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Monday, September 26, 2016

Rant #1,758: The Trip of a Lifetime

My wife and I have returned from Korea. We both have very bad jet lag, and it will probably take us a few days to get over it.

But that being said, getting jet lag was well worth it. This really was the trip of a lifetime.

I have no idea where I should begin my recollection of this trip to you, but just let me say that from beginning to end, we and all the other winners of the Kia "Loyalty Has It Rewards" contest from the U.S. and from all over the world were treated like a cross between royalty and movie stars.

We were catered to from top to bottom while we saw the sights in Seoul, South Korea.

And let me tell you, Seoul is one of the most beautiful, modern, upbeat cities in the world.

It resembles Manhattan, but it has its own personality, as do the Koreans.

They are very Western, but mix that in with their native background, and you have a culture that is unique and quite impressive.

We were sited in the Lotte Hotel, one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.

And from that starting point, every day was a new adventure for us.

We saw so many different things ... from temples to steel mills, and everything in between.

We learned about Kia, the company's past, present and future.

They have a new hybrid which will be coming out soon--the Niro--which is sure to be their next big release. It is really impressive looking, and if I was looking for a new car, this might be the one that I would get.

The surprise, at least to me and some of the other people I spoke with, is that we learned just as much about the Korean culture as we did about the car company. For that, we can thank our very able interpreter, who was top-notch, sure to explain everything and to answer any questions we had.

A total of 14 U.S. members of the "Global Ambassador" team were there--six winners, their spouses or companions, and our Kia representative and his spouse. All of us can be seen in the first picture that opened this blog right at the top, as well as a few other winners from around the world.

Other "Global Ambassadors" from all over the world attended, including those from Italy, Israel, Finland, China, Canada and elsewhere.

We learned about the country, we learned about Kia, and we actually dined with the highest level executives from the car company, and spoke with them about our experiences with Kia cars and really, just about anything that came to mind, including baseball, which they love as much as we do over here.

Again, I could go on and on and on about this trip. It was truly amazing. Every whim and desire we might have had was taken care of, and Kia put on a first class show for us.

And again, Seoul was on display to us, and it is truly an amazing city.

Since the Korean War ended more than 60 years ago, the city has built itself up, literally from the ground, and has turned war-torn land into an incredibly modern city, with modern values but with a Korean flair.

My wife and I commented that we have never seen architecture like this, taking small spaces and making those spaces into grand landscapes the likes of which we probably never had seen before.

The first few nights were particularly tough on me, personally, because I had quite a bit of jet lag, so I did not sleep well early on there. But once I got acclimated to where I was--it is 13 hours difference, so right now, as I am typing this, it is approaching 6 p.m. in the afternoon there--it was great.

And the entire trip was not just great, it was stupendous.

I am very proud to be a "Global Ambassador" for Kia, and all of us were presented with awards, accolades and even a sash to show who we now are.

I put the sash in my car, dressed up my car with the various stickers that they gave us, and I hope to watch the video they gave us of our time there time and time again.

My wife and I would like to thank the Kings, who were our U.S. Kia representatives, for keeping everything in order for us.

We would like to thank the city of Seoul for being such a wonderful city to visit. If you every are thinking about visiting Asia, consider going to Seoul. It is truly one of the most beautiful sites on the planet, and probably, the most surprising.

And finally, we want to thank Kia for their hospitality. The car company did an amazing job, and like I told the executives that we dined with, I am now a Kia person for life. I have purchased three Kia cars, and when the time comes, I will purchase a fourth and a fifth and a sixth from them. That is how good their cars are.

And if you are looking for a solid, economical vehicle that will treat you just right, please look into getting a Kia.

I can tell you that you will not be disappointed.

Yes, I am taking my new "job" as a "Global Ambassador" to heart--I want to promote the Kia brand car as much as possible, because I have great reason to.

It is the reason that my wife, my son and I are alive and well to tell you all about it, and how great a product Kia puts out, how progressive they are, and how long sighted they are about their product and their company.

I can't believe that we are home, but we are, and today is my first day back at work.

