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Monday, November 30, 2015

Rant #1,562: Thaksgiving Laundry List

Here is my laundry list of Thanksgiving-related things I want to talk about today.

Thanksgiving Day: My Thanksgiving Day went very well, how did yours go?

My wife was the designated chief cook and bottle washer for the day, and as usual, she came through with flying colors.

We had a houseful of people, including her father, who has been in the hospital for months, and everything went well.

The bird was good, all the side stuff was fine, and everyone had a great time.

Thanksgiving really is the best holiday of them all, because it is the one national holiday where we truly celebrate family. And yes, I continued my holiday tradition, by watching ...

"March of the Wooden Soldiers": This is truly one of the greatest movies of all time, maybe not as good as "The Wizard of Oz" but as a fantasy movie, it runs second to that one in both whimsy and fun.

Laurel and Hardy are truly at their best in this film, and I look forward to watching it on Thanksgiving Day, but this year, I did it a little bit differently.

Usually, I just watch it locally here in New York on Channel 11, where they show it in color.

This year, I watched it on YouTube in black and white, casted to my TV through Chromecast.

This really is a movie that demands to be watched in black and white, because the color of the story and performances really shines without the actual color.

And when it was over, I turned over the Channel 11, and lo and behold, it was still on, so I watched its last 20 minutes or so again, with commercials.

It really is a great film, and no, even though I love Annette Funicello, I cannot bear to watch the horrid remake, "Babes in Toyland,"which to me, is more like "Boobs in Toyland" than anything else.

Give me the original any time. Which leads me to this entry ...

"Creed": We go from a movie made 80-some years ago to one made this year, and I have to say, the dropoff isn't as bad as one might think.

We saw the latest installment in the "Rocky" series, "Creed," and I have to say, if you see one movie this holiday season, this one has got to be it.

First of all, the film makes perfect sense, unlike other films released today that we shake our heads approvingly at, but really, they make no sense at all.

This one does, and that is the beauty of the whole thing.

Rocky Balboa--Sylvester Stallone, who else?--becomes the trainer and mentor for Apollo Creed's illegitimate son, who is played with absolute gusto by Michael B. Jordan.

Yes, there is a big fight at the end, but the camaraderie between the two leads builds to the point where both are fighting their own battles, which I won't spoil for you here.

It is pure entertainment--like all the Rocky movies are--and you will not be disappointed.

Finally, a film where I truly believe my money was well spent.

And then we come to today, after the holiday weekend, where my own personal "Rocky" reaches another milestone.

My Father Turns 84 Today: Yes, my father turns 84 years old today, and while he isn't 25 anymore, he remains the strongest person I know.

He--and my mom--taught me everything I know about everything, and what I didn't learn from them I learned from the school or hard knocks, where we all had to learn something.

He still drives a New York City licensed cab, and today, I am happy that he is taking the day off from the rigors of that profession.

He is just taking it easy, because he deserves to.

He was a Marine during the Korean War, and he believes in himself, his family and his country to the Nth degree.

He hates phonies, and I think I got that hatred from him. He can see them a mile away, as I can.

Whatever the case, his family always comes first, and I learned that from him too.

The photo above comes from the early 1970s. It is one of my favorite photos of him, and so appropriate for today, as he was celebrating a birthday back then, too.

Happy birthday, dad, and many, many more!

I have something important to do tomorrow, so I will have to skip a day with this column and get it done, so I will speak to you again on Wednesday.

Classic Rant #214 (March 18, 2010): March Madness Is Just That

As you probably know if you follow this blog, I love basketball.

Even though they are awful, I am a big Knicks fan, and a big NBA fan.

But I do not like college basketball. I know that most of the pros come from college, but I just don't like watching college basketball. To me, it's like watching minor league baseball. It may be close to the real thing, but it isn't the real thing, not by a long shot.

So this is a bad time for people like me, because we are now in the middle of "March Madness," that insane time when just about every college and university in the United States is competing for the NCAA basketball championship.

And, of course, when you have so many teams competing for this prize, you have all the phony fans all of sudden getting interested in teams they never heard of, because they are in some betting bracket at work and hope to win a nice amount of money if their team goes all the way.

I really can't stand this type of behavior. I can see if you follow college basketball all year, but to get into it right now simply because you have placed money on its outcome to me is a bit nuts.

And that is why this nonsense is so popular. Just like events like the Super Bowl, there is a heightened awareness of the event not because of increased interest, but because of the uptick in betting that occurs now.

But we, as a society, play into this.

Why manufacturers are allowed to get into the NCAA tournament and make a buck off of it is beyond me.

Remember, these are supposed to be college kids going to college for an education. I know, I know, that isn't really what they are there for, but, well, that is what they are supposed to be there for.

