Someone else said it better.

I have been thinking about Jeffrey Epstein and the elites for a few days now, and am not really any closer to a coherent opinion on them. I mistrust my brain when my feelings get too involved, and I can’t be absolutely sure they’re entirely disengaged here.

So lucky for me I found a particular Twitter thread, which is long even for a Twitter thread, but gets very close to what I’ve been thinking. I’m-a let this nice lady lay out her problems with the MIT Media Lab, and just say: Seconded. (Along with a HT to Heather for finding it.)

And I’m glad someone brought up Anand Giridharadas, too. I have his book on reserve at the library.

So. Sunday afternoon and I am home alone. Alan is at work, after working Saturday, too, coordinating coverage of the UAW strike called for midnight. I have already cleaned a bathroom and am now in my gym clothes, trying to summon the motivation to actually go there. Weight work is the most difficult motivation for me, because I do it alone. Also, I’ve skipped enough lately that I know I’m going to be sore as hell tomorrow, but I really should go anyway. Maybe after some food prep, and a banana. And a little power nap. And another chapter of “The Sheltering Sky” and ooh look, gym’s closed.

Has anyone seen the new Linda Ronstadt movie? I was always a fan, if not a superfan, but seeing all these YouTubes that keep popping up is making me wonder if I made a big miscalculation, back in the day. Maybe it’s because my brain has been broken by autotune, but when I hear this, I think, goddamn, now that is a voice. Shoulda gone to more of her shows, but I saw her at the Hollywood Bowl, and once you’ve done that, Vets Memorial in Columbus looks pretty small-time.

And with that, I seem to have run out of things to say. I can’t put it off any longer: Gym. (After maybe a little snack.)

Posted at 1:58 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 11 Comments
 

Drain the swamp.

I’ve started and stopped this blog about 90 times since Tuesday. I started out inflamed about the MIT Media Lab thing about Jeffrey Epstein’s enablers, and hence the headline. Then 9/11 popped up, and I went down another dead end. In that spirit, I’m keeping the headline and much of the 9/11 chatter, and we’ll just get to the Publish button one way or another.

I’ve been thinking about 9/11 today, as probably most of you have, too, at least in passing. One thing I hear in the conversational buzz in both the digital and analog world is this: Remember how united we were, afterward? It’d be great if we could get back to that.

See, I don’t remember that.

Oh, there was unity of a sort. We all agreed what had happened was terrible. We all agreed something had to be done. We agreed in a rather vague, amorphous sense, that we were still The Best Country in the World, and Nothing Could Change That.

But I don’t remember any particular unity beyond that. Here are a few things I do remember:

Conservative Republicans pressing their advantage almost immediately. Disagreement with the president was frowned upon. We had to be united! Division is what the enemy wants! So we had to bow and scrape to every pronouncement – that we would “answer this” with fire and fury, etc. That GWB was the man to handle it; OMG can you imagine Al Gore? We needed this tough-talking Texan. And so on.

Even without social media, we endured the stupidest prole-level static imaginable. God, talk radio was insufferable. We didn’t have Facebook, but we had email, and memes. “If you have to fly, carry a small baggie of ham chunks, to throw at the hijackers.” “Did you hear that they found a full-size SUV under the towers with six uninjured firefighters in it? SUVs rule!!!” Here’s this thing Leonard Pitts wrote. Here’s this thing Christopher Hitchens wrote. Here’s something even stupider than the last thing I sent.

I don’t excuse myself from any of this; I was there, I was as crazy as everyone else. But lordy, I don’t look back on those days of grief and pain and fear as something I’d like to get back. Yea, Republicans and Democrats sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps. But about five minutes after that happened, the American flag started to be worn as a political statement and sartorial wish to turn Afghanistan into a sea of glass, not as an expression of patriotism. Who knew an Old Navy T-shirt could be so unnerving?

Anthrax. Also, anthrax. Yeah, that was no fun, either. That sense that what happened with the planes was only Act I, and soon we could look forward to car bombs and amorphous poisons sent through the mail — that was real unnerving. It didn’t help that there kept being more stupid stories in the media; even the lifestyle writers were pressed into service to ask whether high-end cookware might sell more now, because we were all eating in instead of going out. There was a piece on giving “comfort” gifts at the holidays. There was one on workout routines, for fuck’s sake; more women were taking up swimming, so if they needed to evacuate Manhattan in a big ol’ hurry, they could get to New Jersey or Brooklyn in the water. (As a recent open-water swimmer, I have some news for those gals: No, you can’t. Unless you can steal a boat.)

