He was just the stenographer.

Mitch Albom has a new play opening this week. The Free Press assigned a reporter, and another reporter, but of course no Albom media event would be complete without a contribution from the man himself.

He modestly says “Ernie” is a wonderful play. Srsly. He really does say that:

You start with stories. His humble roots. His speech impediment. The time he got Babe Ruth to sign his shoe. You move through his World War II service, his early career, his relationship with JackieRobinson, Willie Mays, then on to Detroit, the 1968 champions, the Jose Feliciano brouhaha, the 1984 World Series. You explore his firing from the Tigers, his fondness for Tiger Stadium. And you layer the whole thing with one of the great love stories in baseball, Ernie and Lulu.

And you find there is a beautiful play there, a man about to make his farewell speech at a ballpark, wondering how he could be worth such a fuss.

As usual, this is all played in the key of aw-shucks, all I did was write it all down:

The show runs until June, but already in preview performances, it is amazing how people gasp a little when they hear Will speak like Ernie, how they laugh, nod and even cry at familiar stories, and how, when Ernie talks of his lifetime honeymoon with his wife, they all sigh at the same time.

The first time I read about “Ernie,” I declared that I’d rather be locked in for the overnight shift in a daycare center full of crack babies and poisonous snakes than see this. Add “and 14 little dogs that do nothing but bark-bark-bark,” and you’ve got it about right.

The theater where this sapfest is booked is across Woodward Avenue from Comerica Park, and showtimes are scheduled to coordinate with home game starting times. So you can catch “Ernie,” and then, face still wet with tears, cross the street, pass the statue of Ernie near the main gate, and catch a game.

If Ernie Harwell was really half as humble and self-effacing as Albom and others make him out to be, he is rolling in his grave. As one of my Facebook friends commented, Albom has made more money off dead guys than Yoko Ono.

Next on the agenda: Bread, water and a healthy bowl of high-fiber gruel — a Michigan legislator gets into the spirit of the age with proposed legislation that the state’s foster children should be clothed solely in the castoffs of others:

(State Sen. Bruce) Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor is actually used for that purpose.

He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.

“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”

Caswell is 61. He “never” had anything new. So why should anyone else? Look what it did for him: He graduated from Michigan State! Actually, his Wikipedia bio is intriguing. Graduated high school in 1967 and went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, leaving after two years to finish undergrad at MSU, before re-enrolling and finishing with a master’s in 1976. Nowhere in there do I see the name of a certain southeast Asian country that begins with the letter V. Hmm.

So, it was a weekend for entertainment catch-up. Watched “Game of Thrones,” part 1. This one’s going to be difficult, I can see — I’m already sorting characters by hair color. You can tell the producers had the same idea, giving one brother-sister pair identical shades of peroxide-white, and another familial unit a uniform strawberry blonde. Thank heaven, as I’m certainly not going to catch their names as they fly by, each one ending in -ian or -aeus. What is the appeal of fantasy, I ask you fans out there. Escapism? Must be, although each novel I’ve picked up loses me in endless tangles of family trees, and I always have to check the map on the endpapers to orient me in space. “Game of Thrones” helpfully does this in the credits; although after one episode all I really know is: Winterfell is in “the north” and north of Winterfell is “the Wall,” behind which are monsters and dire wolves. I wonder how many fantasy readers know the dire wolf was a real species of the Pleistocene era. Lived in these parts, even. A 250-pound wolf. Now that would have been a sight to see.

OK, it’s Easter Monday, which means it’s still a quasi-holiday here in holiday-mad Michigan, but I have work to do just the same. Happy week to all, although with rain in the forecast nearly every day, we’ll have to see about that.

Posted at 9:48 am in Current events, Media, Movies |

69 responses to “He was just the stenographer.”

  1. coozledad said on April 25, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I’ve got an idea for a fantasy series that ought to appeal to some of the unreconstructed Tolkien heads. “Game of trains” centers on a power struggle in “The neighborhood of make believe” between a puppet with an oversize head and a sexually ambivalent guy in a cardigan. In addition to duking it out for control of the transformer switch for the railroad, there’s a half-assed contest for the affections of one “Lady Aberlin”.
    In the first episode, erstwhile enemies Fred Rogers and King Friday forge a temporary alliance to burn “Henrietta Pussycat” at the stake, to put an end to that “meow meow this, meow meow that” shit.

