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Showing posts from 2012

Doctor, Conspirator?

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His name really was Mudd.

Today is the 179th birthday of the most vilified doctor this side of Mike Myers' Dr. Evil.

Samuel Mudd was born on December 20, 1833. Before his 32nd birthday, he was a convicted felon.

With the rebirth of Abraham Lincoln in our social consciousness (they even made a movie where Abe isn't a vampire hunter), now is a good time to remember Dr. Mudd, who was convicted along with several others for conspiring to kill the president in 1865.

Justice moved a lot quicker in those days, for good and for bad. The president was assassinated on April 14, 1865 (he died in the wee hours of the 15th). Less than a month later, Mudd and his co-defendants were on trial. By the end of June, Mudd was convicted along with the others.

It was Mudd's prior acquaintance with assassin John Wilkes Booth that planted the seeds of conspiracy.

Mudd first met Booth, history says, in November 1864 in a church in Bryantown, MD. Booth used a guise of a real estate hunt as an excus…

Let's Get Serious

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It's another of the talking points pushed by the gun camp, symbolically accompanied by the throwing up of hands in the air.

"If you ban guns, only criminals will have guns."

First, I am not in favor of banning guns. I fully believe in the Second Amendment to the degree that folks should have the right to protect their castles---even if deadly force is required.

I do, however, believe that reasonable, responsible gun owners can darn well protect themselves---and their homes and their families---with weapons that aren't designed to mow dozens of people down in minutes.

But here's the thing. These mass shootings that are being committed nowadays aren't being committed by criminals. In fact, many times the perpetrator has no previous criminal record. Not even a parking ticket.

Like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old monster who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.

Lanza had no criminal record.

Neither did the shooter in the recent mall incident in Oregon. Same …

Undercooked Rice

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Susan Rice tried to take one for the team, but she put it behind the eight-ball instead.

Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, today yanked herself out of the running (that she presumably was in) to be the replacement for the retiring Hillary Clinton as President Obama's next Secretary of State.

In a letter to the president, Rice wrote, in part, "the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly -- to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country."

The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. And Rice just paved another one with her premature bailing on the president.

If you believe the conspiracy theories---and this one seems to have some merit---the GOP assault on Rice's competence to be SOS, which was odd in of itself for its "jumping the gun" nature, is part of a scheme to bring Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to the fore as Clinton's succ…

Deli Advertising

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The sandwich board is making a comeback.

I'm not talking about literal sandwiches here, like the kind you eat.

I'm talking the term often used for the signs those poor folks are holding or wearing these days, hawking a variety of retail outlets, from cell phone stores to oil change places.

The sandwich board was so named because of its original incarnation, which was usually two pieces of wood, connected with rope or twine, which the wearer would sling over his shoulders, advertising on the front and back, creating a sort of human "sandwich."

The sandwich boards started showing up in earnest in the late-1920s and early-1930s, which were, not coincidentally, the days of the Great Depression. But in those days, often the human sandwich was promoting himself, not any company.

The sandwich board is back, but in a more streamlined fashion. It used to be that the only businesses in recent years who commissioned people to stand on the curb and wave people in, holding a sign…

From Zero to 60---In His Grave

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One of the greatest ironies these days is that if you're off to Lansing via car, chances are you just might have to travel on the Reuther Freeway, aka I-696, for a portion of that trip.

That would be the Reuther, as named after Michigan labor pioneer Walter P. Reuther. The same Reuther who is spinning in his grave right about now with great centrifugal force.

If only Ford Motor Company had acquiesced to organized labor back in the late-1930s as quickly as the Michigan Legislature ramrodded the first stage of the so-called "right to work" bill through session yesterday.

Reuther, eventual head of the UAW, paid for his union organizing efforts physically, at the famous Battle of the Overpass at the River Rouge plant, in 1937, when he and Richard Frankensteen were beaten severely by henchmen hired by Ford. The auto company was unhappy about Reuther and his fellow organizers handing out pro-union leaflets along the overpass.

So what would Reuther, and other labor organizers a…

Shameless Plug: Basketball Bones

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It's HERE and ready to ship in time for Christmas!

