what I am talking about here. I guess we all work for the weekend, when we can recharge our batteries and relax a bit.

Are there even any songs with the word "Thursday" in the title? I can't think of any off hand, but there probably are one or two.

But here we are, it is only Thursday, and right now, approaching 5 a.m. in the morning, I have two work days to go before I can relax a little bit.

What happened to talk of the four-day workweek? That seems to have petered out, although a few years back, it was a hot topic.

But it all goes back to the fact that Thursday is my least liked day of the week ... so near to the weekend, yet so far.

I guess I will just have to work through it.

Let's see, I am 57 at the end of this month, so theoretically, I have just 10 years to go before I retire ...

Hah! That's a joke. I will be "working for the weekend" for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rant #1,182: Glad All Over Again

Did you have a chance to watch last night's PBS special on the Dave Clark Five?

If not, "The Dave Clark Five and Beyond--Glad All Over" on the station's "Great Performances" program will be rebroadcast this Friday.

Even though you pretty much only get "Bits and Pieces" of the entire Dave Clark Five story, it is well worth the two hours that is invested in Tottenham, England's gift to the world.

The Dave Clark Five--or the DC5, as they were nicknamed, comprised of Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Dennis Payton and Rick Huxley--came in on the coattails of the Beatles' fabulous success in 1964, but they made such a name for themselves that they allowed subsequent British acts, including the Rolling Stones and the Who, to be successful on these shores.

They were a hit singles band, and you can name the songs right off the top of your head--"Glad All Over," "Bits and Pieces," "Can't You See That She's Mine," "Catch Us If You Can," "Any Way You Want It," "You Got What It Takes," and each one of them was singable, approachable, and as much ear candy as "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was.

What made the DC5 stand out from the other groups--including the Beatles--was their look, their style, and the fact that they included keyboards and a sax in their music, which the other bands of the time generally did not.

And that was really the crux of the special. Interviewing everyone from the Sirs--Paul McCartney and Elton John--to Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Twiggy and Gene Simmons, that is what stood out for each of them. The sound, the style, and the success.

Sure, lots was glossed over with the special, including rumors that Clark used backup drummers even when performing live--most of the talking heads on the show marveled at their stage show, saying that they were a keen live band, better than any of their contemporaries--the rumor that Clark treated his bandmates as paid employees, and that he also stole royalties by putting his name on songs that he didn't write--but generally, the special spoke positively of the DC5's experience as a band.

Heck, with the special written, produced and directed by Dave Clark, did anyone think that he would waste time on all the warts?

Simmons said that in every live band's DNA, there is a piece of the Dave Clark Five, and he is probably right to a certain extent, because they seemed to have been a great live band.

One piece of the puzzle that has been out there for years is finally shown on the special . There is supposedly scant proof existing that the DC5 were a great live band, because supposedly few recordings exist of the band playing live, and what exists is nearly unlistenable.

Well, the special actually includes a couple of live performances, not shown in full, but you can see the power of the band. They also do a nice, quick turn on a song that wasn't theirs--"Georgia"--which shows just how good lead vocalist and songwriter Mike Smith actually was.

The special wasn't all good. Lenny Davidson is the one band member still alive, but he is never interviewed in the present day. Clark does allude to this, saying that Davidson was married, so he wasn't as close to him as he was other members of the band because the marrieds went their way with their wives, while the others went their way scouting out the chicks (nothing is said about Clark's supposed homosexuality, either, but to me, that is all fine and good).

The talking heads talk about the power of their singles, and we hear many of their singles throughout the show, but not a single picture sleeve is shown, only the 1990 singles that were released when Clark had a brief agreement with Hollywood Records to re-release all the DC5 music, which caved in very quickly (no mention is made of this situation).

The American albums are shown, by the way.

After an explanation is given for the band's end--they simply got sick of touring, and had decided that they would call it a day after a few years of being a studio band and targeting Europe with their music--the last half hour is really too Euro-centric, talking about Clark's later life as the owner of the "Ready, Steady, Go" franchise and as a stage show producer--his show was "Time," and it starred a cast of everyone from Sir Laurence Olivier to Dionne Warwick to Julian Lennon to Freddy Mercury--but to American tastes, this is just a big "so what." And nothing is said of Clark's later life to the present, or the lives of his bandmates.

