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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rant #1,745: He Makes Me Laugh ... And It Isn't Funny

Today, I am going to talk about someone whose actions make me laugh, make us all laugh, but who isn't there to make us laugh.

While we are laughing, we are also shaking our heads in disbelief.

And that has to do with former New York politician Anthony Weiner, who makes us laugh for all the wrong reasons.

He is now involved in a new sexting scandal, where he sent suggestive posts and photos to some bimbo last year, and is now paying for it in not just bad publicity, but in the apparent loss of his marriage to top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Here was a man who was thisclose to becoming mayor of New York City, and you can finally say, for the first time, that the city was better off with Bill deBlasio, the worst mayor it has ever had, than Weiner.

Weiner was leading or at least near the top of the polls, the scandal came to light, and deBlasio, craftily using the race card to his advantage, rose to the top of the heap.

Can you imagine if Weiner would have won this contest and all this sexting stuff came out when he was mayor?

Anyway, Weiner is a sick person. I guess he gets his jollies from this type of practice, which is lewd, rude and well, nude.

This time, it is that much worse, because he was supposedly cured of his infatuation, living out in the eastern part of Long Island with his wife and son.

Yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Abedin was probably not home very much, so Weiner, being a lonely guy, let his infatuation get the best of him, going back to doing what he should not have been doing.

And what makes it even worse this time is that Weiner evidently was doing this while caring for his and Abedin's four year old child, who just happens to have crept into one of the lewd photos he sent to this bimbo.

Yes, I am sure that Child Protective Services is very, very interested in this, and Weiner and Abedin are going to face some harsh scrutiny from them about their child care practices.

Look, this was not a match made in heaven to being with.

Weiner is of Eastern European Jewish background, Abedin is Palestinian, and the two simply don't mix, no matter how much the PC Police want them to blend into each other.

They come from different backgrounds, different worlds, and how this marriage lasted as long as it did is beyond me.

But it really is more serious than that.

Abedin, being Clinton's top aide, was privy to a lot of stuff in Washington, and being that Weiner is her husband, he and she probably conferred on many things, just like any husband and wife would, and political unions are no different.

So Abedin is not someone who you can trust, either, and again, the Clinton credibility issues have crept up, which were pointed out by Donald Trump the other day when this latest scandal broke.

You don't have to agree with Trump on anything, but he does have a point here.

History tells us that political couples do talk to each other, and that is why--and it has happened so many, many times that it cannot be considered a fluke--when a legislator passes, his or her spouse oftentimes replaces them in their position of authority.

So you have to wonder what state secrets Weiner knew about from his wife, and if he put the country in a bad spot by mouthing off about them with whoever would listen to him while in compromising positions.

Sounds like Bill Clinton all over again ... and Clinton presided over the marriage ceremony of Weiner and Abedin, by the way.

What a coninkidinky that is!

Back to Weiner. He is a sad, sad creature. I am embarrassed to say that he lived with his family, at least for a short time as a young toddler, in my old neighborhood, Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens.

He needs help, and he needs it now, because not only has he lost his marriage, but he may soon lose parenting privileges with his young son.

And that is the real tragedy of this whole thing.

I, personally, could care less about Weiner and Abedin, two strange bedfellows who deserve each other.

But the innocent kid ... I wonder about him, and his future.

What a shame this whole thing is.

Classic Rant #399 (December 7, 2010): A Long, Long Time Ago

I always seem to reflect back on my youth, I guess because my childhood was such a good time in my life, mixed in with a lot of nonsense, a lot of things I didn't understand at the time, and lots of things I understood way too well for a little kid.

Yes, I grew up in the 1960s.

There was no better time to grow up than in the 1960s, and probably no worse time. Everything was seemingly new, we certainly shot for the stars with what we thought we could do, and we idealized things, tried to rationalize things, that didn't make any sense into sense.

But I was a little kid, and in 1966 or 1967, I was just nine and 10 years old.

All I cared about was my comic book collection, my baseball card collection, my favorite sports teams (I was into every sport at that time), and when the next pickup stickball, fungo, or touch football game would be.