So no, I don’t have any particular nostalgia for 9/12, for the rise of horrible people like Pamela Geller and Instapundit and all of those. I did read this piece on Wednesday, though, which read in part:

The best of us rushed into burning towers in September or descended upon Afghanistan in October. The rest of us watched in stupefaction or satisfaction, or perhaps both. That goes even for direct witnesses of the great massacre, including me. We spectated. It was not two years later that the phrase emerged, not from Afghanistan but Iraq, that in the post-9/11 era only the American military was at war: the American people were at the mall.

It irritated me, only because it underlined something I’ve always despised, this idea that only first responders and soldiers can be “the best of us,” because man, have you been paying attention to what some cops have been up to lately? Did you hear about Abu Ghraib? But it wasn’t a terrible piece, and I read it, and thought, OK, now I have read that.

Today I surfed past the Indiana Policy Review site, to see if it’s still got my old colleague Leo writing his airy, dismissive, who-really-gives-a-shit columns (yes), and found this, by an Evansville attorney named Joshua Claybourn. Note that I’m posting it from one of the Indiana newspapers that accepts syndicated columns from the IPR:

The best of us rushed into burning towers in September or descended upon Afghanistan in October. The rest of us watched in stupefaction or satisfaction, or perhaps both. That goes even for direct witnesses of the great massacre, including me. We spectated. It was not two years later that the phrase emerged, not from Afghanistan but Iraq, that in the post-9/11 era only the American military was at war: the American people were at the mall.

And yes, for a minute I thought, wearily, JFC, another one? But I’m not entirely sure what happened here. Because besides Claire Berlinski’s blog and the IPR site, it also appeared on another site, Israel National News, also with an anonymous byline. Which doesn’t really suggest someone stole it, because it appeared more or less simultaneously at all three sites.

So is Josh Claybourn Claire Berlinski’s anonymous friend and the Israel National News site’s anonymous contributor? Or is some other funny business going on?

I DM’d Claybourn on Twitter. He is indeed Claire’s correspondent. And what are the odds that I, of all people, saw both pieces in the course of two days? I’m probably the only one. What a distinction. Why can’t this happen for the Powerball?

OK, so that’s it. I’m still gathering my thoughts on Epstein’s enablers, and maybe that’ll gel over the weekend. For now, I’m done, and you all have a great weekend. I’m getting my hair cut.

Posted at 7:30 pm in Current events, Media, Uncategorized | 51 Comments
 

Movies and racism.

You know what makes me feel old? Watching something on TV or in the movies and thinking, “Wow, that guy looks just like William Hurt/Bill Hader/Meryl Streep/etc.,” looking them up win IMDB, and discovering they’re either William Hurt’s son or Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan’s son, or Meryl’s daughter or whoever.

And if you read that right, yes, Dennis and Meg’s son looks so much like Bill Hader that if I were Dennis I’d be checking my back calendars to see whether Bill was working anywhere nearby when young Jack was conceived. Although, to be sure, Jack Quaid looks like a perfect amalgam of both his parents. Maybe Bill Hader is their other son.

William Hurt’s son, Alex, looks freakishly like the old man. And Meryl Streep’s daughters are her virtual twins. It’s almost creepy.

I’m talking about actors and actresses because this is what’s happening in the Bahamas, and I’m trying not to start screaming:

Turning away victims of the worst environmental disaster in years. We lift our lamp beside the velvet rope. And you can’t come in.

Also, this, on the MIT Media Lab quagmire.

Happy goddamn Monday.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Current events, Movies | 67 Comments
 

Stupidville, USA.

I wonder why I have trouble sleeping, then I look at the news.

Every fucking day, it’s something. Every. Single. Day.

People keep telling me to watch “The Factory,” but honestly, I can’t stand it, after a day of paying attention to the news. I keep seeking out stupid, non-topical comedies, and while “Workin’ Moms” ain’t cutting it, there are new episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” dropping this month, and that is right up my alley.

Light bulbs, today. Who even asked for this? Is it just Because Obama? Because, as Alan noted at dinner, the light bulb regulations came during the Bush administration, and you know what? THE NEW LIGHT BULBS ARE BETTER. Sorry for yelling, but really. The first corkscrew bulbs gave garish light but as the technology advanced, the bulbs improved. This often happens; I know we’ve had the low-flow toilets discussion here before. Two out of three toilets in our house are now low-flow, and they are awesome. Everything disappears with one flush.

