The Legacy and Questionable Power of My Father’s Puns

Laura Jim with KevinKatie 1967

My dad had three puns that were so bad, they were only permitted on his birthday–and one was pretty challenging to employ on June 28th. Jim Walsh would have been 76 years old today.  He came from a long line of punsters and its with mixed emotions that his grandchildren also subject unsuspecting audiences to his legacy. At his funeral, 19 years ago, we passed around two leather-bound green books for folks to jot down their favorite memories of my dad, a precurser to the amazing testimonial strings found on Facebook at the passing of a loved one. My college buddy Dan added two of his favorite groaners from my dad’s visit to campus on his tri-state route, often in the South Bend area selling windshields to RV companies.  (“I’m like Lenin–I’m in glass.”).  He’d not only take me out for pizza, but invited me to bring along some pals–nothing like a… Read More…

Empathy Be-Damned, Just Find Your Foxhole and Someone to Blame

By City of Orlando Police Department: https://twitter.com/OrlandoPolice + http://www.cityoforlando.net/police/ [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When a tragic event happens, we’ve changed from a nation of mourners to a nation of soldiers in foxholes.  We’re stunned by the first noise then dive for cover and peek above the rim and fire away, perhaps taking aim.  Hurry!  Which hole will be yours–the gorilla’s, the parent’s or the zookeeper’s? Gorillas don’t kill people, the zoo does!  Do the same people in favor of shooting the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla support banning AR-15s?  After all, neither is by default a man-killer, but, in the wrong circumstances they can be as deadly as a seven year-old driving your minivan. If you’re in favor of keeping zoo patrons safe from the tigers, why should a semi-automatic weapon be able to be purchased legally by someone investigated by the FBI? Again, pick a foxhole! Sunday morning America woke to the news of the deadliest massacre in US history.  If you took to Facebook like I did and expressed your sorrow… Read More…

Solar Power In Bizarro World

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Look, just because this is being written from a parallel universe, you’d be wrong to think that everyone over here is so totally freaky that you couldn’t possibly carry on a conversation with any of us without a cheat sheet in your breast coat pocket. “There’s more that unites us than divides us.” Isn’t that what the bumper sticker makers say?  Well, I’ve always put my faith in their deep wisdom and I think you should do the same. I’ll give you a ‘for instance’ because over here, just like over there, a quality ‘for instance’ makes everything so much easier to understand.  For instance, don’t assume that we on our side of the wormhole don’t damn well love to see John Wayne punch a hippy in his shaggy face, so we can hear the hairy dude whimper “not cool man” as he collapses like a house of cards onto the Duke’s unswept… Read More…

Defining the American Masses: The Common Man or Third-Graders without a Chaperone?

Millionaire Charles Foster Kane and his "Precious Underpriviliged"

“You’ve reached group-sales for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  How may I help you?” “Hi there!  Our third-graders are touring Manhattan and we thought we could bring them by tomorrow.” “Certainly.” “That’s great.  This chaperoning is wearing us down so thought we’d drop them off in the morning, catch a show and a few beers and pick them up around 5 or so, if that’s okay” “Umm….Well, we need to have the kids chaperoned…because, you know, there’s a lot of priceless items…” “Thanks so much.  We’ll be by at 10!” There aren’t too many teachers or directors of any respected institution that would permit this scenario.  After all, it’s hard to take a selfie of you and Van Gogh if there’s some kid drawing horns sticking out of the straw hat.  But lately, we’re okay with our other famously innovative institution being taken over by the kids—namely our country. Perhaps… Read More…

McMansions and Boo Radley–Paving the Way for Progress, Right Over a Royal Oak Neighborhood

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Featured on May 16 Detroit Channel 7 news (link). I suppose I was guilty, but they were such pretty trees.  The city of Royal Oak sent me my warning that a fine was on its way if I didn’t take care of the maples growing in my garage gutter. Meanwhile, down the block, we’ve got our own version of the Boo Radley home that has sat vacant for nearly four years. My wife doesn’t like to walk too near it because of the rats that have been seen. It looks nice from one side… but that’s only if you’re driving pretty quickly and don’t notice the hole in the door… But apparently my gutters were more important than this little eyesore right off Normandy road. If you turn the corner toward Greenfield Road you’ll see another odd sight, a public park that was turned overnight into a “parking space” for construction equipment…. Read More…

