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Showing posts from August, 2010

Could've Ben Better

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Ben Affleck has been disappointing.

I look at Affleck, who has a new film coming out soon---a movie that he directed, wrote, and stars in---and I can't help but think that he could have been so much more.

It's been 13 years, believe it or not, since the 38-year-old Affleck burst onto the scene in Good Will Hunting, a film he co-wrote and co-starred in with Matt Damon about a math wiz who needs guidance.

The movie introduced us to Affleck, a nice-looking, well-spoken young man who looked to be the next big box office male lead. Co-star Damon seemed a tad too nerdy looking to assume that mantle.

But something happened on the way to stardom for Affleck. He made a lot of so-so movies; some were downright awful.

He could have been so much more.

There were some decent flicks: Armageddon, Shakespeare in Love, Boiler Room. But they weren't blockbusters, and they weren't yesterday. We're talking about a decade ago.

Instead, there's been Changing Lanes, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Surv…

Havin' WHOSE Baby?

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Thirty-six years ago, the worst song of all time reached #1 on the Billboard charts.

That sounds like opinion, but it's almost morphed into fact.

The poll was conducted by CNN in 2006. The winner (loser?) was Paul Anka's ode to his expectant wife, "(You're) Having My Baby," which found itself on the top of the charts on this day in 1974.

Anka, whose songwriting prowess cannot be denied, penned a stinker when he wrote "YHMB," which was written in celebration of the impending birth of Anka and his wife's fifth child. Anka wrote the song while appearing at Lake Tahoe.

At the suggestion of United Artists recording executive Bob Skaff, Anka was asked to change the song from a solo effort to a duet with virtually unknown vocalist Odia Coates, who made the mistake of being present in the studio when the song was about to be recorded.

Anka took a lot of abuse from women's rights activists, who saw the lyrics and the spirit of the "YHMB" to be highl…

Sonny Outside

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Someone took leave of their senses at Channel 4 back in the day, and I'd love to know who it was.

Sonny Eliot owned Detroit weather TV in the 1960s and '70s. He was the first of the goofy weathermen---the kind who just as soon tell a corn pone joke as they would give you the day's temp and humidity.

Eliot wove his groaners and homespun wit into his weathercasts seamlessly. His delivery was like a silver ball in a pinball machine on warp drive, bouncing and ricocheting off each town's current condition frenetically. Every couple of minutes Sonny would come up for air and tell us a joke.

"It's 42 degrees today in Manchester, where a man made a killing in the stock market---he murdered his broker."

Sonny also combined the day's weather into one nonsensical word.

"Today it was cloudy and breezy---cleezy kind of weather," Eliot would say as he wrote the new word vertically down the map of Michigan---in chalk. Sonny was still a chalk guy when the other…

Late Night with JFK

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The spot is marked with a round metal plate, embedded in the cement on the doorstep of the University of Michigan Student Union.

It was there, nearly 50 years ago (gulp), where presidential candidate John F. Kennedy stood and delivered a speech late in the evening of October 14, 1960. There were only a few weeks to go before the election. And Kennedy was tired and haggard after whirlwind campaigning.

But he wasn't too tired to go public for the first time with his vision of an organization that would encourage recent college grads to serve their country overseas as voluntary missionaries.

It was called the Peace Corps, and JFK first stumped for it while in Ann Arbor, running a neck-and-neck race with Vice President Richard Nixon.

There's doubts that Kennedy was the very first individual to concoct the premise of the Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the Federal Government. Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, for example, introduced a bill in 1957 that would have established a…

Cruisin' for a Stomach Bruisin'

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We're doing all the wrong things in our cars nowadays.

We're texting, talking on the phone, shaving, putting on makeup. Driving falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

I like what we used to do in our cars---like eating (when the car is parked) and watching movies with speakers hanging on the windows.

The Woodward Dream Cruise is this weekend, so it's impossible not to turn on the wayback machine.

They ran rampant in the 1950s and '60s---drive-ins of both food and cinema.

Woodward was one of the main providers of the greasy spoons at which you'd park and a gum-chewing, sassy girl would take your order. Maybe she was on roller skates.

But other main thoroughfares were drive-in havens: Gratiot, Groesbeck, Jefferson.

Now, all you can muster for a drive-in food fix is the occasional A&W or the newish Sonic locations.

If you wanted dinner AND a movie, you could do that in your car as well; but the drive-in theaters are pretty much gone, too.

