The big empty.

I started a new volunteering gig on Tuesday afternoons, and the road home takes me through some perfectly astonishing parts of the east side. I don’t ever want to lose those outsider’s eyes, no matter how long I stay. I wish I’d stopped to take some pictures, but the light was fading, and the longer I live here, the less I want to be the slumming suburbanite snapping pix for her stupid blog. Trust me, though, you never come across a single house sitting on an otherwise empty block often enough to fail to be amazed by it. Parts of the city look like rural Mississippi, complete with chickens and goats, or else feral pit bulls and god-knows-what. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was feeding a baby dragon back in there.

I wonder what the occupant of this house thinks, for example:


I have a feeling I know: I won. Once upon a time that house was surrounded by others. Then abandonment came, then crack, arson, the aforementioned god-knows-what. Nowadays night falls, and it’s nice and quiet, except maybe for the animal sounds (barking, dragon roars), distant gunshots and the freeway off in the distance. If you survived the crack and the fires, it would feel like victory.

So with the theme of abandonment established, let’s go straight to the bloggage from faraway Chernobyl. This story isn’t really new — you can find photo galleries of the abandoned amusement park at Pripyat, Ukraine everywhere — but the wildlife angle is newer, and the GIFs within the story are amazing. The animals are coming home to Chernobyl, to the still-glowing but rapidly reasserting primeval forest, which now belongs to the wolves and boars and “rare European lynx — predatory cats the size of a Great Dane with tufted ears and glimmering gold eyes.” They don’t miss us at all:

“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our everyday activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”

“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”

Yes, Sheriff Know-Nothing, let’s all take a vow to never speak the same of the Oregon killer out loud. After all, we wouldn’t want to learn anything about him, would we?

Finally, an obit of a Detroit original, Grace Lee Boggs, who died Monday but left the legacy of 10 lesser souls. We forget what it meant to be a Dee-troit leftist at one time; it meant something special, and noble:

For years they also identified closely with Black Power advocates across the country. Malcolm X stayed with them on visits to Detroit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was said to have monitored their activities. When arson fires and rioting erupted in the city in 1967, Ms. Boggs described the violence as a rebellion against rising unemployment and police brutality.

“What we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest of a people against injustice,” she told Mr. Moyers. But the violence, she said, also became “a turning point in my life, because until that time I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution.”

Ms. Boggs eventually adopted Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies and in Detroit, which remained her base for the rest of her life, fostered Dr. King’s vision of “beloved communities,” striving for racial and economic justice through nonconfrontational methods. As Detroit’s economy and population declined sharply over the years, Ms. Boggs became a prominent symbol of resistance to the spreading blight.

She founded food cooperatives and community groups to support the elderly, organize unemployed workers and fight utility shut-offs. She devised tactics to combat crime, including protests outside known crack houses, and in columns for a local weekly newspaper, The Michigan Citizen, she promoted civic reforms.

With that, we carry ourselves over the hump of Wednesday. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life | 2 Comments

How did I like them apples?

I’m doing another little mini-weight loss — I gained about five back, and want to be at fighting weight before the holidays ramp up — so I’m doing the mindfulness thing. Record everything you eat, but enjoy everything you eat. No mindless gobbling. Savor. Think. Slow down. You know the drill.

Which is how I came to be slicing up a Cortland apple at midmorning, just fortifying the blood sugar a bit, and thinking, Fall is the prelude to winter and kind of a slut with all its showiness, but the apples? They make everything OK. A good firm Michigan apple in October is one of those best-things-in-life-are-free deals that you should really savor. So I did.

To be sure, I’m sort of a pain about them. I’ve reached the point where even Honeycrisp, which seems to have rocketed to No. 1 with a bullet all over the country, seems insipid to me. From growers and sellers, I demand to know flavor profile, relative tart-to-sweet ratios. Don’t bore me with all that jazz about what’s a good baking vs. sauce apple. Is it good to eat? If so, it’ll be fine however I use them.

So it was I picked up a half-peck of Northern Spies, the legendary pie apple, on Saturday. Staff meeting Thursday. They start at mid-morning and inevitably run long, which means by the end we’re all dying of hunger and agreeing to anything, just to bring things to a stop and get the lunch hour underway. This time, I’m bringing Teddie’s apple cake. We will fortify ourselves with fruit.

