Posts

Showing posts from 2009

Barney, It's Not

Image
I knew Cobo Arena was a throwback place, but I had no idea.

The folks from across the pond in the U.K. are transforming Cobo into prehistoric Earth, thanks to their "Walking with Dinosaurs" show, playing downtown now thru Sunday.

I managed to get to opening night last night with my 16-year-old daughter while mom sat home. The good people at Olympia Entertainment were only able to provide me with two review tickets for opening night, not three, but it's still much appreciated.

Especially since they put on such a fantastic show.

"Walking" is a 90-minute romp through the hundreds of millions of years when dinosaurs roamed this planet. The show is narrated by a modern day "paleontologist" who, in full gear, guides you through the various stages of the dinosaurs' existence. He's on stage with wireless mike/headset, energetically explaining what it is that you're experiencing.

And it's quite a sight.

The dinosaurs---some mechanical, some manned by…

Sorry Charlie

Image
If I was Charlie Sheen, and I was allowed to start making phone calls again, I'd place one to Robert Downey, Jr.

The actor Sheen is in trouble again. With a girl, again. And this time it's a tad serious. Charlie was arrested on Christmas Day due to a domestic disturbance, and there are reports that a knife was involved.

The alleged victim is thought to be Sheen's wife, Brooke Mueller, though that's not been confirmed.

The star of the hit CBS television sitcom "Two and a Half Men" was arrested Friday in the ski resort of Aspen, Colorado, on suspicion of second-degree assault and menacing---both felony offenses---and a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

The celebrity gossip website TMZ.comis reporting that Mueller was drunk at the time, and that she initially had told police that Sheen threatened her with a knife but later recanted much of her story.

Knife or no knife, Sheen has been one of those "Hollywood bad boys" for too long now. His romps with g…

Cherry on Top?

Image
John Cherry is too big to be lugged around by coattails. He needs to make the trek on his own.

Cherry holds the position of Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, which is like being Vice President of the United States, only much, much worse. You could join the Witness Protection Program and have more notoriety.

Yet from this role, Cherry hopes to be governor. He aims to follow his boss, Jenny Granholm, into the big chair in Lansing. There are naysayers. Skeptics. Derisive comments are being made.

And that's from within his own party.

There are serious concerns within the Democratic camp whether Cherry is a strong enough candidate to fend off the higher profile Republicans who are about to duke it out for the GOP nomination, come next November.

Those concerns are well-founded, me thinks.

But don't come crying to me. I made a perfectly good suggestiona couple months or so ago, but heaven forbid anyone listen.

Yet all might not be lost.

I also told the story, in this space, of John Engler, an…

Life, Interrupted

Image
I don't take in late night television too much anymore, which actually follows a pattern I have throughout the rest of the day. If it's not sports, or a special about the JFK assassination, I pretty much don't watch it.

But I happened upon the David Letterman show a few years ago---I remember this distinctly---and I was taken by the bubbly, perky young woman chatting up Dave to the audience's, and Dave's, bemusement.

She was breezy without appearing loaded. Engaging without being ditzy. She just seemed like a lot of fun; there was nothing bimbo about her. It wasn't very long after that when I caught her in a movie with Ashton Kutcher, a comedy called "Just Married." She was terrific in it.

That's how I remember Brittany Murphy.

Murphy, who died suddenly at age 32 yesterday in California, wasn't typically mentioned when the discussion turned to America's finest young actors. She had her moments, though.

There was her turn in "8 Mile," …

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from March 25, 2009


Used Book Smart

If I didn't have a wife, a daughter, and the need to earn a living, I believe I could survive with two things: a used bookstore, and a bathroom. And maybe a chair. But don't go searching for one on my account.

I have a thing for used bookstores. Seriously. Some folks, when they arrive in a new town, seek out a cool bar or a trendy restaurant. Or a copy of USA Today. I go looking for the nearest used bookstore.

Oh, I've done that -- so don't go calling me a liar. I've done it in St. Louis, New York, and Chicago. And I'd do it in Peoria and Fort Myers and Altoona, if I ever found myself in those burgs.

It's daycare for me. If you ever need to ditch me while you go off with other, more exciting people -- like, say, for a week or two -- then simply drop me at the steps of the nearest used bookstore and have yourself a great time in my absence.

But I'm warning y…

The Wonderful World of Roy

Image
The Magic Kingdom got a little less magical.

Roy Disney is dead. Roy, the nephew of Walt---and avid competitive sailor---the brilliant leader of Disney's Animation Department, is gone at age 79, from cancer.

