The Beast From The East

August 6th, 2015

Don’t say his name three times.

They chanted, “No, No, No,” like petulant toddlers.

And he began to stir.

Like summoning Bettlejuice with repetitive incantations or the toil and trouble chant from Macbeth, they beseeched their anointed leaders to reject all: immigrants, Muslims, health care for the sick and needy. They implored with rancor that we shun science, Mother Earth, those who identify as LGBT+.

And he rose from the scum, the muck.

They had no ideas, no thoughts, nothing that could move the people forward. They could only conspire against. And they did so with malice. They plotted against women, the poor, minorities and menaced the rest of the land with openly-carried assault weapons.

The clown prince of darkness showed his ugly, contorted visage, riding an escalator down to his poorly paid pretend partisans.

The world jeered. So did his own party. “We eschew responsibility for this monster we created.”

And he began to spew forth hatred. He parroted back all that had been hushed up, hidden by his party’s elite. A vast trainload of misplaced rage was now out in the vile open, rolling unstoppably down the tracks. Pandora’s boxcar.

He bellowed resentment against all the dumb losers who weren’t rich, white or male.

They tried to run away, but he just gained in strength. He was grim reaping what they had so hatefully sewn. Out in the bright sunshine, their evil beast roared with pompous hatred and shambled to the top of their popularity polls.

He was them; their words, their thoughts, their bigotry. He was their golem, brought to life by hatred.

And now he stalks the land. Will he be stopped? Can he be stopped?

My Five-Year Mark

June 1st, 2015

I’m having a happy cancerversary

June. It’s been a long time coming, but June is finally here.

This is the five-year mark. Five years ago I got the lousy news that my blood and bone marrow had secretly been invaded by a stealth force of leukemia. After teaching a morning class, then golfing nine holes, my doctor called me into his office and dropped the bomb on me. Until that afternoon I felt fine. The next day I was in the first of three hospitals for what was the beginning of a six-month odyssey.

Cancer sucks. It was the showpiece of my Three June Hell. The previous June I was forcibly divorced from my lifelong journalism career. The June after cancer, I was back in the hospital for complications from my cancer-cure treatments: my heart lining had become engorged with a liter-and-a-half of fluid. Heart juice I called it.

Darrel Ellis snapped this photo of Leslie Ellis, who raised money, awareness and my spirits.

Darrel Ellis snapped this photo of Leslie Ellis, who raised money, awareness and my spirits.

Forgive me if I stopped looking forward to June for a couple of years. I think I actually dreaded it, having nightmares as I reported a few years ago.

But now.

But now things are different. I’m back to freelancing, both with my photography and my writing. I’ve been back in the classroom several times. And with the extra time I’ve had on my hands, I’m putting the finishing flourishes on my new novel: it’s destined to become a bestsmeller. This is my first fictional attempt and it’s a novel about Detroit, relationships, baseball and the funny things that happen when you throw a bit of mystical “Hope” into the mix.

I’m taking back June. It’s a fantastic time of year. A good friend just ran in my honor in a leukemia/lymphoma fundraiser. That brought tears to my eyes. But these days, I realize the tears have a healthy dose of joy mixed in too. I’m clean. I’m cured. I’m happy.

And that’s the best part: I’m happy. I hope your June is as incredible as mine’s about to become.

Go See Tomorrowland

May 22nd, 2015

The Disney blockbuster holds hope (and a warning) for the future.

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Britt Robertson stars in the time-twisting Tomorrowland.

As we were driving home from Tomorrowland, my wife offered up an idea for Detroit. “All the abandoned, vacant land could be turned into wind farms or solar panel forests or even subterranean geothermal facilities.”

That’s the sort of thinking that the new Disney film inspires. Centered around a brilliant young teen (Britt Robertson, who’s actually 25) and a grizzled older genius (George Clooney, who’s also actually 25), the movie offers a peek into parallel worlds. One is our current reality, racing toward full-on global destruction. The other is a utopian existence, created and comprised by the best and brightest minds in science and the arts.

The movie — written and directed by Brad Bird (Up, The Incredibles) — offers equal doses of hope and warning. But even though some may view it as a little preachy, it’s really earth-conscious preachy. And we can’t get enough of that. You can’t help but wish you were part of that alternative world, where kids fly around on jet packs (crashing safely with a laugh), and their peers platform dive — but through platforms of water. Just go with it.

It appears that reviewers across America either love or hate the movie, garnering it a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. So add my little gold star on the positive side of the scale. The Detroit News’ Tom Long said it best: “This should be required viewing. Come for the humor and thrills and visual delights — there are many. Leave with the thought in your head: We can, we need to, do better. This is summer moviemaking at its best.”

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Hopefully future views won’t confuse Britt Robertson (left) and Chloe Grace Moretz (right)

Being a fan of cool quantum physics and fun alternate reality theories, this movie had me hooked with its previews. Sure, there are times when the writers didn’t fully explain their complex dimension shifting narrative. But like I said before, just go with it.

There are enough action sequences to keep younger viewers mesmerized and the special effects are spectacular. The storyline has some great twists, bending time & space to suit its will. Unlike my other recent favorite futuristic film, Ex Machina, this movie sports a mild PG rating, assuring you it’s fine for the whole family.

Look for Britt Robertson to emerge as a first rate talent. Though I kept confusing her with Chloë Grace Moretz (Hugo, 30 Rock). That Clooney guy’s gonna hit it big one day too. Raffey Cassidy is a stunning young actress who carries a lot of the show’s weight. And I loved the cameo by Keegan-Michael Key as well.

More than anything else, this film — with all its Disneyesque glory and morality — is a fun, exciting ride. And if their tomorrow is half as cool, I want my own secret admission pin.

(Just go with it.)

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Britt Robertson, George Clooney and Raffey Cassidy look to the past for help with the future in Tomorrowland.

Mildlife

May 16th, 2015

I’ll take this, any day.

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Nestling into her nest, a mother robin has taken up residence in our hanging geranium.

I’m surrounded by a bunch of animals.

As I sit here writing this, just outside my window sits a mother robin nesting in our hanging plant. The red in the flowers must’ve drawn her in: like attracts like.

And when Mr. Excitement does electronic yoga with his Wii balance board, Bernie and Alex show me a better pose — Downward Dog, instead of my Child’s Pose.

It’s good to have dedicated instructors like them.

Watering our porch plants has become a bit tricky. Mother robin flaps at me sometimes, so I have to sneak up from behind with a hose set to heavy mist. Apparently that’s okay by her.

I’ll take an occasional “flapping at me” as opposed to what transpired with my wife and daughter on a recent Mother’s Day bike ride. Riding along Big Beaver, we apparently angered a couple geese and their goslings. My wife was flapped at with what — she reports afterward — felt like a baseball bat striking her arm. They let me pass, oddly enough, then went after my daughter, pecking at her for having the audacity to pass them with, what we thought, was many yards of leeway.

I’ll take angry birds any day, compared with a recent story I shared with my family about a southern community “terrorized” by a wayward alligator. And heck, didn’t a killer whale in captivity attack someone down in Florida during a live performance a while back?

Even though the dead of winter can be tough up here and I find it increasingly necessary to escape to some place warm each year, I’ll take our mildlife as opposed to the south’s wildlife.

I’m happy with just letting sleeping dogs lie.

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My dogs “help” me, by correcting my yoga pose.