Recipe for a Great Mom – Reflections from One Outnumbered Male

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I was sifting through my students’ essays when I came across this undeniably true thesis statement… “If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” I resisted the urge to add to the margin in snarky red ink, “No kidding.”–maybe even with a little smiley face.  After 25 years, that line is still is one of my favorites along with “UFOs are possible” (which is true, they are unidentified) and “Mr. Walsh, you don’t really read these journal entries, do you?” (to which I added, “No”). But on Mother’s Day, I’ll borrow a bit from my student’s paper and tweak it a bit… “If it weren’t for the mothers in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” When my wife laughs that I’m often more of a feminist than she is–I observe it’s not from any noble ideal, it was simply self-preservation–growing up with my dad traveling 3 days a week… Read More…

Prince – December 10th, 1981 Cobo Arena Detroit. The first time I heard music.

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Originally posted by Lee Patrick Sullivan for DiggingDetroit.com. Like most kids growing up in Suburban Detroit, I was first introduced to Prince by The Electrifying Mojo, the legendary underground DJ on WGPR. I was a card carrying member of the Midnight Funk Association. Mojo had been going on for hours about this 19year-old kid from Minneapolis who was going to take over the world. Then shortly after Midnight, and after I raised my hand and “Pledged Allegiance to The Funk”, Mojo played “Soft and Wet” – I was hooked. From that day on, I have bought all of Prince’s 47 albums the day they were released. Many years, waiting in line at The Music Stop in Clawson Center, or Harmony House at the Oakland Mall before they opened, so I would get the first album out of the box. Over the years, I have gone to 46 Prince concerts. Each one… Read More…

Mr. Greene’s Show Tags: Lanyards and Legacy of One Man’s Life

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I don’t think I am alone here. When you reach a certain age and stage in life, you come to the table with a certain level of common sense and experience that you think backs up your values, beliefs and opinions. So, there are many areas of life that I have experience in but I am not a professional. I take my combined experience — mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, lawyer, teacher, book lover, movie and theatre lover— and I use it all when I process the world around me. Situation dependent, certain parts of this experience may overshadow others. Many have seen my mama bear take charge; others the lawyer, teacher, friend etc. Whichever controls, I universally try to follow the signs. I’m on overload this week.  The sudden unexpected death of my daughters’ theatre teacher and mentor, my friend, Micah Greene, set these wheels in motion.  Saturday, the… Read More…

Loss of My Roommate, Micah – Champion of the Big Idea and the Little Guy

Photo courtesy of Susan Ashe

Classrooms and schedules can make strange bedfellows.  Yesterday, I lost my roommate of 10 years, Micah Greene.  And like a brother who shares a bunkbed for so long, you become so in tune to his tossings and turnings, snoring and other idiosyncrasies that you stop paying attention–at least consciously. Drama teacher Micah Greene came to West Bloomfield High School in 2003, the second year of the new TV studio whose courses I was asked to create.  He was a proud Western Michigan Bronco who had also spent some time at a Kalamazoo television station.  He was a natural to teach extra sections of our Beginning Video Production program once the program got rolling and had more sections than hours available. As any teacher can tell you, teaching from a cart can be a hectic process as you roll your wares down a quarter mile of hallway during rush hour in the… Read More…

An Artist I Know – Francis Bennigan

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This is a series I’ve created to share the work of interesting and creative writers, musicians, actors, directors, producers, and much more. If you’re creating it I’ll share it. These interviews will be taking shape as I develop them and may be published as podcasts and/or videos. Francis and I met in a musical theater class a couple of years ago at Lansing Community College. What I noticed about Francis was her sweet demeanor and total lack of ego. I was pleasantly surprised to learn she was a local to Lansing musician and was and is hard at work at creating her following. This conversation I had with her highlights some insights into her life and her craft of music making and songwriting. As a youngster Francis knew at the age of three that she wanted to be a musician. She had melodies in her head and wrote her own… Read More…

The $10 Voter-Apathy Tax: Avoiding Lead-Poisoning & Raising $1 Billion for Michigan

