2023.

Happy new year to all of us. Around here, it dawned — ha ha — so gray and overcast I had to turn on a lamp to read the paper. It’s one of my idiosyncrasies that I really dislike using electric light once the sun is up, probably a leftover from my dad, who was always adjusting the thermostat and turning off lights in empty rooms to save a few pennies on the utility bill. Anyway, when it’s that dark I am at least reminded to take my Vitamin D, and I shrug and think: Michigan. January. Whaddaya gonna do?

One-word resolution for 2023: Balance. So maybe tomorrow will be sunny.

I hope you all had a pleasant NYE. We followed our script: Cooked a better-than-usual meal, watched a movie (“White Noise,” meh), listened to the gunfire at midnight, went to bed. Today I’m scrolling through pix and videos of the Mar-a-Lago NYE party, trying to think what would be worse: Listening to a bad cover band plow through “Footloose” at M-a-L, or standing outside in Detroit, waiting for one round to come down and pierce the soft tissue at the base of my neck.

Outside in Detroit, most definitely. It’s a better, more honorable way to die.

I was thinking again — woolgathering, nothing focused — about 2022 and realized that until I saw one of those Year in Pictures roundups, I had totally spaced that it was an Olympic year. Beijing, the problematic sporting event to open the year, closed of course by the World Cup in Qatar. I recall watching the skiing thinking it would be more pleasant to travel downhill on concrete; not a flake on any of the competition slopes actually fell from a cloud, but was manufactured, and looked and felt like it. The meltdown in the ladies’ figure skating was memorable, but apparently not for more than a few weeks.

Before we put the year entirely to bed, this was an interesting story in the NYT. For those of you who can’t read it, the tl;dr: Politically skewed polls that predicted a red wave in November and the resulting panic may have deprived some candidates of funding that could put them over the finish line.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, had consistently won re-election by healthy margins in her three decades representing Washington State. This year seemed no different: By midsummer, polls showed her cruising to victory over a Republican newcomer, Tiffany Smiley, by as much as 20 percentage points.

So when a survey in late September by the Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group showed Ms. Murray clinging to a lead of just two points, it seemed like an aberration. But in October, two more Republican-leaning polls put Ms. Murray barely ahead, and a third said the race was a dead heat.

As the red and blue trend lines of the closely watched RealClearPolitics average for the contest drew closer together, news organizations reported that Ms. Murray was suddenly in a fight for her political survival. Warning lights flashed in Democratic war rooms. If Ms. Murray was in trouble, no Democrat was safe.

Murray ended up winning by nearly 15 points, which other pollsters had already predicted. But she ended up spending her war chest on her own campaign, rather than spreading it to other, less fortunate candidates. A similar phenomenon happened here, where two-time U.S. Senate loser / empty suit / Trump apologist John James finally will go to Washington — as a congressman — but had a much harder time winning than all the polling indicated. How might he have been thwarted if the DCCC hadn’t written off the race as unwinnable, because Inevitable Red Wave. A little more cash for his opponent might have made the difference. I mean, he only won by half a percentage point.

Polling — good polling — runs the risk of being made irrelevant by bad actors. Trafalgar was the same firm that had GOP challenger Tudor Dixon nipping at Gretchen Whitmer’s heels just before the election, which Dixon lost by more than 10 points. It’s almost like they’re doing this…on purpose.

OK, time to move on to 2023 and greet it properly. Dry January awaits.

Posted at 6:37 pm in Current events | 36 Comments
 

The dwindling down.

Christmas came and went with only a delay, no serious mishaps. The wind blew and blew and the temperature fell and fell, and we got…maybe, maaaybe, two inches. A pathetic total, but with the wind howling, it did push everything back by a day. But that was OK, because Kate was waiting out a close Covid exposure, so it all worked out. It always works out. It’s Christmas. You set the table and pour a Bloody Mary and wait for it to work out.

For weather news this week, you really couldn’t beat Buffalo (apocalypse) and Seattle (comedy).

