On the road to Cincinnati, World Cup looming, and the time warp of the four day work week.

Friday, Finally:  May 30, 2014

-Keeping this one brief, as I’m heading south to Cincinnati today.  Our men in rouge and gold travel for their first road game of the season to the big city nearest the home of my little sister and her family.  The last time I made one of these kind of runs was back in the day when the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League traveled to Cincy to beat up on the Cincinnati Cyclones, time and time again.  It appears a few of the Northern Guard Supporters will be making the trip.  Still, if I am the only DCFC fan at the game, it will be more fans than Cincinnati sent up to Detroit back on May 10th.  DCFC has a 3-0-0 record, and have yet to concede a goal.

– Speaking of soccer, it’s less than two weeks away from the start of the World Cup.  Almost a full month of daily soccer starting with 32 teams and concluding with the World Cup Final on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.  To many, soccer is a religion.  Does this mean we should have a worldwide international holiday during this month?

– Does anyone else experience four-day work weeks like I do?  Due to the Memorial Day holiday, Tuesday felt like Monday to me, but then Wednesday felt like Thursday to me.  I was ready for it to be Friday yesterday morning, but instead, another Thursday happened.  Weird.

– What are you reading this weekend?  I’m close to finishing Ted Morgan’s biography of Somerset Maugham.  I’m also close to finishing the collection of essays, How Can You Represent Those People? edited by Abbe Smith and Monroe H. Freedman.

-Quote for the week:
“Strange as it may seem, I grew to like to defend men and women charged with crime.  It soon came to be something more than the winning or losing of the case.  I sought to learn why one goes one way and another takes an entirely different road.  I became vitally interested in the causes of human conduct.  This meant more than the quibbling with lawyers and juries…I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs.  With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking of hatred and vengeance, and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call ‘justice’ and of which nothing really is known.”  Clarence Darrow.

Have a great weekend!

Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012.  Photo by Michael Kitchen
Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012. Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen

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Is my name on the list? Is yours?

“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
May 28, 2014

I saw this story come across my Facebook page this morning.  Glenn Greewald told the Times of London that the biggest bombshell of documents to be released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden will be a list of all the American citizens spied on by the NSA.  This could be quite eye-opening.

Glenn Greenwald is a journalist who I likely first heard of on Democracy Now!.  My appreciation and respect for him as a journalist rose after reading his book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, which I highly recommend reading if you haven’t.  It exposes the myth of our country adhering to the concept of the rule of law by exposing how the wealthy and powerful are not touched by the judicial system, however the 99%ers are overly prosecuted and imprisoned.  It’s about how money plays its role – both in keeping the wealthy out of trouble by passing laws that grant immunity and by keeping the poor down and imprisoned.  It starts with the pardoning of the “tough on crime” president Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford and moves forward through time to President Obama’s “we need to look forward, not backward” view towards the human rights abuses and war crimes of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Former senior member of the United States intelligence community, Edward Snowden, reached out to Greenwald, which began the gradual release of the 1.7 million documents Snowden had downloaded.

I’m a bit behind on this story, though Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man is on my to-read shelf (and Greenwald’s new book is on my wish list).  To me, people like Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange are heroes.  Freedom and liberty are founded in the 4th Amendment of our Constitution.  These folks help blow the cover off the US intelligent community who thwart such liberty.

After reading the article, I got to thinking.  What if my name were on this list?

Pause, and think about that for a moment.  What if your name were on this list?

A lot of people will say, “well, I have nothing to hide,” but it doesn’t protect them from being spied upon.  I imagine that for someone who doesn’t even fathom that they could have been spied upon will feel violated if they discover otherwise.  Like when you walk into your home and find someone’s been there and has stolen your stuff.

How would I feel if my name were on the list?  The sarcastic side of me would almost be offended if I were not on the list.  I’m sure a chill would run down my spine.  But little else would change.  I wouldn’t change or hush my political beliefs, or stop support of protests and Occupy-like activity.  And if a class action law suit were to commence, I’d seek to be party to it.  I wonder, too, if I would file a FOIA request to find out what data they had collected on me.  And wouldn’t the results of that be mind-blowing?

How would you feel?  What would you do?

February 15, 2003.  Metro-Detroiters march with the world in protesting the United States planned invasion of Iraq.  Photo by Michael Kitchen.
February 15, 2003. Metro-Detroiters march with the world in protesting the United States planned invasion of Iraq. Photo by Michael Kitchen.

