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Friday, February 17, 2017

Rant #1,845: R-E-S-P-E-C-T


On Monday, we celebrate Presidents Day, the day we honor our commander in chiefs from all eras, from George Washington to Donald Trump, everyone in between.

It is really a day that we honor the office of the presidency, and what it means to us as a nation.

When I was a kid, since Washington and Lincoln--two of our most important presidents--were born in the same month, we used to have two holidays, one for each of their birthdays.

I don't know how many years ago we combined them into one, single holiday, but it has been some time, that I do know.

So Presidents Day it is, and most importantly, it is a day of respect, a day that we look at all of our presidents, and the office that they have held, and give it the platitudes that it deserves ...

Even if we don't like a particular president.

So with so much venom thrown Trump's way by some, we honor the office on that day, but I don't think those dumping on him are going to give up their day off from work in protest of him being our commander in chief.

Heck, it isn't the American way, is it, even with all the crabbing?

I happen to have the day off from work that day, or, I should say I think I do. There is such turmoil at my workplace now that it has put the doubt in my mind, but we have had the day off every year since I have been there--going on 21 years--so I figure we have the day off this year too.

Whatever the case, if I have to, I will simply take the day off. My work can live without me that day.

My son just happens to be off that day, but my wife has to work.

Funny, her place gives her off on Martin Luther King Day, her bank is closed that day, but it is open on Presidents Day.

Go figure.

Oh, I did already.

The PC Police, even without their fearless leader in power anymore, still hangs over us.

Not to lessen the importance of Dr. King, but to have off on that day and not on Presidents Day reeks of political correctness, but heck, it is going to take years to outdo what has already been done.

One step at a time.

And while we are talking about respect, or the lack thereof, let me talk about my workplace again, which is as dysfunctional as it possibly can be.

Related to yesterday's Rant, I was told by the chief operating officer of my company that the company holding my former 401K plan monies rejected the new IRA that I set up with another bank because, well, they didn't accept that fact that it was an IRA that could accept electronic fund transfers.

With me in his office, the COO actually called my bank to make sure of the veracity of my claim, that the account was what I said it was. Evidently, the company sitting on my money did not recognize the account number that I gave as being legitimate, one that they could use to transfer my money to a valid account.

The bank assured the COO that everything was A-OK, and I was left feeling that if there was a hole to crawl in, I would have availed myself of it.

When I left work yesterday--I had to leave 45 minutes early to take my son to his work meeting 40 miles away from my house--I still did not know what was going on with my money.

I got home, and there was a call on my answering machine, from the bank holding my IRA.

I called them three times, I got disconnected three times. I slammed down the phone, and prepared to take my son to his meeting.

Then, with one foot out the door, the phone rang, and I picked it up, and it was the bank.

They told me that they were having phone problems, could not get incoming calls, and that they just wanted to tell me that earlier in the day, everything was straightened out, and that the money would be placed in my new IRA in the coming days.

They told me that the situation was rectified by mid-afternoon.

Funny, nobody told me at my work that everything was fine, and I went home thinking my money was still in limbo.

Nobody said a thing to me about the problem being taken care of.

So, whether talking about Presidents Day or my money, it all comes down to a matter of respect.

I cannot believe that some people today can be so disrespectful to the office of the president and to our president himself, and I cannot believe that my workplace continues to carry an attitude that if it does not impact the company specifically, and only impacts an employee specifically, it is not important.

It is a matter of respect, and has only led to turmoil, both on the national stage and at my workplace.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

It seems such a simple concept, but evidently, it is as difficult for some people to practice as it is for some people to say, "I'm sorry."

Have a good weekend, and speak to you again on Tuesday.

Rant #499 (May 6, 2011): Trumped President



Now that President Obama is surely soaring in the polls after the death of Osama bin Laden, it is time for reasonable people to take a stand.

Say no to Donald Trump for president!

A new poll reports that most New Yorkers don't like the idea of a Trump presidential run.

The NY1-YNN/Marist Poll says that 75 percent of votes in New York disapprove of Trump running for the highest position in our country, while 24 percent favor the real estate magnate/reality TV star.

And what is most interesting, among Republicans--the line he would probably run on--two thirds of voters oppose such a run.

And who do voters want to run against President Obama? Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leads former New York Governor George Pataki and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Honestly, unless a better candidate comes out of the woodwork for the Republicans, I think that President Obama will win in a landslide.

Trump is an absolutely horrible candidate, and his candidacy, if he, in fact, would like to run, has been soured beyond repair by his current attacks on the President's birthplace and school records. He looks like an oaf, and is acting like one.

Guiliani might be a viable candidate, but he has to put his personal life out of the picture, as would Trump if he ran. Both of their personal lives have been at best messy.

The former Governor of New York State is not that well known outside of New York, and since he has been out of office, he has kept a very low profile, so low that he is out of the minds of voters.

