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Friday, October 30, 2015

Rant #1,543: Happy Halloween

The most non-holiday of all of what we consider to be "major" holidays during the year comes up on Saturday.

It is Halloween and as an adult in this world we live in, to me it is much ado about nothing.

It seems that little kids still love the holiday, and older people of all ages who are perhaps having their own senior moments love this holiday, too.

To me, this is a kid's holiday, plain and simple.

To have adults get all riled up about the holiday is nonsense.

We are in the process of making a kids' holiday into something that it isn't, and was never meant to be, at least in the current sense of what Halloween is.

I was probably the first person in my family to partake of Halloween.

My parents certainly didn't.

Back when they were kids, this holiday was thought to be a non-Jewish holiday, and many Jews didn't participate in the holiday, nor did they participate in Valentine's Day festivities, because, after all, it is Saint Valentine's Day, isn't it?

Anyway, by the 1950s and 1960s and into the early 1970s, the commercialization of Halloween began, pretty much in parallel with the emergence of TV as our entertainment medium of choice.

My mom bought my costumes as a little kid, and I do remember going as Superman one year.

As I got older and we moved to the 20-building Rochdale Village development in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, I would go alone through our building, or with my friends and/or my younger sister.

Yes, one year she got pins in her apple. We knew who did it, but in those days, you just threw the apple into the garbage pail. It was an old woman who did it--why would we want to do anything to her? It was bad enough she had wanted to do it to us.

Anyway, by the time I was in by near teens or early teens, I didn't even dress up anymore, going from apartment to apartment and building to building to get bags and bags of candy and money.

I remember that someone I knew was jumped for his candy one year. Another year, we had eggs thrown at our door.

The holiday was starting to become a time for more tricking than treating, I guess.

Move to the 1980s and 1990s, and adults began to get into Halloween too deeply. There were always adult parties for the holiday, but not only weren't parents letting their kids go out by themselves anymore--certainly reflecting the changing times--but they were now having their own parties.

Yes, it was getting ridiculous, with even more marketing going into adult costumes than ones for little kids.

Now, we still have the holiday, but it cannot possibly be as glorious or as fun as what my generation experienced as kids.

It is too structured, the kids only go where the parents let them, and some parents use the holiday to make political statements, using their own children as the "models" for this nonsense.

I recently saw a post on Facebook where some parents really went too far, I thought, to make a point.

They dressed up their sons--probably around five to eight years old or so--in Cheech and Chong outfits that it appears were crafted just for the occasion by mom and dad.

Well, say what you want, but No. 1, the kids couldn't possibly know who Cheech and Chong are or were, second, I doubt they chose these costumes themselves, and three, sorry, using your kids to make a point during Halloween is not the right thing to do.

I know the pro-marijuana lobby is strong, but please, if you think that smoking pot is good, fine, but please, don't involve your kids in your own personal claptrap.

And then we have the manufacturers who want to dress up pre-teen girls like little tarts, way before they need to even know about such things.

Revealing outfits, leaving little to the imagination, is one thing on women who supposedly know what they are doing. Putting such outfits on little girls just a few years out of diapers is just something so reprehensible that I cannot believe that parents buy this stuff for their daughters.

And as the parent of a daughter, no, I won't show a picture of a kid in one of these outfits. It really is disgraceful.

No, Halloween is not the same as it once was, and I am very happy to say that I was around when Halloween was nothing but fun, fun and more fun.

Leave the political messages somewhere else, but don't promote this stuff on Halloween.

It just isn't right.

Happy trick or treating (mostly treating, I hope), and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Classic Rant #195 (February 16, 2010): Antidote to Snow: Batter Up!

We received more snow today. Mostly mush, but having it fall on top of what we already have is like pouring salt on an open wound; it is going to hurt no matter which way you turn.

We have gotten a lot more snow than we normally get. I think in my part of the world, we have already reached and exceeded the average for the winter--and there is still 12 days more in February, the full month of March and the beginning of April to deal with.

We will all dutifully dig out, and make the best of it. But there is one antidote to all the white stuff that makes us see light at the end of the tunnel:

Spring training!

Yes, Major League Baseball's spring training camps in both Florida and Arizona are both just about ready to open. Early camp is already open to those players who like to report early.

