Please De-Friend Me! A 12-Step Facebook Litmus Test

I’m often baffled by anyone who want to be friends with me–particularly about lefty agenda items that can’t be shaken out of my brain through a meme or “But Hillary did worse!” argument. Maybe they are on an evangelical Karl Rove mission to let me see my folly–or perhaps they’re just fans of NASCAR crashes and fifth grade choir concerts.  It’s like me saying, “You say you sell Amway?  Let’s hear all about it!” I think the Zuckerbergians in the bowels of Facebook should develop a litmus-test for friends, replacing the holistic score we give folks as we look over our friends “in common” before we let them in our virtual lives of cats, knee injuries and occasional political viewpoints. No one likes unpleasant surprises, such as finding out your house-closing that your new neighbor can’t stand people with consonants in their names.  I’d love a Zillow rating system such as a “Cup of Sugar” score of 9 indicating the likelihood to… Read More…

House-Breaking Your Phone–and Lowering Your Blood Pressure

I was too calm at work.  Something had to be wrong.  Then I realized that I had left my phone at home—on the kitchen counter–probably under the bread wrapper.  It was the same unnerving peace I felt on a vacation last summer–when we left the dog with friends. Smudge is a hybrid, a schnorkie-poo, who, in the thankful absence of rats, is obsessed with one thing—the perfect blend of dye, felt and rubber toxins that is the tennis ball.  He is so completely focused on bringing you that ball for you to obediently throw it across the yard/basement/bathroom that he’ll forgo food, rest and common sense—crashing into fences, couches and unsuspecting two year-olds.  If you don’t follow his escalating sequence of hints (sitting patiently, rolling the ball closer, grumbling, grumbling louder), he’ll finally bark at the perfect frequency to shatter even our cheap wine glasses. When we’re having dinner, he’ll politely wedge the ball under my left buttock, sit… Read More…

Ken Burns-on-a-Shoestring: Creating Buzz to Launch Mini-Doc “Digging Detroit”

“The Joe,” the battleship-gray windowless box on the Detroit River, is slated for 2017 demolition, making way for high-rise condos, a hotel and shopping as part of a pay-back to creditors owed $1 billion.  For a few months in-between wrecking-ball and ground-breaking, Detroiters will once again have an unobstructed view of the river at the corner of Fort and 3rd–as if looking back in time and seeing the Purple Gang hijack another bootlegger at the docks, before moving its haul up the street to the speakeasy beside the church. And that same little brick building on the left will probably still be standing when the condos are torn down in 60 years–perhaps making way for the next home for the Wings. When the 1974 picture above was taken, I was probably immersed in Channel 50’s after-school reruns of Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island or deeper in the way-back machine, The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals.  Inevitably I’d have to endure the “Let’s put on a show” moment as Alfalfa or Darla would… Read More…

For Kids, Many Voices Become One at “Twenty Feet from Stardom” Benefit Screening & Concert

Few third graders have been heard to proudly announce to their classmates… “I hope to be fourth cellist in the New York Philharmonic.” “I’d like to be a situational middle-inning relief pitcher for the Yankees.” “I want to be an Indy pit crew member.” or… “My dream is to be an editor.” Not many editors get a standing ovation.   Even at the Oscars, its award is sandwiched between Best Costume Design and the latest Revlon commercial.  And you are more likely to be mistaken as that fourth cellist before someone says, “Aren’t you an editor–of documentaries?” Twenty Feet from Stardom honors the teammate, the supporting role–in effect, the glue behind some of the greatest songs of the last fifty years.  And someone had to convert 700 hours of interviews and archival footage of these amazing women into 90 minutes.  Enter Doug Blush, who last Friday embodied the spirit of this movie to help young… Read More…

Delta Tweet Shows Perils of Real-Time Marketing

Another week, another social media snafu for an airline company. Two months after US Airways posted what will surely go down as the lewdest tweet from a business account of all time, it was Delta’s turn to take flight on the runway of incompetence. The moment came after Monday’s World Cup soccer match between the United States and Ghana. The US won the game, 2-1, behind a last minute goal by John Brooks, AKA The Greatest American Since Abraham Lincoln. In the opening minute of the game, Clint Dempsey stunned the world with the fifth-fastest goal in World Cup history. Twitter lit up like a hippie at Bonnaroo, and brands were determined to inject themselves into the conversation. That’s when Delta stumbled into the room like a drunk uncle and unfurled this astonishing gem: We’re sorry for our choice of photo in our previous tweet. Best of luck to all… Read More…

MLB Strikes Big with Snapchat. What’s on Deck?

