The YouTube pitch.

One of the smarter pieces of journalism I recall in recent years — maybe “This American Life,” but can’t be sure — was about economic development. Working thesis: There’s no such thing. True economic development requires investment, real investment, in infrastructure, in education, in entrepreneurial ideas, which crash as often as they don’t. No one likes investment anymore, at least not public investment, because that = taxes, and OMG can’t have those.

So what we call economic development is really just a bunch of states and cities trying to lure businesses away from one place to another, like prostitutes cutting the price until the customer settles on one. The Sun Belt’s economic development came at the expense of the Rust Belt, to use only the most obvious example.

Which brings us to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. Perhaps your city is capering before the retailer of the future, because it seems half the cities in the country are. Detroit certainly is. The bids were due yesterday, I believe. Ours was accompanied by a video. An excellent video, with maybe some confusing shots here and there. Go ahead, spend three minutes on it. It’s very inspiring.

Detroit should really do some economic development in making cool bid videos. The one when Detroit was angling for the X Games is even better. Didn’t get the X Games; Austin won that one. They had a good video, too. But Detroit filmmakers could certainly improve on Washington D.C.’s, or Danbury’s, or Dallas’, or even Philadelphia’s. (Watching these in succession, I’m wondering how long before the swooping drone shot becomes as cliché as walking-in-slo-mo-away-from-the-explosion.)

I doubt we’ll get the Amazon headquarters, because they’re not going to be looking for a nice video. Like the customer looking over the goods on an Amazon dynamic-pricing page, they’re going to want the best price. So all that yammering about restaurants and diversity and prose poetry is going to come down to: How much public money are you willing to cough up?

Meanwhile, back in Realityville, I need to get back to the job hunt. But I wanted to point this out for people who didn’t follow the links on one of Cooze’s comments yesterday. The story is about contenders to be president of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. Final paragraph:

J.D. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir about his upbringing in Appalachia, was also floated early on in the process as a possible high-profile, younger recruit. He has met in recent months with Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who has since returned to his post running Breitbart News, and Bannon has privately expressed a desire to install an ally at the conservative institution.

So much for the moderate populist, the thinker, the son of the soil ready to lead. The hell with that guy, and I’m sorry I bought his stupid book for my brother last Christmas. Is Middletown, Ohio even Appalachia? I don’t think so.

Miscellanea: Making media literacy great again, from Columbia Journalism Review:

More than 10,000 students have taken Stony Brook’s news literacy course, which is constantly updated to help students identify the latest ways bogus news and information are created. For instance, there are dozens of websites that let anyone easily produce counterfeit social media posts, then retweet them, post them on Facebook, or embed them in a news story. But fake tweets seem positively quaint compared to an even newer threat: Using artificial intelligence to make videos of people saying things they didn’t say. Researchers recently made a video of Barack Obama speaking very earnestly about his priorities for the waning days of his administration.

“The single most important thing I can do now,” Obama said, according to the doctored audio track, “is to play golf.”

When Bridge began its Michigan Divided project, one of the participants, a woman about my age, said she “didn’t give a rat’s ass” about the Access Hollywood tape, because she “got hit on all the time in my job in the corporate world.” Meet just one personification of why hazing continues, why sexual harassment continues, why corporal punishment of children continues: I lived through it, and so can you. Here’s another: I was assaulted, but you were just harassed. Stop cheapening my experience. Ahem:

Remember the schoolyard chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” Words simply aren’t the same as actions. They’re not treated the same — nor should they be — under the law. And their ultimate effects are vastly different.

There’s a spectrum of victimization. At one end is an unwanted advance or comment, and at the other is rape and death. The problem with #MeToo is that it’s almost encouraging people to celebrate that victimization, regardless of where on the spectrum it falls.

I don’t think any woman who #MeToo’d this week is celebrating anything, but you can’t tell that to some people.

The weekend is nearly here. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:45 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 39 Comments

Too much news.

It wasn’t a great day. Nothing heinous, just the usual job-related crisis of confidence, complicated by one story after another coming out of Washington. I actually found myself feeling vaguely nauseous, but that might have been the spicy peanut stew I ate the night before. Still. As Josh Marshall has said, he’s poison.

So maybe it’s him after all.

