I wish I had better pictures of the Detroit Flower House. We saw it in late afternoon, there’s no electricity in the house itself (although some spaces had lighting), and to really do it justice I’d have needed some auxiliary flashes and enough room to maneuver without people constantly walking through the frame.

But that’s OK. An art installation is what it is, and not everything needs to be extensively photographed, although that’s sort of a quaint idea today.

Anyway, the setting was an abandoned house hard by the freeway, a up-and-down two-flat, nothing fancy. The creative driver behind the project, Lisa Waud, bought it and the one next door for a total of $500. The one next door was used for the preview party a few weeks ago, and was decorated in a similar but lesser style for those guests, and its current state of Miss Havisham-like decay gives you an idea what the Flower House, open for three days only, will look like soon enough. Both buildings will be demolished.

So, on to the house:


Tickets were sold by time slot, and guests were given 20 minutes to take themselves through. You went in through one duplex door and exited via the other. Inside, the juxtaposition between decay and fresh plant life on its way to decay was unmistakable:


As you can see, this wasn’t a floral display in the sense of vases and water a pleasing combination of colors and textures to make the eye happy — although my eye was very happy. Rather, it was think-different sort of floral artistry:



The most literal displays were in the kitchen, where this fabulous cornucopia of flowers and vegetables covered a table…


…and probably the most amusing, this room called “In Loo of Flowers.”


And oh yeah, the bedroom. Really could have used a little stepladder to show this one off, but ah well:


Every space had something, including the closets, where I found the use of mushrooms amusing:


The closet ceiling:


In Indiana, they called this space the airing porch:


There were others, but honestly, you can probably find better shots by searching #detroitflowerhouse on Instagram or other social media.

I thought, later, about how younger designers are transforming floral design, moving well beyond the FTD model. A few years ago I met a couple of guys who run a shop here and do fantastic, imaginative displays — they were doing rose cubes (a dozen cut to one length, in a short square vase, with a banana leaf wrapped around the stems in the water) and these rustic daisy bouquets (tied with rough string and stuck into a green Mason jar) years ago, and their stuff has continued to evolve. I love the idea of putting flowers in contrast with decay, tropicals up against succulents and other imaginative renderings. I expect this will put Lisa Waud on the map in a big way. It’s a place she deserves to be.

And that was a big part of the weekend. I don’t have much from the Sunday papers, because I dedicated myself to some overdue cleaning, and neglected the papers. Some stories broke through the static, like this OID special. Talk about a click-bait headline: Pastor kills brick-wielding man during church service. And that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

Does your city have a cat café? Ferndale will, soon. All the dogs will be making prank phone calls.

Anyone watching “The Leftovers” this season? I was wondering how they would go on, as the events of the novel ended the first season. They’re going to Weirdsville, it turns out, and this explainer clears up a lot of the questions you might have.

Finally, if you missed Larry David as Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live,” take 10 minutes and catch up. Totally worth it.

A week awaits us all. Let’s make it work.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life |

59 responses to “Petals.”

  1. MarkH said on October 19, 2015 at 2:50 am

    “When the Bernie Sanders Story hits the big screen, Larry David will have the lead role.”

    — me, at least twice on nn.c in the last four or five months. I was only wrong about the venue. And yes, he and the writers delivered. Priceless.

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  2. Brandon said on October 19, 2015 at 3:12 am

    Anyone watching “The Leftovers” this season?

    Not I.

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  3. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Wow, I wish I could have seen the Flower house. I hope the artist does that other places too, so maybe I’ll have a chance to go sometime.

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  4. Wim said on October 19, 2015 at 4:15 am

    I am watching Leftovers, but we are not damned fanatics about it. The whole thing’s going to go to crap if they ever try to explain it. Or further to crap, perhaps I should say. Anyone trying The Bastard Executioner? Two eps pretty much used up all the goodwill ever generated by Sons of Anarchy.

    Gee that flower house was swell. I wish they did arty things like that around here. All we have are the gun shows and the roadside memorials to the automotive dead.

