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Monday, July 31, 2017

Rant #1,949: Old Time Rock and Roll

After a grueling week, my family prepared for the weekend by going to a concert on Friday night.

It was at what used to be called the Westbury Music Fair, now called the NYCB Theater at Westbury, and it featured the "Summer of Love" tour, headlined by Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees.

Fifty years ago, you probably would not have been able to get a ticket to this show, as Lindsay and Dolenz were two of the top rock and rollers on the planet back then, with a multitude of hit records, appearances on television and coverage by the then teen media in such publications as 16 and Tiger Beat.

Today, it is different. With a complete lack of promotion for this concert--the local papers completely ignored it, as far as I could see--you could have walked up to the box office five minutes before the show started, and you would have been able to get a good seat to the show.

The place was probably half full, but it did not deter either the audience or the performers from having a good time.

The night's festivities opened with the Fab Four, a talented quartet of musicians who portrayed the Beatles on stage.

The did note-by-note live renditions of many of the real Fab Four's hits, and I must say that they were surprisingly good, a nice beginning to the rest of the evening.

After a brief intermission, Lindsay and Dolenz came on, started with "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"--a song that they both recorded, the Raiders first and the Monkees second, but garnering the hit--and for the next nearly hour and a half, all present were transported back to the 1965-1970 era, not just the "Summer of Love" in 1967, but an era when the music truly mattered.

Sure, when most people think about the "Summer of Love," they think about 1967, when the establishment was turned topsy turvy by a major sea change in not just music, but culture and the way we, as a society, looked at things, but if you really want to look back with an open eye, music in 1967 was still being spearheaded by acts like the Raiders and the Monkees, very corporate entities who were putting out incredible music.

And that music was heard on Friday night, everything from "I'm a Believer," to "Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be," to "Kicks" to "A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me."

Lindsay is a little long in the tooth, but he delivered his hits with a lot of energy, and Dolenz continues to be a marvel, sounding the same as he did 50 years ago, with almost as much energy as he had way back when.

It was just disappointing that they were playing to a half empty house, but those who were there were into the moment, and we all seemed to have a good time.

And with such a small crowd, it was easy to get out of the venue, which as anyone who has seen a show there can attest to, can be highly problematic at times.

So, all in all, it was a good show on Friday night, one that brought us back to a different time and place in our lives.

For me--having seen probably at least 100 or 150 shows at the venue, going back to when it was merely a tent--every time I go back to Westbury--notice, I avoid using the current name, because to me, the place will always be the Westbury Music Fair--it is like I am coming home.

And being 20 minutes away from where I live makes it even better.

The "Summer of Love" tour is playing around the country this summer. If it comes to your area, I urge you to go and see it. You will not be disappointed.

Classic Rant #603 (October 25, 2011): Slogan=$

You knew it would come to this.

A couple on Long Island is trying to get a trademark for the "Occupy Wall Street" slogan.

With it, they reportedly intend to place the slogan on various items that they can make a buck from, including T-shirts.

The couple claim all they want to do is "spread the word" about the protests.

Please, give me a break. Isn't this very thing just what the protesters are railing about?

Greed, that is what it is, and whether you agree with the protesters or not, that is what this move by the couple, from West Islip, is all about.

The are attempting to grab a brass ring while it is hot.

I guess they have a right to do this. Just about anything can be trademarked, but this slogan, in particular, is kind of a rant for people who are fed up with the financial ways of our society. Trademarking this slogan would run counter to their arguments, no matter what the people who want to trademark the slogan claim.

It's co-opting the movement.

Looking back, there is at least one other symbol of a "movement" that was similarly co-opting, and means very little today because of it.

Although he didn't create the peace symbol, Pablo Picasso popularized it in the late 1940s. By the mid 1960s, the peace symbol was everywhere, and it was adopted by the younger generation. It came to symbolize the need to end the Vietnam War.

Today, you find the symbol everywhere, even on expensive jewelry. What does it mean today?

As singer Edwin Starr's immortal words in his song "War," "Absolutely nothing."

I mean, "Occupy Wall Street" is not a smiley face.

Whether the trademark goes through is another thing, but can't you just see 20 years from now someone carrying a Gucci bag with the words "Occupy Wall Street" emblazoned on it in sparkling letters?

