Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday's Favs

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

from September 18, 2009

Movie Daze

We had a thing about movies on TV in Detroit. Mainly, that we didn't always like to tune in to watch the movie itself.

Often it was the sideshow, the stuff between clips of celluloid, that drew us to the TV, back in the day.

There was The Ghoul on Saturday nights, and the sheer quality of the flicks that The Ghoul foistered on his viewers made you want to look away, until there was a break and it was time for The Ghoul, Froggy, and Cheez Whiz.

There was Rita Bell and her "Prize Movie," on in the mornings. Rita was a sweet lady (my wife once met her, working in the same building, and said she was very nice) who'd play a movie and then solicit phone calls in between, with lucky callers winning stuff.

Then there was Bill Kennedy.

Ole Bill, the former B-movie actor with the gravelly voice, which was made even croakier thanks to the cigarettes he chain-smoked on the air.

Bill Kennedy, who bellowed into the camera and sat behind a desk in front of faux bookcases. Sometimes Bill would have a guest in the studio---often times an actor or film director---and they'd chit-chat, putting the movie of the day on hold.

Bill would take phone calls, and viewers loved to pick his brain, asking him to regale them with stories of his days on movie sets.

Some B-movie actors grow up to be president. Kennedy settled for merely being King of Detroit afternoon TV.

Bill Kennedy

"Bill Kennedy at the Movies" was the name of the show, and it was really a misnomer, because Bill liked to talk. And talking isn't very mannerly behavior when you're trying to watch a movie.

No, it was really "Bill Kennedy About the Movies." Bill had the stories, and whether they were mostly true or not, it didn't matter because Kennedy enraptured his audience, which was mostly female.

He'd call his female callers "dear" and "sweetie," and try that nowadays.

The quality of movies Bill played was on a higher plane than what The Ghoul served up, but not by much. Again, when it came to Kennedy's show, the star wasn't the movie---it was the host.

Just like with The Ghoul and Rita Bell.

They did Bill's show from both channel 50 in Detroit and channel 9 over in Windsor, depending on what part of history you're talking about. Either way, Kennedy brightened the weekday afternoons for a gazillion homemakers and retired dears and sweeties.

Bill's long gone, of course. Rita Bell isn't with us anymore, either.

The Ghoul?

He's still kicking, somewhere. Overday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuss it Gets Attention

Carl Levin might have a blue streak in him---something he's kept closeted until recently---but he still has a long way to go before he can touch the master.

According to

U.S. Sen. Levin (D-Michigan) was taking testimony of several Goldman Sachs executives alleged to have sold what they knew to be a toxic $1 billion collateralized debt obligation to unwitting investors. While grilling the bankers, Levin quoted from a 2007 e-mail from one former Goldman exec describing the transaction, known as "Timberwolf."

Here's where Levin cut loose.

"Look what your sales team was saying about Timberwolf," said Levin, the committee chair. "'Boy, that Timberwolf was one sh---y deal.' They sold that sh---y deal ... 'Boy, that timber was one sh---y deal.' How much of that sh---y deal did you sell to your clients? ... You didn't tell them you thought it was a sh---y deal ... You knew it was a sh---y deal ... How about the fact that you sold hundreds of millions on that deal after your people knew it was a sh---y deal? Does that bother you at all?"

All told, Sen. Levin used the word "sh**y"11 times.

Maybe ole Carl learned a bit from his time spent on the Detroit City Council (1969-77).

Levin spent eight years on council, and the last four of those overlapped the first term of Mayor Coleman Young.

Now THERE was a cusser extraordinaire.

Hizzoner considered swearing an art---literally. He said so, on numerous occasions.

What else do you expect from a man whose desk had the famous nameplate that said, "The Motherf***ing Mayor"?

Young could cut loose in epic fashion. Most of it was in private, but the roaming microphones and cameras around town caught a few samplings over the years, too.

