Friday, July 21, 2017
Yesterday, O.J. Simpson was granted parole after serving nine years or a possible 30-year sentence for armed robbery and assault.
His exemplary behavior behind bars, as well as him finding God and taking anger management classes, as well as testimony from even one of the people who he robbed, convinced officials that he had served his time and was ready for release.
He said he plans to go to Florida to live with his family.
The Simpson saga is just that, and Hollywood could never write a script like this.
He went from just another street kid to a college football star to an NFL Hall of Famer to a celebrity to a possible felon, and then to a real felon, in seemingly one fell swoop, and if this sentence that I wrote is long and convoluted, it isn't as much as Simpson's life has been.
The world was seemingly captivated when a jury found Simpson not guilty of the murder of his wife and one of her supposed friends, and all the hoopla surrounding that trial certainly made it one of the great cases of all time, one that is still being looked at, without any firm conclusions.
He was convicted in a civil trial, but in the real eyes of justice, he was innocent.
Simpson was one of the most likable people in the country in the 1970s and 1980s. He turned his prowess on the gridiron to success in the entertainment field, and he starred in numerous movies, TV shows and commercials playing off that likable personality he supposedly had.
But what we saw on the screen was, evidently, not the real Simpson, who had a troubled childhood generated by a troubled family, and he was a person with anger management issues that he kept well hidden from the general public.
And then came the high-speed road chase, the seemingly interminable trial, which was broadcast daily, and the aftermath, when he acted like he was the victim, not those who he had been accused of murdering.
Remember the pronouncements that he, himself was "looking for the killer" as he patrolled the golf links across the country?
But then Simpson got wrapped up in his own bravado, attacking memorabilia dealers who he believed had stolen memorabilia from him, and rather than go to the authorities with this belief, and challenge it legally, he took matters into his own hands, and he wound up in jail for his actions, with a sentence that if carried out to length, could have found him staying in prison into his 90s.
Now 70, Simpson has repented, said what he did was wrong, and he will be out of the pokey as early as this fall.
You can look at the Simpson saga several different ways, and whether you believe he had nothing to do with the earlier murders, they had nothing to do with the sentence, and the eventual parole, he received in the latest incident.
The guy has repented, served his time, and like any other inmate, he was due due process, and he got what the law says he should have gotten.
My advice to Simpson is to keep his nose clean for the rest of his life.
When he gets out, don't galavant to local nightclubs or hot spots, because it will give the public the complete wrong impression of him, or at least the wrong impression that he should be giving out.
Lay low, stay with your family, enjoy being able to breathe again.
Stay with the values you learned in prison, and don't make the whole thing into a canard.
Speak to you again on Monday. Have a good weekend.
Usually, when I do a Random Thoughts-type of entry, I leave it to Friday, get-away day. I am tired from a week of work, and I figure that if I am tired, readers are too, and it's easier to key on several topics than just one when I write up things like this.
But even though today, Monday, is the start of the work week, there really isn't anything that outstanding out there to devote a whole column to.
So here goes some Random Thoughts.
I Still Wonder About "Occupy Wall Street": I don't know about you, but I am still a little "here and there" about the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.
I don't have a problem with the basic idea of this movement, which is to bring attention to the economic tumult that Wall Street and large corporations have foisted on the country. It reminds me of the Third Estate rising against the First and Second Estates during the French Revolution, leading to the Enlightenment, and that was good, and this is good.
But I wonder about the aims of many who are protesting. Are they in it to really force an examination of the issues, or are they there to be seen? Are they knowledgeable individuals, or Dead Heads looking for the next party?
Now we are finding out that this group is being funded, and many of the donations are coming from groups and individuals who are looked at as "tools" of the very corporations the groups are protesting against.
If that is so--and with all the actors and actresses donating money and making their solidarity with the protesters heard, it appears that it is--then aren't the protesters taking money from the wrong sources?
They are being funded through second and third parties of the very institutions they are protesting, and that, to me, is a clear conflict of interest.
Wider ADHD Testing Recommended: My son has this malady and he also has a learning disability. My wife and I have known about these since he was about four years old. In preschool, one of his teachers pointed out that he should get tested, and we did, and found out that he has these things.
It has been difficult, but my son is doing the best he can.
Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that doctors evaluate all patients age four to 18 who show signs of the condition. This updates the long-standing recommendation that focused on diagnosing and managing ADHD in kids ages six to 12.
This is a good thing, trying to catch ADHD before kids go into kindergarten. And when they look for ADHD, pediatricians will probably find other problems, including learning disabilities, that add onto the problems these kids face with ADHD.
Six to 9 percent of kids have ADHD, so to start treatment earlier is a good thing.
However, the use of drugs is not.
It is my experience, or should I say my son's experience, that the longer you can hold off on the medication, the better. Not every kid needs medication. My son was taking medication for a few years, but as he entered adolescence, we took him off it.
Sure, there have been struggles without it, but I think all in all, he is better off not using anything, just learning to live and cope with what he has.
Texas and St. Louis in the World Series: Congratulations to both teams for making the World Series, They might not have been the best teams on paper, but the Rangers and Cardinals were able to outperform their opponents and have earned the right to meet in the Fall Classic.
It should be a good series. I think there will be lots of offense in this matchup.
And maybe this will be a ratings grabber.
Texas is in the World Series for the second straight year, and St. Louis is one of the nation's favorite teams.
Sure, it's not the Yankees and Dodgers, but people might just tune in this year.
My prediction: Cardinals in seven, although it wouldn't surprise me if the Rangers won in all.
NBA Lockout Continues: I have said it many times and I will say it again: people will find other things to do if there is no NBA season this year.
And the owners and players better get that through their heads.
In this economy, for millionaires to be arguing with other millionaires over how to cut a multi-billion dollar pie is not only ludicrous, it shows how out of touch both sides are with reality.
Do they think about the poor ushers they are putting out of a job, the ticket takers, and so many others who make minimal money and need these jobs to live?
No, they don't.
If I were one of these people, I might sue both sides for taking away my livelihood.
If I had the money.
As it is, I am just a fan, nothing more, and I think both sides are idiotic in their demands.
Let's play basketball, not play on making points that make little sense.
Play basketball and shut up.
Posted by Larry at 1:13 AM
Thursday, July 20, 2017
If you have noticed, in the Classic Rants I have put up this week, I have spoken about good and bad TV.
Those Rants are nearly six years old, but things haven't changed much.
Current TV is pretty bad, in particular when comparing what is offered by the TV networks today versus what they gave us years ago.
Sure, people knocked TV even back in the supposed "Golden Age" of the 1950s and 1960s, but the "vast wasteland" comment notwithstanding, television was so much better back then than it is now, even with a much, much lesser choice of channels.
And this is most evident during the summer, when there really is very little to watch.
Yes, I know, you aren't supposed to be watching TV in the summer, anyway, you are supposed to be out enjoying the sun and heat, but after a long, hard day of enjoying the sun and the heat at work, I personally need something to unwind with, and TV is it.
That is why something like "Game of Thrones"--a show that my wife watches but I don't--is so heralded as it has come back for its supposed final season, because there isn't much else on to watch.
Sure, the networks do program summer series during the warmer months--with the firm understanding that fewer people will be watching--but "Candy Crush Saga" is not my idea of really interesting programming.
Heck, my wife is addicted to the game on her iPad, but she tried watching the show, and she absolutely hated it.
There are other shows, like "Big Brother" and "Zoo," both on CBS.
My wife and I used to watch "Big Brother," but that show has morphed from an interesting game of mind games to simply a frat house environment, and my wife an I have no interest in seeing millennials yabbering about about nothing, so after watching the show from the beginning, we aren't bothering this year.
As for "Zoo," this is actually a somewhat interesting show, looking at a virus that is allowing animals of all shapes and sizes to run amuck on the earth, but it is not being offered "On Demand:" this time around. When I did some checking, I found out that the show is now owned by Netflix, and that is presumably why it is not "On Demand" anymore, being held back so it can be hoarded by the streaming movie service and shown there after its initial run.
The show is on at 10 p.m., and yes, I am getting older. I never even make it to 10 p.m., and certainly not 11 p.m., when the show is over.