Santa brought me a hi-tech Japanese rice cooker and all the possible condiments that could go with Kenji Lopez-Alt’s wok cookbook, so we’ll be eatin’ Asian this winter. Alan got a new Ward Cleaver robe and four Spanish-size gintonic glasses, with a giant ice-cube mold to match. Kate gave me, get this, a cycling class at the Lexus Velodrome in Midtown, which I can’t wait to do with her. I’ve never ridden a velodrome, and I hope it’s fabulous. We all got what we wanted, including another humiliating self-own by a dickhead Republican. So all in all, a wonderful Christmas.

Now I turn my thoughts to the new year. I have one freelance story to finish, and then I think I’m going to take a month to just think about what sort of writing I want to do in 2023. But before that, I’m scrolling through my 2022 pictures. Scroll with me!

January 1, a solitary walk on a very, very muddy Belle Isle, with a stop at the eastern end for the view:

I didn’t clean the mud out of my hiking boots until summer. It was like cement.

February was the Dirty Show, always fun in the midst of winter:

I took a little trip later that month, because I was going stir-crazy. Covered that here already, but I saw: Friends, horses, the Obamas:

I remember listening to 24-hour news about the invasion of Ukraine while enormous trucks tailgated me at 75 mph on America’s freeways. A lot of driving.

In March, vertigo:

Four dizzy spells that month, none since. Go figure.

In April we tried to adopt Kevin. It didn’t work out, but we got him neutered and placed with a fantastic new home.

Also in April, the girls left for their glamorous European tour. Later, Kate said, her friends would ask, “Did you see the (something) in (some European city)?” No, she said, they mainly saw the inside of bars and the road between them. But they had a blast, just the same:

In May, we celebrated our 29th anniversary with a one-night stay at the St. Clair Inn, just upstream of my ottering spot. The inn’s bar is called The Dive, after the staff’s traditional end-of-season celebration:

Then you turn around and it’s June. Beautiful, beautiful June:

Let’s end it here. Maybe do the back half of the year later this week, maybe not — don’t want to bore you to death. If you’re working in this last month of the year, don’t work too hard. If you’re fortunate enough to be off, enjoy every minute. Unless you’re in Buffalo.

Posted at 9:25 am in Same ol' same ol' | 87 Comments
 

My fabulous, luxurious life.

So Alan, who is normally immune to sales pitches of all kinds, saw a “brown Friday” sale on the Tushy aftermarket bidet, and bought one.

By “aftermarket” I mean that it didn’t involve installing a new fixture in our brand-new bathroom, but was one of those things that attaches to the bottom of your toilet seat and uses the same water line. There’s a button to the side that you use to direct and control the stream.

I avoided it for a few days, thinking, god, who wants to squirt cold water on your asshole, but eventually thought I needed to at least try it. The first splash was a little weird, but within one or two, um, days, I was a convert. Now, when I feel the urge, I go upstairs to the Tushy bathroom and indulge myself. I can’t wait for warm weather, when the cool stream will feel even more refreshing.

It serves to remind me, once again, that middle-class Americans* enjoy a standard of living the richest people a century ago couldn’t imagine.

We went through a few castles/fine homes in Spain, including the Casa Mila in Barcelona, one of Gaudi’s many masterpieces. It was built to house one of the city’s wealthiest families, and yet, a stroll through their living spaces is fairly underwhelming. The audio guide directed our attention, in the bathroom, to a samovar-like tank on a rack over the tub. About five gallons, maybe, with a gas burner underneath. This gave the bather the unimaginable luxury of…hot water. Years ago, I worked on a custom-publishing job about some great houses in Detroit. I looked through the correspondence of the original head of the household, and it was filled with bitching about how much it cost to heat the place, and the damn servants kept leaving windows cracked, in the dead of winter, and how do you like them apples.

I thought about this as I patted my backside dry with a few squares of TP this morning. World, envy me, for I have a clean butthole!

Two warnings about the Tushy: First, make sure to Google “tushy bidet” and go to that link; do not, for any reason, visit tushy-dot-com. Second, if you decide to buy one, prepare yourself for a barrage of excrement puns in your email, filled with poop emojis and the like. You can unsubscribe, of course, but just be advised. If you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.