And that’s how I like them apples.

Little bit o’ bloggage today:

Yes, it’s Robert Reich, but you gotta admit the guy has a point:

A non-profit group devoted to voting rights decides it won’t launch a campaign against big money in politics for fear of alienating wealthy donors.

A Washington think-tank releases a study on inequality that fails to mention the role big corporations and Wall Street have played in weakening the nation’s labor and antitrust laws, presumably because the think tank doesn’t want to antagonize its corporate and Wall Street donors.

A major university shapes research and courses around economic topics of interest to its biggest donors, notably avoiding any mention of the increasing power of large corporations and Wall Street on the economy.

It’s bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It’s also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money.

This is an issue the nonprofit world deals with, and thinks about, often. It bears watching. But hey, it’s early in the week, so let’s go straight to DATELINE FLORIDA:

Two years ago, Augustus Sol Invictus walked from central Florida to the Mojave Desert and spent a week fasting and praying, at times thinking he wouldn’t survive. In a pagan ritual to give thanks when he returned home, he killed a goat and drank its blood.

Now that he’s a candidate for U.S. Senate, the story is coming back to bite him.

The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida has resigned to call attention to Invictus’ candidacy in hopes that other party leaders will denounce him. Adrian Wyllie, who was the Libertarian candidate for governor last year, says Invictus wants to lead a civil war, is trying to recruit neo-Nazis to the party and brutally and sadistically dismembered a goat.

It’s an awkward situation for the small party that’s trying to gain clout.

I love that last line. Awkward.

Finally, one for you music nerds, via Roy’s Twitter, a lost piece by Lester Bangs, on Brian Eno. It’s amazing how much time even talented guys spend chasing women.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 12:25 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments


It seemed the weekend was a magic carpet of possibilities 48 hours ago, and here it is, nearly gone. Oh, well. That’s what happens when you let yourself sleep in past 8 a.m. Sleeping in meant Alan could accompany me to the Saturday market, and we ended up having lunch at Vivio’s, a place known for its bloody marys. Of course I…had one. Had two, in fact. Day drinking = nap = more weekend gone, but what the hell. It was cold and windy on Saturday and what else are you going to do? I know people who did a sailing race Saturday. Capsized. I’d rather be at Vivio’s sucking up a second Mary.

Life is settling into its post-Kate rhythms, which are still unclear. Less junk food in the house (yay!), my car is mine again (same!), but of course, Herself is mostly gone. She’s actually home more often than someone “away at college” should be, but she’s gone Monday through Friday, and the house is quieter, and also cleaner.

I can’t say I spent the weekend doing much productive other than the usual laundry/errands stuff, but I wonder if we’re maybe reaching a tipping point on the shooting business. The crazies calling for MOAR GUNZ seem to finally be recognized as crazy, and a certain…angry silence? Maybe? Seems to be asserting itself. Eventually silence gives way to noise, and I hope it’s a useful sort of noise.

In other words, maybe the tide is turning. Maybe we can get there.

And in bloggage, I don’t have much, but I have this: People getting killed by trains, taking photos on tracks. I had a hard time understanding this story, and finally I figured it’s because I live in the Midwest, where trains are overwhelmingly a) freight; and b) relatively slow-moving. It’s hard for me to understand how any American train can bear down on a photo shoot so quickly that people don’t have time to get out of the way. But obviously it happens. HT: Hank.

Let’s watch this week unfold, shall we? It’s about to, whether we want it to or not.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments

Once more, with feeling.

Just watched the president’s statement on the Oregon shootings. He was righteously, and rightfully, pissed. Then I checked Facebook. One of my gun-nut “friends” said Obama will do anything to score political points, and the clear answer is for everyone to go around armed, because shooters choose gun-free zones, blah blah blah bullshit bullshit bullshit.

Yeah, unfollowed that guy. Don’t need to hear that today.