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  5. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 4:16 am

    Here are some more photos of the Flower House on another one of my favorite blogs

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  6. Joe K said on October 19, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Saw bridge of spies over the weekend,
    Highly recommend going, very well done.
    Vacation starts Wednesday, anyone around Melbourne Fla?
    We will be on the beach.
    Pilot Joe

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  7. Wim said on October 19, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Anybody see the story about the shootings at ZombiCon?

    I had this horrific thought that maybe, just maybe, the shooter didn’t know it was a convention, and thought that there were actual zombies lurching about. No one in the world is trained to shoot zombies like Americans.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

    A Glock, eh? I carry a Bible when I preach, but that’s me. I’d like to think I could handle a guy with a brick without shooting him with a few verses out of Revelation, pale horseman and all, but I’m a big fellow.

    And the level of derangement of some of our intermittent weekday visitors does have us working differently on building security, to be perfectly serious for a moment. I banned opening the Medical Loan Closet if there’s not a second person, no one “buzzed” into the building if the secretary or custodian are alone, a few simple steps like that. But no Glocks. Not gonna happen.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on October 19, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Derangement levels do seem to be ramping up. If everyone else leaves, so do I, even if my work isn’t done. And if our secretary calls down and asks for a certain name, that means call the police. It’s just the price of working at a downtown church.

    We saw a movie too, for the first time in forever, The Martian. It was entertaining.

    Although I didn’t see the debate, watching the SNL clip perfectly encapsulated everything I heard about it afterwards. Hilarious.

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  10. Suzanne said on October 19, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Any regular readers of the FW Journal-Gazette? Don’t miss the letter to the editor in the Sunday paper regarding the 3rd Reich & their gun control policies. I can only hope the author was aiming for satire. Hoping, otherwise we are in trouble in this country. There was an almost equally weird one today.

    By golly, if everybody in the world was armed to the teeth, we’d be living in the peaceable kingdom.

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  11. Julie Robinson said on October 19, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Almost forgot, we took Mom to a fall festival at a dairy farm. She was transported back to childhood, except, of course for the robo-milker, which was pretty amazing. Her folks made a living with 25 cows; now apparently you need 1000. This family is trying to make it with *only* 350, thus the fall festival.

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  12. Peter said on October 19, 2015 at 9:13 am

    That SNL open was fantastic. I think I read an article in the NYT about Larry David where he was called the anti Meryl Strep – no matter what the role is, no matter how he starts out, eventually it will become all about Larry David. What’s not to like?

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  13. Peter said on October 19, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Edit – make that Streep, not Strep. Yeesh.

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  14. coozledad said on October 19, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Suzanne: We’ve been in trouble in this country since the mainstreaming of the racist right put Reagan in the White House. Republicans are now exclusively a white reactionary party. Here’s a sample of the cognitive, linguistic and historical skills set of one of our local apparatchiks- the party was trying to get him a seat on the board of elections. He nearly had it until some enterprising souls pointed out his racist facebook posts.

    He’ll be bitching about losing that seat until whatever is causing his dementia finishes eating his notochord. Life does offer small opportunities for celebration.

    ‘Voting is a privilege, not a right’
    To the editor:
    I would be interested to know where the contributor to Saturday’s Courier- Times learned that there is “a God-given right to vote.”
    Sorry, but neither is there a government-given right to vote.
    Voting is a PRIVILEGE, not a right.
    The U.S. Constitution only addresses the reasons that cannot be used to deny this privilege — sex, age, race, and “previous condition of servitude” are specific examples.
    Understanding that some folks consider housing, food, and perhaps a cell phone as rights, there is no legal provision for those either.
    As for the makeup of the board of elections, the majority of North Carolina’s voters elected a Republican governor, this results in a Republican majority on each of our 100 county boards of election.
    There is no proof of any level of knowledge or information required to exercise the privilege of voting.
    Are we implying that over the next five months, we will have voters who have developed well informed positions upon which to cast their ballot, but can not figure out where to go to cast it?
    If so, that is a sad commentary.

    Racist much?

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  15. Hattie said on October 19, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Flower house is quite inspired.