* And our pets. It’s ridiculous.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have been riveted by the news out of Washington the past few days — the J6 committee report, the Trump tax returns, all of it. Too many links to post. What are the odds the Justice Department will actually live up to its name? Discuss.

Otherwise, we’re all waiting for the big blizzard that’s supposed to hit us overnight. (I had my teeth cleaned on Tuesday, and the hygienist said, “What about those people in Florida? It’s supposed to be in the 40s there!” My reply: “Who gives a shit?”)

Snow totals for our part of Michigan’s banana belt are now forecast at 2 inches, which is nothing, but the wind and plunging temperatures could be grim. I’m way more concerned with power outages. Keeping all devices charged today, and you should, too.

Hunker down! Let’s hope for some good pictures!

Posted at 9:38 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

The new owners.

There used to be a hotel off I-96 in Lansing, a former Days Inn. Apparently it sold at some point, and the new owner declined to keep it under the old brand, but in an admirable act of frugality, changed the name in the easiest, most economical way. The hotel became Dads Inn.

They say Harry Helmsley, Leona’s late husband, was cheap as hell, and when he bought the Central Building in New York City, changed its name to the General Building, because it only required him to buy two new letters. This may explain Leona’s infamous bitchiness, but I really don’t know.

On our drive to Columbus this weekend for the my-side-of-the-family holiday, we passed a restaurant called Fricker’s. The signage used the same font as the once-ubiquitous Frisch’s, which held all the Big Boy franchises in much of Ohio when I was growing up. For some reason this convinced Alan we had another Dads Inn situation, and when we stopped for lunch on the way back, he was sure we’d have menus of Big-Boy-but-not, double-decker burgers with secret sauce, milkshakes and the like.

Alas, it was just another sports bar, with a menu full of wings and ribs and other things men like to eat while they’re watching football. And beer, of course, lots of beer. It was Hooter’s without the hooters, with lots and lots and lots of “fricken” wordplay on the menu. Kate and I — two of very few women in the place — split a plate of sliders, and we watched the Lions for a while before pressing on toward home. It was not, I’m sorry to say, very fricken good.

It was a nice weekend, seeing everyone. We did a no-gifts holiday, and I can’t say I missed the presents one bit. And because we were traveling, I mostly collected links:

Here in Detroit, an anti-abortion group’s fake clinic is vandalized, along with a board member’s house.

The NYT’s big Explanatory Journalism Pulitzer entry dropped, an entire special section on how Russia managed to fuck up its Ukrainian campaign. Not through even the first part yet, but it’s pretty devastating. Bottom line: Corruption, Putin’s delusions, lack of morale, outdated equipment, cell phones. A fascinating read so far.

Fr. Frank Pavone, a truly vile anti-abortion priest, is no longer a priest. All three of these stories seem to call for the Jerry Seinfeld “that’s a shame” GIF, so imagine it here.

Oh, and how about that World Cup final? It was exciting even to follow on Twitter.

And have a good week ahead.

Posted at 10:07 pm in Current events | 45 Comments
 

On the road.

I got virtually all my shopping done before December 1, so I thought I might spend this month doing the things other people do, but I never seem to have time for. Like…baking. I’m not one to make dozens of family-recipe cookies and breads and candies, but a friend sent me this one for something called Negroni cookies and I whipped up a batch last night.

They turned out pretty great. Not overpoweringly sweet, interesting flavors, nice to look at on a plate. A lot of work for about two dozen cookies, but oh well. Endorsed.

Cookie reports. That’s what I’m reduced to. Wait — I also do the crossword puzzle and the NYT’s Spelling Bee, so I haven’t quite tipped into full-on pathetic old-lady existence just yet. Or is that the actual evidence. Thought so.

Sorry I’ve been so scarce this week. Two problems: I have little to say and I’m doing some freelance work. No giveaways, but how about a hint?

Yeah, you’re gonna have to wait for this one. Sorry.