Soccer legend cut; “the shirt” still works; DCFC tonight

Friday, Finally!  May 23, 2014

– Landon Donovan left off the US Men’s Team squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

The first Columbus Crew game we went to was on May 18, 2002.  The Crew were hosting the San Jose Earthquakes.  Our hope was to see this young American kid – Landon Donovan – play.  But we were denied that treat as he was off with the US Men’s Team in preparation for the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.  Since then, Donovan has been the face of American soccer for both the National Team and for Major League Soccer.   Perhaps his age (32), coupled with the tropical heat that the Brazillian summer provides, concerns the US Men’s Team gaffer, Jurgen Klinsmann?  Hard to say when other 30-something players Tim Howard(35), Jermain Jones(32), DaMarcus Beasley (31), Kyle Beckerman (32), Brad Davis (32), Clint Dempsey (31), and Chris Wondolowski (31) made the final cut.   Maybe it’s a cultural thing.  Donovan had difficulty early in his career adapting to German football while with Bayer Leverkusen.  Even after a spell of success with Bayern Munich in 2008 during a series of friendlies, the German team declined to extend his loan.  Some are saying this puts Klinsmann in a difficult situation to explain.  The US are in the group of death, with Algeria, Portugal and Germany.  With Donovan, there is no certainty they could get out of the group stage.  Without him, media and fans will have the ammunition to speculate what would have happened if Donovan had been there.

I’m sorry to see Donovan not a part of this year’s World Cup.  But this World Cup the US has a mountain ahead of them, and unlike the last few World Cups, they have a manager who is not a former US college soccer coach, but a former player and manager of the German National Team and Bayern Munich.  He knows what it takes to advance to the highest levels of soccer.  Let’s wait and see how the team performs on the world stage next month before jumping to conclusions.

– Clothes make a difference.

On Monday, my wife took her mother to urgent care after work.  After running preliminary tests, they had her ambulanced to Henry Ford Hospital.  After several hours, a decision was made to admit her, as there was uncertainty of her diagnosis.  When my wife came home, she arranged for a substitute teacher for the next day at school.  Then she said she needed “the shirt.”

“The shirt” in our house is any shirt – polo or sweatshirt – with the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law logo on it.

Back when I started law school, I felt the school spirit and purchased some UDM Law School wear.  It took a few times of wearing it unconsciously to places like the auto dealer when the car needed its maintenance, when shopping for bigger ticket items like furniture or appliances, and in doctors’ or dentists’ offices, that I realized there was a change in the way I was being treated.  The hint of condescension from the service provider was gone.  Things were being explained to me in far more detail than ever before.  There was something about wearing a shirt emblazoned with a law school logo that, well, raises one’s worthiness of attention.

She wore the shirt the next day to the hospital (and the next), and the level of care and attention that both she and her mother received was noticeably improved from Monday.

– Detroit City FC host Lansing United tonight.  If you haven’t been to a game yet, what the heck are you waiting for?  Cass Tech High School in Detroit.  Game starts at 7:30PM, but the fun begins hours before at Harry’s.

– What are you reading this weekend?  I’ve got about 120 pages to go in “When Blackness Was A Virtue” by Michael Grant Jaffe.

– “Outside of a dog, the book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  Groucho Marx.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Where Are The Men?

What I’m Thinking About Wednesday: May 21, 2014

On Monday, I attended the 84th Bi-Annual Book & Author Luncheon of the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society.  One of the best and largest one-day author events in the country sponsored heavily by local area libraries, this was my fourth luncheon in a row.  The book room opens at 11:00, where people gather to purchase the speaking authors’ books and mingle until the main doors open to the nearly one hundred round tables circled by ten seats each.  Lunch is served, then the writers speak about their book and/or writing career.  At the end, the authors are escorted to tables back in the book room where attendees seeking autographs line up to meet them.

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It is blatantly obvious to anyone who attends these luncheons that women outnumber the men.  By a significant margin.  A huge margin.  Each luncheon I have attended I was either the token male at the table, or there would be another who was the spouse of one of the other eight women.  Scott Lasser, who signed a copy of “Say Nice Things About Detroit” in October, 2012, joked with me that this is why more single men should take up writing.  Greg Iles, who signed a copy of “Natchez Burning” on Monday recognized me because I sat at a table three rows from the stage simply because I was one of the few men in the room.  “We’re a rare species at these things,” I told him.  “Women read more,” he replied.