I played Little League baseball (or what our community had; it was not a sanctioned Little League) from the time I was seven up to 15 years of age. I loved it, and while I wasn't a very good player, I tried real hard.

At various times during my time as a Little Leaguer, I played first base, second base, all of the outfield positions, catcher, and one time--because our regular pitchers weren't around for some reason, I think it was mumps--pitcher.

My teams actually were pretty successful. When I got older, my father was the coach, and we won a few league championships. One was such a big deal that they put up the lights for us. We played one hot spring evening under the lights, with probably a hundred people watching us, and I know we won.

I scored a run by knocking the ball out of the catcher's glove and knocking myself out in the process. You see, the catcher, who we called "Fat Harry," was about 300 pounds when he was 11 or 12. My coach (my father was working, so we had a substitute coach, my friend's dad), told me that if the ball was hit on the ground, run to home and try to score. I did, but I swear to you I was knocked out for a second or two. When I came to, the coach told me that I knocked the ball out of the catcher's glove, and that I had scored. In today's world, I probably would have been checked out for a concussion, but there weren't any ill effects, and I actually stayed in the game and played second base.

Anyway, here is a picture of my team and me when I was about nine or 10 years old, a few years earlier than that game. This was sent to me by one of my old friends who I recently came in contact with again. The two coaches were fathers of my friends; I am the second from the right in the bottom row.

I look at this picture, and I see the joy I had playing baseball at that time. Really, nothing else mattered much. I was good in school, a pretty good kid all-around, so I really didn't have any problems at all.

My main problem was becoming a better player, which I did do, but I never was very good to begin with.

This is a truly great photo, and I thanked my old friend for it. It is a keepsake of a very different time in my life and the life of our country and our world. In some ways, I think it was a better time, at least for me.

But if you want to be honest about it, was it really such a good time? We were just a few years removed from the Kennedy assassination, our boys were still in Vietnam, and there was lots of strife going on in our own country. The worst was still yet to come in a lot of ways, but back in 1966 and 1967, my biggest worry was that the Yankees would actually be in last place (they were, in 1966).

I look back on that period, and I look back with fondness. There was nothing better than being a kid, growing up with so many friends, and not having to worry about much of anything at all.

"I was so much younger then ... ."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rant #1,744: Gene, Gene, the Comedy Machine

Something short and sweet today.

Yesterday, thinking about this column, I had to decide who I was going to write about today, two famous people who made headlines yesterday, both very sad occurrences.

I had to choose between disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, who is still disgraced beyond any reasonable explanation, and comic actor Gene Wilder, who passed away from Alzheimer's Disease.

Well, it was no contest.

Why write about the sordid details of a total idiot when I can write about somebody who brought us nothing but happiness?

Gene Wilder was the last of the great comic actors, as far as I am concerned, the last of the breed who flourished during the pre-Internet period.

Today, movie comedy is bottom of the barrel, goes after cheap laughs, and, well, isn't very funny.

Gene Wilder was funny.

This unlikely leading man helmed several classic comedies, including "The Producers," "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles," and right there, you have three of the funniest movies every made.

Yes, there were scatological references in these films, and perhaps they set the pace and opened the door for today's so-called humor, but when Wilder teamed up with Mel Brooks, well, anything was possible, and the impossible became the possible, and the funny, so to speak.

Wilder did a number of other films, including "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," but let's be honest about it; he will always be remembered for his association with Brooks. If Woody Allen used various actors to be his own personal doppleganger in his film, Brooks did too, and Wilder was the guy.

He also had an interesting movie association with Richard Pryor, putting out a couple of movies as sort of a modern-day "Abbott and Costello" with the famed comic.

He could play more dramatic roles, too, and proved he could do so in "Bonnie and Clyde," but once a comedian, always a comedian, and broad comedy was really his niche.

He starred in many other films, including "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother," and his marriage to Gilda Radner seemed to be one made in comedy heaven.

She died young, he persevered, but then he, too, kind of faded from view.