The regular season is less than two months away!

Baseball represents so much more than any other sport on the American landscape. It represents renewal, nostalgia, and yes, a bit of tedium, as the season plays out over a six-month span.

But it also represents the summer, the heat, the humidity, the sun, sunburn, tans, bikinis ... in other words, heat.

During the summer, as we watch our favorite team make a go for the World Series--won by my team, the Yankees, last season--we will look back at the winter of 2009/2010 without too many fond memories.

But it will be behind us, as we bask in 90 degree heat.

And that is the best thing.

The sweat on our brow will not come from shoveling snow in an endless flurry of disgust; it will come from the sun pulsing on our bodies.

And that type of sweat I kind of like.

So shovel your snow, and be careful about it, but also think that in just two months, this will pretty much be history ...

And "Play Ball!" will be the rallying cry, not "Go Out and Clean the Driveway!"

I can't wait, can you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rant #1,542: The World Has Changed In Just A Single Day

Let me explain to you how the world has changed, and how different it is today than it was even yesterday.

In the midst of the World Series, Derek Jeter now, reportedly, is an engaged man.

Good for him, and good for actress/model Hannah Davis, who evidently is set to become Mrs. Jeter sometime in the near future.

I respect Jeter for not marrying when he was playing. I am sure his full focus was on being the shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Yeah, I want to believe that.

But now, if the union does not work, Davis cannot claim millions from Jeter, because she wasn't married to him during his playing days.

Yes, the world has changed. Most people didn't think of such things way back when. They thought of love.

And I am not saying that Jeter and Davis are even thinking of this, but you can bet that there are people who ARE thinking about this, like Jeter's manager, his agent, even his family.

I wish them many years of happiness, and I also know that, as usual, there will be denials every which way about his intentions.

I say, "Do it already!"

And then we come to the poor Beatles.

As of yesterday, John, Paul, George and Ringo amassed the most top 10 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts, but today, they don't have that record anymore.

One Direction does.

For most of you who don't know, One Direction is this generation's flavor of the month, a boy band that like the others that preceded it, will probably be forgotten in a year or so.

But right now, they are hot as hot is, and every song they release digitally makes the Top 10, and that is how they broke the Beatles' long-standing record, one that dates from about 1971 or so.

But this is as bogus as it comes, to be honest with you.

The delivery method is so different, that to compare what the Beatles did to what One Direction did is literally like comparing apples and oranges.

In the old days, kids had to run out and buy the singles that they liked, and that, mixed with radio play, determined chart position. So they had to get up, rush out to their favorite store, and buy the single.

And a lot of the Beatles' most popular songs were never released as physical singles, such as "Michelle," so while they garnered tons of airplay, kids could not buy them as 45s, so they never counted on the Hot 100 chart.

Today, the charts are run much differently.

Everything is tied into digital files, and while one can legally (or illegally) download song files, it is simply so much easier to obtain a file of a song you like--via iTunes and similar sites--that it is quite unfair to compare what the Beatles did to what One Direction did.

The method for composing the charts is different, so really, you have to have an asterisk next to what One Direction has done.

It's like there are two sets of charts, and one--singles, actual physical singles, from 1955 to about 2000 or so--and the other--from 2000 to the present, representing the digital era--cannot ever be compared to the other.

The next thing I will hear is the One Direction has the record for most total singles placed on the Hot 100 chart ... but Elvis Presley's record was broken years ago by the cast of the TV show "Glee."

No, you simply cannot compare instant downloads with buying actual 45s, I don't care what Billboard's charts say.

And we will end this with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who just the other day was going to appear at a slain police officer's funeral--and then decided not to show up, to prevent, what he claims, a circus being created around his appearance.

Yes, there would certainly have been a circus created by him being there, but he blames everyone but himself for this.

Yes, he was invited to the latest police funeral by the slain officer's family, although that was rebuked by the officer's fiancee, who said very publicly that she did not want him there because of his stance on those who protect us.

He is anti-cop, you know, a racial rabble rouser whose presence at such a solemn affair would have been akin to Hitler attending a Passover seder.

