Thursday, November 28, 2013

They Give Thanks (or should)

By the time you read this, the turkey is likely in the oven, or in your stomach. The football game is on the television---and that is probably the case, as there is football on the tube from 12:30 until 11:30 at night. The family arguments are either in full swing or the cops have been called. And the cranberry sauce was forgotten in the fridge.

It's kind of routine on Thanksgiving for bloggers to make a laundry list of things they're thankful for. I could do that; after all, I am just as blessed as the next guy.

But I thought it might be fun to present to you a list of what other people should be thankful for---if I may be so bold.

Detroit mayor-elect Mike Duggan should be thankful for Tom Barrow, and the ne'er do-wells who tried to keep Duggan off the ballot.

The Republicans should be thankful for Obamacare's shaky rollout, for taking the GOP's ridiculous efforts to shut down the government off the front page.

Comedians should continue to be thankful for Sarah Palin.

Everyone should be thankful for Google.

Lox should be thankful for bagels. All food should be thankful for bacon.

Dallas should be thankful for Fort Worth, Minneapolis should be thankful for St. Paul, and all cities should be thankful for Gary, Indiana.

Rakes should be thankful for leaves. Gutters should be thankful for rakes.

Everyone should be thankful for garage door openers.

Mice should be thankful for fields.

The sun should be thankful for the moon, because the former needs its rest.

Scrambled eggs should be thankful for omelettes.

Collision shop owners are thankful for texting. And bad drivers.

Conspiracy theorists should be thankful for Jack Ruby.

Barbers should be thankful for Mondays.

Dogs are thankful for whatever they can get. Cats think everyone should be thankful for them.

Men are thankful for beer, sports and cars. Women are thankful for a conversation.

Tuxedos are thankful for weddings.

Ham is thankful for rye. Capers are thankful for nothing, so far.

Insomniacs should be thankful for the Internet. And vice versa.

Bicyclists should be thankful for sidewalks, but they don't seem to be.

Everyone should be thankful for revolving doors. No one should be thankful for pinatas.

Times New Roman should be thankful for Microsoft Word.

Fame should be thankful for its 15 minutes.

Miley Cyrus should be thankful for lecherous men. Lecherous men should be thankful for Billy Ray.

You should be thankful that I reminded you about the cranberry sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Later

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, here's a piece from the archives, penned two years ago, about how we can all thank Jack Ruby for all the conspiracy theories.

Yes, He Did
November 22, 2011

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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lowe Man on the Totem Pole

Rob Lowe is too good looking, that's it.

If you looked up Hollywood Handsome in the dictionary, there Lowe's photo would be. The rock jaw, the steel blue eyes, the wavy dark hair. He was born to be on the screen. He came out of the womb looking for his mark. His first words were likely, "Feed me on my good side."

Lowe is too good looking---that's all I can think of. Because he never gets credit for being one of America's great actors.

There's a mystique formulated by moviegoers and critics that says if you're pretty enough to launch ships or handsome enough to stop traffic, then you're not acting up there, you're mesmerizing the audience.

That must be why Lowe, 49, is treated like just another pretty face.

He hasn't won anything yet, which is a crime. Lowe has been nominated a few times for awards---most notably for his work on The West Wing. But he's come away empty every time. There must have been someone less attractive going up against him.

Just because you're so good looking that it makes a guy like me want to cry, doesn't mean that you can't act your way out of a paper bag.

Lowe is lighting it up now on Nat Geo's Killing Kennedy, playing the 35th president in a movie that concentrates on the lives of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald as they were on a collision course in history, culminating in the tragic events of November 22, 1963.

Lowe as President Kennedy isn't a square peg in a round hole. He's fantastic---as usual---as Kennedy, nailing the late president's Massachusetts dialect, which other actors who have played JFK have butchered, quite frankly.



We first met Rob Lowe as he was a member of the so-called "Brat Pack" of actors who took Hollywood by storm starting in the mid-1980s. Serious Lowe fans trace his career even further back, as Sodapop Curtis in The Outsiders, released in 1983.

My first Lowe memory was his turn in 1986's About Last Night..., as he played Danny Martin, who has a moment of weakness with Demi Moore's Debbie, which leads to an ill-advised decision to move in together.

I have watched the film many times, and each time I am struck by Lowe's acting chops, even at the tender age of 22 that he was when the film was released. Part of my gauge of an actor is what he or she does when there is no dialogue. It's when Lowe doesn't speak in About Last Night that he's at his best.

I can go on and on. There was the villain Lowe, as he played evil yuppie Alex to James Spader's straight-laced Michael Boll in 1990's Bad Influence, which I maintain is one of the most underrated films about the human condition and vulnerability to manipulation as any that has ever been made.

Lowe was chilling in Bad Influence, accompanying his twisted mentality with that handsome smile all the way.

I must admit that it hasn't helped Lowe's cause that he's made some simply God awful movies, and has lowered himself in the process. We can also talk about sex tapes and a bizarre Academy Awards song and dance with Disney's Snow White, but that's getting off track.

