Forty-one years ago this weekend, the United States celebrated its first Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. Hard to believe that it took so long for such a holiday commemorating the U.S. men and women who died while in military service to become official, but it did. The holiday original began in the 1860s to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day. Many states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day. The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and did not become more common until after World War II. It became the official name by Federal law in 1967 and by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday. The act took effect in 1971.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Thirty-five years ago today, May 25, 1977, 20th Century Fox released a space western by an ambitious young filmaker that would change cinema forever. The studio gave little marketing help beyond licensing T-shirts and posters and was afraid the film would be beaten out by other summer films like SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, so they upped the release to the Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend.
I was 5 years old at the time with a 14 year old and 15 year old brother and sister. They wanted to go see it and take me along. They had to convince my mom to take us, but we had to wait. It wasn't until August that we saw it in a movie theater in Manhattan, and it blew me away like it did a generation of kids, teens, and adults. Anything seemed possible in movies now.
Happy 25th-Anniversary STAR WARS, the Force will be with us, always.
Monday, May 21, 2012
History hates bigots, because bigots never look better with age. Do we look fondly on Segregation? Jim Crow laws? The Southern Manifesto? Women denied the right to vote? This is just the 20th Century in the U.S. The best defense anyone can muster is, "that was a different time," as if if saying, "Yeah, I know they were outright bigots then and were dead wrong, but a lot of people were like that then."
That legacy plays out in the political arena on two fronts. First is with President Obama, who if you really look at it, embodies the greatest of America. He has lived the American Dream, a dream many detractors lament as a myth. Yet with him it's true. A mixed child of a single mom on public assistance who goes to Harvard and becomes president of the sole remaining super power. Those who believe in American supremacy should be lauding him, but of course, they seek to tear him down at every turn. That's the great irony of the GOP today. It's not just policy difference. They hate him, they deny he's American, or a Christian, they make him into the black boogie man like their predecessors in history have done to the proverbial "other." When my young children grow up and their children, they will look on them as we look on the segregationists now. They are on the wrong side of history.
Then there is the issue of marriage. Yes, those against "gay" marriage are bigots. There is no way around it. Marriage is a civil institution, just like getting a driver's license, or work permit. The government cannot legislate religious morality. Any push for equal marriage has been civil. No one can force a priest, rabbi, or cleric to officiate a marriage between two men or women. Religious institutions, preciding over a religious ceremony, can decide who they conduct those ceremonies for. That is the separation of church and state. But somehow, the U.S. Conference of Bishops and other religious leaders are up in arms over gays getting married by a government official, which makes no real sense. They appear to have no problem with aethiests and Satan worshippers getting married, so long as they're straight. Gay marriage doesn't affect straight marriage, but the religiously leaders still push against it, leading to that ridiculous vote in North Carolina. A majority should not vote on the rights of the minority. Otherwise, would segregation have ended? The Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress ended it, not the voting public because that public would have likely voted to keep it in place.
There's many reasons I'm proud to live in New York, one of them that one of the last vestigious of inequality has been done away. It was up to the state legislature to do that, to protect the rights of the minority. That is democracy, because it protects against mob rule. Those against it arel surely on the wrong side of history.
Monday, May 14, 2012
With the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils facing each other for the first time in 18 years for a birth into the Stanley Cup Finals, I'm reminded of that magical sports summer of 1994 in the city and what could have been the greatest summer of our sports lives. The unforgettable parallel would-be championhsip runs of the Rangers and Knicks consumed May and June and the Yankees were the best team in baseball at the time, something that hadn't happened since 1978.
The Rangers were able to finish the deal, with their incredible comeback against the Devils down 3-2 in the series with The Captain Mark Messier guaranteeing the victory in game 6 and having a hat trick in the process and the "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" goal in double overtime to win the series. The Stanley Cup Finals was a bit anti-climactic although that series went 7 games as well, mainly because the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead but were able to finish the deal. If anything, the series was more frustrating than anything else because after such an epic run it'll piss you off to no end if the Rangers lost to the inferior Canucks.
The excitement in those 2 weeks of June was in the Knicks-Houston Rockets NBA Finals. And it was also surreal because during Game 2 on a Friday Night there was OJ's infamous white Bronco car "chase." With the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals going on at the same time with the two teams that call Madison Square Garden a home, the city was in an absolute frenzie. By Friday, June 17, the Rangers had won their first Cup since 1940 (finally ending those annoying "19-40" chants by Islander fans), and the Knicks had taken a 3-2 series lead. The greatest sports summer of our lives was upon us ... but just like that, it wasn't.
The Knicks would lose the series in excrutiating fashion, losing both games 6 and 7 in Houston. And the Yanks, finally playing winning ball after so many years had their chance at a World Series title snuffed out by the the baseball strike. On June 17, everything was so glorious, but then it was gone. At the least--and it wasn't really a least--the Rangers had finally won the Cup. Fans had to wait 54 years for that one, and now hopefully the 18 year wait is over.
The Knicks are relevant again and the Yanks had their dynasty, but it is full circle for the Rangers. For them, let the Cup runneth over.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
To celebrate my birthday, my son "took me" to see The Avengers. Yeah, technically I drove and bought the tickets, but it was still his idea and a great idea at that. Of course, were were going to see The Avengers even if he hadn't suggested it, but still. I love the fact that my son and I share the same interests so what excites him excites me so it's like living two lives. I'm enjoying the moment as a father and as a son through his eyes.
Now, of course, my wife came along too ("What am I, chopped liver?" she'd ask if I didn't mention her). We all loved the movie and a job well done by director Joss Whedon and incredible cast of Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and others. This is how comic movies are supposed to be made and lends further credence to the notion that comic book fans are the ones that should be making these movies. It's been a remarkable run by Marvel Studios, who gambled and won in making it's own cinematic universe in six films. We can't wait to see what they do for an encore.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Considering that Amar'e Stoudemire's incredibly stupid and selfish actions in punching a fire extinguisher glass ruined any chance that the Knicks could make a series of their first round playoff matchup with the uber talented Miami Heat, just like his stupid and selfish actions in trying to do a circus dunk ruined the Knicks chances in last year's playoffs, I'm trying to think of the incredibly stupid things I have done in my life.
No, I'm not going to list them because they may or may not have involved things that may be construed as illegal activity (I'm really not sure), but I know I have acted reckless in the past. Yes, I've disregarded my safety and the safety of others without thinking things out. Thankfully, I and others escaped any harm. Usually afterwards I'm thinking to myself, "Damn, you're such an idiot!" The benefit of getting older is that those instances are now few and far between and I can honestly say I don't remember the last time I was in such a situation. Usually, the common sense part of my brain kicks in and stops me saying, "Hey, dumbass, what the hell are you thinking." I also know when I'm getting really angry and I stop myself from lashing out. The immediate gratification of the anger release is never worth the consequences.
So you can say I've found that happy place away from self destruction. Amar'e, despite the millions of dollars he's earned and the year's he's been in the NBA, still hasn't found that place. It's a shame because all of us--his teammates, the die-hard Knicks fans, and basketball fans in general yearning for a good series--is the ones to suffer.