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My first job was supposed to be as a dishwasher–until my buddy heard me mention I was applying for the job and got there an hour before me.  I ended up becoming the kitchen slopboy/custodian–mopping the basement and scraping out the grease under the prep table after the health department again threatened to shut down the swanky Pagoda. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets… The place is long-gone but I still have that first green pay-stub reflecting my 9 hours that July 1979–for $3 an hour.  I remember looking at the top right and seeing $27.00 “gross pay” (pretty accurate considering the nasty work).  Then at the bottom was “net pay” for six bucks less.  It was my first non-paper route payday so after I cashed the check, I asked my dad who had ripped me off. “Well,” he said pointing out the little boxes, “that’s the federal tax, that’s the state tax… Read More…

From Detroit to the Bulge: Priceless Snapshots of One Soldier’s Journey Across Europe

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Before he was selected in WWII’s first draft for 18 year-olds, Detroit’s Lawrence Dupuis didn’t know the value of being color-blind.  “They would take me up in the aircraft and I could detect where the landscape had been disturbed and camouflage was laid down.” His cartooning skills were even put to use, although someone else would have to color the wall-sized illustration below:  “This drawing was painted on the stage of the Great Dunmow Airport Building that was to be used as an all-purpose room by the 8th Air Force who were to take over the field.  They sent over a sergeant to check the work which he would color later.  I don’t remember how I got involved but I do remember spending my nights after supper–for a month!” “I got called down to the chiefs one day and he informed me that I was to go to London to be a part… Read More…

The Right to Bear Left: 2nd Amendment Mad-Libs, Replacing Cars for Guns

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What if, under an old desk in James Madison’s study,  the following were found scribbled on the back-side of the Second Amendment–the words in bold written into blank spots like a Mad Libs page… Amendment 2.5:  A well-regulated Transportation System, being necessary to the mobility of a free State, the right of the people to keep and conduct Transportation Devices, shall not be infringed. After all, the right to transport yourself is a pretty inalienable right, too, isn’t it? Eisenhower saw the immediate benefit of the German autobahn–allowing quick movement of Hitler’s troops across WWII.  But in addition to Cold War defense, Eisenhower also saw the expressways as a vital route for emergency evacuation–all under strict central government oversight.  After all, you wouldn’t want your best friend deciding how much weight an overpass can bear, would you?  It’s pretty much accepted that some things are better off in the hands of Big Brother. Madison and Jefferson pushed forward… Read More…

Two Brothers Swimming Against the Amazon: Rochester’s Village Lamp Shop

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Don’t tell me you haven’t done it–found something in a store, then guiltily taken out your phone to find a better deal on Amazon, Craig’s List or eBay. You could argue with your guilty ol’ self and say that in the days before apps, it was similar to heading into the tire store with a newspaper add of a competitor’s price and asking them to beat it.  But now, you just have to click the little button and the over-stressed Amazonians are already whisking down their sweatshop canyons of shelves to get your order out the conveyor belt before you reach your car–with the retail owner, like your dog at the beginning of your work day, watching and your “Buy American” bumper sticker roll away. In the early 1960s, Tom Beuthien was called in for the unheard of–an exit interview at Ford Tractor.  “Nobody ever leaves Ford,” he was told by the bewildered HR guy…. Read More…

“Spotlight” on America’s Conscience: The Church, Jameis Winston & Refugees

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery of "Spotlight"

“It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.” –Spotlight‘s Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci)    Michael Keaton’s character, Walter “Robbie” Robinson, in the newly-released Spotlight, is seeking Boston Globe confirmation of the Archdiocese cover-up for 70 priests involved in child molestation.  He passes the list to his longtime friend and attorney, “We all knew something was going on.” His friend kicks him out of his house and then follows Robbie into the street and asks him why he didn’t do anything–if he knew something was going on. Robbie pauses and can only say, “I don’t know.” Spotlight’s portrayal of the 2001 investigation by the Globe’s Spotlight unit (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) is an excellent snapshot of an entire city looking the other way.  When a representative of a survivor’s group brings his box of evidence to the Globe office… Read More…

