Friday, October 31, 2014

Rant #1,314: Halloween's Here


Halloween is here today, on a Friday yet. Retailers must be loving this, communities that get overrun by kids looking for trouble are probably hating it.

My perception of Halloween has changed over the years.

As a kid, I loved the holiday, like just about every kid does.

You get lots of candy from your neighbors, and sometimes you get coins.

That is what happened to me as a kid.

I gave all the candy to my sister and mother, kept the coins, and I was happy as a lark (not my costume, I probably went as Batman or Superman as a kid, and one year I know I went as a baseball player, complete with bat and uniform).

I lived in a place with 20 buildings, thousands of apartments, and my friends, my sister and I would traipse up and down our building--and several other buildings--trick or treating, and you never saw so much candy in your life.

We only had two troubling incidents that I can recall. One, toward the end of my trick or treating years (probably 1969 or so), kids were jumping other kids for their treats. I remember somebody I knew got mugged right in the stairway in my building.

The other was that one time, my sister got an apple from a neighbor of ours, and it had more pins in it than you can find at a beauty parlor.

My mother would inspect everything we brought in from Halloween, and really, she shook her head in amazement at this killer apple.

And yes, we knew who gave it to my sister--an old, crotchety woman in our building--but in those days, you just let it pass, and you were happy that the apple was found out. Today, that woman, no matter what her age, would probably be arrested.

And these two incidents happened later in my Halloween trick or treating years, and it leads me to make some comments about today's Halloween.

Way back when I was a trick or treater, Halloween was a fun holiday. There was very little commercial about it, but we did buy costumes and candy for the occasion.

However, in the past 40-plus years, the holiday, in my opinion, has gotten totally out of hand.

This is a kids' holiday, but it has been co-opted by adults.

The entire holiday reeks of commercialism today, with seemingly everyone from McDonald's to the car companies getting into the act.

Adults have Halloween parties, and both men and women do their best to look their worst during this holiday.

Heck, there is even a sexy Ebola nurse costume out now, believe it or not.

And with these parties come a lot of problems, such as too much drinking and just overall bad behavior. Sure, not every party goes these routes, but you can just bet your local police department is looking forward to this holiday as much as they are looking forward to ... well, since it was brought up a little earlier, the coming of Ebola.

Halloween used to be such an innocent occasion, and even though I didn't eat a piece of candy that I got, I really enjoyed the fun of going door to door asking, "Trick or Treat?"

Today, it appears to be more "Trick" than "Treat."

In my community, hardly anyone comes to our door, even though we have holiday decorations up around the house.

Nowadays, you only go to houses of people you know, and parents take their kids around not to every house, but to only the ones where they know the occupants.

How sad that is, that a holiday of pure joy has morphed into one of pure fear.

I know it isn't like that in every community, but let me tell you, I got a real wakeup call a few years back that the holiday had changed from when I was a kid to what was then the present time.

I was driving on major highway on Long Island, and people--mainly kids--were throwing firecrackers at passing cars.

No, this was not my Halloween anymore.

The mischief should be fun, but in the current case, who has more fun during the holiday, the kids or the adults?

If you answered "the adults," you have just reasoned out why Halloween has changed for the worse.

Boy, I am so happy that I grew up when Halloween was something to look forward to, not an occasion to dread.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rant #1,313: Triskaidekaphobia

I will bet that most of you do not know what this word means, and if I didn't look it up, I probably wouldn't have figured it out either.

Triskaidekaphobia means the fear of the number 13 and the avoidance in using it.

It is the perfect word to describe this blog today, as it it the blog's 1,313 post.

And it comes during the Halloween season, which is pretty neat how that worked out.

The only better thing would have it to have happened on a Friday the 13th or at least on the holiday itself.

I came close to doing that.

But back to triskaidekaphobia ...

If you think that people don't have a fear of the number 13, I have news for you, many, many people do have this fear.

For instance, in real estate, many builders have skipped the 13th floor in their elevated buildings, going right to floor 14 from floor 12.

The number 13 has become to be something so negative that people shiver on Friday the 13th, and a whole movie franchise has come out of this fear of that number.

I can tell you that in the Jewish religion, the age of 13 is when a boy is thought to become a man, and bar mitzvahs are generally held at this age, although one can have a bar mitzvah--or bat mitzvah--really at any age beyond 13 (and 12 for girls). Thus, it is a lucky number among Jewish folk.

But the number 13 is feared by many.

Me, I do not have triskaidekaphobia, so I am very happy that this blog has reached another milestone, number 1,313.

We now have the same number of posts as the number of where the Munsters lived, 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

They scared a lot of people because of how they looked, but most of us laughed at this show, and still do all these years later.

13 is an odd number--it really is--and if you either add or subtract the digits, you get an even number, as in 3+1=4 or 3-1=2.

I have no idea if that has any significance at all, just thought I would throw it in for good measure.

So 1,313 it is.

I would have preferred if it fell on the actual holiday of Halloween, which is tomorrow, of course, but I have to say that it is remarkable that we came so close to doing that.

Maybe it was luck that we came close, or bad luck that we didn't.

Maybe the number 13 does have some negatives attached to it.

I happen to like the number.

