Monday, November 13, 2017

208 An "OK,Google" (Or, "Hey,Google!") Question Nobody's Asking, But Should!

If you have Google on your phone or electronic home assistant, you already know that if you say, "OK, Google", or, "Hey,Google!" on certain equipment, it can look up local listings, order online, or read the top stories. I bet one question nobody's asking Google, one VERY BIG question, which has nothing to do with why the sky is blue or why "eleven" isn't pronounced "onety-one" is this...

OK,GOOGLE, WHY ISN'T YOUR PARENT COMPANY, ALPHABET, MAKING AN OFFER FOR THE TRIBUNE BROADCASTING TV STATIONS INSTEAD OF ULTRA-RIGHT-WING SINCLAIR BROADCASTING?

Before you send me nasty letters, hear me out: Tribune's stations, including PIX 11 (WPIX New York), KTLA 5 (Los Angeles), Chicago's Very Own WGN 9, and PHL 17 (WPHL Philadelphia), have always been staffed by true news professionals who know their home towns and aren't afraid to speak truth to power. Although Google's entry into journalism was opposed by many longtime news veterans, it has become respected for combining different news sites into one cohesive unit. Google News isn't Republican, but it is democratic with a small "d" in that it yields the platform to so many voices, allowing its visitors to make their own judgments. If Google applied its free spirit to TV news in general and the Tribune stations in particular, not only would ratings skyrocket, but it would bring a perspective not currently seen on a lot of local broadcast news outlets.

What are you waiting for, lovers of Liberty and Googlephiles? Search Google on their own page, add them to your Google + circles, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel, follow THEIR blog (The Keyword on blog.com/google) but, WHATEVER you do, tell 'em THEY are a better fit for the Tribune stations than ultra-tribal, ultra-right, ultra-Trump Sinclair Broadcasting. (Sinclair was also the name of a gasoline that had a dinosaur for a mascot. It figures.)

God Bless America and Google! (And of course, you for stopping by!)
Steve

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

207 Life

The very first scene in the history of SEINFELD shows Jerry telling his nightclub audience about people. (That's you and me, Charlie.) We people go out to a ball game, a concert, or a comedy club to get away from the hardships of the day only to worry about getting home and getting to bed on time. Life, as a whole, is pretty much the same deal, unfortunately, never so much as in the past few days.
For every Brad Peacock, the winning pitcher in the seventh game of the World Series for Houston, there's a Roy Halladay, the pitcher for the Phillies and Toronto, who lost his life in a plane crash.
For every Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which never fails to amaze, astound, and amuse us, there's an ISIS sympathizer who senselessly takes innocent lives on a day supposedly all about the monsters of fantasy and fable.
For every Shalene Flanagan, the first American woman to finish the TCS New York City Marathon since the 1970's and a beacon of light in the midst of darkness, there's another gun-crazed sicko, this time on the outskirts of San Antonio, TX, who executes a crowd of innocents for the "crime" of exercising their freedom to worship.
For every memory of the sun-kissed paradise called Puerto Rico that has lingered in my mind since my trip a long time ago, there are the all-too-real images of a hurricane-battered island with little electricity and an inept alleged "president" whose idea of leadership is throwing a roll of paper towels into the crowd.
Unfortunately, that's life. C'est la vie. There's a lot of bad stuff going on, (Just ask Harvey Weinstein!) but look at it this way...
The holidays ARE coming. (Even if those who haven't discovered Amazon have to deal with the WWE-trained shoppers and the classically-trained whining babies.)
Donald Trump's days ARE numbered. (At least I HOPE so!)
Some of the best movies in recent memory ARE headed for a the-yater near you. (Hey, at least there are no HOWARD THE DUCKS out there, right?)
And we STILL live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave. (Happy Veteran's Day!)
Besides, as a certain magazine, which also happened to be named Life, used to say, "Consider the Alternative."
Now, I admit. This hasn't been exactly Mosaic, Talmudic, Socratic, or anything-ic. (I hope you don't think it was just "ick.")
But those thoughts WERE weighing heavily on my mind, and I just had to get them out, so, ladies and germs, here they are for your reading pleasure.
Hmmm, I guess there's nothing else to say, but...