As the week of the drinking project draws to a close, I’ve been thinking? ‘Bout drinking. Our magazine is policy-focused, but as I said in a radio interview yesterday, extreme college drinking is not a policy problem, at least not wholly. It’s cultural. I’m not sure what caused it, if anything caused it. I talked to one dean who said the modern era of blackout drinking started with “Animal House.” I said, “But that movie was about an earlier era of campus drinking,” and she essentially shrugged. Who knows? Most people my age who were lucky enough to have the traditional college-as-sleepaway-camp experience probably drank beer, and only beer. We were out to get hammered, yes, but there was a certain act-like-you’ve-been-there-before mood in the room. If you barfed, you’d gone too far. These days, I think barfing is the point. Puke and rally! There’s a phrase I learned this year.

If you haven’t checked out the I’m Shmacked YouTube channel, you really should. These videos keep getting better; check out the one from Florida Central University and tell me that doesn’t look like the most fun school in the world (with lots of great, shakin’ booties). Who wouldn’t want to go there and party with all those fine booties? Universities can’t compete with this. So what’s the answer?

I’d start with lowering, yes lowering, the drinking age. Phase in a new threshold of 19, say. It’ll be a rapprochement, of sorts, with kids. How do you make someone trustworthy? Trust them. Who doesn’t think that part of the problem is that we make alcohol this ridiculous, forbidden fruit for 20 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes? Then one…more…minute and WHOA 21 SHOTS FOR YOUR 21ST, DUDE. I’ve been letting Kate have a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and other occasions for a couple years now. Of course, it can’t be when she will ever drive a car, because if she’s stopped and breathalyzed, if she blows a whisker over.00, she loses her license.

Bottom line: We can’t treat the most popular and pervasive mind-altering drug in the country like crack cocaine on one side of the line, and like ambrosia on the other.

But I’m already sick of talking about this. I want to enjoy the weekend, eat a taco or three, chillax. Think I will. Hope you will, too. Let’s all join hands and think good thoughts for my young friend Dustin, who’s getting his gall bladder out today, too. All together now: Ommmmmmm.

Posted at 12:32 am in Current events | 84 Comments

Leopards and spots.

I get why so many of you are disappointed with Pope Francis, over his meeting with Church Lady Kim Davis. I would caution you, however, that this Pope (and so many other public figures) is basically a blank canvas upon which we project what we want to see. We judge him on the basis of a few quotes lifted, context-free, from interviews, sermons and statements we don’t bother to read and understand.

Or, as one of my dumber Facebook friends commented when Francis first came on the scene: “I really like this Pope. I’m looking forward to his statements about abortion and gay marriage!”

The Pope is CEO of a powerful institution that has existed for 2,000 years. And what is the first rule of powerful institutions? Preserve institutional power at any cost. He’s not going to reverse church doctrine to please liberal Americans. He’s just emphasizing a different part of it.

For all the abuse flung at Benedict, I never found him all that awful. He had the same doctrine as JPII, without the charisma and with a lot of the high-dollar details that arouse those how-many-starving-children-could-be-fed sentiments — the Prada shoes, the ermine-trimmed robes, etc. Y’all forget there is a small but vocal cohort within the church that expects and wants those things in their reigning Vicar of Christ. Remember how many people sneered at how Jimmy Carter carried his own bags? Same thing. Take your rough-wooden-cross act down the street to the Methodists; the Catholics roll a little higher than that.

And after all, they sold the papal crown decades ago.

Francis seems like a very nice man. But he’s not going to change the church all that much.

This drinking project is blocking out my sun. I have to start spackling on makeup for a noon TV interview, so I gotta run. Yesterday’s radio interview should be at the top of this list, if y’all have nothing else to do today.

Hurry, Mr. Weekend.

Posted at 9:59 am in Current events, Media | 41 Comments

Another brick in the wall.

Sometimes I feel 100 years old. I was never a full-time police reporter, but I’ve covered enough cop-shop shifts over the years to remember how it used to go. When I worked nights, that was my Friday-night assignment. I’d go to the little press office in the station itself, shared with the reporter from the other daily. A big stack of photocopied police reports was on a table, and I’d go through them in search of stories. Then I’d make the rounds inside the building, stopping in various squad rooms, shooting the breeze, asking around.

Police didn’t like reporters any more then than they do now, but it was usually cordial. I think only one room was locked, and they’d open up if you knocked. I picked up one front-page story by sitting quietly in a chair, listening to a juvenile-squad detective asking a judge for a warrant to take a home-birthed preemie out of a home; the baby’s sibling had died during delivery, and the parents had called the police to ask whether they were permitted to bury the body in their yard. (Yes, really.)