Can Snapchat make baseball more relevant to Millennials? Major League Baseball’s marketing team sure hopes so. The league, stuck in a rut of plummeting ratings and ever-increasing apathy among younger audiences, is counting on the trendy social application to stop the bleeding. Or at least slow it down. The league announced in February that it would incorporate Snapchat into its social strategy, and so far it’s delivered on that promise. MLB and some of its teams have embraced the platform as a new way to engage fans and humanize its players. While MLB isn’t new to the social space – the league has nearly 9 million combined fans on Facebook and Twitter – its use of Snapchat is somewhat surprising. The league is painfully slow at adapting to social and technological paradigms (it didn’t even implement instant replay until 2014), so embracing an app that’s still in its nascent stages qualifies as a… Read More…

DWM – 41 Seeking Normal Woman for Normal Life

My married friends all make it seem so simple. Sitting over beers, they say “just sign up for eHarmony or Match and it will happen.” Just magically. Like that? Like dating in your 40’s in 2013 with the technology available to us is going to create a date as simple as downloading an app making reservations on Open Table. God, don’t I wish it was that easy. For those of you who are blessed with being single in your “later” stages of life, whether it’s because a divorce, or not finding the right person yet, or some tragedy, I’ll sum it up for everyone else – IT SUCKS! It absolutely sucks. I sometimes think that the married crowd has this envy like the grass is greener for them. They look at my alone time and crave for it. But they don’t realize that it’s not just a few hours away… Read More…

Uncle Richie Reaches Home.

This past weekend, I flew back to Philly to go to the latest of the three funerals I’ve had to attend over the past few months. My paternal grandmother was the first in the series, having passed last September; a good friend of mine “went home” just before Christmas, an event I wrote about in these pages already (My Fading Accent); and this time, it was the funeral of my Uncle Richie. Frankly, with no disrespect intended, I was not very close to him, although he was a steady presence of my life. I don’t write to cremate Richie or to praise him, but this weekend, as I nodded towards family members I now see only when someone dies, I was confronted with a fact each one of us already knows; we don’t escape our families. These people who play semi-recurring characters in our personal sitcoms are with us always…. Read More…

DON’T “Reply to All”

   Comedian Nathan Fielder engineered a prank on Twitter recently. You may have heard of it already. He asked his followers to send this text message to a parent: “Got 40 grams for $40.00.”  Then, they were to send this message to the parent right afterwards: “Sorry. Text not for you. LOL.” Fielder asked his followers to submit screen-prints of the parents’ responses. Some of the responses were hysterical, in all-caps. Some were surprisingly laid back. All were pretty funny. Here’s a site where you can read some responses: htttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/25/nathan-fielder-prank-drug-deal-tweet-parent-outrage_n_3157077.html These texts were intentional, of course, but haven’t we all at some point accidentally sent the wrong digital message?  On our iphones, say you’ve saved texts from several people and you want to respond to one of them, doesn’t your thumb sometimes hit the wrong one when you’re momentarily looking up to see if traffic stopped?  Haven’t we all replied… Read More…

Free Trip to Hollywood this Saturday–Join Talented Young Filmmakers at the Michigan Student Film and Video Festival

You know their work.  And they all started right here in Michigan. If you’ve seen the Star Wars prequel trilogy you’ve seen one–Oscar-Winner, Doug Chiang If you’ve seen the recent Oz the Great and Powerful you’ve seen one–Aaron Lebovic One worked on Iron Man 3 this past summer–Kale Davidoff Two of them wrote and directed the cult zombie/comedy/road-trip/buddy Deadheads that’s been doing great on Netflix right now–Brett and Drew Pierce One works for the gaming division of a prestigious LA Agency–Blake Rochkind One of them just sold a screenplay after being selected by Robert Redford to attend his Sundance Writers Workshop–Dan Casey This Summer, one of them from Clawson, Dan Scanlon, has directed the May’s Monsters University from Pixar and you can meet him at a special benefit screening This Saturday, for free at the DIA’s gorgeous Detroit Film Theatre, you’ll have a chance to welcome more students into the ranks of… Read More…