A friend just messaged me: You could read for hours about Sessions, dead troops, Manafort, etc. and still not be caught up on today. I’d add: And if you’re trying to find a job at the same time, you could drive yourself crazy.

But now we have a pizza and a bottle of wine, and there are few things that can’t be made better with that.

Another improvement: Around 5 I closed the laptop and took Wendy to the dog park in Detroit. Unlike the one in Grosse Pointe, the admission to which is regulated more strictly than Studio 54, the one in Detroit is open to all. Not only that, people come with six-packs and marijuana and have known each other for years. Good-old-daysing is rampant in Detroit, and these folks reminisce about the time before the park was even fenced in. “You needed a better-behaved dog then,” one guy said. Well, whatever — it was fun to be out on a fine day and not talking about the president. Wendy ran and played, and there was an obese pit bull named Darla. Plus two German shepherds, a boxer and a couple of indeterminate mutts. A happy crew. Dog parks are great; why did it take so long to think of them?

So, then. I subscribe to the Poetry Foundation’s daily email, which is often the most welcome one of the day. Here is the text of “Enough Music” by Dorianne Laux, but I think of it as The Ballad of the Long-Term Couple:

Sometimes, when we’re on a long drive,
and we’ve talked enough and listened
to enough music and stopped twice,
once to eat, once to see the view,
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.
Maybe it’s what we don’t say
that saves us.

Bloggage? Sure:

Yet another Facebook page created by the Russians, this one called Heart of Texas. Secessionist, of course, and very popular, with 250,000 followers at its peak. Content? Do you even need to ask?

Posts began to follow a perceptibly hard-right course, stressing Texas’s status as a “Christian state,” or touting the Second Amendment as a “symbol of freedom … so we would forever be free from any tyranny.” Some of the page’s contributors talked about the need to “keep Texas Texan,” whatever that meant. There was also a generous dollop of conspiracy theory. There were posts about the allegedly unnatural death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the supposed federal invasion orders behind the Jade Helm military exercise. Fake Founding Father quotes mingled with anti-Muslim screeds and paeans to Sam Houston. And the number of followers steadily crept into the hundreds of thousands.

Though the site’s authors understood their audience well, there was something off about their writing. The page’s “About” section proclaimed that “Texas’s the land protected by Lord [sic].” Grammatical and spelling glitches were everywhere: “In Love With Texas Shape,” “State Fair of Texas – Has You Already Visited?,” “Always Be Ready for a Texas Size,” “No Hypoclintos in the God Blessed Texas.” (Or take this caption for a photo of country music star George Strait: “Life is not breaths you take, but the moments that take your breth [sic] away.”) Yet the typos never seemed to raise any suspicions in readers’ minds.

The #MeToo posts just keep on coming. Here’s one from Mo Ryan, the Chicago Tribune Variety TV writer.

Back to the grind. Tomorrow, I think I’ll clean two closets.

Posted at 9:19 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 48 Comments


I’ve been watching the #MeToo campaign off and on today. This is how much of it surprises me: Zero. I mean, if you’ve been walking around with XX chromosomes for half a minute, stuff happens to you, whether it’s harassment, assault, catcalling, whatever the hell else the world has up its sleeve. I don’t dwell; what would be the point?

But yeah, me too: Walking to my guitar lesson when I was 14, with some shithead yapping at me from a car. Riding my bike to my sailing lessons about the same age, and some other shithead actually leaned out of the car to smack me on the ass. Making a phone call in a New York City phone booth, late one night, and a guy passing by reaches out to pinch my breast, as casually as you’d flick a cigarette away. The list goes on, and on, and on. None of these guys were Hollywood producers. This isn’t a Hollywood problem, despite what half, no, three-quarters of the conservative commentariat seems to think. It’s a people problem.

Be a nice guy, guys. It starts with you.

So, the job hunt continues. I tweaked my resume for the third time, and we’ll see what comes of that. I used to write resumes with the idea that some person would read them, and I tried to make them lively. Now you have to write them with the knowledge that a computer is scanning it for keywords, and doesn’t know shit about lively.

Of course, in my gut I think what it’s really looking for is dates, and knowing I graduated from college in 1978 is not working in my favor.

