Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rant #1,350: Happy New Year!



Yes, finally, 2014 is only hours away from its conclusion.

On my end of the equation, the end of the year cannot come soon enough.

This was a very difficult year for myself and my family, and I am not looking for a repeat of this year anytime soon, if ever.

But somehow, my family and I got through it, in one piece, so we won out over the year in the end.

Our society also appears to be at a crossroads.

Things happened that have polarized our society, but we will get through this too, in spite of those whose very existence depends on such incidents for their lives to have any meaning at all.

We are better than all of this, much better, and I hope that we see that in 2015.

I am really hoping better things lie ahead for myself and my family, and for all of us, in 2015.

That is my New Year's wish.

So here's to you, 2014, get the heck out of here, let's welcome 2015 with open arms.

Have a great New Year to everyone who comes here to read what I have to say.

You might not agree with me on every point, but I think you learn things here too, which is my overall mission.

Happy New Year, and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rant #1,349: Rasslin'




Yesterday, I went over some of the things that I did from the time of my last column prior to Christmas to just after the holiday, when I had to go back to work.

Today, let me add to that list of things.

On the weekend, on Saturday, my son and I did our regularly scheduled father/son bonding thing, and attended a WWE house show at Nassau Coliseum, right here on Long Island.

My son and I have been to every WWE show held at the Nassau Coliseum for the past maybe six or seven years or so, or since my son got interested in pro wrestling.




Say about it what you want, but for my son and myself, it is a time to share, a time to get to know each other better, and a real male bonding experience.

I have found that my son is very much like me. He loves sports, loves to see athletes compete live, and enjoys going to a nearby venue to see them.

You can’t really get any closer than Nassau Coliseum for us, at least, and when the old place closes in August, we will miss its proximity.

Yes, it is being rebuilt, but as a much smaller venue, and I don’t know if it will large enough for the WWE to hold shows there anymore.




And that will be a real shame for my son and myself.

He loves wrestling, and going to these matches is something that we can attend, and do so economically, when they are held.

But many of the matches that used to be held at the Nassau Coliseum have already been moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a hop, skip and a jump away from where we are on Long Island, but a costly hop, skip and a jump at that.

If we were to go to the Barclays Center for wrestling, we would use public transportation via the Long Island Railroad, and right there, your costs go up dramatically.

Add in the extra time it takes to get back and forth, and it really becomes a costly endeavor.




So we are soaking this all up while it lasts, as the place is scheduled to be leveled in August.

There is at least one more house show to go, in March, and we will be there.

Past then, who knows?


video

Monday, December 29, 2014

Rant #1,348: Unparalleled Excitement

Boy, the few days (two) I had off from work were about as exciting as watching a canker sore.

Maybe that was what I needed to recharge my batteries.

Here are some observations of mine during the past few days ...

Pre-Christmas/Christmas/Post-Christmas: We got off a little early from work on Tuesday, the day before Christmas Eve. I went home, and pretty much conked out at about 8:30 p.m.



Then on Wednesday, Christmas Eve day, I pretty much did next to nothing. I did go to the record store, picked up a few goodies, and that was pretty much about it.

My wife worked that day, and the weather was beginning to get pretty nasty in my area. It was raining, windy, the works, and we had been invited to her brother to spend the evening, but we decided not to go because the weather was so bad by us.

And that is what happens when you have a major accident; the residual effect: you don't take any chances anymore.



Then on Christmas Day, we were going to go to the movies and have Chinese food--us and a million other Jews just like us--but we ended up visiting my father in law, and we had Chinese food there.



We did see two movies we rented: "The Jersey Boys" and the umpteenth version of "Godzilla." Two worse movies you couldn't find in a trash heap.

And on Friday, I was back at work, working like the machine that I am.

"The Interview" Opens Anyway: I was happy to see that "The Interview" was released nationwide on Christmas, in many independent theaters. After all the hubbub about it, it made about $1 million on that day alone, well below its break even point, but at least it was out there for people to see, so they could make up their own minds.



Me, I can't stand Seth Rogen or any movie he is involved with, so I wouldn't see it, but at least it is there for the taking--also on the Internet on various sites.

All for $5.99, and even more if you went to the theater.

I heard that the movie is pretty bad. But at least those seeing it could make that decision.

I also hope Hollywood takes notice of this incident, and learns from it ...

NOT!

New York City Protests Continue Unabated: I also see the protestors weren't listening to New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, and they continued to march even after the mayor called for a moratorium on such protests in the wake of the murder of the two policemen in Brooklyn.



But I mean, did you expect these protestors to listen to the mayor? He has sowed his own fate, on both sides of the equation, and funny, you didn't hear Rev. Al tell the protestors to lay off for a few days, did you?

Maybe they would have listened to him.

NOT!

The New York Stinkerbockers: The Knicks, my favorite basketball team, continued to lose, and they lost on Christmas Day to the Washington Wizards.



And Phil Jackson, the guy who was hired to turn this whole thing around, tweets that better things will happen in 2015.

Well, can anything worse happen than being 5-26 with a few games yet to play in the calendar year? (And they also lost the next two games, so at this writing, they are 5-28.)

And even more importantly, he didn't say what he meant by 2015--did he mean this season, the 2014-2015 season, or next season, the 2015-2016 season?

The 2015-2016 season is supposed to be when the Knicks will be able to sign top-level free agents, will have loads of salary cap room, and will be getting a high draft pick.

So basically what he is saying is just keep the seat warm, because NEXT SEASON will be something to marvel at.

That is what he says.

Really ... he was very careful not to get even near the word tanking, but well, this team makes the 1962 Mets look like champions.

11-71, anyone?

Attack of the Allergies: On Friday, to top everything off, I had one of the worst allergy attacks I have ever had, couldn't see clearly out of my left eye for a good part of the day, and really, felt off kilter the entire day.



How I got through work was an amazing accomplishment, I really have to admire myself for basically gritting my teeth and doing what I had to do, even with maybe one and a half eyes for most of the day.

Things got better as the day went on, but things still weren't too good, even at the end of the day in the evening.

But I managed to work my way around it.

You learn to do things like this when you have been afflicted with horrible allergies for just about your entire life.

