Showing posts from 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…

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.


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 i…

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.

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, li…

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.


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-m…

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 i…

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 m…

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 …

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 An…

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 Demo…

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 th…

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 t…

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…

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 dow…

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 u…

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 …

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 …

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 th…

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…

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 m…

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, attra…

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 gr…

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 mo…

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 …

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 S…

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?


Why not?

How many peop…