Fortunate in her enemies.

I’ve been reading “The Artist’s Way,” a gift from a friend. Subtitle: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and I’m not sure it’s going well, given that I got it three days ago and I haven’t written a novel yet. But I am working on the exercises the author, Julia Cameron, recommends, particularly the morning pages, i.e. three stream-of-consciousness pages written as close to rising as you can do it. So far, it’s…interesting. I’m remembering more of my dreams, if nothing else. I won’t share; they’re very, very, extremely Psych 101, which would suggest I’m a pretty shallow person, but oh well.

How on earth do you spark creativity, anyway? The morning writing helps, but what I mainly remember about times when I was having a burst was this: It comes out of nowhere, and when it does, it’s spectacular. But elusive. Maybe this will help.

The midweek passes, and spring remains in the wings, although I did take a short bike ride yesterday, and it was glorious, even though I stopped every mile or so to do an errand. Just nice to get out and move a little, outdoors, without my knees hurting.

Not much to report, but there’s this: Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has been getting a lot of positive press recently. I’m not her No. 1 fan, but I respect what she’s been able to do, which is a lot. Of course, like so many politicians, she is lucky in her enemies. Like this lunatic:

MLive sat down with new Michigan Republican Party chair Kristina Karamo for nearly two hours March 17 for a sweeping interview that encompassed everything from her conspiratorial beliefs to plans for the party she will lead to the 2024 election.

Karamo was warm, engaging, forthright and unabashed in conversation. Her outspokenness about her convictions is central to how she earned the admiration of her hardline conservative followers. Karamo has a degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University, a private, Christian school in southern California. The theology involves the verbal defense of her faith, and the techniques of that debate style come through in conversation.

…Karamo entered the political spotlight by alleging she saw widespread fraud in Detroit during the 2020 election and remained there by championing the ensuing conspiracy theories. With a promise to root out “systemic election corruption” in Michigan, she lost her bid to become secretary of state last November by more than 615,000 votes, 14 percentage points, to Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson.

She has never conceded the election.

She goes on to say that everyone who voted for Proposal 3, the reproductive-freedom constitutional amendment that makes Michigan an oasis for women’s rights in the Midwest, are “participants in murder.” So you can see, it’s easy for people to succeed against opposition like this.

Sooner or later, the state GOP will wise up. Let it be a while, however.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events | 7 Comments

A few Monday notes.

I generally avoid news about the former president these days — had to abandon the Haberman book, at least for a while, because I so disliked the feeling of having him in my head again — but a detail from the coverage of the Waco rally this weekend caught my eye. It was something about how they played a recording of the “J6 prison choir,” a choral group made up of January 6 defendants, singing the National Anthem, with spoken-word breaks by you-know-who, reading the pledge of allegiance.

Folks, they did not lie. It exists. Click and despair.

I was feeling pretty good after the election, but despair is beginning to creep in around the edges again. I saw another piece, on NPR, about the decline in American life expectancy. It’s worth a click if only for that graphic, with the United States in red, parting ways with the rest of the developed world, post-Covid. Freedumb strikes again.

But despair is a sin, as the lord reminds us. And so I will keep my sunny side up, up, even though it’s a Monday.

Bill Zehme died over the weekend. Most people wouldn’t remember the name, but in journalism circles, he was big, one of the tiny fraternity (and it was so often a fraternity) who got to profile big-time celebrities. He was good at it, and his pieces on Jay Leno, Frank Sinatra, Hugh Hefner, etc., were good enough that their subjects are providing mournful quotes in the wake of his death. The ones who survive, anyway.

As for me, the one I’ll always remember was his oddly sympathetic piece on post-downfall Bob Greene. I think someone must have asked him later why he was so nice to the guy, and he replied that when he was a struggling journalism student, or maybe just launched in his career, he’d written to Bob, and Bob had replied with just the encouragement he needed. He may have even met with him in person, and the titanic journo had bucked up the fetal one, and that meant so much, etc etc. All I could think was: Dummy, he did that to everyone, and if the supplicant was a pretty girl, the encouragement often continued at the Marriott down the street?

Ah, well. That was a different time, as we say so often.

