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

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…

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…

Our Sanity Just Out of Rifle Range

Christina Taylor Green In the days after yet another school shooting, this time in Portland, let’s take a moment and reflect on how our attitude towards gun control and ownership has evolved in the past few years. The Sandy Hook tragedy took place on December 14, 2012, about a year and a half ago. Columbine was on April 20, 1999: 15 years ago. The Aurora movie theatre shootings, in which killed 12 people were shot and killed at the opening of the movie Dark Knight Rises, happened on July 20, 2012, almost two years ago. A friend of mine recently told me she was nervous about going to the movies; she was afraid of a gunman opening fire. Before 7/20/12, it probably never occurred to her that going to the movies could get you shot. Now, apparently, we should be afraid to leave our kids at school. It’s hard to… Read More…

Fracking, Rat-Packing & Heart-Attacking: Opening Pandora’s Box of Ads

It is better to give than receive–particularly homework.  But for one weekend my high school students didn’t mind, at first, being asked to watch the Super Bowl and its commercials. The quickly frowning class soon realized it would have to count the number of edits, how a narrator was used, the use of graphics, music, celebrities, etc.  But my favorite column read, “Intended Audience.”  I started the assignment back when the agencies realized they could had grab the same audience that didn’t get a sandwich during a timeout for the first Macintosh ad in 1984–and the Bud Bowl began. Generally, a football game will not be the correct forum for Mop & Glow, pet food or feminine hygiene.  (Someone on Madison Avenue once gave birth to the strange descendant of “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” as the cringe-worthy, “It’s not your mother’s tampon.” ) The standards for the “Big Game,” as the NFL insists other… Read More…

$100 by Tuesday and You Could Be a State Senator: Great Pay, Hours and Benefits!

  Do you hate those knocks on the door with people holding clipboards?  Have you thought of running for office but don’t want to be the next Avon lady? Well, you can skip those pesky 500 petitions needed to run for state office in Michigan.  The state’s website recommends getting 1,000 signatures–just to be on the safe side in case you’ve got some bogus citizens or someone’s going to challenge you on using a #3 pencil or a hanging chad. That’s right!  For the low, low price of only $100 and a notarized form by 4 PM Tuesday, April 22nd, you too can be on the primary ballot for the Michigan State Senate. Did you see the best part? If that doesn’t appeal to the laziest in all of us, I don’t know what would.  That’s less than one month’s basic cable–and you’re eligible for some pretty good pay and… Read More…

Get Hooked Up On LinkedIn: Reaching New Career Heights with a Few Clicks

Although it is easy to believe that you have peaked in your career or that your true potential is out of reach, networking on the internet opens up more doors than any one person can shut. It may appear to be overwhelming at first but there are effective ways to put your best digital foot forward without getting stressed out. And you may have more say in your future than your socioeconomic status would indicate. Joining social, job-seeking websites can even the playing field pretty quickly when it comes to prospective job seekers. Whether you are employed or otherwise, situational perspective should be common ground among any single person who has access to the internet. We all have expectations for ourselves, no matter where we come from. Let’s focus on LinkedIn. It is often overlooked as a valuable tool, often poorly utilized and too readily ignored by people who are… Read More…

“Mr. Lincoln, All the Ladies Like Whiskers…” Long Beards, Nostalgia & Entrepreneurship

Listen to our podcast with beard-entrepreneur, Doug Geiger, founder of the beard-care and philosophy website canyouhandlebar.com… It’s hard to find many statues honoring a fashion expert, but in Westfield, New York you’ll find one dedicated to an eleven year old adviser to the president. Abraham Lincoln, in addition to his many accomplishments as a statesman, orator and joke-teller was also a bit of a trendsetter.  Grace Bedell, an 11 year-old fan during his presidential run, wrote to him and famously recommended the candidate grow some facial hair, “All the ladies like whiskers.” And while women wouldn’t have the vote for another 55 years, Lincoln made the shrewd decision to court the nation’s wives. In honor of Presidents Day, let’s look over the 20% our commanders-in-chief who have sported facial hair, and you’ll see a pattern at 16 through 27. Aside from the sideburns of John Quincy Adams and Martin Van… 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…

Rating People Like Movies? Using a Metascore for Your Neighbor and Spouse

In the land of The Newsroom‘s Aaron Sorkin, everything ends up as it should be–Karma works and Yins and Yangs co-exist happily.  (For example, the Obamacare websites would be working on day one.)  In Sorkin’s final scene in The Social Network he portrays the Facebook founder as a miserable billionaire with no friends, cyber stalking his ex-girlfriend who started the whole ball a-rollin’–all to the Beatle’s tune, “Baby You’re a Rich Man.” But unfortunately for us, Zuckerberg’s not really that sad and Martin Sheen isn’t in charge of the Affordable Health Care Act.  Hollywood isn’t real–but maybe a piece of Hollywood could be real–the Metascore. Bloodsuckers in Washington?  Who Knew? I’d finally caved and started a Netflix viewing of the terribly bad, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.   “Now that’s a mistake,” I complained.  “The White House didn’t have that second floor porch until Truman was president.” “They also didn’t have vampires,”… Read More…

A Priest Walks into a Cyber-Survey: Papal Surveys & Cafeteria Bishops

A priest wasn’t sure if his sound system was working when he saw some confused expressions from the cheap seats.  He said, “I think there’s something wrong with this microphone.” “And also with you,” they replied. Okay, so now Catholics have to say “And with your spirit,” so the joke’s gone the way of the confessional.  But the response from the parishioners might be the same.  The Church has instructed its leaders to ask some key questions in preparation for an October 2014 conference on the family.  (See article.) Attendance is down in churches around the world, but most notably around the Detrot area.  Reasons vary, but many polled generally attribute a lack of acceptance, flexibility and tolerance from the church’s leadership.  According to the Free Press, The archdiocese said there are 1.38 million people in its six counties who identify as Catholics. About 700,000 are registered at about 240… 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…

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…

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…

Five Minutes That Could Redefine How You Perceive Media

If you have seen a movie, watched television, or even spoken of the two, then you’ve probably heard of Kevin Spacey. Our main man is attributed to being the degree by which people are separated in the film world, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Spacey”. Indeed Kevin Spacey’s prolific career that began in 1986 spans television, film, and music. He has had unparalleled success in pretty much everything he has done. Spacey’s most recent notable work includes his new hit series “House of Cards” on Netflix. Speaking in Edinburgh, Kevin Spacey, describes the process he and his team went through trying to get “House of Cards” greenlit, and in the process, ever so eloquently explains how the current model of delivering media content to the consumer in the United States is not only broken, but will disappear in the near future. The fundamental success to the current, outdated model of… 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…

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…

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…