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  16. brian stouder said on October 19, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I read Cooz’s 14 before I clicked on the kitty cafe’ – and the kitty café turned out to be the perfect palate cleanser.

    This was one area that I always disagreed with Prospero/Caliban; he was given to rant that some people are too stupid to vote, and (sarcastically?) advocated for IQ tests.

    Somewhere, back there in the vapors, this link was posted –

    excerpt from the lead:

    Which constitutional right is the most important? You might answer “freedom of speech” or “free exercise” of religion. Some think it’s “the right to keep and bear arms.” Criminal lawyers think of the guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” trial lawyers of jury trial in civil cases.

    But which right appears most often in the Constitution’s text?

    It’s “the right to vote.”

    …and it is very good stuff, still

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  17. alex said on October 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Suzanne, I checked those out. At least the Sunday letter writer is smart enough to know what a Matisse is. If only he were bright enough to recognize that it takes a hand more deft than his to write satire.

    The one published today gives me the willies. And I hate to say it, but it looks like Ben Carson has made blame-the-victims holocaust and slavery revisionism a new national pastime.

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  18. brian stouder said on October 19, 2015 at 11:03 am

    And speaking of intellectually fraudulent Germans –

    WASHINGTON (AP) — “Aren’t diesels dirty?” asks the grandmother in the passenger seat of the gleaming new VW Golf SportWagen. “Diesel in Latin means ‘dirty,'” chimes in another friend in the backseat.

    To prove them wrong, the gray-haired driver gets out and holds her white scarf up to the tailpipe of the purring car.”See how clean it is!” she exclaims, holding up the spotless shawl. The Federal Trade Commission is now reviewing whether that 30-second spot and others like it touting Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” engines amount to fraud, adding a new avenue for U.S. regulators to punish the German automaker for its emissions-rigging deception.

    So the question is, is this fraud??

    Is the Pope Catholic?

    Is the North Pole up north?

    Is the deep blue sea full of wet things?

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  19. Judybusy said on October 19, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Wow, the flower house was really amazing–I will have to look at more pictures later. I also try to be a good worker and not watch videos at work, as they suck up a lot of bandwith. So, the Sanders vid too, will wait.

    My partner worked 3 twelve-hour shifts this weekend, so I hung out with the dog, cat and some Inspector Lewis and Grantchester. I’m listening to Follet’s “Pillars of the Earth” a great accompaniament to doing garden clean up and planting more bulbs.

    My county workplace has a large screen TV in the public area (why?!) and the headline I saw was a poll indicating Clinton and Carson are neck and neck. WTF? He’s so off base.

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  20. Dorothy said on October 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Loved the flower house. I’m trying to figure out in my mind how many people it took to do that. Because flowers don’t necessarily look fresh for very long once you’ve done something like that with them. It’s quite an undertaking and very, very impressive.

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  21. Hattie said on October 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    It would interest me to see the flower house after plant decay had set in.

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  22. brian stouder said on October 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Well, if art imitates life, I’d say this art is imitating our marvelously colorful autumn, within a structure that is clearly in the autumn-stage of its existence.

    This past weekend, between wedding duties in Plainfield Indiana (just west of Indy), Pam and the girls and I visited a corn maze (someone somewhere must call this a maize maze, yes?)/apple orchard festival, which was quite nice; I’d never done one of those before.

    Big fun, in general

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  23. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    This is my big Dr visit time, last week it was the eye Dr, today was my physical with my regular Dr. I shrunk again, I lost another inch. I’m 5′ 7″ now. I had a bone density test again. Last time I was borderline for having osteoporosis so this time I’ve probably flipped into the zone of having it. I’m also getting a test later this afternoon to check my carotid artery, just routine but there have been a lot of strokes in my family. Thurs I go to a dermatologist to check on my sun spots and Friday I have a colonoscopy, it’s time to redo that since it’s been 10 years since the last one, not looking forward to Friday. I had a flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine today, never heard of that but once you turn 65 it’s recommended. this is making me feel really, really old. Mostly it’s all routine and preventative steps but it makes one realize that the body does breakdown and you have to keep checking on it.