His ridiculous rants have helped charge up the anti-police sentiment that we have in New York City and around the country today, and let me tell you, it is bad enough that Mayor Bill deBlasio was present at the funeral, because he is no better than Sharpton is.

So yes, the world has changed.

Just a few days ago, I could not say that Derek Jeter was going to be a married man, the Beatles would be upstaged by New Direction, and the Rev. Al would not show up at a funeral that he dearly wanted to attend to make a political statement.

The first change is nice, the second one is ridiculous and the third one puts a gag on someone who talks way too much and who is given too much credence by those whose lives are run by the PC Police.

Yes, I guess in small batches, change IS good.

Classic Rant #194 (February 15, 2010): Rochdale Reunion 2010

Periodically, I am going to be giving everyone an update on an event I have been planning for the past month or so. Even though most of you did not have the same growing up experience I had, I think most baby boomers--and some people younger or older--might be interested.

It involves a reunion of the kids--now in their 50s and 60s--who grew up in this weird, strange place that I have spoken about previously, Rochdale Village, in South Jamaica, Queens.

Built over the remains of the famed Jamaica Racetrack, this is a 20-building cooperative housing development that still bustles in that community. But back slightly less than 50 years ago, my family--and hundreds of other families--were the pioneers of this place, an experimental urban living development that both prospered and failed at the same time during the turbulent 1960s.

We were the development's first residents, and we were the ones who were burdened with making the place a success--or going down the tubes with it as a failure. In retrospect, I think we did a little bit of both.

(And yes, the picture with this rant is me, circa 1965 or 1966, when I was in the development's Little League there. I look like Derek Jeter, don't I?)

Without going into the whys and wherefores of the development. my New Years resolution this year was to reconnect with a lot of the people I grew up with. Even though it has been more than 40 years since I saw a lot of these people, we are kind of joined at the hip because of our experiences growing up in the his wonderful--and at the same time frustrating--place.

I lived there from the age of seven to 14--my formative years--and I have so many memories of the place I could probably fill a good book with them.

So, I got on my high horse about a month ago and proclaimed that we would have a reunion--at my house. The "at my house" theme is important, because that is how we used to invite people over to our dwellings back then, even though we all lived in apartments, not homes.

So far, this reunion has touched a nerve with a lot of people. I have opened up a Facebook site to bring everyone together, and I have over 100 members, and more than 25 confirmations. People may be coming in from all over the country for this thing.

If you are interested in seeing what is going on--or perhpas you are a Rochdale Village baby boomer too--just go into Facebook and look up Rochdale Village Reconnecton Reunion-Summer 2010.

Even if you are not a former resident of this development--which at the time I lived there was a largest cooperative living development in the world--you might be interested in visiting.

I will provide periodic updates on this event during the next five months as I prepare for this gathering.

It should be fun.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rant #1,541: Insomniac's Call

I am in the middle of a bout with insomnia, or at least what I call insomnia.

I simply cannot sleep through the night.

My allergies are bad, which is probably causing this malaise, but whatever the case, I have been up for about an hour as I write this, and it is barely 3 a.m. in the morning.

I go to bed without the least bit of a problem. I watched as much of the World Series as I could yesterday--through Curtis Granderson's home run, which put the Mets ahead in a game that would eventually take 14 innings, with the Royals somehow outlasting the Mets--and I slept for about three hours, got up briefly, went back to sleep, and slept about another two hours.

And that is it for me.

I woke up with a bit of a lump in my throat from my allergies, but I feel fine as I type this.

I feel tired, but not enough to go back to sleep.

This past night, I had no nightmares or dreams that I remember, although since this bout with insomnia--which has lasted a week or maybe 10 days or so--I have had some doozy dreams, most of which I can't remember.

One concerned going to the dentist (which I have to do tomorrow after work), being locked up in a room with singer John Mellencamp (?!), and losing my glasses in the batch of different glasses he took out of his pocket.

Think Fred Sanford's glasses draw from "Sanford and Son," and you know what I am talking about.

And by the way, was there a stolen base during the World Series last night?

Taco Bell announced that if and when there is a stolen base during the World Series, it is free breakfast on them.

Simply drive up to your local Taco Bell and you get a free breakfast sandwich when there is a swipe during the championship round.

I haven't checked the box score, but it is something that is good to know.