And tomorrow, we will have what I guess I will call a "successive" number, Rant #1,314, like 13 comes just before 14.

I wonder if that has any significance at all.

Probably not.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rant #1,312: Blood Letting

During the year, when we go to the doctor, we have blood tests done, and we have to have blood drawn to be sent to the lab to do this.

Most people do not have a problem with this.

I have had blood drawn so many times that I feel like a blood pin cushion.

But not everyone is as comfortable doing this as I am.

My wife is terrified of the process, and has been since I have known her.

Last night, after work, she had to have blood drawn as part of her physical.

And as her husband, as I have always been, I was at her side as this ritual was performed by the nurse.

It takes a few minutes to do, but it must feel like days to my wife.

One also has to fast, and that adds to the situation.

My wife is much better than she used to be with this.

She used to get completely dizzy and even faint.

And it didn't necessarily have to had been blood work done on her. I remember her fainting when blood work was done on our son some years ago.

So, as I have always done, I stand by her side, make her look me in the eyes with her own pearly orbs, and Voila!, it is done.

It takes her a few minutes to sit up, she has her orange juice, and she is right again.

Happily, she is also in just about perfect physical condition. She has aches and pains like we all do at this age--she ages another year on Nov. 10--but everything else is pretty much excellent.

Her legs do bother her, but we know that is from her job, standing up all day as a bank teller.

But otherwise, she is as fit as the proverbial fiddle.

She watches herself, and to me, she has the body--both inside and out--of a woman 20 years younger than she actually is.

But whatever the case, she had blood drawn yesterday, and now that has to be processed.

I am sure her blood will show that she is fine in every way that they use the blood for a determination.

I don't mind serving in her stead when she gives blood. I find it kind of gallant, what a husband should do if his wife needs assistance.

It was a long day yesterday, we didn't get home until after 7:30 p.m., but I found it was well worth it.

And in this time of Halloween, what is more appropriate than a column about blood, anyway?

You supposedly can't get blood from a stone, but you can get it from this column.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rant #1,311: Jury Duty

I have been granted jury duty by the State of New York.

My jury duty begins in about three weeks, in mid-to late November. I just got the notice the other day.

I am looking forward to this experience as much as I am looking forward to contracting Ebola.

The last time I had jury duty, nearly three years ago, I almost got fired from my job.

I haven't forgotten that escapade.

This time, I am not in the district court, but the local court, which should make matters better.

And right now I am only a phone juror, although I will bet that I get called to serve anyway.

Let me tell you right out that I have no problem serving at all.

It is my civic duty to do so, and I really believe that if one is called, one should serve.

My problem is with my place of work. They do not take kindly to such civic service.

We are a small place of business, with only a few dozen employees, so the thinking is that if one is out on jury duty, we are missing a major cog, and the company will be held up in whatever it is doing.

They only will pay me for three days of jury duty, and I will be damned if I am going to be using my own sick and personal days--of which we have so few per year--so that I can serve.

So I have to go in there, and if chosen, I have to tell them that I cannot serve because of financial considerations.

I used to be able to go in there and yell "child support," and I would get off the hook immediately, but I can't use that ruse anymore, as my daughter now is 26, and I don't support her anymore.

The last time this happened, in district court, I tried to weasel out of my civic duty, but it really took all of my inner fortitude to do so.

I was chosen for a jury, and I begged to be let off. My place of work was not amused, and the old man who owned the place, who has now passed on, actually threatened to fire me.

Which, of course, is against the law, and he was told so by others in the company.

It is not as easy to get off jury duty as it used to be, and through my own maneuverings with that court, I was finally able to get off after three days of serving.

It wasn't pretty, and I do not want to go through that episode again if I can help it.

So I am simply hoping that I am not needed, and that I am excused over the phone.

If not, I will have to go there, plead a financial hardship, and try to get off of jury duty.

It will not be easy, and it goes against every moral grain in my body to do so, but as you can see, I really do not have a choice.

I want to serve, but I cannot.

Simple as that.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rant #1,310: How I Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is coming right up, on Friday of this week.

It just isn't the same holiday that I grew up with, and I will save another column to talk about that.

Today, I want to talk about how I celebrate the holiday.

I have started to make this an annual ritual, and I did it again this past Saturday night.

I watched "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," not only one of the greatest comedies of all time--as voted on by the American Film Institute (AFI)--but probably the greatest of all the horror/comedy movies.

This film certainly led the way to not only all of its Abbott and Costello sequels, but also to a number of other similar-type films, including, to a certain extent,  "Ghostbusters."

The Abbott and Costello film both revived their film careers and revived Universal Pictures, which might not still be around if not for this movie. It made so much money back in the late 1940s and early 1950s that it kept the studio afloat, and allowed Bud and Lou to star in a series of similarly themed films, some very good, some not so good.

The 1948 film sees the boys playing two dimwitted movers, who are hired to move two large crates to a house of horrors.

One crate supposedly has the remains of Dracula, the other the remains of the Frankenstein monster.

This all ties into the fact that Lou is enamored with a beautiful scientist, who just happens to be Dracula's assistant.

Once the crates are delivered, the boys unwittingly release both Dracula and the monster, and tied into Lou's relationship, Lou is being sized for his brain, which will be implanted into the monster by the evil doctor and her own, handsome assistant.

