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Friday, December 29, 2017

Rant #2,053: The End

Today's Rant is this blog's final post for the year 2017.

Before you start to sing "Auld Lang Syne," please read what I am saying about this year.

It ain't pretty.

No, this year was not the greatest year that, personally, I have ever spent on this earth.

I have this thing hanging over my head--my current work and future work prospects--which really put a damper on 2017.

It really darkened my thinking on just about everything.

I know where I have been, I know where I am now, but I have no idea where I will be in 2018.

It pretty much took away the holiday season from me, because I felt that I had very little to celebrate during the year.

But I was wrong.

I have to look at the big picture, as well as the little picture, to see that I had a lot to be thankful for in 2017.

First of all, I have a great family.

My wife is A-number one, top of the top, best of the best.

My kids are generally good kids, and I think that we really lucked out with them.

My son continues to surprise us with the things he does, but generally in a positive way. I truly believe that one day soon, he will be able to do whatever he wants to do, and then some.

My daughter remains an enigma, but I will never lose faith in her. Never.

My parents continue to dazzle everyone they meet up with, with both 86 years of age but with the fortitude to look ahead.

And, lest we forget, I turned 60 in 2017, and it didn't hurt much to turn that stage of age.

We all have our health, thank goodness, and that makes things that much easier.

So yes, since 2017 continued all of these actions, yes, I have a lot to be thankful for in 2017.

But I still look forward to 2018 being a better year than 2017 was.

If my work situation can stabilize--and in spite of incredible odds, I think it will in 2018--then it will make the year even that much greater than 2017.

And if that can happen, then I can really put 2017 into the memory books, and not have to look back.

Admittedly, that is going to be hard to do, but I have to keep a positive vibe on this.

The odds are against me, and I will beat those odds.

Next year is an interesting year, because my wife and I will be married 25 years on June 6, and also, my daughter turns the big x-x in mid-May.

Those are two big occasions, and two happy occasions to look forward to, and I do look forward to them.

As I write this final blog for 2017, we have just a few more days for 2017 to be permanently retired to the history books, and we have a new year for us to experience, and personally, I do have a sense of renewal as 2018 comes to the fore.

So, while this blog entry is entitled "The End," it really is more of a beginning, or at least a point where the end comes and the beginning is right around the corner.

Listen, I have no idea what the future will bring, but I firmly believe that like that old Howard Jones song says, things can only get better.

And for the country and the world, I wish peace, whether it be between nations or just plain people.

Everybody is way too angry today. Let's all calm down in 2018, face our realities as a country, and as a world together, and not fight with each other.

It is simply counterproductive, and leads to more anger--and potentially a lot worse.

With that, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and now, we can all sing "Auld Lang Syne" to our collective hearts' content.

Speak to you again on Tuesday ... in 2018!

(And I just heard the announcement that actress and comedienne Rose Marie passed away. She played Sally Rogers on one of the all-time classic sitcoms, "The Dick Van Dyke Show," filling one of the first strong female character roles outside the home on television.

Sure, she was always looking for "the man," but the Rogers character knew who she was, and knew what she wanted.

And while she was often lower on the totem pole than her male counterparts on the show, she was an equal to them in the writing of the fictional "The Alan Brady Show," and thus, the Rogers character was something unique on network TV at the time.

Marie was one of the early child stars, and extended her stardom by being pretty much a regular on the original "The Hollywood Squares" game show, usually answering questions again related to her finding the right guy.

I believe there is a movie out on her life, which was an interesting one to say the least, and she will be missed.

Being that "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is one of my faves, once I heard of her passing at age 94, I had to include her in this last post of 2017, because even though she is gone, Sally Rogers will live on in reruns through eternity, so again, in a strange way, her end is also a beginning.

Again, have a great holiday.)

Classic Rant #705 (March 29, 2012): Clyde's Birthday

My, how we have all aged.

Today is Walt Frazier's 67th birthday.

It is really hard to believe that this basketball icon, who is now known to the younger folk as the Knicks TV analyst, has reached the magic 67.

But he has.

He was probably one of the five best basketball players I have ever seen. This guy could do anything on the court, and do it with such an air of nonchalance that not one drop of sweat would seemingly drip off his body.

He could pass, he could shoot, and boy, could he play defense.

And Frazier, who became known as Clyde because of his penchant for wild attire--a penchant which he still has--has been a New York fashion plate for years.

He lived the life, and still does.

And he is a guy that not only lived for the moment, but lived for it afterwards too.

Clyde has told the story many, many times, and it is kind of impressive.

After his playing days were over, a girlfriend of his challenged him to learn new words, to expand his knowledge of the English language.

So he went about doing so, by reading dictionaries and using whatever resources he had possible to expand his use of the language.

And he did, and now, he is well known for using elevated words on the Knicks' broadcasts, or simple-sounding rhymes describing the action. I love it when he says, "posting and toasting."

He is entertaining and always insightful.

Going back to his playing days, during the championship series that eventually led to the Knicks first NBA championship in 1970, he had one of the most memorable games in basketball, or pro sports, history.

With center Willis Reed limping on the court, Frazier took command of the situation entirely. He scored 36 points and had 19 assists, leading the Knicks to the championship.

Back to the current time, Frazier also recently opened a restaurant in Manhattan which has gotten rave reviews, so he has moved seamlessly into another area.

Happy birthday, Clyde. You are the greatest Knick player of all time, and one of the greats overall.

"Dishing and swishing"--yes, that's you, Clyde.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Rant #2,052: When I'm 61

As I was about ready to type out this Rant, the thought occurred to me that in exactly four months from today, I will turn 61 years of age.

Wow! I really am getting old.

Both of my parents turned 61 in 1992, when I turned 35 years of age, so it is easy to figure out that I came into my parents' world when they were 26 (or really, when my mom was 26; my father was still 25 when I got here).

I guess that sixty-one is a good number.

Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, still thought of as the real, true, unblemished gold standard for home runs hit in a season.

The only performance enhancing drug that he used was nicotine, and from what I read and have heard, he used a lot of it that season.

And he didn't play Samson that season either, as the closer he got to breaking Babe Ruth's single season record of 60 home runs, the more his hair was falling out, only to pretty much all grow back when the season--and the pressure--was over.

I am certainly not the only person who is going to turn 61 in 2018, there are several others, including Melanie Griffith, Paul Reiser, Fran Drescher, Spike Lee, Ray Romano, Vanna White and Donny Osmond.

Let's see, when I was born, it was a Sunday, Dwight Eisenhower was president, and I think "All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley was the No. 1 song in the country on that day--the perfect song to musically acknowledge that my parents' world would be "all shook up" by the arrival of me, and quite frankly, would never be the same as it had been before I was delivered by the stork.

And while there are famous people born on my birthday--Ann-Margret for one--there really isn't anybody that famous born on April 28, 1957. French Cosmonaut Leopold Eyharts was born on that day, as was Dutch singer Wilma Landkroon.

Heck, to me, that's like saying I was born on April 28, 1957. Whoopee do!

So I guess you can say that today is my three-quarters birthday, and with that and a nickel you can't get much anywhere.

But as the next-to-last-post of the year 2017, I guess it is significant, in its own way, at least to this blog.

This is the 2,052nd post I have made here, give or take a few, so the blog might hit 2,100 posts in March, or even into April, since I need just 48 more.

With some off days and holidays thrown in, it will take me a minimum of 10 weeks to reach that plateau, probably 11 or 12 weeks at least.

I should be past 2,100 posts earlier than April 28, but we shall see what happens.

All that I know is that today, December 28, leaves us just a few more days until this year ends, and let me tell you, good riddance.

But more about that tomorrow.

Maybe today I can get a three-quarters-sized cake for my three-quarters birthday.

Maybe I can get a book with the last section chopped out.

Maybe I can get a record album missing the last few songs.

Maybe I can move on to tomorrow's blog post.