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  24. brian stouder said on October 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Sounds like a genuine hassle – but, there is ‘peace of mind’ at hand, when you come out on the other side of the testing

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  25. Scout said on October 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    The Flower House is really cool. I’m posting it to the attention of a few creatives here in Phx hoping maybe someone will make one here. One thing we are getting here in a few months is a Cat Cafe. Looking forward to that.

    We’ve been watching two excellent Masterpiece Theatre productions on Sunday evenings; Home Fires and Indian Summers. We recently binge watched the first two seasons of Last Tango in Halifax on Netflix. Highly recommended.

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  26. Jolene said on October 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Dorothy, the report at the link Deborah posted (@5) says that “dozens of volunteers” spent three solid days assembling the Flower House, so you are right–lots of work. I particularly liked what they did with some of the smaller spaces, i.e., not the walls and ceilings, but the seat of a chair, the bed, the bathtub, and the closet with a few remaining items of clothing. (See Deborah’s link and a link within it for more pics.)

    A couple of times in the past year or so, I’ve had occasion to send flowers to my sister and/or her daughter in Seattle. I like to avoid the FTD arrangements for most things, as they always seem stiff and too traditional. I googled “best florists in Seattle” and got a list that included Terra Bella Flowers. They try to use plants grown locally, and their arrangements are a bit more creative and natural-looking. Wish I could buy myself treats like this on a regular basis.

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  27. Joe K said on October 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Rugby World Cup 2015: Why rugby always attracts more women than football
    At this year’s Rugby World Cup, Jim White has spotted far more women in the stands than he ever has at a football game. Here he finds out why





    Being a former player I found this interesting, love the way the Brits write
    If you run across any World Cup rugby on the Telly, watch for a few minutes it’s way better than American football.
    The lady sitting behind the press seats during the USA’s Rugby World Cup encounter with Samoa appeared to be on a one-woman mission. She was clearly out to debunk the long-held misogynist myth that females don’t understand the intricacies of grown-up sport.
    In an insistent bawl that might well have disturbed the residents of the nearby graveyard, she kept up a match-long one-way dialogue with the referee, taking him to task whenever she believed he had missed an on-pitch transgression. In truth, some of his apparent shortcomings required the most esoteric knowledge of the laws of the game to spot. She, however, had spotted them all.

    Irish rugby fans getting the ciders in at the World Cup match against Romania
    “Sir, he was coming in from the wrong side. Sir how could you miss that?” she shouted at one point. Then, moments later: “Sir, number seven, watch him, he’s offside, Sir, Sir, he’s offside goddammit.” And on that occasion, according to those who understand these things, in a neat undermining of all cosy male assumption, she was absolutely right: the Samoan number seven was indeed offside.
    Speaking to her after the final whistle, the noisy critic in question explained her somewhat didactic approach to the game.
    “I find with sports in general and rugby in particular, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” said Laura Martins, who is originally from Connecticut but now lives in England. “I really enjoy the technical part of the game. I dunno, when I go to games I just like to help the referee with his decision making.”
    And the thing is, though not all of them share her approach to informing the man in charge of his limitations, Ms Martins is by no means alone when it comes to being a woman at the rugby. What has been intriguing about this Rugby World Cup has been the significant number of female fans in the crowd.