...Have a nice life!
Steve

Saturday, August 26, 2017

206 Island Hopping

Yes, I HAVE been thinking about the events in Charlottesville, VA , on Fifth Avenue,  on Pennsylvania Avenue, and in Texas(Thoughts and prayers go out to everybody in HOU.) and I have a real hot-rockin' flame-throwin' booty-kickin' blog kicking around the old noggin, but for NOW, since it's still summer,  at least for a few more weeks, and there are people coming to New York City who, hard as it may be to believe, don't give two shirts (Unlike our barely tolerated president, I don't want to offend anybody!) about El Jefe and what he has to say about anything and just want to do some sightseeing, sooooo, ladies and germs, I give you A TALE OF TWO ISLANDS! (With one thing in common: They're connected by the F subway line.)

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn, New York

Get on the Sixth Avenue D or F from Queens or Manhattan, the Broadway N from Queens or  Manhattan or the Second Avenue Q from Manhattan,(and enjoy the view as your train crosses the Manhattan Bridge into downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn Bridge Park, and DUMBO, the area Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, are great destinations for a future visit.) and ride all the way from the subway platform to the El(evated) at the Stillwell Avenue-Coney Island stop. As soon as the recorded voice of New York radio personality Charlie Pellett urges, "Everybody please leave the train," walk down the ramp (or take the escalator) and you'll find a VERY mini-version of Grand Central with its own newsstand, Subway and Checkers restaurants, newsstand, ATM, and one-stop store for all your beach needs. Exit the station on the Boardwalk, and you'll see a row of shops including a team store for Brooklyn's first major league team since the 50's, the (formerly New Jersey) Nets and one of two current Wahlburgers restaurants in the New York City area. (An Upper East Side store is already open and a Times Square store is on the way.) Luna Park is back and open from Spring to Fall, and the house that Nathan and Ida Handwerker built, I refer, of course, to Nathan's Famous, is open 24/7/365 serving their world famous hot dogs to locals and tourists alike. (Also of note, Applebee's, Rita's, and Gargiulo's Restaurant, a Coney Island institution for more than a century right across the street from MCU Park.)Walk down Surf Avenue to W 15th Street and see MCU Park, the home of the New York Mets' short season New York-Penn League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones. (The name seems a natural, since the Park directly faces its world famous namesake, the legendary 90-year-old wooden roller coaster ready to entertain and thrill those hardy enough to take it on, but it's actually the result of a contest sponsored by the Mets and the Daily News. Brooklyn SWEATHOGS? Up YOUR nose with a rubber hose! Brooklyn HONEYMOONERS? Hardy-har-har! Any OTHER name than Brooklyn CYCLONES? Fuhgeddaboudit!) You CAN,and SHOULD, root root root for the home team, but it doesn't REALLY matter if they win or lose, it's how much fun you have watching the game. King Henry, a rotund gentleman from Send In The Clowns Entertainment, a proud Mets sponsor, is your happy host, the Beach Bums dance team is there to pump up the crowd, (When the Clones are away, the third iteration of the legendary New York Cosmos will play North American Soccer League sides from Puerto Rico, Indianapolis, and the Carolinas, among others.) and Sandy and Pee Wee, two VERY Brooklyn seagulls, are there to bring smiles to fans of all ages. Before the game, stop over at the Coney Island Museum (1208 Surf Avenue, visit http://www.coneyisland.com for complete scheduling information) and relive the glory days of what comic writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman erroneously described as "Brooklyn's halfhearted version of Disneyland", checking out funhouse mirrors, artifacts, even meeting descendants of the original sideshow oddities. If you want to relive those days in a more relaxed atmosphere, go up West 19th Street to Mermaid Avenue and visit the Coney Island Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, where, with proper ID, you can log on to your own computer and search newsreels of Coney's glory days on YouTube, or check out (If you want to LITERALLY check 'em out, you have to sign up for a library card.) books on everything Brooklyn from Coney to the Dodgers (Even current LA fans are welcome!) to Spike Lee to the Revolutionary War Battle Of Brooklyn. If you got kids, the Coney Island Library also has its own play area and a full selection of kids and Young Adult books (including the classics) and graphic novels including favorites such as Brooklyn's most super powerful resident, the one and only Captain America. You might also want to check out the beaches, and the Ford Coney Island Ampitheatre on West 23rd Street and Surf Avenue,especially with HOT 97's "On Da Reggae and Soca Tip" coming on September 1,The Second Avenue Coney Island Freestyle Funhouse on September 2, and El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico on September 3. Coney Island, the subject of everything from romcoms to a musical number on the original Mickey Mouse Club to a GEICO commercial for the New York market, also hosts its own film festival from September 8 to 17. Advance tickets are now available at http://www.coneyislandfilmfestival.com   Just TRY to visit Coney Island and be bored!
(Also visit http://www.bklynlibrary.org, http://www.brooklyncyclones.com, http://www.nathansfamous.com , httpa://www.gargiulo.com, and http://www.fordampitheaterconeyisland.com and http://www.nycosmos.com .) BTW, the New York Aquarium on West 8th Street is undergoing extensive renovations and is only PARTIALLY open.It has its own stop on the F line.