Oh, what a sight that would be!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Rant #1,948: I've Had Enough

My level of patience with those who are not acting as they should has eroded, and as the title of this Rant suggest, I've had enough ... I really can't take it anymore.

I don't know what it is, but since my family returned from our vacation earlier this month, there has been no relaxation, just seemingly utter chaos, and I have had enough.

Including last week's job debacle, which I described to you on Monday, so many other things have happened that have tried to break my family's back and spirit, and while they haven't done that, I can say that we are better than this, way better than this.

I returned home yesterday from another grueling day at work, where I see plenty of people twiddling their thumbs while my nose is at the grindstone, and hoping for a relaxing evening, I got just the opposite.

First, we know that the government is in knots, but really, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income are completely a mess.

Earlier this month, my son, with his disability, was approved for Social Security after a long and arduous process.

Due to some procedural errors on SSI's side, he owes some money to the government, and that bill was paid in full earlier this month. I sent the check by certified mail, and I have all the documents attesting to the fact that the office received the check, as it was signed for.

Yet, we continue to receive threatening letters, saying we need pay our son's "debt," or else.

After about the sixth such letter--which, of course, alerts us to the fact that we forgot to pay the bill, and that if we, in fact, did pay it, we should ignore the letter (six of them?)--I have had enough.

I am calling the number given on the letter this morning and try to straighten this whole thing out.

And as you probably know, calling a government office is akin to getting a disease, so I am prepared for anything ... if I can even get through.

Then we have the case of my son's doctor, who is a competent physician but an incompetent one at the same time.

Not only has his office accused us of not paying our bills--for the second time--but he recently fouled up my son's prescription to the point that we had to pay three times what we normally pay to get his medicine.

First things first. We have a copay when we meet with this doctor once a month, and the first time we saw him, we paid it right up front.

The second and third times we met with him, we did not pay anything, as it was not asked for, and we were under the impression that insurance had taken care of it.

We were alerted by the doctor's office that that was not so. so the last time we visited the doctor, we paid out bill in full, in cash, and received a receipt for the money.

Fast forward to yesterday, when while at work, we received another message from the doctor's office that they had never been paid.

What did the doctor do with the cash we gave him, and why are his system and the office's system not intertwined to show that we paid our bill in full?

To add insult to injury, the last time we saw the doctor, he electronically sent out my son's prescription, but completely messed things up by typing in the wrong spelling of our last name.

Since our insurance company did not recognize the last name, we were charged the full price for my son's medicine--even though the social security number matched their records.

We tried to reverse this, but since the prescription was already put through, our insurance company would not budge, and the pharmacy where we picked up the prescription was little help, not recognizing the matching social security numbers, either.

So we were stuck with a bill three times what it should have been. My son needed his medication, so we paid the bill, but I alerted the doctor's office about this ... and they have yet to return my call.

I will call the doctor today--getting through to his office is also akin to contracting a disease--and see if this all can be worked out.

Yes, I have had enough.

Let me hope that today at work, things go as smoothly as they can go, and that all my calls go through and everything is copacetic by the end of the workday.

Somehow, I doubt that is going to happen, but you have to have hope, I guess.

Have a good weekend. Speak to you again on Monday.

Classic Rant #602 (October 24, 2011): Comedy Just Isn't Funny Anymore

As Friday was Friday, Saturday and Sunday were Saturday and Sunday for myself and my family.

Nothing with nothing.

So my wife decided to rent a few movies from the local Redbox machine.

How bad can the movies be for a dollar apiece? Even if they were awful, for a dollar, you can take a chance.

Well, we saw two stinkers, we sure did, and it addresses a problem that I have seen recently with comedy.

Comedy isn't funny anymore.

Maybe the times have passed me by, but I simply do not laugh at today's comedies, whether big screen or small screen.

I just don't find them funny.

I guess all the scatalogical references, all the sex references, and all the drug/drunk references turn me off too much.

I love to laugh as much as the other guy, and believe me, I am far from being a prude, but the constant pounding of comedies with these "jokes" and situations, well, it just isn't funny.

Take the first movie we saw, "Zookeeper."

Look, I wasn't expecting "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" here, but I expected something more from Kevin James, since his show, "The King of Queens," was probably the last TV show I really laughed out loud at.

Here, James plays the usual schlemeil, the guy who is in total self doubt about himself and the girl that he needs is right there in front of him.

