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…

Converting Home Videos – From Basement to YouTube: The Cheapest Invaluable Gift You’ll Ever Give

Two questions guaranteed to get you the polite Umm..okay… instead of the actual Hell No!… Would you like to see the videos from our two-week trip? Want to hear about a dream I had last night? Unless you’re bed-ridden or Sigmund Freud, you could well be stuck for at least an hour getting far too much information on what should have been a five minute conversation under the category, “You really should have been there.” But with the magic of a $35 do-dad, YouTube and Facebook, I’ve managed to release my captives. In all of our basements and attics, there are boxes of videotapes, photographs, slides and 8mm movies.  I’ve lived in constant fear of losing those treasures to fire, flooding, mold or accidental bouts of cleaning.  I’ve written earlier about my attempts to tackle the hundred pounds of snapshots, but now what to do with all the video (and… Read More…

Christmas Carol Demolition Squad: Revisiting a 3 and 5 Year-Old’s Medley, Thirteen Years Later

It’s just six minutes of random videotape from thirteen years ago as the kids decorate a Christmas tree.  It’s funny what passes for nothing at the time but turns into family legend.  Thanks to my kids for letting me post these brief video clips and for not minding an interview on-location a couple days ago (final clip). The 2000 model of Abby (3) and Aidan (5) had decided it was time to add the candy canes to the tree.  As a kindergartener, it was very clear to my son what the pecking order would be–and not just for tree-trimming .  My daughter, in a calm “no,” simply vetoes the maneuver and moves to the front of the line when dad asks for a song. She continues to ignore her brother, whose attempts to bastardize the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” seem to be bothering only the director… So Abby gets… Read More…

Newsflash! Michigan Company Moves to Michigan – “Right-to-Work” Righteousness by Gov. Snyder

I received an email today from the governor.  Rick Snyder proudly announced that a Michigan-based company has decided to move to–Michigan, of all paces.  There it was, right there in my in-box, under the double-meaning title:  “This is what it’s all about.” subject heading… This is what it’s all about.  Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Michigan’s governor signing into law “Right to Work” under the promises that it would make Michigan more competitive, attract new companies and give employees more options. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, that all of the RTW states’ employees have a lower standard of living without unions, despite the governor himself stating that the issue was divisive, despite the doors being locked from the public during the lame-duck push by legislators who had just lost their seats in the election, the law was passed. Yesterday, the AFL-CIO sent out an email reminding… Read More…

An Important Halloween “Thriller”: From Music Videos to Music Films

It’s Halloween again, so it’s time to watch it: But, watch. I mean, really sit down and experience it all. Turn on that 480p, shut off the lights, grab a bag of popcorn and if you’re lucky enough to have a significant other, grab him or her too, sit down, and watch “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”. It’s one of the most incredible short films ever created, and its impact on pop culture can never be overstated. We view it every Halloween because it puts air in our tires. It gets us excited for horror films and candy and costumes and–dancing. But before it became a Halloween staple, it was the production that changed music videos and television and the role of the pop superstar forever. As scary as “War of the Worlds” was to radio. As landmark as the Kennedy-Nixon debate was to televised news. As big as “Star Wars” was… Read More…

Gorillas & Government Shutdown: What Would George Bailey Do?

[Updated after the September 30th shut-down.] Last night’s vain countdown to midnight with no expectations for our leaders to avoid a government shutdown seems to be creating a sense of normalcy with these panics–making the bank-scare of George Bailey’s savings and loan look like over-reaction. We’re pretty used to these games of chicken, unfortunately.   There’s the old joke asking where a gorilla sleeps.  The punchline of “Anywhere it wants” always made me chuckle.  It creates a visual of a Warner Brothers gorilla bending his cage bars and thumping Sylvester on the head as he chases the innocent Tweety. But even in those cartoons, the bully gets his due–even if it’s from another bully. All week, there has been plenty of roaring and chest-thumping and it’s going to continue. Some gorillas are going to celebrate today as a victory. Beaten Into Submission My son’s medication arrived via the drive-through window… Read More…

The Anatomy of a Great ’80s Pop Rock Song

There’s a reason no one in music makes songs like the pop rock ballads of the 80’s anymore. It’s not because that kind of organized noise is out of style or because it’s difficult to recreate the sound of obsolete synthesizers and early ’80s, electric Yamaha drums, but because I don’t believe there is anyone in the pop music world right now with the vision, skills or intellectual wherewithal to come up with the classics that were bred from the likes of Toto, Journey, Styx, Foreigner, et cetera.  What makes those ’80s rock songs so great though? Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint. Fear not, though, because Kale is here to give you the breakdown on what makes these  ’80s pop rock songs so perfect. To illustrate this, I will dissect The Alan Parsons Project tune “Games People Play”. Why this song? Well, you may only know of The Alan Parsons… Read More…

