More calming photography.

humpbackwhale
Humpback whale, the northern horizon beyond, Husavik, Iceland.

I needed a couple days off, sorry guys. My week tends to be front-loaded (and sort of uneventful, most weeks), so I often find myself on Monday or Tuesday nights lying limply on the couch, thinking how little I care about the news of the day.

But of course I do. I’ve been absorbed by the news of the week, particularly the SCOTUS rulings, which are, like everything else, only more evidence of the great divide. To people like us, it’s pretty simple: You take a job as a pharmacist, you’re obligated to dispense the drugs people present prescriptions for. You’re not there to express your opinions about them, or otherwise interfere with a relationship between a customer/patient and the choices they or their doctors make. Your remarks should be confined to known contraindications and so forth, not your moral beliefs about them.

If you feel you need to say these things, choose another field.

Others? They don’t feel this way. Roy has the roundup. Read that, and you’ll feel better.

Also, the last few days here have been lovely. Monday was miserable hot, but a cool front blew in Tuesday and Wednesday? This:

sunrise

It was pretty chilly at that hour, too — about 55 degrees. You stretch, you get in, you swim. In half a lap, all is well.

I plan to enjoy this summer.

Deborah, send me some current pix of your house project, and I’ll post them here. Along with more of my own, because I feel like if this weather keeps up, it’ll be a very photogenic summer.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events | 5 Comments
 

Sea and sky.

I just spent 30 minutes reading reader comments on Monday’s SCOTUS decision on the Texas abortion laws. It’s a scourging of sorts, I guess. But what it really made me want to do is look at a nice picture from Iceland. This one:

seaandsky

Sea, sky, mountain. Gray, gray, gray, and light. Ah, much better now.

That’s the kind of day it was. I’m headed for bed.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events | 67 Comments
 

These guys.

For many years now – ever since I read an Indianapolis Monthly cover story on Steve Hilbert, the high-flying CEO who drove Canseco into a ditch a few years back – I’ve thought the best job in America is to be an ex-wife of one of these guys, preferably before they hit the skids. Best of all would be for your hubs to fall in love with his secretary, or personal art dealer, or, in Hilbert’s case, the woman who jumped out of a cake at his son’s bachelor party, at the absolute height of their wealth and power, which is when so many of these splits tend to happen.

Seriously, imagine that scenario. It would be like getting released from prison, only instead of a suit of clothes and a parole officer, you get a condo in Aspen and $40 million. Jane Welch’s deal – that’s the one I want. Or Ivana Trump’s. You never again have to listen to him carp about the office, the board or the tennis coach, all of whom are somehow failing him. You don’t have to fuck him, or supervise his social calendar, or make nice with his equally odious colleagues. You are free to downsize and sit in front of that crackling Aspen fireplace, holding a warm cup of something in both hands and considering the rest of your life. Maybe do some more traveling – to Vietnam, or Russia, or India, places your ex wouldn’t even consider – or just fill your days with low-key lunches, reading and maybe regular dates with the tennis coach.

Of course, I was put on this train of thought by reading about yet another Donald Trump scam. The NYT has been tireless on these myriad disasters, the university and the casinos and all the rest of it. The most believable theory of why Trump won’t release his tax returns, to me anyway (I think it’s Mark Cuban’s), is the one that says he doesn’t have anywhere near as much as he’s been claiming, and the truth is clear if you look at the evidence in front of our faces. What billionaire needs to run as many low-level grifts and cheesy schemes as Trump does? “Trump: The Game,” Trump University, Trump steaks, even his dumb TV show. When you get your B card, you stop doing things like this:

In Oregon, Phyllis Fread was in her 80s, dealing with Parkinson’s disease and had been retired from teaching for almost two decades when Cambridge started calling her at home, where she lived alone. Cambridge salespeople telephoned Ms. Fread — who did not use the internet — 42 times trying to sell her networking services, a website and other products she did not need, according to an investigation by the Oregon attorney general’s office.

Over a two-year period, Cambridge charged her $14,593 for a video biography, calendars, a plaque and other items, including a news release in June 2010 titled “Phyllis J. Fread Reveals Her Secret to a Long Career in Education.” The release included a mention of Donald Trump Jr., saying he “was eager to share his extensive experience” with Cambridge clients.

