One million stories in the Naked City.

A few little Moments in Detroit ™ have befallen me lately. I should share:

Since the weather turned warm, I’ve been doing some so-called last-mile commuting, which is what urban planners call it when you ride a bike to a transit stop, load it onto the bus or light rail or whatever, then unload it at your destination stop and finish the last leg to your office. It’s great so far; the building manager overruled the security guard who told me I had to leave the bike chained to a parking meter outside, so I take it up to the office. At lunchtime, I’m no longer confined to the Subway and Rub Pub on either side of our building, or even the places farther away — I can ride to the Eastern Market and get a slice of Supino’s pizza or a sandwich from the Russell Street Deli, which has Subway beat by a unit so large, it no longer makes sense to measure it in miles.

Last Friday I was cruisin’ into work on the bus, looking forward to the weekend, when an alarm started beeping in the engine compartment. The driver got on the horn with HQ, then pulled over and told us we’d be waiting for another bus or a repair, whichever came first.

This was the point when I realized just how important last-mile commuting is. I took the bike down from the rack and announced it was time for Plan B. I rode off Jefferson and into a terrible neighborhood, one burned-and-blighted house after another. And then, as though into Emerald City, I was in Indian Village, a stately neighborhood of older homes. A few blocks of this and back into the dodgy districts. Five men walked toward me, spread across the road, and I wondered if it was wise to stay on course. Decided to smile and wave, and they smiled and waved back, just a pod of local rummies getting their morning drink on, it looked like.

Then, huzzah, a bike lane. And a cemetery, final resting place of Sonic Smith. Some deteriorated light industrial, a new high school, this, that, a casino, downtown and my office. Five miles, roughly. I should do this more often. A perfect morning for a little bike ride.

Then today I had to appear on a local radio show, to discuss this story. I walked into the lobby, and who should be there but Sixto Rodriguez, the “Searching for Sugarman” guy. He’d just stopped by to make a cash donation.

“I really like your show, Craig,” he said. I guess he didn’t want to wait for another pledge campaign. A guy I know who used to work at the station says he does it all the time — just swings by from time to time to drop a fifty into the tip jar. Now that’s what I call public-radio support.

Rodriguez gives away a lot of his money. His daughter quotes him as saying once you have the food-clothing-shelter part handled, all the rest is icing. He shares the icing.

So, now I’m watching a few days of 80-degree weather blow out with a thunderstorm, with a 25-degree drop ahead for the next few days. We put the boat in Friday. Balls.

Some good bloggage today. Let’s start with a category called Fiery Oratory. Emily Bazelon reviews Glenn Greenwald’s new book in Slate:

A million jokesters have invited the NSA to listen in on their calls about feeding the cat or picking up the kids, noting that most Americans aren’t doing anything exciting enough to interest the government. You are missing the point if you’re in this camp, Greenwald urges:

Of course, dutiful, loyal supporters of the president and his policies, good citizens who do nothing to attract negative attention from the powerful, have no reason to fear the surveillance state. This is the case in every society: those who pose no challenge are rarely targeted by oppressive measures, and from their perspective, they can then convince themselves that oppression does not really exist. But the true measure of a society’s freedom is how it treats its dissidents and other marginalized groups, not how it treats good loyalists. … We shouldn’t have to be faithful loyalists of the powerful to feel safe from state surveillance. Nor should the price of immunity be refraining from controversial or provocative dissent. We shouldn’t want a society where the message is conveyed that you will be left alone only if you mimic the accommodating behavior and conventional wisdom of a Washington establishment columnist.

…Reading about all the disclosures again, woven together and in context, I couldn’t decide which was worse: the NSA’s massive, grim overreach, in the hands of Director Michael Hayden—or the complicity of almost every other entity involved, private as well as public. “PRISM is a team sport!” trumpeted one NSA memo. Too true: Other memos and slides show Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft easing the way toward surveillance of their users. (Twitter was the exception in this case.) When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke that news, the tech companies tried to argue otherwise based on a technicality. But looking back, the documents “give the lie to Silicon Valley’s denials of cooperation,” as Greenwald writes.