Too bad one of the teams can't sign up Rickey Henderson, just to get that stolen base each game.

He must be in his late 50s, but I bet he can still steal a base, especially when the incentive is for a Taco Bell breakfast sandwich for fans, and a win for his respective team for the players.

They can afford much more than a breakfast sandwich ... word is that the winners and losers of the World Series will record a record payoff this season, and for some of the younger players, the payoff will be more than their average salaries.

Now back to my insomnia ... what is causing it?

As I said earlier, my allergies have been haywire the past several weeks. The weather is unsettled, and that isn't helping matters.

It is supposed to rain today, but the weather is supposed to be a very un-fall-like 65 or so, and later in the week, it is supposed to hit 70 in my neck of the woods.

That is way too warm for late October.

That must be affecting my sleep and my allergies.

Other than that, I have no idea. Perhaps I should try to go to bed a little later, but I do feel tired by 9:30 or 10 p.m., so I go to sleep.

Maybe I should push it, like I do when the Yankees are in the World Series, and stay up way past my normal bedtime during World Series game nights.

But I simply don't have the rooting interest to do so in this World Series.

I have an idea--let me stay up to see if there is a stolen base in the next game, and I will make it that I cannot go to sleep until that stolen base comes.

Heck, I want that Taco Bell breakfast sandwich.

My luck, the swipe will come in the first inning, or perhaps in the 20th if the game goes that far.

And as I asked before, was there a stolen base in last night's 14-inning contest?

I have no idea, but there was no way I was going to make it to 14 innings waiting for one to happen, either.

Nope, that is not a way to cure my insomnia.

Rickey Henderson, where are you when we need you? Maury Wills?

How about Johnny Damon?

Classic Rant #193 (February 12, 2010): Father of the Frisbee Flings Out

I heard that the inventor of what became known as the Frisbee died Tuesday. His name is Frederick Morrison, and if I just told you his name without mentioning the Frisbee, you probably wouldn't have known who I was talking about.

Anyway, from throwing pie tins with his soon to be wife, to working on this thing to get it down to what it eventually became, and to linking this thing with the UFO craze in the 1950s, Morrison, maybe unwittingly, created one of the greatest toys ever.

It simpleness really defined its bravado. Just fling this thing, and it will fly. There really weren't any other directions.

Sure, when his idea was bought by Wham-O, and he received lifetime royalties from this sale, the company took the toy to new heights. There is a certain way to fling it for maximum effect, and there are tournaments around the world for the best Frisbee throwers. And there have been variations on the theme, like Frisbee Golf.

But, when all is said and done, it all came from the mind, hard work, and aggressiveness of its developer.

I had one of those early ones, the red one that literally looked like a flying saucer. It ended up breaking, somehow splitting in the middle, rendering it useless. I should have kept it as an artifact of the time, but who knew from this in the mid 1960s?

Anyway, we owe a slight debt to Morrison, because this is a toy what just about everyone can say that they have played with at some time in their life. Certainly for baby boomers like me, that's true.

So Mr. Morrison, rest in peace. You did real good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rant #1,540: Another World

I have not written about professional wrestling in quite a while, so today, in the midst of the start of baseball's World Series, the beginning of the NBA season, and the continuance of the NHL and NFL seasons, this is the sport I am going to write about today.

And yes, it is a sport, but it is really equal parts sports and entertainment, which makes it somewhat different than the other "real" sports, but not THAT much different.

The other sports used to be about pure athleticism. Now, it is about three quarters athleticism and one quarter entertainment, and that percentage is changing all the time.

Anyway, the WWE--the top wrestling organization in the world--has created its own universe with its own set of rules. Millions of people buy into this universe, and if you do, fine, if not, that is fine, too.

The WWE is coming off a good pay-per-view show, "Hell In a Cell," which isn't really a pure pay-per-view show anymore, as it is available that way, but most viewers watch it through their subscription to the highly successful WWE Network. All payer-view events run by the WWE are like this now.

Boy, the naysayers were out on that network when it started a few years back, saying that it could not work as sort of a Netflix of pro wrestling, but millions of subscribers around the world will tell you just how wrong that prognostication was.

Anyway, back to "Hell In a Cell" ...