And new, LED light bulbs not only light the room, they do so efficiently, and they last forever. We used to replace our porch lights, which we leave on all night long, every six months. We haven’t replaced the new ones in three years.

This stupid country.

I have some good, less infuriating bloggage for you to enjoy today, however.

Both are from the New Yorker, but it’s early in the month and maybe you haven’t blown through your free articles yet.

A Q&A with Linda Ronstadt. She’s disabled with Parkinson’s now, but not self-pitying at all — clear-eyed, smart and very vital.

And this, about the short-lived adventure of Prince’s biographer, whose work was, shall we say, cut short. Another super-smart guy, who really thinks differently about almost everything.

Beyond that, I’ll just watch some “Succession” and wait for the next onion-y belch from Washington. This stupid country.

Posted at 9:02 pm in Current events | 56 Comments
 

Happy new year.

As always, thanks for hanging around here when the postings get a little sparse. As the summer ends, I realize I’ve taken off more days than I intended, and I don’t really have much of an excuse other than: I did it because I could. As the new year — and September is the new year, as far as I’m concerned — I need to do more non-work writing. If only to keep myself off Twitter and whatever is falling apart in the world at the moment.

At this moment, it’s the Florida coast, as an enormous storm comes ever-closer, at a crawling speed, which has of course pushed the leadership of the country into Command Centers, where they’re closely monitoring the hurricane’s progress, in contact with local relief agencies, ready at a moment’s notice to step in to help save lives and mitigate misery, and…

…never mind, he’s tweeting again:

I can’t let any more of this nonsense keep me away from doing the stuff I enjoy — reading and writing.

It was a good weekend. Some pictures? Sure.

This was Saturday, for Shadow Show’s final appearance before next year. That’s because Kate leaves for California tomorrow, and I told her not to get homesick and come running back. Stay. Stay as long as the job and the money holds out, for cryin’ out loud.

In the distance: Sign in Arabic, because Hamtramck, and a pretty good crowd. This AC/DC tribute band (Icey Dicey) wasn’t doing quite as well, but they were just getting started:

I think they were playing “TNT” when I took that. Can’t remember.

And then on Sunday, we had a sendoff for Kate at a friend’s house. We had a hot dog/not dog bar, which was GENIUS (because everybody gets what they want, and all you have to do is set out a bunch of toppings), and I brought a pie and a cherry tart. Wendy got to spend some time with her favorite uncle:

Then we all discussed our funeral playlists and put each other in charge of carrying out our wishes. Yes, beer was involved.

Today it was a long bike ride in beautiful weather, and now I’m getting ready to dip back into “The Sheltering Sky” for the remainder of the afternoon.

One last pic: The Bassets meet the Dorothys for dinner in Dayton. Someone didn’t finish their onion rings:

And so the New Year commences! Let’s make it a good one.

Posted at 2:43 pm in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

A to Y. (No Zzzzs.)

Insomnia is a form of slow, involuntary suicide. I am convinced of that now.

Just wanted to start a new thread. Because that’s all I’m capable of, these days. However! I like to think this will be a good thread. Because only positive thinking will overcome insomnia.

First, for the love of God, can someone please read this stupid story I wrote, that practically NO ONE ELSE read and shared? Even the people in the story, all of whom were emailed a link, have failed to respond, except for “Bruce Springsteen.” It’s about tribute artists, and it did dogshit traffic. I hate the internet.

But speaking of dogshit, this is very funny: The look at how a dog park has divided upscale Chevy Chase, Md. Rich people are so awful.

Me, I’m off to nuke a hurricane. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep.

Posted at 1:03 pm in Current events | 68 Comments
 

There, there.

Most of us will never be rich and powerful enough that when we say things like, “Why don’t we just nuke that hurricane?” our underlings will say, “Sir, we’ll look into that.” Most of us only get that reaction when we’re gumming our mushy peas in a nursing home.

But that’s the world we live in now:

President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.

Behind the scenes: During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” the source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.

And that’s just wha you need to hear early on a Sunday evening to make sure your weekend ties up in one long, stinky fart. Because that’s the way we live now.

Saturday, on the other hand:

Before we discuss this, I have to make a request: If you’re going to say, “I don’t know any of these songs, and I feel old/resentful/whatever,” just save it. Probably hardly anyone knows all these songs; Alan suspects a consultant may have, shall we say, curated it. I don’t care. I listened to most of it on Saturday, and it bangs. I especially loved the Lizzo track, “Juice,” which I repeated three times before moving on to the Steely Dan.

If it takes the 44th president to introduce me to the music that it is, frankly, hard to find through conventional means, then thanks, Obama. I appreciate it.

The weather was perfect this weekend, and I needed it. How about you? I started reading “The Sheltering Sky” in preparation for our Morocco trip, but kept getting distracted by one thing or another — story of the contemporary reader’s life, eh?

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events | 55 Comments
 

Are you ready for a brand-new beat?

Making my way slowly through the 1619 project, discussed earlier. So far my favorite piece is Wesley Morris’, in the magazine, about music, and what black folks brought to the table, and continue to bring to the table, of American musical expression.

I’ve always disliked the term “cultural appropriation.” I get it, I totally do, but I’ve never been comfortable with trying to define how listening to lots of things, taking it all into your soul, processing it in your soul-blender and then pouring out your own smoothie crosses a line between “influenced by” and “stealing from.” I think a lot of people can’t do it, either, which is how we get the stupidest extremes of the charge — the Oberlin students whining that serving banh mi sandwiches in the cafeteria, made with the wrong kind of bread, somehow devalues the unique cuisine of Vietnam, to name but one. I try to ignore these stories, because they’re dumb. The banh mi itself is a unique fusion of native and colonial Vietnam, after all (the baguette), and sooner or later someone is going to fill one with macaroni and cheese, at which point, game over. It’s food, folks. It all goes in the same stomach, as my dad used to say.

Music is more difficult. If you know anything about pop culture, you know about Alan Lomax and his field recordings, which preserved the unique live sounds of black southern music for the ages, but also how that tipped over into the theft of same. You know about the routine contract rip-offs of black musicians; there was a reason the mob was involved in radio and music publishing, after all. You may have seen the “60 Minutes” feature on Little Richard, which featured Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” a recording that paid Richard Penniman the princely royalty of zero dollars and zero cents. The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin both got their start covering African-American music. The Stones grew into something else entirely, and you can argue that Led Zeppelin was absolutely sui generis from the get-go, but it was a necessary step in the evolution of both bands. And it was great music.

My point is, trying to separate black music from white music is like trying to separate black and white people. We cross-pollinate. It’s what people do.

Morris’ essay is wide-ranging, and doesn’t really address “appropriation,” that term that sounds like it came out of the Cultural Revolution. Nor does he address copyright, or Alan Lomax. Rather, he dives into the stew and comes out with something that’s just delicious to read. Here’s the top, a slightly longer cut-and-paste than I generally do:

I’ve got a friend who’s an incurable Pandora guy, and one Saturday while we were making dinner, he found a station called Yacht Rock. “A tongue-in-cheek name for the breezy sounds of late ’70s/early ’80s soft rock” is Pandora’s definition, accompanied by an exhortation to “put on your Dockers, pull up a deck chair and relax.” With a single exception, the passengers aboard the yacht were all dudes. With two exceptions, they were all white. But as the hours passed and dozens of songs accrued, the sound gravitated toward a familiar quality that I couldn’t give language to but could practically taste: an earnest Christian yearning that would reach, for a moment, into Baptist rawness, into a known warmth. I had to laugh — not because as a category Yacht Rock is absurd, but because what I tasted in that absurdity was black.

I started putting each track under investigation. Which artists would saunter up to the racial border? And which could do their sauntering without violating it? I could hear degrees of blackness in the choir-loft certitude of Doobie Brothers-era Michael McDonald on “What a Fool Believes”; in the rubber-band soul of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”; in the malt-liquor misery of Ace’s “How Long” and the toy-boat wistfulness of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing.”

Then Kenny Loggins’s “This Is It” arrived and took things far beyond the line. “This Is It” was a hit in 1979 and has the requisite smoothness to keep the yacht rocking. But Loggins delivers the lyrics in a desperate stage whisper, like someone determined to make the kind of love that doesn’t wake the baby. What bowls you over is the intensity of his yearning — teary in the verses, snarling during the chorus. He sounds as if he’s baring it all yet begging to wring himself out even more.

Playing black-music detective that day, I laughed out of bafflement and embarrassment and exhilaration. It’s the conflation of pride and chagrin I’ve always felt anytime a white person inhabits blackness with gusto. It’s: You have to hand it to her. It’s: Go, white boy. Go, white boy. Go. But it’s also: Here we go again. The problem is rich. If blackness can draw all of this ornate literariness out of Steely Dan and all this psychotic origami out of Eminem; if it can make Teena Marie sing everything — “Square Biz,” “Revolution,” “Portuguese Love,” “Lovergirl” — like she knows her way around a pack of Newports; if it can turn the chorus of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me” into a gospel hymn; if it can animate the swagger in the sardonic vulnerabilities of Amy Winehouse; if it can surface as unexpectedly as it does in the angelic angst of a singer as seemingly green as Ben Platt; if it’s the reason Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” remains the whitest jam at the blackest parties, then it’s proof of how deeply it matters to the music of being alive in America, alive to America.

If you can’t tell by now, I recommend it. It’s one reason this project has been such an eye-opening pleasure to read.

I wish I could say anything else was a pleasure today, but it wasn’t. Terrible, terrible insomnia last night, which always leaves me depressed and miserable the next day. At least I was able to play the work-from-home card. I expect — I hope — to get a better night’s sleep tonight, and that tomorrow will be better. Keep a good thought.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Popculch | 75 Comments
 

The weekend, the whirl.

We start the week on a rocket blast of coffee and eggs and barely slow down. Wednesday is Hump Day, halfway to the weekend, then it’s Thursday, the official start of the weekend. (This is true; I saw some market research once that said people start thinking of the weekend at noon on Thursday, and once your mind is there, your body’s only a half step behind. Then it’s the official weekend, and it’s woo, party! Dinner guests! Activities! Errands! Laundry! And all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking, what happened here?

Americans work too hard, this is indisputably true.

it was a busy weekend. Eastern Market, dry cleaner, blah blah, ending at the Cannabis Cup, in town for the weekend. This is an event I was utterly unprepared for, a trade show all about marijuana, newly legalized in Michigan. I went there expecting a …trade show, but it was far more. Line around the block to get in, in withering sun and heat. It probably took half an hour just to get through the lines, and once inside? Quite nuts. Packed to the rafters, hot as hell, stinky as hell, row after row of weed vendors, selling pretty much everything weed-related.

If you live in a non-legal state, the first glimpse of Big Marijuana may be surprising. It has product specialists:

And of course it has characters:

And a certain literally homegrown charm:

But this was a big crowd, in a very Detroit space — the Russell Industrial Center courtyard:

It’s Weedstock. I’m sure someone has called it that before. I mean, the Wu-Tang Clan played.

Then, today, Sunday, was Swim to the Moon, the open-water swim I’ve been worried about for weeks. I had reason to worry; it was no easier than two years ago, when I finished it thinking I was going to die. I stayed on course better this year, maybe shaved a minute or two off my last time. But there’s simply no way to swim that far and make it easy, not at my age. But I finished, and didn’t drown, so we’ll maybe see about next year.

I’m trying to catch up with whatever I missed in the papers this weekend, but for now, I’m working my way through the 1619 Project, the NYT future Pulitzer winner about the effects of slavery in America. It’s much better than I expected, which is why so many Republicans seem to be so butthurt over it. So far, though, it’s very good.

And with that, I’m out. So, so tired.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Bus tales.

Now that the weather is fine, I’ve been riding the bus more. The pluses are what I don’t have to worry about: Parking, mainly. Parking isn’t that expensive compared to other large cities, but I resent every penny I pay for it. Street parking is cheaper, but impossible to find and when you do, you have to monitor the app to make sure you don’t go over for even a second and the enforcement pythons don’t strike you with a $45 ticket.

So when I can, I ride the bus. It’s…an experience. I take the city bus into town, the suburban bus home. Public transit is a divisive issue in a region so fraught with racial politics, poverty and sprawl, and it is highly, highly imperfect. But the inner-ring suburbs like Grosse Pointe are among the places you can make PT commuting work, and I’m grateful.

Why “now that the weather is fine,” you might be wondering? It’s because the most convenient stop for my schedule is a good (checks the app) eight-tenths of a mile from my house, which is a bit of a hike in the morning, when the buses only run every 30 minutes or so. Miss it by a minute, you’ve wasted about 45 more. In the winter, I ride in with Alan and bus home. But in the summer, sweet summer, I can bike to the stop, stow it on the rack, then reverse the process when I get downtown. I like it a lot, although I’m sweaty when I arrive. No biggie.

Anyway, the city bus going in is rarely not full by the time we’re halfway through the route. When you’re poor and work low-wage jobs, you don’t work 9 to 5. And if you don’t work at all, the bus is how you get to your doctor, to the grocery, to see your friends. Which happens all the time.

There’s a driver who’s often on my route, the sort of — if I can traffic in a mild ethnic stereotype here — formidable African-American woman with whom one does not play. Fans of “The Wire” might remember her from season four, when someone very much like her walked into an unruly gym assembly of middle-schoolers and silenced it with a single glower. So the other day, a guy gets on. She takes one look at him and says, “That stays in your pocket. And if it don’t stay in your pocket, I’m putting you off.” I looked at the guy’s pocket, from which poked the neck of a flat pint bottle. Oh. He didn’t like that, but he knew who was in charge. So he sat down next to some other guy who seemed similarly drunk at 10 a.m. The two of them struck up a conversation that was, well, drunk.

I couldn’t quite follow it, but it had all the hallmarks of drunk talk — one or two phrases repeated and repeated and repeated, including “I AIN’T PAYIN NO MORE RENT” and “LIKE JOHNNIE SAY, IT’S CHEAPER TO KEEP HER.” If either one of these guys had a Her that they were somehow keeping, I’d eat my hat, but whatever. “I WAS GIVING NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH, BUT NO MORE. NO MORE RENT.” I tried to imagine what $95 might rent in Detroit. (Shudder.) It seemed they were spoiling for a fight with the driver, but she had no doubt sharpened her skills on scores of others, and just kept her mouth shut. But when the guy sitting next to me started listening to music on his phone without earphones, she pointed, snapped her fingers and nodded to the “no radio” sign. And that was that.

Another day, a political discussion started between two passengers sitting in different rows. It seemed to start over housing, then pivoted through public assistance and wound up with Trump, at which point others joined in and the volume increased. The driver actually turned off the white noise of the A/C so she could listen and join in. It reached a crescendo with one of the original talkers saying IF TRUMP SO GREAT, WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WORK FOR HIM IN JAIL? Another squawked, HE WANT A DICTATORSHIP. Others were chiming in from all corners, and then, suddenly, it was the ringleader’s stop. He stepped down and I gave him a golf clap as the driver caroled, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COF-FEEEEE.

This never, ever happens on the bus home. Maybe we’re all too tired.

Every day I do this, I save $6 — the difference between combined fares and the parking — and gain far more in observational details.

Other than that, the week’s been sucking. I have to take my lifeguard recertification test tomorrow, and I’m-a flunk that bitch, I just know it.

But there are fun things to read. Like this, an account of a visit to some sort of Ayn Rand fest in Cleveland, of all places:

I woke up the next morning ready to learn. It was hard to choose which seminar to attend during the triple-booked 8:40 a.m. slot. “Logic: The Cashing-In Course” seemed to be the biggest draw, but it came with a homework assignment, and “Duty as Anti-Morality” seemed a bit too by-the-numbers even for me, an Ayn Rand novice. Given the conference’s focus on establishing Randian beach heads in American culture, I opted for “Appreciating Ayn Rand’s Tiddlywink Music.”

Tiddlywink music, for the uninitiated, sounds like the score to “Steamboat Willie” or a tune you might hear on an old-timey carousel: manically upbeat and repetitive, calling to mind a sonic hamster wheel. For an hour, we listened to different examples of the genre, which seems to have been classified as such by Rand and no one else. “Pay attention to the tinkling,” the lecturer encouraged us. To me, it sounded like something a homicidal clown would listen to, or what a particularly sadistic interrogator would blast at high volume to torture his quarry.

What made Tiddlywink music uniquely pro-capitalist? It has roots in the 1890s, which Rand insisted was the only historical period of true human flourishing. It was an era of unfettered capitalism—child labor, robber barons, tenements—which she loved not in spite of those things, but because of them.

And here, as in so many other spheres, Rand’s true believers heed their master’s voice. For objectivists, Rand’s whims and fancies are inextricable from the movement’s philosophical precepts—so the assembled faithful were duly tutored in the finer points of grainy music-box melodies of the 1890s. We listened intently to Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz”—an inferior piece of music, we were told, because of its melancholy overtones and low “note density.” Tiddlywink music, in happy contrast, had five-and-a-half notes per second. When the hour was up, the presenter asked if we’d prefer a Q&A or another song. “One more song!” the crowd shouted back.

Pretty funny.

OK, I gotta get some sleep. Fingers crossed for me memorizing those chest-compression-to-breaths CPR ratios.

Posted at 9:44 pm in Detroit life | 56 Comments