I guess it is time to return to the normal rigors of the day, but let me tell you, my memories of this trip will make things that much easier to digest.

"I Love Kia" because during my time of greatest need, Kia loved me.

Classic Rant #412 (December 28, 2010): I Don’t Get It … But Evidently He Does (And She Does Too)

Well, I am back.

The time off wasn't too great. We saw "The Little Fockers." Pretty much in one ear, out the other. Nothing with nothing. I guess this is the perfect film for the holiday season, the season where people traditionally don't do too much thinking.

My Internet at home went down again. We had a technician in--during a blizzard no less--and he found the problem. It was outside in the "brain" of the device. It works great now.

And yes, about that blizzard ... I don't think it was as bad as predicted, but that doesn't mean it wasn't bad--it was. We were pretty much housebound the entire weekend, and I must admit I have house-a-tosis.

Anyway, during this time, word came out that Hugh Hefner, who is 84 years old, I do believe, has just gotten himself engaged to one of his 24-year-old blondes that he has parading around his house and starring on various TV shows geared to Playboy.

I don't even know her name, but does it really matter? She is blond, is tall and long-legged, has an enhanced figure, and is 60 years younger than her husband to be.

What is it with this guy? It has to be the money. Why else would a 24 year old woman shack up with an 84 year old man?

It can't possibly be anything else but cash, or the payday she thinks she will get when he kicks off. Not to say Hugh has one foot in the grave, but don't tell me that she is marrying him for his good looks and humor.

Well, he has announced that he can still do it (thanks, Viagra!), but still, what can a 24 year old see in a man who is more than three times her age?

He is old enough to be her grandfather ... and her great grandfather.

This is the guy you want to bring home to your parents, who are probably themselves old enough to be his children?

I have a 22 year old daughter. If she brought home an 84 year old guy and looked for my approval, I don't care how much money he has, I would roll my eyes and wonder what my daughter was up to.

Hefner has kids ranging from into their 50s down to their young 20s. You think Hef's younger kids aren't taking notice of their dad's new bimbo?

And what about the older ones--this girl could be their own kid!

I don't get it, but of course, he does.

It's real good for his image, and maybe he can make another kid with this wife, his third.

On her end, financially, it will probably set her for life, especially if she can get pregnant and have a child.

But again, I say this:

Only in America ... and congrats!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Rant #1,757: Bon Voyage

The time is nearly here, and my wife and I are excited as we can be about our trip to Korea.

As one of the winners of the Kia "Loyalty Has Its Rewards" contest that I have spoken about a few times here, the day seemed so far away, and now, in 24 hours, my wife and I will be on our way to Seoul, Korea, to enjoy our grand prize with other winners from the United States and around the world.

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive car with all the perks--including safety features, features that saved my family and I from heaven knows what in our car accident of more than two years ago--Kia might be the way for you to go.

I have bought three Kia cars over the past several years, and I have been quite happy with all of them.

Anyway, enough with the commercial--what about the trip?

First, tomorrow, on Saturday morning, we will be flying to Los Angeles on a six-hour trip, into LAX, and then, we will stay for the remainder of the day and overnight at a hotel right near the airport.

There will be a reception for us--the six U.S. winners, their spouses or whoever is accompanying them, and a Kia representative and his spouse--and then we rest up for our big trip the next day.

Early on Sunday morning, we will be flying to Seoul, Korea, on a 13-hour trip, and with all the time changes and everything, I am sure we will be pooped, and the hotel we are staying at is a five-star international hotel, so I am sure the beds will be comfy.

Then, it is five days of fun in Seoul. They have a pretty tight itinerary of things we are going to do--from visiting historic sites, including temples, and visiting the Kia plant, to shopping, visiting a Korean festival, eating at fine restaurants, you name it, they have it planned for us.

We will be there with the other U.S. winners, and winners from other countries; this is the second leg of this event, with the first happening last week. Based on the photos my wife and I saw that were posted from the first group of winners, we are really in for a terrific time there.

It will be five days in Seoul, and then we go back home on a whirlwind day where we leave Seoul, fly into Los Angeles, and then directly fly home--all in one day.