The Anatomy of a Great Game

  As I write this, my favorite baseball team won their 12th straight game and 4th straight against their division rivals 10-3. Our ace went 7 strong innings to win his 17th of the year. The 3rd and 5th hitters in the lineup had 3 RBI each. And we taxed their bullpen so much, that they had to bring in their utility player in in the 9th inning to pitch. All that and yet—the excitement, fun and thrills didn’t come close to the game that preceded it.  On August 7th, 2013, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians fans were treated to what was absolutely the most exciting game of the year. Yes, Indians fans too, even though they were on the losing end. The August 7th match was one of those games that comes around once or twice a year, and goes the way of a team like the Tigers, who… Read More…

The Contagiousness of a Happy Couple: True Story or Con-Job (or Doesn’t It Matter?)

I’ve seen it three times today and I could see it another 12 more times before I go to sleep.  So it’s been seen already 17 million times by the rest of the world–I’m a little slow! I was totally exhausted this morning and trying hard to wake up when I saw the link to this Tonight Show video on my friend’s Facebook page. And, as expected, if it seems too good to be true… Out came the speculators that it was staged. And a blog that gave folks another reason to hate Jay Leno. It’s the same debate I’ve had with myself a hundred times.  When the headlines hit, can I separate the work from the artist? I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen movies, but I’m not sure I’d want him to be a guidance counselor for senior girls. Chinatown is one of my favorite movies, but Roman… Read More…

Film-Strips, Ventriloquism and Skipping Class – My Tenth-Grade Idol

I was nearly hit by a golf ball Sunday and I laughed, remembering one of the funniest guys I ever knew.  It was a scramble but apparently not fast enough for the guy behind us. We heard that unmistakeable plop you shouldn’t hear without “Fore!” yelled first.    After a couple quiet expletives aimed at the jerk, I told my buddy Dave about Jim, who would simply walk up to the errant ball, driver in-hand, and proceed to pound it into the fairway. Jim always did what I still just dream of doing. He was a year behind me in tenth grade–and miles ahead of me in everything else.  He was hilarious in class, always ready with the funny observation–just skirting the edges of detention and making the teacher bust up.  But his two greatest skills were in the audio department.  He could, in one half hour, mess up a… Read More…

“Fabberglasted” – Local Legend of Baseball and Fertilizer, Rod Allen

I blame Justin Timberlake. Without the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction with Janet Jackson, there wouldn’t be such a long delay of live television broadcasts–and I could just turn down the set and have the radio playing. Anyone unfortunate enough to watch a Tiger game beside me knows that I’ve got a collection on my phone’s note-pad.  It’s a three year-old assembly that was created as a little therapy. The title of the list: “Rod-isms.” Rod Allen is a former Tiger who batted .333 for the club–for his 15 games.  At an ’84 reunion of the last World Series champions in the Motor City, I was very happy to look down on the field and see some of my favorites:  Gibson, Trammell, Whitaker, Parrish, Petry, Morris…”and Rod Allen.” I don’t do double-takes too often, but I did that day at the ballpark.  I had to check my “Bless You Boys” book,… Read More…

Arbitrary Arpeggios: Surrendering to “Shuffle”

Shuffle is awesome. Just something about that option; that every time we pick up our mp3 players, we lend our mood to musical fate. I don’t even make playlists anymore. I enjoy the spontaneity of the shuffle feature. What’s crazy, is when a song comes on that eerily relates to whatever is going on in your life. This happens in movies A LOT. Cynics and trolls will roll their eyes every time a piece of media playing in the background (radio, film clip, news reel) directly relates to and affects our main character. It happens so often in film and TV. It’s even been perfectly spoofed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in this scene from “BASEketball”.  [Warning (and no surprise) a bit of vulgarity toward the end.] This scene is spot on in its attempt to make fun of how convenient diegetic music in movies can be and how… Read More…

Ann and Jim’s Wedding

My parents were married at Precious Blood parish in Detroit on June 22, 1963. For years, on their anniversary, we’d haul out the 8mm projector and watch the film, hoping that the burning bulb wouldn’t choose that moment to set the precious footage in flame. We’d gather in the dining room and were unable to stop the film due to the dangerous bulb. Instead, we’d crouch near the screen and point out blurry faces quickly–many of them passed. With the advent of video I was thrilled to move the footage to VHS, then to DVD and finally to YouTube. The fear of the bulb was gone and now you can just hit “pause” or even use a screen-shot to make a quick photo like below. I have no memory of this day and wasn’t due to be baptised for another 18 months, but I feel that I was there–even if… Read More…