Friday, July 28, 2017

203 Fear of A Purple Planet

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



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.


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.


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.


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...)


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!

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!


Monday, July 10, 2017



First of all, don't call me Stupid, second of all, I didn't say Kevin Delaney K-L-I-N-E, America's greatest Shakespearean actor, husband of Phoebe Cates and proud papa of Owen and Greta was hanging it up any time soon, and third, and most important of all, Kevin R. K-L-E-I-N, a current New York Ranger (defenseman, to be exact) and former Nashville Predator, is the one who's calling it a career after 13 years on the ice at the advanced age of...32.

Although actors are also athletes in their own way, K-L-I-N-E's L-I-N-E of work is less taxing than Kevin the Younger's, but K-L-E-I-N has sacrificed more for his art than Kevin the Elder, suffering from back spasms (2016-17), and even losing part of his ear in combat. (At least Mike Tyson didn't have him for dinner!)

I can't honestly blame Kevin the Younger for saying goodbye when he did. He's already led a full life playing for the Predators in both the show and on the farm team (Milwaukee)  from 2004 until his trade to New York for Michael del Zotto and racking up an impressive total of 627 points, but athletes are, sadly, only human, and not as invincible as Superman or Wonder Woman.

We wish Kevin K-L-E-I-N all the best in his second act, but we would be remiss if we didn't wish Kevin K-L-I-N-E much continued success. Both guys have been doing a great job and should keep up the incredible work. Do I have to spell it out for you?


Friday, July 7, 2017


Four years ago, my fellow New York Ranger fan Nicole Vranzanian loved my little email observations on the NHL, pop culture, and life in general so much, she suggested I write a blog. Who am I to disappoint a fellow long-suffering devotee of the Broadway Blueshirts? And so Steve's Blog was born, and although I may not seize EVERY opportunity to take keyboard in paw and communicate with my faithful followers in more than twenty countries and territories, this little old blog shows no signs of slowing down. Thank you, Nick for suggesting this little project and all you fans worldwide for your continued support. The world can't stop us, it can only hope to contain us, so buckle your seat belts and hold onto something heavy, we may be 200 blogs old, but we're just getting started!


The last time I visited Upstate New York, (I mean way the HECK Upstate!) I stayed in Albany and spent a few hours in Cooperstown, the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and, according to legend, the place where soldier Abner Doubleday invented the modern game in 1839 (Actually, the modern rules were drawn up by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in NYC a few years earlier.) The HOF was definitely the highlight of my all-too-short visit to the Coop,and despite a rousing concert by none other than Paul McCartney at the Times Union Center and a visit to a museum founded by none other than George  Washington, Albany wasn't exactly the bustling metropolitan area I expected. I decided the next time I visited the Capital Region, I would either (A) pitch my tent at a more luxurious hotel, preferably downtown, than the Motel 6 the hotel site recommended, or (B) bypass Albany altogether and bed down in C-Town. Lucky for me I chose (B) this past Fourth of July weekend! Not only did I see the HOF again, but I also saw the Fenimore Art Museum (and a special exhibition of ice-skating-related art collected by the legendary Dick Button), the Legends of Baseball Wax Museum (and Hard Ball Cafe, the Coop's ONLY outdoor bar and grill), the Village Library of Cooperstown (Home to a LOT of great sports books, including ESPN's Sal Palantonio's "How Football Explains America" and, OF COURSE, George Will's "Men at Work," one of the best baseball books of all time),and one of the best beaches in New York State, as well as a veritable plethora of sports collectibles stores, including Yaztremski Sports, where I found a yearbook from the minor league Charlotte O's. I didn't find any player I know from "the Show," as the farm team players call the Big Leagues, but I DID learn that the team was owned by the family of legendary wrestling promoter (and member of WWE rival the National Wrestling Alliance) Jim Crockett, and one of the announcers was wrestling color commentator Tony Schiavone (Although a lot of his paisans pronounce it "Ski-A-Voanny,", he prefers "Sha-vonny." Guess he thinks a lot of rasslin fans don't capeesh Italian!)  Another thing I found about Cooperstown is that although it IS proud to be a small town, it has more in common with the Big Apple than Albany! If you want to find out more about C-Town, and there's ALWAYS more, log on to http://www, . PLAY BALL!


My sincerest condolences to the family of the police officer murdered in cold blood on July 5th. She died as she lived, protecting the city she loved, and that will always love her back.


...and here's to the next 200!