Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cruise Control

Tom Cruise has certainly tried many milieus as an actor.

He's done romance, suspense, comedy-drama, avant garde, you name it.

Now Cruise, 49, is in yet another "Mission: Impossible" movie, this one called "Ghost Protocol."

I got to thinking about Cruise's career as I've been seeing trailers for his latest "M:I" movie pass through my TV.

The action/adventure genre---and that's certainly what the "Mission" movies are categorized---would seem to infer that the star doesn't have to do much acting. Indeed, in so many of them, that's been the case.

It's tempting, to me, to suggest that the acting talents of Tom Cruise are wasted when it comes to the "Mission" films.

Cruise was never better than he was in "A Few Good Men" and the iconic "Jerry Maguire"---that I think will elicit very little argument.

But in the "Mission" movies, there's an increasing amount of jumping and free-falling and diving and running, and you begin to wonder: is there any acting?

There certainly doesn't really need to be any, much less from anyone of Cruise's abilities.

There have been several action/adventure franchises. "Die Hard" comes to mind immediately. In none of them has the acting by the lead been anything remotely close to Academy Award level.

Cruise's talents are wasted on the "Mission" films but at least he hasn't buttonholed himself into the genre, like Bruce Willis did some 20 years ago. And Willis isn't the actor that Cruise is.


Cruise running (what else) in the latest "Mission: Impossible" film



Name me a so-called action/adventure "star" who has the diversity and filmography that Tom Cruise possesses.

In fact, it would be terribly unfair to even call Cruise an action/adventure star, because he's so much more.

Yet with this latest installment of "Mission: Impossible" eye candy for the holidays, and with any subsequent movie in the franchise---which is now about 15 years from its original---Cruise is getting closer aligned with the action/adventure genre.

Not that the "Mission" movies are all he's doing.

Next year, Cruise will appear in "Rock of Ages," which is set in 1987 Los Angeles and centers around a young couple chasing their dreams. Then it's Cruise as Jack Reacher, a homicide detective, in "One Shot," slated for late 2012 or early 2013.

But for now it's another installment of "Mission," and by all accounts this is the best of the bunch.

How much acting Tom Cruise really does in it, is up for conjecture. Not that it matters. It's eye candy for the masses---a break from real thespian duties.

Sometimes you gotta give the people what they want, right?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Butt He Should Know Better

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has battled Democrats and those within his own party. He's seen the worst of legislative gridlock, just like all his colleagues. He is no stranger to tumult.

But Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) hasn't likely ever come up against a group like the one he's mixing it up with now.

Women.

Sensenbrenner has succeeded in offending women of all shapes and sizes---especially those who aren't runway model, thin as a rail types---in his comments about the, um, "posterior" of Michelle Obama.

Yes, First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sensenbrenner, it seems, is offended that Mrs. Obama has a healthy food agenda for America's children. He looks at the First Lady as government personified---big government, specifically.

So Sensenbrenner did the very short-sighted, small-thinking thing and tried to use Mrs. Obama's own posterior against her.

"She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself," Sensenbrenner was overhead saying into a telephone, according to MediaBistro.

This from a man who, as one of my Facebook friends said, "needs an abacus to count his chins."

The disturbing part of Sensenbrenner's clumsy remark isn't even so much about attacking a First Lady, an untoward as that is.

It's the thinly-veiled meaning, which is that women have to look perfect in order to be considered healthy, or on track to make themselves healthy.

Heaven forbid a posterior be a little "large."

It constantly amazes me, these men who are often rotund themselves, casting aspersions on a woman's appearance.

Sensenbrenner, who ironically has the word "sense" start his last name, apparently believes that unless you have a perfect body with the requisite tiny amount of body fat, then you are not qualified or allowed to speak of healthy diet choices for others.

From the Huffington Post account of Sensenbrenner's comments: Michelle has traveled the country for her "Let's Move!" campaign for over a year, talking about healthy eating, promoting a more user-friendly pyramid graphic, getting stores like Walmart to stock their shelves with nutritious items and playing sports with kids.

But none of this advocating is OK, according to Sensenbrenner's line of thinking, because the First Lady's butt is too big.

Horsepucky.


The decidedly unfit Rep. Sensenbrenner


Aside from the flawed thinking that Sensenbrenner is displaying, is the brazen verbal attack on not only another man's wife---but the president's wife.

But all that is sure to be trumped by the deluge of e-mails and phone calls that Rep. Sensenbrenner's office is sure to be contending with, probably as you're reading this.

Those folks will be, in the vast majority, female.

And they won't be happy, nor quiet.

If Sensenbrenner, at his age, doesn't know enough to not trifle with a woman's age or weight, then it's amazing he got anywhere in life.

Well, he's about to find out the error of his ways.

A spokesman for his office says the Congressman planned on apologizing to the First Lady.

Something tells me that she'll be a LOT more forgiving than the rest of her gender.

That poor, poor man.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Join the (Towne) Club!

Towne Club pop isn't dead. Those rumors are greatly exaggerated.

Well, maybe not greatly exaggerated; it's not exactly on every shelf around town.

Or should I have spelled it, towne?

But Towne Club, that distinctly Detroit soft drink, can still be accessed.

Our daughter spotted some at Produce Palace, on Dequindre in Warren.

The bottles aren't the same, bullet thin sized as before. They're 16 oz. now. But it's still Towne Club.

If you're under 30 years of age, you might want to click away. For Towne Club was a staple in the late-1960s, early-to-mid-1970s.

It worked like this.

You bought the pop, in its multitude of varieties, by the case. You could mix and match. The main bottling and distribution center was located on Ryan Road near 1o Mile, if memory serves.

The cases would be purchased and there was a deposit on the case itself---which at the time was a HEAVY wooden thing.

Then you'd bring the empty bottles and the case back, and repeat the process all over again.

Sometime in the 1980s, Towne Club seemed to vanish. Certainly the center on Ryan Road closed. I've not done the research, so there may have been a reason. Regardless, Towne Club pop kind of fell off the radar for quite some time.

Over the past decade, I've seen Towne Club pop up (no pun intended) at select specialty stores; certainly not in any "mainstream" markets like Kroger, Meijer's, etc.


The "new" Towne Club bottle: not as thin as the original


The pop itself wasn't, to me, award-winning, but the varieties were plenty and that was more than you could say about so many of the other soft drinks on the market.

I think what made Towne Club an allure was the process. The whole notion of getting into the car, empty bottles in their cases in tow, and driving to the center to pick out new varieties and bring them back home.

I was a little disappointed when I saw the "new" Towne Club bottle, I must confess. It seems so....fat!

The old bottles could have been fit inside a paper towel roll.

Towne Club pop, I guess, wasn't just a beverage, to so many of us.

It was an experience.

And one that you can still partake in, I'm happy to report.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Driven to Distraction?

The National Transportation Safety Board has spoken, and there are two ways that you can look at it.

First, here's what they said, according to a story in today's Free Press: "The National Transportation Safety Board says distracted driving has claimed too many lives and made a sweeping recommendation today calling on states to ban the use of portable electronic devices for everyone behind the wheel – even if they have a hands-free device."

In other words, no talking on a cell phone, period. Even if both hands are on the steering wheel.

As promised, here are the two ways to look at this recommendation---which is all it really is, because the states pretty much write their own traffic laws.

First, seems that we all got along just fine for decades without talking to people on phones inside our cars. It's not so much that we have to talk---but that we can. So, we do.

Second, I think the NTSB should extend their recommendation to other distractions that I have seen, like the application of makeup, shaving and eating, among others.

Ask yourself: could YOU give up chatting on a phone in the car? And I mean, cold turkey?

“It may seem like it’s a very quick call, a very quick text, a tweet or an update but accidents happen in the blink of an eye,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the NTSB, was quoted in the Free Press story. “We’ve investigated a lot of accidents and we know a lot of times the distraction that’s there is not just about manipulating something.”



There's no question that the number of accidents involving drivers distracted by electronic communication gadgets is increasing. And the incidents aren't limited to the average Joe or Joanne on the road; people in whom we place our trust, like those who are in charge of commuter trains, tugboats and the like, are being distracted by laptops, texting, etc.

In fact, Blogger's spell check just flagged "texting," which is an accepted 21st century word but apparently isn't in their dictionary yet.

So it's an ever-changing world.

The NTSB might be overreacting, but it's hard to make that case when people are dying.

I am just like everyone else. I talk on the phone in the car, while driving. And mine isn't a hands-free model, either.

And I've looked down to change a CD or reach for a beverage.

So far, I've been lucky that none of those actions have resulted in me getting into a wreck.