For over 56 years, Roy was associated with the company empire that his father, Roy Sr., and Uncle Walt built.

But for the past year, Roy Jr. battled stomach cancer.

"As head of Disney Animation, Roy helped to guide the studio to a new golden age of animation with an unprecedented string of artistic and box office successes that included 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Aladdin' and 'The Lion King,' " the company said.

There are some companies whose family name will forever resonate. Maybe none more so than Disney, which began way back in 1923.


Roy E. Disney: 1930-2009


Roy Disney was a Harvard kid, and got started in the entertainment business in 1952 as an assistant film editor on the "Dragnet" TV series, working under…

Dog Spelled Backward is...

Image
Today is the boss's birthday. I think I'll get him a new chewy.

The boss is six years old today, weighs 19 pounds, and rules with an iron paw.

He's our Jack Russell Terrier, Scamp, and I've resisted writing about him until today because his head is big enough as it is. But it's Scamp's sixth birthday today, so why not toss him a bone---pun intended.

Scamp rules the house because whatever he wants, he gets. This includes walks when he wants a walk, treats when he wants a treat, food when he wants food, play fetch when he wants to play fetch, and even our bed, when he wants that---which is nightly.

He also helps himself to towels off the rack to roll around in, and guards our yard zealously against squirrels and birds. He packs, pound for little pound, more of a wallop than a Great Dane.

But he rules because we let him, and we let him because he's so damn cute. And somehow, he must know it, for he uses his cuteness against us, like some sort of force field.



Scamp h…

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from June 22, 2009


Not-so-Sweet Lou

Forget the Bushes -- the Romneys might have done the father/son boogaloo in the White House.

If it wasn't for Lou Gordon, that is.

It's a shame that we have grown a whole generation of people who have no idea who Lou was.

Lou Gordon was a media tyrant, in that he put you on his show and sweated the truth out of you under those big TV lights in the WKBD, channel 50 studios.

He made 60 Minutes look like child's play, at times.

Gordon was a Detroit icon, back in the 1960s and '70s. He hosted The Lou Gordon Show on Sunday nights, and when my parents let me stay up to watch it, I usually got an eyeful.

He would bring on everyone from the silly to the serious, and often they ended up the same way: grilled, with marks on their back.

Uri Geller, the reputed mentalist, came on one night and purported to bend spoons. Until Lou humiliated him and exposed him as a fraud.

Lou would get hi…

Apple, Jack!

Image
I've been eating more apples lately than a stable full of horses, and it's a damn miracle, as far as I'm concerned.

For years---and we're talking at least 20---I was unable to munch on a fresh apple. It was some sort of allergy, because my throat would close up a tad and I'd have hay fever-type symptoms: sneezing, watery eyes, and even my lips would tingle.

Cooked apples were fine, as in pies, turnovers, etc. Applesauce was good, too.

Then, a change. Divine intervention, maybe.

I hazarded an apple a couple months ago, on a whim. Our daughter's band had a fundraiser and there was a whole box of apples sitting there, waiting to be consumed. I chomped into one and waited for the usual reaction. For the past several years, every so often I'd try an apple, and every time I'd be disappointed.

This time was different.

A few seconds went by after the first bite. Nothing. I tried another. Still no reaction. I kept eating.

I finished the thing, and it was deLISH. You ha…

Que Sarah, Sarah

Image
My mother, normally sound of mind, waylaid me about a month back, while I was enjoying dinner at her house with my wife and daughter.

"Sarah Palin just might come back," she said, or something to that effect.

I nearly choked on my corned beef.

I made sure we were talking about the same Sarah Palin. It was confirmed.

It wasn't April Fool's Day. A "Candid Camera" crew didn't burst in. Mom wasn't, that I knew of, running a fever.

Mom's no more Republican than I am, which is about as un-Republican as the Clintons. So this wasn't some partisan pipe dream. She just thinks that ole Sarah has a legitimate chance to rise from the ashes of her failed VP bid in 2008 and land on top of the GOP ticket in 2012.

Well, I tell ya---it would be a first.

In U.S. political history, failed VP nominees don't end up being president material. The closest you can come is Bob Dole, who ran with Jerry Ford in 1976 and, 20 years later, was ill-equipped to run against Bill…

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from August 3, 2009


A Gym Brat

I apologize to Mr. Flynn. It's been a long time coming.

I was a ringleader of sorts, who made Mr. Flynn's life more difficult than it needed to be. But I just wanted to win so badly.

