Thursday, July 30, 2009


Another taco place is opening up near me and suddenly it's 1979 again.

Taco Bell was a mostly unexplored food experience for me and my friends when word got out that they were constructing one on Merriman Road in Livonia, just north of Plymouth Road. We'd been, but always via car, somewhere else, and on precious few occasions.

But this new one would be only a nice, worth-it bike's ride away from our houses.

So it opens, and if we didn't go on the first day, it was pretty darn close to it.

My friends were amazed at how much Taco Bell I could consume.

Kind of like today, when my wife and daughter are amazed at how much Taco Bell I can consume. Still.

It's a great bang-for-the-buck, really. You gotta love any fast food place anymore that has items on its menu for under a dollar.

We wore out that new Taco Bell for a period of time, enamored with its newness and novelty status. And I typically ordered the most food. Back then, I could probably gorge myself for about three or four bucks.

So now it's 30 years later, roughly, and I have that same excitement coursing through my veins and pulmonary system.

Del Taco is here! Del Taco is here!

They just opened it, at 12 Mile and Dequindre, in front of the revamped Universal Shopping Center. The new Target is open now, too.

My wife and I first experienced Del Taco a couple years ago, happening upon it by accident because we were a little off the beaten path in a portion of Warren we rarely visited, searching for a particular type of dog food.

In front of the strip mall where we found the pooch's food, there was a Del Taco.

We took a flyer on it.

Pretty yummy.

Our daughter asked us yesterday, "Why was it so good?"

We can't remember!

But we DO know that we liked it, and we're eager to try it again, to see what all our fuss was about.

That's what getting older can do to you---it enables you to enjoy things for the first time, twice!

We're also excited about word that a new Sonic Drive-In will be opening near Oakland Mall soon. Those TV commercials have been driving us crazy for years. Everything looks so good. There's a Sonic on Groesbeck, I believe, but we passed it by when it wasn't convenient to check out.

You might get the impression that food rules our lives---beyond just that you need it to survive.

Well, my wife is half-Polish, half-Italian. And I have the appetite of a lion. So yeah, food is a big deal, at least to me. The ladies in my life appreciate it, too---if only because they're often bemused and amused by my attraction and reaction to it.

That's why something silly like a new Del Taco opening up gets me going.

I'll report back with my review of the place.

I can't wait to find out why we liked it so much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beck, As In Wreck

Glenn Beck is an idiot.

I'm tempted to not stop there, and do the school days equivalent: write it 100 times on the blackboard, er, this post.

Hell, I'll write it 500 times. I doubt I'd get sick of it.

Glenn Beck is an idiot.

No, not even close to being tired of those words yet.

Beck, another who soils the broadcast air on Fox News, called President Obama a racist.

Beck's attack comes in the wake of the controversial arrest of Harvard University Scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black, and Obama's reaction, which included taking the police to task. Read: the white police officer to task.

Obama then backed off his statement, in which he initially said that the police had "acted stupidly."

On this morning's episode of "Fox & Friends", Beck said the president---the President of the United States---has exposed himself as a person with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."


Beck's statement, thank God, was challenged on the air by Fox host Brian Kilmeade, who noted that most of the people who work for the nation's first black president are white---though that's hardly the greatest argument in the world, seeing as though most people in this country are white. But I digress.

"I'm not saying he doesn't like white people," Beck said. "He has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist."

Wait---he's a racist, yet you're not saying that he doesn't like white people?

And Obama is the one with the problem?

The face of an idiot: Glenn Beck

Then there's the matter of Beck talking about Obama in a manner of disrespect.

"This guy, I believe, is a racist."

This guy?

It's amazing how certain folks casually toss caustic words around.

Of all the things you can call someone, when you're not really sure if they are that, "racist" is right up there among the most heinous.

Here are some others: Anti-Semitic. A child molester. Glenn Beck.

Maybe Beck saw an opportunity---a chance for the mentally challenged.

"Hey---wouldn't it be great fun to, for a change, call a black man racist?"

Beck might have figured that he could satisfy that urge with Obama as his target because, well, the president can take it.

For the record, an Obama spokesman, William Burton, said the White House had no comment on Beck.

Well, allow me then. I don't have to be as gracious.

Glenn Beck is a small-minded man who is another who's cobbled together a mini-empire by appealing to other small-minded people and leading them by the snouts. He's an intellectual lightweight with a heavyweight forum---never a good combination.

Beck wondered, during the discussion on "Fox & Friends," what other president would immediately jump on the police for their actions in the Gates case.

Not sure, but I kind of think it would have been nice if other presidents had called out some folks over the years.

Obama, in fact, should get props for backing off the "acted stupidly" remark and then offering an olive branch to Gates and the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, by inviting them to the White House for a "let bygones be bygones" beer.

But that's all beyond the range of Glenn Beck's capacity for reasoning.

Because "this guy's" an idiot.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eager To Watch Beaver

Psst! Hey, you there!

I like to watch "Leave it to Beaver."

I'm outed. The beans have been spilled.

I hope you don't think I'm a creep or somethin'.

To be honest, I've never NOT liked The Beaver. He was someone I could relate to as a youngster, and now that I'm a grown-up, his world is somewhere to which I like to escape.

I prefer the older episodes, though. The ones where Jerry Mathers was small, no older than nine or ten years old. He was cuter then, and the storylines were more innocent.

We own a box set of one of the earlier seasons of "Beaver", and when you feel like the world is crawling up your rear end, it's nice to slide one of those discs into the DVD player and be taken away. It's like a Calgon bath that way.

It starts with the neighborhood the Cleavers lived in---one of the first sprawling sub-divisions built after the second World War. The two-story homes with the picket fences and the well-manicured lawns.

The Cleavers

The Cleavers' world just seemed so insulated from the stress and strain that befalls the American family today. No foreclosures, no job loss. Heck, not even any crime, save for maybe a pick-pocketed watch at the park where the kids played ball.

Ward, the dad, always came home at a decent hour, dinner waiting. June, the mom, greeting him with a smile and wearing a dress and pearls! Turns out that Barbara Billingsley (she's still living, BTW, at age 93), who played June, had a birth defect on her neck that she was self-conscious about. Hence the pearls.

Now you know.

There was Wally, the best older brother any little kid could have. If you watch the episodes closely, especially the ones when Beaver was small, you can see how endearing Wally is to his little brother. There's genuine love there.

In one episode, Beaver breaks down in the bedroom, worried about what Dad will say about his behavior. Wally, without speaking, pulls his hanky out of his pocket, hands it to "The Beav", and tousles his hair. How many high school boys show that kind of compassion to their elementary school-aged brothers nowadays?

There's just something cathartic about watching "Beaver." Maybe because you know it took place when Eisenhower was president, and drive-in movies were popular, and there were milkmen and the World Series was played during the day.

I was sad to discover that the actress who played Beaver's pretty young teacher Miss Landers, Sue Randall, died in 1984 at age 49 from cancer.

Miss Landers looked nothing like any teacher I had in my day.

Another reason to watch---as a grown-up male.

As for the role of June Cleaver, Billingsley apparently had her own theory about why she got the job.

"Roy (her late husband) died on a Saturday, while we were gardening," she once explained. "The Thursday before, I was up for the part of the mother in a series Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher were working on. Then Roy died, and nothing came of that series. But two months later, when they started on 'Leave It To Beaver', they remembered me and asked me to read for the part of June.

"I've always thought that they felt sorry for me."

There's nothing close to "Leave it to Beaver" on the tube nowadays. And there's not much like that kind of world in real life, either.

I feel sorry for us.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Dick Nixon was a liar.

That's not news, I know, but Tricky Dick lied to us long before he circled the wagons and covered up his involvement in the Watergate scandal in 1972-73.

No, Nixon lied to us when he stood before the media after losing in the 1962 California gubernatorial election.

"You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore!" Nixon scolded the press after what he thought was unfair treatment during the '62 campaign in California.

It was a promise he didn't keep.

No, we had plenty more opportunities to kick Dick around, thanks to his rising like a Phoenix to win the 1968 presidential election, and again four years later.

Sarah Palin is making like Nixon.

Palin, the now former Alaskan governor, wagged her finger at the press as she vacated the state mansion.

"So how about in honor of the American soldier, you quit making up things. And don't underestimate the wisdom of the people. And one other thing for the media -- our new governor has a very nice family, too, so leave his kids alone," she said as she handed off power to Sean Parnell, the lieutenant governor.

Palin clearly feels she was treated unfairly during the 2008 presidential election, when she was portrayed as someone who made Dan Quayle look like a Rhodes Scholar.

But her decision to quit as Alaska's governor two years before her term expires has only added to the vitriol.

"She abandoned her state in the middle of a term. They didn't ask for her to run. She volunteered to run and assumed that job. I think she has hurt herself. You've seen those numbers turn," Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union With John King."

Fifty-three percent of Americans view Palin negatively, and 40 percent see her positively, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

So do the folks in this country view Palin negatively because of the media, or because of, well, herself?

There's no question that the media can, and does, amplify a candidate's weaknesses.

But in Palin's case, the press didn't have far to go on the volume dial; she had turned it up quite a bit herself.

Palin's supporters were almost laughable in their assertion that she was representative of the "every woman." The Republican Party was laughable in its assertion that nominating Palin for vice president would somehow attract female voters disenfranchised by Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama.

The GOP looked at the female vote and thought that it would blindly follow any woman, regardless of views, ideology, or brains.

It was disgusting.

But that's not Palin's fault, of course. I've long said it: when you place a square peg in a round hole, you don't blame the peg.

But Palin's scolding of the media, I believe, will only work against her. They laughed and mocked Nixon after he wagged his finger at the media in 1962; they'll do the same with Palin in 2009, and beyond.

And, frankly, deservedly so.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kwame the Tsunami

Add another lady to Kwame Kilpatrick's harem.

Sheryl Robinson Wood, the federal monitor for the Detroit Police Department’s consent decree with the Department of Justice, resigned Thursday because of “meetings of a personal nature” with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Talk amongst yourselves.

U.S. District Judge Julian Cook issued an order today accepting her resignation.

The order said Wood had “engaged in conduct which was totally inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the two consent judgments in this litigation.”

So Kilpatrick has indirectly ruined yet another person's professional life, albeit with the complicity of said individual.

The reign of terror Kilpatrick has left in his wake is incredible.

Kilpatrick had it all, at one point. Then he wanted some more, and some more, and some booty, to boot.

This is a man for whom the world was his oyster. Kwame Kilpatrick could have been a wonderkind, a political power and success story to the nth degree. He was elected mayor of Detroit in his early-30s, and could have been on his way to a 25, 30 year career of public service, during which who knows what he might have accomplished.

Detroit, and eventually the entire state of Michigan, might have had a native son of whom we could have been supremely proud, for what he could have done at the national level. Washington would have been a likely destination. Perhaps a job in a Democratic president's cabinet.

It was all there. The chance to bring Detroit back. The opportunity to be the pied piper that the city has been desperately seeking for decades.

He was young, good-looking, and with a personality almost as big as his rotund build. A smile that could have lit up Woodward Avenue during a power outage.

Now look at him.

Squirreled away somewhere in Texas. Shamed and driven out of town. But still his "legacy" coats Detroit in molasses.

Now comes the news of Wood and her "meetings of a personal nature" with Kilpatrick.

Judge Cook said Wood had “engaged in undisclosed communications, as well as meetings of a personal nature, with the former City of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick during the term of the consent judgments, which included inappropriate discussions with him about this lawsuit.”

A cynic might say that Kilpatrick slept with Wood to unduly influence her.

A cynic, or a bottom-liner.

After a phone call with Wood, and based on a review of the documents, Cook accepted her resignation effective 5 p.m. Thursday.

Kilpatrick has already been linked, romantically, with everyone from longtime friend and eventual city employee and fellow defendant Christine Beatty to mysterious women from other towns. Now the previously credible Wood seems to be among Kwame's girlfriends.

Kilpatrick is in exile in Texas, where he would appear to be a fish out of water. Kwame's not a Texas guy. But that's where he's fled.

Kwame Kilpatrick could have had it all. He could have been the most exciting thing to hit City Hall. Ever.

Now look at him.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Like It Hotter

I have found out something, partly by accident but largely by design.

Few things don't taste better with some hot sauce added.

Meet me and my cast iron stomach.

It started when I was a pre-teen. In the fridge one day I found some of those Vlasic pepper rings, though likely they were of the mild variety. But to a youngster, that's quite a different taste paradigm.

I loved them---their tanginess, the vinegary aftertaste. And I thought it was cool how they made my salivary glands spritz, even when I simply opened the jar and sniffed.

I guess my story is similar to how a heroin addict would tell of how he hopped on his train.

For the mild pepper rings gave way to the "hot" pepper rings, which gave way to Tabasco sauce.

But until I went away to college, I thought hot food was pretty much limited to my pickled peppers and the hot sauce at Taco Bell, plus the fiery menu at Mexican joints.

I had no idea what awaited me.

I soon found out that "hot food" was a big part of cuisine from around the world.

I remember the epiphany.

I was working at a drug store in Ann Arbor, part-time, and one of the pharmacists sent me out for some lunch, since he couldn't leave the premises. He wanted Chinese, and there was a terrific one down the street, he said.

My experience with Chinese food, to that point, was the bland, Cantonese fare: chop suey, almond boneless chicken, etc.

But this place was different, he said.

"They've got all these spicy dishes. They're great," he told me.


Turns out the place was Szechuan and Mandarin-themed. And that's when I discovered hot and spicy food, international style.

I ordered one of the entrees he recommended, and the burst of spice and heat and flavors in my mouth was so wonderful that I am literally wistful to recreate that moment as I sit here and type this.

That became one of my favorite restaurants, in a hurry.

So spicy Chinese food led me to try Indian food, which I heard was even spicier. It was. And I had another of those glorious moments, discovering something new in the hot and spicy food world.

But I was in for another thrilling discovery.

Thai food.

I remember the place: Siam Spicy (it's still very much there), on Woodward in Royal Oak, circa 1989.

I was to attend a bachelor party that night, and I had spent the day at a friend's house in town. I remember seeing the restaurant's sign on the way to his street, so I decided to check it out on my way home.

I can't remember what I ordered, but I remember my reply when the waitress asked me how spicy I wanted the food.

"Oh, extra hot," I said, chest puffed out.

She looked at me the same way you'd look at someone who just ordered a bag of nails for lunch.

In a small, polite voice, she said, "Have you eaten here before?"


She all but put her order pad down and patted my hand.

But she did explain that the food there was awfully spicy and that I might want to reconsider my desire for "extra hot."

The tough guy in me---I fancied myself a veteran of spicy food by that time---initially fought her, but then I backed down, slightly. I ordered, simply, "hot", and if I recall, she still didn't think that was a very good idea.

It wasn't.

I labored and struggled and winced my way through about half that dish, my mouth on fire. I kept adding rice, but it wasn't working all that well. I had them wrap it up, hoping it would cool off in my refrigerator over night.

It didn't, not really. I think I ended up throwing some of it out because it was just too damn hot.

But I was hooked on Thai food.

Be still my heart....

I've come to know the heat ranges of some of the Thai places that I frequent, so I know that extra hot at Place A isn't dangerous, but even medium at Place B can be hazardous.

Place B, by the way, is Pi's Thai in Hazel Park, at John R and Ten Mile.

Pi, who also has a restaurant in Sterling Heights and works there nowadays, was a smiling, moon-faced guy whom I met when my future wife and I discovered his place.

It was a crisp, sunny, fall Saturday afternoon in 1991. I know the year because we were out scouting locations for our wedding reception. It was lunchtime. And we saw the sign.

"Hot and Spicy Thai Food" was painted on the side of the building, either as a warning or a beckoning.

I was foolish again, and ordered hot, even though it was my first time there. I should have known that "hot" takes on different meanings, depending on where you're eating.

I found out why Pi smiled so much. Probably got a kick out of all of us non-Thai folks who think they can stand his hot food.

I labored through that dish as well, just like during my premiere performance at Siam Spicy.

So that's my story. I put hot sauce on just about everything, sprinkle crushed red pepper on almost everything else, and even buy the "Hot and Spicy" cardboard bowls of Ramen noodles for 99 cents at the grocery store, and even then I add ground red pepper I purchased at an Asian store.

I happened upon the ridiculously hot Habanero pepper, further proof that there is a god, and ended up growing my own in the backyard.

I once bought a small bottle of something called Dave's Insanity Sauce at the Rafal Spice Co. at Eastern Market. One drop, no joke, could make an entire large bowl of chili scorching hot. Took me years to get through that two-ounce bottle.

Still dating my fiancee, who I found out with great excitement early in our courtship that she had experienced Szechuan food and liked it, I heard about a challenge issued by a restaurant in Novi.

It was called Too Chez (still there? not sure), and they offered to give you their "Orzo from Hell" dish for free if you could finish it. Orzo, for those who don't know, is a small, oval-shaped pasta, often confused for rice.

We double-dated with my colleague at work, Mickey Kent, and his wife. Mickey was a hot food freak like me. Probably still is.

So we order the dish and figure that between the two of us, we can finish it.

Well, we did, but not without a lot of sweat and beverage.

Was it worth it?

Hell, yeah!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Barrow Full Of Smarm

Shame on Tom Barrow.

First, I thought we were rid of Barrow, who once upon a time tried to provide a sensible, smart alternative to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and later, Dennis Archer.

But he's resurfaced, at age 60, and he again has his eye on the mayor's chair. He's expected to finish among the top two in the August 4 primary (yeah, Detroiters have to traipse to the polls yet again) along with incumbent Dave Bing, thus facing off against Bing, mano-a-mano, in the November general election.

There was a time when Barrow was refreshing and above the dirty pool that was being played in City Hall and its environs.

That, apparently, has changed.

Barrow took a swipe at Bing today through a press release, and in doing so placed himself down among the folks he used to be so head and shoulders above, back in the day.

Barrow's concern is that Bing's proposed budget cuts are not only painful, but smacks of a plot to "dismantle" (Barrow's word) city government in order to turn valuable assets over to holding companies run by Bing's campaign cronies.

Tom Barrow, who should know better

“With no public debate on his plans, no community appearances, and no interaction with grassroots stakeholders, this placeholder mayor has continued to disrespect the public as he tears apart the city’s resources, privatizes and gives city assets to outside political cronies,” Barrow said in the statement.

Fine. No one said that running for mayor of Detroit is a love-in. But then Barrow got smarmy and cheap.

“When a city needs a better basketball team, it hires a coach, not an accountant,” said Barrow, a certified public accountant. “When it needs better fiscal management, it hires a CPA, not a basketball player.”


Bing retired from the NBA in 1978, some 31 years ago. He's done a lot since then, almost shedding his label of pro basketball player entirely, replacing it with businessman and, now, politician.

Bing, since entering the private sector, has created jobs, helped build new housing in the city, and most recently, has given hope to a city ravaged by the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal.

He's not, anymore, simply a basketball player.

I figure Tom Barrow would know that; he's a smart enough guy.

Ahh, but this is a political campaign, and sometimes folks lose their identity when they're blinded by the prize.

Barrow is better than that cheap shot about Bing's basketball career.

He might do better to re-affirm that, instead of becoming what he once so regally fought.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Hodak Moment

Did Michigan even have weather reports before Jerry Hodak came along?

What ever did we do? Look out the window?

How Neanderthal!

Hodak is still doing it, on channel 7. He's still telling us how to dress in that baritone voice of his, looking at us through those squinty eyes, in a manner so casual that it makes Perry Como look like Sid Vicious.

I don't watch local TV news anymore; haven't for years. Perhaps I will again someday, whenever I feel the need to tumble into an abyss of depression.

But sometimes you can't help it, like when big stories or tragedies happen, and the local news folks are suddenly on your TV screen, rudely interrupting what you were watching.

That happened recently, when I was getting briefed as the car-meets-Amtrak train story unfolded---the one that ended in the deaths of all those young people in Canton Township.

I was at our veterinarian's office, waiting to be seen (actually, our dog was the one to be seen), and the office television was tuned to channel 7, the ABC affiliate in Detroit.

In a break in coverage of the tragic story, we were returned to the studio, where the anchors discussed in hushed tones the implications. Then, it was time for a quick weather break. There's always time for a quick weather break.

And there was Hodak, the Dick Clark of Detroit television. Jerry still looks terrific, and he must be on the other side of 70 by now, or darn close to it. For Jerry Hodak has been reporting the weather in Detroit since 1965.

For a time in the 1980s, they tried to make Hodak a news anchor, figuring that his Walter Cronkite-like credibility was being wasted on talking about thunderstorms and wind chill factors.

That experiment didn't last long, and if I remember, it was Jerry who asked to be shifted back to the weather, where he clearly was more comfortable.

Jerry Hodak was on channel 2 when I first started remembering stuff, and he moved to channel 7 back in 1977.

Hodak isn't just a weatherman. He's a bona fide meteorologist, and is more of a science guy who happens to be on TV than the other way around, like so many of his brethren nowadays.

Hodak's brief weather interlude during the car/train tragedy was a soothing moment of calm amidst the madness. There's something about Hodak's voice and delivery that functions as a sort of life preserver when you're trying to keep your head above water while being assailed by all the bad news that's not weather-related.

Everyone else might be loud and frenetic, making you edgy, but then Hodak is given the floor and he starts speaking, and suddenly all is right in the world again.

Jerry Hodak hasn't raised his voice in all the decades I've seen him work on TV. He doesn't need to. He doesn't force the weather down your throat, like so many of the loudmouthed boobs on TV today. Instead, Hodak imparts it, with no pressure, no pretention.

Maybe you could call him humorless, and possibly even robotic. He won't win any personality contests. But Hodak does what so few of them on TV do anymore: he engages you, and makes you feel better.



I sent Hodak this blog post, and I got this reponse via e-mail on July 22:


Thanks for the kind words. They made my day.

As an aside, I haven't reached age 70 yet.

I still have a few years to go.

Jerry Hodak

Thanks, Jerry---and my apologies about the age thing!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

That's The Way It Is...Now

It's tempting to say that there will never be another Walter Cronkite, and that very well may be true.

But maybe there IS another Cronkite out there---we'll just never know it.

Who's to say that there's not a Cronkite out there, somewhere in this vast, information-flooded cosmos?

Cronkite, the legendary newscaster who died last week at age 92, came into our living rooms at a time when the pie was cut into four slices, basically: ABC, CBS, NBC, and UHF.

It was easier to become part of our consciousness with those odds.

This isn't to take a thing away from Cronkite, because even with those odds, a whole bunch of Walter's competitors tried and failed to weave their way into this nation's fabric.

You had Chet Huntley and David Brinkley over at NBC, the flavor of the day at ABC, and Cronkite---not at all in that order, either.

Today, there's so much darn TV and so much freaking Internet (thanks for stopping by, by the way!) that the pie Cronkite was baked into is now more of a mish-mash---kind of like cobbler instead of pie. Hard to find the slices.

There's no Cronkite anymore, with all due respect to Brian Williams and Katie Couric and the like, because there's no way to be Cronkite anymore.

Cronkite, announcing the death of President Kennedy in 1963

How can you be Cronkite when the viewing audience is sliced into pieces as thin as onion skin?

How can you enter our consciousness when we won't stay put long enough?

There might be some Cronkites out there, but they'll have to settle for doing so on a much smaller scale.

It was the veteran news anchor Cronkite who, like cub reporter Dan Rather, had some of his finest moments in one of this country's darkest hours---the assassination of President Kennedy.

If there was any question as to the soothing powers of Cronkite, it was dispelled during that horrifying November weekend in 1963.

Cronkite manned the desk for hours on end, his face haggard and his shirt sweat-soaked.

In a famous clip, Cronkite almost loses it as he announces the official word of JFK's passing. But he gathered himself and delivered the awful news with all the professionalism and calm that he could muster.

The late, great sports anchor Jim McKay, who also came of age during tragedy, i.e. the 1972 Munich Olympic hostage ordeal, once told of one of his proudest moments.

It came the morning after Munich, the morning after all those Israeli athletes were killed.

A telegram was waiting for McKay when he arrived back at work.

"You did your country and your profession a great service," it read.

"Signed, Walter Cronkite."

And that's the way it is.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Sorry State of Affairs

If I bump into someone at the Target store, I offer an apology.

Which means I would probably fall over myself to do so if my actions triggered a chain of events that led to the carrier of 13,000 gallons of fuel to crash and explode, in turn knocking out an entire overpass, inconveniencing 160,000 drivers a day.

That is, after I thanked the good Lord for my still being alive.

But that's just me.

That's apparently not Saied Haidarian-Shari.

Haidarian-Shari, the 27-year-old whose car spun out of control at I-75 and 9 Mile on Wednesday, causing a fuel tanker to crash, igniting a whale of a fireball, won't be uttering the words "I'm sorry."

He was approached by those pesky devils at WJBK-TV (channel 2) Thursday night, who asked him if he felt he should apologize.

"No," he said.


He explained why.

“I don’t think I made a mistake.”

I see.

In Haidarian-Shari's defense, he's already given a statement to police, who say that no one has been cited. Yet.

OK, that's enough defending him.

If Haidarian-Shari didn't make a mistake, like he maintains, then that leaves the tanker driver. But police have already said that Haidarian-Shari's car swerved into the tanker, broadsiding it, causing it to tip over, exploding its contents.

And just because there have been no citations yet, doesn't mean Haidarian-Shari's in the clear. Often, in spectacular crashes like this, police take their time before either pressing charges or issuing tickets.

Nothing so far has indicated that the tanker driver did anything wrong.

The not-sorry Saied Haidarian-Shari

And if he had, don't you think that Haidarian-Shari, instead of tritely saying he has nothing to apologize for, would have used the ch. 2 interview as an opportunity to tell us why he's guilt-free?

"It was the other guy's fault!" he would have yammered. "Blame him, not me!"

Or something like that.

Haidarian-Shari's cavalier attitude smacks of smugness of the highest order. And symptomatic of the times we live in.

Something went wrong Wednesday night. And it's likely that something Haidarian-Shari, who only got his driver's license in May, did is to blame.

And don't come at me with charges of ethnic bias, based solely on Haidarian-Shari's name.

I'd be ticked off if the driver was named John Smith.

There's nothing legal that could be held against Haidarian-Shari if he'd simply say, "It was an accident and I'm sorry that it happened."

That's a way to say "I'm sorry" without taking responsibility, if that's what he's afraid of doing.

But Haidarian-Shari seems content to neither accept responsibility nor express any remorse for what happened.

It's amazing no one died, not the least of whom is him.

But hey, Haidarian-Shari doesn't think he made a mistake, so why should he be glad he's still breathing?

Now THAT'S sorry.


This appeared in the Detroit Free Press on July 22:

The man police say was responsible for the crash that caused a tanker explosion that destroyed an overpass on I-75 in Oakland County last week has been issued a traffic citation for speeding, according to Michigan State Police.

Police say Saied Haidarian-Shahri, 27, of Clawson lost control of his 2004 Honda Civic on July 15 and struck the fuel tanker. He is required to respond to the Hazel Park District Court within 14 days, police said today.

Police did not say how fast Haidarian-Shahri was traveling at the time.

The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates rebuilding the overpass at 9 Mile will cost $2 million and will not be completed before Thanksgiving.

Why am I not surprised?


July 29

Haidarian-Shahri will take the ticket to court, BUT he finally did offer an apology of sorts, through a statement.

Click HERE for details.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Breaking the News

The news anchor stared down at us with a serious-as-a-heart attack expression on her face and spoke in a low, somber tone.

"The video you're about to see is graphic, and some might find it disturbing."

Not so much a warning as an intonement by the news people for you not to turn the channel.

Anyhow, the "graphic" and "disturbing" video to which she was referring was never-before-seen footage (another great TV term to suck you in) of Michael Jackson's Pepsi Cola accident while filming a commercial for the soft drink in 1984. The one where his hair catches fire -- very briefly.

The footage was aired, and it hardly was befitting of the warning that accompanied it.

A pyrotechnic explosion brightens the screen, then we see Jackson, from behind, beginning to dance down a staircase. A wisp of flame appears on top of his head, which grows to a small bonfire just as crew members rush to him and put his hair out. The whole incident takes up maybe 8-10 seconds of screen time.

Not graphic. Not even that disturbing. It's not like Jackson died because of the accident, after all.

Maybe the young female anchor has never heard of the Zapruder film? Or Vic Morrow, if you're going to go the entertainment route?

Now THERE'S some graphic and disturbing footage, lady.

The Zapruder film is, of course, the visual recording of President Kennedy's last moments alive in Dallas, Texas in 1963.

Vic Morrow was an actor whose head didn't just catch on fire -- it was lopped off.

Vic Morrow, from his last film, "Twilight Zone: The Movie"

Morrow was filming a scene for John Landis' "Twilight Zone: The Movie" at a park in California, a scene in which he was to traverse a shallow body of water with two small children tucked beneath his arms.

The scene was supposed to take place in Vietnam, with Morrow trying to save the children from gunfire and bombs.

Only, another pyrotechnic accident caused a helicopter, which was flying dangerously low to the actor and kids, to spin out of control and crash into the water.

The blades of the copter decapitated Morrow and one of the children, who was seven years old. The other child, a six-year-old, wasn't beheaded but died also.

But this grisly accident, which spawned criminal charges and lawsuits, didn't get filed under "graphic" and "disturbing" until bootlegged footage popped up on the Internet a couple years ago.

It's grainy and from a distance, but you can indeed see the helicopter crashing down, and with it, the blades slamming down onto Morrow and the children.

No, you don't see heads flying off their torsos. But it's real enough to make you squirm, since you already know the result of the accident, which occurred 27 years ago next week.

Had you not known that Morrow and the one child were decapitated, the footage would have lost a lot of its shock value. But since you know that before you view it, your imagination fills in the blanks.

Had THAT video been unearthed by US magazine, as the Jackson/fire footage was yesterday, then you'd have a case for the over-the-top warning issued by the young lady introducing the Jackson clip.

Morrow had finished most of his scenes for his part of Landis' movie, so Vic's appearance in the film, after everyone knew his fate, added to the accident's notoriety.

By the way, did you know that Morrow is the father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh? I didn't, until a year or two ago.

TV news has become the boy who cried wolf, among other things.

When I was growing up, if a television program was interrupted with a film slide that said "Breaking News", accompanied by a booming male voice that said, "We interrupt this program...", well, you'd almost soil your undies.

For this wasn't something taken lightly. If the networks broke into "Laugh-In" or "All in the Family", then it was a news story of the highest order. The HIGHEST order.

Your tummy would do flip-flops and the hair on the back of your neck would stand on end if such an interruption occurred.


"Breaking news" is used so much, the term has completely lost its meaning. I won't go into a litany of examples, but the "news" that is breaking is the video equivalent of something tucked away on page 8A of the local newspaper.

Yet the TV folks keep using "breaking news", which, anymore, creates the same sense of urgency as someone's car alarm going off.

The Michael Jackson footage of his hair briefly catching fire was child's play.

The Vic Morrow footage, which you can view by clicking HERE -- now THAT was something to warn people about.

Back to you...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Have You Visited The Ford Lately?

If you haven't gone to the Henry Ford Museum lately, then stop reading this and get in your car and get a move on.

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200 -- unless you need the cash for the gas tank.

The family and I made the trek last Friday, and I don't know what I enjoyed more -- the exhibits or seeing our 16-year-old daughter become enraptured with our history. Her cell phone camera got a workout.

It'd been about 18 years since I'd last been to the gem in Dearborn, and shame on me for going nearly two decades between visits. But that'll change; we bought a family membership while we were there, courtesy of a special $99 coupon we found online.

For 12 months, all future visits to the museum and neighboring Greenfield Village are now paid for, thanks to our newly-minted membership card.

It's a hell of a deal.

A mere two visits, and the membership fee has paid for itself, and then some.

But I'm not here to shill for membership. This isn't a PBS pledge drive, so don't worry.

In one afternoon, I sat in the same bus that Rosa Parks did in 1955, got up close to the car that JFK was assassinated in, and was separated by merely a glass case from Lincoln's last chair.

I saw a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, letters signed by George Washington, and Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick's myriad of guitars.

I toured a Dymaxion House, which was a post-WWII experimental abode made largely of scrap aluminum and other materials from the war effort.

There was a cast of Lincoln's fist and a mask of his face. A test tube filled with, purportedly, Thomas Edison's last breath.

Cars and other modes of transportation from the 18th century on down.

The Rosa Parks bus -- one of many gems found at the Henry Ford Museum

Another highlight was a series of display cases filled with American pop culture examples, broken down by decade, starting with the early 20th century.

Remember Pong, the world's first video game?

But you're still reading, which means you haven't paid heed to my opening statement.

Get your rear end over to Dearborn and spend a day at the museum. I guarantee you'll feel good, but only if you take your time and reflect. If you do that enough, you'll walk out finding yourself, all at the same time, proud, disgusted, and bewildered at the history of our country.

Sure, there's some wonderful stuff about our founding fathers, but also shackles used for slaves down south. There's George Washington's mess kit, but also a KKK robe and hood.

Not all of what happened in the old days was warm and fuzzy, or better.

But it IS part of who we are as a nation, and the Henry Ford Museum captures it.

Spending an afternoon there is like wandering from one giant time capsule to the other.

It was neat, reflecting on the Rosa Parks bus. I knew which seat was hers, but I didn't dare occupy it, though others did, and had photos taken of themselves sitting in it. That's fine. But I just didn't feel that I should plop my big butt in it. Kind of like not stepping on a grave.

I walked all the way around the JFK car, which isn't surprising because I'm a sort of buff when it comes to his assassination. The car has been rebuilt in spots, but it's still very much the body shown in the accompanying photo, taken on November 22, 1963. The idea that I was standing before the same vehicle shown in that Zapruder film clip was both cool and kinda eery.

I'm not coming anywhere near doing justice to all the museum has to offer, but I'll say this.

Imagine that you had a giant camera, one that transcended time. Now imagine squeezing the shutter, thus taking a snapshot of everything from the 17th century to today.

If you ever had such a camera, and could ever process such a photograph, then you'd have what they have on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Friend Indeed?

Miko Brando considers himself a friend of the fallen pop icon, Michael Jackson.

Jackson, after all, was the godfather to Brando's child. Miko, the son of another icon, the actor Marlon Brando, and Jackson were indeed tight as thieves.

So no doubt that Miko Brando has convinced himself that he and Jackson were friends.

I just wonder how Michael would have done if he didn't have friends such as Miko Brando in his inner circle.

Like, maybe he'd still be alive right now.

I'm not blaming Brando for Jackson's death, which appears to be drug-related. I won't go quite that far. But I will blame Brando, and others close to Jackson, for being idle observers to a life gone out of control, when it comes to the drugs.

CNN has been trotting Miko Brando onto their shows a lot lately, in the wake of Jackson's death. He's done several shots on Larry King's show, for sure.

I don't know why CNN keeps putting Brando on the air, because he adds nothing to the discussion.

All Brando wants us to do---and it's verified in both his words and his body language---is look at his "friend" through rose-colored, revisionist history glasses.

"Why don't we just focus on the positive," Brando said, exasperated, on CNN late last week, "instead of all this negative stuff?"

Brando wants us to talk only about how great of a guy Michael Jackson was.

I'm not here to debate that.

Miko Brando, with his rose-colored glasses perched on his head

But wouldn't a true friend want to know what happened to his or her fallen compatriot? Wouldn't that friend want to get to the bottom of it, both for closure and to help ensure that it doesn't happen again, to someone else?

I'd feel a whole lot better about "friends" like Miko Brando, if they'd only say something like this on CNN and the like.

"I think it's important that we find out what happened to Michael, so that we can make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."

That would be grand.

Instead, Miko seems to have a lot of his dad in him---the same eye-rolling, love/hate relationship with the media. The same disdain for responsibility.

"It's all speculation right now," Brando said. To a degree, he's right. But if he believes that the folks at CNN are going to abandon their responsibilities as journalists and have a love-in about Jackson on their airwaves, when he died under such mysterious circumstances, then Miko isn't too bright.

This isn't John Lennon.

Lennon was gunned down, in cold blood, outside his apartment. The only thing mysterious about it was the exact motive involved.

Jackson died under a shroud, clouded by likely abuse of prescription drugs.

Speaking of motive, I think I have one as far as why pals like Miko Brando are so eager to sweep everything under the rug.

Could it be that they, too, have things to hide?

Like why they didn't do more---or even anything---to dissuade Jackson from securing so many prescription drugs.

Brando's irritation with this whole process strikes me as thinly-veiled guilt about his own lack of action.

Yeah, Jackson was a great guy. Fine. Duly noted.

But he's dead. Mysteriously. At age 50.

A real friend ought to want to know what the hell happened.

I think Miko Brando already knows, but he's not telling.

With friends like those...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Insulting Our Intelligence

The headline was buried at the bottom of page 11A of my Detroit Free Press this morning, a rare A.M. when I'm lucky enough to get a real-life newspaper plopped onto my doorstep.

It was given newspaper real estate normally reserved for the ho-hum, oh-by-the-way types of stories.

CIA director says agency has misled Congress since 2001

Well, well, isn't that something?

Or maybe not.

CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress last month, in letters revealed yesterday, that his agency has been naughty. Of course, it's a lot easier to spill beans when those beans were gathered prior to your watch.

Anyhow, Panetta told Congress that senior CIA officials have concealed "significant" actions and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001.

Now I know why this got the bum steer when it comes to prime location in the paper.

This, in more perfect times, ought to have been Earth-shattering news. This should have shocked and stunned and dismayed us.

But the Freep got it right; they accorded it the newsworthiness that it deserves.

For if anyone is truly shocked and dismayed that the CIA has been fibbing, even to members of Congress, then that person is either hopelessly idealistic or just plain hopeless.

CIA Director Leon Panetta

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, had this to say.

"These notifications have led me to conclude that this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to," Reyes wrote in a letter to Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Holland, MI, the committee's senior Republican.

Reyes also indicated that he's considering opening a full investigation.

Good luck with that.

Panetta, it's presumed, brought everything to the committee's attention because he wanted to serve notice that the agency, under his watch, won't engage in those sorts of things.

I believe Leon Panetta means well, but I also believe that there have been rogue elements within the CIA and probably there always will be.

The CIA has, for too many years, acted in a brazen, cocky manner in too many instances. I firmly believe there are those within its walls who believe the agency to be above the law.

Or to the right or left of the law, or below it, or hiding from it. Something.

It struck me how little newspaper space Panetta's revelation received, at least from the Free Press. A sign of the times, I s'pose.

CIA spokesman George Little piled on.

"It is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress," Little said in a statement to the Associated Press. "This agency and its director believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. Director Panetta's actions back that up."

It's not the director you have to worry about, though. It's the minions slithering below the surface who ought to give you the shakes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Caught Dead

This is about a football player, but it's not a sports story.

This is a husband cheats on his wife thing, but with a twist. A gruesome, ugly twist.

Steve McNair is the football player, though he hasn't played in a couple of seasons. But once you've played pro sports, that's pretty much what you're known as, forever and ever.

So McNair's the football player, he's 36, and he's running around with a 20-year-old girl. Oh, and McNair's married with four small children.

McNair's wife knows nothing of the dalliance, or else, well, it wouldn't be an affair now, would it? Or, it would be a very bad affair. The "good" affairs never get detected.

Most wives find out about the other woman through indirect methods. By happenstance.

A crumpled up phone number in hubby's suit jacket. The light scent of a perfume, not the wife's. A naughty e-mail or two.

Here's how Mechelle McNair found out her husband was cheating on her: when the police told her he was dead.

Steve McNair was shot multiple times, including twice in the head, and his 20-year-old "friend", Sahel Kazemi, lie dead next to him with a single gunshot wound to the head. A gun was found near Kazemi's body.

So that was the first Mechelle McNair had heard of Kazemi, much less that Kazemi was in the midst of a four-month relationship with the former star quarterback.

Turns out that Mechelle was in a love triangle, and didn't even know it. And now she's the only one left standing.

Explain that one to the kids.

I have no idea which emotion becomes the dominant one in a situation like this for McNair's widow. It's like drinking a cocktail with multiple types of liquor and being asked which one stands out.

You take a gulp and you think you might taste some rum, then perhaps some tequila...maybe a little whiskey?

All while you wince as it goes down.

Steve McNair was, by all accounts, one of the NFL's good guys. He had started a charitable foundation and when he played he had a pretty clean record of good behavior. He was one of the players that kids looked up to, for all the right reasons.

But now, in an act that no doubt took just seconds to occur, everything that we knew about Steve McNair has changed -- forever.

And that's just us. Can you imagine what Mechelle McNair struggles with now?

The McNairs: Steve and Mechelle in 2001, after the QB signed a contract extension with the Tennessee Titans

Losing a husband and the father of your four kids, at age 36, is a bad enough burden to bear, without adding to it the humiliation and anger and everything else that goes with finding out you've been played.

That, and it's all so public, to boot.

If it's any consolation to her -- and I doubt that it is right now -- Mechelle McNair is, by far, an overwhelmingly sympathetic figure in this tragedy, along with her children. She'll come out smelling like a rose in the court of public opinion.


She's widowed now, with four kids to raise, and with so many unanswered questions -- questions that will never, likely, provide any real closure. For the two principles are dead -- Steve McNair and the other woman.

From a criminal investigation standpoint, there are unanswered questions, of course.

What led to the ghastly incident? What was Kazemi's motive, if indeed she pulled the trigger? How did something culminate in a double killing?

The questions Mechelle McNair has go way beyond that, of course.

How did I not know? Who WAS this girl? Where did Steve meet her? Did he love her? How could he do this to me, and the kids? Was it something I did? I said?

And, the cruelest question.

What the hell do I do NOW?

Yes, Mechelle McNair will get tons of support from her friends and family. They'll help her immensely. So at least there's that.

But there's also this.

Kazemi’s family told reporters that the woman was so confident McNair was divorcing his wife of 12 years that she was preparing to sell her furniture and move in with the former quarterback.

Maybe that wasn't the case, and Kazemi snapped. Maybe she decided that if McNair wasn't going to divorce his wife and be with her, then he'd be with no one. And neither would she.


This is still the early throes of an investigation, so few facts can be confirmed at this point.

Those few are that Steve McNair is dead, so is a 20-year-old girl that he cheated with on his wife, and a woman is now widowed with four children -- humiliated and grief-stricken.

The scary thing is, the more Mechelle McNair finds out about what the hell was going on, the less likely she is to have ever wanted to know in the first place.

But she must know. No one said the path to closure was a walk in the park.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" would appear to be, at first blush, a totally fictionalized piece of work.

After all, it's about a man who is born old, and gets younger as his life goes on--physically and mentally.

And it was good enough to rake in a bunch of Academy Awards earlier this year. Ever since "Forrest Gump" came out, such fantasy films have been Oscar-worthy.

But I submit that "Button" isn't 100% fiction. Artistic license wasn't exhausted on the story, not completely.

Michael Jackson was as close to Button as anyone who ever existed in the so-called "real" world.

The more I thought about Jackson, who is being memorialized in Los Angeles as I write this, the more it occurred to me that he was like Button, and maybe not as weird as you think.

Before you tell me to lie down while you fetch a thermometer and hunt for my doctor's phone number, let me explain.

Jackson's lack of a normal childhood affected him much more than most child stars, emotionally. It wasn't just the lack of normalcy; it was suffering under the suffocating cloak of an abusive father.

Jackson has been on record as saying that he would weep, openly, at the end of a long day of recording or rehearsing, when he'd see "normal" kids playing in the street or in a park. For he knew that such a life was beyond him. While other kids were watching TV, reading comic books, or spending the day at a sandlot field, Jackson and his brothers were in a studio.

Even the seemingly mundane routine of getting up to go to school was a fantasy.

Celebrity and money enabled Jackson to try to have a childhood, after all.

Of course, he was a grown man at the time, and that's where it got complicated and weird.

I believe that Jackson absolutely was of the mindset that spending all that time with children when he himself was old enough to be their father (and then some) was innocent, and why was there all the fuss?

Jackson couldn't be a child while he was a kid, so he tried to be one as an adult.

It's rather sad, really.

It also makes me wonder whether Jackson's brain ever really matured. Clearly he didn't mature emotionally. And I don't say that to be a smart aleck. Maybe it's possible that his mind's growth was stunted, thanks to his abnormal childhood. Hence him thinking that certain things were OK and innocent, when society clearly says that they are not.

He turned to drugs, obviously, and that, ironically, might have been the most "normal" thing about him, because celebrity and drugs have gone hand-in-hand all too often.

Michael Jackson got younger as he grew older. At the very least, he plateaued in his emotional growth.

That might make him weird in your eye.

To me, it makes him the end result of weird formative years.

Jackson created a world for himself that few of us, if any, have ever inhabited. Or ever will.

It's OK to be glad that we never inhabited that world, but maybe not so much to mock it, because we'll never understand how it came about.

I don't think that Michael Jackson was ever truly happy, at any time in his life. I think that he went at the symptoms, but was never able to cure himself.

Do with that what you will.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ghoulishly Stern

If you made a list of some of the most confounding, bizarre people to ever grace our radio and TV waves -- at least in the Detroit area -- then no doubt that list would include Howard Stern and...The Ghoul?

Those forces once collided, but more on that in a moment.

First, The Ghoul.

I won't spend a lot of time on the describing here, because I'm going to play a hunch and presume that most of the folks whose eyeballs are hitting this blog know who The Ghoul is/was.

But, just in case...

The Ghoul was a Saturday night icon on Detroit TV, circa the early-1970s and beyond (off and on). He showed lousy movies, but the movies were the interludes between his comedy bits, which included a stuffed frog and lots of Cheese Whiz.

The stuffed frog was Froggy, and even he became iconic, thanks to The Ghoul.

The Ghoul used terms like "over day" and "don't you know." He had something he called "The Ghoul's Vault of Golden Garbage," with garbage pronounced "gar-BAJ." It was a treasure trove of pre-taped bits, usually involving The Ghoul and Froggy out and about.

He wore a fright wig and painted one of his eyeglass lenses black. He had a fake, garish goatee and an equally as fake mustache.

But he was popular. Lord, was he popular around town. The Ghoul also did his gig in the Cleveland area, particularly during those times when he was kicked off Detroit TV, which were several.

The Ghoul was, in reality, a guy named Ron Sweed, and he played the role brilliantly. He was always in character, which you'll see in a moment.

As far as Howard Stern goes, I almost forgot that, for about six months or so, Stern tried to own Detroit radio in the mornings, from April thru October, 1980. Howard was on WWWW, aka W4, and he gave the guys at WRIF and WABX and the rest a run for their money.

Until W4 went country and Howard left town.

Anyhow, as promised, here's how the forces of Howard Stern and The Ghoul collide.

It's an audio recording I found, taped on Halloween morning, 1980. It's Stern interviewing The Ghoul, who was on the telephone.

Stern, 55, was only 26 when this was recorded, yet he sounds almost exactly like he does now. As a result, it's surreal to hear him make occasional references to the Detroit area, such as how he plans on appearing at Peaches Records in Fraser, and Piper's Alley in Grosse Pointe.


Click HERE.

It's about 30 minutes long.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Miss My Paper, Boy!

Well, it's been a few months now and I can officially report it.

I read newspapers, not facsimiles thereof.

I'm a Detroit Free Press subscriber, which means, thanks to cost-cutting moves by the two dailies in town, that I get a real-life newspaper delivered to my home on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. After that I'm on my own.

Well, not entirely. I can "read" the newspaper online. It's an option I haven't exercised too often.

It's not news anymore, as the Monday thru Sunday delivery of the paper hasn't occurred in over three months now, but it's time to chime in. The "virtual" newspaper has left me, basically, reading the paper on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Only.

Oh, I've tried the online version. At first, I thought it was a pretty cool novelty. The "paper" does, indeed, look just like a real newspaper. Articles are pretty easily clicked on and viewed -- either with or without the photos and graphics.

As I perused the online "newspaper" in those early days, back in early April, I had much the same sensation as I did back in my college days, when I would traipse to the library at EMU and look at microfilm of archived editions of the Freep and the Detroit News.

The look and feel was the same, to me. Zooming in and out of stories. Panning to the left and right. Reading the newspaper font on a glowing monitor before me. I used to spend hours doing that, while researching papers and the like.

Today? Not so much.

I find that I don't even bother with the online version on Saturdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Hardly ever, anymore.

I work largely from home, which means I spend countless hours in front of a CRT and tapping on a keyboard, sometimes furiously. Like now.

It's just not the same...

But it just never occurs to me -- or at least, rarely does it -- to visit the Freep's online version. I mean, I'm probably not getting my money's worth. Let's put it that way.

But when a "hard copy" of the paper arrives on my doorstep, I make time to read it. Go figure.

I guess I just like the "feel" of reading a newspaper -- with my hands, before me, or while I eat (Lord, how I love to read while I eat).

I'm probably a bit of an anomaly. Most folks my age (45) and below likely don't miss a real newspaper as much as I do. They get into all that digital age stuff. And I do, too, to a degree.

But I'm an old soul, always have been. I tend to take the attitude of those 15, 20 years my senior in matters such as technology replacing newsprint.

I just can't get into it. Doesn't hold my interest very long, the digital newspaper.

Yesterday was an example.

I visited the website, "opened" my paper, and "turned" to a story in the sports section. But then I stopped and told myself I'd read it later.

So there the opened tab stayed on my browser, unread. All day, and night.

Finally, I clicked on the "x" and closed the tab -- the sports story never read.

Had a real paper been at my disposal, it would have been unheard of for me to discard it without reading it. Unheard of.

The digital newspaper has turned me into a part-time reader now, and I don't like it.

I know there's tons of information on the Net. Tons of it. But I like my paper for local news, mainly. I feel disconnected now. Which isn't good, when this blog partially relies on me being "up" on the news of the day.

Just gives me all the more reason to write about stuff of yesteryear, which gives me more pleasure anyway, truth be told.

Still, this part-time newspaper reading thing bothers me. I doubt I'm alone -- even if those with me are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Doesn't do any good to bitch about it; the change is irreversible, I would imagine.

All I know is, you'll never see a pristine, untouched newspaper in this house. The fact that you can now only see them here on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays is only good in one sense.

It's less newspapers I have to load into the recycling bin every week.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Star is Worn

Is it possible to be positively enraptured by the music of someone who repels you?

Barbra Streisand is even a fellow Democrat, yet I want nothing to do with her -- aside from listening to her sing, that is.

I have no use for the diva, the prima donna, the snoot.

I can't abide them.

Streisand is a marvelous talent, obviously. Her voice is one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.

It's too bad that she's such a rotten person.

"Well, you've never even met her! You don't know her!'

A) Don't have to; and B) Don't care to.

Come on, there are some celebrities who you can peg a mile away. Streisand is one of those.

One way to get on my bad side -- and it doesn't matter if the offender even realizes or cares about landing on that side of me -- is to act superior to all others. To act as if one's feces carries no odor.

I remember Rosie O'Donnell, who's about as opposite from Streisand as you can be in the snob department, having Streisand (one of Rosie's idols) on her television talk show, several years ago.

Oh, what Rosie's staff went through that hellish day.

Barbra didn't like the lighting. Barbra didn't like the way the set faced. Barbra wanted to make sure she was shot from a certain angle. Barbra made all sorts of demands for her dressing room.

And Rosie did it all -- kowtowed to every one of Babs' demands, it was reported, all because she didn't want to tick off her idol.

The kicker for me was when it was revealed that Rosie's set had been torn down (!) and re-built, just so Barbra's lighting and camera angle could be just perfect for Ms. Diva.


I wonder where these ladies get off, acting in such a manner.

Isn't it enough to be revered and adored for your singing ability?

You have to go and act like you're the be all and end all to civilization?

It comes to my mind in the wake of Michael Jackson's death. I got to thinking about megastar performers and the aura they have. Naturally, it led me to think of the divas and their self-appointed place at the center of the universe.

My feelings about this are underlined when I think about two men closely associated with the Detroit Tigers.

Longtime manager Sparky Anderson, in his book They Call Me Sparky, often refers to how he enjoyed going to the ballpark in Detroit and greeting all the employees upon his arrival.

From the ticket takers to the ushers to the custodians, Sparky said he was careful to treat each of them with respect and dignity.

Ernie Harwell, the legendary broadcaster, subscribed to the same theory -- that everyone is a human being and should be treated as such.

So I look at this approach, and then I see what the diva types do to anyone in their tornado of a path, and I can only shake my head.

Someone should clue them in that we're all going to the same maker when our time on Earth is done. And there, it doesn't matter how wildly popular you were when you were among the living.

Diana Ross is another one whose music I have felt guilty enjoying, for I find her mostly reprehensible.

Her disrespecting of her Supremes group mates, especially Florence Ballard, was both notorious and disgusting. Then Ross had the audacity to show up at Ballard's funeral, barely on time, in a limousine, and proceeded to sit by Flo's family, despite requests to the contrary.

She was photographed, Ross was, comforting Ballard's young daughter. It was a photo opp that Diana made sure would happen, thanks to her muscling her way in to the spotlight.

Ross is another who's played the diva role to the hilt over the years.

Their behavior also makes me peeved because it has taken a lot of the enjoyment out of their music, for me. I feel guilty, literally, of liking it, because I have such little regard for Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross as human beings.

Because they, to me, appear to have such little regard for human beings themselves -- at least those who are not millionaires.

It's a shame, really. But they have their fans, tons of them, and I wonder how many of those zealots turn a blind eye to the divas' abhorrent behavior.

An awful lot, apparently.

That makes me uneasy, too.