ROOSEVELT ISLAND, New York

If you have time during the day after your visit to Coney Island, get on the F and take it to Roosevelt Island. On your way, look at the station signs and listen for the names "Washington Square," "Bryant Park," and "Rockefeller Center," all also great ideas for future visits. Unfortunately, if you're expecting a small town railway station like the ones on the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Rail
Road (serving Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Kings' Counties  and Connecticut) or the Staten Island Railway, prepare for a disappointment: It's a near-carbon-copy of the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station (the last one in Manhattan proper) and, unlike the Coney Island Station, boasts no amenities. (Steer clear of the village idiot when you leave the station.) Walk straight to the center of Main Street(On your way, you can find the Riverwalk Bar and Grill,Nonno's Foccaceria,the Fuji East Restaurant,Pier NYC, Starbucks, and a Duane Reade There IS a Nathan's, but it's only a food truck..)  and, as you stand right under the Edward I. Koch Queensboro Bridge, (celebrated in Simon and Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)" ), you can see the Roosevelt Island Tram Station and Visitor Center. Islanders point proudly to the Tramway,which takes you to 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan and back again with spectacular views of the East River, Midtown and Queens at no extra charge. It will only cost you $2.75 per ride, the current price of a NYC Subway or bus, which, of course, is subject to change) as the better ride over the subway, although the Citywide Ferry Service is slated to add the Island to its route. The Visitor Center,located right next to the Tram Station and operated under the auspices of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, is your one stop center for everything related to the Island and its history, including a classic Spider-Man cover pitting the Wall-Crawler against the Punisher with the Tram in the background which is sold as a poster. Continue to the right and you
will see reminders of Roosevelt Island's history as Minnehonock, a province of the Lenape Indians, Hog Island under the Dutch,a British colony originally under the name Manning's Island and subsequently under the name Blackwell's Island, after the then-owner Robert Blackwell, whose grandson Jacob constructed the Blackwell House, the oldest surviving structure on the Island,and the sixth oldest structure in New York City. The City purchased the Island for $32,000 ($700,000 in today's money), and structures that have survived since then include the Octagon Tower, now a residential building,the Church of the Good Shepherd,and the Blackwell Island Light. While Coney Island has always been a popular travel destination, Roosevelt Island, or Welfare Island as it was known for a while, wasn't so much. Charles Dickens wrote a series of essays criticizing the conditions at the Octagon in his 1842 book "American Notes,"crusading journalist Nellie Bly went undercover at the Women's Lunatic Asylum and published her findings in her 1887 book "Ten Days In A Mad House,"and the 1939 John Garfield movie "Blackwell's Island" concerns corruption in the prison. You can also see the Delacorte Fountain, facing the United Nations, which opened in 1968. The fountain began the renaissance of what was officially renamed Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Island in 1971. While Coney Island is a  neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn under the jursidiction of the Brooklyn Borough President and the Mayor of New York City, Roosevelt Island is owned by the City and leased to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York. To return to our walking tour, continue along Riverwalk to the crown jewel of the island,  Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located adjacent to Smallpox Hospital on the southernmost tip. This park is both a tribute to FDR's State of the Union address celebrating America's Four Freedoms and a place for relaxation and quiet reflection, although there are parties every Friday night. ,
If you exit the subway station on the left, you will enter Northtown, consisting of the WIRE buildings (Westview, Island House, Rivercross, and Eastwood.) Rivercross is the only co-op of the otherwise rental buildings. Continue to the Roosevelt Island Library, originally a community room before moving to 524 Main Street in 1979. It has been part of the New York Public Library since 1998, and, like the Coney Island Library, you need a card to borrow one of the books and examine  Roosevelt Island history (visit http://www.nypl.org for THAT).Ask the staff for "The Dead House" by Linda Fairstein,"Code Orange" by Caroline Cooney, or "City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare. The closest the recently concluded Roosevelt Island Summer Movie Series has come to a movie that truly speaks to the residents has been Eddie Murphy's "Coming To America" wherein our hero, an African prince who must find a wife, proclaims, "I'm going to Queens!" (As mentioned later, the Island is connected by its own bridge to Long Island City in the borough of Queens, whose history and modern buildings, including the Citi Tower on Court Square, are topics for another day.) Despite the Tram's appearances in the Billy Crystal-Meg Ryan classic "When Harry Met Sally," and a Coca-Cola commercial, it hasn't always been treated kindly by Hollywood. Some cases in point:The Foot Clan's hideout in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is located on the Renwick Ruins on the Island, the Green Goblin blows up the Tram Station in the first Spider-Man movie, and in an early episode of the 1950's procedural NAKED CITY,Detective Halloran (James Franciscus) posed as a mental patient on the Island to uncover a murder.
As you continue along Main Street, you might see one of many bus stops for the RIOC Red Bus, a free shuttle service which begins at the Tramway Station and terminates at the Octagon Apartments at 868 Main Street, and the MTA Q102, which begins at Coler-Goldwater Hospital, continues on the Roosevelt Island Bridge, a vertical lift bridge crossing the East River, and terminates in Astoria, Queens.(It ain't the Cyclone, but a trip on the 102 to Queens via the RI Bridge is a pretty cool ride!) The Island IS protected by the NYPD, but in what we hope is the unlikely event there's something strange in the neighborhood, who do you call? The RIOC Public Safety Department, which has its own storefront office which is also on Main Street, as are an art gallery,a Subway restaurant, and,soon,Lord willing and the creek don't rise, a bubble tea place where millenials can get their fix.  As explained earlier, Queens itself has a rich history and is worth a visit for another day.
Unfortunately, Roosevelt Island has no sports tradition unlike Brooklyn or its next door neighbor, Queens, but it DOES have a gym called Sportspark at 250 Main Street and baseball and softball fields (Permit required!) for Little League teams or corporate softball games. Ultimately, (and this is no knock on Roosevelt Island, although Coney Island, though no Magic Kingdom, still has its own unique charm.) the highlight of a Roosevelt Island visit is taking the tram back over the East River to Manhattan. http://www.rioc.ny.gov (Check out the Island's news site of record, The Main Street WIRE at http://www.mainstreetwire.com .)