In a 2012 survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts, it found that 56.1% of women, versus 36.9% of men, had read at least one work of literature (novel, short story, poem or play) in the past year.

Gleaning from my own experience, I have found that women tend to read more fiction  Many women friends and acquaintances have talked about books they’ve read either on their own or as a part of their predominantly female book clubs.  When it comes to the men I know, very few of them read, and if they do they are usually works of nonfiction or fantasy fiction.  The garage and estates sales I occasionally visit that have books reveal whether the woman or man of the home was the predominant reader.  Military history, general history, sprinkled with a few espionage or thriller novels, usually by best-selling male authors, fill a male dominated library.  General and literary fiction, as well as romances, adorned the woman-dominated shelves.

Back in 2007, Eric Wiener wrote for NPR his theory about why women read more.  He posits that the fiction gap is a result of women’s higher level of empathic feelings.  “The research is still in its early stages, but some studies have found that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men. That might explain why women are drawn to works of fiction, which by definition require the reader to empathize with characters.”

I tend to agree.  I admit, I’m a male.  I have my moments where I don’t get where someone is coming from.  I can’t understand their experience and their thoughts and actions based upon that experience.   The few male friends I know who read consume plot-driven works about the stagnant protagonist outwitting or overcoming enemy agents, walking dead, dragons, or empirical rule.  Especially if the gadgets and gizmos are cool.

My favorite writer is Lawrence Block.  A grand master of mysteries, Block has created a number of series characters such as the alcoholic private detective Matthew Scudder, the used book store owning burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, and Keller, the hit man with a heart.  He is my favorite because his was the inspiration for my writing style.  However, his novels are mysteries which are for the most part plot-driven as opposed to character driven.

In literary fiction I am carried into the experience and mind of the protagonist.  I figuratively walk a mile through three to four hundred pages in a character’s shoes.  It not only entertains me, but also forces me to understand humanity.  It is also the fiction I prefer to write, hoping to connect my reader to the heart and soul of my protagonist and characters instead of relying on a clever plot.    Recently, I read William Kent Krueger’s “Tamarack County” which is a character-driven mystery novel.  I still enjoy the fun and style of Lawrence Block’s novels, but Krueger’s novel opened me to the possibility of how to write a literary mystery novel.

I also think reading is a personal endeavor.  Especially when one reads character-driven novels.  And let’s face it.  We guys don’t open up easily.  We prefer results to ambiguity.  We will gladly talk about the weekend’s soccer matches and the performances of our favorite teams and players, but would be less comfortabel to discuss the tragedies that formed Etto’s young life, and how Yuri Fil, Ukranian soccer star, and his sister Zhuki, use soccer to help heal the young man in Brigid Pasulka’s “The Sun and Other Stars.”

Yes, the Metro Detroit Book & Author Luncheon is a Monday daytime event, which prohibits people who have traditional careers to attend.  Yes, the great majority of the attendees are the 65-74 year olds that the NEA found to be the age group with the highest percentage of readers.  And yes, I may be that rare species of male that enjoys reading and writing fiction that is character-driven.  I just have to have the presence of mind which crowd I’m in when it comes to conversation starters.  The table at the luncheon wouldn’t understand much if I shared the fun I had at the Detroit City FC match over the weekend, and my bowling team would give me blank stares if I told them I had attended a book signing with Colum McCann.

Personal anecdote:    My wife and I are the reverse image of this.  She reads nonfiction almost solely, whereas I read far more fiction than nonfiction.  I write fiction so that should be obvious, eh?  In the NPR article by Weiner, he included this quote:  “”We see it every time in our store,” says Carla Cohen, owner of the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. “Women head straight for the fiction section and men head for nonfiction.””  I found this to be funny because Literati Book Store in Ann Arbor has two floors, and when my wife and I go, she heads directly downstairs where the nonfiction is, whereas I browse the fiction shelves on the main floor.

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Monday Musings: May 19, 2014

Wow.  What a weekend.  The best way to describe it is in bite-size pieces.