I missed the cruising by a hai…

Bye George!

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Make no question, George Cantor was as Detroit as they come.

He didn't write about the city, he squeezed his heart about it onto the page.

Cantor's Detroit glass was always half-full. At times he may have appeared as a fish out of water, because he was a golly-gee-whiz guy in a f*** you town.

Cantor, the former Detroit Free Press and News reporter and columnist, died today at age 69. Cause of death wasn't revealed in a story that appeared in the News.

I first grew to know Cantor as him having been a 27-year-old reporter who covered the Tigers for The News during the World Series year of 1968. That was also the year of a newspaper strike in Detroit. I found it very cool that someone of Cantor's age could be in the middle of such a glorious sports story, even if for many weeks, no newspapers rolled off the presses.

Cantor also wrote several books, more than one about the Tigers.

Cantor was a Detroiter from head to toe, having grown up in town and attending Wayne State Universi…

Hollywood vs. Ypsilanti?

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I'd love to get Jennifer Aniston and Ron English in a room together. What a hoot that would be. Maybe not as fun as Aniston sans English, but I digress.

Aniston has drawn the ire of Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly, among others, for comments she made while promoting her new movie, "Switch."

English is the head football coach at Eastern Michigan University. He raised some eyebrows with comments he made to the Detroit News last week.

Why would a meeting of the minds of a Hollywood actor and a college football coach make for some interesting discussion?

Simple: opposites attract, and make for some lively debate.

Aniston, in a nutshell, could take or leave men---when it comes to starting and raising a family.

English, in a nutshell, overzealously believes a father figure is critical to a boy's upbringing, especially if that boy wants to play college football.

Here's Aniston, promoting "Switch," in which she plays a single woman who chooses to start a family via art…

At Least They (Sorta) Tried

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On the surface, the item in Sunday's Free Press, poached from the Arizona Republic, seemed like a nice story.

"More Couples Opt For Friendly Divorce," the headline said. The sub-headline added, "Kids are the primary beneficiaries of amicable splits---and it's cheaper."

Aww, that's sweet. How thoughtful!

The bottom line, according to the story written by Karina Bland:

Some of today's divorcing couples, who as kids in the '80s witnessed some wretched family separations as bitter as the movie "War of the Roses," are vowing to do it differently. Even if their own parents didn't divorce, many kids saw how hard it was on their friends.

So more couples are opting for a friendly divorce, whether through mediation, collaboration or even do-it-yourself kits. The majority of couples choosing friendly divorces are those with children.

The story went on to rave about how chummy the exes are with each other, and how they did it all for the kids. There…

Opposites Attract (Voters)

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There should be no fence-sitting in this one.

If you have a pulse and have any inclination to vote for who should be the next governor of the State of Michigan, it won't be acceptable to hem and haw and scuffle your feet and be wishy-washy about the matter.

This isn't Coke vs. Pepsi. Not McDonald's vs. Burger King.

It's not even apples vs. oranges, because if you like fruit, you might choose one of each.

This is Virg Bernero vs. Rick Snyder for the governorship of Michigan, 2011-2015.

Or, rather, it's loud vs. soft. Labor vs. big business. Coffee black vs. with cream and sugar. Paper vs. plastic.

This is beyond Democrat vs. Republican. These aren't even similar men.

When you go to the polls on November 2, there may as well be some ushers greeting you, asking if your affiliation is with "the angry mayor" or "the nerd."

No in between this time.

This is John Engler vs. Geoffrey Fieger, 1998, but less comical.

In one corner is Bernero, Mayor of Lansing---…

Rail Good News

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It's no mystery, really, why the City of Detroit has no discernible public transit system.

Forget buses. Every city has buses. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness mass transit that puts a city on the cutting edge.

Detroit has no such animal, and it's quite simple why that is.

Detroit is the Motor City. We put America on wheels. We love our cars. We don't even like to car pool; you think we're going to espouse mass transit that could harm auto sales?

I've long fantasized about a train that would take you from the foot of Hart Plaza to the tony suburbs of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, with dozens of stops in between.

But I knew that "fantasized" was the key word, because anything that would discourage the use of the automobile, read: wear and tear, thus necessitating the purchase of a new car, would be buried as a pie-in-the-sky idea.

That pie is about to fall to Earth.

The first hurdle has been cleared for Detroit to start working on its brand new light r…