If a handful of these kids move onto playing professionally, it will be a lot.

And what happens to the other ones, the ones whose basketball careers crest with this tournament? What happens to them?

Well, one example is a story that happened near me, where a kid who competed just two years ago in the NCAA tournament was picked up for being part of a heroin ring.

No, I am not saying that this is the way that those not going pro will go, but it is an example of high expectations softened by reality.

There is nothing wrong with college athletics, as long as they are kept within the athletic mode. With all the posturing, manufacturer participation--including giveaways, contests, and the like--and betting, the NCAA tournament has nothing to do with athletics anymore.

And anybody who thinks it does is as foolish as the NCAA itself, which is allowed to get away with this because it polices itself, and does a real bad job of it.

Nobody wins here. Even our President makes his top picks.

What can you do?

Do like I do. Ignore it. Ignore all the phony "interested" talk at work. Watch something else.

It has worked for me, it can work for you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rant #1,561: Giving Thanks

Today is the day before Thanksgiving, and I wish to give thanks to all those who have helped me get through this rapidly closing year, 2015 on the calendar and the year where I celebrated my 58th birthday, moving forward to the big 59.

I would like to thank my family, for whom none of this, or anything, would have been possible. My family gives me strength, points me in the right direction, and keeps me whole and on the straight and narrow.

I would like to thank my friends, who provided me with some solace during the year.

I would also like to thank those who consider me the enemy, because you give me the impetus to continue to move ahead, without your backing and your phoniness.

Individually, I would like to thank my wife, my backbone, my friend, my lover, my everything. She is more than the mother of our son; she is the real deal, the whole that is equal to way beyond the sum of its parts.

I would like to thank my son, who also gives me inner strength. Yes, there are trying times with him, but he has a certain personal panache that makes everything good again.

I would like to thank my parents, who brought me into this world, and who I hope are proud of me and the way I turned out. I can be a pain in the butt at times, but aren't all kids supposed to be that way (see above)?

I would like to thank my extended family, who I may not share a bloodline with, but who I respect as good people who work hard and deserve good things.

And finally, I would like to thank you, those who come here and read my Rants. You also keep me going, and with over 8,000 visits since this blog restarted out of the old, hacked blog, you have given me strength to carry this thing on.

Approaching 1,600 original posts, you would think that I would run out of things to say, but alas, I have plenty of things to talk about here.

So, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will speak to you on Monday.

Don't eat too much turkey, and don't shop until you drop, either.

Speak to you then.

Classic Rant #213 (March 17, 2010): A Voice Is Stilled

No, I am not talking about mine. I went on my business trip, did what I had to do, returned, and basically fell into a stack of work and other things that had to be taken care of. While I am not at a comfortable point yet, I am getting there.

The voice that was stilled the other day was that of Ron Lundy, one of the greatest of the New York AM disk jockeys of the 1960s and 1970s. He died after a long illness, but his voice, and the memories that that voice produced, will live on for the generation that he used to salute by saying "Hello, Love!"

You wouldn't think a guy with a Southern drawl would make it in the big city like he did, but he was a disk Jockey with AM music powerhouse WABC when that station was probably the most important radio station on the planet. Along with other classic AM DJs like Bruce Morrow, Harry Harrison and Dan Ingram, he made that station the top station in the country; you had to have your record on the station for it to be a hit if not just in New York, then across the country.

Tastes changed, and when WABC went talk, Lundy and the others moved over the WCBS-FM, establishing that station as the No. 1 oldies station in the country. That station also changed gears for a while, but with the constant campaigning by fans of the old format and by the classic DJs, that station returned to the oldies format a few years back.

Lundy was a DJ when DJs, the music they played, and the stations that they played this music on, were an incredibly important part of the fabric of New York City and every major city across the country. In New York--and elsewhere, since its signal often reached thousands of miles--everyone listened to WABC, and the station was almost something of an electronic community center, not only delivering the hottest music around, but also news, weather, and local information. It was almost the Internet of its time.

Ron Lundy was a classic. Although not as brash as Ingram and Morrow--he was more in the Harrison mode--he has his own nuances that were so inviting that when listening to him, it was like you were listening to a friend talking directly to you--not over you, under you, or through you, like today's DJs. Sure, the music was the important thing, but when Lundy and the others had time to talk, you listened. You had to, because if you didn't, you would definitely miss something that you would regret later on.

Lundy joins another one of the classic DJs of the time--Scott Muni--in a better place. With these classic DJs not getting any younger, that fraternity will sadly grow over the next several years.

I just hope that they are doing what they love, and what we loved about them.

"This is Ron Lundy from the greatest city in the world"--man, I miss him already.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rant #1,560: Taxi Hack

I read the other day about poor TV weathercaster Al Roker, who somehow got rebuffed when he was trying to hail down a New York City licensed yellow medallion cab the other day.

