Back to the Classroom, Slide Projectors, Mountains & Mole Hills

Four years ago, my intended formula for this blog was pretty simple–pick a form of media (TV show, movie, billboard, cat footprints) and let it take you down a path or two.  But the last path I took was in August, before I returned to the high school classroom for my 26th year.  Being in an office setting since 2012 certainly gave me more physical and creative energy for activities like blogging as well as producing a documentary series, but it also pulled me a bit away from some basic reality-check questions that I’ve always enjoyed from teenagers–beyond “Can you give me passing grade and a pass to go home?” The days following Election Day produced some poignant conversations for this English major turned video production teacher–with just a minor in US History. Q.  How can the losing candidate can have 3 million more votes–and what the hell is an Electoral College? It’s certainly a… Read More…

Faded Snapshots & Time Travel: Unfogging the Past with PhotoShop

Take a minute and flip through your phone’s pictures taken this Thanksgiving weekend–now zoom-in to something in the background.  Do you notice anything interesting–or something that <em>might </em>be interesting in a few decades? The new Stephen Hawking bio-pic, The Theory of Everything, can drive you a little crazy if you are one of those people who needs to straighten a picture frame in a friend’s house.  Hawking’s glasses are always crooked and always needing cleaning. The color-correction folks in film know what they’re doing when they choose their palettes.  It’s hard not to get nostalgic with a shot like above–and if you add in string instruments and piano you’re already reaching for the Kleenex for memories you didn’t even have.  Flashbacks in film often have an orange or yellow tint to them and, like the world through Hawking’s dirty specs, are generally fuzzy as well.  I wonder who in Hollywood decided this was what nostalgia looked like…. Read More…

My Friends Call Me Tex Cobb: a Personal Contemplation of Bravery and Loyalty

Someone who knows me as well as anyone in the world–someone I’ve known since the playground–once told me he didn’t think I was someone who “had his back.” In a difficult time, I was not a guy he would turn to for help. The context of his comments is forgotten. Maybe it was just a mean thing someone says during an argument to get the last word. Maybe he was recalling a specific incident when he said it, although I can’t imagine what.  The comments hit me like a jab to the temple.  I believe this guy would always have my back. Whatever the context, when someone says something like that, you have to soul-search, you have to contemplate who you really are. Are you brave?  Loyal?  If a friend is in need, are you there? Here’s another thing the same guy said, although not to me. He said it to an… Read More…

Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence: What’s in a Smile at Graduation Time?

I hadn’t seen this smile from my son in a long time… As you might expect, we don’t dress this formally around the yard most days. It was prom night last Thursday and Aidan and his date Katie had just finished twelfth grade two days earlier. And, aside from the $200+ to rent the tux, we also got this pretty rare expression thrown in with the shiny shoes. In fact, perhaps the last time we’d seen that smile was right before Aidan started his career as a student… We were heading down to Indianapolis to visit some friends and stopped at a rest stop to find one of those trees that you’ll spend the rest of your life just walking by. I grabbed Aidan and stuck him up in the branches and you’d think he’d just been taken to Disney World. One of my favorite Mark Twain nuggets is: “Why… Read More…

In Flipper’s Footsteps by Brian d’Arcy James

From time to time, I help my cousin Brian d’Arcy James keep his website updated, and this recent post he wrote struck me as a perfect nostalgia article for “My Media Diary,” and for all those who grew up with 1960s TV (or its reruns).  So am sharing it with this blog’s audience. —Laura W. C. Fields is famously credited with this warning to all:  “Never work with children or animals.” My Uncle Brian was more specific: “Never act with a fish.” Let me explain. My namesake and my uncle, Brian Kelly, was an actor. He was a big reason why I do what I do today. He showed me that being an actor was not only possible, but also could be a viable profession. He gave me many tips and insights about the business I’m currently in, either explicitly or by example. However, the most memorable, if not best… Read More…

No Snow-Days at the Detroit Zoo: A Winter’s Afternoon with a Camera and a New Gadget

Dig through your parents’ photo albums.  If you’re from the Detroit area (or ever visited someone there in your childhood) there’s probably one of these shots somewhere, for example, the bear-pit where you used to be able to toss marshmallows, in the days before ursine diabetes… My mom was there twenty-two years earlier… The same day they were posing in front of the zoo’s signature water tower where my Uncle Larry (standing) perfected his sneer/smile to be seen fifty years later as a “Grumpa.” And perhaps the most recognizable family photo-spot in the park… In fact, you can Google “Detroit Zoo Fountain” and get a couple thousand family pictures like mine–some snapshots are even for sale on eBay… I hadn’t been there in five years–after all, the Detroit Zoo is nearly four miles from my house and I only drive by it every day.  But it was going to hit… Read More…

