Happy birthday to us.

I’m telling you, when Columbus gets five inches of snow in mid-November — it is still mid-November, right? — and Detroit only an inch, well…I don’t know what that means. Probably that weather varies widely and isn’t necessarily north = more.

Still. Brr. We’re supposed to get strong winds, too, so I expect a week of misery.

It was birthday weekend around here — Kate’s 18th, Alan’s (mumble). The former got a fuzz pedal for her bass and a pair of Doc Martens, perhaps my least-favorite shoe for girls in the universe, but the thing about gifts is, they’re for the recipient, not the giver. And if you’re legally an adult, you can decide what you want to wear on your feet. Especially if you’re already hanging out in bars:


That was Friday night. The crowd was sparse, the other acts pretty pallid, and the bartender indifferent, but when your lineup isn’t bringing in the sales, what can you expect? Which is to say, Alan had to buy four bottled waters for the girls so they wouldn’t get parched under that dazzling neon.

Saturday went along with it, sorta; we watched “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which may be my favorite Detroit-shot movie since “Out of Sight.” It’s not great, but it’s a wonderful look at the crazy city and its charms, which is especially well-suited to the story of two vampires making their way through the modern world. Googling around at the reviews, I notice a couple critics mention their house “on the outskirts of Detroit.” Ha! That house is in the heart of Detroit, and while some of the shots are angled to cut out the surroundings and emphasize its solitude, well, it pretty much nails the fabulous, ruined area of Brush Park. We don’t have nearly that many coyotes — at least not in town. They’d have to fight the stray pit bulls, and I don’t think they’re that tough.

A little bloggage from the weekend:

Something I learned from Neil Steinberg’s great column (reprinted from 2008) on “Porgy and Bess:”

The bottom line is that African-American artists embraced the work. Both Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier — neither a cream-puff — sang Porgy. The entire cast is black, as required by the Gershwin estate — in reaction, the story goes, to the horror of Al Jolson pushing to cast himself as a blackface Porgy.

When Mitch Albom starts a column with the words “In the old days,” you know what you should do, right? Yes: Don’t read the rest. But if you want to, be my guest, and consider: This is one of the most successful writers in the U.S.A. No wonder the vampires are worried.

A corporate sponsor dials back support for a sport (rock climbing) where risk-taking may be getting out of hand:

Among those whose contracts were withdrawn were Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, each widely credited with pushing the boundaries of the sport in recent years. They had large roles in the film, mainly showing them climbing precarious routes barehanded and without ropes, a technique called free soloing. Potter also was shown highlining, walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations.

Other climbers who lost their Clif Bar contracts were Timmy O’Neill and Steph Davis, who spends much of her time BASE jumping (parachuting from a fixed object, like a building, an antenna, a span or earth) and wing-suit flying. Last year, her husband, Mario Richard, was killed when he crashed in a wing suit.

I’ve seen wing suit videos, and for the life of me, I don’t understand how a suit that turns you into a flying squirrel can overcome the weight of the human body. But then, I’m no daredevil.

We in this part of the country may all have to be daredevils tomorrow. I hope your commute is not too slippery.

Posted at 5:57 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Movies |

34 responses to “Happy birthday to us.”

  1. Little Bird said on November 16, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Happy Birthday to both!
    And I STILL have a pair of Docs. Comfy shoes. Actually good for your feet.

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  2. BigHank53 said on November 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Wingsuits don’t let the user fly. What they do is transform a human from something with the aerodynamic capabilities of a filing cabinet into a thing that can kinda-sorta glide at best maybe a forty-degree angle from the vertical. Forty degrees from vertical, for those of you who recall your high school trigonometry, is still about 80% straight down. If it looks any different in the videos it’s due to trick photography.

    I saw one of those videos a few years ago, and the idiot in the wingsuit came within about four feet of turning himself into a red smear on the Alps. The whole “sport” is insanely expensive and (to my grumpy mind) pointless even as an advertising gimmick.

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  3. Dave said on November 16, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Yes, lots of snow in Columbus, skiffs here in Fort Wayne. But then, all the years I spent going to Cincinnati, I remember several times that snow was piled high in Cincy and not so much here.

    Strictly off topic but there was a fire in Athens, OH, this morning, and anyone who ever spent time in The Union on Union Street, it’s probably gone. Also, in my time there, there was a newsstand I used to go in, kind of a sundry store, not sure if it was still there. These buildings were just to the west of Bromley Hall, which was a private dorm 40 years ago.

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  4. beb said on November 16, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    I remember trick-or-treating during a light snow storm so an inch in November is unusual, OK, five inches might test me patients, tho. For some time I’ve notice that weather, following the jetstream tracks northeast going over Toledo, so mid-Ohio gets plastered while Detroit gets nothing.

    Well, if Kate is going to hang out in bars she’ll need a good pair of kick-ass boots, just in case she needs to, you, know, kick some ass.

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  5. MichaelG said on November 17, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Happy Birthdays!!