New Year's Eve/New Year's Day/2015: Anyway, I am here ready to begin another week, and we have New Year's Eve and Day right smack dab in the middle of it.



The most overrated holiday of the year, but to me, it simply means the end of probably one of the worst years of my and my family's life.

It was a terrible year, the accident notwithstanding.

So many other things happened--no, I don't tell you everything here--that sometimes, I am amazed that we have gotten through it, and we have.

2015 cannot be as bad, so here's to the new year--but first, let's get through the next three days, including today.

You don't know how I am looking forward to the ball dropping, and the new year dawning!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rant #1,347: Merry, Happy ... Whatever



"Merry Christmas."

"Happy Hanukkah."

"Have a nice holiday."

What is correct, all or none of the above?

I have to tell you, this was going to be a simple "Merry Christmas" entry, until yesterday afternoon, when one of my Facebook "friends"--one I have actually met, but honestly don't know well at all--posted something akin to this:

"I wish Merry Christmas to everyone, even my Jewish friends, because I am old school."

Well, I guess that is all fine and good with this person, but it didn't sit too well with me.

I have no problem wishing "Merry Christmas" to those I know celebrate that holiday. Heaven knows I wish most of my co-workers that, even those who never venture to wish me a Happy Hanukkah.

But if you know the person you are addressing is Jewish, and you wish him or her "Merry Christmas," well that just smacks of insensitivity.

To the general public, I usually say, "Have a nice holiday." It is all encompassing.

But I would never wish the general public "Happy Hanukkah," nor would I wish those who I know celebrate Christmas "Happy Hanukkah."

When I voiced my feelings to this person on Facebook, he said that he is simply old school, and he sees nothing wrong with saying "Merry Christmas" to his Jewish friends.

I said to him something akin to, "Are you so old school that you believe in the teachings that "who" murdered Jesus?

Of course he knew exactly what I meant, and it has been a sore spot between the Catholic Church and Jews for centuries, even now, when it supposedly had been obliterated.

For centuries, Catholic teachings said that the Jews murdered Jesus. That thinking was changed in the mid 1960s, when that was not taught anymore, but even though it has been 50 years since that thinking was changed, it is hard to wipe out centuries of this belief in only 50 years.

Anyway, he came back with something to the effect that "Christ died for all of our sins," and I had to take him to task.

I shot back to him, "Christ did not die for MY sins. I am Jewish. We do not believe that he is the Messiah. Our Messiah has not yet come. That is why, even though Christ was Jewish, he broke away from those teachings."

Look, the guy is someone who is nice, but slightly ignorant.

Our two religions are both wonders of the ages, able to withstand pressure from within and without and to thrive.

But something as simple as saying "Merry Christmas" to someone you know is Jewish shows a bit about the greeting giver's character.

The move to simply say "Merry Christmas" to everyone is nice on the outside, but it is kind of cruel on the inside.

Jews do not deny the Christmas holiday, but by saying "Merry Christmas" to us, you are trivializing our holiday, Hanukkah.

And yes, I am still waiting to receive our usual Christmas cards from our relatives. We haven't received them yet, but I know they are coming.

What makes it all the more worse is that tonight is the final night of Hanukkah, and how much you wanna bet we get these cards today?

Anyway, all of this aside, have a nice holiday, have a nice Christmas, and I hope you had a nice Hanukkah if you celebrated that holiday.

And have a nice Kwanzaa too, if that is your direction this holiday season.

I have now covered everyone I am going to cover, and yes, I do feel good about myself and my stance.

We are all alike, yet so, so much different, why not celebrated those differences, especially during the holiday season?

This is my final column until next Monday, so have a great holiday (and happy birthday to my sister on December 26, not only the beginning of Kwanzaa, but Boxing Day too!).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rant #1,346: Blood On Their Hands



This weekend was a bloody one in New York City.

Two cops in Brownsville, Brooklyn, were senselessly shot down in cold blood, ambushed while they were eating lunch in the middle of the afternoon.

The gunman, a mentally deranged individual with a long criminal record, had posted on social media that he was going to New York to kill police officers.

He ended up killing himself.

But with all the stuff going on about the supposed brutality of police officers to the young black population, this incident showed that not only can the reverse also be true, but that some people have accountability issues in New York City right now.

This gunman was black, his targets were Asian American and Hispanic American.

Look, nobody is denying that the gunman was a nut case, but I do think that the current environment we live in--where the police are being looked at as the enemy of the people--is spurring the nuts to come out of their shells, almost giving them, in their own minds, a reason to go after police officers.

That is certainly what happened in this case, and other cases are cropping up, too.

Almost concurrently with this tragedy, the police picked up another crazy person, who allegedly also put on social media that he was going to kill police officers.

And who do we blame for this environment?

Well, in New York City, look to Gracie Mansion, the home of the mayor, and the nest of one of his top confidants, a tax evader who is best known as a race baiter, the ultimate race baiter from hell.

Mayor Bill deBlasio has set himself up as public enemy No. 1 of the police department, his own police department, by making inflammatory statements against the police in the aftermath of the two tragedies that happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and right here in his own backyard in Staten Island, New York.

The one that incensed the police department the most was the one that said that his son, who is biracial, has to protect himself against the police, because by his very nature of being biracial, he was a target.

Again, we are talking about the mayor's son, probably the most protected kid in New York City.

And the contentions of the mayor that the cops go after to black kids is ridiculous, and incendiary.

He has been told by police officials to stay away from police funerals, and I am sure that when these two policemen are buried, he will be told to stay away.

Then we have the case of Rev. Al Sharpton.

The less said against this race baiter the better.

He is a liar, a scoundrel, a scourge, and that is saying nice things about him.

However, he has worked himself into the inner circle of not only the mayor, but seemingly our own President, and even into Sony, as he stuck his nose into their email mess.

Anything that gives something of a legitimacy to this individual, the person who perpetrated the Tawana Brawley hoax and never apologized for it, among other anti-white actions, is a piece of garbage in my book.

After this latest incident, both deBlasio and Sharpton issued released where they said that brutality against the police will not be tolerated, but they ring so hollow as to be almost non-existent.

There is a war in New York City, and it is a war against everything that is right and good, and it is being led by deBlasio and Sharpton.

And you know who is also to blame for this current environment?