A lot of emphasis is placed on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame--and Tom Hanks' completely over the top speech about them--but that is OK. They deserved the honor, and Hanks is a true fan of the band, so why not include it?

There is a DVD out including the special and another disk with what wasn't shown on the telecast, so I look forward to that too.

Anyway, I would give the show an A for effort and a B+ for execution. Clark is a true businessman, as was pointed out in the special, and a true businessman does not reveal all of his tricks, and Clark certainly didn't here.

But otherwise, if you are interested in pop culture, this is an absolute must to watch when it comes on again.

"I Like It Like That" indeed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rant #1,181: The Job Hunt

My son is now fully involved in his job hunt, and things are not that easy.

I thought it was tough when I was looking for a job when I was a teenager, but it seems to be even more difficult in this environment that we live in.

If I remember correctly, teenage unemployment is between 15 percent and 17 percent. That, of course, is a hard figure to judge, because not every teenager is looking for a job, so I guess they calculate this by those teens who have had a job who are now out of work and are looking.

My son is graduating high school in June, and he won't be going to college, at least not right now, so he needs something he can hang his hat on, so to speak, of a full-time nature.

You might think that that would be a plus, but so far, it isn't.

Companies would prefer to hire part timers, simply because they don't have to pay out the benefits that they do to full timers.

That is a wall he is going to have to climb, and my wife and I are going to do everything we can to help him out.

Since he is considered to have a disability, there are programs that he can participate in that can help him, and we are pursuing those initiatives.

Another problem he has is that in New York State, he will graduate high school with a certificate of completion, and not a diploma.

Don't ask. You can blame whoever you want, but it isn't fair, and this is the first year that Special Ed kids will have to take a certificate home, not a diploma, for their years of study.

Some employers will question kids with this degree, and it is unfair to put these kids under that burden, but this is the way New York State handles these kids now, ghettoizing them into their own unique category.

So he also has that hurdle, and him and other Special Ed kids have been thoroughly prepped about answering questions about their certificate versus a diploma, and that they are equal, not on the GED level.

Anyway, the new world in which we live has thrown another curve into those looking for employment.

It seems that employment is now done almost entirely online.

You have to apply online, answer a variety of questions, send the thing out, and sit there with your hands folded waiting for a reply.

Possible employees don't even want a resume, they just want you to answer questions.

This is so unfair that I cannot believe that this is being done this way, but on the other hand, it is an inevitable byproduct of the high-tech world in which we live.

One on one contact is not preferred anymore, and to me, that is just plain wrong.

How can you get into the nuts and bolts of a potential employee and what he can bring to your company by simply reading answers off a screen?

I don't get it, but my son has to play this game like others do.

Over the weekend, we discovered that a new, small fast food chain will be opening its doors in a few weeks, and my son wanted to apply for a job with them.

But they are so new that really nothing has been set up yet for potential employees.

So I put on my detective cap and found out the parent company of the restaurant. I called them up, and asked them about hiring procedures.

They were nice enough to give me a head's up about when they were going to hire, and my son will pursue this company now that he has some inside information.

Anyway, if anyone out there is looking for a willing and able 18 year old to join your team, and if you are based on Long Island, I have the perfect person for you.

He is bright, responsible, wants to learn, and wants to work.

Please give him a chance. You will not regret it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rant #1,180: "The Grandest Stage of All"

First, let me acknowledge the life of Mickey Rooney.

He was a one of kind performer, could do anything on the stage and screen, and was our last link to an era where the Hollywood glitz was the real thing.

He was also in my favorite film of all time, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

What a performer, what a winning streak of talent that is preserved in many, many movies forever, so future generations can see how talented this guy was.

That leads me into the perfect segueway for another terrific performer on a different type of stage.

Last night at Wrestlemania, "The Streak" ended.

Anybody who follows professional wrestling knows what I am talking about.

The Undertaker finally lost at Wrestlemania.

This is huge news in the pro wrestling world, because the Deadman never loses.

But he lost last night to burly Brock Lesnar, who will forever have his name etched in WWE history for doing this.

Anyway, my son and I watched Wrestlemania XXX from New Orleans last night, and the WWE, as usual, put on a great show.