New Jersey Governor Christie is a neophyte on the national scene. Perhaps somewhere down the road, but not now.

And Mayor Bloomberg? Don't get me started on him. He is probably the worse candidate out of the entire lot.

Can anyone beat Obama? Certainly not Sarah Palin, who curiously, is keeping a very low profile now. However, she is a skanky as they come, a close second to Bloomberg as the worst possible candidate that the Republicans can put up against the President.

I just don't know who else might want to run, but right now, even though Obama hasn't been a great president, there is no one even near him on the Republican side.

I will bet you, though, that Mickey Mouse will garner plenty of votes this time around, as the character always does. This is how some people show their opposition to the major candidates, and if they want to vote that way, more power to them.

I think that they think the choice is actually no choice.

And the scary thing is that they may actually be right.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rant #1,844: Working in the Coal Mine



“In our society ... those who are in reality superior in intelligence can be accepted by their fellows only if they pretend they are not.”
          — Marya Mannes, writer and broadcast commentator

As many of you know, the company I have worked for for the past nearly 21 years is teetering on oblivion. A few months back, they canceled our 401K plan, and we had to fill out a ton of paperwork so that the money would eventually be sent our way, to respective IRA plans or other financial plans each of us have set up to handle the money.

Evidently, my company had some type of agreement with the company overseeing our 401K—not the company where are accounts were, but a third-party facilitator—that after an undetermined period of time—at least to us workers—the money would be transferred over to our respective accounts.

From what I understand, Tuesday was the day the money was transferred over, but there was a problem with my account. The IRA that I had set up for just this purpose—and had been putting money into over the past several weeks—would not accept an ACH money transfer, so my money could not be sent to the account.

I was told by my employer that I would have to set up the account so that it could accept a transfer of this sort, and at lunchtime yesterday, I went to the bank to have this done.

Little did I know what I was in for.

I was told by my bank that they could not accept ACH money transfers, and that either a check would have to be mailed directly to me or to the bank in order for the money transfer to be made.

I called my work via my cell phone about this, and they told me in no uncertain terms that the money had to be transferred electronically, and there was no further discussion on this, case closed.

However, it says right on the paperwork that I filled out that the money owed us could be transferred either electronically or via paper check.

I brought this up to them, they would not listen, told me to find another bank, and the CEO of our company hung up on me.

I went from bank to bank, and many banks only accept paper bank transfers, and will not accept any other type of transfer into a personal IRA.

Finally, I found a bank that accepted electronic transfers, and I was basically forced to set up an IRA there, even though I have no other accounts with this bank.

I came back to work, and had to fill out more paperwork related to my new IRA at the bank, and I again brought up that the original paperwork stated that paper checks could be cut for such transfers.

I was told the subject was non-negotiable, and our accountant actually walked away from me when I brought this up to her.

I was not nasty, I was not yelling at them, but they put me through the ringer, once again—you might remember my health insurance problem with them—and they forced me to go to a bank that I have no business with and create an account that up until today, I had no idea that I needed.

They have lied to me constantly about matters that they feel do not involve them—yes, the health insurance problem again (which only took a modification to change, finally put in place after 21 years of asking them to drop me from the plan), put off when they would talk about my vacation (I put in for my vacation a month ago, and I am still waiting for an answer), and now this—and really, I do not feel comfortable working in this place at all.

They are completely impossible to work for and with, and I know that I deserve better … and I am working toward that goal, but it is not easy.

I have been yelled at, been treated like I should be happy that they didn’t fire me as we have downsized to next to nothing, and they really feel so big about it. They are little fishes in an even smaller pond, one that is nearly barren of water.


Right now, I just have to dog paddle in that small pond until I find something else. What else can I do?

Classic Rant #498 (May 5, 2011): Thanks Jackie



Jackie Cooper passed away a few days ago. He was 88 and died of old age.

A few months ago, in Rant #333, I gave a pretty decent overview of Cooper's wide ranging career, tied into his birthday. He was an actor, a producer, a director, a writer, an executive, and one of the best remembered and most beloved of the Our Gang alumni.

He basically did it all.

And in a break from tradition, I am going to rerun that Rant right here.

I thought I said it well then, and I don't think I can improve upon it, so here goes:

Jackie Cooper is 88 years old today.

I know that some of you may not know who Jackie Cooper is, but to my generation, this guy was certainly one of our earliest stars, the guy we watched on TV every day as a member of the Little Rascals in the Our Gang comedies.

Sure, those short films were made decades before we were born, and weren't even new when many of our parents were born. But to a kid like me, Jackie Cooper was it.

He starred in the series during the first series of talkies. The Our Gang comedies began in the 1920s as silent features, but by 1930, when sound was being added to film, the Hal Roach Studios followed suit, and gave a voice to those kids that the kids of the 1920s adored.