If the states began implementing bans on devices, period, whether they were hands-free or not, I know there'd be an adjustment I'd have to make. It seems so natural, anymore, to pick up the phone and dial my wife or home. But, frankly, most of those conversations are mundane and can occur after I get home.

Safe and sound.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Goin' to the Coffee Shop, and....

I'm certainly not what you would call the most religious person in the world, though I do proclaim myself to be a Catholic---just not a card-carrying one.

I also don't consider myself a prude, though I like to think that I know right from wrong.

But one thing that gets stuck in my craw is the uneasiness I feel when couples get married in less-than-regal venues.

You've read and seen the stories.

Scuba enthusiasts getting married underwater, etc.

Now comes the very-21st century story of Oklahoma couple Eva McCarthy Capparello and Carmine Capparello.

The two met online in 2008 (very 21st century, as I said), and grew to know each other over cups of coffee at Starbucks (EXTREMELY 21st century).

That's fine, and cute and endearing.


Why does this kind of scene make me frown?


But they decided to tie the knot at, you guessed it, the local Starbucks.

Why does this bother me so?

I suppose it's my maybe-stuffy belief that marriage is sacrosanct and should be entered into accordingly.

Doesn't seem, to me, that marrying in a coffee shop is appropriate.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not judging this Oklahoma couple. They're in love, and frankly, that love should trump all, anyway.

And I know that not everyone believes in God or cares much about a wedding's venue.

I guess what troubles me is the notion that a couple who marries in such a wacky environment may not understand the seriousness of the act in which they are about to undergo.

How much respect can they have for a marriage that was presided over in front of bags of coffee beans and frothing machines?

But that's just me.

I wish nothing but the best for our Oklahoman, caffeine-enriched love birds. Truly.

With the divorce rate what it has been, I admit that church-based weddings haven't always panned out, either.

But the younger set already seems to have lost so much of the respect for tradition and what had been so sacred, that when I read of "stunt" weddings like the one in Oklahoma, I squirm.

Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe these two newlyweds will be married for decades, happily.

I can only hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, Woman of Troy!

I can save myself a bunch of typing today and just send you over to the Detroit News' Laura Berman's wonderful column about the bull-in-a-china shop mayor of Troy, but sometimes you just want to take your crack at something, even if, in this case, Berman knocked it out of the park.

Berman's piece should be a must-read. She perfectly captures the clumsiness of the "honorable" Janice Daniels, Troy's new mayor, whose off-the-cuff Facebook post in June about gay marriage in New York came back to bite her in the tush.

By now you're likely up to speed on this, but here goes anyway.

Daniels, in June, voiced her displeasure over the new gay marriage law in New York state with this pithy comment on her Facebook page: "I think I'm going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there."

The incendiary remark occurred before Daniels was elected mayor, which happened just weeks ago. And she initially tried to use that non-mayor status as defense of her unalienable free speech rights, once the posting was uncovered and then went viral, as things tend to do these days, for better or for worse.

In this case, it was for the better and for the worse.

Daniels has been exposed, and that's the better part. The worse part, of course, is that she's still Troy's mayor.

The troubling part of Daniels' gaffe---and that's probably an understatement---is not the slur itself, but her reaction to it once it saw the light of day.

She hasn't really owned up to the posting, balancing out every word of semi-apology with annoying words in defense of her indefensible wording.

She released a statement that reminded us that "queer" is a "dictionary word."

Yeah, and so are a number of other words that shouldn't be used in public, which Facebook is, folks.

She also trotted out the wince-inducing "defense" that it's OK to use "queer" because, hey, the gay community uses it themselves!

Aye, yi yi!!

So that means anyone can fling around nigger, slut, spic, chink, or any other slur, as long as "those people" use it among themselves?

And this woman is a mayor?

Daniels is a Tea Party member, and while I'm tempted to say, "That explains it," I won't, because it would be just as unfair of me to broad stroke brush the Tea Partiers as a bunch of bigots as it is for Mayor Daniels to brand all gays as "queers."

Daniels, by the way, apparently won the mayoral race in Troy, Berman writes, on a platform of being anti-library millage.


Mayor Daniels meets with some concerned Troy citizens on Monday


Again I'm tempted to say, "That explains it."

Of course, the library thing doesn't reflect well on the Troy citizenry, but that's another blog post. The folks there still don't deserve a mayor of Daniels' stature.

This thing has gone national, from the Huffington Post to ABC News. City council members and local businesses are being flooded with phone calls of protest, of which there was a formal one on Monday outside City Hall.

Again, Daniels is not totally relenting, even in the face of all the threats of boycott, etc. of her city.

"I also heard from people who said they want to move to Troy,"Daniels said.

She just doesn't get it, and likely never will.

She's in politics now, and that means that even things said and done "before I was mayor" are still relevant and are an indicator of character.

The Tea Partiers, I have long suspected, are really, really good at protesting and whining and slighting, but have very little idea of what to do once they actually ascend to positions of political power. Daniels seems to be another of these types.

It's much easier to scream, "Throw the bums out!" than it is to govern once you replace the bums.

Mayor Daniels has put a black eye on her city and most of it could have been avoided with some non-filtered contrition and sincere words of regret.

Instead, she buttresses every apology with an underlying theme of "I still don't think I did anything really wrong."

You did, Mayor. Big time.

The notion that she doesn't quite understand that is disturbing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fast Track to Stress

Do any two consecutive months on the calendar pass as quickly as November and December?

I've long said it: once you get past Halloween, it's a slippery slope to the end of the year.

This is both good and bad.

November is almost done, just like that---as usual. Wasn't it just the other day when I was passing out candy?

I say it's good and bad because the holiday season swoops in and that means more expense, more stress and more weight gained.

So it's good that it all happens so fast.

But it's also bad, because there doesn't seem to be enough time for everything, like shopping. More to the point, there doesn't seem to be enough time to assemble the funds needed for said shopping.

Starting on November 1, Thanksgiving already begins to creep into the minds of our lovely wives, who, whether hosting the holiday feast or not, have arrangements and plans to think about.

Turkey Day came relatively early this year (the earliest it can occur is November 22 and this year it came on November 24), just three weeks and some change after Halloween. That means that while the mini Snickers bars and tiny M&M bags leftover from a lack of kid traffic on Halloween sat in plain sight, begging to be consumed, Thanksgiving's meal was already being planned.

We go from candy to candied yams, just like that.



How do we go from this.....



...to this, in a matter of days? (or so it seems)



Retailers don't help, of course. They can't wait to shove the Halloween displays aside and replace them with wreaths and inflatable Santas. One of the radio stations in town has made it a habit in recent years of starting to play Christmas tunes on November 1. I don't pity the listeners (they can change the station), I feel for the employees, who have to listen to that for 54 days before Christmas even arrives.

TV ads shouting about Black Friday specials begin on or around November 1. The Internet sprouts stories of impending BF deals like pimples on a teenager's face just before prom.

It's all designed, I'm convinced, to throw us into a panicked tizzy.

So far, Mrs. Eno and I have managed to squeeze some Christmas shopping in, before November ends---which for us is unusual. The game plan this year is to chip away at it. Of course, that's our game plan every year. And every year we scramble in mid-December.

Which is mere days after the ghosts and goblins have left our front porch. Or so it seems.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yes, He Did

He'd be up for parole every few years, always denied. Then he'd return to his private cell and bob back below the surface again.

Perhaps Geraldo Rivera or Barbara Walters would have interviewed him. His look would be older and gaunter as time went by. Maybe he'd be propped up by some oddballs as a sort of anti-hero, like they do with Charlie Manson et al.

Regardless, he'd have been held up as the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. He would have been the first celebrity "lone nut," as his crime happened just as TV was really beginning to take off as a medium. Maybe you'd see his likeness on t-shirts sold in mall shops such as Hot Topic.

Lee Harvey Oswald, 48 years ago today, squeezed the trigger of his Italian-German rifle and cut down JFK as the president's motorcade rode perilously slowly and past the Texas School Book Depository.

Save the conspiracy nonsense. You'll only get me started.

Oswald did it, the lone nut theory as strong as garlic, in my book.

Besides, you can thank Jack Ruby for all the conspiracy quacks.

Had Ruby---he wasn't part of a conspiracy, either---not killed Oswald during the latter's transfer from the Dallas City Jail to the County Jail, then most of the conspiracy quacks wouldn't have anything to quack about.

It was Oswald's death that opened the door to the creative genius of conspiracy "theory".

Manson, mass murder mastermind, is still alive. So is Sirhan Sirhan, the killer of Bobby Kennedy. James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., was still kicking it some 30 years after his crime before he passed away in 1998.