I will be reading this, most likely. Eventually. After I read everything else I’m supposed to read. Someone recently recommended “Hellhound on His Trail,” the story of the manhunt for James Earl Ray, describing how great it was, etc., and all I could think was, dammit, another one.

More fiery oratory, from Gene Weingarten, speaking at Joe McGinniss’ memorial service:


When a writer enters into an agreement with a source to tell his story, there is always an accompanying covenant. This will be acknowledged by, you know, every journalist who is not too stupid or full of himself to notice what is going on. In return for fair and objective reporting, the subject is promising to tell the truth. If the subject lies to the writer, all bets are off. The degree to which this principle attaches is directly proportional to the enormity of the lie that was told.

He’s speaking of the teapot tempest that followed a New Yorker piece that was about “Fatal Vision,” called “The Journalist and the Murderer.” The writer, Janet Malcolm, implied that McGinniss had betrayed Jeffrey MacDonald somehow, and… Just read the link.

I was in a group looking at some data regarding Michigan’s charter schools when someone recollected that charters were supposed to be educational trailblazers, and that’s why they were freed from many of the constraints traditional schools have — so they could run ahead and blaze a trail.

Not so much anymore. Not in New York, anyway:

A primary rationale for the creation of charter schools, which are publicly financed and privately run, was to develop test kitchens for practices that could be exported into the traditional schools. President Obama, in recently proclaiming “National Charter Schools Week,” said they “can provide effective approaches for the broader public education system.”

But two decades since the schools began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms. Testy political battles over space and money, including one that became glaringly public in New York State this spring, have inhibited attempts at collaboration. The sharing of school buildings, which in theory should foster communication, has more frequently led to conflict.

And some charter schools have veered so sharply from the traditional model — with longer school years, armies of nonunion workers and flashy enrichment opportunities like trips to the Galápagos Islands — that their ideas are viewed as unworkable in regular schools.

Finally, I know Christopher Columbus long ago lost his luster with most people, but I was raised in Columbus, Ohio, and I will always read a story about the old Genoan. And this one is pretty interesting; scientists think they might have found the wreckage of the Santa Maria.

A lot for a Wednesday, I know, but hey — eat up.

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

22 responses to “One million stories in the Naked City.”

  1. annie said on May 14, 2014 at 1:32 am

    And did you know when you wrote about seeing Sixto Rodriguez that “Malik Bendjelloul, the acclaimed Swedish film director behind the Oscar-winning music documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” has died. He was 36.” It’s almost like you are psychic.

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  2. Dexter said on May 14, 2014 at 2:25 am

    …yeah, 36 is way-young to croak…it looks like Angelina is also practicing for death in this photo. What’s with all the damn powder on chest and face?

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  3. alex said on May 14, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Makeup, shmakeup. Angelina carries a handbag full of snow and buries her face in it every fifteen minutes when the buzz wears off.

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  4. Alan Stamm said on May 14, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for pointing me to Weingarten’s stirring eulogy, Nancy . . .

    . . . which has a post-script bonus for those who keep reading:

    Oh, wait. Before we go, I want to state the obvious.

    If you are in any way bothered by the Michael Sam kiss, and you would not have been bothered by a boyfriend-girlfriend or husband-wife kiss, you are a bigot. End of discussion.

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  5. Basset said on May 14, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I don’t give a shit who Michael Sam kisses, I’m just tired of hearing about it.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 14, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Speaking of Detroit –

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  7. beb said on May 14, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I always thought that the smartest think Edward Snowden ever did was dump all hiis flitched files with Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald understood how much more devastating the slow drip-drip-drip release of revelations was much more effective than the sort of massive data dump that the major newspapers would have done.