The people of New York City.

They voted in this mayor, who used the race card to his advantage, and they give legitimacy to this supposed reverend, a supposed man of the cloth.

For that, they get what they pay for.

And the faction that has marched in all of these protests, they also get part of the blame, too.

Sure, they have every right to march. It is their right as citizens of this country.

But their overall behavior, lauded my many, has deteriorated, and deteriorated greatly.

And the reason that it has is because it has, once again, given every nut a reason to go out and cause havoc, much like what happened during the "Occupy New York" nonsense of a few years ago.

These protests draws the unstable like flies to honey, and recent skirmishes with the police demonstrate that.

And let's not forget the role the media has played in all of this, making this into a circus.

Unfortunately, if you make your own bed, you have to lie in it, and that is what has happened to people like deBlasio, Sharpton and the like.

But the blame really goes all around, and that is the saddest thing about this whole environment.

My personal condolences go out to the families of the slain police officers, and let there be no such similar episodes ever again.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rant #1,345: "The Interview"



I am sure that you have heard that Sony Pictures has indefinitely postponed the premiere of the film "The Interview" due to concerns that violence may ensue from its opening.

This whole thing is such a stupid mess, that I thought I would talk about it here today.

I have very, very mixed feelings about the cancellation of the opening of this film, on a lot of issues, including free speech.

But on the other hand, some things are better left alone, and maybe it's a good thing that the picture won't open for the foreseeable future, if ever.

People should be able to say what they want to say, do what they want to do, act like they want to act. Those are basically the freedoms that we enjoy in this country, and why this country is the greatest one on the planet.

But there is a line that is oftentimes crossed by us, as a society, and I think that that line might have been crossed by this movie.

In a nutshell, the movie is a satirical comedy about two broadcasters who are recruited to knock off the emperor of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, or whatever they call him, their ruler, who we all know is crazy.

He hates the United States and all the free world, but he hates us so much that he loves American basketball and has actually befriended former basketball star Dennis Rodman.

He reportedly has been quite ill lately, but he has not given up his power.

Anyway, this fictitious movie actually ends with his death.

The problem that I have here is that the people involved in the film--not just Sony, but writer/star Seth Rogen and a whole lot of other people--took for granted that the movie would not only play in, let's say, Walla Walla, Washington, but also around the world, and they have found out, in a striking way, that you cannot assume that.

This movie has served as an example of why free speech is a wonderful thing, but it can go too far.

Is it free speech when you yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater?

Well, this film did just that to the North Koreans. Evidently, they were so incensed by the storyline of this movie that in retaliation, they--or someone else, nobody really knows who did it — were able to hack into Sony's email accounts, and make them look awful stupid.

And what's worse, the North Korean hackers--if they even are from North Korea--said that if the movie opened as scheduled, there would be dire consequences to those who attended the film in theaters, and then they brought up 9/11.

Enough. Sony closed the film.

This is probably the first time that Hollywood has ever been told "No" by anyone.

They live in their ivory towers in Tinseltown, seemingly doing whatever they want to do without any thought on their actions.

They have people there who really live the life, let's say, and we, as a public, basically give them carte blanche to do whatever they want to do.

After all, they are "show people."

Well, here is an instance where Hollywood has been told that no, you can't do that, because it could harm many, many people.

And they bowed to the pressure.

Yes, it sets quite a bad precedent, but Sony really should examine who gave the green light to this movie--and get rid of them, period.

Why did the movie have to be about an actual world ruler?

Heck, Charlie Chaplin and even the Three Stooges have satirized various horrid rulers in the past by making them purely fictional, even if everyone knew who they were talking about.

Doesn't just about every James Bond film deal with some crazy ruler who is going to take over the world?

But these are fictional monarchs, not real ones.

Why did this film have to be about an actual ruler, someone we know is a complete nut and one in a country which not only doesn't like us, but a country that we don't yet really know or can gauge the capability of, in terms of weapons and reach?

No, this was completely irresponsible filmmaking, as far as I am concerned, and even though I am all for free speech, being a journalist myself, I am really for responsible free speech, not anything near what this film would have espoused.

I mean, the guy dies at the end. Did they really think that this would play around the world, and that North Korea would be OK with this?

I think we, as a country, would react much differently if a filmmaker from overseas would release a film about the murder of President Barack Obama. We would pretty much be outraged, I am sure we would pretty much boycott the film, but I don't think we would threaten anyone with harm about it.

But we are dealing with a country and a culture that we know very little about, and pissing them off like this was completely irresponsible.

And what came out in the emails was so embarasssing ... remember in school when we were taught that "The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword? ... well that has almost been replaced by "The Electronic Messages are Mightier Than the Sword."

Those emails also showed the complete lack of responsibility by the writers of those emails, showing how they speak out of both sides of their mouths about our President.

Did they not understand that like those nude photos of famous actresses that were posted a while back that once you put up something electronically, it is ripe for the taking by people who know how to do this?

Do they understand now?

So as you can see, I am quite conflicted about this entire incident. We don't know the extent of the hacker's reach, and we don't know what, if anything, they would have done if the movie opened.

But better not to know, not to experience any possible destruction over really what is just a plain stupid movie.

Will the movie ever see the light of day? Who knows?

If we can open diplomatic relations with Cuba after so many years, maybe years in the future, when North Korea is our friend, this movie can open and we can all laugh about what went on in 2014.

But it is not so funny at the current time, no, this purported comedy is not so funny at all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rant #1,344: 'Tis the Season ...



The holiday season is a wonderful way to end the year, with all the glory, the lights, and the family get togethers that we all have.

But it also brings out all the nuts, too, and I had an occasion this past Saturday to meet up with one of them--in the barber's chair.

This very odd situation happened when my son and I went to get haircuts at our local haircutting establishment. It has been around forever, and the barbers there--there are about a dozen--give you a pretty darn good haircut for $5, plus, of course, the requisite tip.

I have been going to this place for at least 20 years, and even though I don't have too much hair anymore, my son certainly does, and I trust them with his hair.

Anyway, we got there and as usual for a Saturday afternoon, there was a mob waiting to get haircuts, people of every age and every type of hair.

As usual, we told the manager, "Two, anybody," meaning we would take the next available barber. There is one woman barber in the place, and my son was directed to her, as I had to wait for someone to be free.

