Exit through the darkroom.

Having worked with a few headstrong photographers, I know they’re essential to telling a great story. At the same time the best ones have a way of going rogue. Many times I’ve sat back at my desk, looking over my notes and the pictures, thinking these don’t match.

I always blamed myself for failing to communicate strongly enough what the story was, but frankly, sometimes it changes as you report it. Let me put it this way: I’ve written some convoluted captions to explain why the person in the picture is beaming and blowing bubbles in a green meadow, but the story says she’s suicidally depressed about the depletion of the Oglala aquifer. (Or, y’know, whatever.)

Anyway, if I think about it, the photographer who has bugged me the most over the years is Richard Avedon. Love his celebrity portraits, love his fashion work, hated — HATED — his series set in the American West, where he took some pretty unconventional-looking people and stood them up in front of his famous seamless backdrop and turned them into freaks for his New York friends to groove on.

You may sense the depth of my feelings on this subject.

Mary Ellen Mark occupies a different place. I find many of her portraits as unsettling as Avedon’s, but without the note of mocking condescension. Although can anyone, especially a woman, look at the first photo in this series and not think, “Put down that camera and get that child to a responsible maternal figure, for God’s sake.”

Mark, who died this week, was probably best known for the “Street Wise” project, about homeless street kids in Seattle, which started as a photo feature for Life magazine — man, just writing those words feels impossibly nostalgic — and later became a documentary. It wasn’t easy to watch, listening to these kids talk about turning tricks and retrieving pizza out of dumpsters, even as you know the situations they left behind were even worse.

And then, of course, they grew up.

Photography is such an intimate medium, and it’s so easy to tip the viewer from a guest looking in through the fourth wall to a peeping tom. I think Susan Sontag may have touched on this subject a time or two.

So. Bloggage to get to.

Bob Schieffer says he’s worried about the decline of local journalism. That makes two of us:

Less than a third of all newspapers in the country assign a reporter — part time or full time — to cover statehouses, according to the Pew study. Almost nine in 10 (86 percent) of local TV stations have no part-time or full-time correspondent covering the statehouse.

I’m less concerned about TV, because most stations’ coverage of serious news has always been spotty and not the sort of thing you should rely on to be informed. Many manage to park two or three highly paid butts on a couch for an extended morning show of utter crap content, so cry me a river over that one. But on newspapers, he’s absolutely right. Fort Wayne once had a two-person Indy bureau — one for sports, one for the legislature. That dwindled to a freelancer, then a go-when-you-can staffer, then let-the-AP-handle-it. That’s no way to cover anything.

What the hell just happened in Nebraska? I’m still puzzled, although I think I get it: GOP corrections reform meets Democrats’ traditional opposition to capital punishment. Amazing.

Wednesday I was walking to lunch with my colleagues, and a large semi crossed our path, the side emblazoned, “Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour.” She plays at Ford Field on Saturday. That is one long setup. I’ve said many times I would rather see two guys play guitar in a smoky nightclub than go to your average stadium/arena show, and that stands. Tickets for “general admission standing” for her “B stage” — I expect that’s the one where she walks a plank into the audience and gives low-fives to the clamoring minions — are $200. Nosebleed is $50, most others well north of there. Yikes.

Oh, and Basset, I used Coastal for my last eyeglass purchase, but I knew what I wanted and what looks good on me. YMMV. Good luck.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Popculch |

92 responses to “Exit through the darkroom.”

  1. Kirk said on May 28, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Re: stadium concerts vs. intimate settings. Rather than join 60,000 (or 80,000 or whatever it is) in Ohio Stadium for the Rolling Stones this Saturday, I’ll be heading to southern Ohio and a former horse barn, where the New Riders of the Purple Sage will be the attraction.

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  2. Jolene said on May 28, 2015 at 9:56 am

    The lack of statehouse reporting and state-level reporting, more generally, may have contributed to the GOP takeover of so many state governments and is almost certainly allowing Republicans to get away with their recent shenanigans on reproductive choice, voter suppression, curtailment of labor organizing rights, defunding of higher education, and all manner of ills.

    Local TV news seems mainly limited to crime, weather, and things they read in the newspaper. If newspapers aren’t doing the digging, nobody is. Not sure what an ordinary citizen can do about any of this.

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  3. Deborah said on May 28, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I worked with photographers from time to time in my job as a design director. Only I used commercial photographers which is quite different than using editorial photographers like Ms Mark where you’re usually searching for truth. Our stuff was usually artifice, trying to make something look as good as possible. Before I went on a photo shoot I thought it was the most glamorous thing possible but it turned out to be dead boring. It’s hard work for the photographers who could take hours and hours to set up the angle of the camera and the lighting etc. The equipment that they hauled around, usually with an assistant was monstrous. When I started art directing it was all done with film, we had to look at Polaroids to get an approximation of what the real shot would look like or look through the camera lens itself. Now of course it’s mostly digital and you look at a laptop to see what it will be.

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  4. Charlotte said on May 28, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Beloit College had a great photography professor when I was there — Michael Simon, escaped from Hungary during or just after the revolution. Several of my classmates went on to be professionals — do a lot of wedding and corporate work to support their creative stuff.