None have been seriously tied to any conspiracy by the quacks.

Why? Because their existence on this planet acted as a sort of prophylactic against conspiracy talk.

It's easy to conjure up scandalous and taste-tempting tales of conspiracy when the perpetrator of the crime is six feet under.

Ruby killed Oswald but gave life to the conspiracy quacks, who, with Oswald silenced, were able to run rampant with their theories.

Think of it. Oswald, had he lived, would almost certainly have been convicted of JFK's murder. The evidence may have been partially circumstantial, but it was also substantial.

Then he would have gone to prison, perhaps still professing his innocence. But he'd have been behind bars and the trial would have happened and the conspiracy quacks would have looked even sillier than they do now.

Oswald killed Kennedy, just as he killed Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, and Oswald's actions immediately after the president's death suggest that he committed the crimes alone and without aid.

Oswald acted instinctively, perhaps not even thinking of killing Kennedy until finding out that the president was to visit his town. Imagine Lee's heart racing once he found out that Kennedy's motorcade route placed him right beneath the building in which Oswald worked.

Opportunity knocks!!

I believe that Oswald acted impetuously when he killed the president---maybe not even thinking he'd actually succeed. Then, Lee didn't know what the hell to do, or where the hell to go.

His actions confirm that.

After the assassination, Oswald took a bus home, grabbed a pistol and a jacket, and marched out of his boarding house in suburban Dallas.

Where was he going? What was his intent? Oswald couldn't even get out of the city. He was a frantic, panicking man, probably in disbelief that he pulled off the crime of the century.

The pistol was clearly there in case he needed it, i.e. in the case of a policeman who might try to apprehend him. Poor J.D. Tippit, who never had a chance.

If Oswald had the help that a conspiracy would have provided, then he, as the hired gunman, certainly would have been given an exit strategy, some money, and other instructions.

If I took on such a job, I'd sure as heck would want to know what was to happen to me after the fact.


Thanks to this act, the conspiracy quacks were able to run roughshod over common sense and facts


You think Oswald would consent to kill the President of the United States (wouldn't he have been paid, by the way?), then not bother to ask what the game plan was after the killing?

Flipping it, do you think his employers would hire him for the job then leave him out there to dry, potentially singing like a canary after his possible arrest?

Wouldn't they be afraid that he'd name names like he was rattling off a shopping list?

Instead, for nearly 48 hours, Oswald merely insisted he was innocent and never hinted of a conspiracy, save for his "I'm just a patsy" remark, made to reporters.

Now, either he was incredibly loyal to people in the shadows who never paid him (Oswald was barely above poverty level), or he simply didn't name names because there were no names to name.

I'm betting on the latter.

Ruby started all this nonsense. His erasure of Oswald, while good intentioned in Jack's book (he wanted to save Jackie Kennedy from the emotional stress of a trial), was the match that lit the conspiracy fuse.

Oswald would be 72 years old today. Certainly it's conceivable that he'd still be alive. Manson is over 70. Sirhan is 67. Ray lived into his mid-70s.

And by the way, Ruby did hint of conspiracy, but not until he was ravaged by cancer and wasn't in his right mind.

Ruby died in 1966.

An alive Lee Harvey Oswald, wiling away his time in a penitentiary somewhere, would have cut down a lot of this conspiracy talk just by his very existence as a living person.

Dead, he became the key figure in so many people's criminal fantasies.

Thanks, Jack.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Happened to Natalie?

I had a crush on Natalie Wood. Still do, truth be told.

She was beautiful and dark haired. In fact, I liked her type so much that I married one.

But I was just 18 when Wood, the actress, died tragically on a night clouded with mystery back on November 29, 1981. She had been enjoying a night on a yacht with husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken, with whom she had just wrapped filming of the movie "Brainstorm."

The official cause of death was drowning, which would have made sense normally, as Wood had clearly fallen overboard. But friends---and Wagner---noted that Wood was afraid of water and it was out of character for her to put herself in a situation where drowning was even a possibility.

Even after it was determined that Wood had been drinking prior to the accident, rumors and innuendo swirled.

The presence of a second man, Walken, only added to the whispers. Wood and Walken had been acting cozy, according to some, and speculation arose that he and Wagner may have gotten into a lively discussion sometime the night of the accident.

Yet how that supposed argument played a role in what happened to Wood was never fully explained, of course.

Natalie Wood was just 43 when she perished.

Maybe we'll get some more answers about her death, maybe we won't---but the Los Angeles homicide detectives have re-opened their investigation into what happened that fateful night, regardless.

The news of the LA police department taking another look at Wood's death happens to come on the same week that the film version of "West Side Story," in which Wood starred, was released on Blu-ray Disc to mark its 50th anniversary.

So why the re-opening of the investigation?

According to the Associated Press, it's "because of new information detectives received about the case, Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Thursday."

No additional details were provided, but a detective planned to hold a news conference Friday, and anyone with information about the case was being asked to contact sheriff's officials,
the AP reported.

The AP also said that a spokesperson for Wagner said that the actor has yet to be contacted by police, but that he has faith that the department will take "appropriate action."

The police news conference should be interesting.

I was never one to be infatuated with Wood's death, as mysterious as it may have been. I don't think anything malicious happened to her. But it wouldn't shock me if Wagner, who blamed himself for his wife's death in a 2009 book, or Walken know more than they've been letting on.

Regardless, Natalie Wood was a beautiful woman and at 43 died way too young.


Natalie Wood


"Brainstorm," by the way, is a good movie. The concept is that Walken, a scientist, invents a machine that can record your thoughts and even physical feelings (including pain) by placing a device on the head, which lays everything down onto this wide, shiny gold recording "tape."

Wood plays Walken's girlfriend in the movie, released after her death.

Wood and Wagner were married twice: from 1957 to 1963, then again in 1972.

Maybe Lana Wood, Natalie's sister, has it pegged right, after all.

"What happened is that Natalie drank too much that night," Lana Wood wrote in her biography.

Probably.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lovely Rita

As time marches on, the pioneers among us become fewer and fewer.

No one lives forever, so the trailblazers become endangered species.

"West Side Story," the film version, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, marking the occasion with its release today on Blu-ray Disc.

So appropriate, as one of its stars, Rita Moreno, closes in on becoming an octogenarian.

It was Moreno's portrayal of Anita that did a couple of things, neither of them insignificant.

First, it garnered Moreno an Oscar.

Then, it eventually opened doors for other Latino performers to get work in Hollywood.

This was not insignificant, because Natalie Wood played the lead Maria in "West Side Story" and another white actor, George Chakiris, played Puerto Rican gang leader Bernardo.

Moreno was a pioneer, and typical of such folks, she didn't realize it at the time.

But she knows it now.

She allows, in an interview with the Associated Press, that she's "happy" that her portrayal of Anita did a lot for Latino actors.

But, half a century later, "I love what Ricardo Montalban once said, because it was very precise," Moreno says, quoting the late Mexican actor. "He said one day that the door was ajar, but not completely open. And that still exists. ... We have known artists in the English-speaking world that are Latin artists, but not enough."

Also lacking, according to Moreno, who will be 80 on December 11, are musicals themselves.

"I'd love to see more musicals because today they're very rare — you barely find them," she says.


The incomparable Rita Moreno


If you want to check out Moreno at some of her finest, rent or download "The Four Seasons," an Alan Alda written and directed comedy vehicle where she plays the Italian wife of Jack Weston's character, Danny.

The role was part of what Moreno told the AP is her belief that she's "a character actress, more than anything, and I think that is one of the reasons I get other parts that don't have anything to do with being Latina necessarily."

Moreno can be seen now as Fran Drescher's mother in the TV series, "Happily Divorced."

Still working, even as 80 beckons.

"Because I've been around so long ... I've gotten to do a lot of things that a lot of Latinos have not been able to do," Moreno says.

Correction. A lot of Latinos have been able to do things that they wouldn't, had it not been for Rita Moreno.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanks for the Memories

Politics is like good comedy: timing is everything.

Only, what's been going on in Wayne County politics is less comedy and more tragedy.

But timing still is everything.

Oh, how much more interesting would the election for County Executive have been had the Turkia Mullin severance scandal occurred last year instead of this year?

The Little Italian General, Bob Ficano, still likely would have won over his opponent, Republican Mario Fundarski, but the interesting part would have been to see how much less of a margin Ficano would have triumphed.

Or, what if the Mullin scandal hit the news in the spring of 2010? Then maybe a more formidable candidate would have had time to emerge to take on the LIG.