Maybe I should do just that.

Maybe I should do that right now.

Classic Rant #704 (March 28, 2012): Everyone's a Winner?

Well, so far not.

The multi-state Mega Millions lottery jackpot has jumped to $476 million, because no one has picked the correct numbers.

Numbers 9, 19, 34, 44, 51, and Mega Ball 24 were chosen yesterday, but no one chose those numbers, so the jackpot stretches up in anticipation for the next drawing on Friday night.

And with the chances of winning being one in 176 million, your chances of winning are lousy, but for dreamers like me, attainable.

We play the lottery at work, so if we won, we'd have to split the pot about seven or eight ways.

If that was the case, I would have no problem winning about $60 million, and after taxes, taking home $30 million.

No problem at all.

I could use the money.

I consider myself to be the working poor. I make a somewhat decent salary, but with my background and education, I really should be making more.

Today is the 16th anniversary of my first day at my current job, and I have more than doubled my salary here during that time.

But prior to this, I worked for companies that paid cheaply, and just about all of them went out of business, so I wasn't making much money back then, and I'm still not.

That being said, I know there are others who are just as deserving of the money as I am, but I really can't worry about them. I have to think of myself and my family, and yes, I do believe that I should win this lottery.

What would I do with the money?

Well, the first thing is that I would have to hire an advisor, someone who knows how to manage the money so that I get the biggest bang out of it as possible.

Second, I would pay all of my and my wife's bills. And I do mean every penny.

Third, I would help my parents pay off their mortgage. They shouldn't have to worry about such things in their supposed golden years.

Fourth, I would set up some accounts for my kids, so they would have some money waiting for them if they needed it.

Fifth, I would probably have to listen to my advisor, and set up some type of foundation so I could write off some of the money. I don't know what it would be directed at, but all rich people have such things to protect their money, so why shouldn't I?

And the sixth thing, and probably the most important thing, is that I would probably put the rest away in the bank in some type of account. As I am getting older, I see that having something in the bank is incredibly important.

Would I quit my job? I really don't know. I can't answer that now.

So, I have laid out my plan for the money.

I deserve it. I have suffered enough.

Again, I know that others are just as deserving of the money as I am, but I have to think of myself and my family.

I hope I win. I deserve to win.

And that's the bottom line.

Where's the money?

Hopefully in my pocket after the drawing is held on Friday.

I can wish, can't I?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rant #2,051: The Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu

The esteemed World Health Organization has made a monumental decision, sure to impact millions of people around the world.

They now list "excessive video game use" as a mental disorder.

The WHO will reportedly be adding "Gaming Disorder" to its International Classification of Diseases next year.

Symptoms include how and when you play these games, choosing games over other interests and pursuits in life, and choosing to play video games even when playing them leads to negative consequences.

The most important thing about this is that since it will soon be listed as a disorder, it will now be recognized as such by doctors and insurance companies.

You have to think that so many people--mainly younger people--probably have "Gaming Disorder," in particular during this time of year and the popularity of consoles like the Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation.

My son has Xbox, but happily, he doesn't sit around and play it all day. He got the Xbox One for Hanukkah--after having the old Xbox unit for years--and he has a couple of games, but as he has gotten older, his patience evidently has changed, and while he enjoys playing the games, he doesn't play them non-stop anymore.

We never liked it when he was younger and he did play them for extended periods of time, but I have to say that he never let the games get in the way of other things he wanted to do, to a point, as like with other things like this, playing video games makes you somewhat anti-social.

With other kids, parents have to monitor their usage, and kids do play with these things way too long at one sitting.

Personally, I never got into these things, and quite frankly, I have other things to do, and if I want a gaming experience, I much prefer pinball machines anyway.

Yes, I am old school, even in this case.

Now, since the WHO has decided that excessive video gaming is a "disorder," what will they next go after for the newest malady?

How about excessive Facebook usage? Some people are on Facebook all day, not being able to detach themselves from posting messages or reading what has been posted by others.

They allow their lives to be governed by the social networking service, live through this service as if it were physically part of them.

I would call this "Social Networking Disorder," and I guess if excessive video gaming can be considered a disorder, then why not excessive social networking?

Heck, if I let my imagination run wild, maybe the WHO can even list excessive blogging as a mental disorder ...

I mean, it is right now 4:37 a.m., and rather than being in bed sleeping, I am writing this blog entry.

That can make me sick, right?

Sleep versus blogging ... what would you choose?

Some say that being a liberal in today's world is akin to having a disease, too.

I wouldn't go that far, but I think that some people may have something of a point: acting infantile, stamping your feet like a baby who doesn't get his bottle, and continually whining about what is wrong with the current administration must be, if not a disease, then some type of malady.

"Snowflake-itis," perhaps?

Oops, I went political, I really didn't want to do that, but it was too obvious a potential "disorder" to pass up.

I apologize for that. Onward and upward!

Classic Rant #703 (March 27, 2012): Dark Shadows, Dark Days

"Dark Shadows" was a TV phenomenon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What started out as a gothic soap opera that nobody watched to a vampire-laced half hour show that was "must-see TV" before the phrase was even coined ranks in the annals of TV history as something you really have to shake your head about.

With Jonathan Frid as the brooding Barnabas--a character that was not in the original concept of the show but one that made the show what it was--leading a cast of interesting characters including witches, people who came back from the dead, and rich people not knowing what to do with themselves, the show made its name in TV history as probably the first soap opera to go for a non-housewife audience.

Sure, housewives cringed with the rest of us as they watched the show, but as "Dark Shadows" evolved, it was clear that the show was going for the kids audience, an audience that they hooked once the character of Barnabas came on the scene.

The show's characters became icons for kids my age at the time, roughly 10-13 years old.

What made the show fun was all of the inconsistencies and all of the pratfalls the actors made on camera. Production people were mistakenly in the shows' shots, actors stepped on tombstones, things fell down, actors forgot their lines, and there was one episode that showed Jonathan Frid actually carrying off his shoes!

How these things got into the shows added funny turns to supposedly straightly dramatic episodes. Quite frankly, you never knew what you would see when you watched this show, whether it was in the storyline or part of the haphazard nature of the show.

And the show's stars became seemingly famous overnight. You could even pick up a Tiger Beat and while you read about Davy Jones, on the facing page was a story about Jonathan Frid or Quentin (David Selby) or any of the other actors on the show.

But the phenomenon lasted just five seasons, and with Frid refusing to return for another run, the show was cancelled in 1971.

It has lived on on video--it is probably the only soap opera with all of its episodes intact, less one--and in the hearts of anyone who watched the show, with the lights off, of course.

During its run, two theatrical movies were produced, one which pretty much followed the vampire story line with a bit more blood than the TV show, and the other more of a ghost story.

Since the show's demise, there have been constant attempts to revive the Dan Curtis production both on the small and big screens. In fact, there was a nighttime version of the show in the early 1990s that was more graphic but less campy than the original. It didn't last long.

There was a further attempt about 10 years ago to bring the show back to the small screen, but only a pilot episode was shot, and it just didn't work.

Creator Dan Curtis's dream was the bring the show back in one form or another, and he went to his grave not really realizing his dream to the fullest.

But the show never lost its following, even counting somebody by the name of Johnny Depp as one of its most ardent fans.

Depp was a fan of the show as a child, and when he became a successful actor, he vowed one day to not only revive the show as a feature film, but he would play Barnabas!

Finally, his dream has become reality, and the "Dark Shadows" movie debuts later this year.

That is all fine and good, or at least it should be fine and good, shouldn't it?

One problem though.

The movie is not going to be done straight. No, Depp and Tim Burton have developed the "Dark Shadows" film as a comedy, a sendup of the original.

How you can do a sendup of the original campy show is beyond me, and from what I have seen of their work on the movie, I would say that they better deliver the goods, or this will be another TV/movie re-boot that is destined for the trash heap.