The show featured the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesner, which to wrestling is sort of like the 1927 Yankees going against the 1961 Yankees, the best of the sport vs. the best of the sport, at least in current terms.

It was held in a cage, yet, and there was blood, but when all was said and done, Lesnar came out bloody, but victorious.

Anyway, the WWE heavyweight champion, Seth Rollins, also won his bout versus Kane, and there were several other good matches, including one that brought back Alberto Del Rio into the fold (another story for another time).

Anyway, on last night's Raw episode, winners of the matches from the pay-per-view show--less the woman's match winner--fought in what they call a "Fatal Four Way"--which is pretty much self explanatory--to determine who would be the No. 1 contender to Rollins' heavyweight belt.

Roman Reigns came out the winner, so at some future date, he will undoubtedly face his former partner for that cherished belt.

Reigns and Rollins were part of "The Shield," one of the most popular groups of wrestlers ever. The threesome--including Dean Ambrose--took the WWE by storm a few years back, first as villains and later as babyface good guys.

They were young, they were brash, and they had that look that the WWE loves, so each member of The Shield has gone onto some measure of success, both as a member of that group and as a solo.

The storyline has been that Rollins won the championship belt with the backing of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who currently run the WWE as "The Authority." The real life husband and wife--who do, in fact, run the WWE besides Stephanie's dad, Vince McMahon--have done everything in their power to keep Rollins at the top spot, but he does have to keep wrestling worthy opponents to keep the belt.

Now we have Roman Reigns, in real life part of the Samoan-American wrestling family that has had many wrestlers on the WWE roster for generations, including Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock in wrestling circles.

Reigns--The Rock's cousin-- has now been deemed ready to grab this title belt, and the word is that he will do so, sometime in the near future.

Sure, the matches are set up, the outcome is predetermined, and any schooled wrestling observer--from age nine to 99--pretty well knows what is going to happen, but watching it all unfold is where the fun is.

And the WWE is fun right now, because it has been somewhat rejuvenated by Ms. McMahon and Triple H--real name Paul Levesque--the young'uns who have injected a bit of youthful enthusiasm into the proceedings.

Vince McMahon, in his 70s, simply can't do this anymore, having a connection with the youthful audience that the WWE needs to keep it going. So although he still technically runs the show, his daughter and Triple H are the ones making the major decisions, and they have made themselves the quintessential heels, and have shaped the organization to continue to celebrate its past while looking to the future.

Mr. McMahon simply can't so that with the current audience. His successors, his real life daughter and son in law, have shown that they can.

So yes, pro wrestling is a farce, and that is the way it is supposed to be.

But don't put it down that much, because it is incredibly successful, very well done, and puts out hours of original programming each week that can only be compared to the output that the few soap operas still on the air put out.

And much of it is live programming, where everything and anything can happen, and often does.

So just sit back and relax, and the let the wrestlers--yes, they are both athletes and entertainers--do their thing.

But as the warning goes, don't do what they do at home.

No body slams, no suplexes, no sleeper holds at home.

All that you are required to do is sit back in your easy chair and take it all in.

Classic Rant #192 (February 11, 2010): No Newspaper, No Newspaper Is Not Necessarily Good News

I am a traditionalist. I like to get an actual newspaper delivered to my home in the morning, and read it while I eat breakfast.

Today, with the remnants of the blizzard still around, I shoveled at about 5 a.m. in the morning (after shoveling several times yesterday), walked the dog, and sat down to eat breakfast.

But I did not have a newspaper to read while I ate breakfast.

Believe me, with the weather conditions as they are, I am not blaming the carriers, generally adults who are doing this for the few extra dollars it gives them each month. I will let you know that several years ago, while going through my divorce, I also did this type of work for slightly over a year, to get myself above water. It was the easiest, hardest job I ever had. I generally respect the carriers.

Anyway, I went back outside after finishing breakfast, did some more shoveling, and still there was no newspaper. It is after 7:30 a.m. in the morning now as I type this, and I don't know if we ever received our newspaper.

I know newspapers are a dying breed. More and more, we are getting our news from the Internet. Every newspaper worth its salt has a Web site, and many are even charging for the right to read their full content online.

But I like the look, the feel, and the ease of convenience provided by a real newspaper in the morning.