Evidently, he was with his 13 year old son, and although he has changed his story a few times, he basically claims that the cab driver saw him, and passed him up because he is black.

According to Roker, the driver ended up picking up a white man a block away.

He has filed a complaint with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and you just know they will jump on this case like bread adheres to butter.

The last thing I read is that they think they have the driver, and once a hearing is held, he will be fined, suspended, or perhaps even both.

Even though the driver may not have clearly seen Roker and may have jumped to another possible fare, Roker cries racism, because that is the thing to do nowadays.

Of course, as a white Jewish person, I have also been bypassed for taxi service, but somehow, I never blamed the driver for discriminating against me because of my background.

Yes, as Roker said, most cab drivers do their job, which is to pick up fares no matter who is hailing them down, and no matter where they are going.

However, Roker pulls the race card--as is so prevalent a thing to do today--by claiming that the driver used racism in not picking up himself or his son, who--and get the violins ready--just happened to be sick that day..

Cab drivers are people, and people make mistakes.

Cab drivers also make initial judgments based on what they see and don't see, just like all of us do, whether we admit to it or not, and anybody who has hailed a cab in Manhattan must admit that cab drivers have missed them, whether on purpose or because they didn't clearly see them.

In fact, there are rules and regulations about where drivers can pick up their fares, and they are not allowed to pick up fares in the middle of a block, only at the corners. Perhaps Roker was in the middle of the street, and the driver decided it was not worth getting a hack inspector to fine him than to pick up this fare.

But of course in today's America, you can pull the race card and get noticed really quickly. The media loves this type of story, as does the PC Police.

My father is nearly 84 years old and he still drives a New York City medallion cab.

Has he ever bypassed anyone on the street hailing him down?

In over 50 years of doing this for a living, sure he has, but he has had good reason to do so. After you get robbed by young people, you don't pick up young people anymore.

He has picked up beggars, drunks, drug addicts ... of every color and background. When he owned his own cab, he would often give the indigent a free pass.

He generally picks up everybody, and probably would have picked up Roker and his son--but only if he had seen them clearly or if he didn't have to do it in the middle of a block. If he didn't see them, or didn't get a clear view, he cannot be knocked for not picking up a person of color, whether they be the color white, the color black, or the color orange.

Being a cab driver is the most unsafe job in America, because you never know who you are picking up.

A guy could be wearing a suit and tie and rob you as easy as someone wearing something less.

People have to make a living, but people have to be safe, too. When only a thin partition separates you from your passenger, you have to be extra careful.

Was Roker not picked up because of his race, or because the driver did not see him or his son clearly? How does he know that the driver picked up a white guy rather than him? Was he able to see that clearly a block away from where this guy was hailing a cab?

Is he Super Al with telescopic vision like Superman has?

It really is like a he said/he said thing, but you know who is going to win this particular fight.

Even though a majority of its drivers are minorities themselves, Roker is going to win this one, because he is a high profile person.

But really, how do you decide who is right and wrong here, or if there is anybody really right and wrong here?

Let's not decide everything is a racial act, which is what Roker is doing. Heck, if I bumped into him by mistake on the sidewalk, am I a racist?

And is the cab driver, probably a person of color too, also a racist?

Classic Rant #212 (March 11, 2010): Looking Forward To the Summer

Today, as I am ready to go on my dreaded business trip tomorrow, I look forward to better times.

And better times, to me, means the summer.

So much is happening this summer that I really wish it was here already.

Not only am I, and everyone else, expecting nicer weather this summer, but baseball will be in the heart of its season, as my favorite team, the Yankees, defend their championship against the rest of baseball.

It is going to be an interesting season, but I think the Yankees can do it.

My family and I will be going to, hopefully, a few games (if the Yankees ever start selling single game tickets, that is), but we already have tickets for a Tampa Bay Rays game when we go on vacation.

Also, this summer, I am having my reunion barbecue, which I have talked about here several rants ago and which is going full steam ahead right now.

There has been lots of interest in this reunion, and it should be a lot of fun.

Also, this summer, my daughter will be out looking for work as millions of other recent college graduates will be. Unemployment is still very high, and the job prospects for newly graduated kids is very, very bad.

Her degree will be in elementary education, and with a little luck, she will find a job.

If anybody has any "ins" with any school districts, please contact me. A foot in the door is always welcome.

Also, my son will be preparing to go into high school, which can be very nerve-racking. I am hoping that high school for him is better than it was for me. I absolutely hated high school, and I have few good memories of my time before college.

So as you can see, this summer might be quite memorable for myself and my family.

I hope, as the winter days dwindle down to spring, that it will be a memorable one for you too.

Speak to you after my business trip on Monday.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rant #1,559: Weekend Roundup

After a noxious week of work, it was nice when the 5:30 p.m. bell rang, so to speak, and the workweek was finally over.

But this workweek was slightly different than others, because once the workweek ended, a fun weekend began for myself and my family.

And as you know from previous posts, I work for the weekend.

We went out to eat on Friday, and because of time constraints, we decided to keep it local, and we went to the new burger joint that just opened right by us.

I will not tell you the name of it, but it is part of a small chain of restaurants. It is one of those elevated burger joints, and it cost a pretty penny to eat there.

After a long wait, we finally sat down, and while the food was decent, the price wasn't, and we will probably never go there again.

Not only wasn't the price right for us, but when I paid the waiter, I was brought back the wrong amount of change, off by $10. That, right away, was a no no, and yes, it was quickly rectified, but that is the reason I am not telling you the name of the place. You will have to experience it yourself.

After dinner, we went to a show at the Tilles Center, which is on the grounds of C.W. Post College, the school where I achieved my masters degree. This is just the fourth time I have been back there since getting my degree in 1983, and I was surprised I remembered so much about the place, but my memory must be pretty good.

Who did we see at Tilles Center? My wife treated herself, my son and myself to a concert by Lorna Luft.

Just in case you don't know, Luft is the younger daughter of Judy Garland, and her sister is Liza Minnelli. She has never achieved the iconic status that those two performers earned--she is kind of caught between a rock and a hard place with her mom and sister--but she has carved out an interesting career, in particular in Europe.

She performs occasionally in the U.S., and this was sort of a comeback tour for her, but in more than a career way.

This summer, she was treated for breast cancer, and her shows at the Tilles Center--there was one before the one we saw--were her first shows back after that ordeal.

She was in fine form. Her voice is huskier than her sister and her mom's voice, she carries herself differently than either of them did--she is not a dancer, while they were and Liza still is at heart--and she appeared to be quite nervous during the show, but she did a excellent job singing the standards, interspersed with stories about the song and/or the songwriter.

It was a nice show, something different for us to see, and even though we were tired by the time we got home, it was well worth the time to go see Lorna Luft in concert.

She is a real trouper, and the audience, my family included, appreciated that.

Saturday was our usual Saturday, running around food shopping, taking my son to his bowling league, and seeing my father in law, who unfortunately is in the hospital. He is getting better day by day, but for right now, this is where he is, and I know it brightens his time there by seeing his family.

On Sunday, we decided to take in a movie for the first time probably since the summer.

We saw the new James Bond movie, "Spectre," and while it is firmly in the Bond canon of films, I wouldn't say that you must run out and see it.

It was way too long, way too bombastic, but had some excellent fight sequences.

Daniel Craig has said he has tired of this role, and this is his final Bond film. He does look bored through much of the movie, but if, in fact, this is his final Bond film, he went out with a movie that is probably in the middle of all the Bond films, not a film you must see but one that kind of has its place.

Nothing more, nothing less.

So that was our weekend. It was fun, a little different for us, and it kept things moving.

How was your weekend as we get closer to Thanksgiving?

Classic Rant #211 (March 10, 2010): Please Mr. Employer, I Don’t Want To Go

I have to go on a business trip this weekend. I don't do many of these, but this time, I have to go, because there is no one else who is available to do it.

The problem is that I really don't want to go.

I should stop complaining, actually. Some people get sent to business trips in the heart of nowhere, where there is nothing to do outside of the place you will be staying at and attending the conference or expo you are going to.

On this business trip, I will be going to Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World and one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

The problem is that I would rather not go.

This thing that I am attending is being held over the weekend, which makes things very difficult for me. I use the weekend, like we all do, to unwind and to relax after a hard week at work. Those two days give me some time to reconnect with my family. Even if we do nothing but sit at home, the weekend still serves a purpose.

Well, there will be no unwinding and relaxing this weekend. The company I work for is not sending me to Orlando to sit around the pool--I have to work.

I have to interview several people at this event that I am going to, and we need a quick turnaround in the writing of the story that the interviews will appear in. So, I will be doing interviews all day Saturday and Sunday, and writing at night. I won't be too good of a dinner companion, as I will eat, go back to my room, and put together this story.

I leave on Friday afternoon and come back late Sunday night, and no, my company does not give you any days off if you work the weekend. In fact, they crab when you have to take off time for personal matters.

Yes, they think they own you, and in a way, they do. In this economy, this nearly 53-year old guy does not want to be out on the street in the unemployment line.

So I will go, do what I have to do, and hopefully, it will go well.

But on Monday morning, I will be like a zombie. So don't expect too much here then, and for that matter, next week.

What can I say ... going to Florida and not enjoying what the state has to offer is like going to a pizza parlor and drinking water without having a slice.

What a waste.