In short, there's not a lot of summer left, but we still have TWO great islands where you can forget about the ills of the world, at least for a little while.

Thanks for stopping by!
Steve

Thursday, August 10, 2017

205 OOPS!

When I said that GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING is better than RING OF HONOR and mentioned its minor league baseball connections, I should have explained ROH has wrestled at MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the minor league New York Mets team, and neither the Clones or the Mutts have been doing so well lately, which is not such a good reflection on ROH, which IS being aired on NESN these days. My apologies to ROH, NESN, and all ROH, Sox and Bruins fans! (No apologies to Mets fans, I'm just telling it like it is.)

Almost nobody has heard of a brilliant musician named Franklin Enea , (Visit him on http://www.frankeneaband.com or follow him @FrankEneaBand), but that could very well change as a result of a four-part mini series on Cartoon Network starring the Teen Titans (in their mostly comic TEEN TITANS GO! iteration) called "The Night Begins To Shine." It concerns a song written by Frank and his partners Carl Burnett and William J. Reidy (collectively known as BER and NOT pronounced Bear) which was originally used in a segment of the show with the aforementioned title. This time, the song is the focal point of a story about a dragon who controls a fantasy world and holds the half-human-half-machine member of the group, Cyborg, hostage, until he hands the song over. (You gotta see it to believe it, and even still, you won't believe it!) Great animation, a rockin' 80's-style title song, graphics influenced by anime,classic album covers, and artists such as Mobeius, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta and Charles Vess, and guest voices from Cee-Lo (AMERICAN IDOL, "Crazy,", "Forget You") and the group Fall Out Boy (Fall Out Boy was originally the name of the sidekick of Bart Simpson's favorite super hero, Radioactive Man, the leader of the Teen Titans, Robin, is Batman's sidekick, you call THAT a coincidence!?!?), along with a lesson on the power of music and the power of friendship. For information on re-airings, go to http://www.cartoonnetwork.com or order it on demand from your cable or satellite provider. Not only can BER make your night shine, but they can possibly make the rest of your summer, or, possibly your life,shine.(Fans of CN's edgier AdultSwim shows will also dig this one!)