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  2. Kim said on April 25, 2011 at 10:19 am

    If this were a perfect life, the party bus would pull up to my house and I’d hop on it to join all the NN.C crew, bound for the downtown City Theatre in the Hockeytown Cafe and securing our aisle seats in hell. Alas.

    The first time I read about “Ernie,” I declared that I’d rather be locked in for the overnight shift in a daycare center full of crack babies and poisonous snakes than see this. Add “and 14 little dogs that do nothing but bark-bark-bark,” and you’ve got it about right. – possibly the best two sentences ever.

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  3. Linda said on April 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Re: Caswell and the story that should have been an Onion headline but wasn’t. I was the youngest of 5 kids in a poor family, and if I didn’t get hand-me-downs, I pretty much would have gone naked. But I didn’t grow up to be a punitive little asshole, like this guy. In the last sentence, he admits it wouldn’t even save money. So what’s the point? To punish kids for being in the foster care system, because that’s such an undeserved treat? Every time you think Republicans can’t make you hate them more, you are always wrong.

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  4. brian stouder said on April 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Funny you should mention the legislator who wants only hand-me-down clothes for children in families who require assistance. In this morning’s news, I saw there was a major fire at a shirt factory in China, resulting in many deaths of the workers there. They say no one could escape because of, amongst other things, the barred windows that the facility has. My question is – does any American retailer sell shirts (etc) from that factory? Because, first, some public embarrassment is called for; and second, this is a very real example of what one of our major political parties seems to be advocating for, right? No more OSHA (with their “oppressive” government regulations, and all) , no more labor unions; just unfettered “free” markets, right?


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  5. Mark P. said on April 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Well, I don’t understand why you don’t know that foster kids are in the predicament they are in because of something they did, and so they must be punished, preferably for the rest of their lives. And let’s kick some dirt in their faces while we’re at it. Maybe we can brand an “F” on their foreheads.

    And the poor? Don’t get me started on them. We ought to just eat them.

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  6. coozledad said on April 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Linda: Get a load of this graduate of Mickey Rooney’s Acto-Lab discovering he needs more than his lame-ass talking points to talk to angry constituents. Hand gestures! baby. Hand gestures!

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  7. Dorothy said on April 25, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Caswell is a little young to be a crabby-old-guy already but he is what he is. I bet he never wrote a letter to Santa asking for “bot” pants like I did! My mother still teases me about that. But the letter worked – that year I got a pair of god-awful neon green pants that I got too tall for in about 6 weeks. I thought they were the height of fashion, of course. What do you expect for a 6 year old?

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  8. Linda said on April 25, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Re: Coozledad’s link: HOW CAN THEY SAY IT’S NOT A VOUCHER? Jesus Christ, IT IS. It’s like watching the Monty Python dead parrot sketch at a townhall meeting.

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  9. Scout said on April 25, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Kim, you beat me to it. I was going to make the very same comment about the crack babies, poisonous snakes and 14 little dogs that bark-bark-bark! Nancy, that was laugh-out-loud funny.

    I read about the Goodwill / Salvation Army guy over the weekend and thought to myself that it’s like the R’s are trying to outdo each other with Teh Crazy just to get a rise out of regular people. As a die-hard thrift store shopper, I can tell you that while there is plenty to choose from for an aging hippie like myself, teenagers would probably rather go naked than wear the crap they’d find in one of those places. Talk about cruel and unusual. What a schmuck.

    And yeah, vouchers for Medicare. GREAT idea! I can only hope that this brainfart of brilliance is the thing that people remember and take to the polls in 2012. Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing blog about Paul Ryan right after his evil genius plan was revealed. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/tax-cuts-for-the-rich-on-the-backs-of-the-middle-class-or-paul-ryan-has-balls-20110407

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  10. harrison said on April 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

    “I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs.”

    When I read that, I heard in my head the voice of Richard Nixon at its most resentful and self-pitying. And the flip side to that attitude is angry vengeance against those on the enemies’ list.

    Money-grubbing, penny-pinching lower-middle-class attitudes like that have stained the Republicans. Combine that with the veiled racism and evangelical Protestant fundamentalism, and that makes me keep the GOP at arm’s length. And sometimes I wish I had the powers of Mr. Fantastic, so I could stretch my arms and keep them further away.

    I got a lot of hand-me-downs because I had an older brother. And my younger brother got a lot of hand-me-downs, too. Our parents, especially my father, did that because they were thrifty when we and they were younger. I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t grow up to be a punative asshole, as Linda above said Caswell did.

