Showing posts from March, 2010

The Scoundrel Jesse James

Anyone named Jesse James is destined to be a rat sooner or later, right?

James, the soon-to-be ex-husband of actress Sandra Bullock, has a notorious namesake, of course---the outlaw Jesse James who was a menace to society in the 1870s and until his killing in 1882.

Today's James just might land on the public's 10 Most Wanted list, because no one cheats on America's sweetheart and gets away with it.

That's how Bullock is sometimes billed, and with good reason. We don't have too many great American actresses anymore. But Bullock and Reese Witherspoon, though there's an age gap there, are sweetie pies of the big screen.

I feel bad for Sandy. News of husband Jesse's apparent infidelity has come on the heels of the greatest year of her acting career. She was sky high, then this.

The word is that she's back in California, having flown from a home in Texas, to confront her dirty rotten scoundrel husband.

Divorce is imminent, sources say.

The details are bound to get …

Friday's Favs

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

from March 18, 2009

VJ Days

I'm 45, which means I'm old enough to remember when MTV played music videos. VH-1, too.

Means I know what a VJ is, and that Don Imus and Rosie O'Donnell were once colleagues at VH-1.

I haven't watched MTV in years, maybe going on decades. VH-1 hasn't exactly been part of my viewing list, either. There was a brief spike in my VH-1 viewership when the show "Pop-Up Video" debuted, because I thought that concept was as cool as hell. But aside from that, meh.

It didn't used to be that way.

I was smitten with MTV in the early-1980s, shortly after it burst onto the scene. Radio on TV!

That's basically what it was. Only you could SEE the on-air talent, instead of having to imagine what they looked like. Some of the names, I'm sure, might resonate with some of you. Nina Blackwood. Alan Hunter. Mark Goodman. JJ Jackson. Martha Quinn.

They were young-ish -- late-20s, …

No Escaping It; Harry Turns 136

Could Harry Houdini have possibly died on any other day of the year than Halloween?

I always found delicious---or maybe it's salacious---irony in the fact that the famed magician and escape artist took his last breath on Halloween. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was certain that it was, somehow, appropriate.

Today I'm not here to talk about Houdini's death, per se---he died in Detroit after some slugs to the gut in his dressing room in Montreal a week prior---but about his birth.

Harry Houdini, you see, was born on this day, in 1874.

He was born in Hungary, as Ehrich Weiss, to Jewish parents. Yet for whatever reason, Houdini would in his adult life, after stardom, claim to have been born on April 6 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Go figure.

Houdini, still using the Weiss name, gravitated toward carnivals and freak shows as a young man, even appearing as a "Wild Man" at a circus. Then he learned card tricks and became known as the "king of cards."

Growing t…

RETIRE? You're Purtan Me On

Starting next Monday, hundreds of thousands of metro Detroit women will have to start talking to their husbands again on weekday mornings.

For 45 years, they've been waking up with Dick Purtan--until Friday, when the radio veteran hangs up his microphone.

For over three decades, the women around town got their news from Bill Bonds at 11:00 p.m., went to bed with Johnny Carson, and woke up with either Purtan or J.P. McCarthy. But then Johnny retired in 1992, Bonds left channel 7 in 1995, and J.P. passed away later that same year.

That left Purtan as the last true media giant in Detroit. And, maybe, the last we'll ever know.

Longtime radio observers like Specs Howard Institute's Dick Kernen disagree with me. Kernen says that as long as someone "has the magic, like Dick, to create quality content," then "personality radio" will stick around, despite that medium's changing landscape.

As much as I'd like to believe that, I'm not as confident as Kernen…

Friday's Favs

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

from December 9, 2009

Apple, Jack!

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…

A Hard (School) Day's Night

I'm willing to meet Mike Feinberg halfway, but I'm not so sure the feeling would be mutual.

Feinberg is co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), as well as being the superintendent of KIPP Houston. KIPP is a network of 82 high-performing public charter schools serving 21,000 children in 19 states.

Feinberg's program is rooted in the premise that the school day is too short. And the school year, too.

But Feinberg takes it to another level. His KIPP schools' classes run from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and the kids attend school two Saturdays a month, and they have three weeks of mandatory summer school.

Feinberg has a gob of stats that say his extended school days and years are the best thing since sliced bread. You can read that laundry list in his editorial for

I'm a parent, so I'm concerned about my child's education as well. But I have different concerns than Feinberg, I think.

You see, I'm also a former child, as I'm pretty sure Fein…

Mr. Sikes's Wild Ride

Is James Sikes a poor, unsuspecting driver who had the bejeebers scared out of him thanks to a stuck accelerator, or is he up to something nefarious?

It's time to look cross-eyed at another victim again, because he might not be a victim.

This is getting a little balloon boy-ish.

Sikes says he was driving his Toyota Prius last week in California, when it suddenly accelerated out of control. He reached speeds in excess of 90 mph before he came to a halt, with the help of CHiP officers.

His frantic 911 call---is ANY 911 call NOT frantic?---was played for public consumption. He spoke openly with the media, and although his reluctance to put the car into neutral was odd, there didn't appear to be anything less than truthful about his story.

Only, experts have been unable to replicate the stuck accelerator on his car after several hours of test driving, and the condition of his brakes aren't consistent with someone who jammed on them while going that fast for that long.

What's mor…

Friday's Favs

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

from September 28, 2009


They say you can't go back home again. That, and you can't go to the drive-in movies again. At least not with as much convenience.

They used to sprout all over the land---the drive-in movie theaters of America.

They died a slow death, the drive-ins did. Their big screens stood above the horizon like tombstones in a cemetery, unused and garish reminders of a day gone by. Then, even the tombstones got knocked down, leaving only weeds growing around the feet of the speaker stands.

There's a wonderful photo that first appeared in LIFE Magazine, taken in the 1950s when "The Ten Commandments" was a new release motion picture. The photo was shot with a wide-angle lens and showed a typical drive-in movie theater of the day.

Charlton Heston's Moses filled the huge screen, during the scene where he parts the Red Sea. In the foreground are all the cars---hundr…

Now That's a Toughie

Chuck Norris is 70 and he can still kick your ass.

The tough guys in Hollywood stay that way till the day they die.

Bob Mitchum was still petrifying and intimidating, engulfing every camera shot well past the age of 70. I wouldn't have trusted Dick Widmark, no matter how old he was. Clint Eastwood need only take a step toward you, and I guarantee you'll shake in your loafers. And Clint will be 80 in a couple of months.

Some of them didn't get to live very long. Bruce Lee comes to mind.

But the ones who hold AARP cards in one hand while they throttle you with the other are as much a part of Tinseltown as hot dogs are a part of baseball.

Norris has been kicking, punching, flipping, and pancaking bad guys on screen for about 40 years now. He's also been a TV and movie producer, and even a writer---penning some episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger."

What Chuck Norris hasn't been, is an actor.

Norris doesn't act, he reacts. It doesn't matter that the next line o…

The Loser Is...

The Academy Awards were last night. Or The Oscars. Take your pick.

There were a lot of feel good moments.

Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first female to win Best Director was one of them---until you realized that it's long overdue that a woman win that award. Or that an African-American still hasn't. Both are indictments of the Academy.

Another moment that could have been terrific was Mo'Nique winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Precious."

The reason it wasn't was because Mo'Nique, normally a comedic performer, chose to be contentious instead of gracious.

"This proves that it's about the performance and not about the politics," she declared as she clutched Oscar by the throat---which I found to be a very appropriate way to hold him.

Whoa---what "politics"?

The politics of a not allowing a black woman to win Best Supporting Actress? Aren't we past that? Mo'Nique is hardly a trailblazer in that regard; no offense.


Friday's Favs

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

from August 25, 2009

Stir Crazy

You'll never be able to make fried rice like me, but that doesn't mean I can't help you in your ultimately futile effort.

Yeah, I get cocky about it, because no American whips up fried rice like I can.

And you've probably been tossing out those cartons of uneaten white rice from the Chinese take-out joints all these years, oblivious to their culinary potential.

Tsk, tsk.

I first started frying rice and creating various concoctions with it about 20 years ago, when I purchased my first Chinese cookbook, having been on an Asian food jag. It was around the time that I discovered Thai food and its glorious heat and spice. Till then, I thought the only spicy Asian stuff was the Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine of China. Silly me.

Homemade fried rice, when done properly, is good on so many levels.

Number one, you're using up every bit of your Chinese take-out leftovers, so…

Oscar Has a Way of B-o-l-o-g-n-a

The brilliant actor turned social commentator Charles Grodin explained in his book, We’re Ready for You, Mr. Grodin, why he had no use for awards shows.Not only are they subjective, Grodin opined, but they’re comparing apples and oranges—or something like that.“The best way to find out who’s the better actor is to see the nominees play the same role,” Grodin said with both common sense and impracticality. “But the way it is now, it’s like having a food contest: ‘The nominees are steak, chicken, and spaghetti. And the winner is…spaghetti!’”I see where Grodin is coming from, and I can’t say that I disagree. But it’s spitting into the wind; awards shows aren’t going anywhere—and neither are the Oscars, which invade your living room this Sunday night.At least with steak, chicken, and spaghetti, I’ve tried them; I know what they taste like. When it comes to the Academy Awards/Oscars, there’s always something that not only have I never tasted, I’d never allow onto my plate.I’ve always thoug…

Michigan Hears a "WHO?"

"If a Republican can't win the Governor's seat this year, they'll never win it."

The speaker was former Michigan guv John Engler, and he fired that salvo last week at a joint conference he attended with another who once sat on the hot seat in Lansing, Jim Blanchard.

Engler may be right, but he may also be crazy, to paraphrase Billy Joel.

But if anyone should know about the unexpectedness of political races, it's Engler.

It was Johnny Engler, State Senate Majority Leader from Mount Pleasant, who went from dark horse to Top Michigan Dog in 1990, edging Blanchard in a race that no one thought would be close, let alone an upset.

The latest man with not a lot of clothes who wishes to be emperor is House Speaker Andy Dillon, the whippersnapper Dem who dares to enter the field without the safety net of the support of organized labor to catch him.

"My preference is not to talk about Mr. Dillon," Norwood Jewell, assistant director for UAW Region 1-C, told the Free…