But let’s move on. Growing up in Columbus, we were always known as a hick town. The city is home to the largest public university in the country, a state capital and a robust white-collar workforce, but we still played third banana to Cleveland, with its spicy ethnic stew, and Cincinnati, objectively much prettier. Over the years, Cleveland suffered Detroit’s economic fate (but snagged the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame) and Cincinnati remained Cincinnati, a German burg whose power structure always operated as though they’d had giant logs shoved up their butts when they reached maturity, Mayor Jerry Springer being the notable exception.

When the national media came to Columbus, photographers always managed to find their way to North Star Road, not far from where I grew up, to take a photo of a cow grazing in a field with the city’s skyline in the background. The cows were owned by Ohio State’s ag school, but never you mind — Cowtown we were and Cowtown we would always be, until one day we weren’t, and now the city is something else entirely. It has hipsters, who call it C-bus and man, just typing that makes me cringe, but whatever.

Here’s something they always said about Columbus: That we were the country’s No. 1 test market for new products. I believe we got Fiddle Faddle before the rest of the country, and there was something called Gorilla Milk, a competitor to Carnation Instant Breakfast. I’m sure there was more.

When I had my job interview in Fort Wayne, the managing editor preferred to do a walk-and-talk, and we strolled through the West Central neighborhood nearby the paper. He told me one thing I should know about Fort Wayne was that it was the country’s No. 1 test market. I did not scoff, but knew I’d tasted Fiddle Faddle before he ever did.

So today, the NYT confirmed that C-bus is, in fact, a new shopping frontier:

For shoppers, this city of 860,000 smack in the middle of a swing state, can feel like an alternate reality, a place where up is down and down is up. Frumpy department stores feature personal shopping services and boutique wellness amenities. Workaday grocery stores like Kroger offer exotic fruits and freshly baked artisan breads.

Even the fast-food business is living in the future. McDonald’s is offering table service from friendly waiters. Robots are taking orders at Wendy’s. Chipotle started a chain that serves hamburgers.

Interesting. In my young adulthood, it was a fast-food bonanza there. So many people came out of the Wendy’s management program with another idea, and they all seemed to locate in my neighborhood. RIP Big Bite, a beta version of the pita wrap. But today the oxygen-rich air is all in retail, with experiments like the EB Ice Box, a 13-degree room at Eddie Bauer stores, where buyers can test their jackets in punishing temperatures. And there’s a tribute to Easton, i.e., the mall that looks like Bedford Falls if Mr. Potter had better taste and more vision.

Glad to hear the old town is delivering on its legacy of being a good place to test out new hamburger-peddling strategies. I don’t miss Columbus very often, though. Detroit is more interesting, in its own way.

OK, then. Wrapping it up and then back to the hunt.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Current events | 54 Comments

The stories we tell each other.

A woman I knew in the ’80s had a boss who chased her around the desk — yes, exactly like the cocktail-napkin / Playboy magazine cartoon — day after day. She told people about it. Nothing was done to him; he was too high on the totem pole.

A woman I know was taking a makeup test in a professor’s office when he stuck his hand down the front of her shirt. She screamed and ran out. I know she told someone, but I don’t recall him leaving the university. He had tenure, after all.

Another professor at the same university did the same thing to young men, grabbing and kissing and so forth. Nothing done.

You can read Laura Lippman’s story about being one of Bob Greene’s marks — she said no — way back in the day. He did suffer consequences, but it went on for years and years before someone finally called him on it. To be sure, these weren’t co-workers, so sexual-harassment laws wouldn’t apply. They were only young women. Very young women, although the stories about his downfall were careful to note that the young woman in question was “under 18, but over the age of consent.” Good to know!

A friend of mine worked for Esquire at the time, which ran Greene’s columns. He hit on her while he was on tour for “Good Morning Merry Sunshine,” his tender memoir of the first year of his daughter’s life. A friend of a friend pranked a college-student intern in his Tribune Tower office, sending her what he thought was an obviously fake letter on fake Bob Greene letterhead, offering to show her around the newsroom. She fell for it and went up to Greene’s office, waving the letter in his face and all how-dare-you. He swore he didn’t do it and convinced her he was telling the truth. She calmed down. Then he hit on her.

There are more stories, let me think a minute. Oh, OK, there’s this one: An influential man once spoke admiringly of a European TV journalist, a woman, who openly boasted of having gotten to her high station by fucking the right men, strategically. She wasn’t ashamed, she saw it as a use of her particular power, and she wished American women would stop whining about men pressuring them for sex and just get with the program. He related this story approvingly.

