‘Us.’ And them.

The Mueller story is breaking as I write this, and I’m treating it like a mass shooting; I’m not paying attention until more facts are on the ground. Besides, I want to talk about “Us.”

We saw Jordan Peele’s new film Saturday night. I was fearing a sophomore slump, after “Get Out.” I thought I might want to see it, and avoided reading too deeply into the early reviews. A couple had headlines that suggested it was OK, but not quite as good as “Get Out.”

People? I found those reviews…wrong.

I loved “Us.” I spent most of Sunday cleaning the house, and thought about it much of that time. I kept putting it through new unified theories, thinking of new metaphors you could tease out of it. Horror is my least-favorite genre. I find most repulsively violent, and even the well-reviewed ones like “A Silent Place” I mostly avoid. But if Jordan Peele keeps making horror movies, I am entirely down. He uses everything in his head – his deep knowledge of film history, his fondness for pop culture, his insistence that the audience rise to meet him, rather than stooping to the horror-fan level – to make scary movies like no other.

“Us” is about a family of four on vacation at their summer home, when a strangely dressed family appears at the foot of the driveway. As they come closer, something strange is evident: They’re them, the same family, played by the same actors, only…off, somehow. Only the mother (Lupita N’yongo) speaks clearly enough to understand, and she lays out what these doppelgängers want: What the other family has.

“We’re Americans,” she croaks.

Unfortunately, they’re all carrying a pair of golden shears, and they’re not there to make paper dolls. (Well, one is, but not for many, many minutes.)

It’s a violent movie, but not stomach-turningly so. I was too busy, as all this was unfolding, trying to think if this was about…slavery? Trumpism? Class? The answer is all of the above, and then some more. A lot more. There are Easter eggs galore, a veritable basket full of them, with unexpected laughs. Just one: A character under attack gasps to her smart speaker, “Call the police.” The speaker responds by blasting NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police.” Mis-hearing smart speakers may well be the new no-signal plot device, but this one is genuinely funny.

Also, there’s a Hands Across America plot line. Seriously, this is a very original movie. I loved it.

What else happened this weekend? The aforementioned house-cleaning, and Alan handled the yard, which is ready for spring. I got my bike tuned up, along with a new, better-padded seat, so I’m ready when it finally gets warm for good. We had some nice weather, but there was too much work to do to enjoy it.

We did get to the dog park for a bit. Too soon — it was a muddy mess.

Wendy worked that hole all last summer. It was the first thing she headed to this year.

Forecast tomorrow? A high of 40. Oh, well. It is coming.

Posted at 7:00 pm in Movies | 19 Comments

Some thoughts at week’s end.

OK, then! Back-to-back 12-hour days, my legs are sore, I feel fat as hell and now, god help me, I’m taking advantage of the next hour or so by watching a Tyler Perry movie on Amazon.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Tyler Perry movie. Some people I kinda-sorta knew when the film tax credits were going strong in Michigan now work a lot in Georgia, and they work in Perry’s film factory quite a bit. And a factory it is, pumping out morality plays, but what the hell, it’s a living. The people I know who work on films have a different measure of whether one is any good. Do the checks clear? Then it’s good. Good enough, anyway.

Boy, does this movie suck. Have you ever heard of a simple car accident not bad enough to crinkle a bumper giving a woman “ruptured ovaries?” Yeah, me neither. “Acrimony” — look it up. Even Taraji P. Henson can’t save it.

So now the weekend is approaching. It feels like breaking a tape, but mainly it’s just a matter of making lists of things to do, then doing them, then starting it all again next week.

I hope there will be some reading.

Some things you might be able to read:

I know you’re sick of Roseanne Barr — so am I. Worth reading, anyway.