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  6. Dexter said on November 17, 2014 at 2:20 am

    My daughter was a high school sophomore in 1993-4 and Doc Martens were around and they caught her attention, but no store sold them around here that I knew of, so since back then I got the Detroit dailies I had read of a store in downtown Royal Oak that sold clothing and shoes, and advertised Docs. One Saturday I felt like a little drive so we went there. I didn’t even go into the store but the kid did and came out with a new outfit and a pair of Docs, which she loved and wore much of the time that winter. She was the cool kid for a while, rockin’ the Docs.

    In 1978 after the big storm of January 25, the Ohio Valley and just north of the valley were in a long-holding super-freeze. My sis-in-law and her tribe lived in Troy (just north of Dayton) and for weeks it hovered just above zero and at night plunged below zero. Frequently Columbus and south and southeast to West Virginia will be hit hard while we stay relatively snow-free. While we sometimes get the big flakes of Lake Michigan’s lake effect snow, many times the Great lakes shelter us from tornadic activity and also some snow patterns. Summer of 2013 saw tornadoes rip across lower Michigan, 50 miles of us with regularity, some making it to Detroit suburbs. One tornado after another…we got none. To this day I have never seen a funnel cloud.

    Remember when many parents promised to take care of their kids until they were 18 and then kick them out into the world? That was a different world. Now kids are covered by parents’ insurance until age 26, live-in or not.

    Horrible night for Detroit sports. The Lions scored just six points in Arizona and were thrashed. Not as bad as the Red Wings were, as they were humiliated by Les Habs at JLA. Montreal played so well and received two major lucky breaks on shots that bounced crazily into the net. Bad Lions, Bad Wings. My friend in Montreal is a hockey fanatic. She relentlessly taunted me and let me know who was boss on the ice last night. Sheesh, those Canadians take hockey seriously, all in good fun.

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  7. Deborah said on November 17, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Happy birthday to K and A.

    My husband has 2 pair of all black Docs. He rotates them, wearing one pair or the other nearly every day. They took a long time to break in but once they did, he says they’re amazing. I’ve never owned a pair. Right now I have a pair of Yoghi Yamamoto combat type boots that will last me forever. As Little Bird said she has a pair of Docs now and has had them for a long time.

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  8. Julie Robinson said on November 17, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Sounds like a great birthday celebration, here’s wishing many more.

    It looks like I’ll be wearing my Merrell’s today; sure looks like more than 2.3 inches out there. It’s too sooooooon.

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  9. brian stouder said on November 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Happy Birthdays, indeed! And – I think the Proprietress her-own-self also has a birthday right around here.

    We drove back from Logansport (Cass county) between 5 and 6:30 last night, and that last 40 minutes was in full-dark with lots of traffic. It was both hands on the wheel, leave lots of space, easy on the power, easy on the brakes…ohhhh – there’s a deer! (repeat)

    Apparently deer season began this past weekend, and the crops are mostly harvested – so lots of activity hither and yon.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I’m posting this in all my circles and asking folks to repost, retweet, whatever — because it is so true, so poorly understood, and so important for people to consider:


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  11. Judybusy said on November 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Happy birthday to Kate and Alan!

    Just a quick note, since I’m busy today: I learned a great phrase from Muriel Spark’s “A Far Cry from Knesington.” It’s “pisseur de copie” which the main character uses in reference to a hack writer. I immediately thought of Mitch Albom. I didn’t read this article, but it gives some background: http://www.theawl.com/2013/01/better-boundaries-with-muriel-spark

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  12. brian stouder said on November 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Jeff – marvelous article, indeed.

    And indeed, a real “public school” takes in every child, and doesn’t screen out any child, and steadfastly does the work that educates and nurtures and supports these young citizens as the years inexorably roll forward

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  13. Deborah said on November 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Great link Jeff tmmo, it brought tears to my eyes, remembering my long ago days as a teacher, wondering how many of “those children” I failed. And I don’t mean failed as in grades.

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  14. MarkH said on November 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Good God, Jeff. What a post, has me in tears. And yes, I am reposting, everywhere.


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  15. Dexter said on November 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Boots, yes. I favor Red Wings, Irish Setter style. $129 with tax; I bought a pair two weeks ago. I had a pair for work that lasted me ten years, and that’s in a factory. I get a size larger than I measure for and wear heavy socks, and I am set for winter, which it is, deep winter in fall, 2014. 13F tonight. Bring it on.

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  16. adrianne said on November 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Seems like my birthday buds (Kate and Alan) had a good time Sunday. My sons and husband took me out to “Big Hero 6,” which was charming and heartfelt. Of course, my kids are old enough now and have seen enough Disney flicks that they can spot the tropes in advance (Oh, no, a wise and protective older sibling? Equals DEAD MEAT).

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Not as dead as a Disney mother.

    Even the cervids are not immune.

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  18. Deborah said on November 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I had to look up cervids.

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  19. brian stouder said on November 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Deborah, me too!

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  20. Jill said on November 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    That’s a great letter, Jeff, and reflects many of the teachers I know. They do everything they can to help and protect the children in their classes, sometimes against great odds.