He had his hair cut, and since the woman didn't have anyone else waiting for her, I went over to her, sat down in the chair, and told her what I wanted, "No. 2, please clean up the back."

No sooner had I sat down, she started the conversation out like this:

"Are you Jewish?"

I kind of paused, thinking this was a strange way to begin a conversation when all I wanted was a haircut.

"Well, yes, I am," I finally replied.

As she started to cut my hair, here is how the conversation went:

"You are rich, aren't you?"

"Huh?" (dumbfounded).

'You are rich, aren't you?"

"No, I am not. Far from it."

"What is your eduacation?"

"I went to college, and I have a masters degree."

"What do you do for a living?"

"I am a writer, actually my title is associate editor."

"So then, you must be rich."

She kept on bringing up the "rich" aspect up time and time again.

Believe me, I was pretty happy I am bald, because my haircut didn't last long.

Then, when it was over, I got up, and after this conversation where she started out, "Are you Jewish?" she has the nerve to say to me, "Merry Christmas."

I then did something stupid. I paid my and my son's bill, gave her a $1 tip--what I normally do--and left.

I could kick myself. I should have alerted the manager to this, but I didn't.

Even if it wasn't overtly anti-Semitic, the woman should not have been asking me about such personal things. She was out of line, and I dropped the ball, probably because I was very tired this past weekend, with a rough week behind me.

My wife says that she "rubbed it in" with the "Merry Christmas" remark, hoping for a bigger tip, and probably starting off the entire conversation with eyes on a big tip.

But that was no reason to go on and on and on about my religion, my wealth, etc.

It was totally uncalled for.

I guess all I can say is that if it happens again, I won't be like the Jews I knock, the ones who take it and don't say anything about it.

I hate my fellow Jews for doing this, and now, I am clearly one of them, because I did it too.

Shame on me.

It may not have been blatant anti-Semitism, but the spark was certainly there, and I didn't totally extinguish it with my actions.

Shame on me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rant #1,343: On the First Night of Hanukkah ...



No, I am not going to burst into song, substituting Hanukkah imagery into that classic Christmas song.

But we did have a nice night last evening, the first night of Hanukkah.

Although sundown--the start of the holiday--was actually at about 4:37 p.m. or so, this guy had to work, so I did not get home until around 6 p.m.

I ate--we had meatloaf, green beans, salad and yes, potato latkes from my mother--and the meal was delicious.

Not only did I have extra meatloaf--my wife makes the best tasting meatloaf on the planet--but I could have had more latkes--heck, I could have eaten the entire plateful of these things--but I held off, because I could be 400 pounds very easily.

Then it was time for the celebration.

In this neck of the woods, at about 5:40 p.m. yesterday on my way home, it started to pour, almost out of nowhere.

Happily, at least on my route, there weren't too many cars on the road, which is unusual--did many leave early for Hanukkah?--so I was able to make my way home pretty easily.

The same could not be said of my father. He was still not home when I was done eating and ready to go for the holiday, so my mother asked if we could postpone their participation until today, the second night.

I wasn't happy, but I obliged.

So it was just going to be my little family doing the celebrating last night--sans my daughter, who was probably celebrating the holiday with her mother--and we did.

My son and I lit the menorah. We said the prayer in Hebrew and then in English, and I let him mainly do the recitation. I am happy he knows the prayer in both Hebrew and English, as I do.

Anyway, we lit our menorah--yes, it is electric, not like the one in the accompanying photo--and it is very modern and nice, and the window shined with that glow that I enjoy this time of year. I am sure it looked the same way outside.

We then moved over to the presents we had for each other.

My son got a winter jacket, a video game, a computer, and in a complete surprise to him, Yankees tickets for a game on his birthday in August.

My wife got some gift cards--Dunkin' Donuts and Kohl's--and she wanted this, so I got it for her--the new Keurig 2.0 coffee maker. I am not a coffee drinker, so I have no idea why she wanted this thing, but she does love her coffee, which I guess is the best reason of all. She also received a box of her favorite coffee to use in the new machine.

Then it was my turn. My parents gave me my gift even though they weren't participating last night, and they got me the requisite clothes. My family got me a box of 1970s music trivia cards, a gift certificate to my local record store, and the Batman TV series on DVD.

Yes, the theme of this year's Hanukkah was simplicity.

Our Hanukkah celebration was pretty subdued this year, but it was fun. Tonight, my parents will be with us, so it will be another nice evening.

The eight days will go fast, and before you know it, Hanukkah 2014 will be but a memory ...

But a real nice one, one that I will cherish forever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rant #1,342: Tonight, It's Hanukkah


Tonight, at sundown, is the first night of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights for the Jewish people.

My family and I are among those that will celebrate tonight.

But I have noticed in social media that Hanukkah, my holiday, and most importantly, the Jewish religion, is being negated once again this holiday season.

And apart from social media, you don't see that much celebration, either.

For whatever reason, there are scant holiday decorations this year.

My wife has told me that the menorah, probably the most visible symbol of the holiday, is thought to be a religious symbol at this point in time, so many institutions won't put one up.

Balderdash, but go tell this to our politically correct world, where we strive to include everybody in everything while pushing others' faces in the dirt.

Anyway, today I have decided to rerun a column that I wrote more than four years ago, Rant #395 on December 1, 2010.

It basically says everything I wanted to say this year, and shows that things really haven't changed too much.

I edited it a little bit to make it more current, but most of it has been left intact.

Here it is, and to all that celebrate Hanukkah, have a wonderful holiday.

"Tonight is Hanukkah.

I know that for most of our culture this means absolutely nothing, but for many of us, this holiday, which begins at sundown tonight, reflects the culmination of a year's work, and the time to party and celebrate.

Honestly, in the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is not a major holiday. But it is a joyous and festive one, celebrating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt, during the second century BCE (before the common era). After the Jews regained control of the temple, they found that they only had one night's oil for their candelabra, their eternal light. Somehow, through some type of miracle, the oil burned for eight days, hence the celebration of Hanukkah for eight days and the use of a menorah to signify the eternal light.

It's a great family-oriented holiday, and one of my favorite ones during the year (the other of my favorites is Passover).