Scotch that show.
What's more, current TV cannot hold a candle to the greatest summer show of all time, which debuted today 48 years ago and still amazes us to this day.
Today was the day that Americans landed on the moon, Neil Armstrong took his first step, and the world was totally mesmerized.
Sorry, nothing the networks could dream up, in their wildest dreams, could top that.
So when I say TV was better in days of yore, you simply cannot argue with me.
The moonwalk was real reality TV, and with some bite.
Going along with our look at classic (and not so classic) television shows, tomorrow just happens to mark the 60th anniversary of the debut of the situation comedy that set the standard for all the sitcoms to follow.
"I Love Lucy" started out as an idea to bring actress Lucille Ball to television, nothing more, but it snowballed, and the premier of this show raised the standards of the situation comedy to new heights, many of which haven't been equaled to this day.
Ball was pretty much a B-actress throughout her early career, but she worked regularly and appeared in numerous films. She stands as the only actress who appeared with both Abbott and Costello and the Three Stooges on screen.
She was known for her long legs and sharp wit. The henna rinse came later.
Anyway, in the late 1940s, she was achieving fame as a radio comedienne, as the star of a show called "My Favorite Husband." No Desi Arnaz was not her favorite husband at this point in time.
Ball had just married Arnaz, and she wanted to both keep her career moving and make a go at a good marriage.
So she and Arnaz tried to convince studio executives to allow them to bring a show revolving around Ball and Arnaz to the small screen.
Executives initially balked. Who would watch a show with a tall redhead and her husband who spoke with a Cuban accent?
To convince studio executives that they could pull this off, Ball and Arnaz went on a cross-country tour with a stage show, and the audiences loved it.
This convinced studio executives to give the thing a try, but Ball and Arnaz insisted that the show be shot in California. At that time, the center of the TV universe was New York, so how could they shoot a show in California and placate New York executives?
Arnaz decided to film the show using the best available recording devices around at that time, to give it a live feel. He also used different camera angles with three cameras to give the show a more intimate feel. And he used a live audience to give it a stage-type feel.
And most importantly, he and Ball retained the rights to the show, and were able to rerun the show in between new shows.
The show, which also starred Vivian Vance, William Frawley, and later, Keith Thibodeaux, was an out and out hit. It never fell below No. 3 in the ratings, and it made Arnaz, and particularly Ball, into megastars.
And there were those classic episodes: the pregnancy episode, and Vitameatavegimin, and the grape stomping, all the supposed trips they took to Europe and Hollywood, and the allure of watching the wacky hijinks of a redheaded wife of a Cuban bandleader get into the craziest predicaments each and every week--and all in black and white!
Since 1951, the show has never been off the air, and probably never will leave the airwaves. To this day, it is that popular.
"I Love Lucy" set the highest standard for sitcoms that it possibly could, helped create Desilu Studios, one of the more active TV studios of the 1950s and early to mid 1960s, and helped make TV the institution that it became and still is to this day.
So when I watch a show like "Mike and Molly," I have to think: Is this fellow CBS show a poor stepchild of "I Love Lucy"?
Is this how TV sitcoms have evolved over the past 60 years?
Or is this really a devolve?
I think it's pretty much the latter. "Mike and Molly" is what sitcoms have devolved to today, and Ball and Arnaz must be churning in their graves about this situation.
This is what "I Love Lucy" wrought on the world?
I think not, but the popularity of "I Love Lucy" allowed sitcoms to become immensely popular dollar generators for the networks, so, I guess in some tangental way, "I Love Lucy" did wrought on us "Mike and Molly."
It's horrible to believe that, but it's true.
Posted by Larry at 1:10 AM
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
More woes for New York metropolitan area transit, and it will certainly provide you with food for thought.
On Monday nine people were treated for smoke inhalation after a track fire in Harlem jammed up the early week work commute for thousands of straphangers.
What caused the fire? Evidently, according to officials, garbage on the tracks was the culprit, and the resultant track fire caused the entire B and C lines could not run, and it also impacted the A and D lines in both directions north of 125th Street.
Why anyone would throw garbage on the tracks is a mystery in and of itself, but due to this continuous problem that has been going on for decades, if not generations, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is studying a proposal to simply ban food in New York City subways.
The food isn't the problem, but the resultant garbage related to wrappers, bags and other refuse related to eating on the subways is what has caught the MTA's ire.
If this measure passes, how this goes over with straphangers is anyone's guess.
More important, how do you police eating on the subway? Do you assign extra transit police to monitor this heinous action? Will you get a ticket if you eat on the subway? For how much?
Look, we all know, if we are honest about it, that people can be pigs, whether it is on the subway, on the street, or even in their own homes.
Garbages are available for refuse, but out of convenience, many of us throw garbage wherever we need to--out the window of our cars, on the floor, even in places in our homes where the junk does not belong.
So to regulate food eating on the subway will be a task that will be nothing but a nuisance for whoever is there to enforce it.
Human beings are a naturally dirty animal; that does not make throwing garbage on the tracks acceptable, but it just is a natural fact.
A natural fact is that there are plenty of garbage pails for people to use, and for those who throw garbage on the tracks, those people should be fined, and if need be, arrested.
A straphanger wolfing down a breakfast burrito on the subway because they need to get to work is objectionable on several levels, but a be against the law?
No, I don't think so.
And on another level, what about the vendors who feed off straphangers' need to munch?
It will kill their business if you can't eat a candy bar or drink a can of soda in the subway.
I mean, who hasn't bought an edible item from a vendor and enjoyed it while riding a subway car?
The whole idea of banning food is ridiculous, but it is a warranted reaction to people not only being pigs, but potentially causing damage and harm to those who rely on the subway for transportation.
But there has to be a better way.
Most people would say "education," but anyone who does not know that throwing garbage on the tracks is a stupid thing to do simply cannot be educated.
For subway riders, simply put your trash in a garbage can, because if this behavior continues, the "privilege" or eating on the subway will not exist anymore.
"Mike and Molly" notwithstanding, television wasn't always polluted by trash of this ilk.
Take "The Ed Sullivan Show." Originally called "Toast of the Town," the weekly variety hour showcased every type of act imaginable, from ventriloquists to jugglers to Broadway performers to the latest hit pop acts to Topo Gigio.
It was a three-ring circus every Sunday night at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., and it was hosted by the dullest person on the planet, Daily News newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan.
And that was the charm of the show.
Sullivan knew he wasn't the star, even though his name eventually became even bigger than the show itself.
He was the booker, a presenter, and he basically let the acts do the talking.
Sullivan died 37 years ago today at the age of 73.
I don't think that people who weren't around during the show's heyday can fully comprehend the enormity, or the importance, of this program on the American scene.
The show was even larger than a TV show--it was a weekly event that had to be seen, whether you were watching Elvis Presley from the waste up or the Beatles top to bottom.
The show made news by having on those two bombastic acts.
But it also featured the likes of Roberta Peters, Soupy Sales, Stiller and Meara and George Carlin.
And don't forget Senor Wences.
Whatever was hot in show biz was on the show, whether it was the 5th Dimension, the Supremes or Joan Rivers.
He had it all, and it was clean, wholesome entertainment that the whole family could enjoy together.
If you didn't like an act, it was time to get up and go to the bathroom or get something to eat.
But if you did like the act, well, your anticipation for watching that segment, rarely lasting more than three or four minutes tops, lasted an entire week between shows.
When the Beatles first came on the show in February 1964, I was hooked, and so was an entire generation of kids.
I don't think Sulllivan understood rock and roll at all, but he understood the numbers, the ratings numbers, that is.
He knew that he had to have the hottest acts on the planet on his show, and if the Dave Clark Five had hit songs, well, they had to be on the show.
And they were. And most of these acts considered it a privilege to be on the show.
Sure, Sullivan wasn't perfect.
He banned Jackie Mason for supposedly giving the finger to him on the air, and he had feuds over song lyrics with the Rolling Stones and the Doors.
He could be very abrasive, and when he didn't like you, he would let you know it.
But he broke many major acts, and not just rock acts.