    Sally Mann’s new memoir is getting good reviews as well — I loved her collection that caused such a ruckus — having had a mostly-naked childhood in the woods myself, I loved the way she captured the fleeting emotions of sibling-hood: aggression, affection, boredom, love …

    And I agree with you on the Avedon photos of the west. Ugh.

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  5. Sue said on May 28, 2015 at 10:55 am

    My first thought on seeing the Avedon pics is ‘People of WalMart’. I assume that was not his intention.

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  6. susan said on May 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Speaking of street photographers, do y’all know of Vivian Maier? There is a wonderful documentary about her, Finding Vivian Maier. That’s all I’ll say about that, because her photos tell more than anything I’d say.

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  7. Sue said on May 28, 2015 at 11:10 am

    “If newspapers aren’t doing the digging, nobody is.”
    Jolene, start looking around. If you’re lucky you’ve got alternate newspapers and organizations focusing on state politics, digging around and pissing people off. We’ve got the Shepherd Express (alternate newspaper focusing on entertainment but doing a good job of digging considering their resources), the Center for Media and Democracy, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Bruce Murphy at Urbanmilwaukee.com also serves as a bit of a thorn in the side of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, frequently pointing out how their ownership and editorial board connections affect their coverage of politics in the state.
    I took the amount I would have paid for my latest MJS renewal and donated it to the Center for Media and Democracy instead. I’ll send my money where it does the most good these days.

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  8. Basset said on May 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Mary Ellen Mark and Diane Arbus, the big two for me. And thanks for all the input on the glasses, I’m gonna take one more look around tonight before I give up and have Costco put new glass in some old frames.

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  9. Heather said on May 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Worked with many mostly great, underpaid photographers at the Chicago Reader. Being able to take pictures every day and seeing how difficult it is to get a “good” shot has only made me respect professionals’ ability more.

    I bought glasses once from Warby Parker and when they came, they distorted my vision so much they were unwearable–it wasn’t the thing where you just have to get used to them. My eye doctor told me that for people with strong prescriptions, such as myself, ordering them online isn’t a great idea. Maybe she was just saying that to keep people ordering her expensive frames, but I don’t think I’ll try online again, unless the technology for fitting, pupil measurement, etc., improves somehow.

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  10. nancy said on May 28, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I like my optometrist and felt very bad about buying online, but I never fail to get incensed — just furious — over the idea of paying $200 for some plastic-coated twisted metal, especially when you add on the lenses, which become more complicated, strong, detailed and expensive as I get older. For a long time we didn’t have vision coverage, and sorry, but $600 strikes me as highway robbery for a pair of glasses. I think I paid around $250 online. That’s reasonable.

    I know “60 Minutes” did a piece on Luxxotica, which has quietly assembled a near-monopoly on eyeglass frame designers/manufacturers, and is driving the price ever-higher. I have vision coverage now and may support my local doctor the next time I need specs, but I hate to prop up a corrupt system.

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  11. Basset said on May 28, 2015 at 11:57 am

    We had to change eye doctors once because the one we had thought LASIK was the answer for everything – even wanted to do it on Basset Jr, who might have been three at the time. He did have a framed gold cd and thank-you letter from the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd hanging in his office, though, so I suppose that counts for something.
    Taking a break at work right now while my PC gets replaced… works fine but there is a Schedule Which Must Be Followed.

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  12. alex said on May 28, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Susan, I am fascinated with the Vivian Maier story but have yet to see the documentary. She captured a lot of Chicago’s grittiness that has been lost in the last half century along with much of the city’s architectural legacy. I had read a very negative critique of the documentary a while back by someone who obviously didn’t like John Maloof and thought he was stealing the show from its subject, but that won’t stop me from seeing it when I have an opportunity.

    Heather, did you ever have the privilege of working with Mark PoKempner? He illustrated one of my Reader stories and his work was simply divine. He had a sense of humor and could translate it into film. One of the things that was most outstanding about the Reader (before the buyout, anyway) was how the design, layout, art and photography were always integral to the stories in a way that’s really a lost art form. I mostly worked at publications where the designers were prima donnas who had no regard for the text; to them it was just an annoyance they wished could be shortened or lengthened to suit the masterpieces they thought they were shitting.

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  13. Jolene said on May 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Very interesting story re Luxxotica, Nancy. I’ve always bought glasses from a local optical shop. The prices are, indeed, outrageous, but I’ve always found it useful to have someone else choose possibilities to try on and appreciated the reaction of somebody who’s used to evaluating how people look in their glasses. Also, I’m lazy. If I were to, say, get five pair to try on from Warby Parker or some other online place, I’d be sure to miss the deadline to return them. And, if I didn’t like one of the five, I’d have to go through the drill over again. Of course, having worn glasses for twenty-five, I have some idea of what shapes and colors work for me, but still . . .

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  14. Julie Robinson said on May 28, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    As I mentioned, I have a complicated prescription as well as a couple of other eye conditions, so I still go to my longtime eye doctor. But we also don’t have vision coverage, so this last time I went to Costco for the glasses. I was able to get two pairs, including prescription sunglasses, for less than one pair at the eye doctor. They don’t charge extra for the prisms or to get the UV coating, and I saved enough $$ for a plane ticket to visit my kids.

