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Archive for July, 2010

My decision to quit visiting a certain blog

About two months ago, I un-friended a blogger on Facebook due to their rudeness and condescension towards those who disagreed with them. Their boorish behavior wasn’t just towards liberals, but also fellow conservatives who just weren’t conservative enough for the blogger’s liking.

Last weekend, after a long e-mail exchange about who’s a real conservative and who isn’t, I finally decided there was no more point in arguing. In the blogger’s mind, I was an idiot for voting twice for President Bush and then for John McCain, among other things, instead of holding out for “real” conservatives who would’ve had no chance against Al Gore and John Kerry (I shudder to think of either of them as president). And after seeing what this person posted regarding an argument similar to mine, I felt it was time to move on.

We can disagree, but when a person feels the need to talk down and to be condescending, we have nothing to say–especially when they are embarrassingly wrong on some of their own takes. I do find it ironic that this person chastised Sarah Palin for using the phrase “You betcha!” a lot while on their own blog frequently using the word “Ain’t” and while some on Youtube have wondered if the blogger’s particular American accent suggests someone who lives in the country. Perhaps for emphasis they used ain’t, but to me it sounds ridiculous unless used very, very seldom.

See ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya!

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So few choices in the Michigan Gubernatorial Primary

From A to Zowie

So few choices in the Michigan Gubernatorial Primary

By Richard Zowie

(This column was published in the July 28, 2010 issue of the Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

There are times in life when my brain overloads from too many choices.

Sometimes, I look at my numerous Paper Mate pen collection and wonder which style and which color to use. Profile blue? Pro-Fit black? Comfort Mate red? 1.2 Blue? Dynagrip Black? Classic FlexGrip Blue? While I’m deciding, my family probably plans an intervention to send me to the Paper Mate Wing of the Betty Ford Clinic.

I wish I had that many choices for the Michigan gubernatorial race.

Since I am not a Democrat, did not vote for Governor Jennifer Granholm and since I don’t like any of the Democrats running, I will have to consider the republican side.

Four years ago, I voted for Dick DeVos in his unsuccessful bid against the incumbent Granholm. I liked DeVos’ track record as a businessman, but his political savvy and ambiguity on some of the other issues bothered me. He struck me as someone who adopted the Republican platform (not a horrible thing, by the way) rather than truly believe in it. It was a vote for DeVos but also a vote against Granholm who, despite being far from a popular governor, easily won re-election in 2006.

Now, the GOP frontrunners are U.S. House of Representatives congressman Pete Hoekstra, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, State Attorney General Mike Cox and businessman Rick Snyder. Cox, Hoekstra and Bouchard appear strong on conservative issues, but some wonder if the three might be too soft on Middle East issues.

Hoekstra has been endorsed by Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson (as a “private citizen”), which will appeal to some conservative Christians. As for this conservative Christian, I’m hesitant. Dr. Dobson in recent years has become a one-issue voter (abortion) who seems to believe that if we elect conservative Christians into office, all our nation’s problems will be solved. Can we really expect government to tackle the job churches should be doing?

Yes, abortion is a big issue for me, but there are also many other issues to consider. What if both candidates support abortion? What if the pro-life candidate is wrong on every other issue?

Regarding Snyder, I like a lot of what he says about business but would like to hear his views on other issues. And, frankly, he reminds me a little too much of DeVos. Is he just someone who wants to run for the top office in Michigan on his strength of being a smart guy who’s as tough as his pocket protector? Granted, we need someone who can implement business-friendly policies, but is that enough? Are Michigan’s economic woes far more complicated than he realizes? And if he gets the nomination, will he go down in flames against whomever the Democrats nominate?

Then there’s Michigan State Senator Tom George, who’s also running for the GOP nomination. George, who’s also a medical doctor, argues his four opponents aren’t the most solid of choices due to their plans to cut taxes but continue some spending patterns that could still result in bankruptcy in Michigan. He wants Michigan to live within its means.

Wow! A radical concept! The state’s expenditures must not exceed its revenues!

I’m still undecided whom to vote for in the primary, but I will read the candidates’ websites and watch Youtube clips of them in debates. Maybe we’ll get lucky this time and it finally won’t be an election about voting for the lesser of two evils instead of pinching our noses as we cast our ballots in November.

We can only hope.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at rzowie@myherald.net.

Journalists and columnists and sensitive issues

For this week’s Clio/Mt. Morris Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald, I wrote a lengthy piece about Michigan’s anti-smoking measure and how restaurants and bars are dealing with it three months later. Back around December, when the measure was initially passed, I called various businesses and solicited their opinions and wrote a lengthy news-feature article. To say most of the businesspersons dislike the new law is like saying Boston Red Sox fans hate New York Yankee fans.

Originally, I planned to write a column about this issue. But as I thought and as I discussed it with my editor, he suggested asking local businesses what they thought of the issue. That sounded like a great idea, but I concluded that if I wrote a news article, I would feel very uncomfortable writing an opinion column about the issue.