He gave the stage to up and coming comics like Carlin, Rivers, Robert Klein and Richard Pryor.
He furthered the careers of comics like Myron Cohen and Alan King, and made national celebrities of Stiller and Meara.
He loved Diana Ross and Petula Clark, and he loved Broadway, everything from "Oliver" to "The King and I."
And don't forget the Muppets.
Sullivan was bland, but he knew talent, and he booked the best talent on the show.
Sure, plate twirlers aren't the most talented people in the world, but he knew that the audience loved them, so he had them on during the 23-year run of the show pretty regularly.
My mom attended one or two shows in the audience, and tickets were as hard to get for those shows as they are now for the Super Bowl.
After the show ended in 1971, Sullivan lamented that CBS didn't give the program two more years so he could bow out gracefully after a 25-year run.
But times had changed by then.
People were losing patience with things that they didn't want to see.
And the TV remote was starting to become more commonplace, and people were changing the channel in the middle of his show to look elsewhere for something they were interested in.
"The Ed Sullivan Show" was a relic of TV's past, and even in 1971, the wear was showing.
So the show ended without that much fanfare, and its host died about three years later.
Bits and pieces of the show are available on DVD, as well as a number of full shows starring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley.
During money-thons, PBS often runs Ed Sullivan retrospectives.
But I simply don't think that the kids today understand the importance of the show and its host.
When the kids' parents were kids, this show was golden. It had it all.
Sorry, the creators of "Mike and Molly" and shows like it can do much, much better.
And the very coincidence that "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "Mike and Molly" are products of the same network--CBS--kind of shivers my timbers.
This is what the so-called "Tiffany Network" calls entertainment today?
Sullivan, the bland host of a televised three-ring circus which lasted 23 years, proved that you can take coal and make diamonds out of it.
May he continue to rest in peace, and yes, I am sure he is turning in his grave at the trash that is around today, stuff that he might have to showcase on his program if he, and the show, were around today.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Kermit the Frog, the iconic character in the late Jim Henson's stable of Muppets, will be voiced by a new voice actor as the character moves on.
The Muppets Studio announced last week that Matt Vogel would replace Steve Whitmire as the voice of the character, a character which has delighted children--and adults--for generations.
But both the studio and Whitmire differ on the reasons why he is no longer the voice of Kermit.
He said that he had actually been fired last October, and he told the Hollywood Reporter that it had more to do with "adult" matters that Kermit would never get into with his fans than anything else.
Whitmire--who took over the vocal duties of the character after the death of Henson in 1990 and who had been affiliated with the Muppets since the late 1970s--claimed that his devotion to maintaining Henson's legacy with the character, and he also attributed his firing to a union disagreement.
"The first issue was that they felt I had been disrespectful in being outspoken on character issues with the small group of top creative people during the ABC series," he told the publication, referring to the short-lived ABC series which tried to make the Muppets a more adult commodity.
He continued, "I have been outspoken about what's best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney (in 2004), but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets."
However, the Muppets studio countered that it was something other than Whitmire's devotion to the character that got him fired.
A spokesman for the studio told Entertainment Weekly, "The role of Kermit the Frog is an inconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve's repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support."
So the whole thing has become a he said/they said situation, and I doubt Kermit himself could explain this adequately to his audience.
But the only good thing to come out of this is that the entire kibosh has not been put on the character, and that a new voice actor will take over the role, probably without missing a beat with Kermit's core audience--kids--who probably won't know the difference.
It is sad when adult things get in the way of kid's things, but in the real world, this is going to happen.
But again, the character is such a solid one--Kermit the Frog actually has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--that it is doubtful that in the grand scheme of things, kids will really care who voices the character, as long as Kermit comes around again and again.
That is a "Rainbow Connection" that will probably be here forever.
My wife likes the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly," and I record it for her each and every week.
We watch it when it is more convenient for us, which is usually the day after it is aired, so we usually watch Monday's episode on Tuesday.
I have to tell you, I know this sitcom is popular, but for the life of me, I just can't figure out why.
Well, that is not entirely true. I kinda do.
One reason that I think it might be popular is that the two leads, Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, aren't your typical TV sitcom cutie pies. Between them, they probably pack at least 600 pounds of blubber into every episode.
The show follows Mike, a Chicago cop, and Molly, a Chicago schoolteacher, as they set about wooing each other, sleeping with each other, and getting engaged to each other, pretty much in that order.
They will get married on an eventual episode, I am sure.
But they will have to fight their way through fat jokes, sex jokes and drug jokes.
There are no other categories of jokes on the show.
The two main characters are supplemented by a supporting cast which include Swoosie Kurtz, who plays Molly's often drugged out and more often then not sexed out mother; Reno Wilson, as the stereotypical smooth talking black partner cop of Mike; Katy Mixon as Molly's marijuana drugged out, slutty sister; and Louis Mustillo, as the dimwitted, stereotypical Italian fiancee of Molly's mom.
Since premiering in September 2010, the show has gotten good ratings, and McCarthy won an Emmy award for her performance.
But watching this show, I see how television has sunk to the lowest standards possible. This is the only way this show can be so popular.
It simply isn't funny. The show rolls along on, using its fat jokes as its backbone, but it simply isn't funny.
And all the other jokes are stale, and make no sense.
In particular, the marijuana jokes--and there are plenty of them--are a bit alarming, if for nothing more than Mike is supposed to be a cop, and he is in constant contact with Molly's sister, who is an acknowledged pothead.
I have to give credit to Wilson. He takes his stereotypical role and goes with it to the max. To me, he is the only likable character in the bunch.
But seeing how TV has fallen off the cliff in recent years, with more trash on it than I can ever remember, I guess it isn't hard to understand why the show is so popular.
And yes, I will continue to record it for my wife, and watch it with her.
I am an eternal optimist. Maybe there will be something that I will eventually crack a smile to. Maybe the show will get better.
Maybe it can't get better, who knows?
But I will watch the show. I would rather be with my wife than watching something else.
She has had to sit through some stuff I like that she doesn't--she hated "King of Queens," but watched it with me for all the years it was on--so I really don't mind watching this show with her.
I just don't get the point of the show.
And that's the fat of it.
Posted by Larry at 1:23 AM
Monday, July 17, 2017
Good morning. I hope you had a nice weekend.
Now we all go back to work, and for rail commuters in Manhattan, it has become work just to get to work.
Due to constant repairs, and breakdowns, getting to work if you live on Long Island and need to get into Manhattan has become a nightmare, such a nightmare that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared this period "The Summer of Hell" for Long Island Railroad commuter, and all rail commuters whose journey ends at Penn Station.
The New York/New Jersey rail system is woefully out of date, more like a 1950s rail environment than one supporting current necessities.
Track improvements are being made, but the system constantly breaks down, leaving rail riders at the true beck and call of the various rail lines' situations on a daily basis.
Trains have been cancelled, rerouted and redrawn, and it has led to headaches for rail riders that are beyond the pale.
But these riders simply have to grin and bare it, because that is the way it is for now.
They have been given other avenues to get into Manhattan. Several trains have been rerouted into Brooklyn, from which they can take the overcrowded subway to Manhattan.
Others have been provided ferries, from which a select few can take the waterways to get into Manhattan.
Still others simply throw up their hands and drive in, which further clogs the current infrastructure, which is also woefully in need of upgrade.
Politicians point the blame at several entities, but talk is cheap, and the people who ride the rails to work are in the middle, not knowing which way to turn.
This story has become the major, overriding story in the New York Metropolitan area this summer, and there seems no end to it.
I worked in Manhattan for a few years, and let me tell you, even though the allure of Manhattan is great--and it is often where the jobs are, as opposed to the suburbs--I don't miss the daily commute on bit.
When you are a rail commuter, you are literally on a schedule each and every day, and if you cannot meet that schedule, you are sunk.
Your eight hour workday becomes really a 10 or 12-hour workday, because like I said earlier, you are at the beck and call of the railroad.
Miss a train, or have a train canceled, and that delay can cost you hours in time.
So the fallacy that one gets paid more if they work in Manhattan is just that, because you have to factor in your travel time to the entire equation.