But alas, the cesspool that is the Wayne County political machine is being exposed in full view now, in 2011, some three years before the next County Executive election.

The question now is, how long will voters' memories be in 2014?

A recent poll indicates that 47 percent of likely county Democratic voters contacted by phone want the LIG to resign.

Forty-seven percent! Nearly half.

But that's today, some three years before voters go to the polls to choose who will be the County Exec from 1/1/2015 to 12/31/2018.

How many of those 47 percent will be as enraged in three years?

The severance scandal, which is actually a misnomer because it's more of a "Ficano" scandal, is getting a lot of play. It has the looks of something that could stick to the LIG like flypaper.

Maybe even for three years.

The latest casualty is someone who the FBI ought to devote at least a weekend to: Assistant County Executive Michael Grundy, who was given the ziggy by Ficano last night.

Grundy is the dude who was suspended last month after a contractor told FBI agents that Grundy regularly called if she was late with payments to a company affiliated with one of his associates.

When Grundy wasn't shaking down honest employees for kickbacks, he was trying to strong arm a state legislator into not pursuing the Mullin investigation in Lansing.

Oops, I should have added "allegedly" to the above paragraph.

Grundy is a piece of work. When I was working for the County Commission in 2010, I heard some things about Grundy that usually involved him being a heavy in the Ficano administration, in some way, shape or form.

The FBI could have a field day investigating Michael Grundy.


Michael Grundy


Also on Monday, the chairwoman of the Airport Authority---the same bunch who fired Mullin as airport CEO last week---resigned from her post.

That would be Renee Axt, who "axed" herself. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

Axt's consulting firm, RCP Associates, is among those named in FBI subpoenas served on the county last month. The feds are investigating not only the $200,000 severance Mullin received in September for serving as the county's economic development chief, but also Mullin's ties to a nonprofit economic development group.

Axt served on the board of that nonprofit, which paid Mullin a $75,000 bonus.

Yeah, that's right.

This has caused the FBI to start rubbing their chins and pursing their lips. And when they start doing that, the cockroaches tend to skitter away from the light.

It's all well and good that Ficano fired Grundy. It gives one hope that the LIG realizes the depth of his fall from grace. It's not good political strategy to piss off nearly half of your voting base to the point that they want you to quit, right then and there.

This severance thing has been in the papers for over a month now. That's an eternity in County politics. That kind of time on the front page had been reserved for the Kwame Kilpatricks of the world, when it comes to local news.

Even the editorial folks at the Free Press and The News have been hostile to the LIG lately. And that never happens.

Still, the question begs: Will any of this be relevant in 2014, when it really matters?

Or is this scandal just the tip of the iceberg to Ficano's Titanic?

Regardless, you can bet that whoever chooses to run against the LIG in 2014 will do all he or she can to refresh people's memories.

They might not even need it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Real Sit Down Guy

Sooner or later, Bob Ficano is going to run out of stool pigeons.

The time will come when Ficano, the Little Italian General and sneaky Wayne County Executive, looks around him and the only person left to blame is himself.

Turkia Mullin is out as CEO of Metro Airport. No doubt you know that by now. Her brief tenure as CEO ended Monday afternoon, about two months after she received an obscene severance payment when she left Wayne County after serving as its Economic Development Director.

Mullin had to go. Perception is reality in politics, public and civil service. Once tainted, it's awfully difficult to get that sheen back.

She didn't create the cronyism and palm greasing that goes on in the Guardian Building (County HQ), but she certainly didn't do anything to stop it. Not that that is her charge, but she didn't have to be so sassy about it.

"I'm worth it!" she crowed, like the models in those makeup and shampoo commercials, when the $200,000 severance hit the news.

No doubt Mullin thought she and Ficano would be lockstep in snubbing the media and holding the people of the County in contempt.

It didn't work this time.

Mullin's "I'm worth it" comment was one of the worst things she could have said, given the situation at hand. You know, the situation where the County shamelessly asks for concessions and give backs from the rank-and-file while at the same time lining the pockets of do-nothing appointees.

Then Mullin, the day after declaring she was worth it, tried to play the gender card. All the attention the severance was rapidly getting, she whined, was simply because she's a woman. After all, Mullin reasoned, her predecessor got a similar sweetheart severance deal---and he was a man. Where was the outrage then?

Well, "then," the media didn't get its mitts on it. And just because Mullin wasn't a pioneer in the sweetheart severance business doesn't let her off the hook.

So she had to go. The authority board did the right thing in dismissing her, by a 5-2 vote. Of course, the firing will be challenged in court, but that's the penance the authority will have to pay for hiring Mullin in the first place.

Seems the board may not have done all of its due diligence in researching Mullin's claims as far as her involvement and influence in bringing the now infamous $5.5 billion of new development to the County.

The papers did, and they found that Mullin's resume was a little padded.


Happier, grease palming times: Top County deputy Azzam Elder (left), Turkia Mullin and County Exec Bob Ficano make a smiling trio---before Ficano threw them under the bus


That's all well and good. Mullin had to go, but look at what her supposed supporter, Ficano, did to her.

As the heat got turned up, the Little Italian General offered up a few sacrificial lambs---a top deputy, an attorney, a retired contractor---for slaughter. He read a prepared, very insincere sounding "apology" as he announced the suspensions of the first two and the firing of the third lamb. Ficano all but rolled his eyes as he read it. I saw the video. It was pretty shameful.

Then, when the lambs weren't enough, Ficano distanced himself from Mullin, who he supposedly supported and whose career he bolstered.

On Friday, Ficano said Mullin's leadership had been "compromised" and that the board, when they met on Monday to discuss her fate, should "do what they need to do."

Well!

Isn't it a riot when the bad guys start turning on each other?

What the Little Italian General failed to acknowledge was that it was his doings that placed Mullin in the position she was in, albeit indirectly.

Wouldn't it have been nice if Ficano had instead said, "I'm saddened that Turkia Mullin is being caught up in a controversy based on policies of the past that were not of her own doing"?

That's all. He wouldn't have had to issue more support. Just the above statement. It would have been the honorable thing to do. It would have been gentlemanly. It would have been stand up.

Instead, Ficano added Mullin to the people he keeps throwing under the bus.

Sooner or later, the Little Italian General is going to turn around, looking for another lamb, and there won't be anybody left except him.

And as Three Dog Night crooned, "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall Guy

I would love fall---or autumn, if you prefer---much more if I was more tolerant of what comes behind it: Old Man Winter.

I adore a crisp fall morning, afternoon and evening. I get to enjoy them all because our Jack Russell Terrier demands exercise in the form of several walks per day, so I don't have much of a choice. But it's all good.

So I like the smell of someone burning something or another in the distance. I like the colors, of course. On Saturday afternoons, I like knowing that, all over the country, college football games are being played, whether that college has 1,000 students or 50,000.

But as I get older I find myself more and more resentful of the Old Man every year from December thru March.

I just don't have the patience anymore for the snow and the ice and the hazards they both bring---and I'm including dog walking in there, in addition to driving.

Don't tell me that you're safer walking on the sidewalks in winter time than you are sliding around on the roads.

You ever hear of black ice?


Old Man Winter hasn't been my favorite guy lately


The sidewalks are full of it, lying sneakily beneath the thin layer of powdery snow. And it's as dangerous as anything you'll encounter on the roads---especially when your ability to keep your balance is compromised by having one hand occupied with a leash.

I have almost fallen innumerable times---which scares me to death every time it happens---and have actually fallen way more than once.

Neither is pleasant, though the actual falling is worse. That's because your first thought isn't if you're OK---but rather if anyone saw you.

We are all like that, I'd lay odds. Seems it's human nature to be far more concerned if someone saw us tumble than if we are physically OK. The ego is bruised easier than our bodies.

And let me tell you---I've taken some nasty falls in the past several winters, walking Scamp, who gets the bejeebers scared out of him every time I fall and nearly fall. The involuntary tug and yank on his leash as I try to keep upright is what startles the poor little guy.

Then there's the shoveling. My snow blower went kaput several years ago and I've neglected to get it fixed---shame on me. The result is clearing snow the old fashioned---and more physically-demanding---way.

I would appreciate the romance of winter more if I didn't have to interact with it beyond looking at it.

Hey, keep me inside, away from winter's elements, and I'm good to go. I'll romance the heck out of it in the coziness of indoors.

If fall could extend all the way to spring, with no stop for winter in between, then I'd be ecstatic.

And less bruised.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Moms

I'm old enough to remember a simpler time---when being a "stage mom" was pretty much as bad as it got when it came to the mothers of child actors.