Now, if you don't want to read some blunt words, don't read below, because I promise you, you are going to get them.

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush or Hanukkah tree ornaments or wreaths.

One holiday has nothing to do with the other.

And if you consider yourself Jewish, you cannot celebrate both.

Christmas is about Jesus, the messiah. Hanukkah, as my explanation provided, has nothing to do with Jesus, and the basic tenet of the Jewish religion is that the messiah has not come yet.

So once again, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas.

Don't ask me if I follow both holidays. For me, although Christmas is a wonderful holiday in an of itself, for me, it is simply a day off from work for me and many of my fellow Jews, nothing more.

And the inundation we receive from the media about Christmas this and Christmas that is, well, annoying. I know some non-Jews who believe that starting to play Christmas songs on certain radio stations starting in October or even earlier is ridiculous.

And who do we blame for this idiocy, where Hanukkah is somehow blurred into Christmas?

Well, I kind of blame many of my fellow Jews themselves.

We have so assimilated into the Christian culture of this country that many of us have forgotten our roots.

Look, I am not a religious Jew at all, but I know, and my family knows, our heritage. We are Jews. We are not Christians.

I am not saying that there is anything the least bit wrong in following other religions. But when Jews decide that they are so assimilated that they forget who they are, that kind of bothers me.

And when people--oftentimes those in my own family--send Christmas cards or Season's Greetings cards to my family this time of year, well, don't you think that is just plain lazy on their part?

I am not talking about business associates. I am talking about family members who should know better.

One year many years ago, a relative sent my family a Christmas card. I sent it right back. They figured out why I did that, and quickly sent over a Hanukkah card.

And yes, I blame Hollywood too. Hollywood is a place where Jews have always felt welcome to ply their craft, whether it be as an executive, behind the scenes person, or even in front of the camera.

Yet, Hollywood Jews kind of hide this time of year. I mean, where are the Barbra Streisands, the Neil Diamonds, the Dustin Hoffmans during this time of year? Celebrating Christmas, of course.

They are as phony as a warped sheckel.

When was the last time "Entertainment Tonight" ever asked high-profile Hollywood Jews about how they celebrate Hanukkah?

And when they ask Jews about Christmas, Jews just answer as if it were their holiday.

Well, it isn't.

That's the end of my bluntness. Have a great holiday, whatever holiday you celebrate, and I will be back tomorrow, hopefully with a nice report about how the first night of Hanukkah went.

Mazel tov!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rant #1,341: Santa Claus Came To Town

Guess what this Jewish guy did with his son this weekend?

I did what any Jew would have done ... Santa Claus was in town, and I took my son to meet old St. Nick himself.

In something I hadn't done since my kids were very little, I took my 19-year-old son to see Santa Claus, but there was a method to my madness.



St. Nick, in this case at least, was WWE wrestling legend Mick Foley, and the North Pole was our local record store.

Foley was there to promote his "Crazy Christmas" holiday book and record--yes, a 45 rpm record--so we and about 50 others decided that this presented the perfect opportunity to meet the hardcore wrestling legend in the flesh--with his Santa outfit on--so we leaped at the chance.

What's more, all proceeds went to charity, so it was a really worthwhile cause.



Foley came into the store as the line of people wanting to meet him grew. He took out the book--with a story written by his son, ostensibly about saving Christmas--and like any good Santa who is also a world renown wrestling personality, he also took out his teeth as he started to read.

Anyway, when he was finished with his storytelling chores, we all got to meet Santa Foley, get his autograph and take pictures with him.



It was fun, harkening back to other times I took my kids to meet Santa.

One time that I remember is when my daughter must have been about four or five years old.

She sat on Santa's lap in our local bank, and Santa said, "And what would this pretty young girl want for Christmas?"

My daughter replied, "Santa, I happen to be Jewish, and we don't celebrate Christmas, we celebrate Hanukkah--and here is what I want!"

You never saw Santa so dumbfounded in his life, and although I told my daughter to tone it down a bit, inwardly, I was kind of proud of her.

Not to blame Santa though-=-how was he to know that he had such a "rebel" sitting right on his lap?

Anyway, back to the present.

My son and I had a nice time, and afterward, we did what many Jewish families do throughout the year--we ordered Chinese takeout, brought it home, and had a nice meal with my wife.

The whole encounter with Santa was a good appetizer for our main event, the first night of Hanukkah, which begins tomorrow evening at sundown.

It should be fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rant #1,340: A Missed Opportunity



OK, I am going to be talking today about one of my pet peeves, so if you don't want to read on, please don't.

It is something very personal to me, and something that should be very important to my fellow Jews, but I don't think that it is.

We are in the joyous holiday season. Everyone is scurrying around, trying to get as many presents as they possibly can leading up to the big day.

My big day is probably different than yours. It isn't Christmas on December 25, it is the first night of Hanukkah, on December 16.

When you turn on network TV, all of the shows are doing their Christmas shows. Many of the Christmas shows done by classic shows are also shown, and let me tell you, some of them are real classics.

I really enjoy them.

But growing up, I was pretty much on the outside looking in.

Christmas is a wonderful holiday, even though let's face it, its religious part is not what it once was, pretty much co-opted by the need to buy, buy and buy some more.

Anyway, there were scant mentions of my holiday on network TV back then.

One of my favorite holiday episodes is from "That Girl," where Hanukkah is basically the punch line to the entire episode. If you haven't seen it, either go to YouTube or watch it on MeTV--I guarantee it will be shown this year.

But by and large, even with a large contingents of Jews in Hollywood--not just actors and actresses, but writers, directors and the like--Hanukkah has pretty much been ignored by network TV.

I remember several years ago, Fran Drescher of "The Nanny" fame fought CBS tooth and nail to have a Hanukkah-themed episode. She lost that fight, but in retaliation, carried a menorah through a holiday episode of her show.

Now we come to the present time. Network TV shows feature the "modern family" of everybody from WASPS, straights, gays, people with major psychological problems, nerds, blacks, Asians, Hispanics ... you name it, network TV has it--including Jews.

There are Jewish characters on many shows, and yes, most of the time, the characters' religion is played up as a plot device, as it often is on "The Big Bang Theory."