Cooper was in the series with the first group of kids that became recognizable on TV years later: Farina Hoskins, Chubby Chaney, and although not a kid, who can forget the shorts with Miss Crabtree, the comely teacher who Cooper and all the other boys were in love with?

When TV was searching for material to put on the air to satiate little kids during the medium's earliest days, they dug up the Rascals, and in the 1950s, they were resurrected for a new generation of kids like me. Although not much seen on the air since the 1980s, their films are readily available on home video, and I have to say, when I watch one, I still laugh until I cry.

Spanky, Alfalfa and the others would soon join the series, but those films with Cooper are truly special, showing a youthful innocence that is almost foreign on screen today.

And Cooper was extremely talented, Oscar nominated as a kid for his role in the film "Skippy." He went on to an interesting career as an adult, starring in movies and television shows (remember "The People's Choice" with the talking dog?) through the 1960s. He also became a studio executive with Screen Gems in the mid 1960s, and his battles with one act that came his way, the Monkees, are legendary.

He also starred in the Superman movies of the 1970s and 1980s as Perry White. And he also became a well regarded director.

Although the Our Gang or Little Rascals "curse" is often over-stated, Cooper skirted well beyond any supposed curse and became a versatile "Jackie" of all trades in Hollywood.

There aren't too many of the Rascals left: Cooper, Dickie Moore, Jean Darling, and Robert Blake are just a few of the handful of those kid actors who are still around today.

But Jackie Cooper was probably the best of them all, and today, I want to wish him a happy birthday, and many, many more!


Unfortunately, there won't be any more birthdays for Jackie Cooper, but his work lives on, for many more generations to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rant #1,843: Sing a Simple Song



I don't watch the Grammy Awards telecast.

I can barely remember the last one I watched. I think it was the one that Sylvester Stewart, a/k/a Sly Stewart from Sly and the Family Stone, appeared very briefly on a few years ago.

He had a white mohawk and looked like he had was done for before he started.

I think that was the last one I watched, so it has been some time since viewing one.

And I did not watch the latest edition of this brown-nosing music event, either.

But I found a little tidbit of something interesting related to the Grammy Awards, so I figured I would share it with you.

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, who has won a few Grammy Awards himself, actually had the audacity to say to Australian journalists that Beyonce did not deserve to win the Grammys she was up for over Adele because "she is not a singer."

He finally said something that I do believe many of us already believe, but when it comes out of Santana's mouth, people listen.

He went on to say, "With all respect to our sister Beyonce, Beyonce is very beautiful to look at and it's more like modeling kind of music--music to model a dress--she's not a singer, singer, with all respect to her."

Listen, it is not just Beyonce. Singers today probably can warble, but they don't really sing, in particular I am talking about female singers.

They do a lot of vocal gymnastics, but do they really sing, and can you actually call them singers?

It is all style over substance today.

With all the talk of equality, when a female singer comes out showing half her body to the audience with low cut outfits, she is not showing off her voice, she is showing off her body.

But look, it is her body, and if she wants to give the world a peak at what her significant other sees at regular intervals, heck, that is her choice.

But it does not make her a singer, because she is taking the focus off of her voice, and putting it on her bosom.

And with the big production numbers that they use, and with much of their supposed "live" music actually pre-recorded and lip synced to, the focus is clearly off their voices.

I, also, do not consider Beyonce a singer, nor do I consider just about every contemporary female singer a singer.

They all went to the Whitney Houston school of warbling vocal gymnastics, but are they really singers?

I consider Aretha Franklin a singer.

I also consider Petula Clark a singer.

Heck, I can't stomach the thought of her, but I consider Barbra Streisand a singer.

The song was the centerpiece for them; they were the conveyance through which the song was delivered to the audience though their vocal talents.

These others, the Beyonces of the world, the Madonnas of the world, are not singers.

They use vocal gymnastics to give you the impression they are real singers, but please, don't put them in the same league as Franklin, Clark and Streisand.

Look, Beyonce and Madonna fill the bill for what we consider female singers today. They fit the music that they sing, and they have done very well doing just that.

But they aren't female singers in the true sense, at least in my mind.

In my mind, they are pretenders, poseurs, fill in the blanks warblers who really can't sing themselves out of a paper bag.

And it took Carlos Santana to say what a lot of people have thought about Beyonce for a long time, but wouldn't say anything publicly because, well, you don't knock the current queen of music.

But Santana did.

Good for him, although you just know that there will be a backlash, he will say he was misquoted, etc.

I can see it coming.

But stand your ground, Carlos.

You are absolutely right!

Classic Rant #497 (May 4, 2011): Ohio Anniversary


Now that we can move on from the recent headlines, let's look back at a story that made news 41 years ago today.

Where were you when you heard that Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire during an anti-war protest at Kent State University, and killed four students?