I remember Teri Shields, the mother of actress Brooke Shields, who was vilified for being too aggressive and bossy as her daughter rose through the ranks as an adolescent.

Teri Shields was taken to task because at that time and prior (the late-1970s to early-1980s), the parents were very much in the background. You ever hear salacious stories of the moms of Larry Matthews or Jerry Mathers or any of the kids on "The Brady Bunch"?

No, you didn't.

But then came Teri Shields, who was bombastic and sometimes, it seemed, in competition with her daughter for attention.

Well, turns out that the "stage mom" maybe isn't such a bad thing. At least the stage mom keeps tabs on her child(ren), albeit perhaps in a way that prompts eye-rolling.

Brooke Shields turned out just fine, thank you. Granted, I'm biased. I'm a big Brooke Shields fan. But she certainly hasn't gone sideways, despite being in the public consciousness from before she was a teenager.

Then there's Lindsay Lohan.

Lindsay just had her probation revoked because she failed to show up for her community service. Before you knew it, she was being slapped into handcuffs and led out of the courtroom.

It's just another sad chapter in the story of Lohan, who was once, believe it or not, a fresh and freckle-faced youngster with a promising movie career that was budding.Link
Now the only time her face appears before a camera, it's for a mugshot.

Lindsay's had six of those snapped since 2007. You can see the gallery here.

The difference between Lohan's free fall and the stability enjoyed by Brooke Shields?

Parenting. Pure and simple.

Like I said, turns out that being an overbearing stage mom isn't so bad, when compared to the Jerry Springer-esque escapades of Lohan's parents.

Parenting is the thing that I was fearful would take Miley Cyrus down. I'm still not convinced that it won't. I hope I'm wrong. But Miley's choices have left a lot to be desired. It's not a leap to conclude that Miley's broken family upbringing isn't helping matters.

Lindsay Lohan's folks' public meltdowns are well-known. Mom Dina has acted more like a party buddy than a mother. And now we're in that sad stage of affairs when dad is taking shots at daughter.


Four of the five faces of Lindsay, since 2007 (far left)



Michael Lohan says that he thinks Lindsay is smoking something---literally.

"That's from smoking a pipe with meth or crack," he said about photos of Lindsay's brown teeth. "She's smoking either crack or meth, one or the other. I'm not going to shade it."

Michael Lohan has had his shares of brushes with the law---and drugs, too. So maybe this is simply a case of "takes one to know one."

Regardless, life in Hollywood when you're on screen before you've lost all your baby teeth is tough enough with good parents and a stable home life, let alone when you've got Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as your mom and dad.

I'll take the embarrassing stage mom over that, any day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Take This Lamb and Shove It

The Little Italian General, Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano, has offered up some lambs for sacrifice in the Turkia Mullin severance scandal, but this time he's finding that the county natives' appetite is a tad more voracious than what he's able to offer them.

Ficano suspended for 30 days, without pay, his top deputy, Azzam Elder, and lead attorney Marianne Talon. Ficano also fired former Human Resources Director Tim Taylor, who retired in April but who had been doing consulting work since.

In the past, that might have been enough to quell the rancor and get everybody back to their busy days. It might have been the equivalent of the cops yelling, "Nothing to see here!"

Not this time.

Severance-Gate is taking on a life of its own. The newspapers, usually very kind to the County Executive, are suddenly chewing on Ficano like a dog on a rawhide. Now even the residents are getting into the act.

On Monday, several dozen of them protested outside the Guardian Building downtown, which houses County headquarters. They held signs and demanded Ficano's resignation.

It's not enough, this time, for Ficano to blame others for his misdeeds. The rug he is trying to sweep this under is tacked down.

Why, even the "K" word has been bandied about.

“We went through the whole sage of corruption with Kwame Kilpatrick and now we’re thrust into a whole new saga of corruption with Ficano,” Sandra Hines, 57, of Detroit, who led the protest, told the Detroit Free Press. “He needs to step down.”

Yes, that "K" word---or words, rather.

It's going to get worse for the Little Italian General before it gets better.

This is because the FBI is set to get their inquisitive mitts on Severance-Gate.

The Attorney General's office announced on Tuesday afternoon that the FBI (no less) will take over the investigation of the curiously generous ways Ficano's appointees are compensated in Wayne County.

Severance-Gate's tentacles have even reached Lansing.

The decision to have the FBI investigate came after a hearing before the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics committee, which delayed a vote on a request from state Rep. John Olumba, D-Detroit, to have the AG’s office directly investigate Wayne County.

Olumba told reporters that his zeal was challenged by Ficano crony Michael Grundy, who functions as a sort of county whip.

Grundy, according to Olumba, told the legislator that he was "in over his head," and that Olumba ought to consider dropping the entire matter. Grundy denies all that.

Again, in the past, that might have worked.


Ficano trying to explain himself at a recent press conference


But why this, and why now? Why has this particular incident drawn so much ire---from the press to the general public, to certain state lawmakers?

Back to the "K" word, for one explanation.

This town was Kwame weary for quite some time. And because of that, it was also not in the mood to hear of malfeasance from any elected official. There was an unspoken moratorium, it seemed, on going after the political crooks.

That moratorium has been lifted, and in grandiose fashion.

Folks want Ficano's blood---mainly because they feel strongly that Elder, Talon and Taylor are small fish. Or, worse for the Little Italian General, they feel that Ficano is solely responsible for Mullin's ostentatious payout to begin with.

And they would be right.

Does anyone really think that Ficano was betrayed by Elder, Talon and Taylor, as County Commissioner Ilona Varga intimated recently?

It's funny how our leaders always seem to get detached from their duties when it's most convenient.

Ficano is pretending that he was just a clueless boss whose underlings pulled off twisted feats of derring do behind his back.

Then he stuck their heads on sticks and tried to declare Severance-Gate dead.

Not this time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Last Sitcom Standing?

The hair is more gray, the paunch is more pronounced around the belly. The face is a tad more jagged.

But Tim Allen is back on TV, and again he's there to represent---Michigan, that is.

Allen, 58, is the star of the new ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing, where he plays a marketing exec whose nest is filled with women---his wife and daughters. The series premieres tonight.

The show takes place in the Denver area, but Allen's character is a University of Michigan grad.

It's been about 12 years since Allen, who grew up in Birmingham, was last seen on the small screen as do-it-yourself TV host Tim Taylor on Home Improvement.

Since then, movies beckoned (The Santa Clause films, most prominently) and Allen made a mint with just his voice in the Toy Story franchise.

He's also the narrator of the Pure Michigan ad campaign on TV and radio.

It's been over 20 years since Allen first made a name for himself in the entertainment industry, grunting and acting the cave man as he did stand up. His act was centered around the male penchant for power tools. It's how he landed the Home Improvement gig.

Well, that's not quite true. Allen made a name for himself before that, in a twisted way; he was booked on a drug charge back in 1978 in the Kalamazoo area. The '78 mug shot is still just a Google search away.

And today?

"I like doing TV -- I think," Allen told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview. "Compared to movies, which I adore, this is a way I don't have to be on a far-off location and can be close to home, near my 3-year-old. It's a very structured environment, and with this I'm an executive producer so I'm involved in really all aspects of the production -- from the set design, which is something I really like, to the actors I'm working with and script approval. There's a bunch on my plate right now, but it's cool."


Allen as Mike Baxter in ABC's new sitcom, Last Man Standing


Allen is likeable, and on TV that's what sells---whether it's a sitcom or a talk show or anything else that is beamed into people's living rooms. In a business filled with variables and which is susceptible to the onslaught of technology, likeability has remained a constant in terms of whether audiences will watch you or not.

Whether TV viewers will gravitate back to Allen remains to be seen. His wife is played by TV veteran Nancy Travis.

Allen is betting on it. He told the Free Press that he feels viewers---especially the males---are ready for a return to a more "traditional sitcom setting."

If anyone should listen to Tim Allen, it's TV executives, because Allen had Home Improvement humming along from 1991-99, frequently in the Nielsen Top Ten. At the show's peak in 1993-94, over 20 million sets of eyeballs tuned in on Allen as Tim Taylor.

It's 12 years later, but maybe the viewership has come full circle. Lord knows there's enough "reality" TV out there to gag an elephant.

"It's difficult to find something where everyone in the family can watch something together -- but that's what we're trying to do," Allen says of Last Man Standing.

I hope he succeeds. The genre of the sitcom could use a winner.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Genius! (Really)

There are some words that just get overused to the point of losing much of their meaning.

Hero. Role model. Cute.

To name a few.