    Female Namibia fans take a selfie when the team plays Tonga
    Admittedly solely through personal observation rather than any accurate statistical measure, it seems to me there are far more women coming to RWC games over the past fortnight than you would see at a Premier League football match, for instance. All sorts of ages, too, from small girls to pensioners.
    “We go to matches all time,” said Joanna Brown, who was standing with her husband outside the hugely popular Teague’s Bar alongside the Kingsholm stadium in Gloucester, ahead of Argentina’s game against Georgia. “It’s something we’ve taken up in a big way since the kids left home. It’s a hobby we can do together that we both enjoy, if you like.”
    And their togetherness seemed to extend to their attire – the pair of them were sporting the red and white striped shirt of Gloucester Rugby – and their pre-match sustenance: they both were cradling a pint.
    “Where better to come than to watch Wales play England for a hen do?”
    Rugby fan
    But, although many of those at the matches so far have been in couples or family groups, female fans are not just coming along with their fathers, boyfriends, partners and husbands. At every game I have been to, there have been plenty of women-only parties.
    Take the jovial, chortling, giggling gaggle of some dozen women dressed as daffodils who had congregated under the giant statute of a line-out in front of Twickenham, ahead of the England against Wales match. It turned out they had come from Swansea for a hen weekend.
    “Where better to come than to watch Wales play England?” said one of them when asked if this was not an unusual venue for a pre-nuptial get-together. “We’ll all go off into London after and if Wales win, then it will set us up nicely won’t it?”
    You imagine, after Wales’s last-ditch victory, the evening went with a swing. Particularly given the muscular conditioning of the players, better than any performance by the Chippendales. Though for most of those women in attendance I spoke to, it is not the broad shoulders and taught thighs on display that have piqued their interest.
    Watching on as the hens cavorted for the television cameras, were Jane Waterhouse and Sylvia Cobbold from Coventry. A mother and daughter, they had come down together from the Midlands.
    “I’ve been watching the rugby for 57 years, since I first met my husband,” said Cobbold. “I’ve always gone to see England, but since Wasps came to Coventry, my daughter and I have been converts to their games as well. We just really enjoy the way the game is played, the sportsmanship as much as anything.”
    Her daughter, it turned out, had developed the watching habit after becoming involved as a volunteer at her local rugby club.

    Female Ireland fans at the match between Ireland and Romania
    “I think you’ll find a lot of those keeping rugby’s grassroots going are women,” said Waterhouse. “I’m the junior chair of our local club, and mum sells the kit there. I went along when my sons first started, but my youngest is thirty now and I’m still part of the club. We can get tickets for the big games through the club and mum and I love coming to them together.”
    Rugby, she felt, provided a unique opportunity for them to watch live sport.
    “Two women on our own we’ve no worries coming here. I’d never want to do that at football. Never in a million years would mum and I go to the football. She’s in her eighties.”
    Though she admitted she had never actually been to a football game, Waterhouse was unconsciously revealing a common attitude among those who do attend live rugby: she believed as a middle-aged woman she would not be so welcome at the football.
    “Women who go to live sport tend to go to one or the other,” explained Dr Stacey Pope, of the University of Durham, who has made a study of female supporting habits. “I’ve interviewed a lot of both football and rugby fans and there is very little overlap. What sport you follow plays an important role in your identity.”
    “There’s been so much hype around the Rugby World Cup that may have encouraged women to go to see what the fuss is about.”
    Dr Stacey Pope
    Roughly speaking, according to Pope, football supporters tend to identify themselves as working class while rugby supporters see themselves as middle class.
    “Though that’s breaking down, it’s still usually the case,” she added. “And they tend to ascribe their own values to the sport they watch. So female football fans who have been to rugby find some of the conventions – such as remaining silent during penalty kicks – a little constrictive. They believe the crowd’s role is to participate and attempt to influence what is going on on the pitch. Likewise, women who follow rugby find football crowds hostile and intimidating.”
    And, she suggested, it may be the class origins of the supporters that had led to the apparent surge in numbers of women attending Rugby World Cup games. From more middle class backgrounds they have more disposable income, and perhaps less gender-restrictive domestic arrangements.
    “That said,” she added, “the British are big fans of the live event. There was an increase in female supporters at both Euro96 and even as far back as the 1966 World Cup. And don’t forget the Olympic experience. There’s been so much hype around the Rugby World Cup that may have encouraged women to go to see what the fuss is about.”
    Meanwhile, in Gloucester, Brown came up with a more trenchant reason why she and her husband preferred to follow the oval rather then the round ball.
    “We live in Gloucester,” she said. “There’s not exactly a lot of good football to watch round here is there?”
    Though that may be a little harsh on Gloucester City, stalwart members of the National League North, you can see her point. Especially as City these days play their matches 10 miles down the road in Cheltenham.
    Pilot Joe

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  28. alex said on October 19, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Why rugby always attracts more women than football

    Football players don’t get pantsed.

