November, 2012 Archives

Daniel Day-Lincoln

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November 29th, 2012

If you haven’t seen the new Lincoln movie, I won’t spoil how it ends. I will tell you, however, that the film made me proud to be an American. I’m talking about the Spielberg project, not the one where Lincoln hunts vampires. I was surprised that it focused on a very narrow time frame, a […]

If you haven’t seen the new Lincoln movie, I won’t spoil how it ends. I will tell you, however, that the film made me proud to be an American. I’m talking about the Spielberg project, not the one where Lincoln hunts vampires.

I was surprised that it focused on a very narrow time frame, a segment of history that I thought I knew a little about, but obviously didn’t. Sure, like millions of my countrymen, I witnessed the Civil War as presented by public television. I thought I knew a lot about The Emancipation, Appomattox and the Ken Burns effect. All are valuable lessons to learn from history.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcLincoln.jpgBut I hadn’t fully comprehended how tight the vote was to actually keep the slaves free once the war was almost over. The Proclamation, as Lincoln said, was more or less a temporary war-related measure. The Thirteenth Amendment, about which most of the film was based on, codified the abolition of slavery. I think the mastery of the movie was the simple fact that we all know how the fight ended, and still the portrayal of those weeks was riveting. It was fantastic watching Republicans of the era espousing what seem to be liberal Democratic values today and vice versa.

The movie had many, many stars. Some were buried, like Kevin Kline in a brief role as a wounded soldier, or the British bloke from Mad Men as Ulysses S. Grant. Some were quite prominent, like Hal Holbrook who, himself, is notable for playing the 16th president.

Sally Field morphed beautifully into one of history’s more misunderstood players, Mary Todd Lincoln. But obviously it was Daniel Day-Lewis who carried the entire show on his willowy, rail splitter’s back. It’s almost impossible to believe that Lewis was born in London during the 1950s and not in early nineteenth century Kentucky. We have no recordings of the former president, but I’m guessing Daniel Day-Lewis’ interpretation of his voice will be the one people think of as Lincoln’s for years to come.

The narrative, the story about how slavery finally ended makes me happy in one sense and terribly sad in another. Yes, I’m proud to be an American, after experiencing Lincoln’s greatness in the historically accurate movie. But history’s double-edged sword swings right back and cuts us all as we try to understand why slavery existed in the first place. And what’s worse, it took the ensuing hundred years to get it “right” with the Civil Rights Act. Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, was in large part to blame for the lack of initial follow through of Lincoln’s equality ideals. Not surprisingly, Johnson was completely absent from the film.

Apart from the jam-packed history lessons exploding off the screen and the ability of the movie to surprise you, it was in the end, a darn good 2 1/2 hours spent. One of my favorite scenes — made more incredible because it was just Day-Lewis sitting in a basement, talking with Tommy Lee Jones — was about Lincoln’s interpretation of a person’s moral compass. I can’t seem to find the actual conversation quoted on the internet, so maybe it was just a fictitious rendering. Who knows, in those days there were no tape recorders or hidden iPhones at fundraisers where people spoke of the 47%. Maybe Lincoln had many more amazing quotes that were simply lost to time.

So sure, there’s the obvious risk that we’ll start believing as historical fact, everything that Spielberg portrayed. We tend to run our memories through all sorts of weird filters. Thank goodness information is far more readily available these days. But if it weren’t, Lincoln himself would still have had faith in us. Our former president once said,

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to
meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

For more on Lincoln and the Abolitionists, feel free to visit our ReadTheSpirit discussion page.

Butt Seriously …

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November 19th, 2012

I received a letter in the mail, not long ago, from a major University located in Wayne County, Michigan. I don’t want to name them, but I think they’re the biggest school in the county. They’re named after Major-General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. They asked me how my prostate was doing. Seriously. “Dear Rodney, How’s your […]

I received a letter in the mail, not long ago, from a major University located in Wayne County, Michigan. I don’t want to name them, but I think they’re the biggest school in the county. They’re named after Major-General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. They asked me how my prostate was doing.

Seriously.

Dear Rodney, How’s your prostate health?” the letter began, in bold-faced type.

“Dear ________ State University, mind your own damn business,” I wanted to write back. Then I got scared. Wait, did somebody at some point give me a rectal exam that I wasn’t aware of? I know I’ve been poked and prodded a lot over these past few years, but generally speaking, a fellah doesn’t forget a friendly finger in the fudge factory.

I vividly remember each time that doctors have checked me, you know, there. The last time, a couple years ago, I broke out laughing. The lady doc said it was the funniest time she ever had giving the exam. I aim to please.