Once you break that down, you find that you are actually making less by working in Manhattan than working in the suburbs.
But again, the jobs are in Manhattan, so you just have to grin and bare it.
I hated working in Manhattan. The extra time it took me to get into work was a major factor in my hate for working there, and my job was not a very good one, so all told, it was a very trying experience to work there.
And personally, I got my own epiphany when I was in a Long Island Railroad derailment in 1980 or 1981, I forget which year.
All I remember is that I was in the back car, the train came off the track at the Jamaica hub station, and my life flashed before my eyes in a brief instant.
Someone had the gumption to be able to reach the emergency button, and the train stopped right before we were going over the side into the street.
That incident was my word from God that I had to get out of Manhattan, and that is what I did.
That is one work decision that I never have regretted.
I worked again in Manhattan for a brief period after that, but due to several circumstance--including my employer providing me with bounced checks--that situation did not last long, and I have not worked in Manhattan since the mid 1990s.
And alas, during my current job hunt, at least two-thirds of the jobs I have applied for are in Manhattan, so I am resolved to the fact that that is where the jobs are, whether I like it or not.
While my current work situation is poor--our company's main salesman just left for greener pastures, leaving us no one to sell ad space on a full-time basis--at least I am working relatively close to home.
And that is the only benefit that I can see at my current job, that I rely on the roads--and not the rails--to get me there and back.
I feel sorry for those who do not have that option; been there, done that, and happy that at least in that regard, I don't have that headache.
I have other headaches, and one less is appreciated.
Now that I am back in the saddle, I have had a chance to really study what is going on on Wall Street and with the protesters who have been there for about a month.
I have a question: why are the protesters there in the first place?
I don't think I know, and the bigger problem is that I don't think they know, either.
Forty years ago, there were various rallies in major cities that took on the Vietnam War. Sure, people had other agendas, such as women's rights and civil rights, but the main focus was on the war.
This latest peaceful protest shouldn't be confused with the earlier one. There are many issues that the protesters have taken on, and based on what I've seen, if you take 10 participants aside and ask them why they are there, you will get at least 10 different answers ...
And maybe 11, 12 or more answers. And maybe even no answers at all.
Originally, people gathered at Wall Street to try to shut it down. They were angered by their belief that big corporations basically were running the country into the ground due to corporate greed, and like what happened during the French Revolution, they wanted to show that the little man had rights too, and that the majority of the people shouldn't be paying the majority of the taxes.
That was fine and good.
But now, with the protests going into their fourth week, and the movement spreading to other cities, I really wonder why these people are where they are.
According to the protesters I have seen interviewed on TV, there isn't now just one thing they are protesting. They are either protesting many things, or at this point, many of them are gathering to simply gather together in the place to be seen, and little else.
It has become something of a freak show, hasn't it?
They are protesting capital punishment, they are protesting our participation in foreign wars, they are protesting corporate greed, they are protesting the actions of the wealthy, they are protesting high unemployment ...
And they are also acting like squatters, just there to be seen.
Some shop owners are even complaining that the protesters aren't cleaning up themselves, and by squatting, people are not going into the shops that are in the vicinity of the protests.
And while they protest corporate greed, they use their cellphones provided by corporate greed mongers like Verizon and AT&T.
Mayor Bloomberg, certainly a target of the protesters since he is a billionaire and runs a billion-dollar corporation, said that the protesters can still do what they want as long as they don't break any laws.
For once he is being smart. Once the poor weather comes, you just know these protesters will disperse to their homes and leave the protesting behind them. There is no reason to waste crucial time and money in policing this bunch when their shelf life is so limited.
The protesters' mindset is also a little off as they plan to take on individuals by protesting in front of the residences of some of the richest people in the country.
Isn't it the American way to make as much money as you can? You can't fault successful people for being successful.
However, you can fault major corporations run by these people, who skirt the law at any given chance.
If the protesters had more of a focus, people would take them more seriously. I know that I would.
And what about celebrities joining the protests? Can you tell me what they are protesting about?
Russell Simmons, Tim Robbins, George Clooney and the like either run huge corporations or are part of the machine of these huge corporations. They make incredible money from these corporations. Their livelihoods are part of the foundation of these corporations.
So what are they ranting and raving about?
The more celebrities take part in this, the more I realize that again, these protests are the place to be seen, and nothing more.
If Simmons didn't live the American dream, and if Clooney and Robbins didn't live their American dream through the huge entertainment corporations, then they would be entitled to vent their frustrations at such protests.
As it is, they epitomize the American dream.
So why are they at these protests?
They profess solidarity with the protesters. But when the day is done, they go back to their cushy surroundings, which they paid for with money provided by these large corporations.
If they gave all their money away and lived like paupers, then I could see what they were doing there.
As it is, they are about as phony as the protests have become.
My advice to protesters: stay with the corporate greed focus, forget about the other issues for now, get rid of the Hollywood phonies, and make your voice heard clearly and concisely.
Right now, these protests are a joke. But they don't have to be.
Posted by Larry at 1:09 AM
Friday, July 14, 2017
I heard yesterday something that reaffirmed my belief that there are absolutely no new, creative ideas in Hollywood, and that the supposed creative forces in that town simply regurgitate old ideas ad nauseum, never knowing the breaking point.
And this latest one kind of hits close to home.
Once again, Hollywood is planning another "Amityville Horror" film, and don't you think that that particular subject has been, literally and figuratively, beaten to death already (no pun intended)?
According to reports, a film called "1974"--alluding to the year that the actual, real life tragedy happened, when a crazed Ronald DeFeo shot and killed six family members in the home on Ocean Avenue in Amityville--is in production.
If this film actually makes it to local movie theaters, it will be more than a dozen films that have been made over the years that are somehow connected to this real life tragedy, which happened in the Suffolk County, Long Island town that I live about five minutes from.
I mean, when is enough enough?
I clearly remember the initial frenzy revolving around this tragedy, the best-selling book that was written, chronicling the Lutz family and the supposed horrors they faced when they bought and tried to live in the house, and all the subsequent fanfare.
I remember people stopping their cars on the street by me and asking if they were going in the right direction of the house. (The house has been remodeled and redone over the years, to make it look nothing like it did way back when, and I believe that it is currently occupied, with no demon sightings reported.)
Yes, this macabre episode actually made the house a tourist attraction, and people came from far and wide to drive past it, sometimes throw garbage at it, urinate and defecate on its property ... yes, people can get crazy over such things.
And now, they are going to revisit the whole thing again.
It would be bad enough if these films kept on revisiting a topic that was simply created by some writers--like the "Halloween" series was--but here, this will be another film which almost celebrates this real-life tragedy.
In college, I knew a few people who actually knew DeFeo, and they said that this guy was truly out of his mind, and that when the tragedy occurred, even before they knew who supposedly did it, and where exactly it happened, they all said, "Ronald DeFeo."
He was that notorious, even before he did what he did.
If this is what Hollywood wants to constantly go back to the well about, well, I hope they finally fall into that well and realize that they have tapped that story way, way too much.
Money aside--and this series has probably made billions at this point--let's let sleeping dogs lie already.
Speak to you again on Monday. Have a good day.
I have returned.
My family and I took a cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Floria, to Key West, and then to the Cayman Islands and then off to Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
It was a fun trip, our first cruise, but it did have its mishaps.
My son lost his glasses. In the rush to get out of the room on the last morning, he just forgot them.
My wife lost something very personal to her. Let's just say that hopefully the insurance we have will kick in and help us out with this one.
The weather was terrible for most of the trip. We went in and out of violent rain storms while at sea, and even when we arrived at the Cayman Islands, it wss raining.
Not wanting to lose the day in the Cayman Islands, we swam in the rain. The water was crystal clear, which was good, because the ocean bottom was filled with sharp-edged rocks. I have a cut on my left foot's big toe that resembles the coast of Florida. Who knows when that will fully heal.
This former South Jamaica, New York, resident's arrival in the actual Jamaica was interesting, but I don't think I would go back. Seemingly all the natives have their hands out, and they attack you when you are walking around. They are very persistant, and quite rude, if you ask me.