It is the first time we watched it live, via the WWE Network, and aside from some early glitches--we found that if we put it on regular HD, rather than widescreen HD, the glitches faded away--the show went on pretty well.

There is a lot of phony pomp and pagentry with this show, but starting off by bringing out three of the four top WWE wrestlers of all time--Hulk Hogan, who was the host--Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock--was a good beginning to the program.

Bruno Sammartino was missing, but you can't have everything.

Even though the Hulkster stumbled with his introduction--he called the Superdome "the Silverdome" several times before he corrected himself--the meeting of three wrestlers who would be on a "Mount Rushmore" of wrestling if there was one was a good start to the show.

The matches were generally good, the 75,000 who were in attendance seemed to be having a great time, and the home audience was too, based on a small sample size of my son and myself.

Heck, I even took some pictures off the screen which you are seeing as you are reading this.

But the Undertaker lost, and that is all you are going to hear about this entry of Wrestlemania.

The Undertaker's streak is over.

Everything else is secondary.

This took just about everyone by surprise, but the streak had to end sometime, the Undertaker in real life is pretty much beat up after years of pounding, and the new WWE Network had to have something tangible to pin its hat on to gain even more subscribers.

It was "good for business," to catch a phrase.

They now have it.

Another streak ended yesterday.

The Yankees finally hit a home run, in their sixth game. It was about the third or fourth time in their storied history that they went five games at the start of a season without hitting a homer, but not only do they finally have one, but they beat the Blue Jays in doing so.

A minor streak, but a streak at that.

And who else could weave Mickey Rooney, Wrestlemania, and the Yankees together like this?

I guess I am one of the few people who would link them together, but that is what I am here for, isn't it?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rant #1,179: To the Mat

Thank goodness it is Friday.

More to the point, I will "thank God" when this day is over and it is the weekend. Friday is not a good enough pull for me to "thank God" yet.

Whoever came up with that TGIF thing was always one day short, I thought.

Anyway, once this day is over, and we move into the weekend, it will probably be a regular weekend for most people.

Most people will go about their weekend chores, watch a ballgame (yes, the Yankees finally won their first game of the season last night!) and do what they have to do until they have to start the work week all over.

But millions of others will do the same thing, but on Sunday night, they will watch professional wrestling's own World Series, Super Bowl and Mardi Gras mixed up all together in Wrestlemania, the 30th edition of which comes to New Orleans this weekend.

Wrestlemania is wrestling's really big show--or "shew," if Ed Sullivan were still alive, and you know he would cover it on his show if he was--and it has really gone mainstream, with coverage by various legitimate media, legitimate press conferences, and legitimate big dollars associated with the event.

Wrestling and TV have always been welcome bedfellows since the dawn of the televised medium and the days of Gorgeous George and Bruno Sammartino, but today, it really is as mainstream as the major pro sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Well, almost as mainstream, let's say.

It is entertainment, mixed with athleticism. Yes, there are storylines, and yes, the outcomes are pre-picked.

But millions of millions of people in this country, and the world, watch this stuff, and will pay to watch this stuff.

And now, with the WWE Network, the multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry really has pushed itself into the forefront of media gazes, because as the first network of its kind, people are watching to see if an all-online network will make it or break it.

If it makes it, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will see other networks just like it popping up during the next few years, and a few are already being talked about in their early stages.

Anyway, this weekend, due to the network, millions will watch the Undertaker take on Brock Lesnar as the former tries to extend his Wrestlemania unbeaten streak against the latter, a brute who probably is a real pussycat inside.

It should be a fun watch, and my son and I will be watching, as we have the WWE Network, have the requisite dongle and HDTV so we can project the computer image on a bigger screen, and are paying $9.99 a month so that we can watch this and the other monthly pay-per-views offered on the network.

There has been some controversy, because some providers now refuse to carry the pay-per-views as a separate offering, at $50-$60 a pop.

They feel this former cash cow is diluted because so many people who would pay for this now have the network, and they aren't seeing a cent of that money, and they are right about that.

But for those who simply want to watch Wrestlemania, the option is there to spend all that money in one sitting.

Me, that is what my subscription costs during the next six months for the network, so I am actually saving money on this stuff in a funny way.