Animals who can speak is so old already. I used to laugh at Goliath in "Davy and Goliath," and the dog in "The People's Choice" was pretty funny, but in 2011, this is so old hat as to be not funny.

And it wasn't in this movie. Not at all.

Then we have "Bridesmaids," starring comely Kristen Wiig.

Here we have a film about female bonding, in a way, revolving around a wedding party supporting the matrimonial vows of a best friend--or is the girl still a best friend?

This film was marketed as a comedy, a raunchy one at that, but it really isn't.

It isn't funny at all, and it has more dramatic tension than humorous scenes--or scenes meant to be humorous--anyway.

And it isn't funny, unless you like scenes of vomiting, elimination, and constant use of four-letter words.

I don't know, I don't find this stuff funny at all. For the two films, I probably laughed twice.

(I should have known--one of the stars of "Bridesmaids" is the star of the lamentable "Mike and Molly" TV show that I recently railed about.)

Funny, but in between films, my wife and I watched reruns of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on TV Land.

Yes, I know the shows are cut to shreds on this station, but they leave in enough so that you can still laugh out loud, and marvel at the cleverness of these shows from the early to mid 1960s.

Ironically, they ran a show this weekend that I think addresses why I don't find current comedy that funny.

One show we saw had Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) meet up with an old codger that was once his boss. He was Rob's comedy mentor, and Rob offered him a job working for him as one of the writers on "The Alan Brady Show."

When he begins to work with the other writers, he can't come up with a good gag if his life depended on it. He is from the old school (or what was the old school back in 1962 or so).

It isn't working out, and Rob has to let the old man go--but not before tapping into his brain, where he develops, using the old man's ideas, a sketch about--

Comedy not being funny anymore.

And the sketch was a riot!

So even back then, some people found the current comedy scene in 1962 far inferior to earlier times.

Now that is funny.

Today's movies and TV shows go for the lowest laugh, and the laughs simply are not there.

I don't know if it has to do with the lack of talent of the writers and the performers, or that now that everything is permissive, there isn't that much creativity anymore.

But I simply don't laugh at today's offerings. I find them offensive, vulgar, and every other adjective that fits with the term "unfunny."

I am still looking for something new to laugh at.

And I am just not finding it.

And that, to me, is no laughing matter.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rant #1,947: Tiny Bubbles

I like to drink soda--it is one of my few "vices"--and when I drink soda, it is usually Coca-Cola.

The real thing.

I don't like diet soda, never have, never will.

So when I choose to drink soda, 99 times out of 100, it will be Coke, Coke Classic, whatever you want to call it.

I believe that if you drink diet soda, that is your choice, of course, but do you really think that you are saving on the calories and physical "safety" when you drink diet soda?

I don't think so.

It is almost like smoking low-tar cigarettes. You are still smoking, you know, and when you drink diet soda, you are still drinking the bubbly stuff.

Now, Coca-Cola has decided that its sort of diet cola, Coke Zero, is not reaching enough people for what they intend it to be, a "diet," no sugar alternative to the real thing.

They have decided to change the name of the beverage to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, to make it stand out a little bit more on the shelf as a no-sugar beverage.

Coke Zero Sugar, as it will also be known as, will also go under a formulation change, to make it taste more like real Coca-Cola than ever before.

Evidently, Coke tried the new formulation in Europe, it clicked with diet beverage drinkers, and they are confident that it will do the same thing over here.

Rather than sugar as a sweetening agent, the drink uses various artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, to get its taste.


I know that real Coke doesn't generally use real sugar in its formulation anymore--except in special editions and in Passover editions--but I am telling you, those artificial sweeteners are the devil's brew themselves, as far as I am concerned.

Remember cyclamates?


Look, I applaud people for trying to lose weight, and including a diet soda in their regimens, but the only way to really lose weight, and cut down on soda use, is to not drink soda at all.

After my gall bladder operation, I found that I could not drink any soda, because it upset my stomach. So for about four years, I did not drink any soda, and I do mean ANY soda.

I substituted the soda with something just as "deadly," which was fruit drinks like lemonade, but after those four years, I decided to try soda again, and lo and behold, I found that I could handle it, and I have not looked back since.

Like my father has always said, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink, he doesn't chase after women, so this is his main vice.

Like father, like son.