Most of the action takes place in Dracula's castle and at a costume party being held nearby, and at the end, Bud and Lou succeed in destroying both Dracula, and the monster, at least for the time being.

What leads up to all of this is not only clever, but hilarious, and while most of it revolves around the use of Lou's brain--which is supposedly superior to the one Dr. Frankenstein implanted into the monster in the first place--Bud is also part of the hilarity, as is Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman.

In his own Wolfman films, the character of Lawrence Talbot is to be pitied for his affliction; here, he is part of the hilarity. I am sure there are outtakes of this film that are as funny as the movie itself, and when Chaney, stone-faced as always, recites to Bud and Lou the reason why he fears the full moon at night, turning into a wolf, I am sure it took many takes to get it right. Just hearing him tell them this makes me laugh, and I am sure it made them laugh too.

Of course, on film, Lou says the proper reply to this supposed nonsense. As Chaney tells him that he turns into a wolf at night, Costello says, "So do a thousand other guys."

Universal took their most popular franchises, during a down time in their history, put them together, and came up with gold.

The film was so successful, and so well regarded, that is spawned several other "Abbott and Costello Meet ... " films, including movies where they met the Invisible Man (another terrific film), the Killer, Boris Karloff, and the Mummy.

Its success also saved the studio, which was back in the black with this movie.

As one of the few Abbott and Costello films without the use of any routines, it is really the dialogue that spurs the comedy and the action, and the boys are superb in their roles, as are Bela Lugosi, who supposedly had a tough time concentrating with all the craziness that went along working with Bud and Lou, and Glenn Strange as the monster, who handles an impossible role with aplomb, the best comedic Frankenstein monster until Fred Gwynne gave it his 110 percent on "The Munsters."

So I have made watching this movie my ode to Halloween, and even though I was a few days early, I felt it was perfect for viewing on Saturday night, so I watched it.

I must have seen this film 1,000 times already, but I laugh just as hard now as I did when I first saw the movie as a kid.

If you have never seen this movie, if you don't necessarily like Abbott and Costello, or if you want a quick 83 minutes to go by one night--or if you love the antics of the boys as much as I do--this is a must for the Halloween season.

The movie is that good, it really is.

It might not spook you, but it will certainly make you laugh, and put you in a perfect frame of mind to celebrate Halloween.

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein by crazedigitalmovies

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rant #1,309: Rock the Boat

It has taken me a bit longer to get off my family's recent cruise than I thought it would.

I didn't sleep very well the first few nights back home, and I think I missed the rocking of the boat--which in turbulent waters, really rocked a lot--and I felt as if I were on the boat still, as my body felt like it was rocking for a few days after our trip.

I guess that is what nine days on a cruise ship will do to you.

While on the ship, there was some down time, much of which we spent in our room, which was the size of a good-sized bathroom. Just imagine how big the actual bathroom was if the size of our room was that of a good-sized bathroom!

Anyway, whether it was during the day or in the evening, when we were back in our room, we had the TV on.

And what we watched on TV to pass some idle moments was pretty interesting.

Royal Caribbean does their TV different than Carnival. With Carnival, we seemed to get a satellite feed out of somewhere in Texas, and it was not repetitive, giving us new, fresh stuff to watch in those few idle moments we had aboard that ship.

On Royal Caribbean, we had international channels that were repetitive as all heck, showing the same things over and over and over.

We had CNN International, ESPN International, and some type of hybrids of the Food Channel, CBS, and a few other channels.

They did offer the American League playoff games and football, not reruns, but fresh showings of various games, if that was your fancy.

But I found most amusing their offering of various current TV shows, such as "Mike and Molly," "2 Broke Girls" and "The Big Bang Theory."

I hate these shows with a passion, but they were actually funnier when you did not understand the language.

Since there were more than 3,000 guests on board from about 40 different countries, these shows were not only offered in English, but in Spanish and German too.

Somehow, not knowing what the characters were saying made these shows funny, at least to me.

I don't know how many times on "2 Broke Girls" they said breast and boob, because honestly, I don't know what the Spanish and German translations of those words were, but it was funny to see such obviously American characters speaking these languages.

I remember as a kid, I would turn on our local Spanish channels, and would invariably get "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It To Beaver" dubbed into Spanish, and I found them to be funny not knowing what they were saying.

These were funny shows to begin with; watching them in Spanish made them hilarious to watch, in brief doses.

The local Spanish channels still dub in some of their product--mainly movies--but the old sitcoms are virtually gone from these channels, and they show much original programming these days, so seeing these shows on the boat dubbed into Spanish--and German--was a treat, bringing me back to my younger days.

Yes, I have a somewhat warped sense of humor.

Try watching "The Big Bang Theory" and see Sheldon explain the string theory to Penny--in Spanish and German.

Heck, it is way funnier than watching it in English, where I don't find it very funny at all.

Also, dubbing what these characters have to say into another language kind of misses the nuances of the characters when they speak in English.

I have watched "The Big Bang Theory" numerous times, as my wife enjoys the show.

The character of Sheldon is portrayed as something of an innocent, a brilliant person who has absolutely no social graces.