Basketball Bones, the little basketball game that could, the one invented in my basement in the summer of 2008, is now available IN PRINT with dice, cards, charts, the whole shot! Check it out at the PT Games online store! Thanks again to Tim Plum for helping me realize this dream!! Complete game with 4 sample teams just $32, postage paid. 2011-12 season card set (over 500 players rated) just $55. Great Christmas gift! Ages 12 and up!

More on the game:

The basketball game is tied with less than 30 seconds to play. Just about everyone in the building expects the superstar scorer from the visiting team to get the ball in his hands to take the potential game-winning shot.  Everyone is standing—fans and players alike. Chants of “DEE-FENSE…DEE-FENSE” rock the arena.The clock ticks down. But the superstar doesn’t get the basketball. His teammates are unable to get it to him, thanks to great ball denial by the home team. The fans ar…

Cult Politics

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I have this crazy, mixed up thought that the politicians we elect are supposed to represent those of us who elected them.

Yet there is one man who has a Svengali-like hold on the Republican wing of Congress, a hold that I'm not sure is disturbing, annoying, reprehensible or all of the above.

His name is Grover Norquist, and apparently Grover's interests and marching orders trump those of the electorate when it comes to the GOP members of Congress.

Norquist, back in 1985, started Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), apparently at the behest of President Ronald Reagan. Norquist has never held political office, nor has ever run for so much as city councilman. Yet he has somehow managed to convince dozens of Congressmen (and women) to be his lapdogs.

Norquist is the originator of The Pledge, which holds to the fire the feet of every member of Congress (and Senate) who has taken it. It's a pledge to never raise taxes, under any circumstances.

From Norquist's Wiki page: Prior to …

Holy Bidding, Batman!!

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It was one of the coolest things I ever saw on television, and I was just a wee lad of four years old.

Oh, how I loved to watch the Batmobile in the Adam West-ravaged, 1960s TV series, "Batman," leave the Bat Cave.

First, there was the firing of the ignition, which always included the stock shot of flames shooting from the Batmobile's exhaust. That was cool, too.

But there was something about the black, souped-up 1955 Lincoln Futura zooming from the cave that captivated me.

That's because there was this small guard rail that would flip down, enabling the Batmobile to pass through. THAT was the coolest thing.

Some things just grab us and don't let go, particularly from our youth.

There was something about that guard rail flipping down that I thought was just so awesome in its simple auspiciousness.

That image comes to mind as I read that the Batmobile is going up for auction. It'll happen on January 19, 2013, at the Barrett-Jackson auction house in Scottsdale,…

Two Minus a Half Men

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I'm not sure which is more troubling---that Angus T. Jones has come out against his own show, "Two and a Half Men," as being "filth," or that it took the young man so many years to come to that conclusion.

Jones, 19, who has been part of the one-joke show for its entire nine-year run, blasted "Men" in a video recorded in October but that has just recently popped up on YouTube.

Appearing with a mostly shaved head and looking like either a hostage or a cult member, Jones says to the camera, "I'm on 'Two and a Half Men' and I don't want to be on it...Please stop watching it and filling your head with filth," Jones adds. "Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you'll have a decision to make when it comes to television and especially with what you watch on television."

Thanks for the advice, Angus, but I don't think you need to do much research to come to the conclusion tha…

The Question Is...(Beats Me)

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When I first started watching "Jeopardy," the dollar values were $10-50 for the first round and $20-100 for Double Jeopardy. The answers were revealed by stagehands pulling cards backstage. The only lights were the ones illuminating the stage. Don Pardo was the show announcer. Art Fleming was the host, and he didn't have all sorts of foreign words to over-pronounce. No one won trips or tens of thousands of dollars. The categories included such as "Potent Potables" and "Potpourri."

But the game was still damned hard to play, and needed legitimate intellect in order to succeed. "Jeopardy" was never about spinning wheels or drawing cards or shouting "Big Money! Big Money!" or "No Whammies!" It was never about dumb luck or bouncing up and down on stage like a contestant on "Let's Make a Deal."

"Jeopardy" is the one game show that can make me feel intellectually bankrupt. Yet it's that very feeling …

Replacing the Cloak

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The Sesame Street Muppets have become such a part of our social consciousness that I don't think any of us really stop to think that the Muppets aren't living, breathing creatures---we must remember that they're puppets, controlled and voiced by living, breathing humans.