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  29. Wim said on October 19, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    You know you can post a link, right, Joe?

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  30. Jolene said on October 19, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Good TV choices, Scout. I also really liked Last Tango. Am currently following Home Front. Haven’t gotten to Indian Summers yet, but it’s on my list. Also on PBS was The Widower, a three-part presentation of a real-world story about a man who murdered his first wife, tried to murder a second wife, and seemed to be planning to deep-six a girlfriend when he was finally arrested. Not the absolutely best drama I’ve ever seen, but good enough and especially creepy because it really happened. Available through the PBS channel on OnDemand.

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  31. Jolene said on October 19, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Meant to mention: A new season of Fargo has started on FX. Second episode is tonight, so there’s time to catch up. And, yes, I watch too much TV.

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  32. Joe K said on October 19, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    For some reason it wouldn’t, could be operator error,
    Alex, very true, I also watched a documentary on a gay rugby club in Chicago great bunch of guys, would be proud to play for them, the funniest thing, they played another gay club from Atlanta and wanted to win the match, so they wouldn’t have to say they got beat by a bunch of gay guys.
    Pilot Joe

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  33. Judybusy said on October 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Scout, thanks for the reccies. Inspector Lewis is now only available on DVD on Netflix, but my library has most, so I’ll get through them.

    Deborah, sounds like you’re getting an overhaul! I’m sure you’ll be in good health. You sound like you do a lot to stay healthy. Good luck with all.

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  34. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    A few years ago I decided to always have fresh flowers in the house. I usually buy them at Trader Joes where they’re really inexpensive. The Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe has excellent flowers, better than the one I go to in Chicago. I don’t buy flowers so much in Chicago anymore because nearly every surface in our place here has architectural models on them because my husband moved his practice to our condo instead of having a separate studio elsewhere.

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  35. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Speaking of football players and pants, this is pretty funny you may have to watch it a few times to catch it.

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  36. Jolene said on October 19, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    I dunno, Deborah, I think you’d have to be fairly inattentive to miss the key moment!

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  37. Deborah said on October 19, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Me too, Jolene. I saw it right away, but I’ve heard a few people say they had to watch it 2 or 3 times.

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  38. alex said on October 19, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Perky little one there.

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  39. basset said on October 19, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    And if you’re gonna play on a traveling rugby side, you have to raise gas money some way…

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  40. Dexter said on October 20, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I hope the baby has lots of flowers at a huge funeral. I just could not get this off my mind all day long. Do not read this if you are prone to nightmares, I am serious. Jeff TMMO, maybe you can understand how these factors result in this finality. Shitty house trailer, mother off somewhere, grandmother and others leaving a 90 day old baby with this damn maniac…just down Route 127 three hours from me…

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  41. Dexter said on October 20, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Joe…years ago I stopped in what must have been Lincoln Park, Chicago, and watched some of a rugby match. Some papers began blowing around and I picked up some of them to trash them, when one caught my eye…it was a drunkard’s cheer, a poem of sorts with many verses, but this is the lead stanza and it stuck with me:
    “We’re the boys from Illinois
    We live in caves and ditches
    We bang our cocks on jagged rocks…
    We’re rugged sons-a-bitches! “

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  42. Jerry said on October 20, 2015 at 3:08 am

    Dexter, there s a strong history in rugby of songs and song sheets – practically all of which are more or less obscene. And lots of them with multiple verses. After the match both teams would drink in the clubhouse and sing, drunkenly, mainly out of tune and at great length. Many of the songs are obscene, mysogynistic and homophobic – but mostly sung with no thought of offence. It was not uncommon for all to be in full song when on noticing someone’s wife had entered everyone would quieten down with many apologies for any possible offence.

    Of course Pilot Joe may have a different experience.

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  43. David C. said on October 20, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Canada has a new PM. So far, the Canadians I know are ecstatic.

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  44. Suzanne said on October 20, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Wow, Dexter, there was a baby killed nearly the same was a few weeks ago in Portland Indiana. Mom’s boyfriend took the baby & smaked its head against the sidewalk. So, so sad.