TV has started to show an elongated commercial for the film, and I have to say that it will probably offend anyone who watched the original show.

It starts out in 1972, or after the original series aired. I guess that is how they separated this film from the TV show that inspired it.

In the early production shots of the film, Depp looked like a ghoul as Barnabas, with white makeup, white hair, the whole works. In the trailer, though, he looks like a modern version of Peter Lorre, creepy but not as creepy as Jonathan Frid looked naturally.

There are low-ball jokes abounding in this film, the use of disco music is appalling since disco didn't come onto the scene until the mid 1970s (maybe that is an inconsistency they wanted to use like the inconsistencies used in the original show), and well, when a film goes for big breast jokes, you know it is going to the deep end of comedy.

Heck, I like big breasts as much as the next guy, but when your comedy goes that low, well, you aren't getting "Young Frankenstein" here (which also used the "my, those are big knockers" joke, but so, so effectively).

The film is a goof, quite frankly, and why they decided to go this route is beyond me.

With Depp and Burton at the helm, I expected a bit more.

But let's not totally dump the film just yet, although it does look quite bad.

If it has the smartness of, let's say, the original "Brady Bunch" film, which was also a sendup of the original TV show, then maybe it will work.

But if it misses that cleverness--and if the people involved really didn't "get" the original show, then it will--then the film is doomed.

And the original Barnabas character will be spinning in his grave over this one.

Let's hope it's better than I've seen so far, because if it isn't, you can put a stake in its heart.

It's done, and not well done by any means.

(And happy birthday to Jerry Lacy, who played the evil Reverend Trask on the show. He turns 76 today.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rant #2,050: Christmas Rapping

How was your Christmas holiday?

Mine was nothing with nothing, a decent couple of days off where unfortunately, I don't think I relaxed too much.

Too much on my plate, but at least I celebrated the Noel ... that is, Noel Harrison.

More on that later.

Our TV is still out in our living room, and yes, we received the receiver, hooked it up one, two, three, but it came without a smart card, so, no go.

The smart card now has to be shipped to us, and we will have to wait until later in the week to get it, so no living room TV for a couple more days.

Also, we had a slight power failure overnight on Friday to Saturday night, and even though it wasn't as long in duration as the other one was, this one still knocked out much of our Internet and TV, and everything had to be set up once again, which took forever.

My parents' TV was completely wiped out, and I spent an additional hour on the phone trying to fix it, which I did.

We saw my wife's side of the family over the weekend, as we visited her father at the Veterans home in Stony Brook and then went to her brother's house to celebrate the holiday.

But you know what? This year, my wife and I both concluded that we simply are not in the holiday spirit much.

There are too many questions unanswered as we go into the new year, and yes, it put a complete damper on the holiday season this time around.

Heck, a year from now, I don't even know if I will be working, and that constant annoyance is more than a monkey on my back, it is strangling me, but right now, what more can I do to change the situation?

I came to the conclusion that I am mildly depressed over this, and yes, the future is very confusing to me right now.

Anyway, on Christmas Day itself, my family did next to nothing.

We watched TV, slept away the day in the case of my son, and just fully took it easy before the return to work that happens today.

I watched the Knicks lose to the 76ers, and tried to catch up on my personal challenge of digitizing a lot of my records so I can listen to them in the car.

Don't ask me why, but without realizing it, I took out some records I have not listened to in ages, and they happened to be by Noel Harrison, yes get it, "Noel," who was a big star for about five seconds in the mid-1960s.

You might remember that Harrison--the son of Rex Harrison--starred with Stephanie Powers in the short-lived TV show "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E," and thus, literally for an instant, he became a teenybop star, featured in all the Tiger Beats opposite other stars like Mark Lindsay and Davy Jones.

Thus was the 1960s.

He was mainly a singer, and starring on this short-lived TV show allowed him to record four full albums for both the London and Reprise labels during the mid to late 1960s, wistful affairs where he recorded songs written by Lennon and McCartney and Charles Aznavour and Bob Dylan and pretty much the top songwriters of the time period.

The LPs kind of go in one ear and out the other, easy listening folk that is more background music than stuff to chew on, except for one song, or better yet, one interpretation.

He does the hands down best version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" that you will ever hear, and this is not just me talking, but critics of the time said he out Cohen-ed Leonard himself on this song, and it is a must to be heard.

It wasn't much of a hit during its time, but it is one of those interpretations that really sticks to the gut, and one any music fan would probably appreciate.

So I digitized the three albums I have of Harrison's--his fourth album I have digitized from another source--and it proved to be a nice diversion.

So I guess I did celebrated the "Noel" in a funny way, but now, today, it is back to work, back to the salt mine, so to speak, and back to my personal challenge of finding something better over the rainbow as 2017 flames out and we move into 2018.

I am hoping that 2018 is a better year than 2017 was, because, honestly, other than celebrating my 60th birthday this year, 2017 was a bummer, plain and simple.

More on that later in the week.

But before I go, let me wish everyone a happy Boxing Day, a Happy Kwanzaa, and to my sister, a happy birthday.

Speak to you again tomorrow.

Classic Rant #702 (March 26, 2012): Facebook Work Up

We have all been on job interviews.

A resume is an essential tool during the interview process, as is a cheery disposition and a desire to be employed by the company you are interviewing with.

But in today's Internet age, companies evidently want to make extra sure that the person they are hiring won't be a complete embarrassment to the company, so they are asking applicants for their Facebook account information, and checking up on them through this popular social website.

People are getting outraged because of this, saying that it is an invasion of privacy.

This story has received incredible coverage by the media, and yesterday, two U.S. senators, one from New York and one from Connecticut, stated that they will ask the Justice Department to investigate whether employers are violating the law by asking applicants for their personal information related to Facebook and other social networking sites.

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer (New York) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) said they will ask the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to examine this practice too.

Facebook itself has said through press releases that this practice by employees is "alarming," and violates their rules to users that they should not give out their personal information related to the site--including passwords--to anyone.

In addition, the senators argued that by requiring applicants to provide login credentials to potential employees, these employees would gain access to information that is not permissible to ask for verbally on a job interview, such as religious affiliation and sexual orientation.

I think the senators have a point here.

Facebook has become the site of choice for many on the Internet, and I think most people use it as sort of a virtual chat area, where they put up everything from light, personal stuff to opinions on various topics.

Others use it for other reasons, and yes, some people abuse Facebook.

When you hear about people putting up nude photos of themselves or attacking others for their beliefs, you know that Facebook has become the current Wild West on the Internet.

Why employers would want to check out a potential applicant's site is beyond me, and it really is nobody's business--except the people you want to view your stuff, your "friends"--what you say or do on the site.

But on the other hand, if a potential applicant did willingly put nude photos up on Facebook, or had opinions that were against the norm that he or she posted, let's say racist rants, I guess I might like to know about them if I were considering hiring someone.

I think the bottom line here is that people should be careful about what they put up for others to see on Facebook, and they should really limit who they choose as "friends."

The laws are so skimpy on what rights anybody has to their own personal information--or, as this situation develops, what rights others have to your information--and to protect yourself, I wouldn't put up anything that will get you in a pickle.

But again, "anything that will get you in a pickle" is open to interpretation. Something that is really tame might be considered nefarious by a potential employer.

For instance, if you are a Yankees fan, have proclaimed it on Facebook, and your potential employer is a die-hard Red Sox fan, would that force your potential employer to re-think your application?

I know that that is a pretty tame example, but it could happen.

So be careful, but "carefulness" is really in the eye of the beholder here, and that is why I back the senators in their plight.

What you might think is nothing with nothing might be considered to be something more by a potential employer. Heck, I've got stuff up on Facebook that I am quite proud of, but honestly, the more I think about it, some people might think some of the stuff is pretty incendiary.