They are even that way in the shops. Perfect example: we went into one shop that had MLB T-shirts and hats on display. I walked over to the display, in my full Yankees regalia--T-shirt and hat. The salesman came over to me, and reiterated to me that the goods there were official MLB apparel.
He then showed me a Boston Red Sox T-shirt!
You don't show a guy dressed in Yankees gear a Red Sox T-shirt. It is like showing a Confederate flag to a Union servicemember.
The guy obviously wanted to make a sale, but he turned pushy, not understanding the nature of what he was doing.
It was also darn hot in Jamaica. When we were there, it was in the 90s, seemingly 100-percent humidity, and it was not raining at all.
Why couldn't the Cayman Islands have been like this?
Anyway, Carnival Cruises puts on a good show on their ships. We went to numerous shows, and the actors and actresses were energetic. We even took in a comedy show, and the comedian, whose name I don't recall, was pretty funny.
And yes, I suffered through the Yankees' loss in the playoffs. I guess it was kind of softened because we were on a boat, not a sinking ship like the Yankees were on.
I have trouble flying. My ears go haywire, and they get stuffed for days and even weeks. Right now, my left ear is stuffed, yesterday it was my right ear. Soon, I will run out of ears to have stuffed.
The food was great, and the waiters and waitresses go for the big tips because of their courtesy and the way they handle themselves. I didn't tip big, but I did tip. I appreciate how they treated us, and especially my father-in-law, who is in a wheelchair.
So anyway, we are home.
Would I go again? Yes, I would. It was fun to be on the big boat, although I could have done without all the cigarette smoke. It is a weird feeling eating as you are moving on the sea, and frankly, I still feel like I am at sea right now. My sea legs are a little wobbly.
But yes, I would go again, probably to different destinations.
And maybe next time with my daughter. She needs a job.
Happy Columbus Day, and I will speak with you tomorrow.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
I don't know if you read this in the newspaper yesterday, but Gray Gustafson Reisfield died on Sunday at 85 years of age.
Reisfield was not very well known, but she was the sole heir to Greta Garbo's estate, and was the actress' companion for decades after she left Hollywood, vowing "I vont to be alone!"
Garbo was Reisfield's aunt, and although she managed to marry and raise her own family, according to news reports, she seemed always to be at the beck and call of Garbo, the noted Hollywood recluse.
The actress never married and never had a family of her own, instead relying on Reisfield to be her constant companion whether at home, or when she traveled.
And Reisfield obliged, through marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, grandmotherhood and even great grandmotherhood.
Garbo was reclusive, and she knew how to manage her money, and even decades after she left Hollywood, she always had enough money, which she spent on several homes that she owned here and abroad, and on lavish trips and vacations.
And Reisfield was seemingly always by her side.
I am sure there was much love between the two women, but at least from what I have read, the relationship between them was kind of strange, but Reisfield's efforts paid off, as she was the sole heir of Garbo's fortune when she died in April 1990 at 85 years of age.
There is little else to tell about Reisfield, as she was as protective about herself as her aunt was.
But the link between the two women was real and genuine, and proved that Garbo may have "vonted to be alone," but like most people, she really didn't.
She needed someone to trust, and Reisfield was that person.
Everyone needs a friend, a confidant, someone that they can rely on in the most joyous, and sometimes even trying, circumstances.
I guess to that end, even the reclusive Garbo needed someone she could rely on, and Reisfield was that person.
Thus, Reisfield became nothing more than a footnote in history, but an interesting one indeed.
For the first time in my life, I am going to be taking a fall vacation with my family.
It just worked out this year that we could take two vacations a few weeks apart from each other.
And this one is going to be a cruise, the first for my family and I.
There have been a couple of problems with this.
First, making sure that my wife and I could get off from our respective works to take this cruise at this time.
That went OK. Actually, I was surprised that my work agreed to this, being that I already took over in July and early August.
Second, the last full day of the cruise comes on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, when Jews are supposed to fast for a 24-hour period.
I have fasted on this day since I was 12 years old, and even did it for shorter stretches before that.
Call me a heathen, but I won't be fasting this year, or at least I won't be fasting on Yom Kippur. I just can't do that when we are on a cruise. I personally don't think God will excommunicate me from the religion if I don't fast on that day. I will do it on another day.
Third, and even more important, we are taking my son out of school for a week.
This was the big consternation with this whole thing. We didn't want to take our son out of school, but honestly, the we could not leave him home for this trip. He is a teenager, but a very young teenager. We don't need a "Home Alone" situation when we are away.
He has plenty of schoolwork to do--his teachers were notified about his impending absence--but the school does not take kindly to such a situation.
I received an email yesterday telling me that these absences will be un-excused, because they do not fit the criteria they use to define an excused absence. And the email came from the school's principal.
This put the whole trip on a bit of shaky ground. We are still going, but what exactly does an "unexcused absence" mean to the student? Again, he has plenty of work to bring along with him so he won't fall far behind the other kids. In fact, one teacher gave him work related to the trip and our time on the ship.
I will call the school a little later to find out, but there might not be anyone there, as our school district is still off for Rosh Hashanah.
Otherwise, what can I say? My wife and I are pretty upset, but what can we do? We can't cancel the trip or our son's ticket at this late date, but we have vowed never to take another vacation with him during the fall.
So on we go, to Florida, Jamaica and other points.
Please wish us well.
Right now, my wife and I have agita. We really do.
(Also, I will be back at this blog during the week of Oct. 10. See you then, and until then, feast your eyes on Annette and her friend. They look great even in black and white.)
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Good morning. It is Wednesday, July 12, and today is Walter Egan's birthday.
Egan is 69 years old today. Congratulations to Walter.
I am sure many of you remember that name, but may not be able to place just exactly who Walter Egan is.
In May 1978, Queens, New York-born Egan had one of the biggest hit records of the year, with his song "Magnet and Steel" hitting No. 8 on the charts.
You might also remember that helping him out to this hit were two members of Fleetwood Mac, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
This was Egan's only real hit, his only song to reach the upper reaches of the chart.
So, is he a one-hit wonder?
One hit wonders are true phenomenons, acts that have one big hit and then fade away from view, most of them forever.
But is Egan, in particular, a one-hit wonder?
I beg to disagree with those who say that he is, although really, off the top of my head, "Magnet and Steel" is the only song of his that I know.
Looking at his recording career, Egan actually placed three other songs on Billboard's Hot 100: "Only the Lonely," which reached No. 82 in 1977 and was produced by the aforementioned Buckingham and Nicks; "Hot Summer Nights," which reached No. 55 in 1978; and "Fool Moon Fire," which got up to No. 46 in 1983.
So is Egan a true one-hit wonder because he had just the one, single, solitary big hit, although he did hit the charts with other recordings?
Personally, I cannot rate him a one-hit wonder, because while "Magnet and Steel" was his only one, true, big hit, he did place those other songs on the charts.
A true one-hit wonder is, at least to me, an act that places one tune--and one tune only--on Billboard's Hot 100, and then fades into the mist.
An example of such an act is Robin Luke.
In 1958, Luke hit with the No. 5 "Susie Darlin'," and that was it.
Nothing else. Nada. Zilch.
Then there was an act which is kind of a one-hit wonder, kind of isn't. The Charles Randolph Grean Sounde had "Quentin's Theme" a tune that became popular on the TV soaper "Dark Shadows." That song got up to No. 13 in 1969. That was the Sounde's lone Hot 100 hit.
Although the act did have another chart placement--1970's "Peter and the Wolf," which did not place on the Hot 100 but did place on the "Bubbling Under" chart at No. 108--are they still a one-hit wonder?
You would get arguments every which way about whether Egan or the Sounde are true one-hit wonders, but you wouldn't have anyone disputing that Luke was.
I am kind of torn about the whole thing.
Yes, Luke is a one-hot wonder, although he did put out many other records in his career.
The Sounde, well, they kind of are, kind of aren't, but I guess I would say that they are, in fact, a one-hit wonder, because they only placed that one, single, solitary song on the Hot 100, even though they did brush with the chart by placing another single on the Bubbling Under chart.
I have a harder time with Egan, who had a total of four songs on the Hot 100.