Remember, Welcome to Steve Country is coming back soon with a special tribute to Glen Campbell, so...

Stay tuned, Buckaroos!
Steve

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

204 Talking Basebrawl

BUT,FIRST:

We are sorry to report the untimely passing of country crossover superstar Glen Campbell. Details to come on the all-new, all-different WELCOME TO STEVE COUNTRY.

Any NBA fan may remember that bizarre night in 2004 when a group of rowdy Indiana Pacers fans heckled the Detroit Pistons. You'd expect the boys from the Motor City to ignore those hayseeds and keep playing like the pros they are, right? WRONG! They were so riled up that they walked right into the stands and started beating up poor, defenseless fans whose only crime was investing their hard-earned money in a game allegedly played by people who know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

Say what you will about professional wrestlers, but they care too much about their fans to run into the stands and start attacking them like a pack of wild dogs. (Sure, the heels, which is what they call the bad guys, may insult the fans who love to cheer the hero and hiss the villain, but that's part of their character. They know the fans know they're not seeing them as they really are, but, as Stone Cold Steve Austin once said, them "with the volume turned up." On August 5, I had the pleasure to be part of the immersive entertainment experience called professional wrestling when Global Force Wrestling invaded the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, the home of the Staten Island Yankees. While this company is based in Nashville, TN, don't expect to hear any Garth Brooks or Florida-Georgia Line when their grapplers rush into the ring, because the action is more heavy metal than hillbilly, and the fans are TOTALLY involved, whether buying their favorite babyface (good guy) or heel (T-shirt) getting an autograph, or (unless they have to catch the Staten Island Ferry home like yours truly) getting into the Octagon and taking a picture with their favorite superstars. Among the talent that got to play while the Baby Bombers were away were Andrew Everett, Sonjay Dutt, (X Division Champion who had to literally fight to get his stolen belt back), two-time Grand Champion Moose, and, Impact's own powerful women of wrestling, including rising young superstar Allie, who may enter the ring wearing a tiara and a bunny outfit but can kick your butt eleven different ways into next Tuesday if you cross her. The difference between Global Force, formerly known as Impact and now a part of Nashville-based Anthem Sports and Entertainment, and the WWE is that GFW doesn't take itself as seriously as the WWE has been known to. IMHO, GFW made the right choice when it chose to hook up with the minor league affiliate of the currently red hot Yankees. Its closest non-WWE competitor, Ring Of Honor, may have awakened some fan interest as a result of the Mickey Rourke movie THE WRESTLER, but when one of your biggest major market affiliates (NESN, owned by the Red Sox and Bruins) dumps you, that doesn't look too good on your permanent record.

For info on future Impact/GFW cards, follow them @IMPACTWRESTLING or  @GFWWrestling. For info on weekly telecasts on CBS-Lionsgate-owned POP TV, log on to http://www.poptv.com and enter your ZIP Code in the window.

To paraphrase the aforementioned Stone Cold, "The bottom line is...." Not being attacked by angry athletes while you're trying to enjoy a sporting event, good. Enjoying the best in sports entertainment, meeting some great people, and being part of the action without enduring physical injury, even better.

DING! There's the bell! See ya at the matches! (IN THE RING WITH STEVE fans, we haven't forgotten about you either. THAT is also coming soon to a device near you!)

Steve

Friday, July 28, 2017

203 Fear of A Purple Planet

Today, a few judgments about the alleged "judgment-free zone."

BUT, FIRST...