But ABC did something last season that was potentially monumental in my mind.

The placed a new show, "The Goldbergs," on their fall schedule.

VOILA! I said. Finally, network TV had grown up to include a real, honest to goodness Jewish family on its schedule! Kudos to them.

And then I watched the show.

Not only was it a poor ripoff of "The Wonder Years"--a show which also featured a Jewish character, best friend Paul Pfeiffer--but it may as well have been called "The Fitzpatricks," "The Anzalones," or "The Johnsons," because the family featured on the show was about as ethnic as "The Muppets" are.

No mention of Judaism here, even with an "authentic" Jew, George Segal, part of the ensemble cast.

And then, last season, I thought that perhaps things would change once they got into the holiday season, but alas, the show sidestepped the entire issue of Judaism and the holiday experience entirely.

The show is, somehow, a hit, sandwiched in among other hit comedies on ABC. So season two premiered, and still nothing.

I figured that by the holiday season, now that the show was a hit, the sitcom could venture into uncharted territory based on its success--a show about a real Jewish family (sitcom real) celebrating the holidays as any Jewish family would--not with a Christmas tree, not by drinking egg nog, but by lighting a menorah and eating potato latkes.

And last night, with their holiday episode, once again, they completely sidestepped the subject, making it more of a New Year's show than anything else.

The show was about somebody approaching the older boy for a fake modeling job, the mother getting into the act, the younger boy trying to bring his grandparents and family together, etc.

Nothing about Hanukkah. Not even in the background of the house.

No menorah, no decorations, nothing.

When the family ventured out of the house, yes, you did see Christmas decorations at the mall and at the movie theater where they saw "E.T., The Extra Terrestrial," which, as you know, was a film by the very Jewish Steven Spielberg.

But nothing about Hanukkah.

Nothing.

The show is a production of Adam F. Goldberg, purported to show a similar type of family that he grew up in. In fact, at the end of the show, they included some actual video of his family celebrating the New Year--not Hanukkah.

Look, even Jewish families who have a very tenuous connection with their religion at least have a menorah up and glowing during the holiday season.

But for this show, nothing.

ABC is missing the point here, missing a perfect opportunity to show that Jews are just like everyone else, but they do have their own end of the year holiday.

They are missing the point, entirely--I mean the show is called "The Goldbergs," and we're not talking about Whoopi Goldberg here.

Most importantly, they are missing an opportunity to educate. As we all know, crime against Jews and Jewish institutions are on the rise not only in the U.S., but around the world.

Just this past week, there was an incident at a Jewish institution in Brooklyn, where an assailant attacked a rabbinical student, and was shot to death by police in an episode that will never be lumped into the latest anti-cop rhetoric we are hearing.

And the assailant allegedly was yelling anti-Semitic slurs, although the incident is not being looked at as a hate crime because the person had a history of mental illness, I presume.

Entertainment is the way we relax, and it is also the way we learn about things we didn't know much about.

And yes, I do blame the entertainment industry for hiding the fact, that we are not so homogenous as they would like us to believe.

I also blame my Jewish brethren, who often want to fit in so much into the fabric of this country and the world that they readily forget who they are.

I know a lot of Jews would take me to task for that, but sorry, I have found that often the most virulent anti-Semites are the Jews themselves.

And it really pains me to say that, too.

Again, I enjoy the holiday season, enjoy all the goings on revolving around the season, but when it comes down to it, I celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Christmas is simply a day off for me, a day where my family goes to the movies and eats Chinese food.

We do not have a phony "Hanukkah bush" up in our house.

We have a menorah burning very brightly.

I had high hopes for "The Goldbergs," but they are simply sidestepping the entire situation. I don't know if ABC put pressure on them to do so, or the producers and writers on the show--who are mainly Jews--have simply decided that this will not be the show to be the groundbreaker that I feel it should be.

And that is really, really sad, because it could be a platform, in a comedic way, of helping viewers learn about something not necessarily new, not necessarily different, but something that maybe they didn't know too much about.

It might even help us understand each other a bit better, and maybe, just maybe, stem the tide of anti-Jewish sentiment that always comes up around this time of year.

All this through a mere TV show? Yes, why not? If millions watch it each weak, you start with those millions, and the feeling can spread to everyone they touch, and then spread to everyone they come in contact with, and so on and so on.

And yes, I am a bit hurt that the show doesn't do that and I have to ask, what is stopping them?

What a missed opportunity!

(I have to go for my twice-annual eye exam, so in order to prepare for this test, I am not going to be writing my column tomorrow. Please check back here on Monday. Speak to you then.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rant #1,339: Some People Should Be Ashamed of Themselves



I read about this late yesterday, and I still cannot believe that this has actually been put into place.

Columbia Law School is allowing students to request postponements of their final exams if they are suffering from what are being called the "traumatic effects" of two recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York, where police were not indicted in the deaths of two unarmed black men.

Robert E. Scott, the school's interim dean, announced this policy in an email, and according to the New York Times, a small number of students have had their exams pushed back because they have been "traumatized" by these decisions.

Scott said the law school consulted with Columbia administrators to gain approval for this policy, which he said is in accordance with the school's procedures for accommodating students who are experiencing trauma during exam periods.

Well, as far as I am concerned, Columbia University, their law school, and just about every lawyer worth his or her salt should be ashamed of themselves and their profession at this decision.

Law school is not easy, nobody said it was. It is not easy to become a lawyer, nor is it easy to become a doctor, a teacher, a writer, or a garbage man (sanitary worker in these PC times).

Why are people so traumatized that they cannot take their exams? Is it because they are out marching against the "social injustices" supposedly perpetuated by these instances, and haven't had time to study?

I am not a lawyer, but can you imagine a lawyer going into court and telling a judge that he or she was "traumatized" by something, and due to their "trauma," asked for a postponement of a trial? What would a judge say in that instance?

To me, we are coddling people who have been coddled their entire lives. Unfortunately, this generation has been given everything to them on a silver plate, seemingly, and the university is coddling to them again by allowing them to put off their exams.

The most interesting thing about this is that while the law, as it stands, supports the police in both unfortunate instances, those shirking their exams are the future lawyers of this country, the lawyers who could actually help change the laws so these incidences never happen again.