Humans, as in imperfect beings.

The face of Elmo, one of the more popular Muppets, was ripped off in a shocking and vile manner recently, revealing that its puppeteer, Kevin Clash, has been allegedly involved, in the past, with some hanky panky with at least one underage youth.

Two accusers came out against Clash, who is openly gay. The first recanted, saying that the relationship was consensual and legal (age-wise). But then a second accuser surfaced, and this one says that he and Clash became involved when the former was just 15 years old.

The second accuser has slapped Clash with a $5 million lawsuit, claiming he (the accuser) had only recently become aware of "adverse psychological and emotional e…

Frankly, Scarlett...

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So did you hear about the Cleveland woman who had to stand on a busy street corner and hold up a sign that says "Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus"?

To recap: 32-year-old Shena Hardin was caught by surveillance camera, driving her car on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus that was loading and unloading children. Her sentence, as handed down by a Municipal Court Judge, was to hold the sign for one hour each on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, in 34-degree weather and in full view of rush hour drivers. 

Hardin also had her license suspended for 30 days and she was ordered to pay $250 in court costs.

Apparently, Hardin was the victim of a good old-fashioned sting, put on by the bus driver, because the incident in which she was caught by the camera was not the first time she had driven recklessly in order to avoid waiting for the kids to get on and off the school bus.


Shena Hardin serves her sentence


Whether you agree with Hardin's "Scarlet Letter&q…

E-affairs

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Sex, lies and...e-mail?

Videotapes are so passe. And who has a VCR player anymore, anyway?

E-mail (and its evil spawn, texting) is the smoking gun of the 21st century, when it comes to catching those engaging in extramarital affairs. And it seems no matter how powerful and how high up the food chain you are, you're not impervious to its tentacles.

Witness what's happening at the CIA and the Pentagon these days.

First, General David Petraeus (rhymes with Betray Us) was busted, and subsequently resigned his post as Director of the CIA, for engaging in hanky panky with a mistress, much of it via e-mail.

Now the military's top man in Afghanistan, General John Allen, might be in the same kind of mess. E-mails, once again, are being scrutinized.

It's a sort of love triangle, with Petraeus's mistress allegedly sending threatening e-mails to the woman who Allen has been allegedly fooling around with.

As The Pentagon Turns.


Gen. David Petraeus

This, of course, is unbecoming …

A Time to Heal, Compromise

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OK, so you're Barack Obama. You woke up Wednesday morning having been re-elected as President of the United States.

But over 57 million people voted for the other guy---almost half the electorate.

It's a sobering thought, or should be, as Mr. Obama starts Term II.

This was among the most bitter, divisive and nasty presidential campaigns in recent memory. Maybe ever.

You can blame Social Media for that. But more about that in a second.

Obama is president of everyone, of course (not just 47 percent), but knowing that about half the people don't want you in the Oval Office certainly should have a bearing on how you govern, no matter if you feel that your agenda and ideology are right, and theirs isn't.

But it's also a great time for compromise and reaching across the aisle, because no longer can Obama's detractors in Washington rally around their flag of making him a one term president. That ship has sailed, though not necessarily with breakneck speed, given how c…

National Disasters

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Fat Bob Taylor is still the best National Anthem singer I have ever heard. And he's been gone for 17 years now.

I will tip my cap to the late Whitney Houston, whose stirring rendition at a Super Bowl is, without question, the best one-time effort on record. It beats out Marvin Gaye's version at the 1984 NBA All-Star Game, not long before he was tragically killed by his own father.

But Fat Bob was the best anthem singer, pound-for-pound, and I'm not making weight jokes here.

Taylor would show up at Tiger Stadium, but not every night. Just on the big nights, like the old Shrine Night or Polish-American Night. Or playoff games. Or whenever there was likely to be a big crowd and the Tigers invited Fat Bob to Michigan and Trumbull.

Taylor would stand in front of home plate, with stiff posture, a mike stand before him. His arms at his sides, the bearded man with the jet black hair would then boom out the National Anthem and you'd get chills.

Even as a youngster, I could appr…

Extortion for Fun

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I was never a Halloween guy, as a kid. I could take it or leave it as a youngster. Too much effort, I suppose.