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was fine, although I erred in eating an enormous Mexican dinner at 9 p.m. on a Friday night, which kept me up for hours past my bedtime, not with heartburn, but what I think of as Spanish Sleeplessness, because it happened multiple times when we were in Spain, where restaurants don’t even open until 8 p.m. I’m so goddamn old, my body can’t handle digestion and sleep at the same time.

Ah, well. Back to the mangle, as the work week starts.

Posted at 8:27 am in Current events, Media | 51 Comments

Waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

Kate was staying with us for a few weeks before she left on tour for three more weeks, which is over as of today. Her rental house’s single bathroom was being remodeled, and there’d be no shower, so back to her parents’ it was. Alan picked her up at their terminus and she informed us she’d be with us for a few more days. Turns out the original contractor demo’d the bathroom and replumbed it and then ghosted. So her roommate had to find a new contractor, and the work won’t be done until midweek at the earliest. Story of, well, so many lives.

The tour was a success, even at the hardscrabble level they generally work at. They made some money and had a good time. That’s what it’s about when you’re 26 and in a band.

Not a terrible week, but a busy one. The temperature is finally moderating, although in some ways it’s even worse now, because today it was 52 degrees and tomorrow? 41 degrees. This is…cruel. It’s been five months of this shit, it’s time for a full week of 52 degrees with no threat of more cold, but even as I write this, I remember every April in Michigan since we’ve lived here:

The Michigan Sucker Punch. Every year.

Thursday I had some errands to run, and took the opportunity to give a deep listen to a couple of mix CDs Jeff Borden sent earlier this month. The revelation was Fadoul, aka the Moroccan James Brown. Seriously: Want to hear “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” in Arabic? Click. Something to welcome Ramadan, although I bet Morocco wouldn’t welcome Fadoul so much these days. (The recording is from 1971.) This is definitely a relic of the days when Iranian women went around in miniskirts with their hair uncovered. A different world.

Another thing I did Thursday was attend a short Detroit high-school jazz showcase downtown. It was held in a small club, the quarters were close, and I was surprised to see how many kids were wearing masks, and reflected on how rare they are in the loftier suburbs where I live. No surprise, I guess — Detroit was hit way, way harder by Covid, and it left a mark. It’s entirely possible some of these kids live in multi-generational households, and don’t think anything of protecting their grandparents by masking up, something…well, you don’t see it here. Here, the school board majority shifted in the last election, in part because the administration did not buck the county’s mask mandates, keeping kids in them until February 2022. Just a couple weeks ago, we were in an exercise class discussing who’d had Covid, and someone remarked, “I got it from my kids, and they got it when the masking ended at school,” like hey, no biggie.

As we’ve said here more than once: Our country is stupid and stubborn.

Speaking of which! Indictment watch continues. And the northern lights, which are going great guns the last couple of days. I don’t think Ann Fisher will mind me snagging one of her Facebook pix to share with you. She lives in the U.P. and can see them, and said they were the best of her lifetime. (And she’s no spring chicken!) Enjoy and have a great weekend:

Posted at 8:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 23 Comments

This bag, it is mixed.

You can hate on clock-changing all you want, but there’s nothing like a little extra sunshine, and that springlike angle to the light that says: It may still be very cold, but winter has been driven from its fortification, and I am back, baby.

Which is to say: Happy vernal equinox to all who celebrate, i.e. all of us.

I’m reconsidering my relationship with Amazon, if that’s even possible. Last week, I ordered four different things that I can’t find at stores here — a nice facial moisturizer that I discovered in France and is the one I’ve been searching for ever since I entered the Age of Wrinkles; the Klorane conditioner that restores my hair to something resembling hair, not flyaway gray straw, after a swim, also discovered in France; a descaler for our coffeemaker that Alan has decreed is more effective than vinegar; and a separate cleaner for the carafe, ditto. This is arriving in no fewer than three separate shipments, presumably because they’re coming from warehouses all over the region. There is nothing, not even extended idling on a cold day just to keep the car warm, that can make me feel more like a climate traitor than realizing a truck had to drive to my house to deliver a bottle of conditioner. And two separate locations for the coffeepot cleaners?! What the what!

But chances are I will do it again, because this is modern life.

The moisturizer, by the way, is Embryolisse. I think they call it that because it makes your skin as soft as a fetus’, but what do I know.