I know this incident doesn't set off memories of "where was I?" like the JFK assassination does, but it still is one of the darkest days of the 1970s.

We were deep into a war in Vietnam, and it was becoming increasingly clear we could not win this conflict. Young men were being sacrificed daily, and the country was becoming more and more divided.

Young people thought that they had a voice, and protests around the country against the war were a daily occurrence.

And then we had Kent State. Students gathered there to protest our entrance into Cambodia, but little did they know that this protest would be etched into history.

Years later, it appears that the National Guardsmen may have lost their cool, and started shooting when the crowd that gathered for an anti-war protest became rowdy.

Bullets flew, and four students were killed.

The famous photo of a woman grieving over one of the dead bodies is a footnote to this incident. Evidently, she was not a student, but a prostitute who meandered over the the protests for whatever reason.

This incident supposedly mobilized Americans to protest the war. Schools around the country closed in a silent memorial to those who were slain.

However, polls taken around the country showed how fractured we really were. In those polls, more than 50 percent blamed the Kent State students for the incident.

Ironically, 10 days later, in a similar protest, two students were killed at Jackson State. You don't hear much about this one, except in the black community.

Now, here we are, 41 years later, and we are still involved in wars in distant lands. Young servicemembers are being sacrificed every day, just like they were in 1970.

Is it all worth it?

I don't have an answer, but all I can say is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rant #1,842: Love Is Strange


Happy Valentines Day to all!

Get your candy, the flowers, the cards and the jewelry today ... if I sound like a carnival barker, I guess that that is what this holiday has come to.

Buy, buy, buy!

But if that is what it takes to show your love, then so be it.

One of the most romantic things that you can do is to sit down with your loved one and watch a movie, and do I have a Valentines Day movie for you ... and it is all for free on YouTube!

It is called "Spider Baby," and honestly, I just discovered this little gem last week while searching for other things. The title grabbed me, and let me tell you, it gave me more than a kiss on the lips when I watched it with my wife this past Saturday evening after we came home from our pre-Valentines Day dinner that I told you about yesterday.

Maybe a kiss of death?

Anyway, "Spider Baby" is a 1964 film--that because of financing problems, did not come out officially until 1968--starring Lon Chaney Jr., yes, the same actor who portrayed the Wolf Man in so many 1940s and 1950s horror flicks.

It can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHfPDRYJaeY.

Chaney plays the chauffeur and the caretaker of the Merrye Family, or the last remnants of the family. He also sings the title song, which should give you a real peak into the weird world you will soon be entering.

Due to interbreeding, the family has a psychological malady named after them, one where the mind, at puberty, actually regresses--in other words, instead of maturing normally, those afflicted with this disease go back to childhood, go back even before that to babyhood, and eventually, the brain basically withers away to nothing.

There are only a few survivors left, and Chaney's character, Bruno, has promised the since-deceased wealthy father of the last remaining younger people afflicted with this disease that he would take care of them forever.

There are three of them, two sisters and one brother.

Enter distant family members, who want to take over conservatorship of the family, for their own nefarious means, and they all come together one day to do just that--or so they think.

Along with the distant relatives are a lawyer and a law assistant, the latter of whom one of the distant relatives falls in love with almost immediately.

All the fun happens after dinner, when the entire brood supposedly retires to rooms in the Merrye mansion.

And it all revolves around a "game" called "Spider," and not only do the people I just described get caught in the Merrye web, but the viewer does, too.

This black and white movie is as macabre as it gets, and you can see where it was quite controversial, even for its time, as it depicts those a little off center in a way that our modern society frowns upon.

That being said, the film has lots to say, but I can't really say more, because it would give away the movie.

I will only say that the film does come to an interesting conclusion, first because of the true anti-hero of the film--Chaney's Bruno--and then it comes to a second conclusion, which is kind of obvious but still fun.

The movie also stars Carol Ohmart, Sid Haig, Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner, and was written and directed by Jack Hill.

The movie has gone under several names, including "The Maddest Story Ever Told," and it was later made into a musical stage show, and there was talk that it would be remade as a film, but that has not yet happened.

The movie has retained a cult following, and a website was created to honor it and its stars, at http://www.spiderbabyonline.com/.

This film is both a comedy and a macabre drama all rolled into one. Maybe it would have been better to see it on Halloween than on Valentines Day, but the love that Chaney's Bruno character has for this strange brood shows just how "strange" love can be at times.

I found the film to be the perfect movie to watch when I watched it with my wife, and I really suggest that you give this film a try.

And to hear Chaney warble the title song is worth the price of admission--which, of course, is nothing, as it is on YouTube, ripe for the taking.

So give "Spider Baby" a whirl.

I guarantee it is a film you won't soon forget.

And don't forget the cards, the candy, the flowers and the jewelry, too!