Making People Feel Like Dummies: Swimming the Treacherous Waters of Sheldons

I’ve had some pretty memorable conversations at the checkout counter at Radio Shack: “So you need a male-to-male connector…” (I was fourteen, buying some cables for my stereo–a bit startled by this apparent pickup line.) “Can I please have your address?” (Perhaps another line, but I was just paying cash.) And my favorite, when I was buying a 25-foot audio cable… “May I ask what you’ll be using this for?” The guy was implying that purchasing an audio cable to run video through a non-gold-plated triple-insulated cable may not only ruin the quality of my picture but perhaps offset the precarious balance of the Middle East peace talks. “Thank you for shopping with us…dummy.” Radio Shack has survived, somehow, by cornering the market of oddball technical needs at crazily marked up prices.  And, with the development of any specialty, there comes the inevitable feeling of invincibility and irreplaceablilty.  I’ve seen… 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…

Fortune OR Glory: The Case for “Temple of Doom”

This past Wednesday was Steven Spielberg’s birthday. I’m not gonna go on here and ramble about how this gentleman has affected my life, because I think that, for any aspiring filmmaker, that need not be explained. The guy turned 67. Sixty-seven! Yet, I stop myself from calling him old, because to have that kind of body of work at 67 is just ridiculous, even for Steven Spielberg; the kind of body of work that makes 67 continue to feel like 27. I guess a sizable bank account helps, too. As a birthday gift to Mr. Spielberg, I thought I’d write a piece defending one of his most divisive of films: “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. This is one of those films that the internet likes to tear apart. The General Internet Consensus (GIC) tends to be: “Temple of Doom” is a weak film with silly, non-believable action sequences,… Read More…

The Facebook Birthday Fix: Evidence for Defending Your Life

Today is my wife’s birthday and, like a true Facebook lurker, I can’t help but drift into her page and see the many greetings coming from all walks of her life. Patrice is one of those rare people whose default setting is funny, matter-of-fact, wise, generous, caring and, somehow, so modest she thinks she isn’t really any of these. Small wonder that she’s had the same girls in her scout troop for over ten years. Reading the posts of all the lives she’s touched, I’ve am impressed by how many agree with her wise husband. Facebook has made it incredibly easy for me to be considerate. It sends me nudges about my friends’ birthdays and has moved their big days to the top-right of my screen. When I first joined, it was late August 2008 and a month later when my birthday hit I was so surprised by not only… Read More…

“Gobble Gobble!” Thanksgiving, Northern Michigan and Family

Perhaps Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s front-loaded.  All the work is done on the first day and the rest of the weekend is comprised of football, avoiding the mall and general digestion. Throughout the late 1970s and into the early 1990s,when the above couch wasn’t full of random cousins it served as my bed.  In 1984, I was a college sophomore, stressed out completely, and couldn’t wait to drive with my family five hours north to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill’s cottage on Oden Island, just north of Petoskey, Michigan. We’d load up the station wagon, pray for no icy roads on Wednesday evening and get going on I-75, along with a couple thousand other travelers–some, like us, not wearing hunting orange and plaid. It was one of those fatigued moments of joy when we’d drive across the steep bridge to the island and down the road… Read More…

Corinthian Leather: A Fond, Gas-Guzzling Reminiscence of Shag-Luxury

It’s funny what passes for luxury when you’re a kid. In 1973, we visited my Uncle Bob and his family in Winter Haven, Florida and I couldn’t believe they had a fountain in their backyard.  Along with so many in-ground pools, lizards running all over the yards was added the magic of my grandma’s mobile home park three miles away where they actually had adult bikes with three wheels! Moving into our new house that same summer, I was amazed to see that each of the kids’ rooms had its own color scheme of shag carpeting—pink, green, orange and yellow.  My parents’ room was a deep blue shag and the family room was a tasteful blend of all of the colors listed above. But what made me know we had really arrived was the plastic rake that the previous owners had left behind to tend the fluorescent blades of carpeting…. Read More…

A Story So Frightening Your Hair Will Turn White…Eventually.

The loud crack of my stapler hitting the floor startled me out of my work and re-acquainted me with my surroundings.  I was in my office.  It was dark out. Halloween night, 2004, a Sunday night.  I had no kids and no holiday related plans.  I was there on a Sunday because I had a Motion to file in the Freeman case, and with trial a week away, I had a deadline to meet.  I had never been in the office that late before.  My day usually ended at 5:30 pm, and if I was on the phone when the 5:30 bell chimed, I hung up the phone abruptly and left.  I was not used to the stillness, the quiet.  I looked at my watch: 5:45.  The only sound was the buzzing of the hallway fluorescents, which also provided the only light besides my own office light.  All the other… Read More…

Like Razor Blades and Apples: The Top 5 Halloween Sours that Soon Become Sweet

Some enterprising psychopath, according to my childhood’s urban legend, decided to bury a razor blade into an apple for the ultimate Halloween trick.  They were the carefree days long before candy-inspections were rivaled only by airport shoe-screenings.  It was a time of unlocked doors, keys in ignitions and Baby Jesuses safe in city hall nativity scenes. And, faster than you can say tetanus shot, one hungry kid reaches into his pillow case, pulls out the booby-trapped apple and gets an instant cleft-palate. The innocence was gone and soon Tylenol was going to find itself triple-wrapped. I remember being warned of this creep in the same hushed tones that I was warned to floss or else end up with the gum-lines of Lon Chaney… It’s the only time of year that we encourage our kids to scream in the night, befriend strangers–and even accept candy from them.  It’s that magical, cold,… Read More…