Reading the letter further, I realized it was actually a solicitation. They were also offering — I kid you not — a free gift if I made an appointment with one of their doctors. My imagination ran wild with ideas of what that free gift would be until I read further and found it was just a first aid kit. For a PlayStation, I might’ve made the appointment.

Look, I know this shouldn’t be a laughing matter. One out of six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Early detection is critical; I get that. But after all that I’ve been through with my own health, it just seems that maybe I got onto some errant mailing list somewhere. Some stray blood sample or routine urine test must’ve passed through a ________ State University lab and, voila, I’m on a list about people who might be susceptible to suggestion, subliminal or sub waistline.

When they wrote, “There’s no better team to have on your side than our urologists,” I had to laugh. If I’m starting up a team in my fantasy draft, you can bet urologists aren’t getting picked in the first round. The hard sell was on. Is money at the University so tight that a direct mailing to potential customers, err, patients might bring in more cash? I felt, in all honesty, that it wasn’t me they cared about, but my business (my man business?).

As long as we’re on the subject, that letter wasn’t the only crappy thing I read today. I am facebook friends with several of the nurses who’ve helped me through all of my crazy bodily breakdowns. One of them was writing about poop transplants. Yep, according to the Huffington Post, researchers at Henry Ford Hospital — also in Detroit — discovered that 46 out of 49 patients who suffered from a gastrointestinal disease that I had, twice, got better when healthy poop was transplanted into their colons. I thank all my lucky stars and dead ancestors that I got better without having to go through that treatment.

With all of this, you might think that Detroit doctors are wasting their time focusing energy where the sun doesn’t shine. Butt you have to hand it to them. Their research has left the competition looking in the rear window. These doctors aren’t bums; you can bet your bottom dollar. It’s alimentary, dear Watson.

If you have any better end sentences, share them in the COMMENTS sections down below. Grammar and spelling doesn’t matter; you don’t have to be anal about it.

An Open Letter To The New Mayors Of Troy

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November 8th, 2012

Dear Maureen and Dane, I can’t wait to be bored again. In my career as a journalist, I’ve covered countless city council meetings, discussions, conferences and planning sessions. They rarely make for good pictures and unless the topics are splashy, they don’t generally hold my interest. I should be deeply invested in my community. I […]

Dear Maureen and Dane,

I can’t wait to be bored again.

In my career as a journalist, I’ve covered countless city council meetings, discussions, conferences and planning sessions. They rarely make for good pictures and unless the topics are splashy, they don’t generally hold my interest.

I should be deeply invested in my community. I should be civic minded and a responsible citizen. Normally though, I leave that to other people, better people. Now that I’m no longer what you’d call a practicing member of the news media (I like to say I’m a recovering journalist) I find it hard to be interested in the normal, day-to-day goings on behind the scenes in my own town.

That was until our mayor made national headlines. For the past year I’ve had to be interested; my whole family has. My friends have been interested and people I’d never met were interested. I can’t wait until I’m not interested again.

You two — Maureen McGinnis, then Dane Slater — will take over for the mayor and hopefully bring a sense of calm and normalcy back to our town. Troy needs that. We’re “The city of tomorrow, today.” For about a year, we were the city of yesterday.

I want to thank you for stepping in. I don’t know your politics or your backgrounds and I don’t really care. As long as you do what you feel is best for our fair city, that’s all we can ask. Well, that and you don’t let your ideology get in the way of your governing. You’ve seen what insanity happens then.

I am looking forward to hearing about Monday night council meetings where someone is given a proclamation or a citation and that’s that. I don’t want to hear they were lectured or debated as they were handed their award.

I would love to wake up Tuesday mornings and hear that if the Federal government wanted to give Troy millions of dollars, Troy accepted that money. And it would be fantastic if, when either or both of you take the oath of office, you don’t make up your own oath and refer to the city’s charter as whimsical.

One of the great things to come out of this whole affair was it woke citizens like me up. It galvanized a widely diverse group of people across all political spectrums and brought them together over a common problem. Yes, I know that sounds a bit highfalutin, but it’s true.

I want to pretend I’ll go back to sleep and not pay attention, but I’m guessing we’ll all be a bit more tuned in. That doesn’t mean we’ll be watching your every move. God no! We want nothing more than to sit back and let others do the work for us; isn’t that the American way?

Obviously I’m kidding Maureen and Dane — excuse me — Madam and Mister Mayor. We all wish you well and are happy that you’ve taken on the task of healing the rift and reminding us why we all choose to call Troy home.

Good luck and godspeed. May the wind be at your back and, uh, about my latest water bill …