Then yesterday, we learned he had Alzheimer's Disease, and it became clearer why we hadn't heard from Wilder in quite a while.

I remember waiting on line for seemingly hours to see "Young Frankenstein" in one of our local theaters when it came out. It was a bitter cold night, and being that this was a single-screen theater, there was only a limited amount of seating.

And we had to wait outside on line to get into the theater.

I was waiting to see the movie with two friends, and right before we were to go into the theater, they closed off the line.

They did tell us that due to the popularity of the film, they were scheduling a midnight screening, and we could come back if we wanted to, but our place was not secure on the line.

So we took turns, one of us waiting on line, the other two going back to the heat of my car.

We did this for two hours, until the movie let out and we could get in ... and boy, was it worth the effort!

"Young Frankenstein" was a classic, and every time I remember that film, I remember that I waited in the bitter cold to see it.

Wilder not only starred in the movie as "Dr. Frankenstein," who denies his lineage until he can't anymore, but he also co-wrote the movie with Brooks. The excellent supporting cast--everyone from Marty Feldman to Teri Garr to Cloris Leachman--made this a true comedy classic.

And the film revolved around Wilder and his characterization of a truly tortured soul.

What more can I say about Wilder? His passing came as something of a shock, but based on what he had, he is in a better place now.

Gene Wilder made me laugh, and laugh and laugh some more.

That is all one could ask.

He will be missed.

Classic Rant #398 (December 6, 2010): The End of the Sixties

Today is the 41st anniversary of an event that some say was the end of the 1960s as we know it.

On that day, the Rolling Stones put on a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Alameda County, Calif., and this wild and wooly decade ended right there.

Evidently, the Stones were concerned about security at the concert, and hired Hell's Angels to promote crowd control.

Well, the Stones were right. Things got pretty hairy there.

The aftermath was that the Angels tried to control the crowd with force, which did not work. They ended up killing four concert-goers, including one teenager.

Some say it was the end of the 1960s, the raucous decade where the ideas of peace and love were often upended by violence, because just a few months after the peace and love that occurred at Woodstock, blood was spilled 3,000 miles on the other side of the country.

To this day, few know who to blame for the violence.

Were the Stones so ignorant that they thought the presence of a group like the Hell's Angels would be able to quell violence?

Were the Hell's Angels given just too large a job to fill, and they resorted to the primal instincts of violence, which led to murder?

Were the spectators, as a group, so drugged up and rowdy that death was an unfortunate by-product of this madness?

Who knows, but it made the Rolling Stones even more sinister to many than they had been before, and it's an incident, through all of their successes, that they've had to carry around with them for the past 40-plus years.

Some say they deserve such an albatross; others say it is unfair.

But you have four people who were murdered at this concert, one a kid in his teens.

It shouldn't have happened.

Have we learned anything from this?

Maybe. But you might remember that a decade later, a Who concert led to a stampeded and there was death there too.

You always hear about incidents at concerts, whether it be rock or rap.

Some say it simply has to do with large crowds. Wherever you have a large crowd of people--many of whom are tanked up, if you know what I mean--there is a chance that the worst in them will come out.

Whatever the case, going to a concert shouldn't be an exercise in survival.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Rant #1,743: Crazy From the Heat

We all know that people get crazy from the heat.

I don't know what it is, but the summer heat makes people lose their minds.

Not all people, just some people.

It must be some chemical reaction triggered by being hot, but some people cannot take the heat.

As an example, don't we see people driving more dangerously in their cars during the warmer months?

They make stupid maneuvers that they would never try at any other time of the year but the summer.

And this seems to be a worldwide phenomena, people simply get nuts when it is warm.

Here is a story I just read about, and it demonstrates, once again, that people do get crazy from the heat, even when "the heat" is around them.

Authorities in Ohio say that a man who was just sentenced to 18 years in prison for a July shooting of a man in the face took his own life by throwing himself over a guard rail after having been just sentenced for this crime.

It happened in Jefferson County, Eastern Ohio, and the man, Jason Binkiewicz, was being lead out of the courtroom after sentencing.