Yet they want to postpone their exams ... because they are traumatized?

More likely many of them are so tired from marching and yelling and screaming about something that they do not yet understand that they haven't had time to crack open the books and study.

I guess that is what is called being "traumatized" today.

Maybe I will use that at my place of business.

I am so "traumatized" at these events that I cannot work. I need to put off working for a few days while I get my head together.

Yes, hello unemployment line, because that is where I will be going, and most of us will be going, if we ever pulled that canard.

Again, there is a lot of shame to go around here, and it starts with Columbia University itself.

What a joke. It is time, yes it really is time, to get back to reality, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rant #1,338: Pugsley



In a year where we have experienced some major deaths in the entertainment field--namely Joan Rivers and Robin Williams--this passing isn't on the same level, but for some, it probably is.

Ken Weatherwax died, and if that name doesn't ring a bell if you are not a Baby Boomer, here is why we mourn his death today.

He was Pugsley, yes, Pugsley Addams of the TV show "The Addams Family."

As fat, short and pretty weird looking brother to comely Wednesday Addams, Pugsley was rarely the focus of any of the shows on the classic sitcom, but he was there, setting fires, eating bugs and doing other things that in the world of this ghoulish family, were perfectly normal.

No, this show could never run today, because the PC police would be all over it.

But back in 1965 and 1966, Pugsley fit right in with this family, which was led by dad Gomez and mother Morticia.

And all the while, with the prune face that looked like it was extra disturbed by someone eating a lemon, Weatherwax played Pugsley perfectly.

Could you ever imagine anyone else playing that role?

Weatherwax came from something of a theatrical family, with his aunt being actress and dancer Ruby Keeler. His brother played the best friend of Jeff on the original Lassie TV show, and he was also related to some other Hollywood stars.

He earned a few early roles in toothpaste commercials and on TV in shows like "Wagon Train," but his signature role was to come.

But if there was ever anyone who did not fit the Hollywood glamor profile, it was Weatherwax, and it ended up hurting him as far as roles after "The Addams Family" show ended.

When work dried up, he went back to being a "normal" kid, which was difficult after being Pugsley, and kids he went to school with never let him forget who he had been. He reportedly went from school to school, bullied by kids for his former role.

He sought his escape through joining the Army, and that is reportedly where he got his "real" life back.

Afterwards, he moved onto the other side of the screen, being a technical worker on dozens of TV shows and movies, as a grip and set builder, and he pretty much faded into obscurity, only being brought up during revivals of the show as a "whatever happened to ... " question.

He passed away on Sunday at age 59. The first time I looked, he evidently passed away in his sleep, and it hadn't been determined what was the cause of death. Later, I found out that he died of a heart attack.

Whatever the case, Weatherwax, sort of like Butch Patrick, lived in all Baby Boomers' psyches as that kid, who was pretty much our age, who was one of the stars of one of those two "monster" shows that we loved when we were kids, the other being "The Munsters," of course.

Oh, how we would have loved to live in those families, but we did it through Weatherwax, and Butch Patrick as Eddie.

So R.I.P. Ken Weatherwax, you did a great job.

Although the actor that portrayed Pugsley is now gone, because of TV reruns ...

Pugsley lives!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Rant #1,337: Royal Flush



So the Royals are in New York City.

No, not the American League Champion Kansas City Royals, who will be in New York City during the 2015 baseball season.

We are talking about the British Royals, who are staying at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan during their brief stopover in Manhattan.

All the fascination over the Royals in this country really throws me for a loop.

Why we care about this is beyond me.

We could have had our own Royals in this country, but George Washington did not want to be called "King" here. He wanted to be called "President," and the rest is history.

But seemingly since that time, we have been intrigued by the Royal Family over here as much as we are intrigued by the family of whoever the sitting President and his family is.

Why are we so interested in the Royals, I ask?

I really think that this is a gender-based thing.

Yes, I am going to sound like a male chauvinist pig, which I am anyway, but women seem to be fascinated with the Royals way more than men are.

I think it has to do with that "fantasy" that a lot of women grow up with that their "prince in shining armor" is going to come and whisk them away in the most romantic fashion.

Somehow, that translates to the Royal Family, and everything they bring to the table.

And then there are the pregnancies, the ups, the downs--Princess Diana, for one--the failures, the triumphs.

This appears to me to be a female thing, something that men don't get into, and from what I saw on television last night, applies once again.

I would say that the crowd that had been waiting for hours for them to come was about 98 percent female, and I bet the only males there tagged along with their other half.

But whatever the case, they will be at the Brooklyn Nets game, where I am sure they will meet up with our own royalty, in the name of Lebron James, affectionately known as "King."

That is the only "royal" that men care about, for sure.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rant #1,336: "SmElements"



Online retailer Amazon.com has announced that it will soon be premiering its own line of products, under the "Elements" brand name.

It will only be available to Amazon Prime members, and will feature a full line of products.

It is starting off with diapers and baby wipes--hence the title of this Rant--and other products will follow.

I don't know about you, but for the life of me, why would anybody buy diapers and baby wipes online?

I know that people do buy these things electronically, but to me, these are two items that I would buy in my local, brick and mortar store, but so removed from having a real little one in the house, what do I know?

When my kids were small, we always had stacks of this stuff in the house, at the ready when they were needed.

There are plenty of good brands available locally--and Amazon, by the way, will still offer those too--so why would you order such products online?

I guess if you had a stack of diapers, and plenty of wipes, and the need wasn't immediate, you could wait a few days to get such items, so online ordering would be OK for you.

More importantly, Amazon.com will be pretty much entering the electronic grocery business with this line, and for the life of me, I don't understand how people can do their grocery shopping that way, either.

It is a rapidly growing industry. Even the military stores offer online ordering.

But to me, the grocery experience is a one on one experience between yourself and your local store.

I certainly could not buy produce online--you have to really see, feel, and touch produce to know what you are getting--but people do buy this stuff this way.

No, it is not for me, but I guess that people who don't think they have enough time to visit a supermarket will do their shopping this way.

Not having an hour's time a week to go to your local supermarket, at least to me, translates into laziness.

My wife often works on the weekend, and I do, too, during the summer.

Nonetheless, we find the time--at least one of us--to do real, live grocery shopping.