In order to get a song on the Hot 100, a song reportedly (at least back then) had to have both sales and airplay, so the other three songs in Egan's canon had a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but they could not compare with "Magnet and Steel," which got the right combination of sales and airplay to make it the big hit that it was.
Heck, anyone who turned on the radio--AM and FM--back then certainly heard Egan's tune being played to death over and over.
So again, is Egan a true one-hit wonder?
In my mind, he is not, even though "Magnet and Steel" is probably the only song the general music listening public knows of his, and it is the only song of his to continue to garner airplay on oldies stations.
So, we are back to square one.
Is Walter Egan a true one-hit wonder?
Happy birthday, Walter, and many, many more.
Posted by Larry at 1:47 AM
Let's get one thing out of the way right away: Michael Jackson's bizarre behavior killed him, and although Dr. Conrad Murray certainly fed into this behavior by giving the pop star certain drugs to help him sleep, he simply did what he was told to do and was paid to do.
Jackson is guilty of his own death because he insisted on being sedated beyond normal precautions. Trying to pin this all on Murray is like saying former President Bill Clinton didn't have a sexual relationship with an intern while in office because he didn't consider what he did sexual.
Now that that is out of the way, let's look at this year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Well, maybe let's not.
Oh, what the heck, let's give it a go: Guns N' Roses; the Beastie Boys; the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; Eric B. and Rakim; the Cure; Donovan; Heart; Freddie King; Laura Nyro; Rufus with Chaka Khan; the Small Faces/Faces; the Spinners; Donna Summer; and War.
This has to be the worst slate of nominees ever in the history of the supposedly hallowed HoF, which is constantly soiled by Jann Wenner's penchant for picking those he likes rather than those who deserve to get in.
Certainly, some of these acts have merit for inclusion in the HoF. I would say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers should go in because they fused funk with rock and roll in a way that even the now homeless Sly Stone couldn't even have imagined when he laid the groundwork for this to happen 20 years earlier. Donovan should go in, because his body of work shows that he was far beyond "the British Dylan," mixing folk and psychedelia better than anyone. Heart should certainly go in, as they paved the way for female rockers from the 1970s on.
Laura Nyro's fusing of rock, pop, soul and Broadway has certainly never been even approached. And yes, the Spinners were the last of the line of top-flight Motown-style acts like the Temptations and the Four Tops, even though they had their biggest hits on the Atlantic label (they did start out at Motown though, and their earliest hits were there).
But Eric B. and Rakim? Joan Jett and the Blackhearts? Guns N' Roses?
C'mon, the HoF should be able to do better than that.
Not that I, personally, thought they would gain a nomination, but the Monkees--and at least Michael Nesmith, if not the whole group--should get in. They fit the criteria of being influential. Musicians like Tom Petty and David Byrne have cited them as influences, and no less than Brian Wilson has said they belong in the HoF.
And their high profile reunion tour--well, three of them--this year certainly put them back on the map.
Another act that should have at least been nominated is Paul Revere and the Raiders. They are the "missing" link from late 1950s rock and roll to early 1970s rock, and they were highly influential. You just know that Van Halen was watching these guys on TV when they were growing up.
There are others who deserve nomination, but the current slate simply misses the point entirely.
Eric B. and Rakim?
What is that all about?
We go through this every year. The polls say who should be nominated--this year, Goldmine magazine listed the Monkees as the people's top choice--and then we get dreck like this.
To knowing rock and roll fans, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is little more than a joke.
However, the joke isn't funny anymore, and hasn't really been funny since the Dave Clark Five fiasco of a few years back.
I would tell Wenner to lighten up, and listen to the people, because rock and roll is the people's music, not just his.
Would he listen?
But once again I will say this ...
Eric B. and Rakim.
By the way, I am taking tomorrow off for the beginning of the Jewish High Holy days. This commences with Rosh Hashanah, which comes tonight at sundown. The holiday lasts two full days, and leads up to Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which comes next weekend.
So there will be no talk of Michael Jackson and no talk of rock and roll tonight at my dinner table, just a look back at the past year, and whether we have lived up to God's belief in us.
I hope my family and I have done so.
I really do.
Speak to you on Friday.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
I spoke about being at Yankee Stadium in yesterday's column, and I have to say that I picked the right game to attend, as the Bronx Bombers bombed out against the Milwaukee Brewers in the last game of the last series before the All-Star break, losing two of three to the transplanted from the American League to the National League team from Brew City.
If any play was symptomatic of the actual malaise surrounding the Yankees now, it was the one that took place in the sixth inning of Sunday's game against the Brew Crew.
Down 5-3 in the sixth inning, the Yankees got two runners on, and their third baseman, Chase Headley, stepped to the plate.
As the at-bat went on, Headley swung and hit a high fly ball to right field. It had enough gust to land in the seats, and it appeared that the Yankees had taken the lead 6-5.
Headley dropped his bat, knew the ball at least had the distance to register as a round tripper, and he broke out of the batter's box, kind of running like, "well, maybe a homer" was on his mind.
The umpires signaled that it was a home run, waved him around the bases, and the fans in attendance cheered, as if this hit was going to be their salvation for the day.
But as Headley mosied to the dugout, the umpires converged on one another, and asked for a replay of the home run, to make sure it actually was one and not simply a well hit fly ball that hooked foul.
The Yankees' TV network showed a replay of the ball going into the stands, and it appeared that the ball missed the foul pole by a matter of inches.
When the umpires broke up their huddle, they called the runners back to the bases, and Headley back to the plate.
It simply was a long foul ball.
So the score reverted back to 5-3, and Michael Kay, the Yankees' long time TV announcer, asked out loud how many situations have occurred where a batter just missed a home run in similar fashion and then hit one that was fair.
He shouldn't have bothered, as Headley eventually struck out, and for the Brewers, at least, it was no harm, yes foul.
And that was pretty much it for the Yankees, as they lost by the score of 5-3. To add insult to injury, they team from the Bronx went 1 for 16 in with runners from scoring position in a game that last an unsightly nearly four hours.
Yes, the foul pole in baseball is really the "fair" pole, and that ball came within inches of hitting that pole and making Headley the hero of the day.
Instead, it was no different than a ball that went foul but went half as far, and the third baseman could certainly be listed as one of the game's goats.
And it proved once again that sports are often games of inches, and heroes and goats are thisclose to being affirmed one way or the other.
It's just another day at the ballpark, and boy, am I glad I wasn't there.
Last night, Aaron Judge proved that he is, in fact, an all-world baseball slugger, winning the Home Run Derby, an annual event held just prior to the All-Star Game. He hit nearly 50 dingers to do it, but like Headley, those homers didn't really count for much of anything, except bragging rights until next year.
But with 30 homers on the year at the midway point of the season, who can argue with Judge and what he has done thus far?
Hopefully, he has enough gas in his tank to continue to hit balls all over the place, and over the fence, as the Yankees face a tough road in the second half, beginning in Boston against the Red Sox.
And keep those homers fair, please.
As the Red Sox sink to further depths in the East, let us take some time out of our busy day to reflect on someone who changed many of our lives ... but we wouldn't know who this person was if we walked right into him in the middle of the street.
Arch West was a snack food executive who pretty much stumbled upon an idea that changed history, and it all happened when he was on a family vacation in California.
He ate out at a Mexican restaurant, and was intrigued by fried tortilla chips that were served with a meal.
With his businessman's sense, he thought that these could go over big with his employer and with snack food fans everywhere.
And he was right on both counts.
His employer happened to be Frito-Lay, the major snack food manufacturer, and the product that he thought up was Doritos, the first nationally sold tortilla chip.
There have been many copy-cat and similar items since its debut in the mid-1960s, but Doritos is the real thing, and it has become one of Frito-Lay's top-selling snacks over the years.
And it pre-dated the Mexican food phenomenon that is seen in just about everything we consume, and the idea for a nationally distributed tortilla chip even pre-dates the overriding success of the Taco Bell chain and probably every other Mexican food chain that have become as American as apple pie over the last two or three decades.
There really isn't much more to the story.
West lived to the ripe old age of 97, and he passed away a few days ago.