So the introduction of Coke Zero Sugar will rattle some apple carts, but not mine.

I will not even look twice at this beverage.

For me, it's the real thing or nothing.

And that is not going to change any time soon.

Classic Rant #601 (October 21, 2011): Just Another Friday

Hello, it's Friday.

It's just another Friday. Another cruel dictator is dead, and Lindsay Lohan is in trouble with the law again.

Ho hum, just another Friday.

Unlike the "Manic Monday" that the Bangles once sung about, today appears to be just another Friday.

What do you think is the greatest "Friday" song ever?

Could it be "Friday On My Mind" by the Easybeats?

How about "Friday's Child" by Nancy Sinatra?

Maybe "Friday I'm In Love" by the Cure?

Or does it even have to have the word "Friday" in the song title to qualify?

If not, how about "Bang the Drum" by Todd Rundgren?

It could be any one of those, but I do like "Friday On My Mind." It has that hook that doesn't go away from your mind too quickly.

But that being said, it's just another Friday.

Didn't that crazy preacher Harold Camping say that today would be the day the world ended? I know he has said this before about other days, but didn't he recently say it about today? And where is Mr. Camping now that we need him?

Personally, this has been a long work week for me, my first full week back at work after my recent vacation. I was at work last week, but I only worked four days, taking off Columbus Day, so this is really my first full week back. It has been difficult getting back in the saddle, but I am there, and not looking back.

And like the old Loverboy song, I am always "Working For the Weekend." I don't care if my family and I don't do much of anything on Saturday and Sunday. Even sitting around doing nothing at home is always better than sitting around and doing something at work.

I name dropped a lot of songs here, but somehow, songs do define the moment.

And yes, I do have "Friday on My Mind," because it's "Almost Saturday Night," as John Fogerty has told us for years and years.

And I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rant #1,946: That's Life

Remember a few posts ago when I talked about the death of the lady who was the companion of reclusive actress Greta Garbo?

She was kind of a footnote celebrity, as she was at least slightly well known not because of her own accomplishments, but because of her link to a famous person.

Well, we have another one of these to report.

Barbara Sinatra, the last of singer Frank Sinatra's four wives and the one he was married to for the longest period of time, has passed away at age 90.

She was very well known in entertainment circles, but not well known to the public.

While Frank carried on his life on the public stage, Barbara did her work behind the scenes.

She was a huge fundraiser, and spearheaded the creation of a center for abused children that bears her name, the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Sinatra, nicknamed "Lady Blue Eyes," was presented with the rights to her husband's legacy upon his death in 1998. She owned the rights to his likeness, the rights to his "Trilogy" collection, ownership of most of his material possessions, and various mansions, as well as many millions of dollars.

Barbara Blakeley was a showgirl, and was married three times herself.

Her middle marriage, to Zeppo Marx of Marx Brothers fame, allowed her to hobnob with the Hollywood elite, and when she divorced him in 1973, Sinatra came calling, and they married in 1976.

Although she pretty much kept in the background during her marriage to Sinatra and the years after he had passed, she was quite well known in Hollywood circles, and was even portrayed by Melanie Griffith in a film about Frank Sinatra, "The Night We Called It a Day."

Upon her death, she is survived by her son from a prior marriage, grandchildren and her stepdaughters, Nancy and Tina Sinatra.

So again, while Barbara Sinatra had numerous accomplishments on her own, she is, and will primarily always be known as, Frank Sinatra's wife.

That does not minimize her life, but her link to "Old Blue Eyes" still will define her for the ages.

Classic Rant #600 (October 20, 2011): The Mick

Today would have been Mickey Mantle's 80th birthday if he would have lived. He died in 1995, and although gone for 16 years, he remains the quintessential American sports hero.

Mantle had humble beginnings in Commerce City, Oklahoma. He was the son of a miner, and he was destined to become one too ... although his dad thought otherwise.

As the story goes, seemingly from birth, Mantle was pegged as an athlete. He was named after Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane, and as a youth, excelled at just about every sport he tried.

He played high school football, was tackled hard, and the injury was something far worse: Mantle had osteomyolitis, a bone disease that could be fatal. He lived with intense pain in his legs the rest of his life.

Couple that with the fact that men in his family often didn't live past 40 years of age, and Mantle believed he was on borrowed time, and that seemed to define his life.