    Also, neither of the Free Press articles said if the play itself or its production was good or now. I wonder what the News said.

    I wonder if the man has any shame, or why the Free Press management lets him run haft the B.S. he’s written. Does he have that much influence?

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  11. Sue said on April 25, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Two birds with one stone: commentary on growing up poor AND why you should read fantasy.
    Actually, fantasy parody.
    From “Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett:
    “He couldn’t help remembering how much he’d wanted a puppy when he was a little boy. Mind you, they’d been starving — anything with meat on it would have done.”

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  12. ROgirl said on April 25, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I wanted to read the comments about the “Ernie” coverage in the Free Press, but apparently they aren’t being allowed. None of the comment links worked.

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  13. harrison said on April 25, 2011 at 11:27 am


    I bet there were a lot of negative comments, so the powers that be at the Free Press probably disconnected the comment links so Albom wouldn’t read them and be offended.

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  14. Jeff Borden said on April 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Like Cooz, I am enjoying the spectacle of the loathesome teabaggers, who love the national limelight like ticks enjoy a fat hog, facing the music from their local constituents. The creep who got this whole ball rolling, Paul Ryan, was booed at one of his local town meetings a few days ago, where voters demanded the wealthy pay a larger share of taxes. And this Sean Duffy jerk is the poor soul who cannot make it on a mere $174K per year.

    This issue should be a no-brainer for Democrats. More than 60% of the country wants the wealthy to pay their fair share. With the Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida doing their best Simon LeGree imitations, how can any reasonable voter not see that the Republicans have nothing but contempt for the working man and woman? It could not be any plainer if the GOP wore name tags that read “I WORK FOR THE WEALTHY.”

    Regarding that utterly contemptible creep who wants kids to shop only in second-hand stores, my dad took a couple of underprivileged kids shopping for school clothes every year as part of his Kiwanis Club activity. The club raised money all year, then allowed the kids to shop for themselves at a Kohl’s or a Target for winter coats, shirts and pants, shoes, etc. so long as they remained within a budget limit. He would talk about how some of the kids would just stand slack-jawed before the clothes, since they’d never before been given the freedom to buy something for themselves. It was sometimes the first new winter coat they’d ever owned.

    Like the misguided immigration efforts that seem particularly targeted at kids, the proposal from the Michigan legislator punishes people for the circumstances of their birth. As the Rude Pundit might say, Mr. Caswell deserves a good, hard cock punching.

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  15. 4dbirds said on April 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Fantasy = Romance novels for men.

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  16. alice said on April 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

    “The Borgias” is the doublet drama in this house, I could look at Jeremy Irons all day. But, because it’s not HBO there’s been a lack of full frontal male nudity & during the sex scenes my husband keeps muttering “damn bedcurtains!”.

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  17. LAMary said on April 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Cooze, where does the Owl fit in?

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  18. coozledad said on April 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    LA Mary: I don’t know, but I’ve condemned myself to the better part of a day hearing “Meow meow hair on fire meow.”

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  19. BillB said on April 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Interesting indeed….You can’t just decide to transfer out of a military academy; you owe the US government six years of military service. So even if you flunk out you revert to enlisted status,and, especially in the time frame we’re talking about, you’d be quickly on your way to the V country…..I would have welcomed him indeed. I think there is a little more to this story than Wiki has….

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  20. MaryRC said on April 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I wore my cousin’s hand-me-downs in high school. The problem was that she was 10 years older and the clothes were the ones she had worn in high school. I think my mom felt even worse about it than I did, but she didn’t have money to spend on new clothes. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I’ve never understood the mindset that makes you less sympathetic to someone who’s having the same tough time that you did.

    About Game of Thrones, I was talked into reading the first book by a fan but never became a fan myself. Everything I read seemed derivative of something else I’d read. The little boy exploring the vast hidden reaches of the castle for example — right out of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. All the characters were nasty, brutish and short and everyone seemed stupid and easily-fooled, even the plotters and schemers. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that contains its own parody. The writer has some fun with a group of back-country thugs who all have names like Ugga-Bugga son of Shug and whose only ambition is to kill everyone else. But then you realise that all the characters have names like Ugga-Bugga son of Shug and want to kill everyone else.

