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

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…

Which America is Yours? A Proposed Four-Party Hogwarts Government

Maybe Washington could do with a leach or two… If you were sick in ancient Greece your body’s chemicals were simply off-kilter–a bad mix of the four humours:  blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile… There are four seasons (for now), four legs on a chair and four balls for a free base–but only two parties running the country.  Have you had much luck on a two-legged stool lately? Wouldn’t it be great if, like mood rings, we could glance at someone’s wardrobe and know who we’re about to ask to babysit your kid?  The Scots had it right–you could spot an enemy clansman running up the heath by the pattern of his kilt.  Even in the Harry Potter series, my own kids walked around the house with Griffindor’s gold-and-red scarves.  Now if our congress were forced to wear such identifiers from their lobbyists, it might be easier come election day. Men from Mars, Women from Venus, Dogs… Read More…

New Podcast: Breaking Through as a Novelist – Judy Burke and “Blackrock”

First time novelist, longtime educator Judy Burke shares with Kevin her eight year journey transforming a fantasy into the international espionage thriller, Blackrock–and how it all started with an Irish lighthouse and next appears in bookstores in November. Topics include… Elmore Leonard and his influence The writing process and when life gets in its way Characters, even when they’re great, and how to kill them off Dialogue’s importance Publishing companies vs. self-publishing Knowing when to end the book Visit Judy’s website to get a sneak peek at: www.JudyBurke.com

Hamlet’s Hardy Fan-Base: Shakespeare Returns to Royal Oak, July 31-August 10th

Combine the magic and nostalgia of a drive-in with the most classic tale of murder, haunted castles and terrible puns, then throw in the potential rain-delay of a ballgame and you’re ready for Hamlet that opens the 14th season of the Water Works Theatre Company on July 31st in Royal Oak. The Globe Theatre didn’t have a roof.  The cheap seats were right up front where the “groundlings” sat for a penny and were able to bring their food—generally as ammunition—rain be-damned.  The producers, writers and actors knew the audience was an integral part of the performance—to their own peril sometimes.  Joseph Papp, in 1954, was the first to “out”  Shakespeare once again, yanking him from his dark theatres, anthologies, and thousands of stuffy classrooms. Over the past fourteen years, for two weeks in August in Royal Oak, Water Works Theatre Company has presented William Shakespeare to a growing fan-base of new-age groundlings—most toting folding chairs, rain-ponchos and a… Read More…

Once Cherished Detroit Journalist Turned Thoughtless Blogger – The Tipping Point of Mitch Albom’s Generational Supremacy

I’ve had a gripe with Mitch Albom for a long time. Like many, I used to be a huge fan. Tuesday’s With Morrie made me cry and The Five People You Meet in Heaven made me wonder, gasp and smile. He used to be “our guy” on ESPN’s Around the Horn or Outside the Lines. And—as a New Jersey transplant—he was the champion of Detroit when others were kicking us while we were down. Then he lied about a little detail in a Free Press article… Will Albom’s woes taint journalism? It was a small detail, but it was lying nonetheless. And since then—- A once staple column in the Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom’s weekly Sunday pieces have tended to follow a stagnant, boring and Kale-infuriating formula in recent years. If he isn’t writing books about how scared of death he is, or he isn’t dropping an article touting… Read More…

Do you have a “beautiful question” you’d like to share with the world?

Today, March 14, is “Question Day 2014,” in honor of that master questioner Albert Einstein, who was born on this date, 135 years ago. Einstein is known for his curiosity and passion for questioning. He told us, “The important thing is not to stop questioning” and urged us to “Question everything” and “Never lose a holy curiosity.” I happen to be very interested in questioning myself. My book, A More Beautiful Question, is all about the surprising power of questioning to transform our lives and spark big breakthroughs. The book was published last week by Bloomsbury and now, of course, I’m in full promotion mode. And that’s why I couldn’t just let Einstein’s birthday pass by without marking it. An official Einstein’s birthday / Question Day connection was made in 2008 when National Question Day was declared by an entity called the Inquiry Institute. This year, in partnership with the nonprofit… Read More…

Public Education Going the Way of Netscape Navigator? Common Core, Bill Gates and BATs

Listen to our podcast with two leaders of the Badass Teacher’s Association, Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson… “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” It was a typical tenth grade essay question.  I can still see the red ink circling my first wish on my returned paper; I had written “health.” “Good health or bad health?” “Well, duh?”  I remember my brilliant 16 year-old sarcasm so clearly.  “Who would wish for bad health?” And as my revenge on this injustice, I used the same technique grading papers for 25 years.  I lectured that it was a lesson in being specific.  Students need to pay attention to those details where the devil hangs out.  The kids loved me for that one, you can imagine. I’ve had some of those same students, neighbors and a few friends ask me my opinion about the Common Core Standards.  Do I… Read More…

Harry Potter & Social Responsibility: Eternal Life–No Horcrux Necessary

Imagine getting a royalty check every time someone is called a “Good Samaritan” or “Prodigal Son.”  Go to an RV park and you’ll see one of these stickers… I remember camping for quite a while until I realized it was a nod to Jesus’ famous story.  Imagine inventing a character that is part of our vocabulary–2,000 years later. In Joe Jackson’s  “The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy,” the narrator debates selling his soul to live forever in music or stay in the moment, loved by one person calling from the next room… When Harry Potter was first banned in school districts, the “children’s literature” was linked to the devil–promoting magic or God.  It was surprising the objections parents and school-boards would have to the story of a young man resisting temptation and placing himself in direct conflict with evil promises of immortality in exchange for a soul.  It sounds like… Read More…

The Method Is Madness

I write this (the first draft, anyway) at 11:45 am, Monday morning, August 5. There will be approximately 4 more working hours in the day. About 6,060 minutes stand between me and the end of the work day on Friday. Now 6,059.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a “clock-watcher,” someone who simply gets to work and runs out the clock until the end of the day.  I’m all about the work.  Still 6,059. To those people who are dedicated to their craft, who are willing to spend as many hours as necessary to chase some unattainable perfection, I salute you…to an extent. My legal practice helps keep my kids fed and their rooms filled with stuffed animals, it keeps my house out of foreclosure, it supports my wife’s efforts while affording the occasional birthday/anniversary/random present, and it keeps my dresser covered with novels and comic books.  My law practice helps… Read More…

“Loying:” Common Misperceptions About The Practice of Law.

So, you want to know what I do for a living? To those of you who have read my posts and feel I should keep my day job, remember that you’ve probably never seen me at my day job.  If you had, possibly you’d encourage me to keep writing. I am a lawyer: I spend my days loying.  Specifically, I’m a trial defense attorney handling personal injury cases. It’s typically auto accidents, but in my past, I’ve handled elevator-related injuries, construction site injuries, and sidewalk or business slip and fall injuries. Fed by a diet of television lawyers, many lawyers dream about practicing all their lives—not me.  Not to knock the profession, but I kind of fell into it. I didn’t have the work ethic (or possibly the intelligence) to be a doctor, and I wanted a decent salary with no 24 hour shifts. Friends have told me they have… Read More…

Reading Was Boring–Until I Met Matilda

I was one of those kids who was always performing in front of his/her parents on top of the laundry basket/stage. I never sang into a hairbrush. My thoughts – What’s the point? I need an actual microphone to amplify the sound. Yep. I was (and still kind of am) that kid. But there comes a time in every child’s life when you need to learn how to read. Being the tiny, perky, ball of energy I was, reading was boring. You have to sit down for long periods of time and be quiet. There was no involvement, no reaction from others. You were the audience. Boy, was it lonely to be stuck with a book for a mandatory 20 minutes of homework per night. Then, when I was around 8 years old, I was introduced to the movie Matilda starring Mara Wilson, Danny Devito, & Rhea Pearlman.   A… Read More…

A Patriotic Party circa 1928

How to Entertain at Home, 1928

Found this little gem on the book giveaway shelf at the gym today. I picked it up out of curiosity and would have put it right back down except that it fell open to “Fourth of July parties” as if calling out to me to read it, right then. And what a great read it was! I’m not giving a party this year, but after reading the 7-page section on Fourth of July it really made me wish I were (but only if I had a team of people to help me). This 1928 edition of How to Entertain at Home: 1000 Entertainment Ideas, compiled by the Editors of THE MODERN PRISCILLA (a ladies magazine published in “Great Britain and the Colonies” from 1887 to 1930), has an introduction that starts off: “You, like every other woman, often wish to entertain, but are overcome with terror, as the task is… Read More…

The Ring Around the Rosie: Nursery Rhymes & Nightmares

    Have you ever wondered why every child under the age of 10 is a sociopath? OK, age 20. Psychologists talk about the years kids spend consumed with themselves, the years spent acknowledging only their own needs. I’ve developed a theory about this after about two hours of moderate research. Here it is: consider what we’re putting in our kid’s heads? When we force them to turn off the television to protect them from stories like Sandy Hook, Zimmerman, and from crazy people like Adam Lanza and Antonin Scalia, what are we using to replace these disturbing images? Here are a couple examples from my own experience.  Like every other kid ever, I frequently heard the singsong rhyme, “Jack and Jill.”  When Jack fell down and broke his crown, my brother told me, “You know, that means Jack died.”  What?  I couldn’t sleep that night.  Years later, driving home with… Read More…

Are Fire Hydrants Too Socialist?

There were bodies everywhere. I’d never seen anything like it before–especially on a dog-walk… It was a dream of mine since I’d first read the <em>How and Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs</em> to work on a dig. I dreamed of buried treasure–triceratops horns, a mummy (without a curse), a Neanderthal skull or my sister’s bracelet that I buried in the mud under a neighbors’ swing-set. I checked on it periodically for the mud to turn to stone with the intention of cracking it open and impressing my friends. (I’m still waiting on that one–sorry Colleen. The next time I’m in Cincinnati I’ll see if it’s ready yet.) Nothing quite as glamorous on that dog-walk, but I did have that chill run down my spine when I heard, then saw, the bulldozer.  My dad used to take me on rides in Detroit on Saturday mornings looking for steam-shovels, probably started by… Read More…

The Roaring Twenties in Detroit: A City in the Black—and Purple

Kevin’s recent illustrated humor post on Detroit’s Museum Yard Sale, about the proposed selling of the city’s more valuable art pieces, reminded me of the last time I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts about 10 years ago (I live in New York so have an excuse for not visiting there more often). My husband, author Warren Berger, and I were there on a scouting mission. Warren was checking out locations for scenes in his novel THE PURPLES, which chronicles/imagines the rise and fall of the young rumrunner Purple Gang in 1920s Detroit. [Nota bene: The novel started life as a great screenplay drafted by Kevin, Brian d’Arcy James, and Warren all sparked by—in a nod to My Media Diary’s theme—a massive family research file of news clippings compiled by Kevin. A key figure in their Purple Gang story is Harry F. Kelly (photo below), a relative of mine, Brian, and Kevin’s… Read More…

The Power of a Well-Placed Smart-Ass: Roger Sterling, Lord Tyrion and the Dowager Countess of Grantham

“What’s the definition of a smart-ass?” began one of my dad’s favorite jokes.   “Someone who could sit on ice cream and tell what flavor it is.” In 1998, the internet was new in our school and I was doing a demo in class of how cool it was.  We had the projector on and I was discussing how easy it was to find information. “For example, if you wanted to check out the President’s website, you just had to www.whitehouse.com,” I dictated proudly to my student at the keyboard who typed it in. I could see from their expressions that they also weren’t expecting the porn site on the big screen behind me. “Back arrow!  Back arrow!” I screached, convinced that the principal, governor or Bill Clinton would walk in on me at that very moment. Without missing a beat, a student raised his hand, “Mr. Walsh, can I… Read More…

The Three Things Babies Don’t Want You to Know

This is Sophie, my two year old daughter, in a diner in Davie, Florida. I posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, “Go Eagles!” In an act that took me 30 seconds, I enlisted my innocent two year old into my plan to annoy as many Dolphin fans as possible. Raising my three girls has been a pleasure not just because I find ways to express my fundamental obnoxiousness, as important as that is. It’s also a joy for all the reasons everybody talks about—unconditional mutual love, having at your constant disposal little balls of indescribable cuteness, the pride in self-perpetuation, blah blah blah. But there are effects of parenthood that nobody tells you about, effects that you should be warned about before taking the leap into parenthood.  So, in the style of Cracked.com (without the sense of humor), here are the secrets babies don’t want you to know: 1. They… Read More…

Being White and Male in South Florida.

 In its article “Being White in Philly,” Philadelphia Magazine recently reminded us that we are not a post-racial society. Reviewers of the recent book “Lean In” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg vigorously remind us that we are not post-gender either. I have to admit to a childish moment of resentment when I hear the reaction to the article or read these book reviews. I rebel against the perception (which may be in my mind alone) that I’m the bad guy. Am I seen as a secret racist, a card-carrying member of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club?  Am I the villain, or worse, am I Alfalfa?   I liked the Philadelphia Magazine article until I started reading it, before I realized how racist the article is.  The reaction to “Being White in Philly” exposed racial tensions which, in my mind, have always been obvious.  The article purports to be an even-handed… Read More…

“Cobbler and the Cowboy” — My Grandma’s Poetry

  66 years ago, this poem was proudly cut from the newspaper and placed in a scrapbook.  My grandmother, Melanie Vier McAleer died just two and a half years ago at the age of 94–an accomplished woman by any standard, winning a national doubles championship in tennis for women over 70. But her greater love, one that stayed with her through her entire life, was poetry.  She was a regularly featured writer in Detroit papers throughout my mom’s childhood in the 1940s and 50s.  Her whimsical style and clever insight into the human condition was spot-on.  I remember being flattered as a 12 year old to be asked to illustrate some of her children’s poetry about animals–one of them a squirrel. It was always a dream of hers to meld her two loves into one–a book of poems about tennis.  Her son Joe and I put ourselves on this task… Read More…

My Fading Accent

This December, a week before Christmas vacation, I flew to Philly alone. As often happens during my trips north, I thought of my friend “The Kid,” Chris Poulos. I had been out of touch with The Kid. There was no falling out; we drifted apart as people do when they grow families, when they move, when their lives get more and more complicated. Every time I went home to Philly, I would always think of him. My family was big and spread out all over the region, and all the family visits demanded all our time. I would never get a chance to see The Kid, but there was always the next trip. After all, it’s not like 35 year old men suddenly die. Actually, they do, and I was going to The Kid’s funeral. I read the book “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I haven’t seen the movie. It’s about… Read More…