A Yankees scout, Tom Greenwald, saw him play baseball after he recovered from the football injury, signed him to a contract, and Mantle toiled in the minor leagues, where people couldn't believe their eyes. This then-scrawny kid could hit a baseball a country mile. He couldn't field at all, and was moved from the infield to the outfield during his minor league days, but he could hit--and run like the devil.

Joe DiMaggio wasn't a spring chicken anymore in 1951, and the Yankees felt his days were numbered. They brought Mantle up to be his successor.

DiMaggio didn't like it, didn't like it one bit. He was not going to give up his position without a fight, and Mantle played the other outfield positions while DiMaggio toiled in centerfield during his last days.

When DiMaggio retired, Mantle took over centerfield, and he was the Yankees' centerfielder through the 1967 season, when he himself was moved to first base to make way for another comet out of nowhere, up and comer and fellow Oklahoman Bobby Murcer.

Anyway, from 1951 to 1968--and particularly from 1951 to 1964--Mantle was one of the best players in baseball. He could run, he could hit, he could throw, he could play defense, and he had the look of the All-American boy.

And he didn't let anyone down, winning several MVP awards, winning the Triple Crown, and leading the Yankees to several championships.

Off the field, he also led the Yankees. As chronicled first in Jim Bouton's mammoth tome of the times, "Ball Four," Mantle was a drunk, a carouser, committed infidelity pretty openly, and could be extremely nasty.

Although the sportswriters of the time covered up a lot of his personal life, some incidents stood out, including his participating in the legendary Copa incident, where Sammy Davis Jr. was being heckled for being black and Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin got into a skirmish with the heckler.

After that well-publicized incident, the hard-drinking threesome was broken up, with Billy Martin traded away.

Although Mantle was the All-American boy on the outside, he was far from it from the inside. He drank constantly, by his own later admittance playing in several games when he had hangovers from hardy partying the night before.

He had a mistress, although the press made his family into the All-American family, with a loving wife and a gaggle of sons who adored him.

All told, he hit 536 home runs, just missed hitting .300 for his career, and was probably the most popular player of his generation. Think of Derek Jeter today, and Mantle was magnified 100 times more than that.

When people think of the 1950s, they think of Eisenhower, Monroe and Mantle. He typified the era.

When I got interested in baseball when I was seven or eight years old, all the years of playing, and partying, had seemingly caught up with Mantle and the rest of the Yankees. They were a sorry shell of their former selves, but I was a kid, and I loved them.

I have told this story many times, and I will tell it again.

My dad bought tickets to a Yankees game in May 1967, and he took my two friends with us. It was a birthday present to me, a little late one since I was born in April, but I anxiously waited for the game.

The problem was, my mother was not happy, because my father unwittingly bought the tickets for a game on the holiest day of the year, Mother's Day.

Well, we went anyway.

Mantle's Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles. My father had had Oriole Manager Earl Weaver in his cab a day or two before, and the two got to talking. The Yankees were destined for a ninth-place finish that year, and my father asked the seemingly inebriated Weaver if his pitchers could groove a pitch to Mantle during Sunday's game, the game we were going to be at, so we could be there when Mantle hit his 500th home run.

Weaver gave some unintelligible answer, and it was left at that.

Well, Mantle hit his 500th homer during that game, and the 25,000 or so in attendance--including me, my dad, and my friends--saw history that day. The place rocked and rolled for the rest of the game, with those in attendance cheering and yelling and screaming as if twice as many people were there.

Mantle, who was, by this time, a weary first baseman, made an error during the game, but the Yankees held on to win.

So did my dad have a part in Mantle hitting his 500th home run that day? Who knows, but it's fun to think about it that way.

And the next year, during bat day, I got (or my sister got) a Mickey Mantle bat. I got a Bill Robinson bat, but I used the bat she received for years in Little League and on the playground, and I still have it.

Mickey Mantle was "The Mick," "The Oklahoma Strongboy," but to many pitchers, he was poison.

In his private life, he may not have been the All-American boy, but he was as close to one as that generation had seen.

So, on what would have been his 80th birthday--he's as old as my parents--the dawn of another World Series, and my 600th rant, I found it fitting to cover Mickey Mantle, my first favorite baseball player and the idol of millions during his career.

He was the real American Idol.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rant #1,945: Calendar Boy

So, I hear that Justin Beiber canceled the remainder of his tour.