I woke up the other morning to the news that Elon Musk was booed — loudly, and for a long time — during a Dave Chappelle set in San Francisco last month. From his reaction, ” a first for me in real life (frequent on Twitter),” it sounds like he’s like most rich guys, in that he’s surrounded by ass-kissers and thinks his shit doesn’t stink. (“No sir! Smells like fresh blueberry muffins back here!”) I will never understand this level of self-delusion, but then, I guess that’s what he pays his entourage to do. Plump his pillows, fluff his feathers, you know the drill.

Dave Chappelle, I figured, would know better. I guess he likes to punch down now.

As public comedowns go, it’s hard to beat the one Musk is going through now. Without being arrested or charged with a crime, he’s managed to squander a large chunk of his wealth, do serious damage to his reputation and stand revealed as an empty, silly twit, given to replicating his shallow gene pool with multiple women and tweeting slander about Dr. Fauci.

Dolt.

Now I’m watching “Pelosi in the House” and it’s getting to the good part, so. See you later. I hope before the end of the week, but you never know — the cup needs to refill.

Posted at 7:05 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

A few words about BG and PW.

I owe Sherri Nichols of our very own commentariat for pointing out, months ago, some things about Brittney Griner’s arrest that I’ve not read anywhere else. The short version: The idea that BG would be carrying her own bags in Moscow, even coming off the plane, is unlikely; the WNBA player was a rock star in Russia — one reason she plays, or played, there. The team would have handlers greet her flight and she wouldn’t need to lift a finger.

I don’t know at what point in the entry process her bags were searched, but the point is: There would have been ample opportunity to plant a vape cartridge in there before she reached that checkpoint. And given the timing of her arrest, almost on the literal eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (and during the troop buildup on the border) suggests this was a diversion dreamed up in the Kremlin.

You can really gauge the level of Putin love on the American right at how she’s being portrayed in that wing of the media: As a “lesbian pothead” (Rod Dreher) too stoned or dumb to know you can’t bring that shit into the country. First, we’re taking Russia’s word that her vape cartridge was cannabis? Maybe it was CBD. Maybe it didn’t exist at all. If Griner truly was a user, does anybody think those team handlers mentioned above couldn’t have gotten her a little weed once she was through customs/security? As to her guilty plea, it was explained at the time that it was a strategic move on her part, essentially throwing herself at the mercy of the court, avoiding a trial in hopes of a lenient, face-saving sentence of time served. It didn’t work. Big surprise.

As for Paul Whelan, whose glow-up on the right has been profound: We’ve been reading about this guy for a couple years here, as he’s a Metro Detroiter and his parents live near Ann Arbor. Mr. Clean Marine was dishonorably discharged from the Corps in 2008 for…let this excellent Detroit News 2019 explainer fill in the details:

He received a bad-conduct discharge in 2008 for attempted larceny and dereliction of duty. As a Marine clerk in Iraq, he had tried to steal $10,000 from the U.S. government, according to military court records.

He also used another person’s Social Security number to enter a military computer system and grade his own examinations, thereby advancing his rank and pay.

The court martial, along with the possibility Whelan was a spy, made lawmakers leery of getting involved in his Russian arrest, said his family.

Now. I want to say right here that it’s entirely possible, even likely, that Whelan was framed, too. From the same story:

Whelan was director of global security for BorgWarner until the auto parts supplier laid him off earlier this month in a corporate restructuring. He is an avid traveler who has visited Russia seven times in 12 years, his family said. He is interested in its history and culture.

In December 2018, he was in Moscow for a wedding when a friend, Ilya Yatsenko, gave him a flash drive, said his family.

Whelan thought it contained photos of a trip the men had taken to Yatsenko’s hometown a year earlier. Actually, it listed names of members of a unit of the Russian Federal Security Service, which replaced part of the KGB.

Given Whelan’s bad-conduct discharge and other marks on his record, it’s unlikely he was actually an American spy; I mean, what agency would want the guy?