But it will all be worth it, I am sure.

So usually, when I go on vacation, I put up photos of Annette Funicello from the beach movies, but today, to honor Korea and Seoul, I have put up some photos of Korean ladies frolicking on the beach and in the water; I'm sure Annette would understand.

(I don't know if we will get to any beaches during our trip, but maybe we can at least get into a pool.)

It doesn't feel right, so I will also include this Annette photo; I'm sure Annette would be happy.

So bon voyage to my wife and I; this blog will shut down for about a week, and then I will be back to tell you all about the trip.

So until then, be good and I will be back soon.

Speak to you then!

Classic Rant #411 (December 23, 2010): My Favorite Christmas Song

As a good Jewish person, I collect numerous singles, LPs and digital material related to the Christmas holiday.

You have to understand that there are so few Hanukkah novelty records, videos and such, although they do exist.

And I am not talking about Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song," which I absolutely abhor (it is a ripoff of an earlier song which I think was called "People Who Are Jews," but I can't remember the performer, although it was released on Rhino Records years ago.)

Anyway, a good Jew like me has plenty of stuff in my record collection, everything from Squeeze's "Christmas Day" to Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," and probably everything in between.

And yes, I know that good Jews Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow have all recorded albums of Christmas music, but nothing for their own holiday. No, I don't have them in my collection. I guess I am not as good a Jew as they are.

But let me point you in the direction of my favorite Christmas song. It has been my favorite since 1967, or whenever I first heard it. But it wasn't officially released for some two decades later, although it had been bootlegged continuously since it was shown on national television back in the 1960s.

It is a Christmas song that doesn't even have the word "Christmas" in it.

It isn't even in English.

The song that I am talking about is ...

"Riu Chiu" by the Monkees.

This song is in Spanish, and if you translate it, it is about Christ and the Nativity and many other themes related to the holiday.

But I know that the actual term "Riu Chiu" doesn't translate into English because it actually doesn't mean anything. I think it is the writer's interpretation of the "chirp" of a nightingale.

Anyway, the Monkees performed this on their Christmas episode in 1967. You might remember the episode. A rich, spoiled and friendless young boy--played by Butch Patrick right after "The Munsters" ended its run--is taught the meaning of the holiday by Micky, Peter, Mike and Davy.

I mean, who better to teach the kid this than the Monkees?

The song comes near the end of the episode, and the beautiful vocals will really surprise you. And you thought these guys didn't have talent?

There are a few versions of this song that are available on CDs and on the Internet. The first is the TV version I described above, with all four Monkees participating. The second is a recorded version with all four Monkees, and the third is a recorded version with producer Chip Douglas added to the vocal mix.

But the song is beautiful in all of its incarnations. I have always enjoyed it.

So please watch and listen to the song, and have a very merry holiday.

As a good Jew, I am taking a little Christmas break myself, and will be back here next Tuesday.

Have a great holiday.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rant #1,756: Rhyme Time

Today is a pretty normal day on the calendar, and quite frankly, work is pooping me out right now.

We have been so busy that I seemingly can't stand up for falling down.

So today, I thought I would take it really light here, and I mean, really, really light.

Which I think is bright because I am not as high as a kite, but still have that fight.

So today, with some rhyme and reason, I am going to celebrate what would have been the 98th birthday of the clown prince of rhyme, Nipsey Russell.

Born Julius Russell in Atlanta, Georgia in 1918, he was ubiquitous on the small tube in the 1960s and 1970s, but the road was a long one for him, as it was for many, many comedians and others who performed on the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit" in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Along with other comics like Redd Foxx, Slappy White and LaWanda Page, Russell toiled on the all-black nightclub circuit during this period, and he got his big break on TV variety shows, which were always looking for talent, like "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Although not as X-rated a comic as Foxx could be, Russell's act could be slightly risque, using his propensity at rhyming to create some really funny double entendre situations, some of which you can still hear on vintage albums released during that period. I have heard a few of them, and they are quite funny, in a sort of PG-13 rated way.