Things have changed. Now it’s common for public entities — working for us, accountable to us — to be as impenetrable as the Kremlin. I needed a police report earlier this summer, and I had to file a FOIA request for it. (That’s Freedom of Information Act, for you civilians; it’s supposed to be for documents that are public, but require some effort to dig up. It’s not for routine stuff, which should be online, if you ask me, and available to everyone.)

Agencies have their arguments in favor of walling themselves off, I know. Far more people these days consider themselves amateur public watchdogs, and some are legit pains in the ass. Others do important work that used to be done by journalists, so it balances out.

So I was struck by Neil Steinberg’s blog today, about trying to do a followup to a story he wrote 30 years ago, about a functioning high school in the Cook County Jail. The Chicago Public Schools flacks were, shall we say, uncooperative:

Nothing. Not even a reply. The CPS reaction to my simple, reasonable request for a mundane feature story is perhaps the most unprofessional performance I’ve encountered in 30 years of Chicago journalism, They lacked the consideration to even say “No” so I could stop asking. Just silence. Weeks and weeks. The September back-to-school moment has come and gone.

I give up, and am posting the story I liked so much from 29 years ago. It was an inoffensive thing, a nod to the hard work that teachers do, day in and day out, in the Cook County Jail. The teachers there now might want to ask their bosses why their efforts could not be showcased in the newspaper.

I shudder to think why it was possible for a young freelancer to write it in 1986, but that months of steady pressure could not replicate it in 2015. We are a nation with freedom of the press, in theory, but that freedom is curtailed and hobbled by fearful government bureaucrats who lack faith in themselves, in their organizations and in their employees, and so gag them, not realizing that the gag is a worse indictment than anything they might say. Those terrified of bad publicity use that fear to bat away good publicity, then wonder why all the news about them is bad.

Bottom line: our American freedom erodes, undermined, not by foreign enemies, but by domestic cogs.

Amen, brother!

Which sort of leads us into the bloggage. The drinking stories made this a big day, plus a new Tuesday volunteer obligation I’ve taken on, an after-school thing. So I ain’t got much, but I got Gin & Tacos, making a point about John Boehner. Can’t say he doesn’t have a point.

Oh, and guess who was testifying in the Ohio legislature yesterday? Look at the entry for September 29, and download his testimony if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of testimony, I gather the Planned Parenthood hearing was a real show trial, without the trial, and the lady at the table put on all of the show. Keep shooting yourself in the feet, guys. You really got a winner here.

Off to bed with me.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 44 Comments

Cheers, it’s done.

Why do I get up so fucking early every day? Because I can’t sleep anymore. 5 a.m. today. Out of bed by 5:30, on the bike at 5:45, gym by 6, then hit hit hit and crunch crunch crunch for 45 minutes, 15 more minutes home, then eggs and shower and drive downtown and work work work and home home home and walk the dog and now we’ve fast-forwarded to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, and if anyone needs anything from me, this is what you’re going to get:

Not bloody much.

Seriously, though. Finally the college-drinking package is dropping, and you can read the main story here. Related stories are here and here. I’ll be interested in your reaction. Is this blowing the lid off nookie, or is it news to you? We went to four schools; three have had alcohol-related deaths in the last year, which I find astonishing. Ohio University had a solid rep as a party school, and there was plenty of drinking, and plenty of drunkenness, but I don’t recall anyone going to the hospital, much less dying. You tell me.

Read, digest, react, I’ll be back tomorrow when I’ve had more rest.

Posted at 5:20 am in Current events | 32 Comments

Girl’s night in.

So how was your Friday? I found myself at loose ends. Alan worked late, gym closed early, everybody else was booked. So this is what I did: I went home, poured myself a couple fingers of excellent rye whiskey in a Lalique crystal glass and dug into the DVR for a prizefight from a couple of weeks ago — not Mayweather-Berto, but the undercard, Martinez-Salido. Watched it. It was a fucking slugfest, went the distance, ended in a draw. I believe a bowl of popcorn was involved.