Whatever the case, my son and I look forward to the four-hour show, which regularly features twists and turns and mainstream and non-mainstream stuff. Even non-fans would be intrigued by this.

So, while most people will be preparing for another dreaded workweek on Sunday night, my son and I will push that aside and watch Wrestlemania for the first time that we have ever seen the event live.

All I can say is that hopefully, the network won't crash, as millions more just like us will be tuning in.

It better not crash, because if it does, the WWE will have to answer a lot of questions having nothing to do with the action in New Orleans on Sunday night.

The only crash I want to see on Sunday night is when one wrestler slams the other into the mat.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rant #1,178: Poked

After work today, I am going to do something that I have been doing for nearly the past 42 years.

I am going to get my allergy shots.

Over the years, these shots of allergy serum have helped me considerably.

As a kid growing up in a dusty, windy section of South Jamaica, Queens, New York, I was often under the weather, couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and I was very uncomfortable.

The study of non-food allergies was really just beginning, so I just basically had to grin and bear it during these years.

When we moved out to Long Island, it was determined that I should take an allergy test, as these tests were finally at the point where taking one might be able to at least point us in the right direction about what was ailing me.

In those days, you were tested for allergies with what I call the old "staple gun" approach.

The doctor who did the test used what was sort of an injector. You had to lay both arms flat, and you would be injected with various possible allergens in rows of two, in each arm. You had to keep each arm still as what was injected into you got into your arm.

If any one of the new marks that you had on your arms puffed up, you were allergic to whatever was put into that mark.

Not only did this method leave marks on your arms that took weeks to heal, but if you had some things that you were allergic too, like I had, the puffing had to recede too.

And yes, I had several things that I was allergic to: the usual pollen, the season of autumn, horse hair, and something called the Jerome bush.

My arms were so bad that I had to wear long sleeves for about a month, in the summer, but at least we finally knew what was bothering me.

(Today, they do a simple blood test--what a difference!)

It was determined that I need monthly allergy shots, so at the age of 15, I had my first shots.

We used a local doctor to administer my shots, and after a while, I got very used to them, getting two shots, one in each arm, once a month.

This doctor administered the shots for years, until he retired. He sold his practice, and a new doctor started to do the same thing. For both of these doctors, I was their one and only patient who got the shots from them.

And the shots certainly helped me in many ways. I didn't feel ill as much, my allergies were much more stable, I could taste my food and breathe, etc. It really was a miracle.

I never had a bad reaction from them, as some people do.

Some experts say that you should not take shots continually, because your body builds up an immunity to them, but for me, I have never stopped.

Over the years, some odd things have happened related to my shots. My second doctor giving me the shots was arrested for giving drugs--oxycodone--to high school kids, so I had to find another doctor to give me the shots.

I now get them at an allergy testing site, and that is fine and good.

The only problem is that our environment has changed, and my rate of allergy attacks has increased.

This is supposed to be one of the worst seasons for allergies of all time, and yes, I am feeling it. The rotten winter we had is the main cause of the season being predicted to be a bad one.

Just when you think the allergies aren't there any more, they come back to haunt you, with a runny nose, dripping eyes, and just an overall feeling that you feel a little off.

And now, by the way, I get four shots at each sitting, not two. 

But again, I have learned to grin and bear it, but when I get my shots, at least I know I am doing everything I can do to combat this dreaded curse that I have, that, by the way, no one else in my family has.

And yes, it is a curse, it really is.

My arms have been a pin cushion, but overall, I would never want to go back to how I felt as a kid.

So as I enter my 42nd year of getting these shots, at least I can say that they have helped me fight this thing as best as I could.

How many shots have I had over the years? Well, multiply 42 by 12, and you get 504. Multiply 504 by two, and you get 1,008. But again, for the past five years or so I have gotten four shots every sitting, so right now, I am probably nearing 1,200 shots just related to allergies.

That does not count any other shots I have had, or blood tests I have had to take, since I was 15 years old.

Yes, I am a pin cushion, but yes, I am happier now, even with the runny nose and watery eyes.

It's my life, what more can I say?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rant #1,177: "Abergavenny"

My allergies are bothering me once again, and I need to feel better about something today.

How about spinning one of my vast collection of 45 RPM records to make me feel better?