My belief is simple. If I were to write a column, there would be people who–understandably–would want to know just how much of an effort I made to be fair and impartial in the news side of the story. I’ve seen other journalists write opinion columns like this, and to me it is messy. Besides, on the tobacco issue, I’m very opinionated.

At one newspaper I worked at, a public official was suspended amid allegations of financial irregularities. Some said it was a one-time occurrence while others said the official not only had his hand in the proverbial cookie jar before but had done so at a previous job. Another writer at the office then took the story and not only wrote a news article but then wrote a column saying it was a one-time act of compassion and should be treated as such. That reporter, as it turns out, was a friend of the official and should’ve recused himself from writing the news story. He did not, and I was left to wonder what investigative news story was lost as a result.

So, with that, I have no plans in the immediate future to write about my feelings about this Michigan anti-smoking law for my From A to Zowie column.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Review of ‘It’s Complicated’

It’s very difficult for me to say no to a movie that stars Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses), not to mention Steve Martin (one of my favorite comedic actors). And while I loathe Alec Baldwin’s politics, let’s face it: he’s a great comedic actor.

It’s Complicated looks into the life of a Jane Adler, a successful baker played by Streep, her ex-husband Jake Adler (Baldwin) and her architect/potential new boyfriend Adam (Martin). Jake is a lawyer who lives with his trophy wife Agness, whom he left Jane for, along with her obnoxious little son who is the true master of the domain. Jake confides to Jane in the movie that meals are home are a dull experience due to the son’s limited palate.

Whereas Jake’s new wife Agness was the “other woman” in his divorce from Jane, a night of drinking results in an affair between himself and his ex-wife. The irony is very funny as the ex-wife is now the potential home wrecker. They continue their affair, much to Jane’s extreme reluctance and as she’s starting to develop feelings for Adam character. Baldwin is absolutely superb as a very regretful, energetic ex-husband who won’t take no for an answer.

To make a humorous story short, Jake’s unhappy with his new marriage (and Agness’s attempt to use him as, well, a stud service) and with his annoying stepson and finds himself falling in love again with his ex-wife. After being caught in a dance where you can easily see something’s been going on, Agness kicks him out of the house (he claims he left). He tries unsuccessfully to reconcile with Jane as she realizes she’s moved on. We speculate that she feels he will probably cheat on her again once the newness wears off. Plus, she likes her new life and her possible new boyfriend.

What I liked: It was funny and well acted with some hilarious plot turns. The ending is very fitting and satisfying.

What I didn’t like: I felt the marijuana scene was unnecessary and too trivialized (it irritates me when marijuana use is portrayed in comical ways) in this film. As I watched, all I could think was, please don’t tell me I’ll be this much of a moron when I get older and do stupid things on a lark. With some U.S. states now offering medical marijuana, it really irritated me that they’d put that in; I felt it was extremely unnecessary in the plot.

Overall, It’s Complicated was a pretty good movie.

Richard Zowie prefers to tell movie fans what he liked and disliked about a film and then to let them decide for themselves whether or not to watch it. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

Review of ‘Sugar’

Baseball can be a wildly frustrating game. There are the can’t-miss first-round draftees whose careers never rise above Double-A. Then there are the late-round draftees like Albert Pujols who come out of nowhere, unexpected, to carve out Hall of Fame careers.

In the documentary-style movie, Sugar, the viewer follows the brief baseball career of Miguel “Sugar” Santos, a talented right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic. Santos has a great fastball and is learning a strange new pitch that looks like the offspring of a knuckleball and a curveball.

Sugar (named that way, he says, because he’s “sweet with the ladies”; teammates insist it’s because of his love for desserts) is signed by the fictional Major League Baseball team, the Kansas City Knights, and is invited to their training camp. He pitches well enough at camp to go to Single A instead of the Rookie A league.

We watch as Sugar struggles with the culture, the language, ordering in a restaurant (they know how to say “French toast” but when they ask for eggs and the waitress says “Scrambled? Over easy? Sunny-side up?” they stick with French toast until the waitress prepares examples of each to help bridge the language barrier gap) and dealing with the pressure of playing professional baseball.

Sugar is assigned to a team in Iowa, where he stays with a family with a pretty daughter (he has a girlfriend back home) and, after initial success, starts to become frustrated with the professional game. The fans are merciless when he struggles and while his host family offers him tips on pitching, it doesn’t seem to work as well as he’d like. The movie’s pacing is extremely clipped, presumably to squeeze in as many details about his life as possible, including when, in desperation, he takes mysterious white pills to help his pitching performance and when he tries to sneak past his landlord when his rent’s past due.

At the end, after some bad struggles that make him think getting cut is imminent, Sugar leaves the team and heads to New York where at the end he embarks in a job as a carpenter (as was his father). He also starts playing baseball with a sort of semi-pro team and rediscovers his passion for the game. Whether this means he’ll return to pro baseball is left up to the viewer to decide.