Young in a 1989 portrait snapped by the great Tony Spina of the Free Press

I remember watching a bootlegged outtake reel made by some folks who were making a promotional video for the city. In it, Young is making an introduction to the city on behalf of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Suddenly, Young let loose with a barrage of "F" words that had the video crew guffawing in the background.


Young was a potty mouth and he didn't care who knew it. To his dying day he believed swearing to be a legitimate method of colorful communication.

Even the supposedly refined have taken to using Young's tactics.

Vice President Joe Biden was caught on microphone telling President Barack Obama that the passage of health care reform was "a big [effing] deal;" and Sen. Jim Bunning told a fellow senator pleading that he cease his filibuster on extending unemployment benefits, "tough s---."

But it was Coleman A. Young who had them all beat.

Swearing, he always believed, got people's attention.

Thirty-three years after leaving city politics, Sen. Levin finally adopted Young's gospel.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Michigan-Made (Back Then)

Where have all our Detroit-area retail brethren gone?

The other day, I got to thinking of unique-to-Detroit stores and shops, and also gas stations of days gone by.

I'm sure the following list of names will prompt a lot of "Oh yeah!!" moments.

Jacobson's. I believe this was a mainly women's apparel retailer, though they may have sold men's clothes, too. Sometimes shortened to "Jake's."

Winkelman's. As with Jacobson's, "Winky's" had a prominent location in Dearborn, on Michigan Avenue. Another mostly-female apparel shop.

Crowley's. I used to frequent the Crowley's in Universal Mall in Warren; speaking of Universal, that "mall" at 12 Mile and Dequindre has undergone quite a makeover. In fact, it's not so much a mall anymore as it is a plethora of retail outlets, still using the Universal name.

Joshua Doore, Robinson's, Wickes, Englander Triangle. Ahh, remember these furniture retailers? Joshua Doore had a catchy jingle ("You have an uncle in the furniture business...") and a murdered executive, who was found in the trunk of his car. The mob was suspected in his murder.

Hughes, Hatcher & Suffrin. Harry Suffrin, who owned a men's apparel shop downtown for years, merged with Hughes & Hatcher in the 1960s. I have especially fond memories of HH&S because their store in Westland Mall was a bi-level thing, with ultra-cool, carpeted stairs separating the upper and lower levels.

Towne Club Soda. Who can forget the super-thin, torpedo-like bottles and the monstrously heavy cases that they came in?

Stroh's Beer. This one still bothers me. Stroh's should still be around, and being brewed in Detroit!

Highland Appliance, Fretter Appliance. Remember Ollie Fretter, who promised "five pounds of coffee if I can't beat your best deal"? And how about the old Highland TV commercials, including the quasi-famous one of the little kid "practicing" piano---when he was in fact playing a recording in his room while he was out on the ball field?

Great Scott! I'm not sure if this was a Michigan-only market, but I mention it because of its name. My name is Gregory Scott Eno, so when I was a small child I thought the name of the market was Greg Scott! Needless to say, I didn't read the sign closely enough.

Cunningham's Drugs. I know there are tons of now-defunct local drugstores out there, but Cunningham's was a Detroit-area institution because of its multitude of locations. Their slogan for a time was "21 Stores under One Roof." They even took to calling themselves "Cunningham's 21" for a while.

Now, here are some gas stations I remember from my youth:

Standard. The pre-cursor to Amoco---same sign and everything.

Texaco. Bob Hope used to swat a golf ball off a Texaco oil rigger in their commercials. An old-time sponsor of 1950s TV theater.

Gulf. I know they're still around, but I don't see their sign anywhere around here.

Sinclair. Their logo was a dinosaur. Talk about ahead of their time!

Clark. Yes, they're still around, but I'm talking about the old Clark stations, which were tiny structures and had orange and white signs.

Check out those prices!!

Boron/Sohio. Boron was in Michigan, and Sohio had the same sign but was in Ohio.

Leonard. I seem to recall a station called Leonard on Plymouth Road in Livonia. Either that, or my mind is making things up.

Speaking of gas stations, remember when there was full service and they'd give away things, like knives and other household items, with fill-ups?