Tragedy and Media: Safety in Numbers

Times Square on New Year’s Eve has always seemed a bit too claustrophobic for me. How can anyone enjoy themselves in such a giant crowd?  What’s the attraction?  The image of 26,000 runners heading off together seemed similar–like pedestrian rush-hour. I can’t even shop at the mall at Christmas time. One of the pivotal scenes in Gone with the Wind follows Rhett Butler’s ominous words, “In a town called Gettysburg.”  The scene shifts to a giant crowd gathering at the Atlanta railroad station’s telegraph office to get the long casualty lists arriving from Pennsylvania.   Scarlett reads down to the “W’s” then is crying tears of relief that her beloved Ashley isn’t on the list.  Many grieving families clutched the sheets with their sons’ names as the only connection they had left. Monday at work, when my phone flashed the quick message “Two explosions at finish line of Boston Marathon,”… Read More…

The Arguments Against Gay Marriage

It took two days of Supreme Court hearings to prove that people still oppose gay marriage and are willing to go to great lengths to prevent it.  Two days. Granted, the two days were devoted to the constitutionality of two different laws: Proposition 8, a voter referendum in California declaring same sex marriages in that state invalid, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a man/woman union. To state the two positions in brief, proponents of gay marriage feel they are being denied equal protection under the law, denied access to the rights of married partners for health benefits, inheritance, etc., and that they are being singled out as a result of their status under a “separate but equal” theory. Opponents of gay marriage just hate gay people. Maybe that’s not fair. Those who oppose gay marriage have perfectly sound intellectual arguments to defend their views.  Marriage… Read More…

You Can Take the Teacher Out of Service, But You Can’t Take the Service Out of the Teacher

One of the greatest gifts of teaching is spending the day with other teachers.  But even in the department-store enormity of a high school, we all close our doors at the bell and, in essence, work alone.  We meet in meetings that no one wants to attend, by the copy machine that no one wants to un-jam or by the mailboxes, that no one wants to look into–all of these situations aren’t the most positive climates for collegiality. I was fortunate to begin working in the late 1980’s, when Michigan teacher-strikes were winding down and school funding was healthy.  The veterans that were there when I started began their careers during the Eisenhower administration, many years before Mitt Romney’s father made teacher’s unions legal. Don’t worry, I’m not going on a political rant–I promise! In 1994, when school funding was removed from local communities in Michigan, things began changing.  And… Read More…

Willy Wonka, Shirking Responsibility and a Great Night Out!

  Tonight in Detroit you can once again blame your parents.  The punchline for the Oompa Loompa’s many songs dealing with Charlie and his competing four brats for the keys to the fabled chocolate factor is “The mother and the father.”   I was only six years old when this classic film premiered and I remember nodding my head in the theater thinking, “Yeah, the little creepy orange guys are right.  Those kids are spoiled rotten.”  Perhaps it was some kind of smugness that I would later have a stuffy professor explain to me as the same joy that the Greeks took in tragedies–“Whew, glad that’s Oedipus and not me!” At Detroit’s historic Redford Theatre this afternoon and tonight, you can not only see the film again in a classic 1920’s theater, complete with organ recitals before the show and during intermission just like they had for the silent films…. Read More…

Hi-Tech Meets Low-IQ: The Lions’ Titus Young, Sr.

http://www.freep.com/article/20130125/SPORTS01/130125018/detroit-lions-titus-young-twitter?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Sports ‘If y’all going to cut me let me go’ (Detroit Free Press, 1/25/13) We’ve all wanted to have the last word.  We’ve all bit our tongues, taken deep breaths and counted to ten.  It’s one of the more taxing aspects of parenting–training your kid to self-edit.  During one of my less-patient moments, I believe I said:   “No one really cares what you have to say at this moment.” The Detrot Lions have a knack for looking over that giant draft board in April and landing the perfect candidate year after year.  With every Calvin Johnson along comes his polar opposite–Titus Young, Sr.  I remember seeing the Mariners play at Tiger Stadium and the two Ken Griffeys were playing.  When the Orioles came to town, both Cal Ripkens were on the field (shortstop and coach).  Seeing a “Sr” or “Jr” on a jersey was pretty cool. Titus Young added… Read More…