A friend posted this on her Facebook, and the first comment was, “Nikki Haley can go fuck herself.” Headline: What it’s like living in a country where giving birth costs $60. Second graf:

It started when presidential candidate and longtime Medicare for All advocate Bernie Sanders tweeted that it costs an average of $12,000 to have a baby in the United States, compared to just $60 in Finland — at which point former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley decided to weigh in. “Alright @BernieSanders, you’re not the woman having the baby so I wouldn’t be out there talking about skimping on a woman when it comes to childbirth. Trust me! Nice try though,” she replied, adding, “Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer.”

You know how it went, right? Finnish maternity care is superior in every way, going well beyond the famous baby box. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Nikki Haley can absolutely go fuck herself.

Here’s something I wrote the other day, about a Detroit R&B oddity who died Sunday. Deadline Detroit appreciates the clicks.

(All of the above was written Thursday night. Friday morning addendum below.)

Neil Steinberg, most definitely a top-five blogger, wrote something the other day that kinda chilled me. After a discussion of how things end, with some elegant snatches of poetry, he dropped this:

Honestly, I read the poem and, inspired, thought of posting it here and quitting the blog cold after five years. Here, figure this out, good-bye. Because whatever the world wants, this obviously is not it. Five years is plenty.

Spoiler alert: He decides to go on. But every January I pass the anniversary of this blog, which has been going on since 2001. Not every goddamn day, but most goddamn days until recently, when I shortened it to three days a week and lately it’s coming in at two. Honestly, this has been a tough winter for me, and there have been days, many of them, when I just want to pack it in. This makes me worry that I’m losing some essential edge, some drive; doesn’t a writer write because they have to? I mean, because it’s an urge, not an obligation? If I’m dry, then this is it, right? Retirement, a rocking chair, Social Security and a final wave en route to the grave? My friends are starting to retire, and an amazing number of them (which is to say, two or three) have expressed a desire to never, ever do what they did all their careers. No hobby journalism for them. They’re out, and happy to be out.

It has to end sometime. Steinberg’s been doing this five years, I’ve been at it for 18. Eighteen years when I should have been writing books, right? But so many of the people I know who write books don’t have an audience at all — they’ve dropped their work into a well of sorts, all that work for one or two respectful reviews and then, nothing. At least here I have feedback. And it’s a discipline, and that is very important for writers. Laura Lippman does 1,000 words a day. You can fritter away a lifetime intending to write, but not doing it. It’s a muscle. It needs exercise.

But man, am I tired. And it’s snowing.

I’m not quitting. And I’m not fishing for encouragement. I’m just giving you an update on why I’ve been scarce here. The blog will go on, but one day it won’t. (I’ve actually added a short letter to our estate paperwork, bequeathing the contents of this blog, all XX years of blather, comments, links, dustups, changes, all of it – to J.C. Burns, who can do with it whatever he likes. That’s assuming he outlives me. I hope he does.)

What a merry ending, eh? I am off to the gym, to re-sore my legs. Have a great weekend, all. I will be back. Promise.

Posted at 9:33 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 36 Comments

The toolkit.

I was reading Mitch Albom’s stupid column today, and —

But why do you read Mitch Albom’s stupid column, Nance? you’re asking. Because I enjoy picking scabs and scratching the patch of eczema on my left palm that won’t go away, mainly because I keep clawing at it, that’s why.

So anyway. I was reading Mitch Albom’s stupid column today, and it occurred to me that I should make a list of Columnist Tropes, that toolbox of pundit tricks that can be reliably deployed in service of getting something filed by deadline. The Open Letter, the Notes From My Vacation, that sort of thing.

I’m calling Mitch’s today the Buck Up, Buttercup, in which he deploys his hard-won wisdom to tell his readers not to be so naive. The topic is the college cheating scandal, which Mitch pronounces old news, using another crowbar from the Trope Toolbox, the “Casablanca” lead:

There’s a famous scene in “Casablanca” where the corrupt police chief played by Claude Rains shuts down Humphrey Bogart’s casino.

“I’m shocked — shocked — to find that gambling is going on in here!” Rains deadpans.

A croupier then hands him a wad of cash. “Your winnings, sir.”

“Oh, thank you,” Rains says.