Motor City Comic Con (Novi, MI):  This year was the 25th Anniversary of the Motor City Comic Con – an event held over a three-day weekend in May – which features comic and media celebrities from the past and present.  Over the years, I’ve found the best time to go is Friday when the doors open, and this year was no exception.  There was room to breathe walking the aisles of comic artists, comic book and related vendors, and media celebrities.  I was on a single-minded mission this year.  Prior to the convention I contacted legendary artist Frank Brunner, to commission him for a sketch.  I needed a special element to add to my personal home library, and a sketch of a anthropomorphized duck sitting in a chair, smoking a stogie and reading a book, by the artist of the popular 1970’s Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck was just the ticket.  Meeting Mr. Brunner was an honor, and the sketch was exceptional.  All I need now is a frame to put it up on the wall.  I can’t say much else about the convention.  I spent only a couple hours there as I had an evening event.

Detroit City FC 3, Michigan Stars 0, (Detroit, MI):  Friday evening it was a trip to Harry’s in Detroit for the festivities prior to the Detroit City FC match against the Michigan Stars.  The Michigan Stars are Sparta FC Version 2.0, as described by the Northern Guard Supporters.  They are Canadian-owned, and came into the league to try to draw the same kind of success that DCFC has.  It flopped.  Name change and location change, but the same weak product.   Detroit City FC commanded a 3-0 lead going into the half, and the Stars failed to mount any form of a comeback.  The supporters’ chant, “This Is Awesome!” after DCFC’s Zach Myers and William Mellors-Blair’s goals within a minute of each other, was appropriate to sum up the night.  And it was another record-setting crowd at Cass Tech High School stadium, with 2,614 fans on a cool May evening.

Why do the crowds continue to grow at DCFC matches?  The pre-game fun prior to the march to the stadium may have something to do with it.

Detroit Working Writers (DWW) Conference (Clinton Township, MI):  On Saturday I attended the DWW Conference at the Clinton-Macomb Library.  The timing of this conference was perfect.  I’ve spent the last four-five weeks in transition from an apartment to a three-bedroom home.  It has severely disrupted my writing practice.  The dust is now settling and the conference provided a poke into getting my writing practice back on track.  Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli‘s session on finding an agent provided material that I’ll be able to use once the novel I’m currently working on is ready for submission (which won’t be for a while, that’s for sure).  Lynne Meredith Golodner‘s session on running a successful freelance business was a little off-topic for me, however prodded my mind to remember there is a business end of this writing craft.  The keynote speaker, Karen Dionne, was delightfully inspiring.  Her latest book, “The Killing: Common Denominator” will be out next month, and is an original novel based on the AMC series.   Sylvia Hubbard’s session on social media provided insight on some of the social media I haven’t used effectively.  That should change.  And finally, Dr. Stanley Williams‘ session on irony, goals and sub-plots fed me with some clarity for the novel I’m currently writing.  All in all, it was a beneficial writer’s conference again.

Buddha’s Birthday at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple (Detroit, MI):  Sunday was the celebration of the Buddha’s birth at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple.  We were living in St. Clair Shores when we discovered Still Point, and we were regular attendees and members of the temple.  We’re still members, but having moved a little further away six years ago, and now another five miles further from the City, getting down to Detroit for Sunday services has been difficult.  But services like the Buddha’s birthday, the Precept-Taking ceremony, and the evening sitting to honor the Buddha’s enlightenment I intentionally plan to participate.  Sitting is good.  Sitting with a sangha and teacher is so much better.

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Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair (Ann Arbor, MI):  This was the 36th annual antiquarian book fair, which is a benefit for the William L. Clements Library, and a first for me.  About a year ago, I was in a thrift store in downtown Mount Clemens, and stumbled upon a copy of A. Edward Newton’s “A Magnificent Farce and Other Diversions of a Book Collector.”  This man was a famous bibliophile in the early years of the Twentieth Century.  After he passed, his collection took nine days to auction off.  After reading it, I’ve become interested in building my library.  But there seems so much more to book collecting that a show like this was a bit overwhelming to a novice like me.  There are so many directions to go.  Yes, prior to this event, I’ve completed my collection of A. Edward Newton books, including the auction guides of his entire library.  And Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge” being my favorite book has led me into collecting Maugham’s books.  I did add a volume to my collection today.  However, I filled out the comment card suggesting that at these events a workshop on book collecting would be helpful.

It was a great weekend, covering many interests in my life – comic books, soccer, writing and reading.  To think that today is the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society luncheon is just more awesomeness.

Life is good.