Why bother?

The other day we watched “Hunger,” which is not “The Hunger,” the sexy, vapid vampire movie directed by Tony Scott, and not “The Hunger Games,” the franchise I lost interest in after part two, but a grim, grim, incredibly grim account of the IRA hunger strikes of the early ’80s in Belfast’s notorious Maze Prison. I knew a little about this, having lived through that era and also, having read “Say Nothing,” the recent history of Northern Ireland, but there was something about seeing it on the screen that underlined just how bleak and ghastly that whole era was, pitting the bullheaded Margaret Thatcher against the even more bullheaded Irish Republican Army, and in the end 10 men starved themselves to death in a brutal prison, to get the attention of the world.

And succeeded, I might add. But what a cost.

Early on, we see the largely self-imposed, horrific conditions the men are living under. They refuse to wear prison clothes because, they say, they aren’t criminals but political prisoners, and won’t wear the uniform of criminals. They want to wear their own clothing. The warden won’t agree to this, so they’re sent to their cells nude, with blankets to cover themselves. That was the so-called blanket protest. Then they used the only weapons at their disposal — their excrement and urine — and smeared the walls of their cells with the former, and poured the latter out into the hallways from under the doors of their cells. This was the “dirty protest.”

(Excrement and urine and other bodily fluids are prison weapons of long standing, any guard can tell you. Or Clarice Starling, who has semen thrown in her face in “The Silence of the Lambs,” as you’ll recall.)

Anyway, I don’t recommend this film for a bleak January night, although it is very good, and Michael Fassbender really outdoes himself prepping for the role of Bobby Sands; he dieted himself down to a veritable skeleton.

Also anyway, I am not sure how to explain how I got onto this, but… oh, right. I was telling Alan that I find myself whipsawed madly between wanting to put on some damn nice clothes and go SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE AND KROGER, goddamnit, or just giving up putting on any clothes at all. Since it’s been cold, I’m wearing longjanes most days, and when I come inside, I take off my pants and go around the house in my underwear. My own little blanket protest.

The new, easier-to-catch Covid variant has now been identified at the University of Michigan, which means it’s everywhere, and we’re far from the top of any vaccination priority list, so now we wait. Through the rest of the winter and likely into the spring and who knows, maybe the summer. I hope Biden’s plan gets moving. Flood the damn zone with that stuff.

Because we all know the potential alternative. Condolences, again, to Dexter on the loss of his Carla Lee.

And condolences to anyone who is missing Larry King, even though I can’t imagine why. I was Googling around and found that I wrote about Larry in 2010, but I really wrote about James Wolcott’s hilarious Larry takedown, published after Michael Jackson died. It’s linked within, and I suggest you read it.

Of course Mitch Albom rose to bravely defend King’s moronic interviewing style, but I won’t link to that. You can find it easily enough.

I will link to this NYT piece, by their excellent health reporter, interviewing Dr. Fauci on what it was really like to work for Dipshit Don.

Time to rewrap my blanket and go rustle up dinner, then. The week awaits.

Posted at 6:27 pm in Current events | 41 Comments

Happy anniversary to us.

Wednesday — or maybe it’s Thursday — will be the 20-damn-year anniversary of this stupid blog. Why am I still here? What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve been doing this so long that I was ahead of the curve to even start a blog, plowed through when they collapsed, and now anticipate another swell, now that the psychopaths are being kicked off the social-media platforms.

J.C. got me into this. His blog is still alive, but it has gone into hibernation for months at a time, hell, maybe years. He recently resurrected it, but the last entry was a month ago, so: I guess I win.

I mention J.C. because in my estate folder, there’s an envelope with his name on it. It contains the passwords to all my social media accounts, and bequeaths the millions and millions of words here to him. If he survives me, I ask that he kill my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever other social-media foolishness I get myself into, and in return, he can do whatever he wants with this thing. Publish it as the world’s longest book, download it to a hard drive and fire it into the sun, whatever he thinks best.

But who knows when that will happen? For now, we celebrate! Open the champagne! Put on some peppy tunes! And let’s hope we’re still here in 2021. Alan will be around shortly with the canapés.