What I liked: The movie’s documentary-style format. It gives you a very realistic look into a ballplayer’s life as he struggles to be successful, hopes to be promoted and worries about guys from lower leagues trying to take his place. There was some profanity and a very brief, mostly non-explicit love scene.

What I didn’t like: Sugar is so shy due to the language barrier that in some ways he comes across as dull. But he’s still very likable since he sends money home regularly to help out his mother and family.

Overall, I liked Sugar and think it’s a pretty good movie to check out for anyone who wants to see a few weeks in the life of a professional baseball player.

Richard Zowie prefers to tell movie fans what he liked and disliked about a film and then to let them decide for themselves whether or not to watch it. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

I had to delete a reader comment

July 22, 2010 1 comment

On my Ponderings From Pluto blog, a satirical blog, I posted several months ago about how Mel Gibson was offering to convert to Judaism since it was revealed that his then-girlfriend, Oksana Grigirieva, was a Russian-Jewess.

This post was 100% satirical.

Some believed it, others thought it was funny and harmless.

One loser recently submitted a comment that can be interpreted as no less than extremely anti-Semitic. I’ll leave it at that.

No, the post was not sent from “Mel Gibson” or “Hutton Gibson”.

Feel free to disagree with me all you want (heck, there are times I’ll disagree with something I posted), but if you post a hateful message, it will be unceremoniously deleted.

New e-mail, being objective, Mel Gibson, funny commercials

July 20, 2010 1 comment

From A to Zowie

New e-mail, being objective, Mel Gibson, funny commercials

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the July 21, 2010 issue of Clio, Mich.-based Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald. This is an extended version of the print version.)

…I recently received business cards and with them, a new e-mail address. From now on, if you’d like to reach me with a news tip or story suggestion for the Herald or to tell me I’m a no-talent hack, my e-mail address is rzowie@myherald.net. If I see you in the community, don’t be surprised if I offer you a business card. It’s my way of trying to dig deep and find out what’s going on in northern Genesee County and southern Saginaw County…

…A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I’d gone to the Birch Run Body of One Expo. A fellow Christian thought it was amusing that I, a conservative Christian, would attend such an event.

Actually, it’s not really that difficult to believe. When I go to such events, I go as a journalist. My personal opinions and bias stay home while I bring my objectivity. For me, it was a time to take photos, get names, ask questions and learn a few interesting things. Having that perspective has allowed me to interview many people with viewpoints much different from mine and to be able to do so in a fair, objective way…

…The Mel Gibson saga takes another curious turn. One report says that his estranged ex-girlfriend, Russian singer Oksana Grigorieva, allegedly demanded $10 million from him in return for not releasing the audio tapes and not accusing him of assault.

Hmmmm. Sounds fishier to me than a sushi restaurant.

Amid all the guilty-until-proven-guilty drones like New York Times columnist Frank Rich (who obviously holds a grudge against Gibson for making the tremendously non-controversial film The Passion of the Christ)*, audio forensic experts are saying now the audio sounds doctored and altered. One I read of recently said that Grigorieva, a professional singer, sounded like she was talking into a Dictaphone rather than on a telephone. She sounds remarkably calm for a woman being physically and verbally abused (remember, according to her Gibson has even threatened to kill her). At least one dentist has stated her account of the alleged assault is inconsistent with the injuries she suffered and that her injuries may have even been self-inflicted.

Am I saying Gibson is innocent? Nope. What I am saying is so many are so eager to rush to judgment without allowing the facts to interfere with their opinion. While Grigorieva’s ex-husband, actor Timothy Dalton, supports her, Gibson’s ex-wife Robyn has signed a sworn statement saying Gibson has never been verbally or physically abusive with her or their children.

* Anybody who bothers to read the New Testament Gospels will plainly see Jesus willingly gave his own life and was not murdered, contrary to what Rich ignorantly thinks Gibson’s movie depicts (Rich in a recent column even claims the movie is ‘homoerotic’, which makes me wonder if he’s even seen the movie and if, perhaps, he has issues to deal with if he’s reading sex into a movie where it wasn’t there). Yes, indeed, make farcical plays and movies like Jesus Christ Superstar, Life of Brian, The Last Temptation of Christ, but heaven forbid a movie should be made that accurately depicts the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life…

…Long ago, there were commercials where kids said embarrassing things they overheard from their parents. My two favorites:

For a snack company, a young boy meets his father’s boss. After the boss smiles and greets the boy, the boy stares intently at the boss. Finally, confused, he looks over to his dad and says, “Dad, his nose isn’t brown!”

For Disney World, a little girl with her mother and baby brother tells the crowd in an elevator about how her brother was born around nine months after she and her parents had visited Disney World. “Mom calls him her ‘Little Souvenir!’” the girl announces, much to her mother’s beet-red embarrassment…

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at rzowie@myherald.net. Non-Herald readers can reach him at richardzowie@gmail.com.