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  15. Heather said on May 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Alex, I did work with Mark a little bit! Obviously we were always on such a tight schedule and deadline, we needed photogs who we knew could work quickly and get the shot. He was definitely one of the good ‘uns we relied heavily on.

    I just ran into one of my former Reader colleagues at a party who still works there. It sounds . . . not great. After a certain point in the conversation he looked sad and said “Can we talk about something else?” There is actually going to be a Readerite meetup next week. Looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces.

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  16. adrianne said on May 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Useful info I learn from my current gig: There are class action suits popping up all over the country challenging contact lens mfgs. for their shamefully high prices and cartel-like arrangements with optometrists/stores. So there’s hope!

    It’s awful how quickly newspapers shed their statehouse coverage, because if they ain’t doing it, generally nobody is. In the Empire State – we’re No. 1 in corruption! – the New York Times made the strategic decision to increase their statehouse coverage when everyone else was cutting back. Result – they have scooped everybody on the depressingly long series of indictments of state politicians, including, currently, the Assembly speaker, the State Senate majority leader and his deputy. And the NYT was first out of the chutes with the shocking story of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer patronizing prostitutes.

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  17. Heather said on May 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Since we’re talking about photography, the party I mentioned is in honor of the opening of this exhibit, if anyone is visiting Chicago and is interested:

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  18. Jolene said on May 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    If you are on Facebook, you might be interested in becoming FB friends with Michael S. Williamson. He is a WaPo photographer who creates terrific images, and regularly posts them there. It’s always a treat to see his work pop up in my timeline.

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  19. Charlotte said on May 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I always buy my glasses at Costco now — they have a good selection of frames (some funky ones too!) and are cheap enough that I can get bifocals, progressives and sunglasses for less than a single pair at my eye doctor … (because pro-tip, don’t wear your bifocals hiking or you might miss your footing and fall face first into a muddy stream).

    Oh – and here’s the piece on Lee papers closing it’s Helena bureau: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2015/05/21/lee-newspapers-close-state-bureau/27742287/

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  20. beb said on May 28, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    What happened in Nebraska was the triumph of pragmatism over ideology. With the chemicals for lethal injection getting all but impossible to get it becomes easier to just go for life without parole. I’m sure, too, that so many cases of people being exonerated after decades in jail, often on death row had something to do with this.

    If we’re throwing out the names of great photographers, I’d like to mention Detroit’s own Rick Lieder. He specializes in nature photography producing some of the most amazing pictures of insects and birds in flight. His photographs have been featured in several books. For a sample go to:

    He used to be a newspaper photographer but just bored with that… (just in case you think he needs some journalism cred.)

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  21. Deborah said on May 28, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Here are 2 photos that I art directed. They were for Mead Paper Co (in Dayton as you probably know Dorothy). I’m pretty proud of the way they turned out, they were meant to promote the paper they sell to catalogue producers, like Harry & David etc. The young woman model wrapped in paper was 14 years old and she was stunning. You might have to scroll through a few photos, the ones I directed are 8 of 20 http://goldmanphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Say-Cheese/G0000hpz.01ldEb8/I0000iqXz41gQ6UY

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  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 28, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Statehouse reporting has to be the most time-intensive, frustrating kind of journalism there is, and because of where it happens (state capitals), it’s more expensive — I don’t see much happening around the country. In Ohio, public radio is keeping it going at http://www.statenews.org/ and they’re quite good at it.

    But in the heyday of statehouse news bureaus, it was . . . well, Tony Hillerman wrote the book on it, and made it a mystery just to keep the pages turning: read “The Fly On the Wall” which often gets kicked aside because there’s no wise Navajo cops in it, but is a grand and glorious read. IMHO.

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  23. Scout said on May 28, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    I recently met Jon Linton of The I Have A Name Project through my friend, Ann, who is co-founder of ONe TRUe LOVe. Jon’s beautiful photos and accompanying stories humanize the homeless.

    Both http://www.ihaveaname.org/ and onetruelove.org are amazing non-profits who are doing amazing work for the street population in the greater Phoenix area. Jon and Ann have teamed up to create a full-length documentary. You can track the progress on facebook if you are so moved. https://www.facebook.com/UnshelteredHeart?fref=ts

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  24. alex said on May 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Heather, that looks like a show I’d enjoy seeing. Probably some familiar iconic shots there. I’ll probably be up in late June for Pride Fest, or perhaps even the gay parade, which I haven’t seen since the parade route was changed a few years ago. I hear it’s much better now, spectator areas much less hemmed in.

    So when were you at the Reader? I contributed a lot back when Pat Arden was managing editor. He and I knew each other from our first jobs in publishing fresh out of college in the ’80s. We lived in the same neighborhood and hung out together socially quite a bit, but haven’t been in contact in centuries. I understand he’s living in NYC these days.

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  25. MichaelG said on May 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I have been going to the same optometrist for years and years. I have two identical frames and have switched back and forth with new prescriptions in alternate years. Until this year. The Dr. told me there wasn’t any appreciable change this January and that I didn’t need to get new lenses. How ‘bout that!

    The local NPR radio station, KXJZ, does a pretty fair job of state house reporting. In fact, it’s a very good station. The SacBee, not so much. The Bee strikes me as being on its last legs. It was once a decent paper. Now it’s nothing but a dried up husk of its prior self. I don’t think it’ll be too long before it blows away. The local Public TV station, KVIE, is horrible.