But his creation will live on well past his life, and probably the lives of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
On my end, Doritos are addicting. Like they used to say about Lay's Potato Chips, you can't eat just one.
There are many variations of the original now, but I like the original. It is the best of the entire line, although its other line mates are intriguing.
So there you have it. Here's another unknown name, but a guy who had a bit of ingenuity, and one whose legacy will be everlasting ...
All because of a tortilla chip.
Posted by Larry at 1:30 AM
Monday, July 10, 2017
I hope you had a nice weekend.
I had a nice weekend, a good portion of it spent in the Bronx, New York.
On that day, my son and I went to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Yankees won in walk-off style after Clint Frazier hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.
It was sort of a payoff for a long day sitting in the sun, enjoying ourselves in the big ballpark in the Bronx.
I have always loved going to baseball games in person.
I was relating to my parents the other day about the first game I ever went to, way back in 1965 when I was barely eight years old.
It was June 1965. I don't remember the exact date, but I did not go with my father to my first game; I went with my friend's dad and my friend to the original Yankee Stadium.
I don't remember the exact circumstances of the tickets. I can't remember if my friend's father actually bought the tickets himself or he was given the tickets by one of his passengers, as he was a cab driver like my dad was.
It was a mid-week game right before the end of school, and yes, my friend and I played hooky that day from P.S. 30, and we went to the game, where the Yankees played the-then Kansas City Athletics.
I don't remember the final score, although I know the Yankees lost, but it didn't matter; I distinctly remember walking into the big stadium, and I was just taken by its grandeur. The field was perfectly green, everything was so big, and here I was, this little kid taking it all in.
I was hooked, and hooked for life, and every time I go to a game, it is like I am that eight year old kid again, taking it all in.
But as an adult--and with my own son in tow--it isn't the same.
First off, this is the replica ballpark, a Yankee Stadium for the younger generation. To me and to my generation, it really isn't the real Yankee Stadium--that cathedral to baseball was torn down a few years ago to make way for this new ballpark--but I guess it is going to have to do.
And then you have everything tied into a day at the ballpark--the parking prices, the ticket prices, the prices for something as simple as a bottle of water--which all brings you down to earth, that this is not the world that you once lived in.
And then there is the driving, which can turn anyone completely off from the entire experience.
It took us about 90 minutes to get to the stadium from Long Island, which isn't bad.
It took us two and a half hours to get home, which was interminable.
But while at the Stadium, I have to admit that it was a lot of fun.
We sat in the lower portion of the upper deck in right field, right down the foul line.
Those were good seats in the hot sun, and yes, we did get some suntan on our legs that day--we wore hats, so we didn't really suffer anywhere else.
My wife was supposed to go to the game, but she was ill this weekend, and I managed to sell my ticket for a lower price than I paid for it. But as the game progressed, I noticed that the ticket wasn't used by anyone, as the seat was empty.
One mishap was that I went to the merchandise area to get shirts for my son, my wife and myself. I chose a female generic shirt for my wife, a Didi Gregorious shirt for my son, and an Aaron Judge shirt for myself.
Two transactions were going on while I paid for the shirts--there was a cashier next to the one I used that was also tallying up a purchase--and the shirts that I wanted somehow got mixed up with what the other people were purchasing, so what I got was the female shirt, and two medium Didi Gregorious shirts--my Aaron Judge extra large shirt went to the other people!
And like a fool, I never checked my purchase when I made it, and only found out about it when I got home.
Oh well, there will be another chance to purchase an Aaron Judge shirt at the ballpark, as we--and I am sure my wife will be fine by then--will be returning to Yankee Stadium on August 12 for another contest.
I will get my shirt then, which I can revel in as I sit in bumper to bumper traffic the entire way home.
Posted by Larry at 1:29 AM
This is a kind of dead season for movies.
We are in the middle of all of the summer blockbusters and the holiday super movies, so the fall is like a dumping ground for a lot of trash that couldn't compete at the box office at any other time.
That's one reason you see movies like "Killer Elite" and "Contagion" in movie theaters now. Do you really think that if there was anything good out there that people would even consider seeing this type of trash?
That is also the reason why "The Lion King" is doing so well right now.
This 1994 movie was a box-office blockbuster when it was originally released in 1994. Hand-drawn, it is the largest grossing film of its kind in history, and came out just before computer animation virtually wiped the old fashioned cartoon movies off the map.
It is lush, it is beautiful to look at, and it is a classic in film making of any kind.
Using bits of the Bible and Hamlet as its influences, the film shows the conflict between Simba and Scar as to who will be the eventual leader of the lions. It is a great film for all ages, features nice music, and the vocal talents of a great assemblage of Hollywood and Broadway types, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg.
Of course, the film wasn't re-released without a catch. It is now being shown in 3D, the bane of my movie-going existence.
Why? Well, you have to pay more to see 3D films--you pay for a ticket and the glasses--so the box office returns are truly not related to ticket sales, and are pretty artificial.
For instance, this past weekend, "The Lion King" reigned supreme at the box office, taking in $22.1 million, nudging the Brad Pitt baseball movie, "Moneyball," out of the top spot by about $1.5 million.
But it is safe to say that "Moneyball" sold more tickets, because it is not a 3D movie, and, thus, is about $5 cheaper to see per ticket than "The Lion King."
Hollywood gets my goat. Not only do they charge you extra for the 3D glasses, but we have all seen that tub that asks you to return the glasses after seeing the movie. So all you are paying for is a rental of the glasses.
Sorry, I take mine home, even if I never use them again.
I will bet lots of parents took their young children to see this movie. I mean, what else is there for them to see?
"Dolphin Tale," the story of a sick dolphin who gets a fake tale fin, was the No. 3 film in the country, but it got horrid reviews. I guess lots of parents took their kids to see this movie after seeing "The Lion King" the week before.
And yes, it is also in 3D, inflating its sales figure of $20.3 million.
Other than that, there isn't anything out there for families to see, lots of trash before the big movies for the holidays hit the screen.
Me, I stayed home and watched the Yankees this weekend. There's nothing better than staying home and watching baseball than wasting money to see garbage.
And it's not in 3D.
Posted by Larry at 1:07 AM
Friday, July 7, 2017
So now we hear that supposed comic Kathy Griffin has been investigated for her supposed comedic actions of a few weeks ago, where she posted a photo showing the bloodied head of someone who looked very much like President Trump.
Yes, the government has investigated her, and while they probably won't find anything other than pure and unadulterated stupidity behind this insipid action, Griffin is once again pleading forgiveness, hoping that the general public forgets this action and just allows here, as she is quoted as saying, to "make people laugh."
Please, Ms. Griffin, it is time for you to take your just desserts.
First of all, the question still remains, why did she thin, posting a photo of the bloodied, severed head of anyone was funny? It was bad enough that it was the President, but how could she think that this was a comedic act?
Second, why did she come back so apologetic, and then lash out at the President, saying that he was trying to break her? Did she really think that the President has nothing better to do than to answer a comedienne, and a bad one at that?
Now, Griffin is continuing to plead sort of a cultural insanity, asking people to forgive her and to move on.
She claims that not only is the government investigating her--as they should, what she did was a threat to the President and his family, and all threats, even those that are as insipid as this one was, must be looked into--but she also claims that she receives daily death threats.
If what she is claiming is true--and you really can't give her a cart blanche OK on this, because she has proven to not being very credible in what she has said about this episode--then, of course, that is wrong.
But due to her prior stance about this, you really have to question what she is saying, and ask if she is only doing this to drum up some sympathy for her "plight," a path she dug for herself with her stupid actions.
Again--and I said this way back when this all happened--she should really lay a bit low now, let the public breathe a bit, and then come back to the public fore, where she will gain plenty of sympathy.
It has worked for other celebrities--Pee Wee Herman and Mel Gibson are two of them--and it can work for her.
We are a very forgiving society, and she will be forgiven.
But she needs to step away, and step away right now, from the spotlight.
The more she talks and tries to apologize for something that we already know, based on her actions, that she doesn't really feel was such a bad thing, the more she is digging a very deep hole for herself.
Go away for a while, come back, and the public will forgive you.
To make it plain, just shut up already.