    I wonder if, while biking her way to work,if Nancy thought to give a wave to Water Works Park? Not that I would have seen her, I work in a lab with no windows. But it’s always nice to know when a friend is near-by.

    Under the fish-gotta-swim-grifters-gotta-grift department thee’s this news:

    in which a $100 million donation to education got all eaten up by consultants.

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  8. beb said on May 14, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Great feature, Jeff, and a fascnating series of photos. Thanks for linking to it.

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  9. Michael Einheuser said on May 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

    After Sixto’s records bombed in the early 70’s he decided to go to college. We were classmates at Wayne State’s Montieth College. He always wore sunglasses and usually carried his guitar. We had a notion that there was more to him than met the eye. He said he had a big following in Australia but we didn’t know exactly what to believe. We talked politics often. He ran for city council one year and then for Mayor. As I remember his platform included abolishing pay toilets.

    The news about Malik Bendjelloul is just sad. What do you do after you win an Oscar with your first film The news is out that it was suicide. We need to be mindful about reaching out to those who suffer depression and anxiety.

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  10. Deborah said on May 14, 2014 at 10:25 am

    This has nothing to do with anything: I just found this on a friend’s Facebook page, not new, but new to me. I love this kind of thing

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  11. Bitter Scribe said on May 14, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I was astonished to learn from that Weingarten link that Roger Ailes remained friends with Joe McGinniss. I don’t think he (Ailes) is lying about that. Not that he’s incapable of lying, but he wouldn’t really have any reason to fabricate a friendship with McGinniss.

    But I really appreciated Weingarten’s evisceration of Janet Malcolm and her attack on “Fatal Vision.” That woman is egregious.

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  12. Dorothy said on May 14, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Jeff that was a great link, and because I read it, I found this story. Heartbreaking…

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  13. coozledad said on May 14, 2014 at 11:54 am

    It’s always, always, projection with these brimming bags of excrement. Democracy rankles them. It’s an impediment to the cash shakedown they want to undertake, and they’ll ratfuck the vote any way they can.

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  14. Dorothy said on May 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    accidentally hit Submit Comment too soon. Then got a message about the server being too busy. Oy!

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  15. Heather said on May 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I wish I could do some kind of last-mile commute to avoid some of the two hours I spend in the car four days a week, but the powers that be in my company chose a location that is so incredibly public transportation- and pedestrian-unfriendly, it would almost seem to be on purpose. My manager lets me work from home one day a week at least, but that is a privilege I’m always afraid will be taken away someday, as no one else really gets to do it.

    Now I avoid the car at all costs at other times if I possibly can. Case in point: Monday night I risked a thunderstorm to ride downtown to meet a friend. I managed to outmaneuver it until the way back, when I got totally drenched only about a mile away from home.

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  16. Jeff Borden said on May 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Loyola has me teaching at the Water Tower Campus this fall, so I’ll be taking two els to my building and walking the final two blocks. I teach in a suit and tie every class, so biking won’t work for me, I’m afraid. I’ll miss driving the Abarth to the Lake Shore Campus and the sneaky free parking area I found, but que sera. I have a lot more friends and acquaintances downtown than in Rogers Park, so I’m looking to enjoy more lunches out.

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  17. Hattie said on May 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Nancy, you are the best!

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  18. Charlotte said on May 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Nancy — you’ve seen the Jill Abramson news?

    I’m a longtime NYT reader, but more and more I turn to the Guardian for real news. Just read the food and weddings and articles about the annoying habits of rich people on the NYT.

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  19. Dexter said on May 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Ann Arbor got hit hard today.

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  20. Dexter said on May 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Girls Just Want to Have Fun, a pictorial.

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  21. Sherri said on May 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    So, Abramson tried to “lean in”, and got pushed out?

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  22. Deborah said on May 14, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    I would really like to hear what the journalists here think about the Abramson thing??

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