But network TV at the time would have none of that, so Russell, always clad in some type of sweater or outer jacket, cleaned himself up a little for the small screen, and it paid really big dividends for him.

He was one of the first regular characters of color on network TV, appearing as the phone operator on the classic "Car 54, Where Are You." Ironically, during his entire time on that show, he seemingly had few lines, odd for somebody who made wordplay his living, but it was a start.

A few years later, he was the first black performer ever to become a regular on a game show, on the short-lived game show "Missing Links," and this was just a preview of what was to come, making his name a household word.

He was on just about every variety and talk show there was in the 1960s, but he really made his mark in the late 1960s and 1970s as a fixture on game shows, and especially on game shows where he could use his wordplay to the hilt, such as "Match Game," "What's My Line," "Hollywood Squares" and "Password."

He really honed his rhyming skills during this period, and he became to be known as television's "poet laureate." He was so good at what he did that game shows often gave him a couple of seconds prior to game play to recite one of his poems.

During this period and into the 1980s, he was featured in several TV shows and movies, including the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical, "The Wiz," as the tin man.

As TV was opening up and getting a bit more brazen, Russell seemingly did not fit into that framework anymore, and in the 1980s, he was seen less and less on regular TV. He did appear frequently as a late night talk show guest, in particular with Conan O'Brien.

He died on October 2, 2005, at age 87.

It is only right that I end this with one of his self-penned poems. After looking for a few minutes for one that fit just right, I took this trio of Russell's short poem's off his Wikipedia entry, because, well, the fit just right.

"What is the secret of eternal youth?
The answer is easily told;
All you gotta do if you wanna look young
Is hang out with people who are old."

"If you ever go out with a schoolteacher,
You're in for a sensational night;
She'll make you do it over and over again
Until you do it right."

"The young people are very different today;
And there's one sure way to know;
Kids used to ask where they came from;
Now they'll tell you where you can go!"

Classic Rant #410: What Do Jews Do On Christmas?

This is a seemingly age-old question.

With much of the country celebrating Christmas, what do those that don't celebrate this holiday do on December 25?

Well, I can't speak for Muslims, atheists, or other groups that don't celebrate the holiday, but I can speak for Jewish people, since I am one.

Rather than go with the flow, like many Jews do--and what I mean by that is that they actually have the audacity to set up their homes as if they celebrated Christmas, including lighting Hanukkah bushes--many Jews, including myself, take a philosophical approach to the whole thing.

We look at it as a day off, and little more.

Sure, the rest of the world, or at least our world, celebrates this holiday, and we are bombarded by the media so we don't forget that fact.

But for me, it is simply a day off.

Sure, this year it is on a Saturday, so I would have the day off anyway, but we get days off surrounding the holiday that we normally wouldn't have off.

So we take slight advantage of being off on the holiday, but really, only a slight advantage.

You've probably heard the term "Jewish Christmas." I find this truly repugnant, but to illustrate what many Jews do on Christmas, I am using it here. I also posted a photo of a Jewish Christmas ornament. Yes, I find this pretty repugnant too.

What Jews do on Christmas while they have a day off is to go to the movies and eat either kosher deli or Chinese food.

Yes, that is what we do.

The movies have always been open on Christmas for as long as I can remember. So we take our families and see whatever movies are playing.

And as for eating, well, the standard used to be that kosher deli and Chinese food were the only things available on Christmas day, but that is changing.

Many fast food restaurants now open on Christmas Day. I know that Burger King started this practice a few years ago, and now other such establishments are following suit.

Honestly, I have no problem with this. I am sure they are paying their workers (or at least I hope they are paying their workers) double and triple overtime for working this day. And on my end, why should I not have this choice of food if that is what I want (probably not, but I should still have the choice).

So now you know what Jews do on Christmas. I am sure many of us go visiting our non-Jewish friends on this day, but it is really funny, most Jews I know go to the movies and eat Chinese food on December 25.

This year, Christmas is even more of a holiday for us, because Hanukkah was so early this year, kind of blending into Thanksgiving. Next year, it will be slightly before Christmas, so everyone can all celebrate at once.

Sometimes, it is nice being on the outside looking in.