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  26. ROGirl said on May 28, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    I think Cartier-Bresson is my favorite photographer. His images have stayed with me since I first really looked at them in college. Robert Frank was good, too.

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  27. Dexter said on May 28, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    My brother was a professional photographer for George Woodard Studios in Bellevue, Ohio, then for years he worked for Root Studios in Chicago. He mostly shot high school senior portraits and weddings, and to break monotony he’d get sent to do a photo-shoot for politicians; rock stars and movie stars always had dedicated fotogs following them everywhere. Root got a call from Warren Burger’s people. Burger was the 15th Chief Justice of the USA. Brother Bob was assigned the job of spending 90 minutes posing Burger from every complimentary angle he could muster.
    The aftermath was congratulations from his bosses and a fat bonus check—Burger’s people were very pleased with the work.
    My favorites are Ansel Adams because I truly love Yosemite, Robert Frank, and Avedon, mostly for the famous The Beatles portraits.

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  28. David C. said on May 28, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    I go to the bargain basement for glasses – Zenni Optical. So far, I haven’t had any problems. Just last week I ordered prescription sunglasses. Progressive lenses, anti-reflective coating, and oleophobic coating in Ray-Ban knockoff frames for $89.

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  29. LAMary said on May 28, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    I think the photo taken 50 years ago this week of Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston should be appreciated. Neil Leifer is the photographer. They’ve got the photo on Slate.

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  30. Basset said on May 28, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    David C, that’d be perfect if they just had some round wire rims that were big enough – have looked at Zenni several times, they seem to do mostly small to medium sizes.

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  31. Deborah said on May 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    My husband’s lenses are like the ends of coke bottles. He always wears contacts out in public and he has a terrible time finding frames for his prescription which he only wears around the house. He gets special lenses that cost a fortune to get them less thick. I just wear readers that I get online from a place called Eye Bobs, they have some pretty cool glasses for about $75. When I was in Italy awhile ago I bought a fabulous pair of frames that I brought back and had my reader prescription put in. I left them at the office one night and they disappeared, I’m convinced that someone stole them. After that I started buying the readers.

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  32. David C. said on May 28, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    True that, Basset. They do run small.

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  33. Deborah said on May 28, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Little Bird is going to be in a wedding next week in St. Louis for a good friend, she was in this friend’s first wedding too. LB has lost about 15 lbs for the occaision and today she got her hair done and it looks fantastic. She wanted a dramatic color and she got it. It’s a pinkish, orangish, red that I would call vermillion. In the sun of New Mexico it dazzles. Now all that’s left is to get a manicure and pedicure, she’s got the bridesmaid dress and shoes, the rehearsal dinner dress (which she got a cute one amazingly for $18). She’s wearing some heeled sandals that she already had with that one. It’s astounding how much a friend’s wedding can set you back, especially when the wedding is not in the same town you live in, and airfare is factored in. She’s staying with a different friend so thankfully she doesn’t have to pay for lodging, but a nice gift for her hosting friend is in order, of course. How do young millennials do it?

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  34. MichaelG said on May 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t know, Deborah. I drive down the street in my four old Honda that cost me something like twenty two grand new and see all these kids in really expensive rides. I’m talking twenty somethings in Audis and BMWs and Benzs and Suburbans and all that stuff. How do they do it? I mean I know what I get per month and it ain’t small. What must they be scoring?

    Also when Mexican girls turn sixteen they get a sweet sixteen party called a Quinceañera. Parents are paying tons of thousands of dollars for this stuff only to have to do it again when the daughter gets married. How do they do it? For sure these are not rich people yet it’s all over Sacramento. I’m guessing that there is some serious pressure on the poor parents to provide this confection to the kid. How do you say no?

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  35. Jolene said on May 28, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    The cost of traveling to and participating in weddings is a major topic in online advice columns, Deborah. Of course, most often, the topic comes up because someone’s nose is out of joint. Bridesmaids and wedding guests write because they feel that, with travel, wedding attire, gifts, and showers, they are being asked to do too much. People getting married worry that they are asking too much or, alternatively, feel that their friends and family members aren’t being as generous as they were when they were guests/bridesmaids/groomsmen.

    And none of that gets to the question of how many guests there should be, whether children should be invited, and what the guests should be served.

    Weddings, it seems, offer pretty much no end of things to fight about!

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  36. devtob said on May 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    adrianne — The NYT scoops on Silver and Skelos (Democratic Assembly Speaker and Republican Senate Majority Leader, respectively) did not come from their legislative reporters, but from their connections in the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan.

    Very little investigative reporting, by anyone, happens in Albany, because the few reporters left mostly do the same old stories about the budget and press release rewrites with a couple three quotes from the usual suspects.

    Which is just the way the politicians, of both parties, want it.

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  37. MaryRC said on May 28, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    My glasses cost #1,200. I’m legally blind without them. It’s weird to think that I’m wearing something that costs that much. My boss brings his dog to work every day and likes to toss a tennis ball to the dog in his office. He rolled his eyes the first time I was reluctant to come into his office and just stood in the doorway while he threw the ball, until I said “Do you have $1,200 to replace my glasses?”