I never knew what I was going to dress up like, or even if I was going to go door-to-door at all, until sometimes hours before sundown on October 31.

One year, I recall, I was particularly tardy with my decision. I was planning on staying in, passing out candy, when I got a phone call from a friend. It was dusk, at the very least, when the phone rang in our Livonia home.

"You going baggin'?" was the question. It was my friend, Bob Bernard, who lived a couple blocks away and who I never had gone Trick or Treating with prior to that year. I still don't know what prompted the call. It wasn't that Bob and I weren't friends; we just weren't very close. Certainly not "baggin'" close. Or so I thought.

I initially rebuffed his request, but he pressed me.

"I don't have a costume," I pleaded. It fell on deaf ears.

I hung up, scr…

Bye, George

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Was George McGovern the worst presidential candidate to come from the two major parties, in history?

You could make a case for it. 
Not that any Democrat would have defeated Dick Nixon in 1972, all of the president's dirty tricks notwithstanding. 
Yet somehow McGovern, the senator from South Dakota who passed away last week, became the Democrat nominee in '72, when there were better and more appealing men available.
It wasn't just that McGovern was more left than a freeway's fast lane shoulder. The times were kinda, sorta, right for a left-winger such as McGovern to run for president. There was the Vietnam War, for one; McGovern was a famous opposer of the war. 
But the Democrats didn't need to go so left of center to have a shot against Nixon, even with the war raging on. 
Part of the blame could be laid at the feet of Lyndon Johnson.
It was LBJ who shocked the nation by not seeking re-election in 1968, after pretty much trouncing the hawk Barry Goldwater in 1964.…

On the Record

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There's an episode in one of my favorite TV comedy series of all time, Everybody Loves Raymond, where Ray Barone's dad, Frank, chastises his son for ruining (accidentally) dad's jazz album collection when Raymond was a youngster. Seems Ray moved the albums to make room for his new Hot Wheels car track, received for Christmas. Unfortunately, Raymond moved the albums next to the furnace. You can imagine what happened to them.

So Ray tries to make up for the lost music by replacing as many of the albums as he can, with CD versions. He professes to have visited a bunch of independent music stores in his effort to replace the albums.

Frank is skeptical of the discs and won't even listen to them, which frustrates Raymond. Finally, Raymond basically forces his dad to listen to the discs by having them in a portable CD player, ready to go, when his parents return from a shopping trip. They enter the home, Raymond hits the remote button, and the jazz fills the house, loudly.

Bu…

Boss Romney

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Leave it to an old Wayne State guy to cut to the chase.

James Lipton, who's so much more than just the host of Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio," was on Chris Matthews' MSNBC show last night. And the former Wayne State attendee (he received an honorary doctorate from WSU in 2002) boiled the presidential election down to this.

"The choice is clear," Lipton said. "Do you want a president, or a boss?"

Lipton was asked to give his impressions of the performances of Mitt Romney and President Obama at Tuesday's debate, from the perspective of someone who is very used to critiquing on-screen, on-stage bits.

Lipton felt that Romney was every bit the CEO and Obama every bit the statesman.

"Romney is that boss who tells bad jokes to his employees and waits for everyone to laugh," Lipton said. And, "He's very used to getting his way."

Lipton thought that Romney was less-than-deferential to the president, particularly when Rom…

Just Marie

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The cake would hold 53 candles if it could, or if the recipient would allow it.

The say there's a light on Broadway for every broken heart. In Marie Osmond's case, there might be a candle on her birthday cake for every heartache.

Not literally, of course. Marie, the kewpie doll, only girl of the Osmond entertainment clan, turns 53 tomorrow. She hasn't had 53 heartaches, though sometimes it has seemed like it.

An entertainer entertains. Period. It's what they do. The show must go on and all that rot. Marie Osmond is a shining example of that adage.

It hasn't always been easy to keep smiling and keep knocking them dead on stage for Osmond, who's back on the airwaves with Marie, a variety show that debuted October 1 on the Hallmark Channel.

You can't keep a good girl down.

You can say the odds were always with her. And you can also say that the odds were always against her. Depends on how you look at it.