NOW IN THEATERS

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya Coleman,Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow

Poor Peter Parker, always getting the short end of the stick! Despite a few well-intentioned efforts, he and his wall-crawling alter ego, Spider-Man, never got the kind of game-changing movie the Distinguished Competition gave ITS three biggest superstars, (DAWN OF JUSTICE does NOT count!), but SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING may very well be that movie. Continuing where CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR leaves off, HOMECOMING cuts right to the chase and shows Spidey (Holland) not as a super hero who happens to be a teenager, but a teenager who happens to be a super hero. Not only does he have to deal with his persnickety mentor Tony Stark (Downey), his friend Michelle (Zendaya), his beloved Aunt May who, unfortunately, hates Spidey to pieces (an incredibly sexy for the character Tomei), and Adrian Toomes, a Stark employee who decides he's had enough and becomes that flying felon, the villainous Vulture ( Keaton, playing a different kind of Birdman). We don't just see Spidey in action, we BECOME him, and share his amazement that he is actually part of this weird and wonderful place called the Marvel Universe. Of course, he still has to find out that with great power there must also come great responsibility, but the movie doesn't hit you over the head with that message. Yes, all you Dukes of Doubt out there, (Google him!) there ARE truly great super hero movies, and HOMECOMING is unquestionably one of them.

NOW ON VIDEO

SABAN'S POWER RANGERS Featuring Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa and Bill Hader as Alpha

Other than cameos from former Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson and Green/White/Red/Black Ranger Jason David Frank, this Power-less Ranger reboot has little to recommend it. Rent the original Rangers movie, TURBO, and Seasons One (Mighty Morphin) and Twelve (Dino Thunder) instead. No-No, "POWER RANGERS!"

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE With The Voice Talents Of Mandy Patinkin (Papa Smurf), Demi Lovato (Smurfette), Danny Pudi (Brainy), Jack McBrayer (Clumsy),Joe Mangienello (Hefty) Jake Johnson (Grouchy),Jeff Dunham (Farmer) ,Gordon Ramsay (Baker),Tituss Burgess (Vanity),Kelly Asbury (Nosey), Rainn Wilson (Gargamel), Frank Welker (Azrael), Julia Roberts (Willow) , Ariel Winter (Lily),Meghan Trainor (Melody),Michelle Rodriguez (Stormy), Ellie Kemper (Blossom), and Dee Bradley Baker (Gargy's pet "howlibird," Monty)

I was prepared to fold my arms and shout, "I HATE THE LOST VILLAGE!" like Grouchy Smurf after seeing what Jordan Kerner and company did to Pierre "Peyo" Culliford's lovable little blue "children" in the live-action movies THE SMURFS and THE SMURFS 2, but this is one reboot that respects the original mythology while updating it for a new generation. I've been a Smurfophile since I saw four Smurf figurines on the cover of jazz musician Chick Corea's "Friends" album, (I thought they were leprechauns since Chick had been called "The Leprechaun" after his jazz tone poem of the same name.) but it took me a long time to realize that  Smurfette is the product of her male chauvinist Belgian environment of 1958, when she was created. The movie opens with Papa (Mandy Patinkin from EVITA, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, CHICAGO HOPE, and so many others, picking up where the late, great Jonathan Winters left off) reminding us that 99 of his dear little Smurfs are what their names say they are (Brainy, Jokey, Clumsy, Handy, Hefty, Grouchy), but we wonder what exactly, the real star of this movie, Smurfette, is. We know what  a Smurf is, but what is an -ette? And,furthermore, or, should I say, smurfer-more, since she was made by Gargamel to lure the Smurfs in his direction, is she really a Smurf at all?

After a series of events, Smurfette discovers a lost village occupied by other Smurfs, and they turn out to be women. Julia Roberts proves more than the equal of Papa Smurf as the girls' leader, Smurf Willow, and smurf-tacular performances from the likes of Ariel Winter ("Modern Family" and "Sofia The First"), Michelle Rodriguez ("The Fast and the Furious"), "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt" castmates Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, and Meghan Trainor ("It's All About The Bass") among others. I can understand why Peyo's daughter Veronique greenlit (or, should I say, "blue-lit"?) this super smurfy reboot. It's entertaining for the young and young at heart and empowering for girls and women who want to know who they really are. The Smurfs may be blue, but two hours in THE LOST VILLAGE, and YOU won't be.

BREAKING NEWS

Before I go any further, I MUST convey the sad news that June Foray,(June Lucille Forer) who played  the voice of Jokey on the TV show as well as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Peabody's "pet boy" Sherman, George of the Jungle's wife Ursula, Tweety's "Gwanny" and so many other iconic cartoon characters,passed away on July 28 of complications resulting from an automobile accident. She would have celebrated her 100th birthday (Ironically, the life expectancy of a Smurf) on September 18th of this year. I had the pleasure to meet her at the Creation comic convention in 1982, and she was more than happy to "turn into" Jokey for me and her other fans. To borrow a line from Rocky, hokey smokes, am I gonna miss June Foray! The characters will live on forever, but nobody can truly replace her.