But I guess most of you would rather discuss the other momentous event happening Wednesday. I gotta say, every photo I see of Trump looking defeated and pouty is like sweet sweet her-oyne going right up the main line. I expect at least one network I can get via Hulu will cover it live, and if not, there’s always the internet. But I want to see this on a wiiiide screen. It’s not porn; porn would be any Trump or cabinet member taking a perp walk in handcuffs. But it’ll do.

Speaking of deep satisfaction, check this out: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran an editorial calling for Sen. Ron Johnson to resign. He bitched and demanded a response, which they allowed him to submit. But! The editors footnoted it. It’s hilarious.

Oh, and this: The just-released 1776 report? Has a major cut-and-paste section.

Read it between swearings-in. Our long national nightmare is…not over, but not quite as awful as it was maybe yesterday.

Posted at 9:00 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 140 Comments

The rabbit hole of one’s navel.

My “big” Christmas present this year — no, last year — is an Apple Watch. I told Alan it was too extravagant, but he didn’t have a better idea, so now I have Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist TV strapped to my arm, and I kinda like it.

A committed and unapologetic Apple cult member, I hadn’t felt the need to pull the trigger on the watch until recently. With typical master of the universe skill and timing, Apple has, in a pandemic, gone all in on “health” with the latest model, and I am SO THERE for it.

However. I have some thoughts.

First, what I like: The A.W. is the first fully immersible fitness tracker I’ve cared to own, and one reason I was looking forward to our trip to Florida was for the chance to test it out in our condo complex’s 25-yard pool (with two lap lanes!). It worked, well, swimmingly. As a lap swimmer who’s been deprived of water for months, it was frankly thrilling to, first, actually get in a pool, and then to be able to read all about it afterward. And boy, was I able to read about it.

This thing tracks the number of laps you turn and your total yardage — yes, all things you could carry in your head if you can keep focused enough to count while you’re swimming — as well as your heart rate and range. And it even knows what strokes I did. Sorcery! How do it know? (I’m sure J.C. will be forwarding me some links within a few minutes.) I mean, I can figure it out, a little — breaststroke has a distinctly different arm motion than freestyle, and I guess it can detect it — but backstroke is far more similar, and it picked up my single backstroke 50. Sorcery! Satellites! Spycams!

It also does a million other things: Tracks your heart rate and rhythm, your blood oxygen, your periods (shoved that one off to the side, crone that I am), and of course your movements. I enabled every notification, to see which ones I want to live with, and which I can do without. When I was drying my hands in an airport bathroom, it told me that I was in a 100-decibel environment and that wasn’t good for my ears. The hand washing timer is sometimes a pain, but not too bad. I’m reminded to take a moment every so often to do some deep breathing. It tells me to stand for one minute every hour. Needless to say, you can add apps for food and sleep and really dive down the rabbit hole of your own navel. And so on.

And that brings me to the thing I least like: The prodding. While the data can translate to real accountability — it’s a lot harder to skip a workout when you know your watch will be sending notifications like “you still have time!” — I also try to be aware of how it’s leading me around by the nose.

I subscribed to the NYT crossword about a year ago, because I like doing crosswords online, but I hate-hate-hate the “streak” feature, which keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve successfully solved the puzzle. My nature runs to good-studenthood, and whether it’s my watch or my crossword puzzle, anything that pats me on the back and says good job! is going to sucker me in. I don’t like to be like this. And yet I am.

That said, I should probably try to get a workout in later today. Also, let’s take a moment to savor the irony that many of the rioters who invaded the Capitol would refuse to get a Covid vaccine for fear of being microchipped, but willingly carried smartphones with them as they climbed through the broken windows; i.e., they microchipped themselves. LOL. Pro tip from every law enforcement officer in the world: If you’re gonna do a crime, leave your phone at home.

So much good journalism about the Capitol riot, but if I had one piece to recommend, it might be this New Yorker piece, but it’s the New Yorker, so you may face a paywall. Still, it’s very you-are-there:

When Babbitt was shot, I was on the opposite side of the Capitol, where people were growing frustrated by the empty halls and offices.