Eventually, Ms. Fread reached her credit card limit and her son disconnected her telephone to stop Cambridge from calling. In a recorded interview with an investigator from the attorney general’s office, Ms. Fread became emotional as she recalled how “there were all kinds of things they’d push and I’d say, ‘I don’t want it at all.’”

“I remember saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything.’ And then you couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I probably should have hung up,” she said. “But I didn’t.”

Cambridge was accused by the state of “unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices” and settled without admitting guilt, issuing a refund to Ms. Fread in 2012. She died 18 months later.

“Cambridge” is:

Cambridge Who’s Who, a vanity publisher promising “branding services” that seemed to complement the real estate business (another duped woman) hoped to create. She paid thousands of dollars to Cambridge, whose spokesman and “executive director of global branding” was Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr.

It’s not a Trump company, but when Junior joined it six years ago, his name became part of the call-center script. You wonder why a billionaire’s son would feel the need to work for such an outfit, even if he only stayed a year. My guess is, he learned at the foot of dad, and knows you never leave a dollar on the table, on the ground or in an 80-year-old woman’s pocket.

A good friend of mine died of AIDS 25 years or so ago, and one of the last arguments I remember having with him was over “The Art of the Deal,” which he was reading, becoming ever more besotted with Donald Trump as the pages turned. To him, Trump was about confidence, “class” and being unlike any other. I never read it, and in fact avoid all such books, even while I marvel over the stacks and stacks you see in places like airports. The format is as predictable as a rom-com: Photoshopped pic of the author on the cover, wearing a sweater; wide margins and big type; and air, nothing but air, between the covers.

Really, who thought that Bill Gates’ “The Road Ahead” would contain one secret to duplicating his own success on the road ahead? Who thought that after reading Welch’s “Winning,” one might go forth and, y’know, win? Thousands, evidently. Maybe millions.

If you’d have told me that one day this “author” of an empty-headed parade of “books” would be the GOP nominee for president, well… I’m sure you feel the same way.

On the other hand, if you’d told me that both Trump and Welch would run personally branded higher-ed programs at for-profit “institutions,” well, I’d believe that.

What am I talking about? I feel like I’ve sort of lost the plot here.

OK, then, moving on. NN.C is a full-service blog, so when you’re passing through my town, I will do my best to say hi in the flesh, as I did on Saturday, at Eastern Market with the bassets, Craig and Patty:

thebassets

I seem to have gone blonde with my most recent highlights. Might want to tone that down, eh?

The week ahead sits with fanged teeth. (Pronounced “fanged” with two syllables, and you’ll get a sense of how much I’m not looking forward to it.) But in five more days, it’ll be over, so let’s get to it, eh?

Posted at 12:31 am in Current events | 51 Comments
 

The end of a long week.

Ugh, what a week. Busy and brutal in equal measure, with a dose of boredom thrown in. A killer combination. But in the middle, there was this:

Strawberry Moon Paddle #belleisle #detroitriver #detroitoutpost #kayakmichigan

A photo posted by Detroit Outpost (@detroitoutpost) on

That’s me! A bright spot in the week, watching the sun set and the moon rise, on a two-hour tour. A two-hour tooouuuur. We saw a whole bunch of geese on a seawall:

geese

And of course I took a selfie. It was pretty dark by this point, so hence the baseball-size grain-that-isn’t-grain, but here you go:

selfieafterdark

The Detroit River is beautiful, day and night.

I hope by this weekend I feel more or less normal again. We’ll see. In the meantime, a question for the room. How long has Scott Adams been such a twit? Of course you should always be suspicious of an opinion based on the anecdote of a commercial for dishwasher detergent, but what the hell?

I came across Adams the way everyone did, via “Dilbert,” which was hilarious and got to the essential truth of corporate employment years ahead of “The Office.” But as so often happens, you need to separate the art from the artist, because in this case the artist is spending his non-Dilberting time writing these weird blog posts about Donald Trump and men’s rights. It’s like when you discovered Miles Davis was a wife-beater.

Jesus, am I tired. Best wrap this up.

Since I started taking better care of myself, people will occasionally offer some helpful advice. Try blue-green algae, say, or take a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar every day, or whatever. I smile, I nod, and I keep doing what works: Exercise. For sure:

Although we don’t think of it this way, you can make a pretty good argument that exercise is as good as drugs for many conditions. A 2013 meta-analysis of meta-analyses (that’s how much data we have) combined and analyzed the results from 16 reviews of randomized controlled trials of drug and exercise interventions in reducing mortality. Collectively, these included 305 trials with almost 340,000 participants.

Finally, we missed much of fish fly season here in Grosse Pointe. But as you can see from this photo taken night before last, it’s still going on.

Talk soon.

Posted at 12:06 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

Let’s go shopping.

Full-packed day today — work, volunteering, then a full-moon kayaking expedition on the river. No time to write, so all pix today, with a theme! PRODUCTS:

fairy
Perhaps the suggestion is, it cleans so well and easily, it’s as though a little sprite handled the chore.

doritos
“Ranch” would make no sense in this context, overseas. And so this is our legacy.

chips
I’m kind of fascinated by the semiotics of snack-food packaging, actually. At one stop, I bought a bag of “salt flavor” potato chips. Alan crabbed that there was no other kind.

driedfish
Meanwhile, this seems to be what the real locals eat when they want a crispy, salty snack. Dried fish.

catfood
In a country where almost everyone speaks better English than Sarah Palin, I was a little surprised to see this. But oh well.

I’ll take my camera out on the river tonight. Let’s hope I don’t drop it overboard, eh?

Posted at 12:10 am in Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

More slides.

This is Hverfell (or Hverfjall, something to do with whether it’s a hill or a mountain, a hair I leave Icelanders to split). Not my photo, obviously, as I didn’t have a helicopter at my disposal:

hverfell

It’s a volcano, obviously, near Lake Myrvatn. We called it Dog Bowl Mountain, also obviously. All over Iceland are volcanos that have grass growing well up their slopes, but Hverfell is, after 2,900 years, still rock and cinders and dust. But you can climb it, via a steep walking path up the side. Up, up, up you climb. Pant, pant, pant. Trudge, trudge, trudge. Rest, rest, rest. You’re up very high — look at the cars in the parking lot. Like ants:

hverfell2

And then you come out at the top. I was expecting water down there. Instead, another heap of cinders, but in true Icelandic fashion, utterly otherworldly. The whole country looks like a Star Trek set, of about 19 different planets.

hverfell3

And that’s Hverfell. Let me know when you guys get tired of these pictures.

I’m exhausted, the sort of exhausted one gets when you’ve had a frustrating day, it’s too hot to go outside and the wind is just howling outside, huffing and puffing. Some of you people who are more politically savvy than me, please explain (if such a thing can even be explained): What possible motivation would Donald Trump’s campaign manager have to plant damaging stories about his own boss’ son-in-law? Because as a person who generally expects things to make a certain linear sense, I have to say I just don’t get it.

And for more entertaining Trump news, there’s this GQ profile of his 27-year-old press secretary, who has never worked in politics before. Welcome to Crazytown:

As for what arrives in Hicks’s in-box, a typical day brings upwards of 250 media requests. Usually, she alone decides who gets in and who’s kept out. But sometimes it’s Trump who plays bouncer for his own private party. “She sees the tantrums, and there are tantrums,” a source who’s been with Trump and Hicks told me. “He reads something he doesn’t like by a reporter, and it’s like, ‘This motherfucker! All right, fine. Hope?’ He circles it. ‘This guy’s banned! He’s banned for a while.’ That’s exactly how it works.” Hicks plays parole officer to an extensive and expanding blacklist of outlets and reporters (your correspondent once included) no longer welcome at his events.

While Hicks is often eager to please, she doesn’t mind upsetting the media and harbors no reverence for the civic duties of a free press. When reporters send her questions, she’s often irked—convinced they’re playing detective merely to irritate the campaign. She’s seemingly unaware that they might just be vetting a potential United States president. Often she doesn’t respond.

Finally, oncologists have had it with you mealy-mouthed pediatricians, and plan to go hard on HPV vaccines. Good for them.

Now to watch the “Game of Thrones” I missed last night because HBONow went down at the worst possible moment.

Posted at 12:13 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Crazy talk.

reynisfjarabeach
Which one of those craggy peaks is my daughter? Reynisfjara beach, near Vik, Iceland.

One subject I find endlessly fascinating is how mental illness — specific mental illness in individuals — dovetails with contemporary culture. Once upon a time, paranoid people believed they were literally bedeviled, by incubi and succubi. This gave way to space aliens, which yielded to internet-connected “targeted individuals.” (That’s a fascinating story I just linked; you should read.) Our local electrical utility has been installing so-called smart meters over the last few years, and a number of people have appeared at city council meetings, asking that the city refuse them, because if they’re installed, the utility will know which lights you have turned on, access to your electronic devices, etc., and they have no right to this information. STOP THE SURVEILLANCE STATE, etc.

For as long as I’ve been reading newspapers, people have been killing in the name of God — bombing abortion clinics, drowning their own children, or shooting their friends and family. We understand that when these people say God or Jesus or an angel told them to do these things, they’re nuts, because we understand that the Christian God is about love and understanding.

So when a man whom circumstantial evidence would suggest was a closeted homosexual kills 49 people in a gay bar, common sense would suggest his own shame and impulses had something to do with his motive. But if he pledges allegiance to an Islamic terror group instead, we decide this is Islamic terrorism, that he was “self-radicalized” – even though he showed no other evidence of religious dedication, like time at the mosque or even living by Islamic practices – and that this is part of a global plot that must be answered with an unprecedented policy overhaul.

And that’s crazy, if you ask me.

Maybe what we need now is more Muslim immigration, so we’d read more stories like this, about a Muslim trauma surgeon in Orlando, treating the victims of the massacre. Or like this, about ordinary Muslims in Detroit, who worry about the shitstorm these events bring down on their communities. Coincidentally, they have almost the same lead:

Dearborn Heights — One fearful thought gripped Bissan Harb when she learned about Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, the worst in modern American history: “Please don’t let it be a Muslim.”

and

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Dr. Joseph Ibrahim heard that the attack at the Pulse nightclub may have been linked to terrorism, he caught himself fearing any kind of link to his own Muslim, Middle-Eastern roots.

Please, he thought, don’t let Ibrahim appear anywhere in the gunman’s name.

And with that, I think it’s safe to say we’re 100 percent repatriated after our break. I even spent my first Saturday night home at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Yes, I did. And now that I’ve done it, I never have to do it again. A friend had review tickets, good ones, because he always writes about the pregame scene outside, which I could sum up in a hashtag: #drunkwhitepeople.

That said, it was fun, although by the end I could fairly say I was sick of steel drums, the stupid talking coconut and especially the insistent pandering to the locals. By which I mean? The song – don’t ask me to name it, because I don’t know – about beautiful places. The accompanying video montage started with images of Buffettville, beaches and swaying palms and so on, but transitioned to the cool blue lakes and pine forests of Michigan, before ending with a giant map of Michigan, just in case the drunker members of the audience didn’t get it. “Just once,” I told my friend, “I want to see what happens when the crew loads the wrong video file, and the Texans get North Carolina, or vice versa.” There was also a Glenn Frey tribute – “Take it Easy,” totally defensible – that had some tacked-on images of Gordie Howe. Weak.

But it was an enjoyable evening. And for all the excess in the parking lot – we found one converted school bus with a rooftop deck and hot tub – I thought these folks had the right idea:

buffettinblue

Just a man, his girlfriend, a cooler and a kiddie pool in the back of a pickup truck. Note their ages, too — both 21. And they were by no means the youngest people in the crowd. Give Buffett this: No one has figured out a way to brand-extend the American vacation experience like he has.

OK, have to hit the ground running tomorrow, so this will be it for the day. Many more pictures to come. Tanned, rested and ready for the week.

Posted at 12:04 am in Current events, Detroit life | 41 Comments
 

Just a few snaps.

And we’re back. A long trip, and I have to get right back to work Friday. I think I’ll parcel these out for a few days, but here are some highlights.

I’ve cropped and recropped this several times and can’t make up my mind — with or without the boat?

whaletail

Another whale tail. Fluke, to be correct:

whaletail2

Feeding whales frequently attract seabirds, who scoop up the baitfish. These are Arctic terns. Again, can’t quite get the crop the way I want it:

arcticterns

Finally, a mountain walk near Akureyi. I was trying to get that clear-mountain-air/infinite-depth-of-field thing that makes such expeditions so memorable, like Julie Andrews singing in the Alps in the opening of “The Sound of Music,” y’know?

mountainwalk

More later.

Posted at 8:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments
 

The luv cave.

I said we weren’t going there, and then we went there: the cave where Jon Snow lost his virginity. Like losing one’s virginity itself, it was wildly overrated by its TV appearance. Pretty, sure, but very cramped, and the only surfaces for virginity-losin’ were rocks. The “Game of Thrones” wizards CGI’d a waterfall into the thing, and apparently added about 1,000 square feet to the place. But I got a snap, just the same.

It’s a natural grotto with a warm spring feeding into it. The signage said it was once quite moderate but volcanic activity in the 1970s pushed the temperature to blistering ranges. Bathing is currently forbidden, and with few other surfaces to display an actual human, this is the best I can do:

Jon Snow may know nothing, but I know Alan bonked his head on that sharp triangle of rock hanging down. That would take the wind out of your romantic sails p.d.q. (And unless I’m mistaken, that graffiti reads “Thor.”)

On the way there, Hverfell, which looks like a “Star Trek” alien planet set (on the other camera, sorry), and Godafoss, another waterfall that makes Niagara look like a cheap ho’:

This is Iceland around every corner. Just one OMG sight after another. 

Tomorrow is the final day — driving back south and that milky-blue tourist trap, the Blue Lagoon. 
Try not to shoot each other before I get back.

Posted at 6:13 pm in Uncategorized | 88 Comments
 

The swimmer, revisited.

You John Cheever fans who have read his great short story “The Swimmer,” or seen the pretty fair adaptation with Burt Lancaster in the title role, will know what I’m talking about when I tell you my new bucket-list vacation is this: 

Swimming across Iceland. A leisurely trip around the ring road, with detours into the interior, sampling the wonders of the country’s great municipal swimming pools. 

Akureyi, where we are now, is a town of about 22,000. Roughly…what? Defiance, Ohio? Auburn, Indiana? Whatever. Here’s their pool:

That’s just the outside, of course. Phones and cameras seem to be frowned upon in the pool area, so you can google it if you like. But like the one I visited in Reykjavik, it just seems to me to be the ultimate in municipal recreation — turn a few laps, then pop into the steam or one of the several hot pots, watch the towheaded toddlers squealing down the water slides, then a leisurely final shower and on with your day. 

Any anxiety over the fearsome hygiene requirements — nude shower, with soap, before entering  the water — melt away before the la-de-da attitudes of the natives. The showers are full of old women, tattooed women, tan women, pale women, Scandinavian goddesses and their great-great grannies, all washin’ up before they go into the beautiful, clean pools outside. A goddess took her shower next to me this morning, plopping her white-blonde toddler into a tub next to her. Later, I saw her outside with her husband and two other kids. The picture of healthy living under a blazing blue subarctic sky.

Yesterday was whale-watching. I feared we’d be skunked, but it was anything but — after a loop around a puffin nesting ground, we headed for an area where recent reports had been good. We were steering toward a place where a thar-she-blows puff of spray had just been sighted when a humpback suddenly leapt from the water, turning in midair to land in a great splash. And for about the next 40 minutes, that’s how it went,  just whale after whale after whale, mostly humpbacks but also minkes. I was using my other camera, so no pix from me, but Kate captured this with her phone:

[for those with browsers that don’t support the video:
kate_whale
]

And then we came back, shucked off our overall/PDFs and checked the news of the day. Ugh. 

“I don’t even want to hear about it,” said sensible Alan. But of course I’ve been reading about it for hours now. And I don’t know what to say. For whoever wondered how this was being covered overseas? Can’t say. We haven’t seen an English-language paper since Reykjavik, and that was the alt-weekly. But I’ll keep my eyes open. 

Meanwhile, have a great day, all. Mine is off to a good start. 

Posted at 7:05 am in Uncategorized | 99 Comments