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  21. Rana said on April 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Good fantasy – not the “And, lo, then BoGrab the Wizard raised his wand and summoned the demon PTUFORT!” crap – for me has the appeal of watching an author free to follow his or her imagination and explore the what-ifs of worlds similar, but not identical to our own. It’s much like science fiction for me – what’s interesting isn’t whether it’s possible, but seeing how the characters interact with each other and their world. There are a few pulpier variants where the characters are cardboard-like or popped out of a box of Ye Olde Fantasy Types, but if the world they inhabit is sufficiently interesting, or the plot speedy and twisty enough, they can be fun. Mostly, though, I gauge the effectiveness of fantasy novels by the quality of their characters and the care the author takes with the plot and world-setting. Game of Thrones has good characters – complex, unpredictable, mixtures of the good and the bad. Hard to say about the plot, since the series is a long way from finished at this point. (The New Yorker had a good article on this point.)

    I should note that I’m not that fond of most literary fiction (or most popular fiction) because, while they are “realistic,” they almost always focus on people who while “interesting” are not people I’d like to spend any amount of time with. I probably developed this attitude as a kid, when most young adult non-fantasy books tended to describe situations and people I was already trying to endure, and I had enough of that at school. Some people find catharsis in shared misery, but not me, not in that way.

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  22. Rana said on April 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Cooz, that very first comment sounds like Alice in Wonderland crossed with a steampunk novel. Done right, it could be fun!

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  23. John said on April 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Off, Off Topic:

    Since there is occasional talk of film tracking shots here, just a quick note I viewed The Passenger this weekend. The 7 minute tracking shot comes at the end of a dreadfully slow 2 hour movie. The shot was nice, but not worth the wait. Which is a shame to have wasted the talent of Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider.

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  24. 4dbirds said on April 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    As long as you leave the military academy before a certain date, you can attend them for two years without incurring a military obligation. My cousin did just that with the Coast Guard Academy. I’m not sure if he had to reimburse any cost.

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  25. Scout said on April 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    The best fantasy books I ever read were The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. Or maybe they’re Sci-Fi. Probably. Neither are genres I am usually drawn to, but a friend loaned me these books and promised I would love them. I did.

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  26. beb said on April 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Sue, quoting Terry Pratchett made my day. He is hilarious with a deft and clear eye to any kind of bureaucratic silliness.

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  27. moe99 said on April 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Let me join the cadre of admirers, Nancy, for several very well turned phrases re: Albom. Where you wrote, “Albom has made more money off dead guys than Yoko Ono.” we can also add Deborah Koons Garcia, Jerry Garcia’s widow, and sister in law to my ex husband.

    I am going against the grain here, but I am a big fan of fantasy/sci fi. When well done, it is a great out of body experience. My kids would get frustrated trying to get my attention when I was absorbed, but now they too enjoy the genre and we have lots of discussions and recommendations to each other about current reading. Game of Thrones is expertly written–I always get sucked in even re-reading because he is such a great wordsmith. Which is not to say that I am happy with him–if he doesn’t finish the series before I go I have promised to come back and haunt him. What I’ve like about these stories is the notion of the quest. There aren’t many that can do it well–I rank Martin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Greg Keyes and Joe Abercrombie (and maybe Daniel Abraham lately) right below Tolkien in terms of epic fantasy. Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold are also masters (an Mary Doria Russell–Scout), but theirs is a different sort of fantasy. Some people watch tv, others game, some do crafts or hobbies, me, I read.

    And wrt Mr. Caswell, our modern day incarnation of Scrooge: An attorney I know got all huffy about it and said, “Well I donate my clothes to Goodwill and they are usually designer made and clean.” My retort is, unless you shop there, you don’t have a leg to stand on. One year when the kids were very little and we were going through some hard financial times, I shopped at Goodwill and let me tell you those stores are not very nice. There’s a lot of crap that gets recycled. The fact that she never married and has no kids, I think, is part of it for her.

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  28. Sue said on April 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Scout, it was a fantasy book loan that finally cured me of pressing books on other people in the “you gotta read this” fashion. The books were part of a fantasy series (well, I guess they’re all part of a series, there’s never just one) and I think the author was pretty well-known, but the plots included some rather graphic descriptions of pain-tolerance ‘training’ that were at first sickening and then tiresome. It would have been difficult for me to go back to the person who insisted I would love the book and ask “Why did you think I’d love a book that seemed to have a pretty clear s/m subtext?” So I just mentioned that I would have to put them on my books-to-read list, and whenever asked I said I hadn’t gotten around to finishing the series.

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  29. moe99 said on April 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Sue, I bet the books your friend recommended were by Goodkind. He’s really into pain and degradation. I don’t read him at all. Same thing for Stephen Donaldson.