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  21. Deborah said on November 17, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Have any of you been listening to the radio podcasts “Serial”? Maybe you’ve already discussed this and I missed it. I started binge listening to it. It’s a spin-off of This American Life, which I love. Serial is pretty good, I’ve only listened to the first 3 episodes and there are 8 so far, it tells the story of the murder of an 18 year old high school girl in 1999, her former boyfriend was convicted of the crime and is in prison, but so far it looks like he may or may not be guilty.

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  22. David C. said on November 17, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    I listened to the first four episodes of “Serial”, but I think I’ll stop there. With every episode, I feel more like I’m being strung along. Is it investigation or exploitation? I wish I knew, but I no longer find it riveting and I’m starting to feel a bit depressed listening to it. I’ve never been a fan of crime stories anyway, especially murders, but given its pedigree, I gave it a try. Nancy Updike is a good reporter and presenter, so I’ll try again next season.

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  23. Kristen said on November 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I applaud the teacher’s evident dedication and compassion in the blog post about “THAT kid”. I also found the comments (both on her blog and in the WaPo) to be interesting. Her open letter to parents refers to the confidentiality requirements that teachers must adhere to – she can’t share with parents the circumstances of the child’s life that may be contributing to disruptive and/or dangerous behavior in the classroom. I think most people (maybe I’m wrong?) understand that difficult factors in a child’s home life often contribute to negative behaviors in school, but at the same time, parents do not want a child with significant and/or persistent behavior issues to negatively impact the rest of the class. The system we have now in public schools for “helping” children with severe behavioral issues is no doubt flawed – at least as evidenced by the number of parents who commented about the blog post and referenced negative impacts on the rest of the class or their child as a result of “THAT kid’s” behavior. Of course we need excellent teachers and compassion and understanding with regard to the factors driving childrens’ behavior, but more than that, we need a system that does not rely mostly on single classroom teachers to meet the needs of a child with severe emotional/behavioral issues.

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  24. Dexter said on November 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I hope the DVAS girls have access to HBO. The Dave Grohl series “Sonic Highways” is so good I am amazed. I just watched the Los Angeles show. It blew me away. I am hard pressed to remember a better music series.
    Since I was already an old man when Nirvana blew up over twenty years ago, it took a while before I “got” them, but by the time Foo Fighters rolled out, I was a big time Dave Grohl fan and still am. Joe Walsh made an appearance on the LA show. He was interviewed and he played that guitar.

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  25. Sherri said on November 18, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Thank you for posting that, Jeff(tmmo).

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  26. Jolene said on November 18, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Dexter, as a kickoff to the HBO series and their current concert tour, the Foo Fighters did a week of performances on the Letterman show, with various guest artists sitting in. Though you might not find it more illuminating than Sonic Highways, if you want to see them, you can search YouTube for “Foo Fighters Letterman”. In addition to their performances, you’ll find a couple of interviews and a pretty good Top 10 with the band members saying the items on the list.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 18, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Kristen: “we need a system that does not rely mostly on single classroom teachers to meet the needs of a child with severe emotional/behavioral issues.” Yes, well said. . . and we need to not use the juvenile courts as the next step when that classroom teacher & their overwhelmed principal run out of options.

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  28. brian stouder said on November 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Meanwhile, Indiana’s right-thinking, sensible, victorious and ascendant Republican majority thinks we should re-prioritize public spending on public schools.

    So far, I’m warily nodding ‘yes’….

    and THEN they open their mouths and say that more money needs to flow into suburban and rural schools!

    This, in addition to the flat-fraud and shameless money-grab by the voucher-mill movement, itself heavily subsidized by corporate buccaneers and clueless bamboozlers (at best; calculating liars and thieves, at worst) like Bill Gates, equals…..



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  29. Dexter said on November 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Thanks, Jolene…will do.

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  30. alex said on November 18, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Hey, Brian. Surprised you didn’t weigh in on Senator David Long’s phony hand-wringing over the unseemliness of plans to legislatively unseat Glenda Ritz. As if appearances have ever mattered to this legislature.

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  31. brian stouder said on November 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    I’m greatly tempted to go to Logansport this evening to see Ms Ritz (she’s conducting a public forum at 6:30)

    ANd one thing about Long to recall is that that fellow thinks it would be a peachy idea to (are you ready for this?) – call a Constitutional Convention of the States!!!


    See, then – the gerrymandered Republican choke-hold on statehouses across the country could be converted into….a redneck/cracker/know-nothing Constitutional abortion (so to speak)

    ‘Cause of course those tools and charlatans really know what the ‘Founding Fatehers’ wanted, and we gotta get BACK to that.

    (I suppose I’d make an OK serf, once they starved me for long enough)

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 19, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Hey Brian, and other Lincolnians around here: I will never forget standing at Gettysburg last year on Nov. 19 with my son. Staying in Ohio for the 151st anniversary Remembrance Day, but starting at 10 am, the observance can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQoI799g5Uo; hat tip, http://www.lincolnfellowship.org/

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  33. brian stouder said on November 19, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I wonder what the wind-chill in south central Pennsylvania is today!

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  34. Jolene said on November 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Twenty-five degrees with winds at 3 mph, Brian. Not too bad as winter outings go.

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