When the material is dubbed into Spanish and German, he sounds more like a bitter, petulant hermit than a brilliant scientist who knows his way around a laboratory better than a nightclub.

I found these things so funny that I recorded a few on my camera. Watch them and tell me what you think.

You might not find them funny at all, but I certainly did, allowing those idle minutes to waft away in no time.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rant #1,308: Nothing Much To Say

I have nothing much to say today, just some random thoughts on a trio of topics.

Here goes:

Ebola, Ebola, Ebola: This is a terrible disease, don't get me wrong. Heck, I was scared when I heard while cruising that a cruise ship had a possible Ebola passenger as a guest, and breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that it was not on the cruise ship my family and I were on.

But don't you think that social media and the TV news might have blown the whole thing out of proportion?

Yes, we have to protect ourselves from this disease, and yes, we should secure our borders a bit more against those coming from countries where the disease is spreading in epidemic proportions.

But it seems that everywhere you turn, it is Ebola, Ebola, Ebola.

Our finest doctors, I do believe, will come up with a cure for Ebola, much like they came up with a cure for measles. It will happen.

I had measles as a child, a few years before they came up with a vaccine to rid us of the worry this disease causes. I was a little guy, quarantined for several days, and came out of it smelling like a rose.

Back to Ebola ...

But if you listen to the media, you would think that catching this thing is as easy as getting the common cold.

It isn't, and the regular media and social media should stop perpetuating this myth that we are all a handshake away from contracting this disease.

Yes, we should be aware of it, but the frenzy around it has become a bit much, I have to say.

Royals Even World Series: Heck, the way the World Series is being covered in New York, I bet people who live here didn't even know that it was being played.

For an area that is so Yankees-dominated, an area that loves the Mets even though they are pretty awful, a region where baseball is truly king year-round with coverage, it is so funny--and sad--at how the World Series is being covered here.

If it is even mentioned at all, it is usually behind coverage of two bad pro football teams, and even the new hockey season and burgeoning basketball season.

On Tuesday, when the championship series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants began, I was watching the local WCBS news program in the early morning, and there was absolutely no mention of the game at all.

Not a single mention.

Have we, in this region, become so blase about the Series because one of our local teams isn't in it?

Are we so spoiled that if the Yankees aren't in the playoffs, at least, we don't care about who is battling for the championship?

How said that really is.

Survivor Begins Another Season: Talk about being blase, does anyone other than myself even watch this show anymore?

It is the same basic premise that was developed from the first show of this series all those years ago to the current season: a group of "castaways" is placed in some remote place and has to basically fend for themselves, voting off those who aren't worthy.

This show has had some added features over the years, but basically, it is the same show that is has been from its beginning to right now.

Richard Hatch, anyone?

CBS has tried to reinvigorate this show by occasionally including D- and even E-list celebrities to the castaway mix--this year it was former controversial baseball player John Rocker, who was voted off pretty early based on his reputation--and it really has not worked at all.

And yes, you do see skin, and I guess that gets a lot of people going.

But at this point in time, just tune in on various shows on cable TV and you will see a lot more of that.

Survivor needs to take a giant step, have the next castaways try to survive in a frigid climate, and see how it plays out.

You won't have the skin, but you will have more game playing, more masterminding, more gamesmanship and more for the audience to grab onto than some guys and gals in their underwear.

Well, I guess I did have something to say after all.

That is really all I have to say today, just bits and pieces of stuff that I have been able to look at now that my family and I have returned home.

How's by you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rant #1,307: Vote ... For Privacy

This would have been a great blackout sketch on the old "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" show, or perhaps on the current "Saturday Night Live," but it did happen, it doesn't appear as if it were staged, and I must say, I found it quite amusing.

President Barcack Obama voted early in the Chicago mid-term elections, and he actually showed up at a polling place to vote.

As in many states, the place where you vote is open. You go up to a podium-like structure, place your vote, and leave. It isn't like it used to be, where you go under a curtain and do what you want without anyone seeing you.

Anyway, the President makes his vote, and he is doing so next to a young woman who is also making her vote.

The woman's boyfriend sees this, walks past both of them, and basically tells the President, "Don't touch my girlfriend."

The President does not seem totally amused by this, but he takes it good naturedly, pretty much telling the boyfriend that he had no intention of doing anything to the man's girlfriend.

It is a pretty funny exchange, and you really have to see it to get the full thrust of it. I have provided it below so you can watch it yourself.

At the end, the President actually does give the woman a peck on her cheek, saying something to the effect that "Now he really has something to say," with the kiss and all.

This encounter made me laugh, but also made me think a bit.

Why were any cameras turned on the President as he voted to begin with?

Votes are supposed to be private, and as I said, used to be done behind a curtain.

Why was he recorded making his vote?

Sure, you can't see who he is voting for, but would a camera be turned on him if he were in the old fashioned voting booth?

Perhaps, but you would only be able to see his legs and him emerging from the booth. Here, you actually see him making his vote.

And what about the girlfriend of the man? You actually see her making her vote, too?

Is this right?

And I am sure it also makes some people believe that the whole thing was staged, which I don't think it was, but it could have been.

The President's approval rating has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, with his handling of the ISIS and Ebola crises highly scrutinized.