Somehow, he got away from the deputy that led him out of court, threw himself over the court building's third floor banister, and hit the ground, killing himself.

Sure, this is an extreme case, but sort of a double "crazy from the heat" deal, because not only was he sentenced for an attempted murder that took place in July, but he jumped over the railing and killed himself in August.

Heck, if he had survived the plunge, I don't know what he would have done for an encore in September.

I guess you can say one less in the prison system to be bothered with--but that would be heinous, as heinous as the crime he committed in the middle of summer.

There was another one closer to home, in New Jersey, where a guy jumped on the train tracks and would not get off of them, only to be pulled to safety by a New Jersey Transit cop who pulled this idiot to safety literally seconds before a train would have went over him, and probably would have hit the brave officer, too.

People do do the oddest things in summer.

I mean, we do have air conditioning, so we shouldn't all be nuts from the heat, but many of us are.

Even air conditioning doesn't cool many of us down.

Summer should be a fun time, but to many, it isn't.

I think the heat gets the glands going and the mind going haywire for some of us, and we just do the darndest things during the hottest period of the year.

I just thought I would bring this topic up today, the week leading into the unofficial end of the summer, right into Labor Day, a day that I have to labor, unlike many others who have the day off.

Watch yourself and watch those around you, because people only have a limited amount of time to go crazy during the summer.

And in my neck of the woods, the heat appears to be diminishing leading up to the holiday. Although today will be in the 90s, by the end of the week and leading into the holiday weekend, it is only going to get into the high 70s.

So the "crazy from the heat" crowd have just a limited time to act, well, crazy from the heat.

And maybe that's a good thing.

Classic Rant #397 (December 3, 2010): This and That

With all the hubbub the past week about Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah, I seem to have overlooked some really important things that are happening in our world.

• Lindsay Lohan and Mr. Palin Being Considered For “Dancing With the Stars”: Another two reasons to not watch this program.

• Earthquake Rocks Long Island: Not in my neck of the woods, though. Heck, if we would have felt it in my part of Long Island, I would have contemplated moving to California.

• Cyber Monday Record Sales: Can’t these people get off their fannies and wake up at 3 a.m. on Black Friday and stand out in the cold and rain and do their shopping? Why do they have to do it on work time?

• Eminem Nabs 10 Grammy Nominations: See the Lindsay Lohan/Mr. Palin entry above, and multiply the number times five.

• 10th Anniversary of George Bush Declaring Himself Presidential Winner: Remember, Al Gore sought a recount in Florida, because the state’s “chads” were faulty? Don’t you yearn for those days of such simpleness?

• Rep. Charles Rangel Asks Representatives To Vote Against Censure: Sorry, Charles, the jig is up. You have been misrepresenting yourself for years, you were caught, and now it is time to pay the piper.

• New York City Eyes Professional Look For Cabbies: Soon they will look like doctors should look; have you seen the dress of doctors lately—they look like cabbies!

• Jeter, Yankees Still Can’t Agree on Contract: What a shame. He can’t feed his family on this type of money? When is enough truly enough for these people?

• Gil McDougald Passes: One of the lower-key Yankee stars from the golden age of New York City baseball passes on. A true legend all the way.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rant #1,742: Garbage

That's right.

What better topic to talk about on a steamy Friday in August than garbage?

It stinks, and it stinks worse in the summer.

We all generate garbage.

No matter how clean we are, and how clean we keep our homes, we generate garbage ... tons of it.

I don't know if any studies have been done on how much garbage a single person generates in their lifetime, but I bet it is tons.

Just think about the newspapers you get rid of, or even the boxes of tissues you throw out when the box is all used up.

It's all garbage.

I did the garbage this morning for what feels like the 1,580,750,899th time in my house, and it's all the same things--newspapers, paper plates, toilet tissue rolls, napkins, tissues--that have always been in our garbage.

Some garbage can live new lives as other products, some garbage hurts the environment, and some garbage is really, just garbage, not helping anyone in any way, but it still has to be gotten rid of.