Mr. Flynn was my gym teacher in grade school---we called it "elementary school" then, and the folks before us called it "grammar school"---and again, I'm sorry, sir.

I was the Billy Martin and Earl Weaver of my day, traits not endearing to an 11-year-old boy. And Mr. Flynn was the unflappable but exasperated umpire.

Never was my competitive spirit higher than as an adolescent. Baseball, touch football, Monopoly, Uncle Wiggly, you name it---I wanted to win. Very badly.

My own mother ejected me from a game of table hockey, though she likely doesn't remember it, nor would choose to believe that about her only kid.

But it's true. She and I were playing---I'm around nine or ten…

Revving Up with a V8

Image
Wow---I really could have had a V8.

Rummaging in the fridge the other day, in the post-Thanksgiving version of nuclear winter, I happened to take a gander wayyy back on the third shelf down.

There they were: a few six-ounce cans of V8, "Extra Spicy" version.

I actually enjoy V8. A lot. Yet it's not something I think about buying. I cruise right by it in the grocery store.

The company's longtime tag line is spot on.

"I coulda had a V8!!"

Forget how good it tastes as part of a bastardized Bloody Mary; V8 is surprisingly refreshing (considering it's made from...VEGETABLES!) and has one of the best after tastes you'll ever find in a drink---especially one made from...VEGETABLES!



This isn't tomato juice, by the way; let's get that clear right off the bat. It looks like tomato juice, yes. And its primary flavor is clearly culled from tomatoes. But this isn't just tomato juice. The drink's name ought to tip you off: eight vegetables (at least) squ…

Oprah's Long Goodbye

Image
For someone who professes to hate goodbyes, Oprah Winfrey sure is hosting quite a long one.

Oprah's TV show will vanish sometime in 2011, she says. I only wish we had this kind of warning BEFORE she arrived on the scene.

Oh, stop frowning and looking at me sideways. Oprah's OK. She annoys me a little bit but she's probably done more good than bad for folks in this cartoon of a country that we inhabit. I'm sure she's a very nice woman, truth be told.

Time for a quick check of the iconic TV people over the years.

Johnny Carson: none of us did what Johnny told us to do, because that wasn't his gig. He didn't pontificate, he entertained. He mugged. He could crack us up with an arched eyebrow and a crooked mouth. But Carson was a ghost outside of his TV show. He was almost Howard Hughes-like in guarding his privacy. He championed no causes, endorsed no products, imparted no life lessons. No way of knowing if he was a Republican, a Democrat, or a Marxist. Johnny was …

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from April 28, 2009


Motionly Disturbed


It's taking me longer to go to the bathroom nowadays, and I blame technology.

I'm not talking about going to the bathroom at home. That's always taken me a long time, mainly because I treat the rest room like a library. That is, if they ever allowed toilets on the floor of a library.

But that's a long time that I choose to take. It's a guy thing, but the bathroom is a safe haven, a reading room for men.

It's public restrooms that are starting to waste more and more of my time.

First, unlike the throne at home, which I'm in no hurry to leave, I can't wait to get my tush out of a public lav. The thought of what sort of scientific creepy-crawlies that are clinging to every wall and faucet and door handle in there doesn't lend itself to me wanting to spend anymore time there than is absolutely necessary.

But here's why it's taking so long nowadays…

Oh, Donny Boy!

Image
Donny Osmond had an unfair advantage as a contestant on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars": he had way more experience beating the odds than those whippersnappers who were his fellow finalists.

Osmond, about to turn 52, came away with the garish trophy last night on "Dancing," beating out Kelly Osbourne and Mya, two women whose combined ages barely exceed his own.

I was thrilled for Osmond---while also being very proud of Osbourne, by the way, who really showed me something, and not just me. Who knew that Ozzy could have spawned something so vivacious?

It's not a generational thing, either (I'm 46). I wanted Osmond to win because he deserves all the mainstream recognition he can get, and then some.

Perhaps no entertainer in my lifetime has been stereotyped as badly as Donny Osmond. Or as tormented, both by others and by himself.

He's a man who sunk to the depths of his profession and was derided for it---often times unmercifully. And drugs weren't even i…

City, City Bang Bang

Image
The late, great sportswriter Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times used to be one of the best at skewering towns across this great country. I haven't been to nearly as many burgs in the United States as Murray visited during his wonderful career, but I HAVE been to my share of cities around Metro Detroit and outstate...