Oh, and "genius," which I am convinced most of the people who use it couldn't even properly define it for you.

But there are also times when those overused, borderline hackneyed words and phrases are quite apt and can, for that precise moment, be used like a square peg in a square hole.

We lost a genius yesterday.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc. who passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer at age 56, was a genius. He was every bit of one as Edison and Einstein and Fermi.

What is genius, then?

Part of it is affecting people's everyday lives, for the better. Whether you embrace technology or not, you'll sound foolish if you try to argue that Jobs' computer chip-based creations didn't positively impact the vast majority of the people who used them.

Jobs started Apple in his garage, the story famously goes. That's in line with genius, too; so many of our greatest inventors have rags-to-riches, overcoming-the-odds stories to tell.

And, like how Edison wasn't just the guy who invented the light bulb, Jobs can't be known just for Apple Computers and all its bi-products. His reach extended into the world of entertainment through his work with Pixar Studios and his involvement with the Walt Disney Company.


Jobs, in the early-1980s


What else is genius?

It's taking elements that had always been there and making something useful out of it. The computer as Jobs founded it could have been created years or even decades before; the materials were there, for the most part.

But it wasn't.

Genius is also being a visionary and not letting anything get in the way of that vision. It's imagining greatness when all that is before you are boards, chips and a soldering gun.

Genius is having as much of an eye for business as you do for creation.

And genius is anticipating what people 5-10 years from now are going to want, and making sure they have it---and then some.

Genius is someone like Steve Jobs. It's safe to say that we may not see his kind again, because everything from now on is just a continuation of what Jobs started.

No, Edison and Einstein and Fermi have nothing on Steve Jobs.

They all had their time, which is all anyone can ask.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Little Italian General

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

How about, "Fool me over and over"?

Last year I worked for the Wayne County Commission as its press secretary/public information person. For those who don't know, the Commission is the legislative branch of county government---the Congress to the County Executive's President, if you will.

But at least Congress has some degree of a spine.

Many of you might have read of the controversial "severance" check that former Wayne County Director of Development Turkia Mullin received after she left that post to head Metro Airport. Mullin voluntarily left a $200,000 job to take the airport position, which pays $250 K. Not bad.

But upon her leaving, County Executive Bob Ficano handed Mullin a $200,000 check, just for leaving. Quite a parting gift.

The payout was allegedly in line with the terms of Mullin's contract. And, she and Ficano said, it wasn't any different than what her predecessor received when he left as development director.

The smelly "severance" caught the good eye of the Detroit News, which came out with this editorial in Sunday's paper, calling for a review of Ficano's appointees' pay. This was after WXYZ-TV (ch. 7) broke the story, courtesy of bulldog reporter Heather Catallo. I couldn't help but laugh---literally, when I read the News editorial. Just ask my wife.

I laughed because in 2010, while working for the Commission, I all but handed the News and the Detroit Free Press smoking guns of the garish pay of Ficano's appointees, and how many of them are no more than do-nothing cronies.

The newspapers did nothing with the info I provided.

But after WXYZ came out with their story last week, the News felt compelled to chime in on Ficano's generosity when it comes to his appointees.

Ficano's office couldn't even come up with a contract for Mullin despite repeated calls for it, by both the media and the Commission, which must approve all contracts in excess of $50,000.

All that was produced was a one paragraph, undated letter, signed by Ficano, to Mullin. It makes reference to a 12-month severance. It's hardly a contract, by any stretch of the imagination. Mullin didn't even sign it.

The County is about $150 million in debt. It has asked already struggling workers to take anywhere from 10-20 percent pay cuts.

Not only that, but I had proof that some of Ficano's staff received 10 percent pay raises just before accepting a 10 percent cut, thus skirting a pay cut altogether.

You heard me.


The Golden (Parachute) Girl, Turkia Mullin


Yet the newspapers did nothing. Neither did the Commission, really. Which is par for the course.

The "Fool me over and over" sentence at the top of this post is directed at the Commission, by the way.

Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak, in response to Catallo's digging, called for a Committee of the Whole meeting downtown this morning, designed to demand answers from Ficano.

As I suspected he would, Ficano pretty much blew the Commission off, despite pleas from the News in this editorial that appeared today.

Bob read a prepared statement that was laughable.

It read, in part, "I have already launched an internal review of the facts and circumstances that led to this payment. I will put protections in place so that this situation isn't repeated."

BOB!!! There's nothing to launch an internal review ABOUT. You gave Mullin a golden parachute. End of story.

Ficano is speaking as if he's gotta "follow the money," like this is Watergate and he's Bob Woodward, not Bob Ficano.

And as far as "Protections in place"....HA! In other words, "I'll try to control myself next time."

As usual, Ficano served up some slop to the Commission, because he knows he can, because so many of them gobble it up and say, "Please, sir, may I have some more?"

The Wayne County Commission is filled with gutless, principle-less Ficano toadies. So nothing much will come of the Ficano-Mullin thing, especially now that Mullin has agreed to pay the money back.

So what of the News' plea for a good, hard look at the myriad of Ficano appointees who are pulling in $100,000+ in salary doing often phantom jobs? You know, the plea that the paper was unwilling to make when I and others in the Commission's inner circle gift-wrapped the information for them?

Good luck with that. The Wayne County Commission looks the other way so much I'm surprised they don't all have kinks in their necks.

I was asked to leave the Commission in January 2011, though it had nothing to do with job performance. My severance was a "Thanks for everything." At least it didn't cost the taxpayers a dime.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One and Done?

Reports say that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder may not seek a second term if he "completes his agenda" in his first term.

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Two things about this odd statement, which was partially refuted by the governor's communications director, Geralyn Lasher: a) what agenda could possibly cure what's ailing Michigan in just four years; and b) why is Snyder already talking about walking away from the job.

According to Paul Egan's article in today's Detroit News, Snyder said Saturday on Mackinac Island he would be "happy to go fishing, go teach or do something else" if he could complete his agenda in his first term.

This is troubling to me.

Michigan is one of the most economically-depressed states in the country, additionally saddled by a city---Detroit---that is as messed up as it's ever been, whether you're talking schools or jobs or infrastructure or services.

Yes, Detroit has its own leadership that should take care of the city, but it's foolish to think that the governor's effectiveness is in no way tied to the success of Detroit.

So in the face of all this, why in the world is Snyder already talking about wrapping everything up in a neat package and putting a bow on it by 2014?

Lasher, in partially refuting the account of Snyder's Saturday remarks by Michigan Information and Research Service, a Lansing political newsletter, said that the governor only said that he "might" not seek a second term.

Same thing, in my book.

If Rick Snyder bails out after four years, then the citizens of the state ought to be outraged---whether they voted for him or not. Maybe more so if they did vote for him.

There is simply no agenda that can fix what ails Michigan in four years. Which makes Snyder's supposed tape measure of gauging success laughable. Which then, in turn, makes his statement about possibly not seeking a second term almost seem fait accompli.

Lasher said Snyder is "too focused to give much thought to a second term and has never said whether he will seek re-election," according to the News story.

Funny how this notion of Snyder going fishing after four years was never bandied about during his campaign seeking the office, huh?



You think that might have dissuaded some folks from voting for him---if he was considering making this a one and done governorship?

So here Snyder is, not even nine months after taking office, addressing a second term---specifically, whether he's even going to seek one.

Even if you want to say that asking about a second term is premature at this point (and it might be), Snyder's response is still troubling.

Why not simply acknowledge that there's way too much on the plate right now to even consider getting it all done by December 31, 2014? And leave it at that. That would indirectly answer the question of seeking a second term while at the same time reiterating the scope of the job at hand, which is huge.

But to leave the door open---and more than a crack---for him to walk away from the job after one term, Snyder should have his electorate baffled and disillusioned right now.

A voluntary one-term governor isn't what Snyder supporters voted for. As for his opponents, it may seem like good news, but isn't it better to defeat a guy instead of having him go fishing?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Go On Without Me

Well, the kid from Livonia won't be president, after all.

It would have been nice to have my hometown known for something other than being the leading speed trap in the country.

U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Livonia) is dropping out of the presidential race, not that he was really in it to begin with.

McCotter's out because of the big, bad media---to hear him tell it.

McCotter failed to win access to the early GOP debates, which was his death knell.

"If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter told the Detroit News. "It was sort of death by media."

I wrote of McCotter's rather surprising entry into the White House race, when he deemed himself the voice of a new generation of conservatives. I thought at the time that a fellow Livonian becoming president would be pretty cool, though I am far from McCotter's political brethren.

Apparently that new conservative voice of which McCotter fancied himself will now be speaking on behalf of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who McCotter now supports.