And as for this blog ... well the beauty is really in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

However, I firmly believe that during the interview process, your resume and/or application, and what you say and how you say it during this process, should be the barometer used by potential employers to determine whether you are a good match for their company, not what is on a social networking site that has holes as big as dark holes that users--and these potential employers--can drive through and crash in.

Watch what you put up--you never know who will be lurking.

And that should really be a general rule anyway.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rant #2,049: It's Snow Easy

Today is December 22, or just three days before Christmas Day, December 25.

This is a wonderful time of the year.

First we had Hanukkah, and now we have Christmas, with New Year's just a few days away.

And yes, Kwaanza is on December 26, which just happens to be my sister's birthday.

I won't tell you how old she is, but yes, she is older than the celebration of Kwaanza.

But back to Christmas ...

Over the years of this blog, I have put up several Christmas-oriented Rants, some directly about the holiday, others sort of on the periphery of this great day.

I am American, December 25 is a day off for me, but let's be honest about it, I don't get the full Christmas thrust because, well, I am Jewish.

I enjoy the holiday as much as the next guy, but I can't possibly get into it as much as those who celebrate the day, because quite frankly, it is not my day to celebrate.

So often, I am on the outside looking in, and some of my Rants for the day have reflected it.

Take this one, which was originally posted as Rant No. 643 from December 22, 2011. I have edited it a bit, but it kind of reflects how I can talk about the special day without really talking about the special day directly.

Here it is:

"A three-day-early Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this special time of year.

Even though I am Jewish, I still occasionally get caught up in the frenzy of the Christmas holiday season.

And part of that frenzy is the music, more to the point, the contemporary music celebrating the holiday.

While there is scant little for Hanukkah—more than you might think if you want to look for it, but still not that much—for Christmas, of course, there is plenty.

Some radio stations jump onto this point with a loud crash, playing Christmas music—and nothing but Christmas music—from like September on.

Other stations mix it in with their usual fare, but during the week prior to Christmas, they mix it in ad nauseum.

But I’m one to talk. I have so many Christmas recordings that you might think I am a good goy, as in gentile. But I’m not, of course. I just have lots of Christmas recordings in my collection.

What’s my favorite Christmas record? Or more to the point, what's the favorite Christmas record of this Jewish guy (not goy)?

A year ago, I told you it was "Riu Chiu" by the Monkees, which really isn't directly a Christmas song, per se, but a Spanish folk song dating from the 1500s that the Monkees used on their Christmas episode. Thus, for the past 44 years, it has morphed into a Christmas recording.

And if there is a No. 2, it most definitely has to be "Snoopy’s Christmas”/”It Kinda Looks Like Christmas” by the Royal Guardsmen. Yes, the entire 45 that was released in 1967.

Both songs--and the Monkees recording--bring me back to a different time, so they are both nostalgic and Christmasy at the same time.

Although on their Christmas episode, "Riu Chiu" was never officially released until many years later. I will bet that if it was released in 1967, it would have been a huge holiday hit.

The Royal Guardsmen tunes are another thing altogether.

Dating from the same period as the Monkees’ tune, the A side of the single is simply a continuance of the band’s “Snoopy” saga, which would encompass at least four singles: “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” “The Return of the Red Baron,” “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and “Snoopy For President.”

(And I found two more: "The Smallest Astronaut" and the Royal Guardsmen reunion-related "Snoopy vs. Osama.")

It kind of blends bubblegum with the holidays, and it works to perfection.

It did not chart on the Hot 100 of the time, although it did chart on Billboard's Christmas chart. It has been a favorite for the past 44 years, and you regularly hear it during this time of year.

The B side is basically a standard Christmas song, but it works wonderfully with the more popular A side.

It's very light and fluffy, almost like aural snow.

The Royal Guardsmen kind of got pigeonholed into the Snoopy thing, and they aren't remembered for much else. But they did have several other terrific singles, including my favorite "Behind Enemy Lines."

But they will always be remembered for those Snoopy records, and I will always love "Snoopy's Christmas."

I still have the original single that I bought in late 1967 in my collection, and it still plays well.

So have a Merry Christmas everyone. I will take a few days off, and be back ready to look at the New Year on Tuesday.

"Christmas bells, those Christmas bells, ringing out from the land ... "

Say what you want, but this was my reflection on Christmas five years ago, and it still holds up today.

Whenever I hear "Snoopy's Christmas," I know that we are in a real special time of the year.

Speak to you again on Tuesday. Have a wonderful weekend and a fantastic Christmas.

Classic Rant #701 (March 23, 2012): Going To the Prom

Going to the prom is a rite of passage for many of us.

We managed to get through four years of high school, so I guess some people think it is important to go to this gathering too.

Me, I didn't go. Didn't know any girls, was too shy ... you name it, I never made it to my prom.

It really wasn't important to me, anyway, and honestly, I don't think I missed out on a thing.

But flash forward nearly 40 years later, and proms have become somewhat difficult.

Whether it be the naming of those considered "non-conformists" as the prom queen or the playing of certain music that is deemed too risque for the student body, proms have become convoluted.

And in the Internet age, they have become even more so, as enterprising teens invite celebrities to be their dates--and the celebrities often accept the invitation.

And just when you thought that you have heard everything, well, you haven't.

A Minnesota high school senior who asked 600 porn stars to his prom on Twitter will not be allowed to bring the one who said yes, his school said.

Mike Stone, 18, tweeted to his prospective dates: "i have dinner hotel and ill give u a massage to."

Evidently Stone, who is a special needs child, was turned down by several girls in his own school. Desperately wanting to go to the prom, he came up with the idea of inviting porn stars to be his date.

One accepted, and well, she isn't going to be allowed to attend the prom at Tartan High School, Oakdale, Minn.

School administrators banned Megan Piper, 19, who is a Los Angeles-based adult entertainer, from attending the prom.

The photo I included with this Rant is about the only one of her that I could find that would keep this a PG site.

Stone's mother had no idea what her son had done. "I was a little upset at first and I feel like I'm on my kids and know what they're up to," Diven Stone reportedly said to news outlets. "But I support him and I don't understand what her profession has to do with anything."

In a statement released to ABC affiliate KSTP, Tartan High School said Piper's attendance "would be prohibited under Tartan's standard prom procedures and would be inconsistent with two school district policies." Those policies prohibit activity that may lead to disruptions.

I guess a porn star that few have heard of can cause a terrible disruption, especially since she would be at the prom with her clothes on like everyone else who is attending.

Piper, who is just a few months older than Stone, was quoted as saying she is disappointed the school banned her from being Stone's prom date, especially since she never attended her own high school prom.

"I can make this kid's dream prom experience come true and get a chance to go to a prom," she told "It was a win for both of us."

Stone--who, come to think of it, has the perfect porn name himself--and Piper plan to throw their own "alternative prom" and invite the Tartan High School students to attend it instead.

Well, I ask you, what is this world coming to?

He asks 600 porn stars to attend and just one says yes?

Where is their morality here? Where is their common sense?

Yes, it really is "The End of the World As We Know It," isn't it?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rant #2,048: Bits and Pieces

Here comes another entry of Bits and Pieces, where I talk about things that either don't deserve a full Rant entry or are subjects that I simply want to talk about in brief.

Here goes ...

United Nations Security Council To Vote On the U.S. Decision on Jerusalem: Look, everybody knows that the Security Council will vote a collective "No" on our country's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and everybody also knows that with the veto power it has, the United States will put the kibosh on this vote.

There will be no surprises here, but the veto that member nations will make clearly demonstrates that the world really isn't ready to battle terrorism the way it should be ready to battle it, and in fact, supports such behavior.

The Palestinians are terrorists. They have proven it since day one back in 1948, when they rejected the plan for their own state, instead wanting the entire area of the Middle East for themselves.

The Arab world has never fully accepted Israel as a partner in that area, but has worked with them here and there, because they know that Israel has the brainpower and the firepower to make a fuller stand there if they really wanted to.