For being the only girl among a gaggle of boys, in a fam…

Clara, Meet Big Bird

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Clara Peller was a retired manicurist who found fame after the age of 80, in early 1984, when she barked out three words that became a national catch phrase. Then the phenomenon dovetailed into the 1984 presidential campaign, and Clara enjoyed a new wave of popularity.

You never know who will be plucked from obscurity or the recesses of our consciousness when it's an election year.

In 1984 it was Peller, who famously and angrily asked, "Where's the beef?' in a Wendy's commercial mocking competitors who rely on big buns and not-so-big hamburger patties.

It didn't take long before we were all saying, "Where's the beef?" in a variety of situations. It started on TV, of course, and then filtered its way to the water coolers and barber shops.

The commercial hit the airwaves in January, 1984 and a few months later it got a second jolt of awareness when, in the Democratic presidential primaries, Walter Mondale used the catch phrase as a way of attacking…

Nobama

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The clothes had no emperor---or president.

It was a vanishing act of the most extreme. Someone start rolling milk cartons off the presses with the president's mug on them.

"Have you seen me?"

Mitt Romney is a magician. He walked on stage at the University of Denver last night, opened his mouth, and made Barack Obama disappear.

Obama, for his part, did some "Abracadabra" of his own---by making Romney's baggage go away, just like that. Someone check back stage for an albatross slithering away, freed from Romney's neck.

Last night's presidential debate was made out to be Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner, redux. The challenger didn't have a chance to touch the champ, right? Obama was going to wipe the floor with the former Massachusetts governor.

But unlike the Ali-Wepner bout, which featured the overmatched challenger Wepner hanging tough by showing he could take the pounding of a lifetime from champion Ali, it was the champ/president who entered the …

The Voice(s) of Treason?

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The good news about Seth MacFarlane as the host of the Oscars telecast is that the producers can save a ton of money.

MacFarlane, he of many voices and characters, isn't just one man. He's his own talent pool. He's an R-rated Mel Blanc.

It was announced Monday that MacFarlane, creator of the popular animated TV series "Family Guy," and the source for many of the show's voices, will host the 2013 Oscars telecast.

Who needs Steve Martin or Billy Crystal? They're one trick ponies (or, one pony each, anyway), while MacFarlane will never run out of voices and characters, not even during Oscar's sometimes interminable telecasts.

MacFarlane doesn't just do voices. He does TV shows---as in he produces them. Besides "Family Guy," MacFarlane has his fingers in the pies of "American Dad!" and "The Cleveland Show" (all animated).

The hiring of MacFarlane signals an attempt by Oscars producers to go after a younger, more hip demog…

Oh, Snap!

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It's one of the best snapshots taken of Jimmy Hoffa. The photographer was the legendary Tony Spina, the longtime shutterbug for the Detroit Free Press, and when Spina got behind the camera, iconic portraits often happened.

It was Spina who captured Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of the more enduring photos of the late civil rights leader's life---taken before King was to speak before a crowd at a Grosse Pointe High School. Spina caught King, perhaps in prayer, but certainly reflective, clasped hands near his chin.


Dr. King, as seen through the lens of Tony Spina

And there's the photo of Hoffa, with the ex-Teamsters president smiling like he doesn't have a care in the world, snapped in front of Hoffa's metro Detroit home.

The date was July 24, 1975.

It's significant, the photo shoot (which included a few different poses), because less than a week later, Hoffa would leave that metro Detroit home for a lunch meeting and never return.

I saw the photo the other da…

I'm Two Dads Now

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The other day, I officially became my father.

It's inevitable, they say. One day you'll become your parents.

Pop culture is usually the killer.

My induction into the Crotchety Old Man Hall of Fame occurred a couple of nights ago.

I was in the kitchen and on the TV in the front room was a video of a performer having a tantrum on stage. I couldn't see the video; I could only hear the audio.

"I'm not Justin Bieber!" the male voice screamed, followed by some bleeped out expletives.

"Who's that?" I called out, because the audio clip was rather shocking.

Our 19-year-old daughter answered with what I thought was "Billy Joel."

Now, knowing Joel's occasional drinking and drug foibles, and his notorious temper, I thought that made sense. Joel's melted down in the past---on stage and off.

"Billy Joel? Really?" I replied, a little knowing chuckle in my voice.

"BILLIE JOE, dad!"

Now I was confuzzled.

"Billy Joe? Who…