“Where the fuck are they?”

“Where the fuck is Nancy?”

No one seemed quite sure how to proceed. “While we’re here, we might as well set up a government,” somebody suggested.

Then a man with a large “AF ” flag—college-age, cheeks spotted with acne—pushed through a series of tall double doors, the last of which gave onto the Senate chamber.

“Praise God!”

There were signs of a hasty evacuation: bags and purses on the plush blue-and-red carpet, personal belongings on some of the desks. From the gallery, a man in a flak jacket called down, “Take everything! Take all that shit!”

“No!” an older man, who wore an ammo vest and held several plastic flex cuffs, shouted. “We do not take anything.” The man has since been identified as Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

The young America Firster went directly to the dais and installed himself in the leather chair recently occupied by the Vice-President. Another America Firster filmed him extemporizing a speech: “Donald Trump is the emperor of the United States…”

Ai-yi-yi, these people.

OK, back to the Sunday papers and errands.

Posted at 12:49 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 86 Comments

Belated postcards.

And now we have returned. It was a nice trip, a too-short trip, but we’re back, and I guess I’m as happy as one can be, when one has returned from a warm, light-filled climate to a cold, dark one. Not that the weather was perfect when we were there. It was warm, but overcast, and when it was sunny, it was chilly. “Chilly” is a relative term, of course; say… 64 degrees.

In Key West, you can spot the locals because they’re the ones wearing down puffer jackets when it’s 64 degrees.

They also ride bikes everywhere. The last time I was there, literally 40 years ago, it was more of a ramshackle place, and there were cars and parking spaces to go with them. Now the big money has flowed in, and money changes, and ruins, everything. Not that Key West is ruined, but it’s definitely a richer place now. There’s far less parking. And here’s the big thing: Everyone locks their bikes now. I don’t remember this from 1980. The bikes were crap — single-speed things that didn’t even have handlebar grips, half the time. They’re not much better now. But you still better lock it up.

Mostly, it was nice to get away. I know it was irresponsible, but it was as responsible as travel can be now, I guess: Tested negative ahead of time, masked through the entire airport/flight, drove down in a car, stayed in a condo, masked here there and everywhere, etc. Alan got his day of flats fishing, I did some reading, it was fine and fun.

Of course I told myself I was going to try to unplug from the news for a while. Of course this was impossible, after Wednesday. About which I have little to add, except that I’m so glad this horrible era is ending, kinda. More or less. A new chapter, anyway.

How about some pictures?

Here’s a Hemingway cat, displaying what makes him special.

Chicken in a tree:

The line — yes, the line — to take a picture at the Southernmost Point:

Two final notes before the weekend arrives: Let’s keep the best thoughts, the best prayers, for Dexter’s wife, who is in intensive care with Covid. We wish her the very best.

Finally, a history of the Trump era through stories about toilets. Yes:

From the very beginning, the First Couple experienced the White House primarily as a place with dissatisfactory facilities for depositing their bodily waste. Melania delayed her move into the residence, former senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff revealed, because she “didn’t want to move to the White House right away in part because she didn’t want to have to use the same shower and toilet as former first lady Michelle Obama.”

The president soon began to take pride in the elegant appearance of the White House lavatories. Trump “has an odd affinity for showing off bathrooms, including one he renovated near the Oval Office,” reported the Times in 2017.

What wonderful people.

Posted at 8:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 74 Comments

A satisfactory result.

This winning stuff feels good, and I for one am not tired of it yet.

Still, going forward a few things are clear now: We’re still pretty fucked. When “counting votes” becomes known as “a dump,” we’re fucked. Until the MAGAts from “Qtah” and elsewhere move on to collecting vintage farm implements or Barbies or something, my guess is, we’re fucked. Winning these elections is important, but as we all know, the margins were tight enough to let us know: We’re fucked, at least for a while.

I’m reminded, while watching tantrums like this…

…and this…

…that many of these people aren’t really into politics so much as they are just into licking Donald Trump’s boots. They still haven’t learned the first rule of politics: Win some, lose some. The ol’ Time in the Wilderness cliché. And so on. So they’ll either grow up a little and learn what this is all about, or…not. Cults that don’t explode in dramatic fashion (Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate) tend to trickle away, a little at a time, as followers become disillusioned. I don’t see Trump leading a mass suicide, so we can hope for the trickle.