Sure, there have been numerous conflicts over the years--the Six-Day War being one of those--but Israel has proven time and time again that it is resilient in the face of all odds being against them.

Today, we will have countries such as England and France voting against Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, and thus, supporting the Palestinians, who have proven time and time again to be terrorists, never wanting to have full and fair negotiations to settle this thing once and for all.

President Trump made the boldest move possible in acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, and yes, he and his staff will be taking notes at just who votes against this decision, one that should have been made decades ago.

If a country votes against the decision, then they fall into the category of terrorist supporters, which is even more wrenching, since their own countries have experienced numerous terrorist episodes during the recent years.

What is completely misunderstood is that the acknowledgment of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is not taking sides by our country, standing with Israel over the Palestinians; rather, it has put the ball in the Palestinians court, forcing them to make a decision: will they act civilly, recognize Israel as the Jewish state, and move closer to their own statehood, including East Jerusalem, which they claim is their capital?

Or will they continue to act like barbarians, throwing rocks, rolling vehicles into people, stabbing people, all because they aren't getting their way?

Any country that votes against what the U.S. has done is supporting this, and thus, is a terrorist supporter. Period.

And I have to question them about not only not backing Israel, but if their not backing them doesn't have a hint of anti-Semitism in it, too.

Heck, maybe one or two countries will surprise everybody by backing the Jerusalem decision, but that is highly unlikely.

What is certain to happen today just shows that the world really would like Israel to go away, but sorry fellas, that ain't happening.

The days of the Obama White House condemning Israel, working out "deals" with terrorists and showing definite anti-Israel bias are over.

Now, the new millennium, at least in that part of the world, has truly begun.

Winter Rolls Into Town Today: Sometime past 11 a.m., fall will turn into winter, and we will be moving ever closer to the cold weather that this season brings with it.

Me, I am not looking forward to it at all.

True, I have already shoveled my walk twice as fall was moving out of the way, but when winter comes, so does the frigid cold and most of our snow, and if you have read this blog for any appreciable amount of time, you know that one of the things that I hate to do is to shovel snow.

Sure, when I was a kid, I loved the snow, but the older I became, the smarter I became when it came to the white stuff.

I found it to be nothing but a burden, something that you simply had to get through to move on with your day.

And as a driver, well, the snow took on a different perspective altogether--it is nothing but a hindrance, and can be very, very dangerous.

So as fall gives way to winter in about six hours from now, I rue the occasion, but I also understand that when winter ends in a few months, we move right into spring, so things will only get better.

TVOD At My House: The other day, when my home and my neighborhood suffered a power failure at 4:45 a.m. in the morning, it was bad enough, but let me tell you, the aftermath has not been very good in my home, either.

When the power came back on about an hour later, I found that either the surge in the power going off or the surge in the power returning completely knocked out our Dish Network receiver, so it is not lighting up and is pretty much dead.

We have our living room TV hooked up to Dish, with the rest of the house using Verizon. It is a long story why we use the two providers, one which I am not going to get into right now.

Whatever the case, we now have no TV in the living room, and I called Dish about it.

Evidently, in this neck of the woods, since Dish is not very popular--Dish is the satellite provider of choice in the middle of the country, but not on the coasts--they do not employ any technicians here anymore, so they said they would send me a receiver, but I would have to hook it up myself.

Well, you can only imagine the consternation that this has created for me, because even though I can fix various electrical things, I am not Mr. Engineer when it comes to other things, like wiring a satellite receiver.

They said they would help me, the instructions are included, etc., but until I actually do it, I won't know whether I am making a mountain out of a molehill or getting in too deep to breathe.

The receiver is supposed to come next week. Stay tuned ... this could be fun.

I will speak to you again tomorrow.

Classic Rant #700 (March 22, 2012): Hitting the Big 7-0-0!

Well, Ranting Raving has done it again!

We've hit the magic 700 Rant mark, magic in my own mind and incredible in my own mind at the same time.

Who would have thought that all these months later, this blog would reach 700 Rants?

I never did, never in my wildest imagination, but alas, it has.

What do we do to celebrate No. 700?

Nothing special, just look over some 700s that need to be looked at.

How many baseball players have hit at least 700 home runs?

Well, there's Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

And in Bonds' case, the steroid accusations will seemingly never go away.

With me, yes, I take steroids, but I take them in my cholesterol pill.

I wonder if that helps me write such prolific columns as I've written here?

I don't know, maybe Barry can fill us in on that.

According to Wikipedia, the year 700 was a leap year, starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar.

There's the 700 Club, with preacher Pat Robertson at the helm.

Somehow, I prefer my own "700 Club" to his, now that this Rant has allowed me to actually be part of that club.

There are restaurants with the number 700 in their name, a Remington gun model, and lots of other things using the number 700.

Back to the club ... even though I have only been a member for a few minutes, I like being part of my own 700 Club.

The best thing about it is that it lets me wonder about the future of this blog ...

And I guess that in a couple of months, I will be joining my own "800 club."

But that's for then, this is now.

"700 bottles of beer on the wall, 700 bottles of beer, and if one of those bottles should happen to fall ... "

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rant #2,047: Black Is Blech

Yesterday, as I was putting the finishing touches on Rant No. 2,046, everything went off in the house, and we had a power failure in my neck of the woods.

And what made this even stranger for me is that the power failure happened at around 4:45 a.m.

We have had power failures where I live, but few during the near-winter time period and even fewer early in the morning like this.

Of course, I was up, literally writing up the last sentence of that Rant, and then, poof!, everything went black.

You could not see anything around the house, so I felt the walls as I moved into the kitchen to retrieve my handy cellphone, which I would use as a light until I could get to a flashlight we have by the regular landline phone.

I got that, and as I did that, I went outside to get our delivered newspapers, and lo and behold, every house as far as the eye could see showed that not a single residence had power at that time.

I guess for most people, 4:45 a.m. is a good time to have a power failure, as most of us are asleep.

But not me, of course. I had been up since 3:30 a.m, which is when I wake up during weekdays.

I have things to do, and that is why I wake up so early.

And I can do it because I am a light sleeper to begin with, although I do like my sleep.

I was able to use my phone, so for the remainder of the time we did not have electricity, I was on the phone, even being able to put up a message on Facebook, telling people of the situation and alerting them to the fact that my daily Rant would be delayed until we could get our power back.

I went into Facebook, and then my email, then Facebook again, and that is pretty much where I stayed when the lights came on, about an hour after the power failure began.

Once the lights came on, since I have a modern house, many things had to be reset, and I didn't have enough time to do them all while I was home.

Our living room TV, a source of consternation to begin with, is not working properly, and I was hoping that the burst of power we got did not harm it for good.

Well, it did not harm the TV, but it harmed the satellite receiver that we use, and that has to be replaced. The thing simply does not light up anymore, so I think that even while hooked up to the surge protector, either the surge when the power went down or the surge when the the power came back knocked the thing out, and last night, I called Dish Network to get a new receiver,

I checked on the other TVs, brought them up to where they should be, reset my clock, and then went to deal with our Dot, Alexa, who can be a real pain in the tuckis to begin with.

Well, Alexa was giving me problems, but with the assistance of my wife, I got it back to where it should be.

I still have to help my mother to get her Dot ready to go, which I had no time to do yesterday, but perhaps I can do tonight.

This is pure torture, but I am happy it all worked out.

None of us really know how much we rely on our electric power to keep our dwellings running ship shape. Heck, what did people do before they had electrical power?

I know, lighting candles and lamps was the way to go, and I guess for those times, that was as high tech as it got.

But in today's world, everything taps into the electricity, and when you lose it, you are sunk.

In particular at 4:45 a.m. in the morning.

And without a generator, we are truly in the black at that time of day.

I can't complain that much, because we haven't had a long power failure like this since the summer, I do believe.

This one came so suddenly, and left so abruptly, that I just want to forget it.