His family has been working hard to make the case that, whatever his flaws, Whelan is not guilty and should be released. But he still stands convicted of espionage in a hostile country. It’s not the same as possession of hash oil.

The prisoner swap with Victor Bout was uneven, I’ll grant you. But he’s been out of the game 20 years; I doubt he’s returning to arms dealing like some Mafia soldier sprung from prison whining “I gotta earn.” Maybe he will, I don’t know. But he’s internationally notorious now. If he returns to his old job, we can put the Navy SEALS on his ass, I suppose.

It was just to release Griner, however. The repulsive temper tantrums among the Fox News crowd only show you the sort of people they are.

Posted at 11:08 am in Current events | 74 Comments
 

Good guys win.

Georgia, and the country, dodged a bullet on Tuesday. I’m sure others here felt the way I did when I looked at the still-whisker-thin margin and thought: Lord, there were that many people willing to gamble on Herschel Walker? I can’t even look at photos of him for more than a few seconds; seldom has such a dim light shone from a man’s eyes. Of course, now the off-the-record rats are scrabbling to the nearest reporter:

Interviews with a dozen campaign staff members and Republican operatives working with the Walker campaign suggest that it wasn’t just the candidate who had flaws — the campaign itself was hampered by poor decision-making.

Some said that Walker and his wife, Julie Blanchard Walker, never fully empowered his team to make decisions, frequently questioning suggestions and plans by veteran campaign operatives. The pair insisted on spending what aides described as an “excessive” amount of time poring over proposals for every campaign stop, bottlenecking planning. That included wanting to spend significant time in heavily Democratic areas to woo Black voters, a problem that worsened in the runoff when staff wanted Walker to focus exclusively on mobilizing Republicans who had just voted for him in the general election.

Staffers said Blanchard Walker even suggested her husband should be winning as much as 50 percent of the Black vote in Georgia, regularly commenting that the campaign needed “to be getting him in front of his people, in front of his community,” as one person working on the campaign recalled.

A Republican victory in the Georgia Senate race — even with a Black nominee — was unlikely to involve the party winning over droves of Black voters. The overwhelmingly Democratic demographic propelled Warnock to office two years ago.

So farewell, Herschel. Go back to Texas and live out your life.

Meanwhile, in Germany:

The plan was to storm the German Capitol, arrest lawmakers and execute the chancellor. A prince descended from German nobility would take over as the new head of state, and a former far-right member of Parliament would be put in charge of a national purge.

To facilitate the coup, the electricity network would be sabotaged. Satellite phones to communicate off grid had already been bought.

That is what German prosecutors and intelligence officials say a nationwide far-right terrorist network was plotting before 3,000 police officers and Special Forces fanned out across the country on Wednesday to raid 150 homes and arrest 25 suspected co-conspirators. They included an active duty soldier, a former officer in the elite special forces, a police officer and at least two army reservists.

The prince looks like… about what you’d expect a member of German nobility to look like, which is to say, not exactly an übermensch, but rather a doughy Bavarian lout. And there’s this line, toward the end:

Germany’s intelligence services have for years said that the greatest threat to the country came from domestic, far-right extremist groups.

That’s what our intelligence services have been saying for a while, too, but not very loudly, because it might upset Jim Jordan.

Finally, this: BRITTNEY GRINER IS FREE. Hallelujah.

Posted at 9:01 am in Current events | 29 Comments
 

Saturday morning market.

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Beautiful, beautiful mushrooms.

Posted at 10:05 am in Detroit life | 43 Comments
 

Notes from a prone position.

Because Twitter didn’t collapse in a heap five minutes after Elmo got the keys, there’s a fair amount of pushback from his weird fans. But I’ll tell you: I no longer get served ads for new movies, cars or from any other legit brand, even gambling. Rather, it’s all these super-fast-cut commercials for shit like miracle cleaning brushes, or a wrench that looks like a snowflake, or 25 Times Famous People Ate In Restaurants and You Won’t Believe What Happened.

So I think the longer view is that Twitter won’t collapse in a heap, but rather, be eaten away by glitches and bad user apples like Kanye. Musk will get bored if no one is paying attention to him, and he’ll sell it for pennies on the dollar.