I like Rob Lowe. And I liked watching him in Killing Kennedy, although the work wasn't terribly notable for being anything of the cutting edge variety. As far as I'm concerned, anytime you can play a U.S. president and not besmirch the office, you've done OK. Lowe was certainly not out of place as JFK.

Rob Lowe has come a long way since playing Sodapop Curtis in a coming-of-age, cult flick.

If only he wasn't so easy on the eyes, maybe he'd be taken more seriously as an actor. Maybe he'd start winning some awards.

Lowe isn't just another pretty face. He's just another pretty face who can act. Like, as in his rear end off.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Obama's Moles

Playing Whack-a-Mole is never good if you're in political office. It's best left to the arcade world.

You know the game called Whack-a-Mole, right? You insert your quarters, grab the plastic mallet, and whack as many mole heads as you can in the allotted time. The heads pop up from different holes, at unpredictable times and locations in front of you. It's a harried, frenetic little game.

It's good arcade fun, but not so fun if you're elected. Even worse when you're the Most Powerful Man in the World.

President Obama is playing Whack-a-Mole, and it's killing his second term. Maybe his presidency as a whole.

The president, these days, is reduced to going before the American people and apologizing for a website. And, for being less than forthright about whether people could keep their existing health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And he's making policy changes to the ACA on the fly.

It's all Whack-a-Mole stuff.

As president, you always want to move forward. John Kennedy said he sought the presidency because "it's the center of action."

The last thing you want to do as president is spend all your time fixing mistakes and saying you're sorry.

Obama's second term has ground to a halt. Some of it is his doing, some of it isn't. There's nothing moving forward. He's stuck in this "Obamacare" rut, like a man in quicksand. He has to keep whacking moles.

The Whack-a-Mole thing is what turned Dave Bing's run as mayor into vapor. I'm not sure if Bing will ever be properly judged on his being mayor of Detroit, because he never really governed---he played Whack-a-Mole. His time to run was 10-12 years prior. By the time he decided to jump into the fray, things were so far gone, he couldn't govern for the future because he was too busy trying to fix the past.

Obama is being attached to the ACA at the hip, as he had hoped, but now it's for all the wrong reasons.

The stock photo of the young lady on the Healthcare.gov website is becoming more iconic than the law itself.

Maybe this clunky roll-out of the ACA---and it has been the clunkiest---will correct itself and in time, millions of Americans will be happily signing up for health care as easily as they can buy something online from Amazon.com.

Maybe.

But even if that time does come, will it come soon enough to erase the embarrassment of how unprepared the government was when the curtain was raised on the ACA on October 1?

I can only imagine how apoplectic Obama must be behind the scenes. It's amazing that no one of any significance has been fired. This roll-out has made the president looking like a political eunuch. I wouldn't want to be the person or persons who is in any way responsible for making the president look anything other than presidential.

The president keeps putting quarters in the machine. It's not a good way to govern. In fact, it's the worst.








Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pop! Goes My Manners

I have a popcorn problem. Namely, that I don't like to share it.

I am not normally an ungenerous person, but when it comes to popcorn, I prefer it all to myself, thank you very much.

This popcorn hoarding only applies to when I am at home---mainly because when we go to the movies as a family and I buy a tub (for $7), it becomes darn hard to keep other fingers out of it.

I admit it, I turn into a jerk when it comes to popcorn.

I make it late at night, typically, because that's when everyone else, including my 88-year-old mother-in-law, no longer wants to eat...popcorn.

They can eat whatever the heck else they want, but I frown on any popcorn eating from them if it's past 11:30pm---because the only one who should be eating popcorn that late is I, of course.

Part of this popcorn non-sharing is because I gussy it up a certain way---and it's a way that won't fly with others. Therefore, if I let them in on my corn, I have to tone down my way of eating it, and that's simply unacceptable.


What I do is sprinkle some ground cayenne pepper---or chili powder if desired---onto the freshly-popped corn, then drizzle it with a liberal amount of topping. The topping is typically store-bought, and comes in plastic bottles---a mix of oil and artificial butter flavor and food coloring. Kind of like the topping you get in the movie theater.

I ran out of said topping last week, so in desperation I made my own: I melted a stick of butter, then added one part (slightly more) of vegetable oil. I then poured my concoction into a glass bottle with a shaker top, normally reserved for vinegar or oil for salads.

The bottle is kept in the fridge, and whenever I desire popcorn, I pop the bottle into the microwave (minus the metal shaker top, of course) and put it at a very low power setting so the mixture warms just enough to shake onto the popcorn.

This is, of course, until I replenish my supply of store-bought topping.

Anyhow, I am fierce about my popcorn. I don't like it when someone else wants some. I will ask, if people are still awake, whether they want popcorn---and I secretly hope they say no.

It's the only food I am like that about---which is saying something, because I likes my food.

Oh, and the popcorn is never of the microwave bag variety. I use loose popcorn, poured into a 1/3 cup measure, and I use a microwaveable popper (Orville Redenbacher) that my wife bought me for Christmas in the 1990s. It tastes fresher this way.