Yes, it was a fun day in the house in the early morning yesterday, and it was so much fun that I hope it never happens again.

Heck, I went through the famous 1965 blackout, and if I never go through another one, that will be more than fine with me.

And all this happened during Hanukkah yet.

"The Festival of Lights" ... yesterday morning, it was more of "The Festival of Dark" than anything else.

Classic Rant #699 (March 21, 2012): A Little Meat

Yesterday, I wrote about fast food chains, and I said that nobody who is on a diet or at least watching their calories should be frequenting these establishments.

Today, the word out of Israel is that a new law passed on Monday prohibits the employment of underweight models, or models whose body weight index does not match their height.

The new law requires models to produce a medical report that is no older than three months old at every shoot that they want to do in the Israeli market. The report has to show that they are healthy and not malnourished, using the standards put forth by the World Health Organization.

The WHO relies on body mass index, which is calculated by weight and height, and using this calculation, a body mass index of 18.5 indicates malnutrition.

Using that standard, a 5 foot eight inch woman should weigh at least 119 pounds.

According to news reports, this new legislation might help even non-models to regulate their weight according to these standards. About 2 percent of Israeli females between the ages of 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders, a rate that is similar to other developed countries, so the legislation might show some girls that if models don't have to be paper thin, neither do they.

Of course, that is simplifying the problem of eating disorders that so many women go through, but it might be a step in the right direction to show girls that paper thin isn't necessarily in.

I never got the model thing. Some of these models are so thin they look like sticks with legs. Many of them are completely unattractive in my eyes, only around to show off some designer's hideous outfits.

And, on the other hand, I never got the bulimia thing either, eating and then throwing up. To me, that is more a psychological thing than a weight or body image thing, but then again, I am not a doctor, so what do I know.

But those eating disorders can kill you. Some girls purge so often that their insides can't take it. Singer Karen Carpenter may have purged herself to death, as has been reported, and this was a woman who was thin as a rail, probably naturally so, but she wanted to be even thinner.

This obsession that we have with perfect bodies is so off base, but it isn't going away because of some Israeli law.

I have never figured out why so many women, in particular, go under the knife to change their looks, whether it be to increase or better shape their chests or to get nose jobs and face lifts.

Why can't we be who we are and be happy about it, or at least be comfortable in our own skins?

Some people are naturally thin. My mother is built like a pencil, has always been that way, so it is natural for her to be skinny as a rail.

My father, my sister and I are not built that way, not even close.

And that is what makes the world go around. You have fat people, skinny people, and people who are moderately skinny and heavy.

This obsession with being like actors and models--who also go under the knife to assure that they look "perfect"--really is appalling.

We should be who we are, and not be somebody else's approximation of that.

They say beauty is only skin deep, and I truly believe that.

Not that this law will make that much of a difference for many of us who are obsessed with how we look, but I guess it is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rant #2,046: Last Train To Nowheresville

I am sure you have read about the horrific Amtrak train derailment in Washington State.

Multiple injuries--and six casualties--have been reported, and investigators are checking to see if excessive speed was the cause of this terrible accident.

Whenever I hear about a train derailment, I cringe, not only because of the blatant horribleness of such an occurrence--you are leaving the "driving" to someone else, and that person has failed you--but also because of my own experience in a train derailment.

I have told this story many times, but I am going to tell it again, because it is pertinent to the current situation on the rails in Washington.

It was 1980, I think it was in the late winter or early spring, I just don't remember that point exactly, but everything else about this incident remains vivid in my mind.

I was coming home from work, my first real job after college graduation, where I worked for a printer in midtown Manhattan.

I absolutely hated this job. It paid me all of $180 a week, but it was a job, and it took me several months after graduation to find it.

I knew I wouldn't be in the job for more than two or three years, simply because I had decided to go to graduate school and pursue education as a goal.

Anyway, it was just another day at work, nothing stood out, and at the end of the workday, I left work, took the subway about two stops to Penn Station, and waited for my train to take me home.

I always sat in the back car, and I generally got the same seat each day, in the tail end of that car pretty much in the middle, by the window.

I had my newspaper, and I had my mini-TV, and those things kept me occupied if I wanted to use them. If not, I just stared out the window, made sure I saw my old neighborhood--Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens--out the window at the Locust Manor stop, and whiled away the more than an hour it took to get to my home stop.

As I said, it was a normal day for me, the end of a regular day when I entered the car and sat down in my usual spot.

It was a direct train, so it made maybe one or two stops, and that was it, so I settled into my seat, and again, I don't remember if I read the newspaper, watched the TV, or simply stared out the window, but as we were approaching the Jamaica station, I was staring out the window.

We did not stop at the raised platform in Jamaica, so the train buzzed through that station, but as we were moving through the platform area, I heard a large "pop," and the car I was in was moving sideways, and I saw Jamaica Avenue moving closer and closer to me.

This lasted a very few seconds, and we would have gone over the side--evidently, the engineer in the front had no idea we were off the track--if not for the vigilance of this little, short guy who sat a few rows from me.

This guy--who I kind of remembered from high school, but I did not know his name--got out of his seat, jumped up, and hit the alarm on the ceiling, literally just as we were about to go over the side right after the platform.

The train stopped, and we were all saved.

We were led off the train, and a few people stayed around to talk to reporters, who had rushed to the scene, including one from the New York Daily News, where we were a page one story the next day.

Me, I waited for the next train, took it home, and vowed that this was my warning from God never to work in Manhattan again, a vow I broke several years later for a short time as a freelancer but one that I have basically kept to this very day, where I am looking for a job just about anywhere, including in Manhattan.

Anyway, when the train was creeping closer to Jamaica Avenue, I have to say that my life was coming out before me. You hear stories that people tell about facing death in an instant, and how their life unfolds out to them once they realize what is happening, and let me tell you, it is the truth.

In a flash, I thought about my family, my old neighborhood, and probably several other things that were allotted milliseconds in my mind during the few seconds that this took place in.

It is eerie, but it is true.

I can only wonder what people going down in a plane see--and feel-when they realize what is happening, and it is something I never want anyone to experience, myself included.

So again, whenever I hear about a train wreck, a derailment, or some other train mishap, I think about that day, coming on 40 years ago, when I thought that this was it for me.

It is a feeling I carry with me to this day, and even after another horrific accident--one in my car--that happened to myself and my family a few years back, I carry both of these things with me, and will to the day I leave this earth ... naturally.

Classic Rant #698 (March 20, 2012): Wendy Crowns Burger King

McDonald's is the top hamburger chain. Nothing comes near it in sales, and I mean nothing.

Its sales alone trump everything in its sight. Last year, McDonald's reportedly took in $34.2 billion in sales, which was much more than the No. 2 and No. 3 hamburger chains' sales combined ... and I mean much more.

But what are No. 2 and No. 3 anyway?

Wendy's dethroned Burger King as the U.S.'s second biggest hamburger chain based on sales last year.

According to research firm Technomic Inc., Wendy's reportedly had sales of $8.5 billion in 2011, and Burger King wasn't far behind, with $8.4 billion, so Wendy's is now the No. 2 hamburger chain in America, but not by much.

Worldwide, Burger King remains in second place behind McDonald's, as it has far more restaurants than Wendy's does in other countries, so if you add everything up, Burger King is still No. 2 worldwide, a very distant second to McDonald's.

But what is the No. 2 restaurant chain overall?

It is Subway, with $11.4 billion in sales in 2011, and Starbucks is No. 3 with $9.8 billion in volume.

But as far as strictly hamburger chains, Wendy's is No. 2.

Yes, I eat fast food. I know that is such a negative comment today, or seemingly it is, with everyone talking about eating healthy, but I do eat fast food on occasion.

My family and I just had Wendy's the other day, and I don't think it is as good as it once was. I had its new Big W sandwich, and it really didn't have that much taste.