Comic relief: A co-worker was working late one night when a janitor, who usually drank on the job, grabbed her foot and started kissing it. She screamed, hit him on the head and reported him to the security guard. He said, “Don’t mind him, he’s just drunk.” The next day she told the editor. Both the security guard and the janitor were fired, so something was done! Yay! Do note, however, that night-shift security guards and janitors are about the two lowest rungs in any power structure.

Another editor I knew was gently pushed out of academia because, it was said, he creeped out the female students by paying them weird compliments. “You have beautiful teeth,” for instance. So yeah, something was done there. Progress.

A young reporter I worked with was very pretty. She often brown-bagged her lunch and ate at her desk. One day she brought a banana. A male reporter ran to another sleaze’s desk and said, “M—— is eating a banana!” They scurried to a vantage point and avidly watched her do so. (Kirk told me that one.)

And yet, when I look back on my career, I don’t think sexual harassment was all that bad, for me or the people around me. These incidents were just like static in the background, stuff that happened. We didn’t even have a phrase to describe it for a while, but like how we stopped looking away from black eyes and started saying “domestic violence” right out loud — another thing we used to see on cocktail napkins; “to the moon, Alice!” — we caught up.

But when the movie was made with the issue at its core, it starred Demi Moore. As the perp.

I post this to let you all know I for one am not ignoring the Harvey Weinstein story. In fact, it has sent me down Memory Lane. Carry on.

Posted at 10:50 am in Current events | 75 Comments


One childish pleasure you can grant yourself after being fired is this: Purging files, photos, passwords and other job-related data from your devices. Unsubscribing to emails, putting things in the rearview mirror, waving bye-bye.

Then I found a keeper: Shit Derek Says, a file I was keeping of the quips and quotes of my amusing boss-before-last, who presents as quite the curmudgeon but, of course, isn’t:

Are you willing to admit I was right about TED talks? Yes? Victory is mine.

Yes, Derek, I am willing to admit you were right about TED talks. Great idea, ridiculous and/or poor execution in 90 percent of the cases. And yet they go on.

I’m going hard on self-care in this interregnum. Exercise, eating right, scant alcohol, childish pleasures – I believe I’ve mentioned this, but I could use some more, preferably the kind that doesn’t cost much money. Long walks with the dog, meditation, that sort of thing. Send tips.

Feeling a little peevish this morning, however. Alan was having problems with his email that I couldn’t solve, so we called Comcast for help. Ai-yi-yi. The first 15 minutes — FIFTEEN MINUTES — of the call, which of course was to the Philippines, was spent explaining that “Grosse Pointe” and “Grosse Pointe Woods” are the same thing.

And then it turned out the problem was at their end. While I listened to him negotiate with the Filipino help desk, I read this story, from Columbia Journalism Review, on the victims of fake news — Sandy Hook parents, Comet Pizza owners and customers, you know the drill. Here’s a passage that I stopped at:

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with Megyn Kelly asking her to not run that show where she interviewed Alex Jones. My point to her was, don’t just hold up this guy and say “Can you believe he thinks this?” That’s not enough. Look into why is he that way, why does he think these things, what happened to him to make him think this? Why?

That’s Sandy Hook parent David Wheeler speaking. Good for him for sparing 45 minutes for Megyn Kelly, but where Alex Jones is concerned, I think he’s asking the wrong question. I firmly, absolutely believe Alex Jones doesn’t think these things. He knows he’s peddling bullshit to rubes, but it pays so well, he has to pretend he believes this nonsense, too. And this is where I part with those earnest souls who insist that we must meet Milo, et al in the Marketplace of Ideas, extending respect to them and getting it in return. They are not bargaining in good faith, and I don’t think we owe them anything like respect.