I am completely heartbroken, of course.

Moving onto other matters ...

Today, July 25, is the 206th day of the year. In leap years--not this year--it is the 207th day of the year.

In 1965, Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival, which angered folk purists, but a move that probably extended his career to the present time. Without an electric guitar, he would have been relegated to history as simply the last, great folkie; with the electric guitar, he became a rock and roll icon with folkie roots. It was, ultimately, the best musical move he ever made, whether the true folkies liked it or not.

Thirteen years later, in 1978, Louise Joy Brown was born. This birth would have been a momentous moment for the Browns anyway, but it ended up being much more than that, as young Brown was the first person to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilization, a process which has given previously childless couples hope that the could become parents, too. As a side note, Brown herself has kind of faded into obscurity, although it is known that she has married, and has conceived two children naturally.

Among the famous people born today include actor Walter Brennan, in 1894; actor Jack Gilford, in 1908; Joseph Kennedy Jr., of the Kennedy clan, the first of the brothers to die tragically, in 1915; actress Estelle Getty, in 1923; actor/director Jerry Paris, in 1925; and footballer Walter Payton, in 1954.

Deaths that occurred on this date include those of singer Charlie Rich, in  1995; and golfer Ben Hogan, in 1997.

Yes, July 25 is just another day in the neighborhood, just another day on the calendar, and we have 159 more days until 2017 mercifully comes to an end.

It has been a tough year for me, personally, and I am looking forward to turning over a new chapter in my life in 2018.

But let's not jump ahead so far. With 159 days left to the year, so much more--both good and bad--can happen, that it is really too early to write off this year as just another brick in the wall, so to speak.

We are now in the middle of summer, and we still have fall and winter to contend with.

I am not going to write off this year just yet, not with so many more days to come.

Thus far, the year has not panned out for me too well, but with five months left, there is time.

And yes, being 60 years of age is fun, even though it is looked at as being ancient in some circles.

I have my health, I have a good family behind me, so overall, while I can say I can't really complain, I guess I can.

Thus far, 2017 has been a glass half empty/half full year, and it has 159 days to lean heavily on one side against the other.

That is what I am hoping, and I think that it can become a good year, a memorable one, with just a few of the right bounces.

Let's see what happens.

Classic Rant #599 (October 19, 2011): The Day My Mama Socked It To the Harper Valley PTA

Younger readers of this blog probably do not have the slightest idea what the title of this Rant means.

Others probably forgot what its meaning is after all these years.

But "Harper Valley P.T.A." was a pretty powerful message way back when, encapsulated in a song by country singer Jeannie C. Riley that hit the top of the Hot 100 charts in 1968.

Today, Riley turns 66.

Let's go over the context of the song. A widowed woman, Mrs. Johnson, is taken to task by the local P.T.A. after her daughter brings home a note from school that criticizes Mrs. Johnson's habits, including wearing a mini-skirt, having relationships with the opposite sex, and other behavior which the supposedly staid P.T.A. does not approve of.

Mrs. Johnson is far wiser than the P.T.A., turning the tables on them by bringing up their own individual "behaviors," if you will, of each and every member of the P.T.A.

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, eh?

The song was incredibly popular, one of the few tunes to hit No. 1 on both the pop and country charts. People of all ages got the hook of the song, showing hypocrisy to be a negative thing.

The song was so popular that it was turned into a movie and very brief TV show 10 years after it hit its peak.

Riley had other country hits, but the song was such a phenomenon that it pretty much eclipsed her other output, especially on the pop charts. She never really had another pop hit, with "The Girl Most Likely" only reaching No. 55 and subsequent singles either skirted the bottom of the chart did not chart at all.

Riley herself was something of an anomaly as a country singer herself. When female country singers were pretty strait-laced, especially about their dress, she bought into the current trends, living out the "Harper Valley P.T.A." lifestyle by wearing the current fashion styles, including mini-skirts, of course.

All told, Riley was a successful country singer, and through some trials and tribulations of her own, has emerged as a gospel singer in recent years.

But that song ... it kind of resonates today, doesn't it?

People continue to criticize the behavior of others without looking inwardly at themselves.

I guess it's something of a human thing to knock others while you, personally, are not that angelic either, but it was all bought to the fore by Riley's tune, which continues to get played on almost a daily basis on oldies stations around the country.