It was OK, but nothing that special.

McDonald's deserves to be No. 1, because its food tastes better than the rest.

And its fries are excellent.

Burger King is Burger King, meaning that you don't get that much when you go there, but you know what you are getting.

It is less expensive than the other two chains, and that is reflected in the food there.

It is OK, but McDonald's and Wendy's are a couple of notches above Burger King.

I also like Taco Bell, Arby's and the like, but honestly, the best hamburger you can get remains the one that you cook up yourself at home.

But if you are on the go, and don't have the time to make one yourself, the fast foods do offer an alternative.

And no, you don't go to them if you are dieting or watching your weight.

They aren't to blame for any weight issues you might have.

But if you want a quick bite, the fast foods are the best place to get full in a hurry.

So congratulations to Wendy's. I think they deserve to be where they are, although I was a bit disappointed the last time I went there.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rant #2,045: (You Don't Have To) Paint Me a Picture

As I reported to you last week, I had a pretty busy weekend, although what we planned to do on Sunday--visit my father in law at the Veterans Home in Stony Brook--was scuttled because for this first time in a very long time, my son was sick.

He got up at his normal time, felt really bad, was sweating pretty badly, and he did not go to work. He slept past 3 p.m., and woke up completely refreshed, hungry and ready to go.

He appeared to be fine the rest of the day and night, so let's just hope it was "one of those things" many of us go through once or twice a year--where we feel like garbage--but it doesn't last very long at all.

Anyway, on Saturday, we had family over for a holiday party, and it went pretty well.

My Aunt Suzanne was there, my dad's sister, and among other things, she brought with her a curious and interesting photo which I had never seen before.

The black and white photo, she believes, was taken at then-Idlewide Airport, now Kennedy Airport, in Queens back in 1961 or so.

She believes it was taken when either she was leaving for, or coming home from, a trip to Israel when she was in her mid-to-late teens, like 17 years of age or so.

The photo doesn't show her, but shows my mother--in the dark glasses--on the left, and in the right foreground of the photo, my grandmother--my aunt's mom--holding both myself and my sister.

I have no idea at all who any of the other people are in the photo.

If the photo was taken in 1961, it means that my mother was 30 years of age, my sister maybe near two years of age, and her big brother was four years old.

My aunt mistakenly left the photo with us, I discovered it on the counter near our phone, and yes, I do have plans to return it to her, but in the meantime, I scanned it, and put it up on Facebook.

Old, black and white photos live on on the social networking site, and I put it up there, and got a pretty nice reaction.

Even if you don't know a soul in the photos, these black and white photos seem to have more character than the color photos, only because the black and white photos almost force you to look at who is in the photo, rather than being distracted by the color in those types of photos.

My grandmother is beaming, as she usually was. She had a tough life, but she absolutely adored her children and grandchildren, and me, being the first grandchild, well, she absolutely adored me.

She had a smile that could light up a pitch dark room, and you can see it in this photo--although you just know that my sister and I were a load to handle at this point in our lives.

Even years later, when Alzheimer's Disease ravaged her, and took away her bright smile, she still knew who I was, and managed that warm smile maybe for the last time in her life.

And her smile makes the photo for me, and it was nice to once again see my mom--still vibrant at 86 going on 87 in March--looking like Audrey Hepburn, who I believe she resembled at the time.

And those dark glasses--so cool!

It is funny how an old photo like this can conjure up such memories, but it reminded me how beautiful my mother was, and still is, and also reminded me of my grandmother, and what a great lady she was.

And my sister and I were hard to handle, but we were cute kids. I have no idea what type of outfit I am wearing, but with my short haircut, I looked kinda cool too.

My sister is my sister, and even at that age, she looked like she was not going to sit still for too long.

And that goes for me, too, and maybe that is why it looks like my grandmother has a bear hug around both of us.

As always, it was nice to see my aunt, still doing well and living in Manhattan.

And I love the fact that she shared this photo. It really made my day!

Classic Rant #697 (March 19, 2012): The Way the Ball Bounces (Is the Same)

It's good to be back. I had some personal things to get out of the way, which I did, and now I am back in the saddle.

These things were somewhat involved, but toward the end of the day on Friday, I finally had a lot of fun.

I saw two basketball games virtually back to back, and the only thing that tied them together being the way the ball bounces.

The school district that my son is in, along with several other school districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties here on Long Island, have joined together to create a Challenger Basketball League. What that means is that Special Ed kids--the kids most likely to be forgotten in high school, and the kids that certainly feel left out when it comes to athletics--compete against one another on the basketball court in a slate of games against different schools.

My son is a Special Ed kid, and he also loves sports, so this league has been a godsend to him.

Sure, they bend the rules a bit to get all the Special Ed kids involved, but it is a fun time for all.

My son has wanted me to see him in one of the games, but since they are played during the weekday afternoons, I haven't had a chance to see them.

However, one of my goals for Friday was to finally see him play, and that is what I did.

Even though his team lost 42-26, I really enjoyed myself at the game, but the kids who played enjoyed themselves the most.

Whatever their ability, they were able to run up and down the court and feel good about themselves. Both boys and girls played at the same time, and a few of them actually showed some athletic ability.

But for kids who often feel left out of activities like this, this was a great thing. The season ends this week, and I hope that it spreads to other schools next year.

Right after the game, my son and I whisked off to see the New York Knicks take on the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden.

It has been a rough stretch for the Knicks, as they've changed their coach and hopefully changed their attitude. As you may have read in my previous post, it has been a frustrating time for the team's fans too.

Anyway, with a new coach in tow, they have recently won three games in a row and look like an excellent team again. The game that my son and I saw was the middle game of this mini-winning streak, and it showed that a different mindset can do wonders for a team that was floundering.

Preaching defense, the Knicks put away the Pacers early. Although the score was 115-100, the Knicks were ahead by 30 or more points for a good part of the game, so for once, my son and I saw what amounted to a relaxing game at the Garden.

So we saw two games, and two good games at that.

One was much more important, in the grand scheme of things, than the other, and I will let you decide which one I am talking about.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Rant #2,044: Late In the Morning

I overslept today.

I don't know why I did, but I did.

I generally do not oversleep, ever, but today, I did, so I apologize if you were looking for today's entry an hour earlier.

Heck, an hour earlier, I was still sleeping ... very odd for me.

This has been a busy week for me, and I guess that it finally got to me today.

If it was not one thing, it was another this week, running around after work and never coming home on time.

Yesterday was another day like that.

After work--and I had a busy, busy day there, for once--I ran to the allergy doctor to get my shots, something that I had put off doing the previous week because quite frankly, I was too busy to get to the office to have this done.

Then, no, I did not go straight home.

I had to go to our local pharmacy to pick up something, so I did that, and then, finally, I went home.

I ate dinner late, and then finally could relax as I watched TV with my wife.

The problem was, I conked out around 8 p.m. or so.

I woke up, watched a little more TV, conked out again about 9:30 p.m., and that was that, I was cooked for the night.

I went to sleep, woke up about 1 a.m. briefly, woke up at about 2 a.m. briefly, and then, I slept through to 4:30 a.m., or about an hour later than I normally get up during the week.

I like to get up early because it allows me to do everything I want to do before I leave for work at about 6:20 a.m., including writing this blog, reading the newspaper, doing some exercises, and just basically relaxing before I trudge off to work.

And later today, I have more stuff to do, of the more pleasant variety.

I am leaving work a bit early to meet up with some old friends in Manhattan. It should be a lot of fun; we do this every two to three months, and it catches us all up on the past, present and future.

I have known these guys for more than 50 years, and it is fun catching up with them.

Then tomorrow, we are having a house-full of people over to celebrate the holidays ... after I have to do our food shopping and after I take my son to his bowling league.

I think on Sunday, we might visit my father in law at the Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, an 80 mile round trip, and that is after I take my son to work.