I started a conversation yesterday on my Facebook page, and it’s generated some interesting responses, so I’m going to continue it here. The question: Do you share your location with your family members, via some sort of smartphone app? More or less permanently, via the Always On feature? This came up in a conversation with friends last summer, and when I expressed wonder that anyone would do that, I was informed that it’s commonplace. You can do it via various apps, the most common being Google Maps; there’s a setting you can click to allow anyone you choose, who also has a Google account, to know where you — or your phone, anyway — are, every minute of the day. Parents share with their teenagers, spouses with one another. It’s most common in family units, obviously.

I’ve used it with a one-hour expiration a few times. When we were in Madrid, we had friends there at the same time, and it was a nice tool when we were meeting at some sidewalk cafe at the corner of two medieval streets with names I couldn’t spell anyway. But the idea of leaving it on forever? Hell no. And yet, I’ve seen it more than once, and some of the people who answered had their reasons for doing so.

Would you be comfortable doing this? It seems like it’d be an easy tool to abuse, particularly for bad spouses and partners.

Finally, is Trump really going to be indicted? Will we get a mugshot? That’s all I care about.

And with that, I’ve come to the bottom of my mixed bag. I had lunch today with Eric Zorn in Ann Arbor, and I want some quiet time to think about everything we talked about. That’s the best kind of conversation.

Posted at 6:45 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments

Road trip.

Some friends of ours who used to live in Detroit moved to Nashville a couple years ago and occasionally suggest they’re open to visitors, but the timing was never right until it was, and then it wasn’t. Shadow Show is headed down to SXSW again this year, and is playing gigs along the way. There was one Saturday night in guess-where, so we thought, sure, we can drive down for a long weekend, see the girls, see our friends.

Unfortunately, one of our host’s aunts died, the funeral was a can’t-miss event, so they invited us to stay at their house anyway, etc. etc., and we decided what the hell, let’s go.

I’m glad we went. I hadn’t been to Nashville in decades. It is a decidedly different city than it was then, by a factor of about a million. The changes are…well, it doesn’t matter if we approve or not. They’ve happened and they’re not going away. Yeah, I remember Broadway as a scene but not a Scenetm; back then we went to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and had a few beers but did not exit into the alley behind the Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Old Opry, where it was said countless performers before us had done, having one last snootful before taking the stage. On Sunday, I wouldn’t have entered Tootsie’s with a live cattle prod. It was SEC tournament weekend, and the entire strip was rockin’ with basketball fans, drunks and brides-to-be, all entranced by the cover bands playing in every bar.

Oh, those brides-to-be. Someone informed me that Nashville is now Bachville, i.e. the country’s biggest non-Vegas destination for bachelorette parties, and not having known that already makes me feel like I’m not keeping up. March is considered the beginning of Bachelorette season, and they were already evident, traveling in packs, squealing, caroling WOOOOO from pedal pubs, you know the drill. (An aside: Is there a more jarring disconnect between the people on a pedal pub and the people watching them from the street? I don’t think so.) In googling for why this is so, I came across a five year old, but still excellent story in BuzzFeed that goes deep into not only the trend itself, but what it says about the city, which is gentrifying at a staggering pace. This piece was great, too. And full of tidbits like this:

(Bachelorette parties) love taking pictures in front of murals, which, over the last decade, have come to dot every gentrifying section of the city. What started as a covertly capitalist art form (a “I Believe in Nashville” mural designed by a merch company) has become overtly so, as business owners all over town realize the free advertising potential of Instagram location tags. During peak bachelorette season, the photo line at the most popular Nashville mural — artist Kelsey Montague’s “angel wings,” just a block away from Biscuit Love — can take 90 minutes.

An hour and a half wait to take a picture!? I sent this to Alan while we were eating lunch on Sunday, and who should come in and take a nearby table?

We did get to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was much better than I expected — thoughtfully curated, spiced up with music interludes and interesting artifacts, like Les Paul’s log guitar, outfits from Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors and a lot more. The Hatch Show Print shop is in the same building, so we stopped there, too. Worth a visit for sure.