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  30. Julie Robinson said on April 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Maybe a lot of you read this yesterday, but I think it’s pertinent to the discussion on where the R’s want to take the country. It’s a heartbreaking article about the life of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, Jane Mecom. Almost uneducated, she is married at 15 and buries 11 children, lives in poverty but still thirsted for knowledge.

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  31. Connie said on April 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I will join Scout in saying “Sparrow” is one of my best reads of all time.

    For those who care, Hugo nominees were just announced.

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Double the diss on Donaldson.

    Actually, Albom didn’t say his play was wonderful, he said it was beautiful. Which is even more beyond the foul pole than calling your own work wonderful, IMO.

    Anyone else find “Upstairs Downstairs redux” to be enjoyable, but rushed? I mainly see full-blown pans or fannish fawning — my own feeling is somewhere in between. I’d happily pay something to watch those three episodes spread out to twelve, with some period appropriate padding . . . or I’m hoping this was a rather long, three-hour pitch for the actual renewed “U/D.”

    Vonda McIntyre has written some good sci-fi and fantasy, along with gaining geek immortality by having given Sulu a first name in one of her novelizations, and it stuck for later films/canon.

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  33. Sue said on April 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    MMJeff, ‘rushed’? You mean when Lady Agnes goes into labor and pops a baby within the space of the King’s abdication speech? That was hilarious.

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  34. Julie Robinson said on April 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Jefftmmo, any time a “season” is only three episodes, it’s bound to feel rushed. I was only just getting to know the characters, and boom, it was over. Meh.

    edit: Sue, first baby, too? As if.

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  35. JayZ(the original) said on April 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I’m joining the Sparrow fan club with Scout and Connie. It is one of my all time favorite books.

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  36. Julie Robinson said on April 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Uptown Downstairs Abbey: http://youtu.be/r5dMlXentLw.

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  37. Rana said on April 25, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Also an appreciator of Sparrow. However, I will say that it’s also one of the handful of books in my library that falls into the category of “I will read this again someday, but not now, because it is intense and requires a lot of strength.” I’ve been waiting for the moment when it seems right to read it again. I’m not quite there.

    By the way, if anyone wishes to pick through my LibraryThing catalog for reading suggestions, have at it.

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  38. del said on April 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Mary RC – “I’ve never understood the mindset that makes you less sympathetic to someone who’s having the same tough time that you did.”

    I wonder about that too. The school of hard knocks seems to churn out far too many bullies.

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  39. Little Bird said on April 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    About Game of Thrones, the hair color thing… The characters are like that in the book. It’s supposed to indicative of family traits. Which will become extremely important to the plot very soon.
    Funny, I’m thinking that GoT seems rushed. But then, the books are several hundred pages long and full of internal dialog, which wouldn’t translate so well to film I guess. But I’m still very much enjoying it!

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  40. Sherri said on April 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Speaking of Goodwill and donated clothes, Pietra Ravoli’s The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy is an interesting read on what happens with that t-shirt you wear, from the cotton it’s made from to where it ends up when you’re done with it.

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  41. nancy said on April 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Little Bird, I can see the Strawberry Blonde Plot Twist coming like a semi down the road. It wouldn’t even be a twist at this point, would it? They’ve already showed us Icy Queen Strawberry Blonde screwing her brother, Haughty Lord Strawberry Blonde. The queen has a son with the same hair, whose personality is an extension of his uncle’s. King Fatso, wake up! Those cuckold’s horns are not flattering!

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  42. Little Bird said on April 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    There’s more to it. One of the twists isn’t even resolved in the books yet. The folks running the show certainly aren’t leaving much wonder about, the books are so complicated that each one has a list of the families and who belongs to which one. Even then it’s confusing. It looks like they’ve had to dumb it down a bit for the show.

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  43. paddyo' said on April 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Thrones, scones, drones . . . TREME is back!

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  44. bobolink said on April 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    back to taxes for a minute … with all this talk of raising rates, wehre is the call for greater collection enforcements? I shudder to imagine how many more Geithners (to name just one)there are out there.

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  45. moe99 said on April 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Well, I don’t have HBO so I can’t watch either of them and I can’t read Treme, paddyo,’ but I have read Game of Thrones.

    Jeff tmmo, Vonda McIntyre used to live in Seattle. I don’t know if she still does. She donated an autographed set of three of her books to a NW Women’s Law Center auction I chaired a number of years ago. Dreamsnake is my favorite of hers.