I remember as a kid, when I lived in Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, garbage was something of an adventure.

Each building had its own incinerator, and we would gather up our garbage, bring it into the hall, and lug it to the door that opened to the incinerator chute. We would open the chute and shove our garbage down that chute, and it was almost a fun thing to do ... especially when the incinerator was in the process of burning garbage. You would see the flames go up as you pushed your junk into the chute.

It was kind of fun.

Now, I just lug it out to the curb, and wait for the sanitation trucks to come and pick it up, on their appointed days to take our garbage away from us.

No fun, and I guess there is a reason they call it "refuse."

Today, we use heavy plastic garbage pails, but I remember when we used those metal pails, which were a pain in the neck to haul back and forth.

And heaven forbid you hit one in the middle of the street with your car, guaranteed your car would be more damaged than the pail ever would be.

Whatever the receptacle being used, garbage is a chore I hate doing, but if it is not done, your abode turns into the very garbage you should be getting rid of.

Funny, some people throw away things that they consider to be garbage that really isn't. How many times have we heard that treasures have been found in someone's garbage?

Also, sometimes secrets are contained in that garbage, and oftentimes those secrets are unearthed by people who dare to get to the crux of the situation by looking through someone's trash.

People also lose things in the garbage, like wedding rings, and sometimes, people have to sift through the garbage to find these items.

But our garbage here is just that, pure garbage, and after I am done writing this, I will cart our garbage off to the curb.

Yes, today's Rant is garbage, and I won't take offense if you call this entry garbage, either, because that is precisely what it is.

Speak to you again on Monday, and I am sure that from now until then, I will be hauling more garbage out to the curb.

It is an act that I can't refuse.

Classic Rant #396 (December 2, 2010): Low-Key Hanukkah

The first night of Hanukkah came and went pretty much without a whimper last night in my house.

I don't know if it had to do with the fact that my wife and I really watched our pocketbooks this holiday season--save one gift--or that the holiday this year is so far removed from Christmas, but it was really a very quiet celebration last night.

My son had homework to do, and my father came home from work late, so the celebration was pushed back a bit. My wife and I were knocked out from our respective workdays, and I guess this all led up to a low-key celebration.

We said the prayer for the Hanukkah lights in both Hebrew and English, lit the middle candle, known as the shomash, and then lit the first candle, signifying the first night of the holiday.

Now to the gifts ...

Unlike other years, my son didn't get anything spectacular from us, just some clothes, which he received in full last night, some personal products (he loves the Axe brand), and wrestling videos, of which he already has hundreds, but let's face it, you can't have too many of those, can you?

He will get the wrestling videos, but as is the tradition, he will get them one per night. He will get his second one tonight.

My daughter was already given her present on Thanksgiving because she currently lives 300 miles away from us.

My wife gave me a Beatles T-shirt, a Beatles DVD of their performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and a great video, "The Abbott and Costello Christmas Show" (see, I am not really Scrooge) taken from their appearances on "The Colgate Comedy Hour."

I gave her a couple of CDs, a digital camera (not an expensive one), and a gift card to Dunkin' Donuts, which I think she liked the best out of all the presents I got her.

My mom and dad bought my family a toaster oven, and gave my wife, my son and myself some other small gifts. They gave my daughter something when they saw her for Thanksgiving.

My father got a DVD and a gift card for him and my mom to go to the movies. We gave my mom a video of Lucille Ball on "The Lucy Show," which came in a nice lunch box.

But the big gift was for my mom. It was a combination Hanukkah/Birthday gift, as she turns the big 8-0 on March 11. We bought her a computer, a netbook, so she can go on the computer anywhere in the house.

I think that not only was she surprised, she was astonished!

In lieu of potato pancakes--which I really can't have anymore--my wife bought chocolate covered pretzels, which were OK. You are supposed to have something sweet for the holiday, and this fit the bill.

And then, that was pretty much it. There were kisses and hugs all around, and then we all retired for the night.

Pretty low-key, but that was fine with me.