The Saturday-night Shadow Show was, however, one of their worst, as judged by the musicians themselves. The PA was shit, there were no monitors, they had to play last — touring etiquette in these situations say the road band goes second, I’m informed — and Kate said she never wanted to play a gig like that again. As for me, I’m just glad no one gouged me for parking, which happened in nicer parts of town on Sunday. And it was nice to catch up with Mr. and Mrs. Bassett, who joined us for most of a very long evening.

Did we try hot chicken? We did. It’s a spicy chicken sandwich.

Sunday night was another show, this one at the Brooklyn Bowl, a benefit for uninsured musicians. Elvis Costello and Billy Gibbons were the co-headliners. Elvis sounded less than great; his voice wasn’t coming through, the band wasn’t tight and his roadie brought out a new guitar for nearly every song, none of which seemed to please him. Fortunately, the show was closed by Gibbons, and once he banged out the opening chords to “Sharp Dressed Man,” we knew everything was going to be fine, and it was:

Oh, and that little text block on the mural in the first picture? The one you can’t read? A version of George Jones’ infamous lawn-mower story. His wife would hide all the vehicle keys when she left, to keep her hopeless alcoholic husband from heading to the liquor store:

And I didn’t have to wait at all to take it.

Posted at 3:28 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 90 Comments

Grim reading.

We’re taking a little road trip this weekend, and I hit the library in search of reading material. I’d selected a couple of novels when I saw Maggie Haberman’s “Confidence Man” there on the new-books shelf, and put the novels down. It’s a thick book. I doubt I’ll finish it in the two-week new-book borrowing period, road trip or no.

But I’m making progress, and one thing is abundantly clear from the earliest pages: Donald Trump not only is a fraud, a fool, a confidence man and every other pejorative assigned to him in the last seven years, but he always has been. From the jump, this guy was as bad as he was in the White House, and barely 100 pages in, I’m mad at every enabler who let him get away with it, mostly in the New York media – the reporters who printed his lies, his exaggerations, his steaming piles of bullshit, because it was good copy, or good TV or whatever. Sure, we didn’t know how dangerous he’d become. All through 2016, a friend would gleefully post his shenanigans on his social media and comment, “Best. Election. Ever.” I remember his face a few days later, after his daughter had someone scream at her from a passing car in the days after the vote, “I’m gonna grab your pussy!!” Not so funny.

During the worst of that administration, I would sometimes mentally list of the Five Men to Blame, and think how swift and merciless their punishment should be (and only a guillotine would do, in my opinion). Mark Burnett, Rupert Murdoch, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Erik Prince, and that was only the list I’m thinking of now. It changed a lot, although Burnett and Murdoch were always on it. (And Rudy’s pretty pathetic now; his punishment is having to be Rudy Giuliani, pathetic drunken clown. A woman I know works in a Manhattan office building with a lobby Rudy passes through regularly. The security guard told her America’s Mayor no longer ties his shoes.)

But it’s plain that there are a lot more than five men to blame for Trump. Skipping ahead to read passages here and there, I appreciate Haberman’s withering gaze, and her ability to deploy that old reporter’s trick of demonstrating an idiot’s idiocy by just quoting him accurately. Another observation: All of his speaking tics – “fantastic,” “disaster,” “tremendous,” the way he never said “very” without repeating it once or twice – were all there from the beginning.

I don’t like to immerse myself in this man’s life again. The habit certain of my friends have adopted, of ignoring the news more or less entirely, has occurred to me from time to time. But that strikes me as turning one’s back on a rabid dog. It may be out of sight, but it’s still dangerous.

OK, time to make dinner. See, I can do a second blog in a week. Cleared some shit off my desk, and the next few days look pretty good.

Posted at 6:07 pm in Media | 112 Comments

Three long years.

You guys! I’m so sorry I’ve been such a sluggard here. I don’t know where last week went. But let’s soldier on, anyway:

I generally dislike anniversary journalism, but Monday is March 6, which sticks in my head as the beginning of Covid in Michigan. The first cases wouldn’t be diagnosed and announced until the 10th, the day of the primary election, but on the 6th the chill was definitely in the air. Kate and the girls had a show at Third Man Records, the beginning of what they hoped would be a victory march down to SXSW in Austin, but by then, SXSW had been cancelled. “Just go anyway,” I told them. “People will be getting together and playing anyway, with or without the festival’s backing.” They were afraid no one would come out to Third Man that night, but once the Bernie Sanders rally at the nearby TCF Center concluded, they had no problem filling the place. I noticed one guy standing way off by himself in a mask. Huh, I thought.