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  46. John C. said on April 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I had the good fortune to meet Ernie Harwell once, at an event honoring his donation of personal papers and such to the Detroit Public Library. We swapped notes on baseball scorekeeping. He was – and this is not a cliche – one of the nicest people I ever met. And in a profession in which a lot of people are Mitch-esque, which is to say, sappy, he wasn’t. He watched the games, described them, threw in a few nice-but-not-over-the-top catch phrases, and got excited like a fan. And, even in his 80s, he could keep up with a double down the line with runners at the corners. All this being said, I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams having the desire to see this play. I have a nice CD of Ernie chatting about his baseball memories. I’ll just pop that in.

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  47. Little Bird said on April 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Apropos of nothing, but since Deborah sometimes posts her celebrity sighting, I figured I’d do the same. And it’s a celebrity of sorts… Dennis the proprietor of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch (who also has a show on HBO) was at Trader Joe’s! I stopped him to tell him I watched the show, he introduced himself and his girlfriend, Cami, who is also on the show. He seems like a nice guy, both on his show and in person.

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  48. Dave said on April 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Coozledad, sounds more like the makings of a YouTube parody. Poor Henrietta Pussycat, you really do have quite an imagination.

    I had a friend who spent a year at the Air Force Academy, resigned, returned to Ohio, and never had anything to do with the military again. This would have been about the same era as that heartless fellow in Michigan. I was under the (apparently) mistaken impression that once one left a military academy, one couldn’t get back in. It was then, at least, a assignment that one was appointed to by the local congressman. Wasn’t it? I cannot claim to be completely up on the protocol here.

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  49. John G. Wallace said on April 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I came across the link about foster kids and thrift stores on a friend’s FB page and I would describe him as a conservative, but also a reasonable person. His take – read into it what you will – is the state shouldn’t be footing the bill for Abercrombie or Aeropastale, but otherwise he felt it was a bad idea. As a parent I agree – Target, H&M, even Old Navy have reasonable prices and good sales. The now defunct Steve and Barry’s was another reasonable place for clothes. He added Walmart – I consider that a branch of the Red Army’s PX, but we both agreed that no kid should have to wear second hand shoes, socks, or underwear. There are plenty of reasonable people out there – it’s when they get together and the siren song of talk radio hits them reasonable goes out the window.

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  50. Deborah said on April 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    I don’t usually read fantasy books, but Little Bird loaned me “Neverwhere”by Niel Gaiman. I’m only about on page 5, so I’ll let you know what I think of it later.

    And Little Bird, what shows have you been watching??!!! Moonlight Bunny Ranch?

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  51. nancy said on April 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Tell your friend that no matter what happens, John, the chances of any of his tax dollars going to Abercrombie are slim to none. Have any of these people actually been in a foster home? I have, on a time or three, and believe me — these are not places where mom shops at Hollister. The ones I’ve seen as a reporter are generally places where a kid sleeps in a bunk bed and eats generic cereal for breakfast. New clothes, when they come, are far more likely to come from Target, Old Navy, et al, than from Ralph Lauren. They money just isn’t that good. (And p.s., but Aeropostale is very reasonable, and I’m sort of sorry Kate’s aged out of it. It’s at Gap level of quality, roughly. The only thing that bugged me about it was the built-in advertising on Every. Single. Item.) Also, what of socks and underwear? Would Caswell allow for those to be purchased new, or should a 12-year-old girl in foster care go bra-shopping at Goodwill, too?

    What’s most galling about Caswell’s idea is, he KNOWS this. His only interest is in a) drawing attention to himself; and b) humiliating people. What a jerk.

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  52. moe99 said on April 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Damn straight, Nancy.

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  53. Little Bird said on April 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Deborah, it’s an HBO documentary show about life in a brothel. It’s interesting. It’s called Cathouse. It’s not quite as bad as it seems.

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  54. John G. Wallace said on April 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    No problem with generic cereal here and I buy most dry goods and canned stuff – except some soups and stocks – at Save-A-Lot. As a foodie I will say their house brand items are better than Kroger’s, and both Publix and Winn-Dixe here.
    Caswell managed both of those things – drawing attention to himself and humiliating people – himself.

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  55. LAMary said on April 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    My workplace’s community outreach requests clothes, toiletries and backpacks for homeless and low income kids and teenagers several times a year. New only. No used stuff. I go to Target and buy sweatshirts and tee shirts, a few cute girly tops, multi packs of underwear and sports bras, sweat socks and girly cute socks. I buy backpacks in Costco, black and green and colorful prints. This sets me back maybe 200-250 per year, but I try very hard to select things I know my kids’ friends would wear or like. It’s not that big a deal but as a teenager it can seem so important.