This particular one I am going to talk about today wasn't a big hit at all, hitting #47 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1969.

Woodstock was taking off back then, but you wouldn't know it by this tune.

A singer named Shannon sung the song, and it is a tune I have always liked.

It is hard to describe. It is a song that a marching band would probably love, but honestly, I have no idea what the song means.

I look at the picture sleeve, and is it about a dog?

I have no idea. The only thing I do know is that Shannon was a singer of a lot of renown in Europe, not much over here, but he begat a singer who had quite a bit of success on these shores.

Marty Wilde was your quintessential British wannabe singer in the late 1950s and early 1960s, quite popular abroad but too much like your Avalons, Vees, and Rydells to really hit American audiences too hard.

He actually had one single hit the Hot 100, "Bad Boy," which hit #45 in 1960, but that was it for him until he used a different name and scored to a certain degree with "Abergavenny."

There really isn't much more to say about his career in the U.S., because it was pretty much those two songs. He came around in between Elvis' height and the Beatles' dominance, and then he had kind of a fluke hit with "Abergavenny."

But he had an influence on the American charts in the 1980s, to a certain degree.

If you listened to radio during that time, and watched videos on MTV, one of the early hotties in those mediums was a comely British lass who had hits with songs like "Kids in America" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On," the latter of which hit the top spot on the charts.

Her name was Kim Wilde, and yes, she is the daughter of Shannon, or more to the point, Marty Wilde.

It's almost as if the dad couldn't make much of a dent here, he sent his daughter over, and she did what he could not do.

She had a video-ready face and figure that really came at the right time, because MTV was starting to dominate not only what we watched but what we listened to, and she fit right in.

So you can say "Abergavenny" spawned "Kids in America," another song that I liked during its time period, but at the time, I never saw the connection.

As my nose drips, my eyes water, and my whole disposition suffers today, I can listen to "Abergavenny" and be happy, and I guess that is what music is all about.

"A-choo!" You have a good day, and maybe I will too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rant #1,176: April Fools!

Today is April 1, so it is April Fools' Day.

I don't even know how to celebrate this holiday in the proper way.

I remember as a kid, I thought it was funny on this day to say that it was the prior year than it really was, rather than the current year.

I think we used to say our name backwards on this day, too.

Ha ha ... I guess you had to be there, and I was.

Anyway, in this part of the country, we got our April Fools a day early.

On March 31, Mother Nature played a very cruel trick on us that she must have thought was really hilarious.

We had one of the most Jekyll/Hyde, schizophrenic days that I could ever remember.

It was raining in the morning as I left for work, which was no big deal, because it rained virtually the entire weekend.

I took my son to school, and as I left him, the rain was still there, but nothing really strange was happening.

About 15 minutes into my drive, at about 6:45 a.m., as I was on the highway, I saw that the raindrops had seemingly become larger, and I saw ice on my window.

I remember saying to myself, "You have got to be kidding me!"

Yes, it was snowing, and it was coming down in buckets, huge snowflakes that were caressing the cars and the ground as if they were creating a white glove on the world.

I got into work, parked my car, went into the office, and the snow was coming down even harder.

This must have lasted through mid-morning. I checked my car, and we must have gotten at least two inches--some places nearby got up to four inches. My car was covered in snow, and I figured that as I left work hours later, I was going to have to clean off my car.

But then the rain came, and washed my car off, and by the afternoon, with temperatures in the mid 50s or even low 60s, it looked like nothing happened in the morning.

If this was not an April Fools' Day joke played by Mother Nature, I don't know what was.

What made it even more interesting was that the Major League Baseball season opened in New York yesterday with the Mets playing the Washington Nationals yesterday at CitiField.

The Mets never lose on opening day, but in another cruel April Fools' Day joke for their fans, they ended up losing their home opener.

Today, the Yankees open up their season on the road against the Houston Astros. I hope no jokes are played on this day in Texas.

Baseball means warmer weather is coming, with the summer just around the corner.

But in this crazy weather year we have been in, there doesn't seem to be any guarantee that that will happen.

Snow in April and May? It has happened before in New York, and I wouldn't bet against it happening this year too.

And that would be the ultimate April Fools joke, wouldn't it?

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