Sure, I could get my news off the Internet. But you know, even with two laptops and one desktop at my disposal, I just can't see reading this stuff while I am chowing down on my first meal of the day.

What's more, I am on the Internet all day at work ... I don't want to start off the day with it.

Sure, some would call me old fashioned. I know my daughter gets her news 100 percent off the Internet, and probably hasn't read a newspaper in years.

But that is her generation.

Newspapers are going out of business, cutting back with information, and they are not the same newspapers that I grew up with. They are thinner, sleeker, and have far less information than they used to.

But I still like the format. I love starting with the back page--sports--finishing that section, and turning to the front of the paper for the harder news.

Sure, it sounds like a relic, like the LP record, but even records are making a comeback. People simply prefer them--with all their nuances--to CDs.

I feel the same way about my newspaper, and I have to say, it was like missing an old friend today.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Rant #1,539: A Royal Welcome

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for winning the American League pennant for the second year in a row.

They somehow outlasted the team that I picked for the American League representative for the World Series, the Toronto Blue Jays, in as an exciting six game series as you would ever want to see.

The Royals will now face the New York Mets in the World Series.

It is the first World Series ever to pit two expansion era teams head to head, and that is really saying something, since the World Series dates back more than 100 years, and the expansion era began in 1961.

Prior to 1961, there were eight teams in each league, and by 1962, there were 10 teams in each league. The Mets began play in 1962, as did the then-National League Houston Colt 45s, who are now the American League Houston Astros.

The Royals came around in 1969, several years after the original Kansas City team, the Athletics, moved to Oakland. They were joined by the Seattle Pilots, later renamed the Mariners, in the class.

And here is another little footnote to the World Series that you might not know: the Kansas City Royals are another team from Missouri; they are not from Kansas.

Anyway, two pretty good teams will be competing in the World Series this season, and I was right about the Mets, wrong about the Royals.

But I will make up for that by stating that the Royals will win the World Series.

They were in it last year, came thisclose to beating the San Francisco Giants, but they fell short.

Not this season.

Although the Mets have the clear edge in starting pitching, I don't think the Mets can compete in any other area with the Royals, from overall hitting to defense to relief pitching.

Of course, in a series like this, anything can happen, and probably, will happen.

But I just think that at least on paper, the Royals have the clear, overall edge.

These appear to be two teams on a clear mission to bring back the trophy to their respective cities after a lapse of many years, and I think that you can't count out either team.

I don't think the Royals are the clear favorite over the Mets, but I think the Royals will win this battle.

But I could be wrong.

The Mets' starting pitching could wipe out the Royals' hitting right out of the gate, and make whatever I am saying moot points.

But I just don't think that is going to happen.

I think the Royals will single, double and triple the Mets into submission. They take a lot of pitches, too, so they will wear down the Mets' staff.

And once they get into the Mets' bullpen, I think the Royals will exploit that weakness into a personal gain for them.

But again, I could be wrong.

Whatever happens, it begins on Tuesday, and should be an excellent series, no matter how long it goes.

MLB hopes it goes seven games.

I think it will go six games, with the Royals winning 4-2.

It all begins in Kansas City, and the Royals have home field advantage, which could be to their advantage, too.

Let's see what plays out.

Classic Rant #191 (February 10, 2010): Snow Day

Yes, I took a snow day today, and that is why this rant will be a short one.

Why do companies treat you as if you are a criminal when you take a day off like this?

My son is home, my wife is home, the roads are treacherous at best, the snow continues to come down ... all reasons to stay home today.

Yet, my place of work has no clear definition of what a day off because of such hazardous conditions mean.

Last year, during a similar day, I actually trudged in. I asked the vice president of our company if we were open, and he never gave me a clear answer. I asked the publisher/owner of the company, and I got the same non-response.

We were never let go early, we worked a full day, and I took my life in my hands coming to work that day--all because there was no clear definition of the penalty for taking a day off like this.

And a year later, there still isn't. But I said last year that I would never be duped into going to work under such circumstances again. And I wasn't.

We are a small company, not a mega-conglomerate. You would think that a weather policy would be in place.

But I don't care. I took the day off because it was the safest thing to do for both myself and my family.