Within days, the governor would start issuing shutdown orders, and within weeks, those orders would be the genesis of a new right-wing movement here, which led directly to…well, a lot of things. The utter delamination of the state GOP, although pockets of strength remain. The shenanigans in Ottawa County got their start then. There are others.

I wrote a story for Deadline on the one-year anniversary, presented oral history-style, which means it’s too long, but oh well. I’ve reread it around this time the last couple of years, because I don’t want to forget anything about the early days – the fear, the panic, the way people one block away would cross the street when they saw me coming, walking the dog. (I, on the other hand, would only step off to the curb line. That was my comfort zone.) The way some people wiped down their groceries. The homemade masks, the Karen tantrums in grocery stores, the toilet paper hoarding, all of it.

The New York Times magazine had a Covid oral-history story last week, and one quote in it hit me between the eyes:

In the final set of interviews, most of which were conducted last summer, some people said the pandemic was over while others insisted it absolutely was not. Or that it was “sort of queasily over.” Or that it had been over, but then “it stopped being over.” “I think we all, as a society, became better,” one nursing-home aide concluded. A nonprofit worker confessed, “I used to think that we lived in a society, and I thought that people would come together to take care of one another, and I don’t think that anymore.”

That last quote, especially, echoed some of the way people talked in my story. Here’s a state legislator who lost her sister early on:

After Isaac (Robinson, a member of the Michigan Legislature) passed, (the legislature) didn’t go back immediately. We had some votes, mainly to extend the Governor’s executive order powers, and Democrats wanted a joint resolution allowing virtual voting. (The Republicans) didn’t take the resolution up. I was of the mindset that the Republicans weren’t starting from a place of “how do we deal with this crisis,” but “how do we jam the governor.”

And the funeral director:

It hit my community so hard, and we were screaming and it’s like nobody heard us. I’d hear these people saying, “We have to open up. I can’t go to my restaurant anymore,” and I’m having trouble getting gloves because of the hoarding. Without gloves, I’m out of business.

That’s kind of where I am, three years later. To be sure, the ER doctor and epidemiologist said she came away with optimism about the power of people working together, but she was mainly talking about her medical colleagues. I’m no longer confident, or even optimistic, that faced with an existential public-health threat, people will do the right thing. Here’s something I hear a lot: “I am just so over Covid.” Aren’t we all, but it’s still with us. To be sure, my masking is less common than it was. I went to a densely packed show a while back, mask-free. I eat in restaurants again. But I mask on planes, and I still watch case numbers. If they go up, I mask up. I’m still a No-vid, but I don’t worry that I could die, if I got it. I’ve been vaccinated five times; if I get it, I expect mild symptoms and long Covid to be far less likely. But I don’t want to get it in the first place.

My faith in my fellow citizens, though? That’s in the toilet. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying “The Last of Us,” the post-zombie apocalypse show on HBO now. It posits a future where the thing you most have to fear is not the zombies, but your fellow healthy American. Everyone is armed to the teeth; busting a cap in someone’s ass is considered totally acceptable to protect one’s food or vehicle or whatever. The government is a dominating fascist force. There’s a thriving black market in the human settlements that remain. That, I regret to say, is what I expect the next time a pandemic hits.

Not that I wish to start the week on a bummer note! After a wet, sloppy snowstorm Friday night, we’ve had two days of snow-melting weather, and spring is most definitely on its way.

Posted at 12:08 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 49 Comments

Just stop talking.

I know it isn’t funny, but I can’t stop laughing at that idiot Scott Adams, who fucked around and found out in recent days, and now finds himself dependent on other dumbshit racists like him to pay the bills. And his cash reserves, of course, of which I’m sure there are plenty.

Look for Dilbert T-shirts on the Proud Boys soon.