We'll start with Pontiac, which would be a terrific town---if this was 1956. When a bus stops in Pontiac, everyone gets on, no one gets off. There's a road somewhere called Pontiac Trail, which isn't so much a street name as it is a warning. The overall mood is like a drab winter's day, only worse. The town is full of ghosts of businesses past. The city would make a mint if they erected toll booths at the borders and charged people to leave.

Then there's Taylor, where half the population is in-bred. More people sleep with their teeth in a glass than in their head. It's a great place to go if you're a producer for "The Jerry Springer Sho…

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from May 15, 2009


Twin Pining

Time, once again, to show my age.

I tend to do that a lot here, I know.

So anyone under 30, turn away, unless you don't mind being subjected to yet another tale of yesteryear.

I miss the Twin Pines guy.

There. I said it.

He used to bring you milk, the Twin Pines guy did, and tons of other good stuff.

Laid it on your doorstep, and prior to that, put it in your milk chute.

Whoa!

Yeah, you read correctly, under-30-yearsers.

The milk chute.

Some homes still have them, though by now they're likely painted shut.

The brick ranches and tri-levels that sprang up in the late-1950s, early-1960s like mushrooms all had milk chutes built into them, just about.

Usually located on the side of the building, the chute was a two-way deal: it opened on the outside so the Twin Pines guy (or whomever delivered your milk and dairy) could fill it with goodies. And it opened from the inside of the house, so you could r…

Johnny Beefcake

Image
Johnny Depp is the Sexiest Man Alive. Especially in my house, which includes me, a man. You want to know how you can be the only male and still finish in second place? Be married to a woman who'd pick up Depp's socks from the floor and consider it as good as foreplay.

But that's OK. There's no shame in finishing second to Johnny Depp, whether it's in terms of sexiness or in acting talent.

Depp got the People Magazine tag for the male version of va-va-voom this year, but I don't know what you win for such an honor. The winners of these things already have riches and adoring females. And their healthy good looks. Is there an award?

Depp can be the Sexiest Man Alive. But I have a feeling that he'd rather be the Best Actor Alive, which he damn well might be. The many faces of Johnny Depp have included gangster John Dillinger, an effeminate pirate, a homicidal barber, a boy with scissors for hands, and some quirky young man named Benny.

Depp doesn't play charact…

Mail Bonding

Image
It sounds like the punch line of a Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield joke.

"Things are so bad, the mail is cutting back on delivery. Now they're going to take one less day a week to not get your stuff there on time."

Sorry, USPS people, but I'm a little annoyed.

The Postal Service wants to petition Congress to excise Saturday delivery, because of a---get this---$3.8 billion loss in the 2009 fiscal year. The USPS says it has already made $6 billion in cost-cutting measures, including lowering the payments it made for retiree health benefits by $4 billion in fiscal 2009.

OK, I get why this is; people are simply not mailing as much stuff anymore. Bills are paid online or via phone. E-mail has made letter writing archaic and quaint to the point of weird.

Seems that the only folks using the mail service anymore are those distributing junk.

But if there are fewer pieces of mail, why are they taking longer to reach their destination?

It's not just me.

I've levied this co…

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from June 3, 2009


Chevy's Lemon

Conan O'Brien started his new gig last night as the latest host of "The Tonight Show."

I missed it, and, truthfully, I'll probably miss a whole lot more.

I don't watch "Tonight" anymore. Of course, I don't watch much TV, period, anymore, but "Tonight" was a favorite of mine.

No longer.

This isn't to disrespect Conan--who I actually like--or Jay Leno (who I kinda like, too).

But come on--is "Tonight" really "Tonight" if Johnny Carson isn't hosting it?

On October 1, 1962, some folks were asking much the same question, only substituting Jack Paar's name where I placed Johnny's. Or Steve Allen's, depending on your preference.

Johnny stayed some 30 years, and I'd say he pretty much silenced his critics.

Johnny didn't walk off the show, like Paar did, for example.

Jack was upset at the network's censori…

Something Fishy

Image
I wanted some fish, fast food variety, and I bemoaned the lack of a viable option near our house.

Didn't feel like sitting down at Big Boy's, or even our local haunt, Sero's. Not enough dough for Red Lobster. Just wanted some take-out fish, some fries. Fish 'n chips can hit the spot, when I'm so moved.

But nowhere on 12 Mile Road, near our Madison Heights abode, can there be found any fast fish.

Not even on John R or Dequindre or Ryan, the closest north/south trunks.

Then it occurred to me: there had been one, a Seafood Bay on Dequindre just north of 12 Mile, but I put it out of business.

Let me explain.

Sometime in the late-1990s, I cruised over to "the Bay" for some fast fish and some shrimp. I walked in, ordered, and waited. With nothing else to do, I perused my receipt. And, being the human calculator that I am, I noticed something funny.

The cash register charged us nearly seven percent sales tax, instead of the state rate of six percent.

No big deal, you mi…

Phoney Baloney

Image
First, it was that you couldn't get a human being on the phone when you called (insert company). It's still that way, of course, but now I have a new beef.

You can't even get a human being on the phone---when YOU'RE the one being called!

I suppose they're called "robo calls"---the phenomenon of automated systems dialing you with pre-recorded voices on the other end of the line.

Some of these calls are slickly done; they start out sounding like a real person.

Technology has improved. Time was, pre-taped messages sounded, well, pre-taped. These new calls sound like people, because there isn't that AM radio-like hiss or static.

I've been fooled.

I got a call several months ago from some financial planning dude named John Stephens. He sounded very casual and friendly.

"Hi, this is John Stephens," he said in a manner and tone that suggested that he and I were longtime friends. I actually started to talk to the guy---before finding out that he was no…

Big, Dead John

Image
There's been some scuttlebutt over a new DirecTV ad that features comedian David Spade and his former partner in crime, Chris Farley.

The DirecTV ads are clever, to say the least. They thrust real-life stars back onto the sets of one of their more famous movies, only this time they break the plane and speak to the viewer, extolling DirecTV's benefits.

They do it by doing an amazing job of recreating the scene through CG effects, but that's really Sigourney Weaver, or Charlie Sheen, or any of the others who've appeared in the campaign, talking to us about DirecTV. The Weaver one is particularly fun, as she speaks to us while battling an alien.

So the latest one has Farley playing one of his over-the-top characters, Spade being the straight man. Spade speaks to us about DirecTV as an aside.

The controversy arises, of course, because Farley is no longer with us. But I recall one of the vacuum cleaner companies running a campaign that superimposed Fred Astaire, dancing up and…

Friday's Favs

Image
(Note: every Friday I'll post a favorite rant from the archives)

from April 10, 2009


Chop Shop

Carl's Chop House is no more. Never again will a steak thrill me so.

It's been closed for several months now, Carl's has. But the familiar sign is still there, visible as you head down the Lodge Freeway, near Grand River.

All you non-Detroiters, keep reading. Because no matter where you live, you need to know that once upon a time sat a steakhouse where I nearly ran into the kitchen and yanked the chef into the dining area.

Don't worry; it wasn't to throttle him. Instead, I wanted to reveal to the customers that there existed a man who knew how to cook a steak "well done" while, at the same time, preserving its juices and flavor.

I first dined at Carl's, in its old, unimpressive from the outside brick building, in 1990, while courting my future wife. I had heard about it, along with the other famed steakhouse in Detroit, the London Chop House, for years but ne…

The Running Man

Image
Now Dave Bing won't have to run for mayor of Detroit anymore. Not for four more years, anyway---presuming he still wants the job after actually doing it.

Bing has been Detroit's mayor in title only. He hasn't been able to get to the meat of anything because he hasn't been mayor---he's been running for mayor.

But now the long litany of primaries and elections in Detroit is over with, Bing having easily disposed of challenger Tom Barrow on Tuesday in the (finally!) general election.

And there's an added bonus: Bing will get to work with a shiny new council president---one who isn't jaded and who is young and who would appear to have an esprit de corps about him.

Charles Pugh, the former TV reporter/host, was the surprise of the night, gathering the most votes of any council candidate, thus making him council president.

No Monica Conyers and her traveling sideshow. No Ken Cockrel Jr. --- a good man but perhaps stung by his own brief time as mayor. No career politic…

Scary Good

Image
There aren't too many sure things in life, but here's one.

Matt Harker's loss is most definitely someone's gain. It already has been.

Harker is a Chicagoland guy who broke off his engagement to fiancee Teanne Harris---six days before the wedding was to take place.

And Harris showed him up, big time.

After finding out that the deposit on her banquet hall was non-refundable, Harris looked across the street from it, saw the Asbury Court Retirement Community, and got some ideas.

Parrrty!!

Harris, 34, simply asked that the proceedings be moved across the street, where a couple hundred seniors were then treated to food, drink, and dancing---courtesy the DJ that Harris also didn't cancel.

It was to be a Halloween-themed party---isn't that deliciously ironic, considering the ghoul that Harker turned out to be---so many of the Asbury Court Retirement Community residents who participated showed up in costume as they consumed food, beverage, and otherwise enjoyed themselves, all…