Speak to you again on Monday. Have a nice weekend.
Posted by Larry at 2:02 AM
On some days, the people who are celebrating birthdays is kind of staggering, on other days, kind of interesting.
Today, the list of people celebrating birthdays is kind of interesting.
At the top of the list is Mickey Rooney. Rooney is certainly the last of his kind. He could act, sing, act, dance and do just about anything he wanted to do.
He was perhaps the biggest star Hollywood had in the mid to late 1930s. He made a number of "for the time"-type movies and while his stardom faded over time, he can be called a survivor.
In fact, my favorite movie of his came in the early 1960s: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," one of the funniest movies ever made.
Amidst all the cameos featured in the movie, Rooney was one of the film's true stars. He played Dingy Bell, who along with Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), are two friends on their way to Las Vegas. Of course, their course gets interrupted by pure greed, and the rest is film history.
Rooney has been ill in recent years, but I wouldn't count this now 91-year-old out just yet.
Paul Petersen was one of the first teenybopper stars generated by television. His turn on "The Donna Reed Show" as Jeff Stone made him into both a TV and recording star, and he teamed with Shelley Fabares as really the archetype for all the teen idols that followed them.
After the run of the show, Petersen, by his own admittance, fell on some hard times, but he has bounced back, representing other former child stars who haven't been able to come to grips with adulthood.
He has far outlasted the teen idol monicker, and has done so with a lot of grace and dignity as he turns 66 today.
Next we have Bruce Springsteen.
No, I have never been a fan of his, have never jumped on his rock 'n roll bandwagon, but I understand his importance in the history of that musical genre.
This Jersey boy, who turns 62 today, stands as the beacon of light for a dying music. He puts out an album every year or so, tours endlessly, and people absolutely swear by him.
He apparently doesn't have a phony bone in his body. What you see is what you get, which is rare among pop entertainers today.
Another singer I have never gotten into is Julio Iglesias, who turns 68 today.
Some people believe that he is one of the sexiest men alive. I don't know about that, but his love songs--in English, Spanish and other languages--have captivated many from around the world.
Finally, we have Mary Kay Place, a performer whose popularity came in the 1970s.
Turning 64 today, Place was on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," one of the revelations of the mid 1970s. This send up of soap operas hit a chord with the public, and while she has been busy since, this actress' career has been defined by her participation in that venture.
Sure, there are others who celebrate their birthday today, but this group stands out by itself as an eclectic group of people who made it during their lives.
Love 'em or hate 'em, when you hear their names, they do conjure up clear images in your mind.
And isn't that their true legacy?
Posted by Larry at 1:46 AM
Thursday, July 6, 2017
What is your favorite fast food establishment?
What is the one fast food restaurant that you just can't live without?
I know, fast food is not good for you at all, yet millions and millions of people frequent these places at least once a week.
They are part of Americana, a part of our social and cultural architecture that you can yell and scream about all you like, but that people seem to love.
This year's American Customer Satisfaction Index, rating fast food establishments on everything from cleanliness to customer service to the type of food they offer, came in with something of a surprise this time around.
For the first time in 20 years, Wendy's does not lead the quickserve burger restaurants on the list.
The chain was unseated at the top by Burger King, whose very nature of not sitting still with its food offerings and always trying something new even if it eventually flops, won over participants in the survey.
Wendy's was still highly rated, coming in right behind BK, but it is kind of an upset that the chain isn't No. 1 anymore.
Chick-fil-A was named the favorite overall quickserve (or as the survey calls them, "limited service") chain, with Panera Bread and Papa John's following closely behind.
Others that ranked highly were Subway; Arby's; Dunkin' Donuts and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Overall, Burger King was No. 12, Wendy's was at No. 13, and McDonald's was at the bottom of the list at No. 17.
I don't really know what this says about Americans' taste buds, but it appears that people are moving away from beef and moving toward chicken and other non-beef foods, like salads, when they go out to eat.
And no, none of these chains give you change back for your dollar anymore, unless you are looking for change back from a $20 bill.
They aren't cheap, and haven't been for a while, but while people complain about what they offer, to me, they are simply the modern equivalent of the corner diner, candy store or sweet shop of days gone by, places that also didn't offer many "healthy" choices either … but few complained about them.
They exist for a purpose: to feed you when you are on the run, or when you just don't want to cook and can spend a decent amount of money on a meal.
If people really hated them, they would vanish from the American landscape.
And that isn't happening any time soon.
Menus are being adapted for modern tastes, but if you want a hamburger, you can get one.
With a side salad, if you like.
It is funny how things that oftentimes run parallel to each other can occasionally run right into each other, and one of these odd occurrences happens this week.
Today is the 47th anniversary of the debut of the classic musical "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway. This show, based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, was the first Broadway show to pass 3,000 performances in its original run with Zero Mostel as Tevye. It has delighted audiences of all races, religions and creeds during its many incarnations, and it spawned a successful movie, soundtrack and other adaptations and revivals.
Broadway is in New York, of course, and so is the United Nations. This week, tomorrow, the Palestinians will formally ask the U.N. to grant it statehood. The U.S. has vowed that it will veto any move in this direction, and President Obama has said that the road to statehood for the Palestinians is through negotiation with their neighbor, Israel. Israel agrees to negotiate for peace, but the Palestinians want statehood now without any participation in the peace process with its neighbor.
How odd that these two events should run head on!
Fiddler on the Roof--a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein-- is set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. His three older daughters are perhaps the earliest incarnations of the modern woman, as each is strong willed and hell bent on making their own decisions in life. Each one's choice of husband moves further away from the customs of his faith. All the while, Jews are not thought of as full citizens in Russia, and the Tsar serves to kick them out of their village.
Israel and its neighbors have been in conflict since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948, and have actually been in conflict for centuries. Through various wars and other conflicts both big and small, Israel has not only fought off its attackers, but solidified itself as one of the strongest countries in the world, with armed forces that are the envy of many countries. Built on pretty much barren land, the Israelis used their knowledge to make this land truly one of plenty, even as they have been at odds with their neighbors, who have tried to annihilate them. The Palestinians are a people that no country in the Middle East have wanted to call their own, and they live in constant turmoil with the Israelis.
So we have both an old view of the Jews, years before Israel was formed, running into the current situation, where Israel has yet another Arab enemy to contend with.
Many believe the Palestinians are an oppressed people; others look at them as terrorists. They want statehood, but have never formally recognized the state of Israel.
The Jews know about oppression, the Palestinians proclaim that they are oppressed. Israel allows Palestinians to work and live in its environs and counts them as among its citizens; the Palestinians rue the day that Israel was created.
What do you do?
Look to Tevye for guidance, that's what you do.
The Palestinians should look to this fictional character for guidance. I know it's simplistic, but it is what it is.
Tevye constantly asks God for guidance, whether it is for killing a goat or related to the whims of his daughters.
And God seems to always have an answer for Tevye, which he voices through song: "If I Were a Rich Man," "To Life," etc.
Tevye believes that God has asked him for patience, to understand each situation as it comes to him, and to look at both sides of the equation.
And when his daughters want to get married to men who he believes are not right for his daughters, God asks Tevye, again, for patience, for understanding both sides of the situation, and for his eventual blessing.
So should the Palestinians. If they want statehood, then they must sit down at the negotiating table. They must recognize Israel, basically giving the Jewish state their blessing.
Like Tevye, they don't have to like it, but for the good of his family--and in the Palestinian's neck of the woods, for the good of the Middle East--they should just accept it.
Again, I know that is simplistic, but perhaps simplicity is needed to solve this age-old conflict.
Because without some type of compromise, Israel has no reason to negotiate with the Palestinians. What are they to gain from this?
Everyone wants peace in the Middle East, but the Palestinians must learn that peace is not obtained through terrorist activities like car bombs, suicide bombs, using women and children as decoys, etc.
Those are terroristic acts of violence, and have nothing to do with peace.
And until they understand that--and vow to clean up their act, recognize Israel as the nation that it is, and live as neighbors with the Israelis--peace will never happen, and statehood will be nothing more than a pipe dream.
As Tevye says, "God be with you."
Posted by Larry at 1:16 AM