"Especially with his business background and in a stagnant economy, he may be the most electable," McCotter said.

McCotter likes Romney rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but said the country isn't ready for another Texas president so soon after President George W. Bush. "He may be a vice presidential nominee," McCotter said.

McCotter serves on the House Financial Services Committee, but he found it difficult to gain traction in the crowded GOP field.

He was denied a spot on the stage during the candidate debates. Fox News refused to include him in tonight's debate from Orlando, even though it allowed former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson a podium for the first time.

That's no way to treat someone from Livonia---who's not a traffic cop writing you a speeding ticket!!

So the only Michigan man who was president will continue to be Jerry Ford, I guess.


McCotter: Bowing out early


I actually love the early portions of a presidential campaign---from the perspective of the party opposite the incumbent's.

I get a kick out of how large the field is, initially, and how it dwindles.

Though I do think the campaigns are too damn long.

Someone in politics once said, "It's easier to run for president than it is to stop running."

But in McCotter's case, I don't know that it was all that hard for him to pull the plug.

According to the News, former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a neighbor to McCotter, said running for president "was (McCotter's) dream. … He tried it out, obviously it wasn't working. And he's doing the rational thing and dropping out."

Often, doing the rational thing isn't always the easiest thing to do, especially when one has such lofty hopes. But McCotter did it, just the same.

Thad McCotter isn't even 50 years old yet. There's still time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cider Mill Rules!

Maybe there's another state in our great nation where you can get a better cider mill experience, but I'll put my good money on Michigan, just the same.

Our family is on the long list of those who count a trip to the mill as an annual tradition. Doubtless there are those who make repeated trips.

I know of few places I'd rather be on a crisp fall Saturday morning than at the mill, eating fresh, warm doughnuts and sipping tart cider, just mashed.

I'm not a big fan of summer being in the rearview mirror, but fall makes me smile---though our falls lately haven't been as pleasurable thanks to excess rain and cold temps.

I like the same things you probably do---the colors, the crisp air, the nighttime bonfires, the FOOTBALL. Even the knowledge that winter is lurking behind autumn doesn't kill it for me.

Ah, but a trip to the cider mill is right up there as to why I enjoy fall.

We usually head up to Yates Cider Mill in Rochester.



I've written before in this space of my mysterious apple allergy that suddenly disappeared a couple years ago. So now I'm able to not only enjoy the cider---which I was always able to drink, despite the allergy---but also the fresh apples in all their tart deliciousness.

It's one of those rites of passage, a trip to the cider mill. The overall experience is just as good, if not better, than the food and drink. And that's pretty good!

There's a stream by the Yates mill, and I always marvel at the ducks bobbing in it, because you know the water is frigid. But that's why they're ducks, I suppose.

You can always spend a few bucks at the mill, because there's hot dogs and sausages and fudge---mmmm, the fudge---and several other apple-related food stuffs for purchase.

But you can also monitor your spending, maybe sticking to a couple bags of doughnuts and a half gallon of cider if funds are precious.

There's also the commute, which for us is straight up Dequindre. That's nice, too---pretty in its colors and with the added charm of a couple roadside fruit and veggie stands.

I imagine we'll venture up to Yates sometime in October, on a purposely picked crisp, sunny Saturday morning.

Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Bad 9/11

September 11 wasn't a great day for Amy Yasbeck, either. Nor for any of us who loved John Ritter---and that's a whole lot of folks.

The September 11 I refer to wasn't the 2001 version, which was horrific. It's the September 11 that occurred two years later.

It was 9/11/03 when we lost Ritter, the actor. And when Yasbeck, also an actor, lost her husband.

Ritter was starring in the successful ABC comedy "8 Simple Rules" when he collapsed on the set and died several hours later, thanks to a leaky aorta. He was 54 years old.

Bio had a special about "Three's Company" the other day---maybe purposely on the 11th because that was the date of Ritter's death eight years ago. The special was a very cool look back on the history of the show, filled with clips and behind-the-scenes info.

It was "Three's Company," of course, that introduced us to Ritter as Jack Tripper, the pretend-gay roommate of blonde bombshell Chrissy Snow and sensible, attractive brunette Janet Wood---played by Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt, respectively.

For eight years on "Three's Company," Ritter stumbled, bumped, smirked and flirted his way around the southern California apartment. It was Somers, actually, who became the biggest star initially (gracing dozens of magazine covers), but after she left following season four due to a contract dispute, it was clear that the reason the show continued to thrive was because audiences loved Ritter.

And what wasn't there to love? Ritter's Tripper was, at the same time, goofy, clumsy, big-hearted, smart and funny.

"Three's Company" was one of the few sitcoms that succeeded almost entirely on the plot device of the bedroom farce. The show's storylines were laced with sexual innuendo and no matter which landlord the three had (Norman Fell/Audra Lindley or Don Knotts), the assumption was always that something naughty was going on behind closed doors, a feeling that was propagated by the dialogue heard from behind those doors.

It was a guilty pleasure of the late-1970s, early-1980s.



But the glue was Ritter, whose flair for physical comedy reminded us old-timers of Dick Van Dyke, with the pratfalls and funny facial expressions.

Ritter wasn't particularly tall, and so he didn't have the long legs that work so well in physical comedy, a la Van Dyke, Chevy Chase and John Cleese, but he was limber and talented.

It wasn't until after "Three's Company," when Ritter began branching out, that we saw how gifted he was as an actor, period. He could do drama, we found out. He could do a love story. He could play a bad guy.

But there was something comforting about seeing Ritter return to his comedic roots when he returned to TV with "8 Simple Rules," about a sportswriter who had written a book, "8 Simple Rules to Date My Teenage Daughter." The book, written by Bruce Cameron, was real. The show took place in metro Detroit.

The show was becoming a hit and had just started its second season when Ritter took ill and died.

His widow, Yasbeck, sued, claiming that Ritter's condition was improperly diagnosed in the crucial, initial moments of his taking ill. According to Wikipedia, "several of the defendants have settled out of court for a total of $14 million, including Providence St. Joseph, which settled for $9.4 million. On March 14, 2008, a jury split 9-3 in favor of the doctors, clearing the physicians of any wrongdoing."

Yasbeck's birthday is September 12---they day after her husband died.

In the Bio special, Fred Silverman, the longtime TV executive who first brought "Three's Company" to the screen, lamented that Ritter's untimely death robbed us of someone who really could have been great.

He's right.

As terrific as John Ritter was, at age 54 he should have had a couple decades more left in him to entertain us, cutting across all genres.

That would have been great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Winner Is....US!

Now, why didn't someone think of this years ago?

Earlier this year I crabbed about the woeful mismatch of Anne Hathaway and James Franco as co-hosts of the Oscars. They had no chemistry with each other, and the two of them combined still couldn't make enough of a host to keep from being overwhelmed by Oscar's duties.

There won't be such a dilemma next year, for Eddie Murphy is riding to the rescue.

Yes, Oscar has wised up and tabbed actor/comedian Murphy to escort us through Oscar's interminable broadcast in 2012.

This should be a great pick. It's Steve Martin-esque, and I wonder why they haven't invited Steverino back, come to think of it.

Oscar's telecast needs someone to wink at the industry, not blatantly mock it. Hathaway and Franco tried too hard. Rather, they were given ridiculous material with which to work. But then again, neither of them had the chops to make it palatable.

Murphy, like Martin and Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson and Bob Hope---all great hosts of Oscars telecasts of the past---is a veteran industry insider who's had us laughing and who we've laughed at. Having a stinker or two on your resume ought not eliminate you from contention; instead, it should make you more endearing.

That was another bad thing about Hathaway and Franco (sorry to pick on them but...); they were too damn young. It was like having Justin Bieber hosting the Grammys.

Murphy, with his smart wit, light-up-the-room smile and stand-up comedy experience, has all the goods to knock it out of the park next year on Oscar Night.



Brett Ratner, who will produce the 84th Academy Awards show along with Don Mischer, called Murphy "a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever."

"With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances -- especially on stage -- I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February," Ratner said.

Well said. In fact, Murphy makes so much sense, it's dumbfounding that he hadn't been considered until now.

The hiring of Eddie Murphy has added appropriateness.

Who better to host Oscar's notoriously long telecast than someone who starred in a film called "48 Hours"?

GUMBY, dammit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Senior Moment

A less scrupulous parent might encourage his daughter to drop out of high school before her senior year. Or a poor one.

I'm about to be the latter, because I'm not the former.

Confused? Sorry.

Our daughter is entering her senior year of high school, or as it's otherwise known to parents, The Shakedown.