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  45. Jolene said on October 20, 2015 at 10:14 am

    In NYC, there’ve been at least two recent incidents of babies dying because a parent threw them from an apartment window. Really horrible that people get to that point before they get some sort of help.

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  46. Jolene said on October 20, 2015 at 10:41 am

    James Fallows is having an interesting discussion with his readers about various facets of reading physical books vs. reading ebooks. To get to the beginning, scroll down to The Way We Read Now; then scroll back up for two more entries. All fairly short.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 20, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I would note that in child murder by parents, like child sexual abuse, the biggest change in the last few decades hasn’t been an increase in incidence (to the degree that we can even be sure about past numbers) but the openness with which we approach it.

    Old newspapers with a very different approach to news and narrative, of the 1800s (c. 1820-1880s) around Ohio reveal a startling number of mothers killing children and men killing their families. Often in an outlying farmstead, or off a rural railroad trestle, but still breathlessly described in lurid detail. In and after the 1890s, these stories largely vanish except when there is some law enforcement or legal involvement that brings the matter to trial, and even then, you see the particular obscurities of American Victorian mores.

    My own sense of the molestation and abuse of young girls in the 20s and 30s and 40s is from years of pastoral conversations with elderly women in homes and convalescent facilities and by hospital beds. Horrible things happened, not infrequently, and they were not spoken of, and the papers never touched them. Sometimes a man was taken out back and beaten senseless, to wake up to his trunk or bags next to his head out by the road; sometimes young men were sent “out West,” occasionally a man of “no account” would disappear, and even the girl, now an old woman, would say in a certain tone “and we never knew what happened to him.” If there was a pregnancy, she was sent across a state line for a few months, because of rheumatic fever or some such. She’d usually come back wan and weary enough to support the story, too.

    Sadly, we seem to have no better idea how to stop this behavior in families than we did back then. And today the transparency also makes it a tough sell quite often to get a family to press charges, or to go to trial. I wouldn’t go back, but we’re certainly not done going forward. My often benign work in school refusal and truancy ends up backing into these sorts of stories quite often, and you have to have an ear for what’s not being said in order to offer help in the right direction… and I too often end up hearing enough to “know,” but not having enough of the right words to move the family to taking action, legally or otherwise.

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  48. nancy said on October 20, 2015 at 11:21 am

    You’ve mentioned this before, Jeff, and I think you’re right. Brutality, sexual and otherwise, toward children is, sadly, nothing new. A friend of mine who does mental-health work with poor people said she would estimate at least 70 percent of her clients have some form of sexual abuse in their backgrounds. Another friend who grew up one rung above hardscrabble rural poverty said she was fighting off various uncles, older cousins and family friends from puberty on. When she told her mother, her mother blamed her for being “too friendly” to others. I think it was especially common for children with disabilities like deafness or mental impairment — easier, quieter victims.

    I think I’ve told this story before, but here goes again: I wrote a couple of columns about a reunion of residents of a children’s home in Fort Wayne, one of those places that’s disappeared in the modern era — not for orphans, but for kids whose parents were having a hard time and couldn’t keep them anymore. So: Single parents, families knocked down by the Depression, that sort of thing. They didn’t give you money so you could keep your family together, but took your kids into a group home and you got them back when you could support them again. Some kids stayed a year, some stayed five, some even more. Parents visited on the weekends. Like prison.

    Anyway, one woman who spent time there organized this reunion, and was full of merry tales about shared activities and chores and school and lining up for the weekly dose of cod-liver oil, etc. Kind of like “Annie” or “The Cider House Rules,” minus the abortions. All this went in the column. After it was published, I got a letter in an elderly woman’s hand. It told a story of a weekly visit by some traveling vendor which ended with fumbling assaults in a broom closet.

    She said she wouldn’t be attending the reunion.

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  49. brian stouder said on October 20, 2015 at 11:48 am

    It is an amazing world, isn’t it?

    Chance – fortunate or unfortunate – cannot be escaped.

    And if you want to actually try and do something constructive and all-inclusive, you’re a ‘socialist’.

    Are squirrels socialists?

    I suppose beavers are capitalists. If your homestead gets flooded because of his industry – too bad!