Could this episode have been staged to make him appear more human, more next-door neighbor-like, more appealing to the American public?

I don't think so, but you know what?

Videotaping people making their vote in polling places really should be banned to begin with, especially now that they are so open, without that curtain.

It really is no one's business to see someone voting, and it is bad enough that you record the President doing so, but what about a supposed innocent being recorded doing her civic duty?

What happened to privacy?

So yes, it was an amusing episode, but it should be the last such episode of its kind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rant #1,306: The Great Return

My family and I are back from vacation, and what a vacation it was.

We went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean--the Explorer of the Seas was our ship--and no, we were not on the cruise liner that had the supposed Ebola patient on it--that was on a Carnival ship.

But outside forces did greatly impact our trip.

We were supposed to go to Bermuda, to St. Maarten, to Puerto Rico and to Haiti, but we never got to St. Maarten, and although we did get to the other stops, the weather changed our boat's schedule quite a bit.

Two hurricanes--one was Fay and the other I don't remember the name of (was it Gonzalo?), but it was the greater of the hurricanes--shifted us to a different course, forcing us to miss St. Maarten entirely.

We did get to Bermuda, but the winds there were up to 40-50 mph while we were there, and we basically blew right through there.

And if you have a cruise that is supposed to stop in Bermuda in the foreseeable future, well, you aren't going there. The second hurricane that I spoke about ravaged Bermuda just a day or two after we got there, and we were told that we were the last cruise ship to dock there before the storm, so Bermuda is off limits for the time being.

Anyway, the two hurricanes greatly affected our course, so we had to bypass St. Maarten, one of our excursions that we had planned and paid for. Being forced to do so since the weather diverted our course, the cruise liner then planned to spend two days in Puerto Rico, and we planned two excursions, but alas, this also was not meant to be.

As Gonzalo, or whatever it was called, moved about the ocean, we had to make just a brief stop in Puerto Rico, just a few hours. We managed to take one excursion around San Juan, and that was that.

We then took the boat to Haiti, and that was probably the highlight of the trip.

Although our time was also shortened there--we had to take a longer course back to reach home to avoid the hurricanes--we had more than enough time there to enjoy the island--the Royal Caribbean way.

What I mean is that the cruise company rents land from the Haitian government and basically sets up shop there on a few coastal miles of the island, so all you get to see is fun, frolic, swimming, and happy people.

As you know, Haiti was ravaged a few years ago, and even beyond that, it was and still is one of the poorest spots on the planet.

But if you get to see the island the Royal Caribbean way, you miss all that, which is fine with me.

My family and I were on vacation, not a Peace Corps mission.

We swam, we ate, and we had a very good time there.

And really, that is how the whole time on the ship went.

There was a lot of down time on the ship, but we did what we could to make the most of it.

We saw several shows--they had one almost every night--we swam in the boat's pools, and we ate to our heart's content.

It was a fun trip, overall a very good experience for us, and some well-earned time away from the daily nonsense we go through.

This was our third cruise. The first two were on Carnival, and the two cruise lines do deserve some comparisons.

If you want to have the ability to party 24 hours a day, you must pick Carnival. The atmosphere on those ships is party hearty, and if that is what you like, Carnival must be your choice.

If you want to relax, you choose Royal Caribbean. You can party plenty on that line, too, but it is more sedate. There is more down time when you have to make your own fun than on Carnival, but if you want to relax, this is the boat to pick.

We are already looking ahead to our fourth cruise, but we won't plan that for a while. Once you have been on a cruise, you cannot go back to a time share or just a stay at home vacation.

A cruise really is the ultimate vacation, and we would love to take another one in 2015 or 2016.

Anyone game to join us?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rant #1,305: Vacation!

Yes, the time has finally come!

My family is going on its well-earned vacation starting tomorrow.

This has been a very, very tough year thus far.

The first 10 months or so have been a roller coaster ride for us, for sure.

We went from exhilaration--my son graduating high school--to the depths of despair--my auto accident.

It really has been tough, but now comes fun time.

We have really and truly earned this vacation.

We have worked hard, we have persevered through a lot of nonsense, and we are still standing.

Kudos to us.

And with vacation comes a break from writing this column.

It has not been a chore, but when I take a vacation, I really take a vacation, leaving behind all my normal stuff and experiencing new things, even for just a short while.

Thus, I probably will not be adding anything new to this column until October 21 or so.

But please don't forget about me, I will be back and probably raring to go on that date.

Vacations are meant to be short.

So as Annette once again wishes us off to the sunset, and the Go Gos warble us to take a break, I bid you a personal adieu, if only for a few days.

Speak to you later this month.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rant #1,304: Shill, Rattle and Roll

Every once in a while I find that it is the right time to shill for something that I want all of you to see.

I can shill with the best of them, and I don't cloud it over by saying that I am doing this for some other, more godly, reason.

No, I shill to shill, to try to sell you on something that I think you might enjoy.

With the untimely passing of Paul Revere over the weekend, which I chronicled yesterday, I thought it might be nice to shill for something else that I do, once a week, that people seem to have enjoyed for the past more than 10 years or so.