AND NOW, OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION

In 1996, a youngster named Derek Sanderson Jeter brought a World Series victory back to New York and the legendary House That Ruth Built, Yankee Stadium. Until his retirement from the game in 2014, Derek led the New York Yankees, especially his team mates Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, and Robinson Cano, on an incredible winning streak that brought the Pinstripers' World Series record to 27 victories, the most since the competition began in 1903. Derek believed in giving back to the community, and one of those gifts was 24 Hour Fitness, the world's largest group of  privately-ownedfitness centers. When Derek joined other such sports stars as Shaquille O'Neal (Miami)and Andre Agassi (Las Vegas) as the owner of the original three New York city clubs, (Madison Square Park, Midtown, and Soho), I jumped at the chance to come aboard, and I've had almost ten great years training with people who know their stuff and steered me away from my old junk-food junkie habits. (It took a long time, but, hey, they helped make it happen!)

Some 21 years after Derek became the Yankees' captain and eight years after I joined 24 (I've remained loyal despite a few flirtations.) I was watching a Rangers playoff telecast on Madison Square Garden Network, their co-owned home broadcaster (although James Dolan, their owner, is considering a sale) when I noticed  a small version of the logo, usually a large purple-and-yellow mix of a yellow thumbs-up sticking out of a purple gear, of Planet Fitness, a franchised fitness chain that styles itself as "the judgement-free zone". I remembered that there was a Planet at the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, the official hotel of the Garden's WNBA franchise, the New York Liberty, and I wondered if, since Derek turned his 24 centers into the latest New York "in" place and helped 24 become the Yanks' official fitness center (It still sponsors the Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium although Orange Theory, which is known for one of the most rigorous training programs in the industry, has become an official Yankee sponsor and fitness center.) did Henrik Lundquist, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and my other favorite Rangers, make the Planet part of their training regimen? (I was thinking of using it too during an intended sleepover at the Ren because it was so close to work and I was thinking of going out to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ to see the Red Bulls play the San Jose Earthquakes, staying the whole match, and working out at the Planet after resting my happily tired bones, but you can score THAT match Nervous Jewish Mother-1, Red Bulls-0. As you are about to see, she had a point!) Since the Planet had used the Rangers to publicize their umpteenth $1-to-join-$10-a-month sale, I asked them, did the Rangers, Knicks, and Billy Joel (the Garden's first musical resident) use it regularly? The answer? (WAIT FOR IT, WAIT FOR IT...)

No.

After a few workouts, I can understand why. The gym is awash in garish purples and empty platitudes, ("The world judges. We don't. Be free.") it gives out free food, (bagels,pizza and Tootsie Rolls) there are reports of gyms refusing to let their members cover their heads as their religions dictate, trainers who ARE very judgmental despite the "judgment-free" claim, homeless people using their restrooms, and while Derek, Shaq, Jon Bon Jovi, Meg Ryan,(I'll have what she's having!) and John Mellencamp are all known to be 24 fans, the biggest star to have had his name associated with the Planet is Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, a drug-dealer-turned-rapper who sold his fitness drink, Street King (You can't teach an old dog new tricks!) through the Planet, which also happens to be the official fitness sponsor of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. (THAT particular broadcast transmitted Mariah Carey's notorious NYE breakdown to an unsuspecting universe. You are known by the company you keep!) Sure, Donnie Wahlberg and one of New York's best DJ's, Brooklyn's Own Joe Causi, follow their Twitter feed, but I'm not convinced that it's for any reason other than personal financial gain.

Planet FITNESS? HA! My 24 trainer Julie calls it Planet F as in Planet Fail, as in EPIC Fail! After seeing those El Cheapo T-shirts available in your choice of black-on-white or white-on-black (How creative!) and not meeting anybody YUGE other than the occasional woman's basketball player, it has become apparent that this is, despite its well-intentioned  attempts, NOT a good place for a total workout, one that truly shows concern for your physical (and even mental) well-being. Julie's fellow trainer Raechel calls it "the Purple Planet," which reminds me of another terrible place, Planet Purple, a planet discovered by the resident con artist of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, where all the men are named Paul and the women are Pauline and they do exactly the same thing (including speak in a monotone). Thank goodness I got out of THAT Planet Purple unscathed, but I worry for those who choose the Planet who think it's more for common people like them as opposed to Schwarzenegger-esque bodybuilders.

