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?


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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Check out the New Hansons Windows Blog!!

Self-promotion time---sort of.

I've added a new link to the Blogroll---the official, re-launched blog from my employer, Hansons Windows and Siding.

But it's not what you think, I don't think.

Yes, there will be articles about home improvement and tips about how to maintain your home, but there are also going to be human interest pieces like the one from August 8, which tells of 98-year-old Keiko Fukuda, who recently became the first woman (and fourth person overall) to achieve the rank of tenth-degree black belt, in Judo.

We'll also blend in some guest bloggers to pontificate, some of whom will have instantaneous name recognition.

So drop on by and check it out!

A Sexual Drive-By

There's an old one-liner, culled from back in the day.

"I'm against too much sex on television," it goes.

"I mean, I keep falling off!"


Last night I saw too much sex on television---this time, I mean spewing forth from my 50" screen in my living room.

I'm talking real, unadulterated sex. Not pretend sex, not inferred sex. Not fictitious sex.

On ABC, no less.

It was a shade past 10:00 last night and the family and I happened upon "Bachelor Pad," an amalgam of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." It was the first time we'd ever seen "Pad."

Apparently, "Pad" brings back contestants of the other two "seeking partner" shows and throws them together in yet another dating bunker hole, from which they must scratch and claw to find
"love"---and the $250,000 grand prize, which might be the greater of the two incentives.

On last night's episode, everything was going along in typical "reality" show fashion (cutaways to contestants talking individually into the camera about each other, etc) when suddenly a dark turn was taken.

The first indicator that something bad was about to happen was when we were shown grainy footage. Nothing screams "crime or something shocking about to happen" more than grainy footage from a hidden camera.

Sure enough, a female contestant enters the room where the camera is hidden at a high angle. She begins to disrobe. The camera zooms out to reveal that she is doing so by a bed, which is occupied by a man who, seconds earlier, was revealed to us as clearly being her "boyfriend."

The show then cut back to the girl talking on camera about what was going on in the bunker hole/mansion. Then it cut back to the grainy footage. This happened several times, and each time it did, the man and woman were in deeper throes of "passion."

Their squirming under the covers was easily deciphered, as was the French kissing.

These folks were doing the nasty, on prime time TV. On network television.

Our 18-year-old daughter was watching with us, which added to the discomfort in our front room.

The escalating passion shown by the grainy footage was uncomfortable at best and disgusting at worst.

The sheet and blanket did a poor job of masking the grinding that was going on beneath them.

Does the FCC even exist anymore? Where are the network censors?

What's worse, the footage added nothing, really, to the show. Look, we got it: SHE "loves" HIM. She said so, because her microphone caught her whispering, "I want to have your children" into his ear, moments before she was shown stripping and joining him in bed.

So we didn't need to see her "proving" that love with passionate wrestling under the sheets.

In an instant, we went from curiously checking out a show on ABC to being a jazz soundtrack and coin dispenser away from hotel room porn.

Shame on you, ABC. Here's hoping you get fined for last night's display. I'll gladly put a coin dispenser in my front room for that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Billy Goes Radio Ga-Ga

Bill Bonds is about to get top billing, once again.

Consider yourself warned. The 78-year-old iconic newscaster, who has been the news almost as much as he's reported it, is teaming with another TV news vet in Detroit, Rich Fisher, and they're going to take radio by storm.

Well, maybe not by storm; let's shoot for by shower.

Bonds and Fisher will co-host, appropriately, "Bonds and Fisher," which will be an afternoon radio show on WCAR-AM (1090), the Little Station That Could. The gig starts on WCAR's 250-watt signal on October 3.

Neal Rubin, over at the Detroit News, gives a much more detailed version of how this all came to be in his column which ran today.

WCAR's station manager, the 33 year-old Sima Birach, Jr., wined and dined Bonds and got Billy to sign a makeshift contract on a cocktail napkin, according to Rubin's account. Hold the jokes about whether there was much more wining than dining. I know what you're thinking.

Birach told Bonds, "I grew up watching you," to which Bonds replied, "How did you like the way I covered the Civil War?"

Oh, that Billy!

Apparently, "Bonds and Fisher" won't be a show that will require cotton in the ears. Birach promises easy banter and discussion on topical issues between two old co-workers of channel 7's heyday.

Here's Bonds on Bonds, as told to Rubin: "My mind still works pretty well, the baby blues are still relatively blue, and the voice isn't bad."

Not sure about the voice. A year or so ago, channel 7 brought Bonds and John Kelly back to co-anchor an 11:00 newscast and Billy sounded a little rough around the edges.

So we'll see how Bonds handles the new radio show, which is set to run Monday thru Friday afternoons.

"Bonds & Fisher" will debut on October 3 on WCAR-AM (1090)

It was longtime friend Fisher who suggested Bonds to Birach, and the young station manager went to work courting a man who was 45 years old and who owned Detroit TV news when Birach was in diapers.

If nothing else, Birach is aggressive and has a vision.

"I'm surprised nobody else has tried this sooner," he says. "I don't care for the under-35 demographic. I want 45-to-75, on up.

"As an advertiser, who do you want to reach — a 25-year-old saving for a pair of sneakers, or a 70-year-old who can spend $300 for dinner?"

I wonder what Birach spent on dinner the night he got Billy Bonds to sign on the dotted line---of a cocktail napkin.

How appropriate, when you think about it.

Sorry---I couldn't resist.