After the visit, I will pick my son up at work.

Yes, I do keep busy, don't I?

So today, I guess my body said, "You don't have to wake up so early ... take an extra hour for yourself," and I did just that.

Funny, I still feel a bit pooped.

Maybe it is the weather.

Maybe the allergy shots are having an impact on me.

Maybe I am just getting old.

Maybe I should just end this Rant right now.

Speak to you on Monday. Have a good, and restful, weekend.

Classic Rant #696 (March 15, 2012): Out With the Old, In With the Old

As I am sure you already know, the New York Knicks have a new coach, because the old coach went ahead and quit because he lost the team during its recent trials and tribulations.

Mike D'Antoni, who was brought in three years ago as head coach when the team was in complete and total disarray with bad contracts and bad deals it had to answer for, felt that it was for the betterment of team for him to step down.

Fans have been after his head for nearly the entire season, and a small dose of "Linsanity" didn't last too long.

Actually, the refusal of his top player, Carmelo Anthony, to conform to his program doomed his status, and rather than coach out the season in losing fashion, D'Antoni decided to take the proverbial hike, and take two of his assistants--one his brother--with him to never never land, a place where doomed coaches retreat to, only to come back leading another team in the near future.

The team has given over its leadership to Mike Woodson, one of D'Antoni's assistant coaches, who was basically in never never land himself, having once coached the Atlanta Hawks before being fired.

This situation really went down the tubes because when you lose your star player, you basically lose the team.

The NBA is the only professional sports league that I know of where the players basically have more power than even the coach to help make decisions that are supposedly for the betterment of the organization. Teams rely on players to keep coaches in the right perspective, or the perspective that the players deem is right, and in this case, since Carmelo wasn't jelling with D'Antoni's vision, the coach had to go.

Can you imagine if Derek Jeter told the Yankees that he didn't like what Joe Girardi was doing to him by dropping him down in the batting order or not playing him on certain days of the week, and that, perhaps, the manager should be removed?

That will certainly never happen.

But in the NBA, even though Carmelo Anthony denies it, he has the ear of owner James Dolan, the Cablevision mogul, and even though D'Antoni supposedly resigned on his own, I somehow doubt that he wasn't going to be fired soon anyway.

It's called saving face.

And the Knicks went out and did what they should have done. They were so perplexed by what happened that they whooped the Portland Trailblazers by 42 points, stopping their losing streak.

Rooting for the Knicks, I'm afraid, is like rooting for the Mets. The Knicks haven't won a championship since 1973. They are in a perpetual state of losing and rebuilding. But they never seem to get it right.

This year, they were supposed to compete with the big boys like the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, but all they've done is compete with the Mets as being New York's laughingstock team.

They are the true gang that couldn't shoot straight (sorry, Jimmy Breslin), and they seem to continue to shoot blanks while other organizations prosper.

Thank goodness the Yankees' season opens in less than three weeks.

And I am taking the day off tomorrow, so you will have to wait until Monday for my next pearls of wisdom.

Speak to you then.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rant #2,043: Teacher, Teacher

On Monday, New York State's Board of Regents, in a unanimous vote, agreed to allow Special Education students who cannot possibly pass Regents exams to earn high school diplomas through an "alternative" route, one that relies on occupational assessments rather than test scores.

These students would no longer be subject to the unfair process for them to receive an actual high school diploma, which includes passing Regents exams in English and Math.

Many of these students cannot pass these tests for one reason or another, and have been denied a real, true diploma under the current rules. When they graduate, instead of diplomas, they receive something called the Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential (CDOS), which is basically a certificate--note, it is not a diploma--stating that they have passed whatever basic requirements exist for them to actually graduate high school.

This certificate--again, not a diploma--is problematic, as since it is not a diploma, it is completely misunderstood by potential employers looking to hire young adults with an actual high school diploma. it does not give these young adults access to civil service jobs, either, because it is not a formal educational diploma, placing it somewhere between a GED and having no formal credentials of high school graduation.

This new plan, which still has to go before the full Regents Board for full passage, will allow students to gain an actual high school diploma if they meet the new requirements, and they will be able to gain such a diploma as soon as January 2018 if the plan goes through, which it is expected to do.

What about students who have already graduated, those since the 2013-2014 school year who are out of school and need to get a real high school diploma in order to proceed with their after-school careers?

This is where it gets sticky, and this is where my interest in this change comes into play.

When this was announced, I called several New York State educational agencies, as well as my son's alma mater, to find out how he could get his actual high school diploma.

Back in 2013-2014, he was among the first students who could only gain a CDOS, as the regular high school diploma program had changed due to unfair Common Core rules and regulations.

Students were actually coached on how to react to potential employers questioning of why they did not have an actual diploma, but let me tell you, this tactic was like a store brand band aid trying to cover a gaping hole, as the tactic did not work.

My son could not get anything, and for six months, he tried, tried, and tried again, only to be thwarted because he did not have a real, actual high school diploma.

It is only because he was able to get into a program that helps people with mild disabilities like him to find work that he is gainfully employed today.

Back to the slippery slope that has now been created by this new ruling ... how do actual high school graduates who fall into this newly shaped donut hole get their actual high school diplomas now that the new rules are about to be set in place?

It appears that if former students are under 21, they will be able to reapply to their alma maters, and work it out on an individual basis whether they will be granted their high school diplomas unilaterally or will have to return to school to gain the credits needed to attain this diploma.

New York State rules allow for young adults as old as 21 years of age to actually be in the educational system, and many children with disabilities remain in the school system for an extra three years because, quite frankly, there is no other place for them to go.

But what about kids who are past the age of 21--my son is 22--and cannot legally go back into the school system to attain their degrees?

This is a problem that I brought up to those I spoke to, and it is a problem that was not realized and is still to be addressed.

One school administrator I spoke to from my son's old high school said that in certain cases, students in this true donut hole might simply be granted their high school diplomas unilaterally by school districts on a case by case basis, but that this was something that still had to be addressed by the Board of Regents and the school districts.

On a personal basis, when this situation went through a few years ago, myself and probably thousands of other parents were aghast over this decision that did not allow our children to gain full high school diplomas under this then-new law.

It was completely unfair, limited these kids even more in their career choices after high school, and pretty much ghettoized them, in an era of supposed inclusion.

I vowed that when this law was changed--and I knew that eventually it would be changed, because it was so blatantly unfair to these students--that I would be on the horn immediately once I found out that this ruling was out the door.

And I kept my promise to my son to do just that.

Once the full Board of Regents passes this new law, it will be open to public discussion for a period of time, and then the full law will be on the books, and hopefully, will include those from the 2013-2014 school year who are too old to go back to school to attain their high school diplomas, like my son.

What hurts me, personally, about his entire business is that with my son, at least, this situation didn't have to happen.

In our school district, my son's teachers urged me to hold him back a year in I believe sixth grade, because "it would be better for him educationally to take the year over." I hesitated greatly, but finally agreed, and I rue to this day that I did this.

Not only was it completely unnecessary--the urging had to do with the number of kids in his program, and the money a certain number of kids in the program would help the school get from Albany if they reached certain registration levels--but it kept him from graduating with his true class, the last class where high school diplomas were granted to all graduates.

So it was I who unwittingly put my son in this pickle, and I vowed that one day, I would reverse this whole mess, and I will do that, now that the plan is in motion to allow kids like him, now young adults, to get their full high school diplomas.

Look, we both graduated the same high school. I received my Regents diploma without a problem. My son, who probably worked harder than I ever did during his high school years, was saddled with a certificate.

No, that is not going to work, and it is simply not fair.

Now, if everything comes to the fore, he will be able to get his high school diploma--and we will have the real, true graduation party he should have had when he actually graduated, not a party for him obtaining a virtually worthless-in-the-real-world CDOS.

I cannot wait for that day to happen, and I know that it now isn't a dream, it is going to happen soon.