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  56. prospero said on April 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Caswell is 61. He “never” had anything new. So why should anyone else? Look what it did for him: He graduated from Michigan State! Actually, his Wikipedia bio is intriguing. Graduated high school in 1967 and went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, leaving after two years to finish undergrad at MSU, before re-enrolling and finishing with a master’s in 1976.

    That sure as shit sounds like an honor code violation. That Caswell shit is another iteration of Raygun’s delusional myth of the welfare queen. He could, I suppose, help with that laser GOP concentration on Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! Too bad Charles Dickens isn’t around these days to skewer assholes like this guy by requiring armbands. Somebody would have to sew them, but that would be outsourced to Sri Lanka. And if Chuck Heston’s cold dead hands weren’t attached to his cold dead body, he might provide Republicunts with the recipe for Soylent Green. Now, that would be a Modest Proposal Republicans could get behind.

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  57. joodyb said on April 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    “I’ve never understood the mindset that makes you less sympathetic to someone who’s having the same tough time that you did.”

    That’s because 9 out of 10 times they are LYING or at the very least gilding the lily.

    Nixon was a special case; don’t know that his times were excruciatingly tougher given the age, but he certainly fostered a terrifying case of resentment. Nothing he could ever do could erase that.

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  58. Deborah said on April 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    My right wing sister got WIC assistance when her kids were little. They were poor as church mice. Her husband was a teacher in a Lutheran school in rural Minnesota and they could not make ends meet. Seriously, they needed help. My then husband and I used to send them money and we weren’t in that much better shape. Now my sister scoffs at what the government does for poor people as wasteful. Which makes me furious to hear. She accepted the help and was grateful for it then. Now she says a lot of what they sent her (cheese) got thrown away because it was so much and they couldn’t eat it fast enough. I remember visiting her during that time and being served some of that cheese and it was delicious, high quality stuff, well at least that’s my memory of it. At the time my point of comparison was Kraft American so I thought what she had was gourmet quality. Anyway it burns me to hear her speak negatively of this now. And how sad that the Lutherans paid their teachers so poorly that they had to resort to that to support their families.

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  59. Deborah said on April 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I tried to edit my comment just now and couldn’t figure it out. I just want to make something clear lest you think I’m complaining that WIC distributed gourmet cheese. That’s not what I meant. This was the mid 70s and it was a quality commodity, probably excess from the wonderful dairy farms in the northern Midwest. It just tasted great to me, after having low quality super market crap most of my life up until then. And I thought it was fantastic that people like my sister and her family got to partake of that, after having to do without so much.

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  60. nancy said on April 25, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    One of my brother-in-law’s elderly aunts got that cheese, and they always hacked off a hunk to give to their nephew. (A five-pound block simply isn’t a realistic amount to give an old lady.) My sister remembers it the way you do — that it was processed American cheese, but yards better than anything you can find now. Pam said it reminded her of the grilled cheese sandwiches she used to eat as a girl.

    That’s so icky about your right-wing sister. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism.

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  61. prospero said on April 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    So according to this Caswell shitheel, poor people are somehow managing to finagle designer Back-to-school get-ups. How’s that work, you ahole? Trade the WIC vouchers? Maybe these aren’t sorry-ass excuses for Christian human beings. Maybe they think these frauds are actually perpetrated. That would make all of them about twice dumber than grunt, and the phoniest white sepulcher proponents of Christian tenets that ever lived. Did they pay attention in Easter week? As do members of all of the so-called great religions, Christians believe in taking care of “the least of my brethren”. Aside from anything, this shithead is such a random piece-of-shit misanthrope, that so closely mirrors the misanthropic GOP, how is he worthy of anything but ridicule and opprobrium? Who make’s asseyes’ bespoke suits these days. More often all the time, and more often than not, I want to beat shit out of fuckers like this guy. Decent people protect kids and the disadvantaged. GOPers fuck them over to rake in lucre.

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  62. MichaelG said on April 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I’m not ordinarily one to pile on, but I see that Mr. Caswell is a member of the American Legion. I can see him wearing his little hat at the Friday night smoker deflecting questions about his service record while staring open mouthed at the girls on the screen. This just confirms my opinion of the AL as a scumbag organization which will accept just about anybody who has the price of admission.