There are SOME good things about Planet Fitness: It has HDTV on the bikes, you get free Bic pens, they sponsored THE BIGGEST LOSER, (It just got cancelled by NBC. BIIIIIIG surprise!)and...and...and...I got nothing.

Bottom line is, if you want to lose a few LB's, try a more reputable gym like 24 or check your local BBB branch for a gym which is affordable AND truly committed to your success, not one that believes the best way to help you lose weight is to fatten you up and THEN open up a can of whoop-butt on your plump,out of shape, blubbery mass. If you want to join Planet F, I have just one question...

What planet are you from?

Bye, Buckaroos!
Steve



Saturday, July 22, 2017

202 Comings And Goings

Show of hands, who here remembers a weekly PBS financial news show called WALL $TREET WEEK WITH LOUIS RUKYSER which actually originated down the road from that legendary thoroughfare in Lower Manhattan in Owings Mills, MD? It took the air on the full public television system and featured noted financial pundits (In Louis' case, you'd have to accent the PUN in PUN-dit because, like yours truly, he loved to play with words.) talking about everything from Watergate to the Middle East Crisis to Sizzler Restaurants. (This was when they were a publicly-held company and you could easily buy STEAK in it.) In 2002, FORTUNE magazine took editorial control over the show and Louis hosted a similar, short-lived program on CNBC. W$W continued on PBS until 2005, and was  resurrected in 2015 by SkyBridge Media LLC, an affiliated entity of SkyBridge Capital, with SkyBridge CEO Anthony Scaramucci at the anchor desk. In '16, FOX picked up the rights, and "The Mooch", as his friends call him, anchored the show on FOX Business until he quit over conflict-of-interest issues arising from his participation in the Trump campaign.

On July 21,2017, Mooch took the reins as the Trump administration's communications director with Sarah Huckabee Sanders assisting as press secretary, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that Louis Rukyser could have done a WAAAAAAAAAY better job with half his brain tied behind his back. Well, at least Sean Spicer is out as chief mouthpiece, but that also means no more Melissa McCarthy impressions on SNL. (SOB!) I'm sure SOMEBODY's going to cook up a kick-butt impression of old Moochie for SNL. If a guy cried out for a parody, it's that one.

While Mooch steps up to the plate and joins the Trumpeteers in their continuing quest to make our lives a living H-E-double-hockey-sticks, a lot of great people have left us, such as Chester Bennington from the alt-rock group Linkin Park, MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE actor Martin Landau, Washington, DC newsman Jim Vance,NYPD officer Milsotis Familia,and, on a personal note, Ted Zang, an old family friend . While we had our differences, he was a nice guy with a great sense of humor and my condolences go out to his sons.

THE PROS OF LETTING O.J. SIMPSON OUT ON PAROLE: At 70, he's no spring chicken, and he needs some personal time to recuperate, relax, and reflect on the error of his ways.

THE CONS OF LETTING O.J. SIMPSON OUT ON PAROLE: At 70, he's a dirty old man, and, as long as he walks the streets free, no woman, girl, man, or autographed football is safe.


A DIFFERENT TYPE OF GOING: Summer here in the Northeast seems to think it's Fall, but if you live elsewhere and want to teach the little beachcombers how to deal with that certain little urge, just
make sure your local provider has Disney Junior On Demand then click on a series of vignettes called "Nina Needs To GO!" (No, it has nothing to do with "Nina's World," a Sprout series recommended by this blog, although the Nina in one particular episode of THAT show had to deal with the family vehicle parked so far away from the restrooms.) As the title implies, the titular character has to deal with a weak bladder in such ordinary situations as library story time, a visit to the museum, and, of course, a day at the beach. If the little ones have issues holding it in, this entertaining and amusing series helps them get the potty started. (As for the rest of us? Depends.)


COMING UP: Should you see SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING? Should you download SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE and POWER RANGERS? Should you come back for the answers? The answer to THAT one is a definite YES!

Bye,Buckaroos!
Steve