Too bad. Twitter was fun while it lasted. Politics, jokes and cute animals:

Thanks for all the back-care advice. Today, Friday, is the first I’ve felt on the road to recovery. PT starts week after next. Until then, no heavy lifting.

In my convalescence, I’ve been reading the news, oh boy. Two big stories here: One, the battle to lead the Michigan Republican Party, which is revealing that the MAGA wing learned nothing from last month’s election. Either that, or they don’t want to go back to work at their boring old before-times jobs just yet. The losing AG candidate and the losing SOS candidate both have announced their party-chair bids, along with losing U.S. Senate (in 2012) candidate Pete Hoekstra. You junkies might recall him as the guy who ran the “Debbie Spend-it-Now” ad during that year’s Super Bowl, which was so racist the Asian actor cast as Rice Paddy Girl issued a public apology the next day. And he’s the “mainstream” candidate.

The other is about the reshuffling of the Democratic primary calendar for 2024, in which Michigan’s place in the order will move closer to the front of the line. We’re hearing everything from second (after New Hampshire, which for some reason HAS to be first) to fourth, but anything is better than what it’s been in recent years. In 2020, my primary ballot had something like 13 candidates, all of whom had dropped out by the time I voted. Screw Iowa; we can do better than this.

And I guess everyone here has heard what happened when someone put Kanye West in front of a live mic yesterday. A shitshow.

OK, my back is starting to bark again, so wrapping this up. More muscle relaxers! Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 8:46 am in Current events, Media | 23 Comments
 

Ouch.

What started as a little lower-back pain is turning into Backpocalypse. Third straight day in bed most of the time, with occasional movement to stay limber. I can cook a meal (although taking a cast-iron skillet out of the stove last night was a struggle) and walk the dog (as long as she doesn’t want a long one), but not sit for longer than a few minutes.

Saw my doctor yesterday. He prescribed prednisone (not helping so far), muscle relaxants (really not helping so far), and an x-ray. And physical therapy, which I have to set up. We’ll see. I’m hoping for recovery by the weekend. This shit sucks, although I’m doing a lot of reading and watching old Sopranos episodes on the laptop. It’s been interesting, seeing James Gandolfini assume the role of his life, the antihero who ushered in the golden age of TV. I recall showrunner David Chase despairing at how many of his own fans described Tony as “a good guy.” He’s not a good guy, and even the earliest seasons underline that.

Oh, well.

Bedbound as I am, I’ve been spending some time reading the news. This is the one-year anniversary of the Oxford High School shooting out in the exurbs. I haven’t read a single word of the coverage. Anniversary journalism was created for editors, so they can plan for a day sometime in the future. I don’t want to read about anyone’s grief, I don’t want to read how the survivors are coping, and I especially never, ever want to see another hashtag like #(Name of city)Strong. I hate the way these events are so common now, all we do is read from scripts afterward. For years, self-appointed media experts have begged reporters not to write so much about the killers, but instead concentrate on the victims. The message has sunk in, so today I’m scrolling past photo arrays of the four students killed, because we heard it all a year ago. It was tragic when they were killed, and it’s still tragic. I don’t see this as news.

Meanwhile, the cases against the kid who did the shooting, and his parents, who are being charged with negligent homicide, continue to drag on. The boy pled guilty a while back, but his parents are still fighting.

So I turn the virtual page, and it’s all about the impending rail strike, and I feel insane just reading about it. Are you telling me, NPR and New York Times and all the rest, that we’re looking at a national strike over four days of paid sick time, and what’s more, that today rail workers have ZERO DAYS OF PAID SICK TIME? How the hell did that happen? How does any industry get away with that? Is there something special about railroad work that it can’t accommodate workers having four measly sick days? Can someone explain this to a woman flat on her back waiting for the anti-inflammatories to kick in? Because I’m done with the crossword puzzle already and I’m temporarily sick of Tony Soprano.

Posted at 12:17 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 33 Comments