I run a Yahoo Group site called "Alternative Top 40," which showcases music that was pretty much ignored, to a certain degree, way back when, from the 1950s to the 1990s, with a focus on what I consider to be the prime years for rock and roll, 1964-1971, when that genre really came of age.

I usually put up between 12 and 18 different songs--album tracks, B sides, forgotten singles, bubbling under songs--and I let my members vote on the songs.

Those songs that get the most amount of votes stay on the poll, those that don't get removed. A song can stay on the poll for a maximum five weeks.

Sure, I put up music from some very popular acts on the site, including the Beatles.

But how about George Maharis?

The "Route 66" TV actor is virtually forgotten today, but he was as hot as a pistol back in the early 1960s, and he actually had a substantial recording career, having a few hits along the way.

He is on this week's poll, as are the likes of James Stewart--yes, that James Stewart--Peggy Lipton, from "The Mod Squad," Don Grady, from "My Three Sons," and several others that even boggle my own mind.

This month, I am doing my annual Halloween-themed poll, "Hollywood Masquerade," where people who really weren't singers stepped up to the mike and warbled as good as they could, trying to capitalize on their often fleeting fame any way they knew how.

Thus, tunes by Stewart--whose fame wasn't fleeting, of course--Lipton and Grady are the likes of the list of songs that are up there this week, and there are plenty of other surprises.

And yes, the Beatles are there too, to keep the sanity from not being too overwhelming, I guess.

So why don't you saunter over to and see what I have put up on the poll this week?

You can join up if you have a Yahoo account. Just do it, it is a lot of fun for me and the members, which number in the few hundred and come from all over the world.

And as an aside, the number one song all-time on this site, the one that has received the most votes, is the Beatles "I'm Down."

Here is the complete Top 10 list, and as you can see, there are a few oddities here, mixed in with some songs I am sure you know. Ties are noted by songs placed without a number next to them and the acts that performed these songs.

1) Beatles - I'm Down
2) Hollies - I'm Alive
3) Beatles - Rain
4) Beatles - Not a Second Time
5) Beatles - Doctor Robert
6) Nick Lowe - So It Goes
7) Who - Overture From Tommy
Monkees - Sometime In the Morning
Beatles - Another Girl
8) Tremeloes - Here Comes My Baby (LP Version)
Searchers - When You Walk In the Room
George Harrison - Isn't It a Pity
9) George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
10) Neon Philharmonic - Morning Girl
Gerry and the Pacemakers - It's Gonna Be Alright
Beatles - Long Tall Sally

So like Bob Barker used to say, "Come On Down!" and join the site. You won't be sorry that you did.

End of shill ... for now.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rant #1,303: Paul Revere's Ride

I am sure that you heard by now that Paul Revere, the leader of the seminal rock and roll band Paul Revere and the Raiders, passed away on Saturday.

He had been battling health problems for many months, but it was actually only until recently that he finally retired from the band, a group that he headed since the late 1950s.

He was 76 years young, an ironic age to pass on for the leader of a band celebrating our 1776 heritage.

Paul Revere Dick was the brainchild of one of the most successful, polished and misunderstood rock bands of all time.

Dropping his last name, he played off his Revolutionary War monickered connection, and ran with it literally all the way to the bank.

He named the band the Raiders, the group wore Revolutionary War outfits, and they took the Pacific Northwest by storm in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a party band, when regional bands were setting the pace for the future of rock and roll.

The Raiders were the most successful vocal  Pacific Northwest band--the Ventures were the most successful non-vocal band--to successfully break out of the local frat house and party circuit to the national scene.

Ironically, their first national hit was a non-vocal boogie woogie piano number called "Like Long Hair," but it was with vocals--namely that of frontman Mark Lindsay--that the band would garner their greatest success.

They were rock's greatest showband, what with their outfits, look and performance on stage--a mix of choreography that Busy Berkely would envy and that Mick Jagger-ish rock stance--and they were a perfect fit for TV, and it is through TV exposure that they gained their greatest fame.

They were Columbia Records' first rock act, and through that signing, they were plucked by Dick Clark to be the house band on his seminal five days a week rock showcase to go along with the already successful "American Bandstand," ABC's "Where the Action Is."

The show, in glorious black and white, showcased the hottest rock acts of the day--less the Beatles and Rolling Stones--and even created new short-term stars like Tina Mason and Keith Allison, a future Raider.

However, the show was virtually taken over by the Raiders--at various times including Jim Valley, Phil "Fang" Volk, Drake Levin and Mike Smith--and the hits started to come in droves.

"Good Thing," "Hungry," "Kicks," "The Great Airplane Strike," "Steppin' Out," "Just Like Me," were all punk/pop/rock hits, and the Raiders started to adorn the pages of Tiger Beat and other teen magazines.

They were hotter than a pistol, and Revere, still a major creative force behind the band, and also pretty much their manager and overseer, gave way to Lindsay as more of an out-front creative force of the band.

Lindsay would go on to be the band's main songwriter and producer, and Revere basically watched the books.

They continued to have hits with major TV exposure. Once WTAI ran its course, a whole new set of Raiders became stars on the Saturday afternoon "Happening" shows on ABC.

Now in color, the band--made up at various times by the aforementioned Allison, Charlie Coe, Freddy Weller, Joe Correro Jr. and other musicians--were still at the top of their game.