We do not order these things online. I don't think I would ever order these things online.

But people do, and Amazon is counting on their high-ticket customers--Amazon Prime customers who pay a premium for this service--to make a go of this.

I wish them luck, but I am not an Amazon Prime customer, so it won't affect me right now at least.

And tomorrow morning, my wife and I will do what we always do on Saturday morning--or at least one of us does if the other is working--and we will do our shopping in the local supermarket.

Good luck, Amazon, but I don't think I will be doing any online grocery ordering using your service.

Now as for other things ... can you clean a dirty tushy with a new CD?

Speak to you on Monday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rant #1,335: No Indictment



Once again, a white police officer has not received an indictment in a case where a black man was killed.

And it happened in my neck of the woods, which brings it up close and personal to myself and everyone who lives in the New York Metropolitan area.

In this case, Eric Garner, another person with a criminal history as long as your arm, was put into a choke hold when he was apprehended for selling cigarettes on a street in the New York City borough of Staten Island.

He had asthma, could not breath, told the five officers who were on top of him that he could not breath, and he died.

All of it was recorded on a cell phone, and honestly, I personally thought that he officer in question would be indicted for reckless endangerment, the lesser of the charges.

He was not.

Some people say that based on the video alone, this was a total miscarriage of justice.

And if you simply take the video alone, it probably was.

However, a jury heard testimony of 22 witnesses, saw other evidence that the public has not seen, heard from the police officer that applied the hold, and came up with no indictment.

What happened?

Again, I am not a lawyer, but it appears that the 22 witnesses may have painted a different picture of what happened to Garner than what the video showed.

And the police officer must have made an extremely compelling argument about why he had to apply such a hold on Garner.

The video showed the last few moments of Garner's life. But what precipitated what happened before the video was shot?

Was there just cause for the police to act the way they did?

Did Garner physically threaten them, either with his words or by actually having a physical altercation with them?

Did he do anything else to make the police act the way they did?

Evidently so, because no indictment was made. The feds are now looking into this situation, but the proof of the pudding can be found in what the witnesses said happened prior to the video being shot.

The police do not go out to kill people, but they will if such an act is necessary.

In this case, unlike the Ferguson case, there was no reason for Garner to have died.

But what were his actions before the video was made that led the policeman to apply such a hold on Garner?

I do believe that that is where we find out what led to this unfortunate situation.

This case is so different than what happened in Ferguson, but it will be lumped together, of course, as situations where police may have not have used their best judgment.

But did they actually use the only judgment that they possibly could, under these circumstances, in each of the cases?

I do believe in Ferguson that the officer was threatened with bodily harm, and he did make the correct choice, the only choice he could make under the circumstances.

In New York, the whole thing from top to bottom was unfortunate, but evidently, the evidence found no reason to indict.

Yes, I was quite surprised that the police officer was not indicted on the lesser charge, but he was not indicted, so the evidence must have pointed in his favor in some way, shape or form.

Let the feds look into it now. I am sure they will find something that the local court could not find.

And that is what scares me, and should scare you, too.

They are going to be under intense pressure to find something, and with that pressure over their heads, you can bet that this case is one that is far, far from over.

[And the one constant in the two cases is again the Rev. Al Sharpton, who feeds off these incidents like the leech that he is.

He is truly the Martin Luther King of the Bizzarro World, and his mere presence makes his ignorant flock seem so righteous.

Please, please, put this tax evader away in jail, where he belongs, not sitting with the President of the United States, who doesn't appear to have a clue that all of this nonsense is going on during his watch, and that makes him somewhat responsible for the lax environment we currently live in.

And if people are calling for New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton's head, how about Mayor Bill deBlasio's head too? The Garner incident happened under his watch. I get the increasing suspicion that deBlasio is being given a bye on matters like this because he married a black woman and has a bi-racial family. He used the race card to perfection to get into office, and I do believe that people are willing to forgive and forget with him because of his living situation. Believe me, I hope that I am wrong, and both Bratton and deBlasio are held to the same level of responsibility in this and other similar matters.]

Rant #1,334: The Email Blues



I don't know about you, but my email has kind of morphed over the years from a true message center to what is akin to an electronic garbage pail.

I used to get messages from friends, people who belonged to my groups, from groups I belonged to, and others, with interesting tidbits about this and that.

I always enjoyed getting regular mail, now known as snail mail, so I was sort of in a mail "nirvana" with my email.

However, over the years, those interesting messages have lessened to a few a week, and now, my email is overrun with ads ...

Ads mainly cajoling me to buy things I don't need, ads for organizations hoping to engage me, and ads from department stores and online entities, all looking for my interest.

Well, I have to tell you, I am not interested one bit.

Maybe not one bit, maybe extremely slightly, at best.

Every day, I go through my email, and I have to tell you, I immediately delete between 10 and 30 messages each day, all pertaining to some sort of advertising.

And since we are in the holiday season, it is getting even worse.

I have to say that once in a while, there is one of these advertising emails that does engage me, and I did use one coupon when I did my holiday shopping, which ended up saving me about $30 on something that I bought, so I am not immune to using these things to my advantage.

But honestly, those types of emails are few and far between. If I am deleting between 10 and 30 messages a day, that equals out to between 3,650 and over 10,000 messages a year. If I get two or three that interest me over the course of a year ... well, as you can see, the percentage of "good" advertising emails is very, very low.

But those that send these things--which to me are almost "legal" spam--are banking on it that you will use what they have to sell you, and I guess if I am using one during the holiday season, millions of others are using one, two, and it all ads up to big business for these entities.

I don't even worry about "real" spam anymore--I might get one or two of these a year now. It is the advertising emails that I really have to think about.

Happily, just about every one that I get is from a legitimate organization, whether it is a retailer, a charity, or some online presence.

I don't have to worry about that, but I do hate the proliferation of these things.

And for Black Friday ... don't ask. I was getting rid of emails left and right.

Look, I understand that this is the latest way to advertise your goods and trumpet issues that you back.

But there are just so many of them, that whatever the sender is trying to do is getting lost in the email fog, to a certain extent.

Heck, some entities send three or four such messages out to me each day.

Enough already!

I get the message, literally, and it generally goes right where it belongs ...

In the trash.
 

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