Meanwhile, a Trump lawyer who advanced crackpot legal gambits and possible felonies resigned from her respectable law firm, and that, too, is good news. The sooner real consequences are faced, the better.

And now for the main event, the certification and whatever violence the Proud Boys get up to today. Making the popcorn now.

Also, signing out for our trip to Florida. We have our negative Covid tests, we have our KN95 masks, we have TSA Pre to avoid the lines. Traveling may be irresponsible, but we are trying to be responsible in our irresponsibility. Maybe a photo post between now and next week, but if not, rest assured we are relaxing.

Posted at 8:47 am in Current events | 252 Comments

HNY and the bar is lowered, yet again.

I knew I forgot to do something yesterday. Probably because I was distracted by my chin dragging on the ground, after the Georgia phone call dropped.

I honestly don’t know what to say about it. There’s no shortage of outrage, certainly, and what could I possibly add? This call is worse than the Access Hollywood tape, but again — nothing will be done about it. We might get to see more entertaining breaks in the GOP, but it won’t make up for the terrible damage being done to the country.

I so vividly remember Inauguration Day 2016. I was working, sitting in the living room of a Muslim family in Dearborn, and at the moment Trump raised his right hand and began repeating the oath, I had a near out-of-body experience. How can this be happening? This…game-show host, this huckster, this con man, this sexual assailant becoming president? Now we know, I guess; this country is far worse, far more fucked, than we ever believed.

:::touches earpiece::: Wait, I just received an email from GoDaddy that it’s time to renew my registration of this site’s URL, which prompted me to do some math, and realized that January 21 will be this stupid fucking blog’s 20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY.

I have to sit down now. Oh right, I already am.

I never intended for things to go on this long, but I guess you keep putting one foot in front of the other, and they do. I guess I’d better start planning the fireworks display and celebration for later this month then, right?

Hope your New Year’s weekend was great. Mine was fine. Had an epic NYE – paella with friends, followed by Stevie Nicks twirling in the hostess’ Christmas kimono. Then a chill, relaxing long weekend. Alan’s last day in journalism (for now) is tomorrow, and we leave for Florida at the end of the week.

So sorry to keep this short, but I need a shower.

Posted at 8:49 am in Current events | 47 Comments

Worthy. No, exemplary.

We are all given to complaining this year, and who could blame us, but before 2020 slips away, I want to say some good things about the city I live near, but not in: Detroit.

Much maligned, particularly by dipshit Republicans who still think we stole Michigan, I was reminded of how well Detroiters (and others, yes) did one thing this year: Test for Covid.

Starting in the spring, the mayor and one of our local billionaires teamed up for a mass testing regime that worked better than I ever expected it would. One of the billionaire’s companies has phone-bank employees who were either idled or handling way less work than they normally would, and they went to work for this project. The city used the idled state fairgrounds to set up a drive-through with six or eight testing stations. You called a number, made an appointment, and once you arrived, never got out of your car. For the check-in, you didn’t even have to roll down your window. Once you were checked in, it was simply a matter of waiting your turn. I had three tests, and never had to wait more than 15 minutes.

Since cold weather arrived, they’ve moved it to an indoor facility, but it still goes smoothly: Arrive. Park in a numbered space. Call a number, tell them you’re there, and they come to you.

It’s not perfect. There’s no same-day service, so if you wake up with symptoms, you’ll still need to go to an urgent care or other facility. They also don’t do the rapid-response tests, so the wait can be anywhere from two to five days, but those are about my only quibbles. If you need a test for an upcoming trip, say, and if you’re capable of the simplest advance planning, it’s great.

Also, did I mention it’s free? It’s free if you live in Wayne County.

I took it for granted until the holidays approached, and I was discussing a possible visit with my sister-in-law, who is incredibly wary of this disease. “Just get tested a week ahead and we’ll do the same,” I said, but in her small city there is no such program. She’d have to go to a hospital, and all require a referral.