Then there were the banks: NBD; First Federal; Manufacturer's (slogan: "That's MY bank"); Detroit Bank & Trust. I also remember when the Penobscot Building in Detroit was briefly re-named the CNB Building, after a bank.

What do YOU remember?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday's Favs

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

from January 4, 2010

Domino's Effect

Domino's Pizza is finally coming clean.

They've admitted, finally, what most of us have known to be true for decades: they have an inferior product.

Domino's is done trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes; they're unveiling a new product---new sauce, crust, cheese, the works. TV ads are on the air now, with the dirty laundry there for all to see---and hear.

It's like Big Boy's saying their Slim Jim has been a fraud all these years. Or McDonald's sheepishly acknowledging that the Big Mac isn't all that.

Domino's, though, has pretty much done one thing and one thing only for most of their 40-plus years of existence. And now they're admitting that they couldn't even do that right.

I haven't had a Domino's pie since the 1980s, I reckon. It was the pie of choice in my dorm at Eastern Michigan University, because the joint was close and they offered up some ridiculous deals, like a large pizza with one item for three dollars. Pittman Hall was crawling with Domino's delivery men in those days, circa 1981-82.

The Detroit Tigers have been owned since 1983 by two men who made a lot of dough---pun probably intended---with a decidedly inferior pizza pie: Tom Monaghan (Domino's) and Michael Ilitch (Little Caesars). I've crabbed about Mr. I's pie in this space before.

I'm amazed that it took Domino's this long, frankly, to reinvent themselves, what with the glut of pizza hawkers around town.

But this isn't some New Coke marketing trick. Ann Arbor-based Domino's is changing, and I don't think there'll be a hue and cry to change back.

It's hard to put my finger on why I was never thrilled with Domino's pizza. Plus, it's been so long. But I do recall thinking that perhaps you'd be better off consuming the box in which it came.

This is serious business, to the tune of a $75 million ad campaign to say, basically, "We're sorry!"

"A lot of people love us, but some people think we can get better," says Domino's Chief Marketing Officer Russell Weiner. "We listened to them, and we changed our pizza."

Good for them, even if it's some 20 years overdue. But I think Weiner has it backwards: some love Domino's (though I'm dying to know who they are and if they've ever tasted another pizza before), but a lot think they can get better.

Domino's admits now that they've been selling garbage, essentially, for decades. Now if we could only get our government to do the same thing.

Update: I have since tried the Domino's near my office downtown (the Cadillac Square location), ordering online, and I must say the pizza has improved greatly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Revolving Credit

I love revolving doors.

There's no guilt, for one. You're not expected to hold open a revolving door for anyone. Also takes away the guesswork over whether the person behind you is close enough---or worthy enough---for whom to hold the door.

I was only an occasional, once-in-a-blue-moon user of revolving doors until February, when I started my new job located in the Guardian Building downtown. Now, I'm a multiple-times-per-day revolving door user.

It's also the only door that is even remotely fun---and dangerous.

The latter part of that sentence first: the day I was hired, I brought our teenage daughter with me when I drove downtown to pick up my parking card. I neglected to tell her that only one person should enter a revolving door at a time.


She tried to squeeze in with daddy, except that daddy was already halfway into the building, thanks to the Guardian's brisk-moving revolving door. That left daughter perilously squished between the door flap and the interior of the door's cylindrical vestibule.

I felt awful; it had never occurred to me that she wouldn't know the one-per-use rule. But why would she? She'd used a revolving door even more infrequently than I had.

As for the "fun factor," with a brisk-moving revolving door you can play a little game with yourself---trying to determine which pie wedge of door to use as your mode of entrance or exit, for timing is everything. Enter a revolving door too soon or too late and you risk looking all Chevy Chase-ish.

But mostly I like knowing I'm never rude. No one can ever accuse you of racing to a revolving door before they can get there, because one-tenth of a second later, there's another pie wedge of door to use!

Of course, you have to remember to disengage yourself from a revolving door once you've reached your destination. That's some embarrassment, too---ending right back where you started.

But it's a fun door to use. Potentially deadly, but that's part of what makes it fun.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday's Favs

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

from November 18, 2009

Johnny Beefcake

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 characters, he morphs into them. He could do God and have Moses look at the Almighty One cross-eyed afterward.

"You could work on some things," old Moses might say.

One of the best acting jobs I ever saw was when Depp played the title role in "Donnie Brasco," a gripping film and true story about an FBI guy who goes so deep undercover as a mobster that he just about loses himself and his family.

Depp shared many scenes with Al Pacino, no less, and it was the acting version of "Dueling Banjos" for two hours. It was one of those movies where you don't sit down to watch it---you get strapped in.

Such is Depp's range as an actor, and at a time when so many of them are afraid to branch out further than their arm reach. A cynic would say that those types are only in it for the money. A righteous cynic.

I'd kill to see Depp play the Joker in the next Batman flick. But it wouldn't be fair to the late Heath Ledger, because Heath wouldn't have the chance to see Depp's performance and raise it.

Depp never looks the same in his movies, because he's never playing the same guy. Hell, he's not even playing the same era, the same country, the same village, the same story.

Johnny Depp's roles are the snowflakes of acting. No two are the same.

While they're at it, People might want to hand out the Nicest Man Alive designation, too. Depp would be a finalist for that one as well.

It's been documented that Johnny Depp is a true gentleman in a business where there are so few of them anymore. You can seek his autograph without being sneered at, cursed, and shoved, for starters. Quite the contrary; you're even likely to get a smile and some conversation. Or so say signature hounds in Hollywood who should know.

He seems to have a soft spot for kids.

During the filming of "Public Enemies," in which Depp played Dillinger, a youngster who had wandered near the set became enamored of Depp---but more specifically, the fedora the actor was wearing in the movie.

The kid, who didn't know any better, relayed his fondness of the hat to Depp himself. Depp, as is his wont, took interest in the kid and made some small talk.

Several weeks after filming, the kid got a package in the mail. It was the fedora, sent by Johnny Depp.

You can count on one hand how many of Depp's ilk would have pulled that one off.

Our daughter adores Depp, too. She has nice taste in men.

Depp: I really can't blame my wife, after all

There are movie stars, and there are actors. And there are masters of their craft. Rarely are all three the same person.

They are if you're Johnny Depp, who only happens to be the finest actor of his generation. You heard me.

Name me one who's better, if you don't believe me. I dare ya.

Depp is only 46, and a quick check of his page at shows that he's not slowing down. There's another "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick in the works. Something called "The Tourist." Another one that goes by "The Rum Diary," which almost sounds like another Jack Sparrow vehicle but isn't.

Oh, and he's going to be the Mad Hatter in an "Alice in Wonderland" project that's currently in post-production.

Thank goodness he's not like Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty, marvelous talents who worked far too infrequently. Rather, Depp is making more like Michael Caine, who acts because that's what he is, for good or for bad.

You wanna make the guy happy, People Magazine?

Here's one: Johnny Depp, Best Damn Actor Alive.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Enquiring Minds....

The National Enquirer and the Pulitzer Prize.

I may as well have just said sardines and chocolate ice cream.

Not so fast, Jack.

The Pulitzers were announced today. They are print journalism's highest honors. The usual suspects were listed among the winners: The New York Times, the Washington Post, et al.

But the Enquirer gave it a shot, and they were serious.

The Enquirer, that screaming tabloid dangling from grocery store and drugstore racks all over the country with its come hither headlines, had a pretty good year---good enough to warrant some Pulitzer consideration.

The basket that the Enquirer was putting all of its eggs into was its tenacious work on the John Edwards sex scandal, a story that was shunned by "mainstream media" at times, all while the Enquirer never took its eye off the prize---no pun intended.

Why, the Enquirer even turned some heads among the journalistic eggheads.

"Had the Enquirer not exercised a very tenacious reporting on this---which we respect in the journalism world, right?---would we not have known that this scandal was occurring?" said Geneva Overholser, director of the school of journalism at the University of Southern California. "Would Edwards perhaps have been nominated [for president]? ... I mean, there's no question the course of history would have been different."

Wow---the Enquirer being propped up as potential changers of American history?

Believe it.

That's not what folks have always done when they've read the Enquirer---believed it.

But that hasn't always been a fair assessment of its journalistic chops.


The Enquirer has had some surprising journalistic scoops in years past, including the Gary Hart sex scandal and a number of leads during the O.J. Simpson trial. With the Edwards story, it had some support from mainstream media observers.

The rise of the Enquirer to even this close to a Pulitzer serves to underline how blurred the lines have gotten anymore between what has been considered "hard" journalism and reckless reporting.

Blogging has bridged the gap. Everyone blogs---from the respected, award-winning journalists to the radical looney tune next door. The looney tune, because of blogging's acceptance by today's society as a legitimate outlet and source of content, has edged more toward legitimacy, while the already-credible people have used blogging to broaden their horizons and further their boundaries.

The result? Those two seemingly polar opposites are getting closer and closer to meeting in the middle.

The Enquirer just might win that heretofore elusive Pulitzer someday.

But just to be considered is a big win for the Enquirer folks---for now.

Executive editor Barry Levine is basking in the glow of the buzz surrounding the Enquirer's work on the John Edwards story.

"It helps our credibility around the world," Levine told CNN.

Meanwhile, reports that Hell is starting to form ice crystals haven't been confirmed. Yet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday's Favs

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

from October 5, 2009

Gettin' Corny

Howard Johnson's is dead and they took their corn toastees with them.

Pox on them, anyway!

HoJo's, with their distinctive orange roofs, used to be strewn all over these United States---part inn, part restaurant. And, eventually, part grocer supplier.

Howard Johnson's came to be known for their ice cream and something else that we'll delve into in a moment. The ice cream was so good, so popular, that it first became available near the cash register, in a serve yourself freezer, before being packaged and distributed to supermarket chains.

One corner of the box---I believe it was the upper left---bore the HoJo logo: orange roof with the name "Howard Johnson's" underneath. It was almost as iconic in the ice cream world as The Good Humor brand's little white truck.

But then ice cream wasn't enough, and HoJo's came out with some other items for your, as they say, grocer's freezer.

One of those items was something called "corn toastees."

These toasties were delectable little squares of cornbread---the flavors were plain and blueberry. They came six or eight to a box, and were separated inside by little pieces of parchment paper.

Oh, how my mother and I became hooked on those things.

An ad for HoJo's corn toastees, circa mid-1970s

This was the mid-to-late '70s, and mom would buy the store out. It was not uncommon to see five, six boxes of corn toastees in the freezer.

So simple: pop 'em in the toaster for a couple minutes, spread them with butter, take a bite, and then your knees would buckle.

Goodness gracious, were they good!

Then they came out with the blueberry flavor, and those were good, too.

But just like that, the corn toastees disappeared. Probably happened around the same time that the HoJo restaurants themselves vanished.

Howard Johnson's, ironically, was known for serving folks on the road, usually on vacation. But they brought pleasure to mom and me in our own home, thanks to their corn toastees.

I remember laughing at the grocery store once, because the conveyor belt was filled with boxes of those darn toastees.

Toaster Strudel, put out by Pillsbury, are some good eatin', too---with their flaky crust and tiny packets of frosting and yummy fillings.

Too bad that another company couldn't have taken over the production of corn toastees, though.

The good really do die young---even when it comes to foodstuffs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goodbye, Charlie!

"It was the easiest and best job any actor could have," John Forsythe once said.

No kidding.

Forsythe, who died last week at age 92, was talking about being the voice of the never-seen Charlie, in TV's "Charlie's Angels."

"Hello, Angels!", Forsythe would greet his stable of female detectives in his distinctively smooth, cool-as-a-cucumber fashion through a tiny speaker.

Those two words, plus the Forsythe-narrated opening to the show, put an indelible mark on the legacy of "Charlie's Angels," which launched Farrah Fawcett into the stratosphere.

Forsythe was also seen in addition to being heard on "Dynasty," playing the role of oil magnate Blake Carrington in the 1980s, for which he won a couple of Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor.

You can have all that, plus a myriad of other Forsythe roles, but I'll match it with a solitary one of his.

John Forsythe: 1918-2010

Rent "...and Justice for All," starring Al Pacino, and prepare to wash the slime off your body when you're done watching it.

This is because in it, Forsythe plays Judge Henry T. Fleming, whose cocky smirk you'd just like to smack off his face with all the force you could muster.

Judge Fleming is accused of sexually molesting a young woman, and is eventually brought to trial. Pacino's character is charged with defending the judge, who quickly is revealed to be not only a judge who hands down unusually cruel and unfair sentences, he's also a cad, and a sexual predator. Yet Pacino defends him in good faith anyway.

But Fleming, so full of himself, can't help but admit to Pacino that not only did he, indeed, rape the plaintiff, but he enjoyed it and would like to do it again.

The film's climactic scene, in which Pacino famously turns on Forsythe, is one of my favorite in cinematic history. Visit YouTube and you can find it after some minimal searching.

Watching Forsythe in "...and Justice for All," and his audacity to make suggestive comments about the alleged victim to Pacino even in the courtroom, is particularly jarring when you consider this was the same man who played the lead in the whimsical 1957-62 TV series "Bachelor Father."

When Pacino turns on Forsythe's Judge Fleming, and when the realization of what's happening materializes on the judge's face, is one of those "YES!!!" moments in movie watching.

That scene contains the famous "YOU'RE out of order!! YOU'RE out of order!! This whole TRIAL is out of order!!" rant from Pacino, after which Jack Warden's Judge Rayford fires a gun into the ceiling to bring true order to his courtroom.

I'm telling you, it's 10 of the most stirring minutes ever laid onto celluloid.

So John Forsythe is gone, succumbing to pneumonia in Santa Ynez, California after a year-long battle with cancer.

"Thankfully, he died as he lived his life---with dignity and grace," his publicist said.

Now Forsythe gets to say it for real.

"Hello, Angels!"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes It Feels Like a Nut...

Forty-two years and a day ago, James Earl Ray, full of hatred, peered through his rifle scope, found his quarry standing on the balcony of a Memphis motel, squeezed the trigger, and within a split second turned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a Civil Rights icon into a tragic martyr.

The Lone Nut Theory---the notion that a man bent on violence can, solitarily, snuff out the life of even the greatest of men, as long as he has the proper weapon, a hiding spot, and the opportunity.

Ask 100 Americans who killed Dr. King on April 4, 1968, and all but a small handful (if that) will tell you that it was Ray who gunned down the Civil Rights leader that day.

Ask those same 100 who killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and you'll have a figurative riot on your hands.

The Lone Nut Theory doesn't seem to wash when it comes to the assassination of Kennedy, no matter how much evidence is presented that Lee Harvey Oswald, and Oswald alone, killed the president.

The conspiracy theorists come out in droves for JFK's murder, but are quite content to pin the donkey's tail on Ray in Dr. King's instance.

Funny, huh?

How can it be so easily accepted---relatively speaking---that a Lone Nut seized the opportunity and killed Dr. King, but that can't be the case when it comes to Kennedy?

You can kill one man that way, but not the other?

Oswald sure had the opportunity.

Kennedy, of course, rode through downtown Dallas in an open-roofed car. And the Dallas newspapers published the president's motorcade route in the days leading up to his visit.

Neither of these things would, could, happen today. The security breach that these missteps caused was immeasurable.

Ray seized his opportunity by knowing where Dr. King was staying (the Lorraine Motel) and camping out, a Remington 760 Gamemaster in tow. When the Civil Rights leader stepped onto the second floor balcony to informally speak with supporters below, Ray fired his single, fatal shot.