New Podcast: “Detroit in World War II” with Author Greg Sumner

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Note:  This podcast was co-produced with Digging Detroit and can also be found at this link. A look inside the “Arsenal of Democracy” as Professor Gregory Sumner of University of Detroit Mercy joins Digging Detroit’s Thomas J. Reed Jr. and Detroit History Tours‘ Bailey Sisoy Isgro at Detroit’s historic Abick’s Bar.   Sumner previews his upcoming book-signing, Detroit in WWII, at Abick’s on November 10, 2015. Thanks to our Abick’s host, Eric and Kit, we visit with Prof. Sumner in the cigar room–formerly a barber shop.  Amazing eats was provided once again by Andy Surowiec of Smokin’ Pole BBQ! Topics include: Advantages of being an Hoosier looking in at Detroit Coming out of isolationism with the $1 men and patriotism of Joe Louis and  Edsel Ford Warren Tanks and Willow Run–designed by the son of a German rabbi Soldier Hank Greenberg’s home run–“hitting one against Hitler” The third shift–and loosening of conventions for women and children Female pay disparity greater… Read More…

Destroying the Decepticon in My Living Room – Cutting Cable TV’s $1K Umbilical Cord

My new rabbit ears...

Our electric bill had jumped so much, I thought maybe three or four neighbors had run extension cords off the back of my garage.  We walked all around the house, examining every outlet, toaster, stereo and toothbrush charger–right past the culprit hiding in plain sight.  We were so used to its soft roar that it had become almost therapeutic–like a wave-machine in a sauna.  But, to quote Ross Perot, we finally identified “that sucking sound…” the cause of our depleting bank account–it was a Decepticon–the cable company’s Swiss army knife of doom–our modem/router/DVR/corkscrew. Apparently, according to my friend Scott Sowers, these bad boys draw more energy than a refrigerator.  And I get to pay a rental fee for it, too! I’m so used to cable TV that I’d forgotten that free programming was even out there.  When I called my provider, WOW (a fitting title for its increases that, in fairness, can’t compare… Read More…

New Podcast! Playwright Frank Anthony Polito and B.F.s!

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Playwright Frank Anthony Polito shares his journey from blue collar Hazel Park Michigan to New York’s theater scene, then back again, nearly 20 years later with a drama about his teenage years with his best friend–both discovering they are gay in the late 1980s. For two more weekends–through October 4th, audiences can share this remarkable show in Hazel Park at the the Slipstream Theatre Initiative’s production of “B.F.s!” (link to website). Topics include: Frank’s move journey home Writing a play (from an original novel) Basing characters on real people–and merging them Teenagers, friendships and drama Becoming a drama coach at your alma mater

Emmy Schools Oscar: 5 More Tips to Make the Academy Awards Less Eternal

Samberg releases a working HBO-Go account into the universe.

A film’s producer was asked about his DP—or “director of photography”—or “cinematographer” in case he’s nominated for anything. “He should be great,” he laughed. “But this is his first non-television gig. He might be too efficient!” Sunday’s Emmy Awards was a perfect example of the terrible crime of being too efficient. The Oscars are notoriously always late–– a tiresome joke that probably began with “Wings” in 1929. Last February I discussed kicking Oscar out of the bingo hall (link).  Not sure if anyone at ABC read it, but perhaps they noticed the show from the Fox producers of the Emmy Awards–Oscar’s “little brother on the little screen”–that now produces more quality filmmaking then any 10 hour epic created by Peter Jackson. The big winner was once again HBO.  “Olive Kitteridge,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” clobbered most of the competition.  ”Mad Men” did get its farewell nod as Jon Hamm took his much deserved recognition in his interesting goofy style–– so… Read More…

New Podcast: Archivists Roundtable at Historic Abick’s Bar in Detroit

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What to keep, what to throw away? The eternal question for the archivist. In a partnership with Digging Detroit, we take our podcast on the road and chat with some of Michigan’s top historical archivists in a roundtable discussion at historic Abick’s Bar on their unusual world–sometimes spent in dusty shelves and digging through dark basements and mysterious attics–but often waiting for you at the reference desk. They’ll share some familiar requests, general misconceptions, surprise treasures and offer some great advice for everyone on preserving documents, photographs and memories for posterity. Recorded August 4, 2015 at Abick’s Bar & Grill Host Pete Kalinski:  Digging Detroit Host/Producer Guests: Rebecca Bizonet:  Oral History Project Archivists at The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University Andrea Gietzen:  Archivists at the Archives of Michigan, Michigan Historical Center Thomas J. Reed, Jr.  Digging Detroit Host/Producer Robbie Terman:  Director of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives, The Jewish… Read More…