You can tell what an effortless and instinctive word-count-padder Mitch is by that “famous.” I used to tell my students, if an expression, quote or what-have-you is truly famous, you don’t have to say “so-and-so famously said.” And then to explain the whole joke, as though there might be a single person in the readership who doesn’t know that scene — that’s champion-level padding, right there.

He goes on:

Are we really shocked — shocked! — to learn that a small group of very rich people paid stupid money to make their kids look smart? The college scandal dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” has been a huge story this past week, but are we really that stunned that 33 parents are accused paying a con artist named Rick Singer to hire a phony test taker or bribe college coaches in order to open “side doors’” for their kids’ admission?

Um, yeah?

To judge by the headlines — and the breathless class-warfare commentaries — you’d think this was the first time someone tried to improperly get into a college. Try that idea on any veteran sportswriter. You’ll get a laugh.

Then on to the well-known college-athlete recruitment scandals, then on to this just-asking-questions riff:

Has every applicant written his or her own essay? Or did they get help?

Has every applicant only gotten letters of recommendation from people who truly knew them or employed them — or did family friends and connections earn them more impressive endorsements?

Has every applicant truly done the stellar community service they claim on their form? Or did they exaggerate with someone’s blessing? Did they only join certain clubs or associations for the illusion of being well-rounded?

And this, of course, simply proves that the entire process is so, so wrong, that outrage is “simply disingenuous.” I guess as takes go, this one is maybe slightly above room temperature, but on second thought, maybe not.

I shouldn’t let this stuff bug me, and generally I don’t. But I just finally, finally found the courage to start doing our taxes, only to find the SSN on one of my W-2s is incorrect. On the one hand, got to shut down TurboTax and start this blog. On the other? Another chore to handle in the next month.

Hope everyone’s weekend and St. Patrick’s Day was good. I repotted an orchid, got some reading done, and had the right impulse on our taxes, at least. Also, I made Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake. Haven’t tucked into it yet, but I expect it’ll be delicious, because duh, chocolate cake. I also started doing some very preliminary research into our next big vacation, which I hope will be next fall — to Morocco. Anybody with experience in that part of the world, chime in.

I also spent some time on Twitter, and saw this:

These people. Sigh.

Good week ahead, all. I’m hoping for some peace and quiet. But right now I’m-a make some chicken pot pie with a homemade biscuit crust.

Posted at 5:54 pm in Media | 70 Comments

With the swamp-drainers.

You guys. What a week. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to have two half-time jobs, but I like both of them, so I guess I’m just going to have to figure it out. But my world is a series of spinning plates. This week, it culminated with this event, which I covered, and you can read the story here, and I’d appreciate it if you did.

But if you’re rushed: It was the We Build the Wall Town Hall, a traveling grift-a-palooza that stopped in Detroit last night. A sad event. It was originally scheduled for a church in Warren, which for you out-of-towners is most definitely MAGA country, but was relocated to Detroit when they outgrew the space. The organizers claimed they had more than a thousand people registered; maybe 300 showed up. They were dwarfed by one of Cobo’s zillion-square-foot halls, but what the heck, the energy was about as high as a crowd with a median age of maybe 52 could drum up. I thought what I’ve thought many times in crowds like this: This issue is resolving itself, one funeral at a time. So many gray heads, so many canes, so many of those rolling walkers. The Bikers for Trump looked like the crowd at last summer’s Steppenwolf concert, with a titanium hip for every Harley-Davidson.

Maybe the rest were scared off by having to come to Detroit, who knows.

I went because Bannon was on the bill. I originally figured he’d be a no-show, “called away by vital business,” but there he was. You’d think he’d elevate such an event, but not really, not when he’s up there with as grifty a bunch as this. Here’s the scenario: This “We Build the Wall” GoFundMe has already raised $20.6 million. People are being given the chance to back out, but — they say — few have. But let’s say have $10 million to spend. For this sum, they intend to put up parts of a wall, on private property. How easy would it be to slip away with a big chunk of that? I say not very.

Bannon is independently wealthy; he doesn’t need to hustle old people for $5 contributions. He still considers himself a person of ideas and vision. What is he doing up there with Sheriff Clarke? Just organizing? Someone with a more devious political mind, chime in. I’m really interested.

One of the books I’m reading these days is Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a critical job — staffing the parts of the government people don’t think about until they fail. It’s terrifying. Lewis concentrates on one department — Energy — but I thought of the FAA when I read this headline: Trump wanted his personal pilot to head the FAA. The critical job is still vacant amid Boeing fallout.

Lewis makes the case that not only do these departments do what everybody hates, OMG REGULATION, but play critical roles interacting with private industry in guiding that which they oversee. Running a major federal agency is not the same as flying a plane, but I guess that’s too hard to see.

Man, what a week. I’m outta here. Have a great weekend, and back on Sunday/Monday.

Posted at 12:29 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 32 Comments

Radio sucks.

Continuing a theme of recent weeks, I once again find myself ashamed of this stupid country. That Tucker Carlson is a pig surprises me not in the least. That he, ostensibly a serious person, appears on a radio show with someone named Bubba the Love Sponge simply depresses me.

The NPR station in Fort Wayne wasn’t running the usual news shows when I first moved there, and so for a while I contented myself with the usual morning-zoo numbnuts. This being Fort Wayne, they weren’t particularly racy, just boring dudes in baseball caps who wouldn’t have made it on the open-mic standup circuit. Lots of them were overweight. Most of them were Republicans. (They didn’t do politics, but you could just smell it on them.) Hardly any of them were even a little bit funny; a song parody was about the best they were capable of.

Every so often I’ll station-surf past one now. They’re all racy now. Crude, actually. I think there’s one team around here who make callers say “penis balls” in the course of their interactions. I try to imagine the sort of person who finds this sort of thing amusing, and come up blank. Silence, Spotify, the CBC — there are so many options around here.

I know smart people who think Howard Stern is great. I am not one of them. I flirted briefly with Don Imus, then dropped him when it became evident what a schmuck he is.

(You wouldn’t believe how much money some of these guys — and they’re all guys, with the occasional Girl Sidekick — earn, too. Imus at his peak was in the $7-million-a-year range. Bob & Tom, in Indianapolis, were around $1 million. I guess “talent” is rare, and advertisers like them, but holy shit.)

So much radio sucks. When I briefly toiled at WOWO, I was astounded at the stuff that was posted on the employee bulletin board. The don’t ask/don’t tell policy was in the news at the time, and the anti-gay stuff alone was horrible. When I mentioned something to the station manager, she said, “Well, we don’t have any gay employees.”

I still listen to public radio, and NPR, every day. I still get a little frustrated when they do those long, earnest pieces on something I can’t even muster a whisker of a care about — and I’m an empathetic person. But now I just switch to a podcast.

How’s everyone’s week going? Sorry for no Sunday. I’m trying to save my sanity by reading more for pleasure this month, and opted for self-care. Enjoying a little Scott Turow (“Testimony”) after years of not reading him. He’s the Grisham-who-can-write, for those unfamiliar.

OK, off to the showers, huge week ahead. Stay well, all.

Posted at 7:45 am in Current events | 90 Comments

And now, the shadow.

A big local-news talker dropped Friday morning, and bear with me, because I’m going to try to make my comments about it universal. So here goes, the first five grafs:

Former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell had a Hall of Fame career and a marriage to match.

Friends and strangers alike marveled at the love he and his wife, Lulu, shared for almost 70 years.

But their fairy-tale family included a large dose of heartache, most of it unseen and much of it unseemly.

Oakland County court records show that for years, the couple’s four children have been beset by infighting and impatience for their inheritance from parents often unable to say no.

The children point fingers at family lawyers. The lawyers point back with allegations of unpaid bills, missing money and alleged mistreatment of Lulu, who battled dementia for years before dying March 1 at age 99. She was more or less broke.

It’s hard to overstate what a beloved figure Harwell was in Detroit. Mitch Albom, no stranger to lavish print-smooching, can hardly restrain himself when he writes about him. Of course, like another dead old man, Harwell has been good for Mitch’s bottom line — he wrote a play, “Ernie,” that runs every year through baseball season at a theater across the street from the ballpark. I saw it a few years back; it’s not terrible, but Mitch only paints in primary colors, and only pretty-pretty ones. The play works for what it is, a nostalgia-wallow that makes everyone cry, then time for a beer before the first pitch. (Almost everyone cries, that is; this was me.)

To give you a taste of how he handles all things Harwell: His column upon Lulu’s death earlier this month may out-Mitch even Mitch.

And like I said, Harwell was beloved.

He had a Georgia drawl and an easy patter, plus a bottomless well of folksy expressions he could summon at the crack of a bat. (No, I’m not going to look them up for you; that’s what the internet is for.) Plus he did seem, from all accounts, to be genuine and modest and charming. He was one of those personalities made for a time when baseball was coming out of the transistor radio on the back steps as you washed the car.

But even though he is routinely called a saint, no mortal actually is a saint. Everyone has flaws. Everyone. What’s more, our flaws are what make us interesting — the tension between light and dark, how we reconcile the two. If I were teaching feature writing, I’d do a whole unit on how to balance the good stuff with the less-good stuff, how to ask about it, that sort of thing. How to add, with words, what the Italians call chiaroscuro, the shadows that give the light dimension.

Conversely, this is also something to remember when considering straight-news stories, especially those about people who have suffered a misfortune: There are no perfect victims, either. When you find yourself detaching from the plight of a person screwed over by a corrupt system because she worked as a stripper or smoked weed or whatever, you’re forgetting what the greater sin is.

The Harwell marriage, so recently aired in Lulu’s obituary, was close and loving and long-lived. Assuming this story is correct, it also gave the world what seem to be four terrible children, or at least three. While Ernie left a tidy estate, it was hardly substantial, and he devoutly wanted his widow cared for after his death. That was expensive, and ate the money one bite at a time. But his children? One nickel-and-dimed his elderly mom to cover his own financial failings. One billed her conservator for “caregiving,” 24 hours a day, whenever he traveled to Michigan to visit her. Another was emotionally abusive. The fourth seems a cut above the rest, but who knows.

From the tweeting around this, I get the feeling this was an open secret among sports journalists. And yet, this appears to be the first reporting on it. That’s…not good. But also not surprising.

The weekend is nearly upon us, but I still have some work to do, so best get to it.

So much to blog about, but who has the time? Manafort, Fox News, all of it. Let’s stick with this, headlined, “Melania chooses spaghetti.” In which we learn a Fox host referred to FLOTUS as “Lady M” throughout their interview, a very strange thing.

Supposed to rise well above freezing Saturday. Here’s hoping. Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 2:01 pm in Detroit life, Media | 78 Comments

An earlier Lent.

Well, at least I know now why I was feeling so listless on Sunday. I woke up a few hours later with a mild fever, and spent the next 24 hours feeling thisclose to barfing and swinging between that little fever and waking up in a sweaty tangle of sheets.

I’m better today, but still semi-queasy. It’s paçzki day in Detroit, and I haven’t felt even a whiff of a craving.

Paçzki are, of course, the jelly donuts that Polish folks around here — and everybody else, for that matter — eat on Shrove Tuesday. And I don’t care how many worthless stories are written about them every year, they’re fucking jelly donuts, and you can buy them at Dunkin’ all year long. So I’ll start a Lenten deprivation a little early.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow. I was “at work” Monday and today, but in a diminished fashion. But here I am, getting ready to watch the State of the City address, even though I’d rather watch almost anything else.

(Watching it now. Yep, anything else. No offense to the mayor, it’s just that these things are all the same.)

So, summing up my complaints in a bumper sticker? It just hasn’t been my year. Fortunately, it’s still young. And as my husband points out, it’s not like I have cancer or nothin’. All true.

Man, though, that Michael Jackson documentary? Chilling. Awful. Even worse is the braying from the hashtag-innocent crowd, who are simply rabid. And by rabid, I mean “diseased and crazed.” “There’s no evidence!” they cry. As though direct testimony, voluminous photos, faxes and other ephemera and classic behavior patterns somehow aren’t evidence. I think the squicky feeling I got watching it was not just my brewing stomach bug, but the feeling of…complicity, somehow. How easily the world swallowed that bullshit about the real-life Peter Pan who simply enjoyed the company of children, because he never had a proper childhood himself. Seeing shot after shot of MJ running from a hotel to a limousine, screaming fans an arm’s length away, while a little kid runs a few feet ahead of him — it was so familiar. How often did we see that in the ’80s and ’90s?


The governor unveiled her budget proposal today, too. This happens every year. It’s usually big news when a new gov is doing it for the first time, because there are always tricks up the ol’ sleeve. Without going into the details, which aren’t all that interesting to anyone who doesn’t live there, be advised there’s a big per-gallon gas tax on the table, because our roads are in Third World condition and getting worse. There’s simply no way to finance what it would take to get them to fair — fair! — condition without more revenue. You can already see how the rest of this debate is going to go: Find the waste! No new taxes! As though $2.2 billion dollars, per year, is just sitting around, going to waste. For professional reasons, I can’t say much more, but still: Please.

For once, though, prominent conservatives are saying, essentially, we gotta do it. And if you think there’s so much waste in the system, point it out. I doubt the hashtag warriors will get far this year. But they’ll make her pay in four years. More will be revealed.

So, any bloggage? Is there anything new on the Trump Outrage beat? Well, it’s Tuesday. What do you think?

Time to go see how Ray Donovan’s going to get out of his latest fix. I’m enjoying Showtime for as long as I have it – I think it’ll expire with Kate’s graduation – and it beats Jacko’s abuse narrative.

Carry on, all. It’s Wednesday.

Posted at 8:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments


Do you ever get depressed around this time of year? Look out the window, watch yet another glaze of snow gently falling from the sky, consider you should be cleaning the bathroom but decide you’d rather read this Scott Turow book you picked up in New York, and then sigh deeply and wonder what’s the use, what’s the damn use? This stupid country is so screwed, what’s the damn use?

No? OK, then, carry on.

I shouldn’t be watching this Michael Jackson documentary. It’s not sitting well with what I read this morning about the president’s two-hour standup act at CPAC Saturday. Sort of like eating something bad, followed by something even worse. It’s not helping my mood.

So let’s hop to some good bloggage, shall we?

I’ve been interested for some time in pet culture — the way we treat our dogs and cats and so forth. It’s simultaneously fascinating and appalling. I know grown women who are happy to share their beds with 80-pound pit bulls. I know people who think of their dogs and cats as children. Truth be told, I think of my dog as a child, although not really. You have to respect an animal’s essential nature, which is not the same as ours. But there’s little doubt that a dog or cat in a middle-class home lives better than lots of human beings in lousier neighborhoods.

So this CityLab piece on dog parks and gentrification was interesting:

Parks and recreation departments face tremendous pressure today to dedicate more and greater space for the nation’s fur-babies, even in cities where there aren’t enough local parks for actual children. The rise of dog parks—up 40 percent over the last decade—has consequences for neighborhoods that have them as well as those that don’t. More than half of the nation’s parks departments now boast a dog park.

Back in the day, “a dog park wasn’t a thing” says Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “You walked your dog around the neighborhood. You took your dog around the block. Standards and expectations for dog owners have shifted. The culture of dog ownership has changed.”

The fancy-town dog park in the early designs for Lincoln Yards might be among the least-divisive features of this project, which closed in on as much as $1.3 billion in public funding (through a tax-increment financing scheme) last week. But it is nevertheless a small marker of disparity in the city—one that can be found all over. It’s a pattern whose consequences range from worrisome sign of neighborhood gentrification to outright structural inequality.

From the Cohen hearing fallout, more of the Best People ™:

…Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide turned federal housing bureaucrat, has long reveled in the limelight and has asked permission to star in a reality-TV show while serving as a HUD official.

Oh, but of course she did.

Finally, a bizarre story about the fake-credentialed sex doctor who buffaloed many smart people into believing him.

Back to Michael Jackson. It’s like bad medicine I have to take.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events | 37 Comments

The bottom below the last bottom.

Well, that was an interesting day, wasn’t it?

I took 30 minutes for lunch today. I was going to get a sandwich and bring it back to the office, but decided fuck it, I’m going to sit at this table, eat and scroll Twitter. I’m in a group chat with a couple of friends, and one of them noted that while we’re all watching Michael Cohen, India and Pakistan are on the brink of war, and both have nukes.

And damn, it’s true.

Today may have been one of those days when my brain broke, a little. Four different people in the office were watching the hearing, on four different feeds, so there was a weird echo effect, punctuated by the occasional guffaw or that’s not true or who is this clown. I was trying to get a job done that generally takes one to two hours, but today took three going on four, and finally I just turned the whole thing off. What have we done to this country? How can we recover from this? What is this going to lead to? How can we go back?

We’re so screwed. We should liquidate all our savings and just light out for the territories, spend the remainder of our time traveling from Bangkok to Vladivostok to Istanbul to Paris until this is over, then travel for a few more years until climate change really kicks in, then I don’t know what we’ll do. Volunteer at the next mega wildfire in California, maybe. Anything to blot out the knowledge we elected a president who set up a straw buyer to bid up a shitty portrait of himself, so it would get the highest price, then paid for it out of a charitable foundation.

Over the last three years, I’ve been baffled, outraged, grimly amused, frustrated – pretty much the whole gamut. But today I feel ashamed of this whole stupid country.

All of this may be exacerbated by today’s bus ride home. I got off at my stop and realized my ass was wet, because apparently I sat in something. I stripped off my clothes 30 seconds after I walked through the door and took a sniff. It might have been coffee, or it could have been anonymous transit-rider pee. So I ran a bath and sat there and the water needed to be hotter, which may be because the hot-water heater is elderly and overdue to fail. Maybe it’ll fail this week! Wouldn’t that be the cherry on top?

Also, it snowed overnight.

But just in case you think I have entirely lost my sense of humor, I have not. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Alabama, but I wish I’d been there to see this:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama police say a dispute over crab legs at a dinner buffet ended in a brawl that left two people facing misdemeanor charges.

Huntsville police officer Gerald Johnson …tells WHNT-TV that diners were using service tongs like fencing swords and plates were shattering, and a woman was beating a man. Johnson says diners had been waiting in line for crab legs for more than 10 minutes, and they lost their tempers once the food came out.

Right now, I think I’ll do a crossword. Have a nice evening.

Posted at 8:01 pm in Current events | 65 Comments

Blustery day, eh?

I can feel the wind coming in gusts that seem to have lost at least some of their earlier fury, but we’re by no means done with this bluster yet. And with a computer that no longer has a functional battery, it seems I better get moving on this thing unless I want to be

::zzt. blink::

Kidding. We’re now at 20K without power in southeast Michigan, and we could easily be the next. Alan already pushed a limb off a line in the back yard, and the big oak back there had a bad year. For now? Soldier on!

I’m looking forward to the week, the last of the month and — I devoutly hope — a fairly quiet one. I spent much of last week house/dogsitting for vacationing friends, and I’m happy to be back in my own bed, where there are only three pillows — one for the two heads that lay there, and one for me to hug, because I’m a pillow-hugger and have been for years.

By contrast, the bed in my friend’s house — king-sized, excellent firm mattress and otherwise a very nice place to sleep — has 10 pillows. Ten! I counted them. There’s a base layer of three, three more on top of that, another three, and then a smaller decorative one that sits in front of the whole crew, like a drum major.

“I’m the pillow queen,” my friend said when I mentioned this. We were in the company of other affluent women of the same demographic, and I learned that over-pillowing is definitely a Thing among them. I knew it was with hotels; whenever we stay in one, Alan bats them away like a peevish bear, growling too many fuckin’ pillows. I select my hugger from the pile on the floor, and we go to bed.

I wonder if over-pillowing is a way to build a bulwark against your spouse, even in a loving relationship. Even in a big bed, some people will always claim your part of it, but it’s way harder to do when there’s a dyke of pillows keeping you in your lane, so to speak.

I really don’t know. But three suits our queen-size just fine.

And with that, I need to go start a pot of chili. Back in a minute.

I’m back! Yes, that was fast. I’ve found that chili goes better in our house if I handle the initial meat-browning, onion-chopping, can-opening assembly chores, etc., and then leave the seasoning to Alan, who, like many men, has complicated opinions on various chili seasonings that I do not share.

So, anyway. Been thinking about the Robert Kraft case this weekend, and what I said earlier about trafficking stories. If the facts the police have presented so far hold up, this is about as clear-cut a case as you could find — young women from another country compelled to sexually service an endless line of men. I was struck by the detail that did them in: A health inspector noted suitcases and bedding, an unusual amount of food for a workplace that its employees would leave behind at the end of the day.

It so happens that was one thing that a trafficking expert — a real trafficking expert, not the self-elevated ones you hear so much from these days — said should be a tipoff when I wrote about this subject a while back. She mentioned it in the context of nail salons, not storefront rub parlors, but one thing you learn when you start investigating human trafficking is this: For many people, even advocates, all they want to talk about is sex trafficking, mainly because that’s what the media, especially the electronic media, talks about. But labor trafficking is very real, too. It’s much harder to illustrate during a sweeps-month “investigation.” You can’t use shadowy silhouettes of a young woman leaning into a car, or perhaps weeping into her hands while rolls of money pile up on the bed behind her.

That’s one reason I regard so much of this issue with suspicion. So little data, so much tape over mouths. Cheesy titillation rubs me the wrong way.

Human trafficking has only been part of UCR data — that’s Uniform Crime Reporting, for your civilians — since 2013. We are still groping in the dark toward a fuller understanding of it.

As for why a billionaire would patronize a storefront rub parlor in Florida, when he could presumably order up a Miss America runner-up in a thong to come directly to his hotel suite? You’d have to ask him. But it’s been my experience that the richer a man is, the more likely he is to be cheap in truly cringeworthy ways:

In the case of the Orchids of Asia parlor in Jupiter, where services were listed for $59 for half an hour or $79 for an hour, an arrest affidavit for the women managing the spa detailed a similar investigative approach. Police watched men going into the spa for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

OK, a little bloggage:

My friends had a copy of Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” in the house, and I read a little of it. It was pretty great and amazingly well-written. No ghost is credited, and Obama does acknowledge collaborators, so I can’t say how much of it is her own prose style. But it’s a much more pleasant read than I expected. Neil Steinberg agrees:

“Becoming” is perfect for our perilous national moment, reminding us of when our country had a thoughtful, decent man as president. Donald Trump emerges like a monster in a horror movie, glimpsed first in flashes far off, then rearing up behind us. Obama casts him as the latest in a line of bullies she’s battled.

“Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people,” she writes.

Have you ever heard it put so well?

Speaking of reading books, this was a sobering read. I think I’m going to take a certain amount of it to heart. I still love Twitter, like/loathe aspects of Facebook and enjoy being up on things, but I really need to get a handle on my book reading again. It starts with breaking up with one’s phone, or at least renegotiating the terms of the relationship.

We’re having wind downstate, but upstate — as in, northern Michigan and the UP — they’re having a goddamn blizzard. The photos piling up in my social media feeds are one reason I can’t quite quit Twitter just yet.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 5:29 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 86 Comments