Detroit’s numbers have gone up with the onset of cold weather, like everyone’s have, but on a per-capita basis, we’re doing pretty well. I credit the testing program for a big part of this.

I also want to say something about the election, which is still chapping my ass, weeks later. I wonder if every dumbshit who shared a stupid meme about the TCF Center, or “just thinks something must have been wrong in all that business” ever considered what it takes to put on an election in a city with 500 precincts, in a pandemic, with a new law that makes absentee voting easier, etc. etc. When you consider all of that? This election went down like a cold drink on a hot day.

There was a lot of help and support involved in making this happen, granted. People with deep knowledge of election law and the foresight to see what was coming got involved. The city clerk hired as a consultant a former state elections director, a man of sterling reputation and ironclad nonpartisan status. And there was a lot of grant money pumped into the system, which bought new equipment, paid staff and enhanced training. Of course there were bobbles. Of course mistakes were made. But in the end, for all the crowing about “imbalanced precincts,” the total number of votes described in that phrase were around 400, in more than 250,000 cast. Not one race could have been changed by that number of votes.

I’ve written before about the barely concealed racism behind the endless complaints about Detroit, which is one reason I’ve lost all tolerance for those who cannot let this go. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another thing to be a sore loser. But it’s a third thing entirely to be a malevolent force in the service of an evil individual, and at this point I don’t think any other adjective is needed to describe President Trump.

But now it’s nearly 2021 — the sun is setting as I finish this up — and 20 days in, we’ll be rid of that p.o.s., at least in the Oval Office. Let’s hope, when the sun rises tomorrow, we can wish one another Happy New Year, and actually experience it.

I’ll see you all after the weekend.

Posted at 4:41 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 84 Comments

What are we going to do with the crazy people?

I notice the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville is already on its way offstage. There’s a fair amount of carping on Twitter about the bomber not being labeled a terrorist, etc., and I see their point, but don’t exactly agree. Crazy people are crazy, and as far as I can tell, this guy did what he could to get people to leave the area before blowing up himself and his house-car. Wrecked a block of historic buildings, yes, but terrorists want blood and bricks in the street, not just bricks.

And I suspect that 5G paranoia will end up being a part of his motive, if motive is even the right word for it. Even if it doesn’t, the tinfoil hats have folded the bombing into their conspiracy stew, and made it part of their QAnon / Dominion / vaccine catechism, so maybe it doesn’t even matter if investigators find a manifesto somewhere. You can bet your last dollar there are probably thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Americans who now believe the act was probably ordered by the Deep State to fuck up those voting machines stored just on the other side of the wall. They’re ordering T-shirts: ANTHONY QUINN WARNER DID NOTHING WRONG.

So what do we do about these stupid gits?

Were it up to me, and these were literal rabbit holes these people were diving down, I’d be in favor of encouraging every last one to take the leap, then bricking them up. But obviously, not an option here.

When I wrote about my troll a few years back, I reflected a bit on whether it was a mistake to ignore him for so long, whether that only egged him on. There’s a saying in public relations: If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you. But they’ve been saying that since long before social media arrived, let alone a parallel media environment in which people can immerse themselves and consider themselves well-informed without ever encountering a thought, story or position that contradicts their world view. There are millions of Americans who will go to their graves believing this election was stolen, that Biden is an illegitimate winner, and that Donald Trump won the Nobel Peace Prize. The world they live in tells them that.

But what are we going to do about them? Do we ignore them, respond to them, kick them to the curb? A long stay on an offshore island with currents too cold or dangerous to swim through would suit me, but Alcatraz can’t hold them all. So I’m open to suggestions.

One piece of bloggage today, and one more observation: First, I love Twitter because people feel free to speak ill of the dead there, including that congressman-elect who died of Covid. There are many more where that came from.

And the bloggage is a few days late, but so am I, this week: The collapse of Soul Cycle and the insane, bonkers, bananas cult of personalit(ies) it created. Come for the tease, stay for the used-tampon-in-the-purse story.

I’m off to donate blood.

Posted at 8:34 am in Current events | 52 Comments

One long weekend.