"Harper Valley P.T.A." really stands for "Anyplace U.S.A.", as the topics talked about in the song really can happen anyplace, anywhere.

And more than 40 years after hitting the top spot on the charts, "Harper Valley P.T.A." still resonates today.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rant #1,944: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

I hope you had a good weekend.

I had some time to reflect, shake my head, and move on.

Please let me explain.

As you know, I am in a very bad work situation.

My place is going down the tubes, whether it is today, tomorrow, this month, next month, or next year.

I haven't spoken that much about my work situation here lately, and the reason is that nothing has changed.

I continue to apply for jobs, but I have not had an interview of any kind in about six months or so.

I do feel that there are several factors working against me, and that I am hitting my head against the wall, time and time again.

To prove my point, let me tell you what happened this past Friday.

Continuing to search for a new job and sending in my resumes each day for jobs that I think I would be a good fit for, I sent in a resume a week or two ago to a firm looking for a copywriter.

Lo and behold, early last week, I received an email saying that a particular firm on Long Island wanted to speak to me about filling this position.

The email included a link to the company's calendar, and I was to choose one of the open spots on their calendar, put my name in and some other information that they asked for, and I would be set.

I chose a 6 p.m. appointment this past Friday, as this would be right after work--I work until 5:30 p.m.--and the location was close to my work address, literally five minutes away.

The email said that there were some prerequisites to the interview.

First, I could not come in formal attire. They were "turned off" by such attire, as they didn't dress up in their office.

Second, I had to call five minutes before I was to arrive in their office.

After the drudgery of work on Friday--we were hit with another nickel and dime thing, as we were told as we received our paychecks that we would be paying for the Family and Medical Leave Act each and every week through our paychecks--I got in my car and drove to the address.

I had a little bit of a tough time locating the address. I thought it was in an office building, and I drove around a bit, but I found the exact address--it was a bridal shop.

Yes, you read right, a bridal shop.

Becoming more skeptical by the minute, I parked in the back of the building housing this shop, went back to my email through my phone, and yes, that was the address.

Becoming a bit perplexed, I decided to call the place, even though it was at least 10 minutes before my scheduled appointment.

I called, and here is the conversation.

"Hello, I am scheduled to have an appointment with you at 6 p.m., and I don't know if I have the right location."

"Who are you?"

"This is Larry Lapka, and I have the 6 p.m. appointment for the copywriter's position."

"You were supposed to be here at 2 p.m. Why are you coming here now? There is no one here to speak to you."

"Look, I just checked again, and my appointment was for 6 p.m. Why would I make it for 2 p.m.? That would be right in the middle of my work day. It was 6 p.m."

"Well, there is no one to speak to you now."

"I see."


Absolutely furious, I once again checked the schedule, and no, I was not crazy, it was 6 pm.

I called the number back, and got an answering machine.

I said I would be willing to come in next week, and I was available any day of the week for an interview.

I got off the phone, and I had a change of thought.

I called yet again, said that I thought this was a scam (yes, something smelled quite fishy here), and that if I did not receive a call back, I was going to report the "company" to Indeed, the job site that I got the listing from.

Yes, I received a call back real quick from the person I spoke to a few minutes earlier. I spoke to him as I drove home.

He appeared to be in his late teens or early 20s.

The conversation went like this.

"Look, check your schedule. It clearly says 6 p.m. Why would I choose 2 p.m.? That is in the middle of my workday. Nothing adds up here, and I think this is a scam."

"You are mistaken. It was at 2 p.m."

"Look, to me, nothing adds up here, and I think this is a scam, there is no job and no company."

"You are mistaken. I don't think that this was anyone's fault."

"If you don't think that this was anyone's fault, why not give me another appointment, and do it over the phone in not such a high tech way, because electronics can be funny, and your schedule shows that."

"No, I don't think that this is a good fit."

At that, I became enraged even further.

"Baloney. I is not a good fit because you guys completely fouled up."

"No, we did not."

"Look, this is obviously a scam. You now have my information. Even if you are legitimate, you can now say that you had the job open for anyone, even someone like me, a 60-year old person with a ton of experience."

"It is not a scam. It was not your fault or our fault."

"Then why can't you give me another appointment?"

"Because it is not a good fit."