    And vulture-capitalists are perfectly fine human beings, b’gosh

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  50. Suzanne said on October 20, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Jeff, I’ve heard similar stories of abuse from older women in my neck of the woods, especially one well respected parochial school teacher who apparently had wandering hands and was horrible to his own children. No one ever reported it because you just didn’t talk about such things.

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  51. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Nancy, I’ve got a binful of those sorts of children’s home stories, and it’s sad and yet marvelous that so many had warm, lovely, happy memories of the place (I worked for years inside the building that had once been one, we got visitors almost every week, laying to rest ghosts of the past or towing grandchildren to tell them “how it once’t was”), while not a few were filled with rage and horror stories. Were they both right, those two sides? I often think they were.

    And a glimpse of . . . the “new journalism”? Or at least the newest journalistic environment:

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  52. brian stouder said on October 20, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Read this in ‘cranky old-coot’ voice. The whole thing positively radiates the putrid essence of sour Shinola…

    and remember, this is regarding an election in a middle school…in (enemy-held?) San Francisco!!

    a random excerpt:

    There were no allegations of voter intimidation or voter fraud. There were no reports of hanging chads. And there were no incidents involving ballot boxes that malfunctioned. So what was the problem?

    The problem, it appears, is that the principal didn’t like who got the most votes. In other words – too many white kids got elected.

    Todd Starnes appears to want to be the lunatic-version of old Paul Harvey.

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  53. Deborah said on October 20, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    When I was in college a friend of a friend of mine stabbed her 2 week old baby with a meat fork while she was bathing him. Because the baby pooped in the bath water. This was a “good” Lutheran girl. The baby lived, the mother spent some time in a mental institution and later the child was returned to her. I don’t know what happened after that. The mother was married and stayed married after that. It horrified me when I heard about it, to the point that I have remembered it all these years.

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  54. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    If I’ve learned anything these last few years, it’s that we know very little about what mental health “is.” We have some handy labels that fit some of the simpler problems, and some tools in therapy and medication that do have a real and beneficial impact on many particular problems of mental and emotional malfunction, whatever the cause.

    But go do some search engine trolling in the depths of the internet on “happiness studies” — it’s fascinating in the extreme that we don’t know and can’t define what happiness is, nor do we have any effective tools, psychological or spiritual, that consistently help people get from general unhappiness to happiness more generally.

    No one knows, except Jimmy Buffett, and he’s not even interested in being too terribly specific about it, other than beaches and boat drinks.

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  55. Jolene said on October 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Jeff, are you familiar with the work of Marty Seligman at Penn? About the time I stopped reading the psychological literature, he launched a body of work on the bases of human happiness and a sense of meaning in life. You can find a brief bio and links to some of the most readily available aspects of his work (i.e., books rather than journal articles) here. He is clinical psychologist who spent many years analyzing the roots of and treatments for depression before turning his attention to identifying factors that promote human flourishing. For a first look into what he has done, click on the link to the Positive Psychology Center at the bottom of the bio and the Theory of Well-Being in the upper right corner of the page.

    Much of his work is very accessible, by which I mean you don’t need graduate-level training in research methods and statistics to appreciate it.

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  56. Jolene said on October 20, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    For a research-based approach to the issue of finding/promoting happiness and meaningfulness, see the work of Jane Dutton at the University of Michigan. Skim the lengthy bio at this link, and scroll down to a list of publications. Then click to Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations for more info.

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  57. Jolene said on October 20, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Whoops! Left out a key phrase in the preceding post. Should be “happiness and meaningfulness at work.”

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  58. David C. said on October 20, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    My mom tells me that when I was a baby, she bit me on the arm. She and my dad were at a cottage with all my aunts and uncles. They were out having fun, she was stuck inside with a fussy baby. Sometimes parents snap, even good ones. I have no memory of it, of course, and nothing even remotely like that ever happened again, so I have no psychological scars from it. Knowing that, though, I try not to judge too harshly. Sometimes, that’s pretty difficult.

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  59. coozledad said on October 20, 2015 at 7:08 pm

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