    Diane Arbus’s work always bothered me but I like Mark’s photographs. She seems more at home with her subjects than Arbus, for some reason.

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  38. basset said on May 29, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Diane Arbus’ work was supposed to bother you, if it made you feel uneasy that just meant you got it.

    Meanwhile, time to settle on this glasses deal. Just spent an hour taking one more lap around any glasses sites I could find and failed once again to find anything under $300 with the shape and size I wanted, so I suppose I’ll just take some old frames around to Costco and get new lenses put in…

    if I can get their attention, went into the optical shop there last night and hung out for twenty minutes with nobody else around except Mrs. B. and two, sometimes three, Costco employees lost in conversation, had to go interrupt them to ask when the nice lady who’d helped me a few nights before would be back. No way would I let them order my glasses that night, if waiters spit in your soup when you make them mad optical shop people would do something even worse.

    I’m just tired of dealing with it, as I said back up the thread I have never had a pair of glasses I liked and I always end up looking at some length, getting something which may or may not be anywhere near what I really wanted and saying to myself “well, I’ll get used to them.” Like a bad haircut, but more expensive and it doesn’t grow back.

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  39. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Little Bird is avoiding the gift buying for the wedding she’s going to be in by making earrings and necklaces for all the bridesmaids. There will be six attendants for the bride and this is a second wedding! And did I mention that the bride is five or six months pregnant. And the clencher is that one of the bridesmaids was a genuine hooker. The bride met the hooker when she taught pole dancing. LB will be taking lots of photos of this event.

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  40. Basset said on May 29, 2015 at 7:19 am

    “The bride met the hooker when she taught pole dancing”… you could not make that up. Must have been an interesting conversation the first time work came up.

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  41. beb said on May 29, 2015 at 8:02 am

    “The bride met the hooker when she taught pole dancing.”
    Ah, who was doing the teaching: the hooker or the bride?

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  42. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Beb, the bride was the teacher. She learned pole dancing as a way to exercise, she had a pole installed at her house and got really good at it. Apparently it’s extremely physically demanding. She started teaching on the side, she’s a social worker with a heart of gold. The hooker started out as a stripper and did hooking on the side. It’s a long, long story.

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  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 29, 2015 at 8:55 am

    The conversation usually starts with “I’m in entertainment,” shifts into “an exotic dancer” to “I do some stripping when it’s the right club” and if the time is sufficient and circumstances call for it, we’ll end up talking about “yeah, I got busted for hooking, but it was a set-up.” None of which matters if we can just figure out how to get your kid to school in the morning.

    I am so ready for a break this summer. Three months of mediating victim-offender cases where a kid put dog poop on the neighbor’s car or parents who are upset their kid disrespects the new girl/boyfriend, and no debates over what does and doesn’t constitute an excused absence.

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  44. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Jeff, you are the man. After years of being “plugged in” (at a comfortable distance, mind you) at two big high schools hereabouts, I know just enough to have an idea just how much I DON’T know, and will (thankfully) never really know, about basic human nature.

    And now, in (possibly) another example of how life never really evolves past high school for lots of people, we have the indictment of Denny Hastert of Illinois, hushing hushing hushing…..a story from when he was a wrestling coach at a high school?

    We shall see

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  45. Julie Robinson said on May 29, 2015 at 10:56 am

    My Mother and I have the same basic value system, but we interpret life very differently; she through Republican eyes, me a good bit to the left. Since she moved here we have a lot more time to spend together, and this is mostly good, except when she starts in on politics. Mostly I try to deflect and change the subject, trying to steer her into less shark-infested waters.

    That said, Denny Hastert was one of her heroes, and it will be very difficult not to chant his name when next she brings up the latest perceived scandal surrounding the Clinton family.

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  46. Jolene said on May 29, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Hastert has negotiated a deal in which the prosecutors will not reveal either the name of the individual who he has been paying off or the behavior that he wanted to keep secret. So, journalists, would you be poking around small-town Illinois, looking for those undisclosed facts. Hastert is no longer a public official. Does the public have a right to know?

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  47. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Jolene, I’d say that, whereas

    Hastert was once third in line to the presidency of the United States, and whereas

    whatever is beneath his fear of exposure is exerting a very powerful pull upon him ($3 million dollars!!??), and whereas

    it appears that this dates back to when he was in power

    therefore – we need to know what the hell was going on with him

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  48. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 11:46 am

    The public is eventually going to know, one way or another, I suspect. And it’s probably exactly what everyone suspects it is.

    What does anyone want to bet that, as was the case with Bill Cosby, there will be more than one?

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  49. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Well, indeed.

    If a guy is a terrible human being, there will be more than just one example… but it is interesting that the Feds apparently made a concession in allowing a person to remain un-named.

    It seems to suggests a victimized person….who then turned to blackmail

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  50. Jolene said on May 29, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    The Post has an interesting article about the nature and history of blackmail. Notably, it indicates that reporters are already poking around to find out what happened.

    Seems like the Feds would know whether there is more than one victim, but, since they are prosecuting the attempt to cover up whatever occurred rather than the thing itself, the existence of other victims wouldn’t be relevant to this case. And, even if there are other victims, the statute of limitations might have made it impossible to prosecute him for any alleged crimes.

    In fact, the focus on the cover-up as the crime in this case suggests that (1) the alleged behavior was not criminal, (2) there is insufficient evidence of a crime to prosecute successfully, or (3) the statute of limitations has rendered prosecution impossible.

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  51. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    And then there are dramatic shadows in plain sight…or else odd non-sequiturs…


    an excerpt:

    Hastert had been on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” to discuss the midterm elections when a call came in from “Bruce” from Illinois, according to the video, which was resurrected by The Hill newspaper. “Hello, Denny,” Bruce says.

    “Hey, how are you doing?” Hastert responds.

    “Pretty good,” Bruce continues. “Remember me from Yorkville?” Bruce then laughs and hangs up instead of asking a question.

    There was no evidence Friday suggesting there was a connection between the call and the indictment.

    Presumably, more will be revealed, one way or another

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  52. Suzanne said on May 29, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    My daughter sang a friend’s wedding last year. She had to pay for the flight, practice the music (there was a lot), take some time off work to get there in time, and never even got a thank you from the bride. Luckily, she was able to stay with a friend’s parents so didn’t have to pay for a hotel. She wasn’t happy and it’s sad because it has kind of soured a long friendship.
    The son of a friend of mine, from Indiana now living in Chicago, got married last year in N. Carolina and was surprised at how few of his friends attended the wedding. I don’t think it really occurred to him that many of them simply couldn’t afford to go.

    I heard this morning that Hastert is a former high school coach, so I wonder if there is some Jerry Sandusky-ish something going on here.

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  53. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    If it is, Suzanne, I’m sure Mike Huckabee would be more than happy to exonerate him.

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  54. Kirk said on May 29, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Chicago Tribune …

    While details of the relationship and Hastert’s alleged wrongdoing were not provided, the indictment clearly indicated that Hastert’s early career at Yorkville High School was material to the charges, Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, told the Tribune.

    “The feds don’t put superfluous facts in an indictment,” said Cramer, who is head of the Chicago division of the private security company Kroll. “If it’s in there, it’s relevant.”

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  55. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    The Hastert thing could be a little more “innocent”, like perhaps a child he fathered or something like that, maybe the mother made a deal with him to support for a long time. In his political circle that would not be considered innocent, but nonetheless would be the right thing to do to some degree. I didn’t care for Hastert when he was in power but it might not be insidious. Hypocrital, probably.

    Mainly this makes me wonder how common this is in the political world.

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  56. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Deborah, wasn’t that what Larry Flynt outed Henry Hyde for during Lewinskygate? In his political circles it was considered innocent.

    I’m thinking wrestling coach. Writhing around on the floor on top of young guys and liking it. Practicing after-hours with an especially handsome one and teaching him some moves he has never forgotten.

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  57. beb said on May 29, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    One could well ask how could Hastert afford to pay so much blackmail. He did become a lobbyist after leaving congress and the blackmail seems to have started around then. But he was already a wealthy man, worth several million dollars when he retired. Congressmen aren’t paid that well.

    The indictment does seem to point to his time as a teacher and coach, and suggests that one person was involved, who still lives in Yorkville. Fathering a child back then doesn’t seem like something he would need to cover up. A Jerry Sandusky thing where he turned a blind eye of sexual molestation of young boys seems plausible. Even then… I don’t know. Serious money like that makes me think he killed a guy just to see how it felt.

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  58. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Beb – you only do that in Reno!

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  59. Judybusy said on May 29, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Suzanne, that’s too bad about your daughter not being properly thanked, especially with so much travel and preperation! My best friend sang at our 2001 ceremony–“You Stepped Out of a Dream”–and I still occasionally remind her of how much this meant to us.

    The Hastert thing has to involve sex, in one shape or another. That crowd is so sex-shamed they’ll pay anything to avoid exposure.

    Please send me strength and well-wishes. We are spending time with family to celebrate my niece’s hs graduation (Yay!) but it means my terribly homophobic father will be there. Sadly, we are really limiting our time at my sister’s to avoid a scene like we had at grandma’s funeral. Gawd, it’s just so unbelievable, and tacky! I am planning on just hanging with my nice relatives/family friends and focusing on the trip to Costa Rica with said niece on June 8th.

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  60. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Judybusy: Good thoughts and patient strength being wished your way!

    Here’s hoping you have a great weekend, and that the family takes a chill

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  61. Bob (not Greene) said on May 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Brian Stouder, I’m wondering if in your school board meeting attending travels you’ve ever run into he names Christy Moore and her company called “Make It Authentic Education Solutions.” She’s apparently from Upland, Ind., which is kind of in your neck of the woods. A school district I cover just hired her company to do professional development. Just trying to see if there’s a story somewhere. Thanks.

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    • nancy said on May 29, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Upland is home to Taylor University (and not much else). TU is a very Christian school attractive to evangelicals of the conservative bent. So I’d pay special attention to that one — she may well be selling an agenda in curriculum’s clothing.

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  62. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Bob – nope; I’ve not heard of them.

    I see a steady procession of grants and other goodies that the district obtains, of all sorts (mostly from state and federal agencies, but sometimes others), through the efforts of various staff members who (presumably) wade through whatever application processes put before them.

    I think it would be interesting to see their in-box, and what it takes to get some of these. I assume most of them have a set of requirements that immediately excludes some number of districts, and then a set of things that the district already does; leaving a set of things we’d have to do, to qualify for whatever the grant is.

    Whatever the process is, hardly the month passes that we don’t obtain this or that or another grant, subject to Board approval

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  63. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Bingo! And it was a live boy not a dead girl.

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  64. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Aw, fuck HTML:


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  65. alex said on May 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm



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  66. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    With reports using the term “abuse” – it sounds to me like he was a teacher engaged in sex with a student (or students).

    As a father of sons and daughters, the gender of the student (or students) involved makes zero-difference to me.

    It was a massive betrayal of trust…and, not for nothing, but one cannot help but assume that it wasn’t just a one-off, nor necessarily confined to his past.

    Afterall, in 2010, what calculus leads the retired Member (so to speak) to think that continued silence is worth $3,000,000?

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  67. Dexter said on May 29, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    MichaelG, those parties for Mexican and Mex-heritage girls as well as most other Spanish heritage girls , the quinceanera party, happens at age 15. Every so often the newspaper dailies would do feature page stories on these festive parties.

    As my dear departed old man would say, “Jesus H. Christ on a crutch!” I have just read all your reported costs for eye wear. I guess I knew , and that is why I put off an eye exam for years, since I can see well enough without glasses, and I only wear readers for small print and long-distance glasses for night driving on long trips. When I joined VA Healthcare, I had to wait a few months, but I got a total eye exam and new readers and new long-distance vision glasses. My cost was about $18 worth of gasoline to get to Toledo and back, which is being reimbursed to me due to my new status as a disabled veteran.
    I am also on a cool weight loss program through the VA. I have a device hooked to my modem which reports my weight daily to my health co:ordinator. The scales send the info to Toledo via the ‘net. The little monitor asks me questions daily which I must answer, such as “have you met your weight loss goal for this week?” And the answer is yes. Yes, I am trudging this old road called weigh loss attempt # X, today my reward was reporting a weight I have not been at since 1994. Although I cannot celebrate because I just in the middle of this project, I now have lost 101 pounds from what I was in 2009. I found a photo of me from then…holy shit, man, I was really a mess then.

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  68. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Well, I figured it would come out sooner rather than later about Hastert. I was trying to put the best construction on it, but it seems I was wrong. A highschool wrestling coach no less. What will the right wing say now?

    Julie, I would love to be a fly on the wall when you respond to your mom about Clinton vs Hastert.

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  69. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    JudyBusy, thinking of you and wishing you strength. Families can be so shitty.

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  70. David C. said on May 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    My RWNJ brother has been uncorking anti-gay rants just about every time I’ve seen him for the past couple of years. Fortunately, we only go home twice a year. I hope it’s a last gasp thing and it will end soon. He knows our uncle was gay and that I was particularly close to him. The week I spent visiting Don in New York was probably one of the best times of my life. I’d like to tell him to go fuck himself, but that would just hurt mom. I can do the smile and nod bit when he goes on about global warming, his other hobby horse, but it’s getting damn hard to hold my fire. Sometimes I just can’t stand people. Present company excepted.

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  71. Sherri said on May 29, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    I think Jonah Lehrer should write a biography of Michael LaCour: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/05/how-a-grad-student-uncovered-a-huge-fraud.html

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  72. beb said on May 29, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Nomoremrniceblog sugggests that unsubstanuated rumors from 2006 may be credible.

    According to rumors it’s wasn’t boys in high school it was lifetime lifestyle…..

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  73. Sherri said on May 29, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    This about sums up the Hastert affair: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/29/if-i-understand-the-history-correctly/

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  74. brian stouder said on May 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    David C – I bite my tongue/turn my head/disengage when politics come up at work, and when it comes up with my 28 year old son Matt or my 49 year old brother; although every once in a great-while (on the cusp of a presidential election, for example) I’ll sometimes rise to the bait and answer him back point for point.

    I think I was just like my son, back when I was his age…. but my “age or certainty” (let alone right-wing certainty!) ended abruptly, and it’s not coming back

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  75. Sherri said on May 29, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Conservatives aren’t happy about the death penalty veto override in Nebraska, so they want to change the legislature: http://watchdog.org/221621/nebraska-legislature-3/

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  76. Dorothy said on May 29, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Michael G a quinceanera is celebrated when a girl turns 15, not 16!


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  77. Beth Backus said on May 29, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Dexter, congrats on the weight loss.

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  78. Deborah said on May 29, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I keep forgetting to mention this here, that I’ve met Ernie Chambers the Nebraska State Senator who was instrumental in getting the death penalty repealed in Nebraska. I went to a Lutheran College in Seward, Nebraska in the late sixties early seventies and Chambers was invited to speak many times to us on campus. I doubt that he is invited to speak there anymore because things have turned way conservative at the college since then. He was quite an activist way back then, and we all thought he was super cool, he seems to have kept his fire. Good for him.

    On a completely different note, we went to see Mad Max Fury Road in 3D this evening and holy cow I was blown out of my seat. It kept me on the edge the whole throughout. The production credits at the end were quite extensive, it took a lot of people to make that movie.

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  79. Jolene said on May 30, 2015 at 12:11 am

    Sherri, that summary of the Hastert affair is hysterical! Hastert has, of course, been married all these many years, and I heard today that his son was part of his lucrative lobbying practice. I wonder what the wife and son knew. Hope the son has been saving his money, as he will be done too.

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  80. Jill said on May 30, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Congratulations, Dexter. Those results should be good motivation to keep on working on it.

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  81. Dexter said on May 30, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Today’s the day I get my bi-weekly donut. I felt so torn, I gave halvsies to my dog.

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  82. Jolene said on May 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Are you following a specific regimen, Dexter, or just generally limiting calories?

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  83. Dexter said on May 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Jolene, I get tips every day about fat content, starch recommendations, how much fruit to eat, how large a serving of meat to eat, and generally incorporate it into the eating process via the “Healthy Plate”. I have a thick book of hand-outs, so here’s the basic formula:
    1) Use a 9″ plate 2) Fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit. 3)Fill 1/4 your plate with lean protein (a 2-to 3 ounce cooked portion) 4) Fill 1/4 your plate with whole grains or starchy vegetables.
    Just as I cannot have any alcohol, it’s best for me to just not even try to eat ice cream, cake, sugared soda. The twice a month donut is going to have to disappear. Today’s guilt made it a not-pleasant treat. It’s a grind because weight fluctuates daily. I weigh 2 pounds more than yesterday even though all I had for dinner last night was a small green salad. When I lose 14 more pounds I will be lower than my lowest weight in 1994.
    One tip a friend told me: if you get stranded somehow and have to eat fast food grub, order the smallest servings of whatever you want, eat half of everything you ordered, then just chuck the rest into the damn waste can.

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  84. Deborah said on May 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Weight fluctuation is normal, it’s water not fat. I always weigh less in NM and my weight fluctuates a lot in Chicago. I weigh less when I have wine because alcohol dehydrates.

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  85. Dexter said on May 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Deborah, I believe you. When I lost weight in 1994, I still drank one helluva lot of beer. The beer belly is a myth, because alcohol indeed dehydrates a body. I now believe a beer belly is caused by the slim jims, pepperoni pizzas, and fried anything a beer drinker is likely to over-consume.

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  86. Sherri said on May 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    The more I think about the Hastert situation, the more incredulous I grow. This is a man who was third in line in the succession, yet he seems to be dumber than a box of rocks. He doesn’t seem to be aware that banks have to report cash transactions more than $10K, so when his former victim makes himself known and they negotiate a payment, he starts withdrawing $50K chunks of cash, instead of, oh, wiring funds, or hiring the guy to do some “job” for him. The bank calls him in and tells him, look, we have to tell the IRS about this, where’s the money going, and he says, oh, I just don’t trust banks, I’m stuffing it in my mattress, and he promptly starts withdrawing chunks just under $10K. The FBI, unsurprisingly, becomes concerned that something is going on, and contacts him, and Hastert talks to them without a lawyer (who talks to the FBI without a lawyer?), and then lies to the FBI (who doesn’t know that lying to the FBI is a crime?)

    If Gingrich is the stupid person’s idea of a smart person, then I guess Hastert is just the stupid person.

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  87. alex said on May 31, 2015 at 10:00 am

    The social stigma of homosexuality is what, in the past, has given abusers like Hastert their cover. I’m sure he calculated that his victim(s) would never publicly admit what had happened and he probably didn’t give it a second thought when he was lobbying to become Speaker of the House. Doubtless he thought this new position would even further burnish his patina of respectability, and to all the world he looked like a very straight arrow after Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston in the era of Lewinskygate. He knew there weren’t going to be any women coming forward to torpedo his career, and felt safe that no men would either. He was right, until 2010, and it’s not clear whether his victim blackmailed him or he voluntarily tried to hush things up when confronted by the victim. I suppose we’ll be finding out.

    I’ve been saying for years that, anymore, the only people who are fervently, frantically trying to sustain gays’ social status as pariahs are those with a vested interest.

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  88. Deborah said on May 31, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Interesting perspective, Alex. It seems you might have hit the nail on the head, all this time too.

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  89. Deborah said on May 31, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    This woman makes me smile http://m.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/11/1193298/-Elizabeth-Warren-on-the-difference-between-a-recreational-drug-user-and-a-banker?detail=facebook_sf

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  90. brian stouder said on May 31, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Time out on the field!!

    Nance mentioned heartily enjoying Mad Max the other day, and Grant and I just returned from it, and I will agree that the movie is fairly… relentless!

    We saw it in 2-D, which maybe makes a diff, and indeed – I came in knowing it would be that way (thanks to nn.c) – so I might have been a bit jaded at the outset.

    Still, all through the movie I kept wondering about the demographic it was really aimed at (or, in my case, the prejudices of the people who would view it)

    Honest to goodness, and without intentional snark, I thought the thing was targeted upon ‘trailer-park’ residents (and non-trailer-park people’s pereceptions of trailerpark residents)…that is to say, male-dominated, loud-music/car-centered men and older boys in search of women.

    From the fairly incoherent beginning quarter of the movie, and all the way to the end, I never got past that impression

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  91. Deborah said on May 31, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Well Brian, I found it to be a nearly 2 hour chase scene with a woman driver which is rare. It did not let up at all. That was about it but it kept me engaged.

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