I then eat the popcorn, admittedly, like an animal. I stuff it into my gob by the handfuls, and I don't come up for air, unless it's to drink Pepsi (the best beverage that goes with my popcorn). I can polish off a big bowl in about 15 minutes.

I don't want to share my popcorn. And I never will, unless it's begrudgingly.

I'm funny that way.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Internet Killed the Video Star

"Please be kind, rewind."

That was the cute catch phrase printed in yellow font on the blue stickers, plastered onto the VHS tapes throughout Blockbuster Video stores.

The evolution of technology and retail outlets associated with it come in bite sized pieces anymore. Or, should I say, "byte" sized pieces?

Take Blockbuster Video, for example. It came out of nowhere less than 30 years ago and is now defunct. The company announced that its final 300 stores will be shuttered, as will its NetFlix-like disc-by-mail operation.

I remember being at work Downriver, circa 1986, and my co-worker and friend Vito Lumetta came back from lunch and raved, pie-eyed, about this new video store he stumbled upon.

"It's called Blockbuster and you should SEE all the videos!" Vito said, and though I'm paraphrasing, suffice it to say that his excitement was palpable.

But back in '86, Blockbuster stores were huge. They occupied the space of a medium-sized big box retailer back in the day, and the square footage was indeed filled, several white shelves high, with blue and white cases containing VHS tapes.

I can empathize with Vito's amazement.

Not long after being told of Blockbuster, I wandered in myself. I think the store that was the object of Vito's lust and was the one I entered, was the Lincoln Park location.

Vito was right. There were videos for as far as the eye could see. The store was huge---much larger than any video store I'd been in up to that point.


Blockbuster in its heyday


The workers---and there were quite a few of them in those days---all wore royal blue polo shirts with the Blockbuster logo sewn on the front.

But as the years went on, Blockbuster stores got noticeably smaller. The one by our house, on Dequindre in Warren, was chopped in half when another store moved into the strip mall beside it.

The Blockbuster way of signing up for membership---you literally had a laminated card with a magnetic stripe on it back then---was a little snooty. First, you were required to sign up with a credit card. If you didn't have one, you were out of luck. The credit card was there so Blockbuster could charge late fees or lost video costs to it, if the company wanted to.

The application form was as long as a legal contract, or mortgage papers. It was a little annoying and invasive, to be honest. I mean, it's videos, for God's sake!

You could say that Blockbuster got caught flat-footed by NetFlix, Red Box kiosks, et al, and didn't move with the times fast enough. I'm sure there are any number of theories as to why Blockbuster stores shrunk from supermarket size to that of a take-out only Chinese joint.

Doesn't really matter now. Blockbuster is about to rent out its final movies.

In twisted irony, the company that politely asked its customers to rewind tapes is probably wishing it could rewind time and make different decisions.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Who Do You Trust?

I was in the waiting room, last week, as my wife had her eye surgery, and I happened upon a recent issue of Reader's Digest. In it, they listed the 100 Most Trusted People in America.

Before I tell you who No. 1 was, let me say that there was a time when veteran newsman Walter Cronkite was deemed the most trusted man in the country. Not far behind him were other news anchors of the day, and worldwide public figures like the Pope and Mother Teresa.

On today's list---and I have no idea how it was culled---you had to go all the way to no. 25 before you could find a news person, and I don't even recall who it was.

The rest of the Top 25 was filled with actors and other recognizable faces---but not those who deliver us our news every day.

By the way, the Most Trusted American, according to the Digest, is actor Tom Hanks.

While that sinks in, I'll tell you that no. 2 on the list was another actor, Sandra Bullock.

I will also tell you that President Obama wasn't on the list at all---but Michelle was.

But I got to thinking: which people did the magazine poll, and how was "trust" defined?

Was it trust, as in, who would I most trust to be with my children while I was away, or trust as in, would I lend this person my lawn mower?

There are different degrees of trust, you know.

And did the people who were polled, even really know what trust means anymore?

Judging by the results, it appears that we're either in really bad shape, or in really good shape. Not sure which.

In other words, is this a good time or a bad time to be an American, when Tom Hanks is the most trusted among all 280 million+ citizens?

And trusted in what way? Are we saying that we trust Hanks to take acting roles that are beneficial to his career, or are we saying that if we needed someone to water our plants while we're gone, Hanks is our guy?

And what's up with Sandra Bullock as no. 2?

Again, not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.


Hanks: Most trusted


But I think what struck me most wasn't who was on the list, but who was ranked so low---namely, newspersons.

It's not that difficult to ferret out, really. News on television has become a pie cut into slivers these days. There's so much news out there, so many talk shows discussing the issues of the day, that there are hundreds of talking heads out there yelling their own version of "And that's the way it is," Cronkite's old tag line.

In this poll, was there a ballot? An exhaustive list of names where people were asked to select 100 from among it? I doubt the Digest just went up to people at random and asked, "Who is the most trusted American, in your eyes?"

Regardless, Tom Hanks is the most trusted American. Our newspeople don't show up until 24 names later.

Again, good or bad?

Frankly, I'm curious as to the trustworthiness of the list itself.