"Let me explain my situation: I work for a company that is going out of business. I am 60 years old. I have been looking for a new position for many months. I have not had an interview in at least six months. When I saw your email, it gave me some hope. I got excited. I prepped for this interview. And then to come to a bridal shop and hear this nonsense from you ... this is a scam, and you know it too. You now have my information."

This went back and forth for a few minutes, and then the call ended.

I came home, filled my wife in about what happened, and later that night, I went onto the schedule again, to make sure I was not crazy.

And if you look at the photo attached to this entry, you can see that I am far from nuts.

Look, the "company," or whatever it is, has a website, but heck, anyone can put up a website.

Now that they have my name, address, phone number, email address, and cell phone number, they have a lot of information, information that is valuable and can be sold.

Heck, if they got 100 people in the same situation, they have 100 sets of the same information, from which they can springboard to even more valuable information, like my social security number, debit card numbers, etc.

This was clearly a scam, and yes, I did report them to Indeed.

I will monitor that site as I continue to look for a job, and if I see their job entry again, I will let Indeed know about it.

Yes, I am extremely frustrated, but I have to push on.

At work, we just lost our dedicated salesman, and he said upon leaving that based on what he knows, we cannot last past the fall.

So I guess I have to continue to bang my head against the wall, and maybe it will make a dent somewhere.

Right now, I have had it up to here, and I just don't know what else to do.

The one thing I do know is that I am better than this, better than all of this.

I guess sometimes you have to suffer.

Classic Rant #598 (October 18, 2011): Former Hotties Everywhere

First, happy birthday to former hotties Dawn Wells and Erin Moran, who celebrate birthdays today.

Now, on to another former hottie who continues to use her mouth in ways that one might never have imagined.

Susan Sarandon called the Pope a Nazi. Yes, a Nazi.

It seems that she was being interviewed at the Hamptons International Film Festival out here on Long Island.

According to news sources, Sarandon said that she had sent the book "Dead Man Walking"--the book that was adapted into a movie that she starred in as a nun--to the Pope, but not the current Pope, the previous one.

She reportedly called the current Pope "this Nazi one we have now."

Oh boy!

Sarandon, who was raised Roman Catholic and graduated from the Catholic University of America, really put her foot into it, didn't she?

For the record, the current Pope, whose real name is Joseph Ratzinger, was conscripted into Hitler Youth at age 14 like most, if not all, young boys of that age in Germany at that time, but according to his representatives, he never participated in the group because he did not believe in its goals.

Sarandon, perhaps, is still feeling pain related to her breakup with fellow actor and big-mouth person Tim Robbins. She has always had a big mouth, never shying away from saying what was on her mind, but I think this one might have sunk her to a new low. although you have to bet that some people believe "once a Nazi, always a Nazi."

Heck, even Ah-nold has some very thin relationship with the Nazis through his father, and certainly Mel Gibson and the Nazis have been on somewhat mutual terms.

And what about Hitler's true legacy, the people car, the Volkswagen? How many of us who denounce the atrocities of Nazi Germany readily get into one of these cars on a daily basis?

What is my point?

My point is that, once again, people who really shouldn't be given credit for being statesman and politicians are being given too much credit for what they've said.

Like Tony Bennett a few weeks ago, Sarandon is no politician. She is just an actress, one with a very big mouth.

And she made the comment at a film festival, not at a political summit.

Sure, her comments really riled Catholics, as it probably should have, but I would simply link the comment with who said it and not take it as if the President said it.

Sarandon is who she is, and she isn't going to change.

Remember, she is an actress, one that was/is easy on the eyes, and nothing more.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rant #1,943: Backfield In Motion

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.

Classic Rant #597 (October 15, 2017): Random Thoughts

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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rant #1,942: TV OD

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.

Classic Rant #596 (October 14, 2011): And We Still Love Lucy, Too

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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rant #1,941: Eat to the Beat

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.

Classic Rant #595 (October 13, 2011): Ed, We Miss You

"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

Rant #1,940: Rubber Froggy

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.

Classic Rant #594 (October 12, 2011): Fat Lost of Trash On TV Nowadays

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.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rant #1,939: Last Train to Nowhere

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.

Classic Rant #593 (October 11, 2011): What Is Occupying Occupying Wall Street Protestors?

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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rant #1,938: Shake, Rattle and Roll

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.