We Are Still Fans…Somehow

College football’s Nittany Lions won a thriller this past weekend, a tight game requiring multiple overtimes. I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, in a region teeming with Penn State grads and Nittany Lions fans, and I befriended a few of the rare ones who tolerated someone who went to Notre Dame. After the PSU game this Saturday, my Facebook page was abuzz with Penn State pride. One friend wrote simply “We are…,” to demonstrate her team-pride. Discounting the possibility her typewriter broke before she finished the phrase, and ignoring the fact the slogan just may be appropriated from another college team and a film with Matthew McConaughey, there may be some inadvertent significance to the fact the phrase read simply “We are…” The missing words, “Penn State,” once stood for college football dominance as well as decent academics and a diversified alumni, but to many, the words have come to… Read More…

Detroit Sports Masochism: Big Papi, Crazy Uncle Jim Leyland and Neanderthal Man

I learned long ago that my garage is never more organized than it is on autumn Sunday afternoons.  When the Lions are on, something positive has to happen by 4 PM.  So, to the embarrassment of my wife, I buried a coaxial cable under the ground and ran it to the garage so I could keep half an eye on my latest garbage-picked 32″ television  while I fold paint tarps, sort screws, clean bike chains or set mousetraps. I have been a Lions fan since the mid 1970’s.  I have seen the Dallas Cowboys and 49ers go from bad, to great, to bad again, then great again.  And since turning negative-seven years-old, the Lions have amassed exactly one playoff victory–in 1991 against the Cowboys without injured Troy Aikman.  For me, Wayne Fontes is the good old days.  No Lions head-coach has ever been a head-coach anywhere else. Last night, I… Read More…

Imaginary Guns and Real Bullets

I’m pressed up against a wall, waiting.  Hunting.  The gun I’m holding is inches from my nose, my two hands folded as if I’m praying.  My enemy, James Lyons, is around the corner, and I’m about to spring as soon as he comes into view.  I’m secret agent John Lennon, and besides making the greatest music ever, I also work for the government, saving the world.  Yesterday, I was Captain Kirk.  I’m 12 years old at 6th grade recess, the gun is imaginary, but I did actually save the world.  (Things are still going on, right?  You’re welcome.)  Let me tell you a little something not about myself:  I am not a gun advocate, a gun owner or (liberal alert) a gun tolerator.  I am a Tarantino film-lover, but that’s about the extent of it.  I m also not the rhythm guitarist/vocalist/composer for the greatest band ever.  I was never a starship captain,… Read More…

Autumn Falls in South Florida

Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile…William Cullen Bryant. I love seasons…that’s why I live in a place that skips the @#%ty ones…Daniel Tosh Autumn fell on us on a Sunday this year.  As I type this, it’s a brisk, autumny 85 degrees in downtown Miami. There will be a hard rainfall later today from about 5:45 until 6:05, depending on what time I get on I-95 to go home.  The rainy season will most likely be over sometime this month  It’s football season, and after the Sunday game, kids spill out of their houses to play outside in their favorite team T-shirts and shorts.  Since this is South Florida, the shirts will read NY Jets and NY Giants. We’ll all try to enjoy this last bit of outdoor activity before the winter makes the outdoors unbearable, with temperatures dipping down to the mid 60’s, when Floridians shut their doors and grab… Read More…

Little League Purgatory: Nostalgia is 20-20 and Cornfields Line All Outfields

It might have been a Hallmark Channel’s special–everyone was completely bathed in sunset gold; there was even corn behind the outfield.  But hidden in this pastoral setting lies the fine print for parents–the eleventh commandment of my nephew’s little league game. “If a new inning doth start ere 8:30 PM, the game must continue until both sides have batted completely.” Coach-pitch is that bastard child, somewhere between tee-ball and concussion–when dads (mainly) publicly humiliate themselves by missing the plate repeatedly–at least that was the way it was way back when my kids played. Now, after too many trips to the chiropractor or too many threatened lawsuits, some clever dude invented a gadget that throws a perfect pitch each time. But the with the added time it takes to catch the ball from a young infielder, transfer it from your glove, load it in the slot, step on the pedal, release… Read More…

The Fading Power of Handwriting: My Dad and Journaling in Northern Michigan

D-Day was just three months away, but my dad’s Uncle Walt was instead worrying about the folks back home, specifically his sister Laura and her husband. I didn’t know my grandparents had a rocky marriage, or that they were even separated, until I’d read this folded letter in my grandma’s shoebox. Sixty years later,  I attended the funeral of Walt and Laura’s youngest brother Jerry in Florida, I had a chance to give the letter to Walt’s children, whom I had never met.   Walt had died thirty-four years earlier and they had never seen their father’s handwriting from a young hand–smooth, and confident.  They had only known their father’s shakey hand. When they had held the letter and seen the writing, the tears began. The afternoon of my own father’s death sixteen years ago this Thursday–before I could accept that he had left me completely, I needed to sense… Read More…