The schools have us senior parents between a rock and a hard place, and don't think they don't know it.

My wife registered our daughter this morning for the school year, and being a senior is not only a very special year, it's also very expensive.

There are the senior photos, of course. Those were taken this summer and while the proofs are absolutely beautiful, the packages begin at over $500.



I graduated high school in 1981, and I remember making a very understated trip to the Olan Mills studio in Livonia in the summer of 1980 with my polyester, three-piece suit and a comb.

We snapped a few head shots and I was probably on my way back home within the hour, at most.

Today, the poses are multiple, there are more wardrobe changes than a Lady Gaga concert, and there are so many good proofs you have no idea how you're going to whittle them down. Hence the large and expensive packages for such undecided parents.

Then there's the yearbook and the hoodies and sweats and the senior dinner and the all-night party. We also have to pay for the cap and gown, don't you know. Cha-ching!

The all-night party, by the way, runs $80 a head. I have no idea what the kids get for $80 a head, but it ought to involve the aforementioned Lady Gaga concert! As in, Lady Gaga herself shows up and performs.

By contrast, the senior dinner is only $10 a person. I'd like to know what makes the all-night party eight times more expensive than the senior dinner. Come to think of it, I'd rather not know.

We've already purchased must-haves like the class ring and our daughter's varsity jacket. That was last year. Thank goodness those are out of the way.

Eventually there will be graduation announcements that need to be selected and paid for. My wife made the analogy that having a senior is like having a daughter who is someone's fiancee. Because the whole thing takes on a wedding planning-like aura.

I know it was 30 years ago, but I don't recall all this...stuff going on during senior year.

If our daughter reads this, I would remind her that daddy isn't really complaining. I'm proud and happy for you, sweetie. This truly is a special time.

Just as long as you don't mind eating Kraft Mac and Cheese three nights a week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beetle Mania

The VW bug I remember was baby blue, had the engine in the rear, and there were subway car-like straps hanging from the roof over the back seats.

I loved the logo (still do)---the "V" perched on top of the "W" inside a circle; the word "Volkswagen" on a diagonal over the back hatch, which hid the engine.

This was circa 1970-72. I was a young child and the baby blue VW Beetle was the first car my parents possessed of which I have vivid memories.

I used to sit in the car as a youngster, in the driver's seat, and pretend I was driving on the open road. I would play with the "controls," as I called them---the dials of the radio, pushing the cigarette lighter in (don't worry; it didn't get hot because the car was turned off), fiddling with the vent and heat knobs, etc.

I was stationary in our driveway, but in my imaginative mind, I was cruising along at 45 MPH, switching lanes and making turns. I would pretend to drive to locations I was familiar with: the local Big Boy, the gas station, the supermarket.

Then they stopped making VW Beetles in this country and you pretty much didn't see them on the road for years.

Now they appear to have made quite a comeback.



The "new" Beetle I've been seeing on the road lately (top) and a version similar to what my parents had in the early-1970s (above)


I am seeing the "new" Beetles on the road more and more lately, and that's a good thing.

There's something about the rounded bug, hugging the pavement with its compact little body, tooling around town, that makes me smile. Sometimes, wistfully.

The car reminds me a lot of the baby blue version we had in my days as a Livonia lad. I can still see it parked in my mother's driveway (she still lives in the house where I grew up).

Of course, I thought the notion of a car with its "trunk" in the front and the engine in the back was pretty cool. Not sure that it was all that good for safety, but there you have it.

In the past several months, there has been an absolute influx of Beetles on the road. I'm convinced of it. I see them in all sorts of colors, too.

There was a time when I thought the idea of ever seeing VW Beetles on American roads again was pure fantasy. Now they're all over the place---at least in Metro Detroit, where I live, work and play.

Plus, they're just so gosh darn cute.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Size DOESN'T Matter

When we first saw Danny DeVito, he was behind a cage, his face poking out over a counter.

Despite his small stature, it soon became evident that you couldn't keep DeVito caged forever.

DeVito, 66, filled our living rooms with his bitter venom as Louie De Palma in ABC's "Taxi," starting way back in 1978. His role as the taxi company's boss and dispatcher, pacing behind his caged pen as he spewed words of anger, frustration and exasperation with his employees, made De Palma one of the best-known characters on TV. Not the most well-liked, but one of the best-known.

DeVito was so good as De Palma that it was easy to think he was a mouthy little runt in real life.

Turns out he was a pretty nice guy---and a terrific actor, to boot. And producer. And director. And comedian.

Today, finally---after dozens of his lesser-deserving colleagues received them---DeVito was honored with the 2,445th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The ceremony was held in connection with the Sept. 13 release of the DVD of the sixth season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," the FX comedy in which DeVito co-stars as the ne'er-do-well co-owner of a Philadelphia bar.

DeVito's come a long way since his days as a cosmetician. You heard me.

That was DeVito's first job out of high school, back in 1962 in New Jersey (where else?). He worked there because his sister owned the salon.

A year later, he enrolled at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts so he could learn more about cosmetology. While at the academy, he fell in love with acting and decided to pursue a career in it.

The career choice didn't exactly pay instant dividends.

His first paying gig was for $60 a week in a one-act play. And this was after years of unemployment.

DeVito scrounged for work in off-Broadway productions before landing a high-profile role in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," playing a delusional mental patient named Anthony Martini. He reprised the role in 1975's movie version, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Next was an Emmy Award for his "Taxi" role of De Palma in 1981.


DeVito as Louie De Palma in "Taxi" (1978-83)


You pretty much know the rest; DeVito has been on the small and large screen ever since, often playing the same type of character but in different ways. In some roles, he's almost gotten you to feel sorry for him because there was some soft-heartedness behind the crackly exterior, but thankfully DeVito would eventually remind us why his character was to be detested.

It was way more fun to laugh at and get angry with DeVito's characters than it was to embrace them.

As a director, DeVito helmed "Throw Momma from the Train"; "The War of the Roses"; "Hoffa"; "Matilda"; "Death to Smoochy"; and "Duplex."

Not all hits among that list, but enough of a body of work to be relevant and keep him in the loop of working directors for a time.

The producing credits are even more impressive: the Academy's Best Picture nominee "Erin Brockovich"; "Pulp Fiction"; "Get Shorty"; "Man on the Moon"; "Gattaca" and "Garden State."

DeVito has been a success away from the business, as well, remaining married to actress Rhea Perlman since 1982, and raising three kids with her.

It wasn't until today's news that I realized Danny DeVito didn't have a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame. Considering some of those who've been honored in the past, I'd say someone missed the boat---several times---on this one.

"I'll tell you one thing," DeVito once said, "it's a cruel, cruel world."

But today it was very nice to Danny DeVito.

About time.




















Friday, August 12, 2011

Drawn and Quartered

Fifty cents to add sweetener to iced tea. Thirty cents for extra sauce on a Big Mac.

We aren't being "nickeled and dimed" anymore; we're being quartered---and drawn.

The two examples above happened to my family recently. Our daughter wanted a sweetened iced tea at Starbucks and it cost us four bits. A couple days later my wife asked for some extra "special" sauce at Mickey D's on her Big Mac and the tab was three dimes.

The markup on some sweetener for a 12-oz. glass of iced tea, at 50 cents per, must be a gazillion percent. Same with 30 cents for another splat of sauce on a hamburger.



Again, these are only two examples. Lord knows how many more there are, of food and drink establishments gouging us for "extras."

It's a lose/lose proposition, in my book. The asking price should be negligible, like a nickel. But then, when you ask for a nickel for something, you look petty (probably because you are).

The answer?

FREE!

Why not?

How many people ask for extra sauce on their Big Mac? I don't expect you to know that number, and I certainly don't. Yes, McDonald's is a HUGE enterprise, and if you added together all the people who asked for extra sauce in any given day, I'm sure the amount would stagger me.

But how much does an extra splat of sauce, truly, cost McDonald's?

It HAS to be calculated in pennies, or even in fractions of pennies.

I know---even fractions of pennies, times the amount of people, could be a lot.

It's more of a PR thing.

Thirty cents for extra sauce on a Big Mac just seems too expensive. It seems like gouging. Same with 50 cents for some sweetener.

Despite the possible pettiness, I say drop the sauce price to a dime. I'll bet fewer would be disdainful of the pettiness of asking for a dime than they would for the gouginess of 30 cents.

How about you? If you've come across ridiculous fees and charges for trivial requests, let me know, either by e-mail or by commenting below.

I wanna hear your two cents' worth. Unless that's up to a quarter now, too.