And that, friends, is how you spend a perfect Friday night. More or less. #old #winning

You gotta keep getting up in the morning. You never know the morning you’ll wake up a boxing fan. And liking rye whiskey.

The rest of the weekend progressed with this fabulous weather we’ve been having. There was a party, and some work. The latter involved a meeting in Grosse Pointe Park. I live in Grosse Pointe Woods. The meeting was three miles and change from my house. So I rode my bike. It was a beautiful day, and how many more will we even get?

You know what people in the Motor City say when you ride a bike, not for a workout, but as a means of transportation? OH MY GOD YOU RODE YOUR BIKE HERE? HOW FAR?!? A little over three miles, and they calm down.

“Oh, OK, I guess that’s not too far.”

The meeting ended, and I got up to leave. Both guys offered to let me put the bike into their trunks, and give me a ride home.

Well, I guess it is kind of a weirdo way to get around. Maybe I should move to Amsterdam.

So another week awaits. Clouds, maybe even some rain. Then more perfection. Should be fun.

A little light bloggage to start the week.

This piece on the way constant phone-checking, texting and other electronic communication is dividing and diminishing our ability to pay attention to one another touched a nerve with me. Every so often I think about how I used to handle having to look up facts, dates and other information, pre-internet. I’d mosey back to the newsroom library, call an actual librarian at the public library, or call someone I know would know. Kirk was my go-to source on anything baseball or sports-related, and I had others for different areas. Then, after we’d established the facts in need of verification, we’d catch up. That never happens anymore. Google knows all.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Google, but I miss the human contact. And I noticed at the party last night, how people kept their phones near and would check them from time to time. I did it myself; it’s just what we do now. We all want to take a picture, maybe post it to a social network, and we all need to keep in touch with sitters or the office or whatever. They’re little balls and chains, they really are.

It was a beautiful night. I said to the host, “Look at that, would you,” indicating the moon rising in the east.

“An Instagram moon,” he said.

There you go.

I also have Shelley O, shutting it down at the state dinner last week. Tom and Lorenzo are very pleased. As am I.

OK, on to bed and the week ahead. Let’s do our best.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media, Popculch | 57 Comments

After Thursday comes Friday.

Again, a late post. Sor-ree. The usual stuff — work, boredom, more work, Thursday night. Eastern Market After Dark, a design-festival thing that filled the neighborhood with suburbanites telling themselves they were enjoying an authentic urban experience. On the sidewalk, a DJ on every corner:


Question for the room: Do any DJs use PCs, or is DJing a Mac-only game?

Detroit-vs-Everybody is the current hip T-shirt, although based on the Detroit Hustles Harder showing last night, it might be making a comeback. Five or so years ago, everyone wanted Detroit Hustles Harder. It even inspired parodies: Detroit Hustles? Hardly. Me, I’m holding out for Grosse Pointe-vs-Everybody.

Anyway, it’s fun to get out on a school night, drink a little draft beer, watch a fashion show. My friend Dustin was trying to get me to pull a Sacha Baron Cohen, but by then my phone was blowing up with Work Problems, so work problems must be my focus today.

Fortunately? There’s much good linkage.

One of the funniest things I’ve read lately: Married role play.

Something else funny: Neil Steinberg gets reader mail. It’s useful as a guide to the People of Trump, but also as an indication of the sort of mail people send you when you write for a newspaper. People call you unbelievable names, attribute all sorts of vileness to your name. And sometimes they make you laugh. (Sometimes they turn out to be Brian Stouder.)

One reason those folks get stirred up? They’re being manipulated. Even allowing for the usual bias of editing, there’s something about this mashup of conservative media reacting to the (then-upcoming) papal visit that is sort of jaw-dropping. There are people who have this stuff piped into their home more or less all day. No wonder they’re angry.

And even though he already seems like yesterday’s mashed potatoes, Roy is always worth a read, and just the headline on his Scott Walker postmortem is worth a click.

With that? Work Problems. See you Monday.

Posted at 8:12 am in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

It’s over, so it’s over.

Open thread today. Feel free to discuss the Pope, this story about yet another legal back door into a woman’s uterus, or maybe this fantastic headline:


I got a Thursday coming up.

Posted at 8:17 am in Media | 44 Comments