They were also one of the templates used in the creation of the Monkees, a band created especially for TV and which used the medium as a springboard for their own set of classic hits.

"Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be," "Too Much Talk," "Cinderella Sunshine," and other tunes kept the band on the charts, and Revere oversaw it all, even though the name of the band was now "Paul Revere and the Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay."

They continued to be booked on just about every variety show on American TV, including "The Hollywood Palace," "The Ed Sullivan Show," and the like, and they continued to be hot, with a bit of a softer sound.

When the "Happening" show came to its end, the Raiders dropped the "Paul Revere" and the Mark Lindsay portions of their name. They also dropped the Revolutionary War costumes, dressing in late 1960s appropriate rock garb.

Simply the Raiders, they floundered a bit with hitmaking, trying everything from a soul to a hard rock sound to adapt to the changing musical landscape.

They found occasional chart success, with "Let Me," one of their best songs of that period.

But they found the ultimate chart success with an oft-recorded tune that had been a top-20 hit for a British act just a few months earlier.

Don Fardon had scored a #20 hit with John D. Loudermilk's "(The Lament of the Cherokee) Indian Reservation," a song about how the American Indian experience was fading away from view as our nation was moving on from "things made by hand" to "things made in Japan."

The original song was full of war whoops and a direct indictment of the American progression of life away from the simple things. Not only did Loudermilk record his own version of the song, but many other acts did, including the Lewis and Clarke Expedition.

Lindsay, who claimed to have some Native American heritage, recorded the song as a solo for his burgeoning non-Raiders career, but Columbia decided to release it as a Raiders tune.

Revere pushed the tune from city to city, appearing on local TV and radio stations across the country, traveling on his beloved motorcycle.

The tune--pretty much watered down from the original but with the same message--rose to No. 1 on the charts as "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian), and this set the band off on several more albums and singles, but this was really their last hit.

Lindsay left in 1974, and even Revere pulled up the tent in the late 1970s for a brief period.

He returned in about 1978 or so, and continued the Raiders' legacy pretty much to the present time with a changing cast of performers, now playing up the Revolutionary War connections once again.

They became a highly successful showband, pretty much booked coast to coast for the past 30 some odd years.

Revere left just a few months ago to pursue his biggest fight, one which he succumbed to on Saturday.

Paul Revere and the Raiders are unfairly characterized as a corporate band, even though they were a real band with real roots.

Many people find their music derivative, a mix of everything that was gong on at the time of release, not groundbreaking in the least in any musical area.

However, that is very unfair to the band.

They are the link from the early boogie woogie of rock and roll through the changes in rock that happened because of the Beatles' success--punk turning into rock and roll turning into softer rock--and the progression of rock to a mellower, almost countrified sound in the early 1970s.

They are sort of the missing link that corporate types do not want to acknowledge--hence their lack of presence in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame--but real rock fans know their importance to the history of rock and roll in the United States.

Paul Revere was at the epicenter of it all, and the band's legacy is that sort of in-between Rick(y) Nelson and the Monkees; all of them used TV as a video springboard for a wealth of good music, music that probably would have been hits anyway but were aided by TV exposure.

Think MTV, think American Idol, and there is a definite link there.

And their biggest hit, ironically, had nothing to do with TV exposure, proving that the Raiders were as competent a rock act as there was out there in the 1960s and the early 1970s.

Rest in Peace, Paul Revere, you did it your way, and you did it right.

In fact, it was a "Good Thing" for seven decades.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Rant #1,302: Yom Kippur

Jews around the world will observe the holiest day on the calendar tonight at sundown.

Yom Kippur is the real deal, the Day of Atonement, the day that we have to demonstrate to God that we are worthy of him.

Jews will begin fasting after the solemn meal tonight, and will fast until the end of the holiday, at sundown tomorrow, 24 hours of not eating, not bathing, not doing any of the pleasures that we are accustomed to.

I have to say this: I will be fasting, and it is not difficult to fast, even for this food lover that I am.

The difficult part is that you are supposed to do it while at prayer in the synagogue, and the constant getting up and sitting down during different passages that are read really gets to you after awhile.

I will not do the fast in shul tomorrow, but as I said, everyone has their own way to honor the holiday, and pay homage to God.

After many, many years of attending synagogue during the High Holy Days, I will be doing my penance basically at home.

I am the only one who can fast in my immediate family, so I do it for not just me, but for my wife, my son and my parents.

Again, it is not difficult as long as you don't move around too much, and I plan to not move around too much.

We will break the fast at my sister's house, where I invariably eat to my heart's content to make up for lost time.

My family and I have a lot to be grateful for this past year, and we look forward to a great year next year. We had a rough year, but that can only mean that something better is ahead.

And we do believe that it is.

So if you celebrate the holiday, have a good one, and an easy fast.

If you are not Jewish, at least I have given you a bit of a thumbnail sketch of this holiday, the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar.

Speak to you again on Monday.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rant #1,301: Crash Course

I am sure we have all heard that comic Tracy Morgan has fired back at Walmart for all that it had to say about the tragic crash that the comedian and his entourage were in several months ago.

Morgan's tour bus was hit by a Walmart truck driven by a driver who might have been sleep deprived, not having slept for more than 24 hours.

The comic's vehicle was destroyed, one person on the bus lost his life, and Morgan was pretty badly hurt, still not 100 percent OK even months after the accident.

Morgan sued Walmart, saying that the retail giant was responsible for the loss of his vehicle, the loss of life, and the pain this has caused him.

Walmart fired back, saying the comic, himself, was negligent, and was at least partly the cause of everything he was suing the retailer about.

Morgan fired back, saying that he "can't believe" that Walmart is blaming him for this crash at all. He has also said that due to his injuries and mental anguish, he may not ever be able to perform again.

So you have the retail giant on one side of the aisle, the comic on the other.

It might make for a great comedy sketch.

The problem is, this isn't a very funny case.

And sorry Walmart, this one you aren't going to win.

How Morgan was negligent in this accident is beyond my comprehension, but I have a "been there, done that" perspective on how things work in major crashes like this.

When I had my major car accident back in May, the other person, a young kid who went directly through a Stop sign without stopping and hit my car with such fury, was obviously, without doubt, 100 percent liable for this accident, and his insurance company knows this too.

However, in the only part of my story that has not yet been resolved, the other insurance company is claiming that I was partly at fault for the accident.

The case is still open, and I hope to hear something before the end of the year.

An arbitrator is hearing the case, and his decision will be final.

If I am even found 1 percent liable, my insurance rates will go up, so it is imperative that I win this case.

I heard from an insurance adjuster that what they are trying to prove is that even though I was the one who got hit, I was also liable, grabbing at the scintilla of the possibility that since my car was there at the point of contact, I was, in fact, partly at fault for the accident.

Was I speeding on this street? No.

It was starting to rain. Did I have my windshield wipers on? Yes.

Did I have my lights on? Yes.

Was I behaving properly on the road, due to the conditions? Yes.

But I was there at the point of contact, so the other company is basically saying is that if I wasn't there at that exact moment in time, there would be no accident.

Get it?

The same thing can be applied to the Morgan case, although in this case, he is personally suing Walmart.

Again, going on a scintilla of a possibility, they are claiming that Morgan was at fault, so their own rates don't go up as high as if they were found 100 percent at fault, and also to distance themselves from their own driver, who I am sure has been hit by his own insurance company, or the company that Walmart uses to insure its fleet of truck drivers.

But Walmart is going to lose this case, simply because it is going to be very hard to prove that Morgan, a passenger in his vehicle, had any impact whatsoever on this accident.

Walmart is trying to save face, and all that they are doing, really, is throwing a pie in their own face, and it is making them look really stupid.

But that is the society we live in, blaming others for your own ineptitude.

In this case, the driver was probably tired, he hit Morgan's vehicle, and what happened happened.

Too bad that Walmart doesn't see it that way, and that anyone even believes their incredibly stupid argument.

Whether it is my case or his, negligence is certainly there, but again, in both cases, it is the driver who caused the accident who is at fault ...

And at fault 100 percent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rant #1,300: Hitting the Big 1-3-0-0

Yes, we have done it.

After a few years, we have reached Rant #1,300.

May 4, 2009 was my very first post, nearly five and a half years ago.

It is staying power, I guess, or my need to vent about everything and anything that is bothering me, whether it is in general or personally.

I started this blog because I needed an outlet to write about what I wanted to write about, whether it was what I felt were the world's problems, or my own personal problems.

I guess this blog has become therapeutic for me, on many levels, and I hope that I have given my readers a real window into who I am and what makes me tick.

Whether it be some governmental dysfunction or one of my own, I think I have put all my cards on the table here, never really holding back on the way I feel about certain matters.

And that is the great thing about blogs like this. They really and truly are an electronic diary about where you are standing on a particular day or moment in time.

I look back on some of the things we have discussed here, and a lot of it goes in one ear and out the other.

But some things stay with you forever.

I believe in family, and I believe in the traditional unit: the mother, the father, and the children.

I also believe in the extended family: the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins.

I guess I am old fashioned, but I do believe that families begin and end with parents, one male, and one female.

I make no bones about my stance, and if you don't agree with me, please let me hear about it.

I am always willing to listen.

I believe in friends. Friends share your experiences, and you always don't have to see eye to eye with your friends, but they will always be there for you, and you should always be there for them.

I believe in right and wrong, and I think that that has come out clearly in this blog.

There is a right, there is a wrong, and unfortunately, at times, there is a grey area, too.

That is pretty much what makes the world go round, and that is what makes this blog tick.

I know I have really ticked off a lot of people with this blog, but I also know that what I have written has sparked others to really think, to use their minds, and to make clear decisions about various topics.

So be it. You cannot please everyone.

And the best thing is that I really do this for fun. I don't make any money off of this blog at all, so don't think that I am being paid to run this thing.

It's just not true.

So keep on coming to this blog as often as you can. It is fun to hear from you when something is bothering you, or you agree or disagree with me.

I listen, I can take it, and I don't mind answering back or taking a punch when I have to.

And yes, I have personally learned a lot with this blog, and I hope you have too.

Onward and upward to #1,400--which I will probably hit sometime in February or March of next year.

And thanks for visiting.

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