Gene Weingarten has the best take on it (so far), which spends a bit of time discussing why Adams is so, so goddamn dumb, but thinks of himself as a genius:

You are probably aware of the latest rant by Scott Adams, the creator of the pioneering workplace-related comic strip Dilbert. Adams, who has long been flirting with right-wing positions, sees himself as a rare genius — he once actually wrote that, anonymously, as a comment to a blog, as though it was an observation by someone else, and got caught. He also sees himself as a courageous provocateur and not a septic asshole, apparently on account of his doctor of geniusness degree. As you probably know, he finally went right over the top last week and did a face plant from 50 feet onto asphalt.

Citing a Rasmussen poll reporting that only 53 percent of Black people agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White,” (roughly half of the rest were unsure, and the rest said “no.”) Adams concluded in a streaming video that Black people are a “hate group,” and that the best solution to this fact is that “White people get the hell away from Black people.” He also said Black people were at fault for “not focusing on education,” and added “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

How dumb is Scott Adams? This dumb:

Rasmussen is generally regarded to be the most right-biased major pollster in the country. On its homepage right now are the following headlines, based on its recent inquiries: Conservative Viewers Are Better Informed About Important Topics; Not ‘Woke’ Yet? Most Voters Reject Anti-White Beliefs ; Local Impact of Illegal Immigration Mostly Bad, Voters Say; Fentanyl: Most Voters Rate Biden Low on Handling Problem. The only other question in the poll of whether it is okay to be White was: “Agree or disagree: Black people can be racist, too.” One can presume that Rasmussen does not exactly have its finger on the pulse of the Black community.

So why not take a stupid poll and make a stupid rant out of it, if it makes people pay attention to you? I get the feeling the stakes in a game like this, which is to say, one’s own YouTube show, is to start out saying something ridiculous and keep saying it, and escalate and escalate until, like a balloon, it pops. I’ve done radio before; YouTube can’t be that different. People say radio is an intimate medium, but only if you have the imagination to feel people out there, breathing and paying attention. Or not paying attention; maybe you’d be the kind of host who imagines attention wandering, distraction, and so you pump up the volume, hoping that the technology will somehow evolve in the next 30 seconds and they’ll talk back.

They never talk back. And so, if you’re dumb, you just keep blabbing, like Adams.

I shouldn’t talk. One of these days I’ll step in it. But no one pays attention to people like me.

OK, then. The week begins. One more to get this story done, and then we’ll be back to status quo.

Posted at 6:24 pm in Current events | 61 Comments


Sorry, guys. I accepted a freelance assignment with the dreaded one-two punch of being, first, a fairly dry topic and second, a tight deadline. So I’ve been distracted this week. Every time I do one of these, I think: Isn’t it time to stop doing this? Then I think: Can I use the money? I can always use the money. And so: More phone calls, emails, etc.

I’m indebted to David Simon for once observing that if it were fun, they’d call it show fun. But it’s business, and so it’s show business. Some things aren’t fun.

So. The other part of this is that I’m in the dreaded late-winter doldrums. We had an ice storm midweek that, thankfully, didn’t rob us of our power like hundreds of thousands of others in the metro area, but it’s bleak enough outdoors that I have been staring at the walls and observing my empty skull like Annie Hall watching herself and Alby having sex.

But it’s at least partly sunny today — although fucking cold — and I hope to make some progress on my story today. And it’s Friday, so no matter what happens, my sources won’t be at their desks tomorrow, and I can not think about it for two whole days. A garden center on one of the main drags here always puts up a spring countdown board around this time of year, and I can report it’s below 30 now.

Someone sent me this a little while ago, and it has roused me to my usual state of simmering outrage:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republican lawmakers voted Wednesday to prohibit Indiana University from using any state money to support its sexual research institution after a far-right legislator unleashed disputed allegations of child exploitation by its founder and famed mid-20th century researcher Alfred Kinsey.

The Indiana House voted 53-34 to block state funding toward the Kinsey Institute that has long faced criticism from conservatives for its ongoing research and the legacy of Kinsey’s work that they blame for contributing to liberalized sexual morals, including more acceptance of homosexuality and pornography.