Also on the Testy Train is the writer of this piece, who points out that “as the father of daughters” is the thoughts-and-prayers of sexual harassment stories. Slam-dunk kicker here:

Having a daughter shouldn’t be a requirement for internalizing the problems of working within a sexist industry. Your wives gave birth to a baby girl, not a moral compass. (For what it’s worth, George Clooney, a new dad, managed to talk to the Daily Beast for a whole interview without mentioning his infant twins, one of whom is a girl.) Peppering statements about how shocked and appalled you are with a mention of your daughter just makes you look clueless. Because here’s the thing: Only a sociopath needs a daughter — or a sister, a girlfriend, a wife, or even just a lady standing in front of him at Starbucks — to make him queasy enough at the thought of a sexual predator in his industry to do something about it. You don’t need a daughter to feel guilty about working with a man who preys on young women, or about not acting to stop him. You just need a conscience.

The Russians not only penetrated Facebook, Twitter and Google, but even…Pinterest? The social network for bar-cart enthusiasts? Apparently so.

Onward into the maw of Thursday. Time to check GlassDoor and ZipRecruiter again. Sigh.

Posted at 10:19 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments

Postcards from the Dairy State.

And just like that, the weekend has flown. Two days in the car, one in the rain — it wasn’t a bad three days at all, but man, am I stiff. Have to do some legs-up-the-wall later.

It was a lovely visit with my old friends, who met my new friends, and while it rained much of the weekend, there was still shelter for this:

You UW alums should recognize those chairs, which are the signature seating on the Union Terrace, second only to my beloved alma mater in the Best Student Union Ever sweepstakes. It overlooks a lake, has a stage and a wide selection of Wisconsin beers. On a lovely day, you can watch the sailboats bobbing at their moorings. On a rainy night, it’s still not half-bad.

My friends Frank and Cindy are living the life in retirement. Cindy said Frank woke up one morning and decided he wanted to live on the lake. Cindy has a short list of things she wants in a house, one of them a window over the kitchen sink. In all of their previous homes, this simple detail has eluded her, but the latest one made her dream come true. The view from the sink:

You can see the weather was sketchy, but it cleared up that night and we were able to enjoy a rooftop deck downtown for our Saturday nightcap:

Waxing moon on the rise, capitol dome aglow, one of those gas fires to enjoy. The capitol dome was also visible from my guest bedroom, the state’s greatest nightlight. The next day the sun rose in a clear sky, and we took their pontoon boat around for a cruise and got a closer look:

That’s Monona Terrace in the foreground. A Frank Lloyd Wright project.

In between all these photos was talk-talk-talk, about everything under the sun, but mostly health-care policy. (Frank was a hospital president, and now consults with health-care startups.) He recommended this Atul Gawande dispatch from Athens, Ohio — the writer’s hometown — on the question of whether health care is a right. I think you’ll recognize the opinions within, and his treatment of them is respectful. Personally, I believe that until we start turning away the seriously sick and injured at the hospital door if they’re unable to pay, health care already is a right; all we’re arguing about it is how we will pay for it. This passage is important:

Liberals often say that conservative voters who oppose government-guaranteed health care and yet support Medicare are either hypocrites or dunces. But Monna, like almost everyone I spoke to, understood perfectly well what Medicare was and was glad to have it.

I asked her what made it different.

“We all pay in for that,” she pointed out, “and we all benefit.” That made all the difference in the world. From the moment we earn an income, we all contribute to Medicare, and, in return, when we reach sixty-five we can all count on it, regardless of our circumstances. There is genuine reciprocity. You don’t know whether you’ll need more health care than you pay for or less. Her husband thus far has needed much less than he’s paid for. Others need more. But we all get the same deal, and, she felt, that’s what makes it O.K.

“I believe one hundred per cent that Medicare needs to exist the way it does,” she said. This was how almost everyone I spoke to saw it. To them, Medicare was less about a universal right than about a universal agreement on how much we give and how much we get.

Understanding this seems key to breaking the current political impasse. The deal we each get on health care has a profound impact on our lives—on our savings, on our well-being, on our life expectancy. In the American health-care system, however, different people get astonishingly different deals. That disparity is having a corrosive effect on how we view our country, our government, and one another.

I’d rather think about beer for a while longer. But let’s get to the bloggage:

I started subscribing to Mike Allen’s daily email for Axios. This was pretty pungent: Welcome to Rex Tillerson’s life.

A handy guide to Republican presidential etiquette, from the NYT. For those of you who remember the OMG-a-tan-suit days.

God, I can’t wait until this freak show is over:

I am teetering on the edge of a Coozledad-worthy rant, so I best sign off for now. Legs up the wall! And work to do!