No conspiracy here, even though Ray feebly attempted to conjure one up by speaking of a mysterious man named Raoul, who he supposedly met in Montreal, and who was the true "mastermind" of Dr. King's slaying. That story never grew legs, nor gained any traction.

The Lone Nut, James Earl Ray

James Earl Ray was guity as sin, plain and simple. He and he alone brokered and carried out the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. No nefarious, rogue elements involved.

That's interesting, because if there were such elements that allegedly wanted President Kennedy dead, then there had to have been almost as many who'd have liked to see Dr. King eradicated. Yet Ray is a Lone Nut, and Oswald is a patsy, in many people's eyes.

I wonder if Dr. King was white, if there'd have HAD to have been a conspiracy.

Lone Nuts can kill the black leaders, but no way could one ever off a president! Not by himself, anyway.

Regardless, two months after Dr. King's murder, Senator Robert Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles following a victory speech after the California Democratic presidential primary.

Sirhan Sirhan appeared guilty as sin in this instance.

Yet the conspiracy theorists, over the years, have come from the woodwork in RFK's assassination.

Time hasn't produced the same phenomena in the King murder.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not-so-Royal Flush

Evolution of some of our taken-for-granted products often goes unappreciated, until you look at that product's origins.

Look at Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone, and look at the gadget we have today. It's hard to believe both of them came from the same egg, so to speak.

Visualize if you will Henry Ford's Model T, and compare that to the death mobiles we drive today.

Now take the lid off your toilet tank (you heard me). Look inside.

Why do I have the feeling that today's tank is no different than the very first one ever concocted?

How did evolution bypass the American home toilet?

You ever REALLY look inside a toilet tank? I know it's not the most pleasant of things, but sometimes they do act up. And when you pull off the 500-pound marble top, the task of which is similar to exhuming a body, you'll see a contraption that looks like a prototype---from 1877.

There's a chain in there. And a big, black, bulbous bobbing thing. There's a piece of metal that looks like it came from an erector set. There's a thin rubber disc of some sort. And a small rubbery tube. I'm pretty sure there might be a paper clip in there, too.

The American toilet insides look like something MacGyver might put together under duress.

Can't we, as an industrialized nation on the cutting edge of modern technology, do better?

You open up a toilet tank, and it's like opening a time capsule.

"This, son, is the crude origins of today's modern---what do you mean, that's IT?"

If other things evolved like the toilet, you'd still be lashing your horse to a pole in front of your office building. You'd be reading by candlelight. Movies would still be viewed in nickelodeons.

The funny thing is, the public toilet has been turbo-charged and pimped out.

The public toilet, first of all, dispenses with the archaic tank and its marble slate of a lid.

The public toilet has a handle---and a very powerful one at that. You plunge that thing and the sound and the force make you think that the whole building might be flushed along with your coffee and lunch.

The public toilet has no tank and therefore doesn't need lag time before you can plunge the handle again. The home toilet has that tank, which has to fill up after every use. You think a watched pot doesn't boil? Try watching a toilet tank fill up. You could get through half the New York City phone book before you are allowed to flush again.

The public toilet flushes and is ready for another flush, immediately. Its handle is so powerful that it scares me. It even feels powerful; it's got that torque push back on it that makes it more than a handle---it's a weapon.

But woe is the home toilet, with its big, clunky tank.

This photo might as well have been taken in 1910 instead of 2010

We're so far behind the times that it sometimes isn't enough to merely flush the home toilet.

"Jiggle the handle!!"

How many times have you heard THAT in your lifetime?

If you are a lifelong American, there's about a 67% chance that you've had to, at least once in your life, jiggle a home toilet handle.

But when you consider the rickety insides of a tank, you can understand why some jiggling is required; those scrap heap parts sometimes need some jiggling to work properly.

I'm continuously amazed at how NOT far we've come in the evolution of the American home toilet. If whomever invented it were to come back to life and see what we're using today, he'd say, " could have improved on it. I wouldn't have taken it personally, you know. It was just something I threw together."

We're a chain, an erector set, and a paper clip away from doing our business in the backyard, the way I see it.