Oh, of course they did. Living in the Hoosier state for 20 years, I was often amazed that the Kinsey Institute existed there at all, but I was schooled on the tremendous influence of a single Indiana University president, Herman B Wells (no period on the B, a style oddity you learn the first time you mess it up), who fought the hayseed legislature and prevailed, which was every bit of the miracle you might be thinking it is. The mover behind this is a sourpuss with the ironic name of Larissa Sweet, new to the legislature, hailing from where else but Huntington County:

Republican Rep. Lorissa Sweet claimed that some of Kinsey’s research was child exploitation as she argued for an amendment to the state budget bill against funding for the institute.

“By limiting the funding to Kinsey Institute through Indiana University’s tax dollars, we can be assured that we are not funding ongoing research committed by crimes.” Sweet said.

And I’ll break my usual three-paragraph rule to include the pushback by Bloomington’s voice:

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce, whose Bloomington district includes the university campus, responded that Sweet’s claims were “based on old unproven allegations of conspiracies that did not exist,” calling them “warmed-over internet memes that keep coming back.”

Yep. Although frankly, it would serve Indiana right if the Kinsey Institute packed up its enormous collection of literature, research and art — more on that in a minute — and decamped for more tolerant pastures. Although I’m sure if they did, the legislature would demand payment for the materials collected through the publicly funded university.

For those who think the Institute is some dank orgy pit, be advised that they guard their gates carefully, admitting only serious scholars or students doing research for classes. A friend of mine was granted entry to find material for a paper on cohabitation before marriage, and said it was extraordinary, not just for the amazing library, where “Doctor’s Naughty Nurse” was shelved next to peer-reviewed studies of male impotence next to “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and so on, but also the art collection, which hardly anyone talks about. They have paintings and so on from renowned artists, all pretty, shall we say, frank. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see Thomas Hart Benton’s R-rated sketchbook, wouldn’t you? Sex is a big part of human life; it’s important to study it, and always has been, something Wells knew and Sweet…doesn’t.

Sweet is a first-termer, on the record supporting all the usual right-wing crap — health freedom, gun freedom, all the freedoms (except reproductive, of course). She’s from Wabash, has a degree from Purdue in “animal agribusiness” and works as a pet groomer. And this is who District 50 has representing them in the people’s house.

OK, I’m sufficiently irritated to get back to real work now. You all have a good weekend and let’s hope for a warmer kind of sunshine next week.

Posted at 10:47 am in Current events | 42 Comments

In which I make a responsible decision, for once.

There’s a piece from last week’s Atlantic that’s been going around, about the MSU situation. It’s well-written of course, but I thought it was way, way too sentimental; I mean, if the time for thoughts and prayers is over, so too is the shocked I-never-thought-it-could-happen-here-in-this-very-special-place piece. I mean, how many times does this have to happen before we stop being shocked? And I wrote a long-ish blog about it. However, I decided #toosoon, and decided to, what’s the word, extend some grace to people who are truly suffering, and spiked it.

See? I do have a heart. And that’s why no third blog last week.

But I will save this one paragraph toward the end, more or less as I wrote it five days ago:

Every teary tribute to the Specialness and the Majesty of MSU or any other institution struck by violence or sexual assault or another tragedy puts it in a unique category, i.e., one that is so special to so many that it must be protected at all costs. Then, when someone like Larry Nassar comes along, the people charged with defending it promote the interests of the institution over those of the people who suffered in it. How many times have we seen this in the past 20 years? Many. Many-many-many.

And I also want you to see two images that received lots of play last week. Like many campuses, MSU has a boulder that students paint for various occasions. Here was the MSU boulder the day after the shootings:

And here it was a day later:

College Republicans, a raiding party up from Hillsdale or townies? You tell me.

And one final note: It turns out I had a brief encounter with one of the Grosse Pointe MSU kids who died, on New Year’s Eve, 2020. Five of us had gathered for a pod celebration at one couple’s house. Their teenage daughter was having her own celebration in the basement. There’s a bathroom down there, but it must have been occupied, because one of the boys came upstairs and very politely asked to use one on the first floor. We were having a really good time, and the host said, “Only if you can name one of the Beatles.” He waited a beat, and blurted out, “John McCarthy.” We laughed and laughed and directed him to the loo. His name was Brian, but I’ll always think of him as John McCarthy. Gone at 20 years old, our sacrifice on the altar of the Second Amendment.

But life goes on, and a new week begins. Hope yours is swell.

Posted at 10:12 am in Current events | 67 Comments