Posted at 12:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments

On (to) Wisconsin.

As we’ve discussed before, my alma mater was one of a tiny handful of newspapers to endorse Donald Trump for president. And what did they get out of it? Bupkis. But the equally inconsequential Times-Gazette of Hillsboro, Ohio, did the same, and its editor/publisher has managed to parlay it into a regular guest column from Real America. For the Washington Post, no less! From the latest:

I grew up in the 1960s loving the NBA. That devotion made me a member of a small, insignificant club in southern Ohio, where the Reds and Bengals reign supreme and basketball is embraced only at the amateur levels.

…Naturally, I was drawn to the autobiographies of my NBA heroes. The writings of African American stars such as (Oscar) Robertson and Bill Russell on the racism they endured have greatly influenced my opinions on race, which tend to be more liberal than those of other conservatives, but not so liberal as to satisfy the far left.

I love these little revelatory moments. He has opinions on race, of course. “More liberal than those of other conservatives,” etc. I wonder what they are? You can read on and learn:

Athletes, black or white, have every right to participate in politics and work for causes important to them on their own time. But when they bring their political statements onto the field of play or refuse an invitation to the White House, it destroys many fans’ connections to sports.

Yes, this explains why so many turned their backs on Muhammad Ali, who died forgotten and unloved.

And how is everyone today? Me, I’m growing weary of the rah-rah-guns crowd. Actually, I grew weary of them years ago, but whenever another of their gang pulls off another slaughter, I am reminded anew of their preposterous paranoia, fear and insecurity, and what it leads to. You know, I live near and travel often within and without, a dangerous city – by the numbers, anyway. I’ve never had a problem there, but I try to keep my street smarts with me no matter where I am.

Whenever there’s a high-profile crime there, some idiot on social media speaks of being moved to buy a gun. Frequently this is a mother with young children, “because I couldn’t forgive myself if something happened to them and I couldn’t help,” etc. I always want to ask those women a few questions: Where will you be carrying this firearm? In your purse? How will you make sure your children don’t find it? (Oh, of course it will be safeguarded, perhaps with a trigger lock.) OK, so now you’re driving down Scary Avenue, and there’s a sizable limb down across the street. Is it a trap, or should you get out of the car to investigate? And now there’s a big dude standing by your window, tapping on the glass. Now what do you do? (Fumble for my keys and tell him to hold that thought while I unlock the trigger, I guess.)

I guess the real badasses just give their kids guns from toddlerhood on, and let Eddie Eagle handle the rest. They generally live in very safe areas, far out in the country.

I’m so tired of this whole debate. So, so tired.

It’s kind of a mixed grill of depressing news, today. Look on Caitlin Flanagan’s outstanding look at a fraternity death at Penn State earlier this year, ye mighty, and despair.

We here in Michigan are facing a fiscal crisis in the state budget that is bearing down on us like a runaway train, so what is the state legislature considering? Allowing the establishment of private police forces with full arrest powers, that’s what.

Can I leave you with anything amusing? OK, this headline:

Bakery that listed “love” as ingredient is full of filth, bugs, violations

I’ll be offline for a few days — heading to Madison to visit friends. I need a break. I hope it delivers.

Posted at 9:36 am in Current events | 81 Comments

A hash of it.

I’m a feminist, but I try not to be too prickly about it. A lot of what younger women get upset about — catcalling, being told by total strangers to smile, having men simply assume they can impose upon my time without permission — simply doesn’t happen to me anymore. And I’m older now, and know that everybody, no matter their age or station in life, is figuring it out day by day. Which is to say: I try to forgive. You never know.

Saturday morning is my gift to myself. Almost every week, I get up early and go to the Eastern Market to drink in the glory of fresh vegetables glowing under the rising sun, or at least do a little people-watching. Then I stash my haul and take myself out for breakfast, at a coney island (non-Detroiters, read: diner).

I almost always sit at the counter rather than tie up a table. I usually order the hippie hash with eggs over easy. I’m in and out in 30 minutes.

On Saturday, seating was tighter than usual. Only two single stools.

As I sat down, the guy next to me started talking. To me.

“Man, I love this place,” he said. “It’s a dying breed. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.”

Three statements, one an opinion, the other two incorrect. Just smile and nod, said the angel on my shoulder. Set him straight, countered the demon on the other.

“Of course it’s not a dying breed,” I said. “There are probably dozens, no, hundreds of coney islands like this, all over the city.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s a great place,” he said.

OK, so maybe we’re dealing with someone not quite all there. He didn’t look homeless or mentally ill, didn’t smell drunk, but you never know. He was wearing a day-glo vest that suggested he had a real job, working near traffic. But the devil had led me into temptation, and now we were having a conversation.

“They just know you, they remember your face,” he enthused. “See? She brought you coffee, the way you like it.”

Too late, I smiled and nodded, then picked up my phone and started scrolling Twitter, the universal symbol for we’re-done-talking.

He wasn’t done talking. “It’s so great here,” he went on. “I love this place. The food is so good.” Kept scrolling. “Excuse me if I’m talking too much,” he said. I smiled and kept scrolling: Oh look, the president is yelling about Puerto Ricans. Someone sat down on the other side of him, a man, and he started in with him, only it was about football. The guy gave him two replies, then picked up his own phone. Back to me.

“They really serve the best corned beef I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s so…good.”

The angel reappeared on my shoulder. This poor man probably lives by himself and has no one to talk to, she whispered. Can’t you be a good person, just this once?

“I’m not much for corned beef, but I’m sure it’s very good,” I said, still looking at my phone.

“And the hash browns!” he went on. “They’re so great!”

WTF, I’m thinking. This isn’t a conversation, he’s just babbling. His food arrived. Corned beef and eggs. He started to eat, briefly stopping his patter, but not for long.

“Mmm, I just love this,” he said. “Sooo good.”

By now I was staring fixedly at my phone and actually turning my body away, to the extent I could without imposing on the person on the other side.

“Look at that yolk!” he crowed. “Just look at it!”

I turned back to him and snapped, “OK, that’s ENOUGH.”

He went on chortling to himself: “Mmm, these eggs, so good.”

My own food arrived. I bolted it, grabbed the check and left. A stranger, a man, had successfully ruined my breakfast because I lacked the spine to shut him up immediately.

This is my life now. Squabbling with crazy men in diners.

Of course, when you turn to the news, you get this:

Without taking an iota of glory away from first responders, I am increasingly uncomfortable with what happens pretty routinely now after these tragedies – the deflection of horror into generic praise for first responders, who are, after all, doing the jobs they signed up for. Maybe those who do are only looking for something, anything, good to say when confronting oceans of blood. But there comes a point where Mister Rogers’ advice is simply what it is: Comfort extended to children. It’s fine to look for the helpers. But if you can’t, or won’t, look at why the helpers were called in the first place, you’re simply deflecting.

Yep, I’m politicizing this tragedy. Join with me. Let’s politicize the shit out of it. Because it happened due to a failure of policy. Policy is decided through politics. So let’s get to it.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:17 am in Current events, Detroit life | 63 Comments

One for the books.

I want to observe the 24-hour rule. More will be revealed, always. It’s dangerous to extrapolate from incomplete data.

And while I freely acknowledge I’m no expert, this sounds like automatic-weapon fire, doesn’t it? (No gore, safe for work.)

It appears the killer took a sniper’s position from the Mandalay Bay and fired down into the crowd? That’s what you can do with an fully automatic weapon in a dense-packed area?

My god.

Our president sends “warm” condolences:

And here we go again. You ask me, 2017 sucks way worse than 2016, personal business aside.

Still standing, though, still whipsawing. It’s a long road ahead, and I’m still trudging down it. Better get to it. Open thread on the shooting and lord knows what else will come of this cursed day.

Posted at 8:14 am in Current events | 81 Comments

Park bench notes.

So, when one is unemployed, is it normal to be whipsawed between optimism over the unpredictable future and despair that one is old, old, old and will never work again?

Asking for a friend.

Basically doing OK here. I’m trying to keep busy. Sent out some résumés, surfed some more job-search websites, cleaned the first floor, ate leftovers for lunch, rode my bike a bit. Swam. Tried not to feel like a leper.

When I was a kid I had a board game called Careers. The square for unemployment was called Park Bench, because that’s what you did when you were jobless, I guess — went to the park and fed pigeons. I’ll try not to be a cliché, but Wendy does enjoy occasional jaunts to the dog park in Detroit. We’ll try that.

Hugh Hefner is dead. I do not have much of a feminist take on Hef, I confess. Objecting to the grosser elements of his lifestyle seems about as effective as objecting to the same parts of our president’s – you’re not going to make a dent in the guy, and the objections seem to be a feature, not a bug. He made it to 91 living more or less exactly how he wanted, down to the last detail. A deeply strange man, fully on display in this four-year-old Esquire feature on the occasion of his 87th birthday. Thanks to Hank for tweeting it late last night. I read it during my 4:30 a.m. insomnia bout (see above). A few details:

Even after they split up, when Hefner bought (ex-wife Kimberly) Conrad the mansion next door and smashed down the wall between them, he kept a blown-up version of her centerfold on the wall in his library. It wasn’t until (sons) Marston and Cooper told an interviewer that they didn’t love seeing their mom’s bush every time they came over that it even dawned on Hefner to take it down.

and this:

On another night, Bettie Page was invited to come see, for the first time, “The Notorious Bettie Page,” a 2005 biopic starring Gretchen Mol as the early, iconic Playmate. In her eighties then and still getting used to the idea of her late-life revival, Page sat near the back of the room. Everybody hoped that she liked what she saw. (Hefner was especially protective of her, having loudly denounced a biography that documented her battles with mental illness and occasional violence. A giant topless photograph of her still hangs in the hallway upstairs.) Those hopes were shattered only minutes into the movie when Page began screaming at the top of her lungs: “Lies! Lies! Lies!” Then she burst into tears, her face in her hands. “Why can’t they just tell the truth?” she said between sobs.

and can’t forget this:

He holds two Guinness World Records, for different kinds of devotion. The certificates are on display not far from Bettie Page’s beautiful tits. He is the longest serving editor in chief of a magazine—Playboy’s first issue came out in December 1953 (he founded it after leaving his job as a copywriter at Esquire), with a sixtieth-anniversary issue planned for the end of this year—and he has the world’s largest collection of personal scrapbooks. A genial but intense forty-nine-year-old man named Steve Martinez oversees their assembly and upkeep; he has a silver tooth and dark-framed glasses. For twenty-two years, he has been Hefner’s full-time archivist, responsible for the thick black books—2,643 volumes and counting—that document virtually every day of Hefner’s long and eventful life.

(Editor’s note: I wish classy magazines like Esquire and the New Yorker would stop spelling out numbers higher than nine. “Forty-nine-year-old man named,” etc. Ugh.)

The scrapbooks part is really weird.

Time to hit the gym and walk Wendy. In the meantime a little bloggage.

When we look back on this era, the No. 2 embarrassment will be our creation of the Dragon of Gluten, although it’s certainly been a good grift for some people:

Belle Gibson, wellness blogger and founder of the Whole Pantry, was fined $410,000 (in Australian dollars; $322,000 in American dollars) by an Australian court for claiming that she “cured her terminal brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar.” Gibson admitted in 2015 that the claims had been made up to Australia Women’s Weekly — she did not and never had brain cancer.

“Wellness blogger.” Speaking of which, if you’re on Twitter you should be following @drjengunter, who has made a small name for herself tormenting all things Goop, i.e., the work product of wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow.

As the kids say, so much This to this, a report from today’s college campuses from Ed and Gin and Tacos:

Articles about college students by people who do not spend their working lives on a college campus are inevitably bad. Hilariously bad. Bad like that right-wing Christian fantasy film God’s Not Dead, which represents a fever dream of what a college campus is like by a bunch of people who have never been on one.

Since this isn’t the Washington Post and I don’t have an editor here I’m going to cut to the chase: 99.99% of college students don’t care. About anything. Half of them consume so little news that even asking them about the major headline stories of a given time period draws blank stares more often than not. If they have opinions about political or social issues, more often than not it amounts to parroting the reactionary views of their parents and all the Fox News their parents exposed them to. The idea of college undergraduates as a gaggle of barbarians mobbing the proverbial gate is endlessly amusing to any college faculty. If you can get these kids to show up to class and hand in their assignments it’s a goddamn miracle.

OK, then. There are but 24 hours in this day and more than nine of them have already flown. Time to get some shit done.

Posted at 9:38 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments