You’re Pregnant, You’re Fired – Why Teachers Have Unions…For Now

Dr. Ken Noble followed his Depression-era parents into the teaching profession in Royal Oak, Michigan four years before Governor Romney (R) signed a law permitting collective bargaining for public workers.  In 2010, Ken shared his perspective with teachers struggling with the need for a teachers union in a district that would eventually impose an historically severe retroactive pay-cut on its teachers.

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I have been out of the classroom and away from the negotiating table for so long I do not know how much my thoughts will help you, but since you asked . . .The evolution of teacher duties and compensation is actually … Read More…

For Those Who Don’t Speak Spy: The Case for “World is Not Enough”

Chanukah 2000 was a pivotal moment in my life. One of those fulcrums in the space-time continuum. I remember it vividly. My family was in Memphis, Tennessee visiting my cousin. The trip marked my first time in Memphis, which would spark an interest and appreciation for the blues and Elvis Presley that would stretch well into later years; motivating more trips to the heart of the mid-South and grizzly versions of “Heartbreak Hotel” at karaoke bars across the nation. In addition to those very cultural pillars established that Chanukah, I received two gifts that would mold my childhood and shape much of my adolescence and adulthood. We don’t really do gifts anymore on Chanukah, and I appreciate that, because that’s not what the holiday is … 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

Brian Kelly-Prince of MiamiW. 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. … 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…

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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 … 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 … 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.

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    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 … Read More…

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

    It’s funny what passes for luxury when you’re a kid.

    Laura with JimBob kids in pool 1972

    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, … Read More…

    November 22, 1963: A Seventh Grader’s Loss of Innocence

     

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    Saturday was to be the day that my Mom and I would move out of the house my family had lived in for eight of my 12 years. The large three-story home which had held within its walls a family of eight and all that that entails had grown too large.   Dad was gone and gradually the family had dispersed as families do. Now it was just me and my Mom.

    She had rented the bottom of a house across from the University of Detroit. She worked there managing the bookstore so the location made sense. The local Catholic school … Read More…

    5 Love Songs That Send the Wrong Message

    Love.

    We are obsessed with it. Many of us bask in its glory; worship its treasures and truths. Others are shaped and molded by its destructive affect and merciless circumstance. Then there is the rest of us: those that are almost certainly meant to spend life trying to figure out if love is as real as Bigfoot, honest politicians or a Detroit Lions Superbowl win, and not some made up, human hoax to sell greeting cards and movie tickets. One thing is certain, though. We love to sing about love.

    If it’s not about partying or politics, at times, it appears that every song ever written is about the wonder of or dismay for love. The Beatles, for example, used the word “love” 613 times in … 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

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    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 … Read More…

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

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    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 … Read More…

    College Football is Back, and So Are the Memories

    I didn’t choose to go to Michigan State University for Big Ten football, even though if you meet me today, I’ll jokingly tell you that that was the reason. The first time I ever really started to feel old was when I–for the first time in my life–didn’t have a school to go back to last fall. To add insult to injury, I couldn’t even be in the same state for Michigan State’s home opener vs Boise State. 

    That stunk. 

    Because there’s something special about College Football, isn’t there? I’m not even talking about the play on the field, though that is special in its own right. No, I’m talking about the way that College Football serves as a special place in our puny little … Read More…

    Dreaming and Hoping: Cruising Woodward, Happy Days and Retconning a Decade with Fictional American Idealism

    I can see why a lot of people don’t like the Dream Cruise, especially if you live in that area. Or, as is in my case, the Dream Cruise can be a big ol’ inconvenience to those who have to work in the Bloomfield Hills to Royal Oak area. It’s loud, a lot of the people are annoying. You can’t get anywhere quick, if you can get anywhere at all. Vendors are closed, and it’s no honeymoon trying to make the last FedEx pick up in Birmingham the Thursday and Friday before the actual Dream Cruise. 

    So, I get it. It seems there are more haters every year, though. In classic Michigander style, we like to complain when there’s nothing going on as much as … Read More…

    Death of a Whistleblower: Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Edward Snowden and Jerry Buckley

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    *Updated on 3/24/14 with video of hotel implosion courtesy of Laurie Rutzel Lessard.

    50,000 people is a considerable crowd at a ballpark, but a graveside service is pretty remarkable–particularly in a thunderstorm.

    Two recent news events have merged for me to remember the 1930 Detroit gangland assassination of a man with a questionable past that was compared to half of Mount Rushmore’s occupants…

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    Quite a quote from the one-year anniversary memorial service on Belle Isle honoring a martyred radio announcer–even elaborated upon by none … Read More…

    Ma Kai

    I have been trying to find the right words to express what it felt like sitting on the beach last week in North Carolina last week on vacation.  It was a feeling on insignificance, but yet peace.  I was going to try to put my words around a blog, but decided to try my hand in poetry. Indulge me! 

    Ma Kai

    Your waves crash on the beach
    Your breeze blows across my face
    The sun beats on me, just me

    Decisions to be had,
    Deadlines to be made,
    Not today as I hide my feet in your sand

    The enormity of your being
    makes me feel insignificant…
    ….but strangely at peace

    The things you have seen,
    The … Read More…

    Midnight-Screenings: Magic, Memories and Marketing

    The other night, whilst sipping a brew or two, a debate arose amongst my friends and me—a debate that will seemingly never end. We discuss it all the time, and we can never come to a consensus:

    What is the greatest superhero movie of all time: “The Dark Knight” or “X-Men: First Class”? 

    Because it is, of course, either/or. There is no (c) to this multiple choice question (sure, maybe “The Avengers”). My friends and I can’t seem to come to a decisive conclusion. No one wants to pit one movie against the other, but, as wayward, mentally adrift early-20’s males, it’s our duty to come up with some sort of conclusion to this mind-boggling question. Thus, that night, the debate carried on:

    (SPOILERS)

    “Dark … Read More…

    Save The Dates!

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    On October 11, 19-something, I got a call from an old college buddy. October 11 is apparently National Coming Out Day, a significant day in the gay community when LGBT people come out to someone close to them who doesn’t know.  I was shocked–I had no idea.  We had talked about girls for hours over beers and “za.”  (transl. pizza).  To help process the information, I called another friend, who was apparently sitting next to his wife when the phone rang.

    Me: “Mike, does the date October 11 mean anything to you?”
    Mike: “October 11th? No, what’s special about that date…OUCH…yeah, it’s my … Read More…

    Duck and Cover: Educational Fallout Shelters for a Sputnik Moment

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    I’d only been through this doorway a few hundred times in my life–and never noticed it.  There, on the top left.

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    I certainly hadn’t noticed that there was a faded “capacity” circle.  I wonder who had to enforce that one?

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    And who … Read More…

    ID Those Old Snapshots! The Orson Starr House and “Lots of Love, Lois”

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    You don’t meet that many women named Lois–perhaps Superman was kryptonite to that name after the 1940s.  But today I met one and was immediately reminded of another–someone I’d never met but I’m sure I’d like her.

    As a family historian, I’ve always been grateful to the long-gone folks who took 30 seconds to identify people on the backs of their snapshots.  In the large shoebox of Brownie pictures I inherited from my grandmother, most with no notations (since it was obvious to her who they were!) I enjoy this note the most.

    Lois_SignatureRead More…

    Brain Ruts: Phantom Pets, Facebook Anger & Geographical Literacy

    I’ve been opening the wrong cupboard for 15 years now.

    After the first two weeks in our house, it became obvious that having the glasses right above the dishwasher made more sense.  (You can stack plates, so moving them all at once to the cupboard four feet behind us was more “logical” — to quote my Spock-fan son.)

    But it doesn’t matter.  When I’m thirsty, I swing open the wrong door, swear under my breath, and trudge across our eight foot kitchen floor and get a glass from the correct place.  15 years.

    I was recently going through a three-day training of a new software platform at work.  Part of the drill was for us to respond with insightful comments on our experience.  … Read More…