As befits a weekend with too much rich food and drink, I probably spent too much time thinking about Wonder Woman. The oddly named “WW84” is streaming on HBO, so I watched it, and while it wasn’t totally terrible, I had many nits to pick with it, mostly about the production design, but that’s just picky me:

I didn’t mention my questions about the WW armor that Diana Prince puts on for the climax. It’s special armor, we’re told, made centuries ago to protect their fiercest warrior, and all I could think was: Good thing those two had the same cup size, because otherwise? Whoa, problems for the armor-fitters.

These thoughts probably arrived because I’ve been following Cora Harrington, who writes about lingerie. She had some thoughts about Bridgerton, the Shonda Rimes series on Netflix:

Cora has some thoughts about “tightlacing,” i.e., the yank-and-pull technique of forcing women’s waists to insane smallness, essentially that the corsets of the “Bridgerton” era wouldn’t have allowed it because they didn’t have metal grommets yet. It’s that sort of attention to detail that Twitter makes room for, and I love it.

So, the hoooollllliday. It’s half over. Lots of people have the week between off, and in journalism, traditionally these are the days for year-in-review features, Those We Lost roundups, and all the rest of the space-fillers. Not this year! It’s all about President Shit-for-Brains and whether he might a) make a run for this martial-law thing; or b) play golf through the Covid relief package, etc. Also, a huge explosion that destroyed a huge chunk of historic Nashville center city. Nothing like a giant-explosion suicide on Christmas morning to get the nation’s attention. Talk about an exit.

If it turns out this dude was terrified of 5G technology and thought it was a cause of Covid, look for the “let’s not politicize this tragic act of violence” to start in 3,2,1.

This is a week we should all be off — from paying attention, from blowing up RVs, from doing anything other than cooking.

I wish I had more to report, but that was the weekend: Calories + movies + occasional glimpses at the news.

Equals: Glad it’s over. Let’s head into the interregnum.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Current events | 41 Comments

Odds, ends and a holiday.

Today, the holiday, I will make this a loose ends post because why not.

Let’s start with Basset, who asked why the Dodge Charger has a special significance in Detroit. Easy. Because the Charger, and the Challenger, is the street racer of choice at the moment. Most prized is the Hellcat model, which has some stupid-level horsepower, but pretty much anything that’ll spin out and go fast is just fine. Hellcat drivers were the ones who shut down the Lodge freeway summer before last, an event that spawned rap tributes and T-shirts. When I was doing census work last summer, I came across a parked Charger in the driveway of a house I needed to call on, music bumping behind the blacked-out windows. Because I have entered the IDGAF stage of my life, I knocked on the car window. It slid down, revealing two very stoned young men and clouds of weed smoke.

We did the interview right there in the driveway. Sometimes, Karen can be cool.

Moving on: Here’s yet another of Sidney Powell’s super-secret, TOTALLY QUALIFIED election-fraud witnesses:

North Dakota’s assertions about her credentials came in a civil case brought by the state’s attorney general in 2018 over a purported charitable event she tried to organize in Minot, N.D., where she and her family resided. Attorneys for the state said she used money she collected — ostensibly to fund homeless shelters and wreaths for veterans’ graves — on purchases for herself at McDonald’s, QVC and elsewhere.

A judge ultimately found that Maras-Lindeman violated consumer protection laws by, among other things, misspending money she raised and soliciting donations while misrepresenting her experience and education. He ordered her to pay more than $25,000.

Maras-Lindeman has appealed to the state Supreme Court. In court filings and in her interview with The Post, she denied mishandling the funds or misleading donors. She blamed identity theft and bureaucratic failings for a proliferation of variations on her name and social security numbers associated with her.

How’s everyone’s holiday going? I’ve been baking all day, first a sour cream coffee cake for tomorrow and then an apple tart, also for tomorrow. And brother, I am sugared out. I may whack up that coffee cake and distribute it to the poor or the carb-deprived. The broccoli casserole I will keep.

Merry Christmas to all, whether you celebrate it or not. Let’s let Darlene Love take us out with a song we can all enjoy.

I’ll be back next week.

Posted at 10:12 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments