Another reason to stay open all night.

Again, sorry for the day off. I was out until after 9 — clear until after 9 — at a journalism awards banquet. Yes, like all but the top j-awards banquets, it was too long. Not as long as the Hoosier State Press Association, thank God, which had something like six or seven circulation categories and enough award classifications that the actual plaque-passing was like my high-school graduation, with its 750-strong senior class. I recall “Pomp & Circumstance” playing and playing and playing.

But Bridge did OK. And the boss bought the drinks.

And I got home too late to blog. There are nights when I think I have flat run out of everything there is to say about everything in the world, and think I should just pull the plug on the whole thing. Usually it’s on nights when I’m tired. So let’s get going, then.

I was not much of a Walmart fan from the very first time I set foot in one, before I knew much about the company at all. They always struck me as overcrowded and aggressively ugly, the sort of place where there’s not even a polite nod toward the idea of seduction in sales, the attractive arrangement of a $6 T-shirt on a mannequin or something. No, it has all the charm of GUM, the Soviet Macy’s: Here is shirt. You buy shirt. Is cheap shirt.

So it’s obvious what the target market is for Walmart’s latest brand extension: Wiring money. Could there be anything more depressing than this?

Lower-income consumers have been a core demographic for Walmart, but in recent quarters those shoppers have turned increasingly to dollar stores.

“Walmart-2-Walmart leverages our existing footprint and the large-scale systems that our company can bring to bear to enable a low-cost service such as this,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart United States.

More than 29 percent of households in the United States did not have a savings account in 2011, and about 10 percent of households did not have a checking account, according to a study sponsored by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And while alternative financial products give consumers access to services they might otherwise be denied, people who are shut out of the traditional banking system sometimes find themselves paying high fees for transactions as basic as cashing a check.

What a country this has become, when this one demographic bloc can support a chain as enormous as Walmart. Meanwhile, those aforementioned dollar stores are everywhere in Detroit.

Let’s skip to the bloggage:

First, one of mine, a profile of a rising gay public intellectual who actually engages his opponents with respect and moderation. Friend of a friend.

With the start of “Mad Men” comes Tom & Lorenzo’s Mad Style posts. I admit I hadn’t thought of the blue dress/black “Zou Bisou” dress connection. I’m surprised they haven’t pointed out how much Lou Avery, the temporary creative director, resembles Duck Philips, the headhunter who hired him.

It’s Detroit week at Grantland. Personally, I think nostalgia like this is not a healthy thing, but it’s a good story: Saving Tiger Stadium.

Watch some Real Housewives cry: “I never said you were a stripper!”

Have a good weekend, all. I hope the well refills.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 31 Comments
 

Downward-facing bore.

A friend of mine started inviting me to this yoga class on Saturdays. And I started going. I have to confess: I’m not much of a yoga girl. I find it impossible to clear my mind, let alone breathe shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. I plugged my way through some hot yoga a year ago, but everything else has been oh-this-stuff-again.

But you can never step into the same river twice, as some yogi undoubtedly said at some point, and this time, I dunno, it sort of clicked. I couldn’t clear my mind — that is never going to happen, sorry — but the breathing suddenly made sense and I could feel how it’s not just fancy stretchin’ but actual isometric exercise. And then I downloaded Neal Pollack’s book of yoga essays — yep, it’s on the right rail — and long story short, today I ditched Gentle Flow for Power Lunch and oh, I fear I’ve stepped onto a train that is leaving the station and all I can do is hang on and wave until it crashes into Boring Station. It may already be there, in fact. I may be That Person at the party, but if I am, I’d really like to have that incredible posture that person always has. Not there yet.

Yoga is fucking awesome. Let that be the last thing I say about it.

No, this: The other day I was lying in bed, reading, and stretched my leg out at a strange angle, just for the feels, and it not only went there, it went beyond. This is how they hook you, those yoga people.

So, how was everybody’s Tuesday? Mine? Cold and snowy, but I got out in it anyway. The snowfall finally broke the last record and I’ll give it this: It was pretty. But now it should go away. Back in the 60s by Thursday.

One of my neighbors had a pet raccoon. She said the family came down one morning and found the animal had escaped its cage, wrecked the kitchen, and was sitting on its fat ass, legs spread and an open bag of marshmallows between them, dipping them one by one into the canister of sugar. (Not sure if I believe every detail of that.) Anyway, things worked out better for her than it did for this girl. Mauled by a raccoon as a baby, now having her face reconstructed.

Don’t keep raccoons as pets.

I haven’t been watching CNN since the Malaysian plane went down, but apparently they’ve gone mad? New York magazine has a roundup, with video links.

Happy hump day, all. See you tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Monday, Monday, Monday.

Roy had a post the other day that led to the American Spectator, which led me down a rabbit hole of weirdness and nostalgia. I started reading the Spectator in the ’80s, when I would filch it from the editorial page’s mailbox when I was bored. It was the first magazine I read that made me think, “These folks are not only wrong, but insane.” I think it was the column opposing curb cuts for wheelchairs that did it.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing down the rabbit hole was this entry in the long-running — and apparently endlessly amusing to readers — Ben Stein’s Diary. The rabbit hole has since been gated (maybe it won’t be to you), but there was a jaw-dropping passage in it. In the context of a long rant about the awful Barack Obama, he laments that California is dying of thirst, and how can this be? Michigan has more than enough water; why is there not a great aqueduct running from Michigan to California? Why? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THIS ONCE-GREAT COUNTRY THAT WE CAN’T SEND MICHIGAN’S WATER TO CALIFORNIA?

How is it possible to be this clueless? To answer the question, and with all due respect to our California readers: Because any number of Michigan residents would dynamite an aqueduct to water California’s golf courses, or go anywhere else. You’re welcome, Ben Stein. You putz.

So, what a Monday. Woke up to howling winds, and walked to the bus stop in what seemed like a gale, the sort of wind that makes you lean into it, so you don’t get knocked over. It was coming up from the south, and I calculated that I would be disembarking and walking north to my office. So after the usual rattle-bump ride downtown, I stepped off the bus and turned north. Caught a blast to the face that had grit in it, because this is of course the gritty city.

At least it was warm. Was. The temperature is dropping like a rock, and it is supposed to snow overnight. Snow.

When I got to work, my co-worker said, “Did you see the cloud of grime over the city, coming in?” See it? I tasted it.

And now it’s Monday night, and I survived. Tuesday? We shall see.

With 1.9 more inches of snow, we can break the all-time record. Part of me wants to see it happen. The other part — the biggest part — says fuck that noise.

So, a little bloggage, but not much, because I want to go to bed early.

Tom and Lorenzo on last night’s “Mad Men.” The part about the Helter Skelter coincidence is a little unsettling, but that’s not the first place I heard it. Let’s assume Matthew Weiner will continue to be all obtuse ‘n’ stuff. That’s a little too on the nose.

I’m about halfway through this NYT magazine cover story about two lost artists of early 20th-century blues, and I’m enjoying it very much. It looks like the online presentation is the usual bells-and-whistles stuff. Nice.

Is that my faraway bed calling? I believe it is. See you Tuesday. Oh, it’s Tuesday already? You don’t say.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 47 Comments
 

Fandom.

If Nance is in the kitchen making deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches and chocolate cream pie, it can only mean one thing:

She is invited to a “Mad Men” viewing party, and needs period snacks to bring to the potluck. But surely deviled eggs are outdated by now in the series, right? We’re into 1969, Megan’s making fondue, and deviled eggs and WASPy little sandwiches are too Betty-in-season-two. However? I don’t care. Deviled eggs are tasty, so deviled eggs it is.

But I put in extra dijon, a mustard that didn’t exist even in sophisticated Megan Draper’s refrigerator, I’d wager. Gotta update.

I am looking forward to this season, but I am not optimistic. I want the holy-shit verve of season 5, not the bourbon-soaked ennui of 1968. If this is Matthew Weiner’s idea of a slow glide to the finish, I will be pissed. Vince Gilligan may have written the manual on how to go out in style with “Breaking Bad.” Weiner may not have it in him. After all, he made his own kid a minor player in this ensemble.

Soon it will be time for me to jump in the shower, so let’s bloggage it up:

This is a developing story, so I may update the link: Someone’s shooting at …elderly Jews? Why? At least they got this one alive. I guess more will be revealed.

One of my social-media connections described going out to a restaurant Saturday night and seeing a couple of mother-daughter pairs, dressed identically in skin-tight this and stiletto that. Chances are, they were headed for the Palace, to the Miley Cyrus concert. She entered on a slide shaped like a tongue and exited on a flying hot dog. And she earned thousands and thousands of dollars doing so. That’s entertainment! Mercy:

“Drive,” aided by an arsenal of lasers, was a power moment, where her vocals took center stage over production tricks, and she dropped the stunts and let her voice carry a set of covers performed at a B-stage in the back of the arena, taking on Bob Dylan (“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”), Lana del Rey (“Summertime Sadness”), Coldplay (“The Scientist”) and Dolly Parton (“Jolene”). She returned to the main stage for “23,” the one song of the night that felt expendable. But she was soon on to her killer encore, which packed “We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Party in the USA” – complete with dancing versions of Mount Rushmore, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — back-to-back-to-back.

Speaking of “Mad Men,” I think Andy Greenwald gets it right.

And another action-packed week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 27 Comments
 

Fixed.

Every time we have computer trouble, I find myself both irritated (haven’t we reached the point in the internet that it should just flippin’ work?) and — if I solve the problem — amazingly satisfied. Problem-solving has never been my most marketable skill, so it feels good to do deductive reasoning from time to time. Is it this? Let’s take it out of the chain and see what happens. Is it this? Yes.

It was the router, the ugly-ass Cisco that wanted me to install all its stupid software, added a Guest network and couldn’t find the damn printer until J.C. passed through town and brought it to heel.

The new one’s an Apple. Yes, I paid the premium. My reward? I plugged it in, and it worked. The lagniappe? It’s pretty. Good enough for me.

So, on Wednesday I experimented with what the urban planners call “last-mile” bike commuting. That’s where you ride your bike to the bus stop, put it on the rack on the front of the bus, commute to the urban center, take the bike off and ride to your office. It worked swimmingly both ways, unless you are the sort who would be bothered by the raving homeless guy who lingered at the downtown stop for a time. Bonus: I had a bike for lunch, and a friend and I rode down to Eastern Market for a slice at Supino’s, the best pizza in this or many other towns. The crust is so thin you can eat it entirely without guilt, because they don’t lard the cheese on, either.

And then it was back to the office, passing between a major-league baseball park and the housing project where the Supremes grew up, now abandoned and undergoing demolition. All under china-blue skies. That is what I call a lunch hour.

The only potential sour note in this is the lack of a rack at my office building, and the management’s refusal to let me bring it upstairs. I can’t even lock it in the vestibule, which meant I had to secure it to a parking meter outside the front door. I invested in a bomb-ass lock, but nothing works all the time. That’s when I rely on my time-honored strategy of never having the nicest stuff. Today, a woman rode past me on a racing bike that looked like it had been imported from the 23rd century. If I recognize her blond ponytail, she’s a local amateur racer and probably needs it, but I wouldn’t want to leave it anywhere without a 50-pound anchor secured to, I dunno, maybe a car.

OK, so bloggage for the weekend?

Here’s the WashPost Wonkblog thing I posted in comments Wednesday, for you non-comments people. It explains why ophthalmologists are among the highest-billing Medicare doctors out there. Spoiler: Pharmaceuticals.

I guess some people won’t be watching Stephen Colbert when he takes over for David Letterman.

And then Jesus said, “Take my wife. Please.” Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Great weekend, all. And happy birthday, J.C. Burns! You make this thing happen every single day.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol', Television | 53 Comments
 

Alas.

We had a power surge today that appears to have fried our internet. Open thread until we get it sorted out? As always, thanks for your patience.

Posted at 8:01 pm in Housekeeping | 37 Comments
 

He kneaded her.

Something I learned today: “…the rear end is a repository for lactic acid buildup from all kinds of leg injuries.”

I had no idea. You never know what reading a lengthy, deep-dive story about a skeevy sex abuser of teens will turn up. It’s about a Mr. Clean Marine super-Christian ex-baseball player from West Michigan, Chad Curtis, who ended up — I know you will be as astonished by this as I was — to be a guy who basically wanted to paw teenage girls, and did, quite successfully. The fact nugget about lactic acid in the buttocks was offered at his trial as justification for why he had to knead the rumps of the girls he was doing “sports massage” on.

It’s a pretty icky story. I fear for women, even teenage girls, who will lie under the hands of a man who is clearly assaulting them and say nothing, because he’s such a good Christian, this can’t possibly be wrong. What are we failing to teach them? Or is this just the dark side of being female, with our self-effacement and pleasing others and other essential life skills? And of course there is this:

He asks if I’m familiar with the show Pretty Little Liars. He says he prays daily for his teenage accusers, all of whom had similar athletic builds and All-American good looks. He says all he was doing in that locked, windowless, dungeon-like training room was helping those girls recover from sports injuries. He says he took the same all-out approach to treating sports injuries as he did to playing baseball — “whether it was running into an outfield wall or breaking up a double play.”

As for why the girls thought otherwise, and accused him of touching their rear ends, breasts and, in one case, genitals, he doesn’t want to speculate: “I’ve been really discouraged by how often and how wrong people have assumed my motivations, so I’ll extend them that same courtesy,” he says.

He doesn’t mention that not a single boy testified to having gone down to the trainer’s room for similar treatment.

Yeesh.

Let’s skip through that ordeal, shall we? Did we all have a pleasant Tuesday? I did. There was work, and a dog walk, and kale for lunch, and two helpings of beans. I believe I will regret the second one. Swam most of a mile, and my “most” I mean in five more minutes I’d have broken that tape. Yay me. I read this, which is quite stirring and sobering in equal measure.

I spent the evening with Tom & Lorenzo. They’re so right about the Cambridges, especially Cathy’s silly hat (but fab coat). Lena Dunham, do you even own a comb? And Nicole Kidman, what are you doing with my dress? Box it up and send it to ME. Also, I wish Leslie Mann would just go away. Stop trying to make Leslie Mann happen, Judd Apatow! She’s not funny and looks like a stringy old chicken. Surely the Hollywood Wives Full Employment Act can find her a position where she isn’t actually in the movies.

Excuse me, but I spent the day looking at data. I need to spend the evening looking at frocks.

Posted at 5:54 am in Current events, Popculch | 43 Comments
 

Love, plus cheese sauce.

Yesterday: Grilled salmon and spinach souffle. Today: Macaroni and cheese with bacon crumbled over the top. You can’t be healthy and fancy all the time. Especially with a chill rain falling from the heavens. Cool spring evenings practically cry out for mac and cheese. And there was a salad, because we’re not animals, y’know.

I grew up with a mother who worked full-time — rare-ish at the time — and who commuted on the bus. I would hear her footfalls coming up the front walk at 5:30 or so and look forward to her sunny presence in the house, even though it was, for her, merely the beginning of the second shift, which she did uncomplainingly. Tonight I thought of her as I walked home from my own stop, which lets me off about the same distance from home as my mom was from ours. That’s what started me thinking of mac and cheese with bacon. We shouldn’t express love with food, but face it? Food = love, many times.

Not that I wish to start off this work week all navel-starey. But it IS raining.

Here’s a story that’s been floating around for a while, about a young doctor who started acting erratically a few weeks back, and disappeared. A body appeared in an Indiana lake near where she was last seen, and the early signs are that it’s her. What makes it all the more tragic is that all signs are that she had some sort of psychotic mental illness, and what kind of doctor was she training to be? A psychiatrist. How is it that a woman who’s made it through med school, who’s chosen a specialty and is presumably studying it intensively, doesn’t recognize the symptoms in herself? Although maybe she did:

Twitter messages gave investigators clues to her state of mind in the eight months before she disappeared after leaving work Dec. 5. Her Twitter account, filled with 20,000 tweets, indicate she dealt with hallucinations and that they were growing worse. In September, she described a troubling episode: “My mind melted,” she tweeted about an earlier psychotic episode. “Everything went haywire. Signals got crossed and my mind started telling me that everything is a lie and I’m crazy.”

Her family said she was never diagnosed with mental illness, but siblings and her ex-husband were troubled by her behavior, they said.

“I begged her to get help. She didn’t want to be branded,” said her ex-husband, Smiley Calderon of Orange, Calif., of a diagnosis that could derail the career of the smart, focused woman with a medical degree and doctorate in biochemistry. Patrick also has a bachelor’s in theology.

A tragedy. Less so was the death of Mickey Rooney, who, I was amused to hear, was christened “Andy Hard-on” by Lana Turner, one of his many, many conquests. I recall him in most of his biggest roles — “National Velvet,” the awful Japanese caricature in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” etc. — but what I find most memorable was a role he played late in his career, as the wordless, grotesque clown in “Babe: Pig in the City.”

I have a friend who absolutely hated that movie, but I? Well, I loved it. You don’t always find children’s movies that most people would call “dark,” but there you are. It’s a train wreck, but a wonderful one, and Rooney, as the wrangler of a strange, dark vaudeville troupe of apes and his own mime-like clown. His part isn’t big, but a key part of the strangeness that pervades the whole film.

I’m the only one who liked that movie, I swear. I can imitate many of the animals’ voices, and sometimes will say to Kate, “My people tied me into a bag and threw me in the water.” She loves it.

Finally, what is the story behind this story? A sticky-fingered thief, or a dealer in stolen goods? Hoosiers, report.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Immune to reason.

Every so often I have to stop and marvel at the world around me. We predict the future, and the future acts otherwise. Man plans, God laughs. And so on.

I recall a line from a novel, something about how a man should always be willing to get up in the morning, just to see what is going to happen. Fear an unbroken line of days ending at the grave, filled with the same ol’ same ol’? Don’t. It’ll be different. Might be worse, could be better. You just never know.

Which is, I swear, the mindset I try to bring to news that vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback, a story you read often these days. How strange to think that a war once considered over could flare up years later. (Sort of like post-polio syndrome, come to think about it.) How horrible to think that the anti-vaxxers will very likely not endanger their own children so much as yours. Check out this magical thinking:

Even so, parents like Ellison, 39, don’t buy it, and he points out that he comes to the issue with some expertise: He has a master’s degree in organic chemistry and used to work in the pharmaceutical industry designing medicines. His children — 6 months old, 8 and 12 — were all born at home. Aside from one visit to an emergency room for a bruised finger, none of them has ever been to a doctor, and they’re all healthy, he says, except for the occasional sore throat or common cold.

“The doctors all have the same script for vaccines,” Ellison says.

He is working to build and support his children’s natural immune system using three healthy meals a day, exercise and sunshine. He says if his kids get sick he would rather rely on emergency care than vaccines.

“It’s much more soothing to trust emergency medicine than a vaccine, which for me is like playing Russian roulette,” he says.

I can see why this guy no longer works for “the pharmaceutical industry.” I wonder what his exit interview was like.

Of course, my kid has been stuck so often she was a virtual pincushion, up to and including the three-shot series for HPV. This is the one I hear about most often now, among parents of teenagers.

“I just don’t feel right about it,” is the usual line. Of course, vaccinating your child against a sexually transmitted disease does feel a little squicky, but if you’re capable of the least amount of distance, you should be able to think it through. But instead, that emotion gets braided up with a certain sort of self-congratulation about being an on-the-job supermom, and then this article, or one of the million versions of it, lands on her Facebook page, and her friends (all of whom use images of their children as profile pictures) chime in with congratulations and seconds: “It’s just not right for our family now,” as though the family, their favorite sacred phrase, should get to weigh in on a teenage girl’s health, today and far into a still unknown future.

I always want to add my voice to the chorus: “Of course your daughter won’t have sex before or outside of marriage, because that’s what you taught her, and children always follow their parents’ advice, in all things. But what about the young man she will marry? How can you be sure he, too, has remained chaste, and will up to the night of his wedding, and forever after? Are you that sure?”

But I don’t. The Reaper is coming for us all, and if cervical cancer doesn’t get you, something else will. And someone will probably blame a vaccine.

How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was very fine, although busy. It’s late Sunday afternoon as I write this, and I’ve already made Alice Waters’ Meyer lemon cake and will shortly whip up a spinach and goat cheese soufflé to go with some grilled salmon, a fine way to finish off two sunny days of not-work. My taxes are filed and a pair of jeans that was tight last month fits a lot better today. Things could be worse. Tomorrow, they very well might be. But I’m enjoying the mild temperatures and all the rest of it today.

Bloggage?

I drove through a corner of Mercer County, Ohio, about a million times when I was living in Fort Wayne and returning to the parental home place in Columbus. So I devoured this typically excellent Monica Hesse WashPost feature on the difficulty one hiring manager has filling jobs at an egg-processing plant he runs in Fort Recovery, Ohio (pop. 1,500 or so). Personally? I wouldn’t live in Fort Recovery for $55,000 a year, but I’m sure there are some people out there who would, although the story suggests there aren’t as many as you’d think. And the ones who are willing don’t always please the guy in charge of hiring. A very readable piece on multiple themes.

Neil Steinberg is that rare writer who gets a better column out of the outrage over an earlier column than the column itself. (Didn’t make sense. Sorry.)

Don’t miss Peter Matthiessen’s NYT obit. Great stuff.

And now it’s nearly time for “Game of Throooones.” So I have to go. A good week to all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media | 46 Comments
 

Human relations.

I don’t feel entirely cool about Brendan Eich stepping down as CEO of Mozilla, over his financial support of California’s Prop 8 — the anti-gay marriage proposal — in 2008. But I am entirely astonished by what it took to topple him: An announced boycott by a dating service? And not even Match.com?

As always, it depends on what you’re selling. Anti-gay attitudes don’t go over well in Silicon Valley, or any of the other Silicons out there. I know a lot of those guys are Republicans or libertarians or whatever, but they’re still young, and for young people, this is the way it’s going to be.

If you work for Hobby Lobby, they have their own way of doing things. If you work for the Catholic church, ditto. And while I hate the idea of all of us retreating to these walled-off camps, part of it is thinking that isn’t this what Chick-fil-A was about, and wasn’t the commentary then pretty much 180 degrees from what it is today?

I’d have continued to use Firefox no matter what. You can’t live your life that way, although I’ve done a boycott or two in the past, so it’s easy to understand the impulse.

This guy fell way too easily, though; something more has to be going on. At the moment, I’m catching up on last season’s “Mad Men” episodes and someone said, “If you wait patiently by the river, the body of your enemy will float by.” And someday you will, too.

Bloggage for a weekend?

Zumba for orthodox Jewish women. They only call it Jewmba when it uses Jewish music.

Yesterday was Doris Day’s 90th birthday. Here’s a great column about her and Rock Hudson, by James Wolcott. From some years back, still most excellent.

This is insane: A driver hits a boy who walked out in front of his car, stops to help and is beaten for his concern. The next driver won’t stop.

The weekend is here. Hallelujah.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 84 Comments