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  63. Jolene said on April 25, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I think we’re getting a little carried away here w/ the evilness of Mr. Caswell. He has dropped the requirement that kids use the lordly sum they are granted at second-hand stores from his proposal, though, frankly, given the tiny amount of money each kid gets, they might be smart to see what they could find in such stores.

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  64. Linda said on April 26, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Jolene, he walked it back after the flack, like the Tiger Mother who had her 15 minutes of fame awhile back. The basic mindset is that since foster kids are wards of the state, they are like our pets and we can do what we want with them. However, we never seem to feel that way about rich wards of the state. For instance, do we have limited vouchers outlining what millionaires getting farm subsidies can do with their checks? Didn’t think so.

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  65. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 26, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Moe, she still does; you can bump into her and Ursula LeGuin and a number of other authors (mostly up in your neck of the woods in realspace v. the web location) at Book View Cafe. I enjoy their blog almost as much as this one: http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Vonda-N.-McIntyre/ (blog is on the nav bar)

    I will also note, very cautiously, that while Mr. Caswell easily proves his relative ignorance about the foster care system in particular and life an general, there is a problem in how the foster care system operates in most places — at least Ohio & the contiguous states that I can speak of. Recall that we took apart orphanages about the same time we de-institutionalized mental health; that sad story is well known, largely because its failures tend to ramble our streets in plain sight. No one disagrees that broadly speaking, fewer large buildings filled with an assortment of mental illness afflicted persons was a good thing, but the funding did not shift effectively to neighborhood centers and local supports (and the law is very tricky in how to help people who are melting down in public without being a major threat to self or others).

    The tip of the iceberg for kids and foster care, which suddenly replaced orphanage structures almost overnight across the country about the same time, is the phenomenon of “aging out” of foster care. These are kids, generally with non-relative placement, who turn 18 while “in the care of the state/agency.” Why is this such a problem? Pragmatically, it’s because a kid who ages out while still in agency care is 50% likely to be homeless in the next two years. That’s the tip of the iceberg problem that is only an index of the threatening mass below the surface.

    20 a year in my county of 150,000, tens & hundreds of thousands across the country each year — why? Because among foster families, there are many, many, MANY saintly people who deserve to have a new house built by Ty and the gang, etc. And there are fearfully many people who are running mini-orphanages, usually out on a patch of rural land outside of municipalities, away from much scrutiny, that in sum are as appalling as any Victorian image you might have. Foster kids are a means to support an “independent” lifestyle beyond what they can afford, and that means whether you have two or twelve, when a kid hits Magic-18 and the checks stop, the kid is gone, done, out — because you have to put a kid in that bed who draws you a check.

    Why do the Children’s Services agencies put up with this? Because if you treat the kids decently, get them to school, don’t beat them or molest them, they need you, marginal foster parent — we need twice as many as we have right now, given the demands placed everyday on our system. We know in all-too-many cases little of the foster allocation is spent on the child, who goes to their next placement after a crisis or problem with a black plastic garbage bag filled with a few ratty clothes. They got new clothes from a nearby church, and toys last Christmas through Salvation Army, but somehow that stuff usually doesn’t travel with them.

    But the kid started screaming every night, got into fights at school, gets into fights with one of the other foster kids in the house, and on they go — there’s always another child to place there, and a check to come. The troubled child moves on . . . until s/he turns 18, with a new black garbage bag, but mostly the older clothes, and a few bucks guiltily stuck in their hand by “dad” at their last placement.

    Mr. Caswell, if you have something coherent to suggest about this situation, I’d even listen to you, but you’d have to first show you have any comprehension of the circumstances you’re addressing. When a child is removed from their natural home into a family placement, and their great-aunt takes the first check from the state and buys some decent clothes for them, even from Abercrombie & Fitch, I say “hurrah.” That is the least of our problems in foster care today. Heck, buy them a few steaks with the food stamps, and tell them over dinner “you have a home now, and whether steak or soup, you will always have a place at this table.” That’s what we need, not more regulation of authorized expenditures.

    You can’t pass federal or state regulation of the human heart, but that’s what has to change. [/end of sermon]

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  66. brian stouder said on April 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Amen, Jeff

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  67. Jolene said on April 26, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Jeff, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for which I did some freelance work years ago, has been working on the problem of “aging out” in the foster care system. I haven’t kept up w/ what they’ve done, but, if you’re not already familiar with their work, you might want to check out their web site.

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