Sampling.

We’ve been having a little problem with the water here in Michigan; maybe you’ve heard.

When the Flint story began to break big, I asked Alan to check our water service line, and he did, reporting back: Lead. OK, no need to panic. The whole country is full of lead or lead-welded infrastructure, and it’s not necessarily an E-ticket to brain damage. When the dangers of lead were first grasped, we didn’t instantly dig them all up, we started adding anti-corrosive agents to municipal water systems. Over time — this is among the 10,000 fun facts about water treatment that every state resident has learned in the last six months or so — this builds up a layer of protective coating on your pipes, so no more lead leaching into your water.

(In fact, one of the problems with Flint now is, the residents are so leery of running their water for any reason that even though the city is now buying treated, finished water from Detroit again, they aren’t running enough through their home pipes to allow them to heal, so to speak. But I digress.)

So, theoretically, because we’ve been drinking treated water from Detroit since we’ve lived here, we should be fine. I didn’t rush to have our water tested, figuring the labs would be inundated with samples from Flint, where they legitimately have reason for concern. I didn’t want to take up lab time because I feel nervous.

Then elevated lead levels were found in a few isolated spots in the local public schools, and I overheard one of the janitors talking to the lifeguard at the pool, saying, “Well, what did they expect? They took the samples at the end of Easter vacation. That water had been sitting in the pipes for days.” Personally? What I expect would be no or hardly any lead in my water. So that was worrisome. And as more emails are released from various government entities, a culture of gaming the testing samples is becoming evident; there’s a protocol that allows outlier readings to be thrown out, or averaged, or something, so that the reaction when a bad sample turns up isn’t oh no lead rush to fix it, but quick get a bunch more samples, so we can throw that one out.

Enough time has passed that the Flint samples must have eased off at the state lab; time for Nance’s peace of mind. It’ll cost $26, assuming I filled out the form properly – it seems very to-the-trade, and how do you like that tiny envelope?

watertesting

I’ll keep you posted on the extent of our brain damage.

What a weekend. Spring is here, and we set off for the local Junior League’s Decorator Show House. It was our family doctor’s father’s house, who I gather was something of an eccentric (when he got tired of keeping up the landscaping, he brought in goats, and ignored all official attempts to evict them), and a pack rat. After his death, the family spent months just clearing the place out. Late one New Year’s Eve, we got a text message inviting us there for one final, impromptu throwdown, and we went. It’s a spectacular house, and even with its ’70s shag carpet and years of neglect, it was clear the good bones were still there. Paul, our doctor, showed us the secret room where the booze was hidden during Prohibition (you could see the bottle marks on the floor), and the basement dry dock — yes, it has a canal leading to a boathouse that can be pumped out and boats hoisted for storage and repair, a feature that I’m sure got its share of action during the ’20s, too.

Every lakefront house in Grosse Pointe has some sort of Prohibition story attached to it, many of them b.s., but this is one whose stories I believe.

Anyway, the decorating was uneven, as most show houses are, but there were a lot of nice touches. The best were the ones where they let those good bones show through. Some moneybags will own it now, and it will nevermore host goats, I imagine. How often do you visit a house with its own lock, and not the kind on the doors?

So, then, a bit of bloggage?

Neil Steinberg with another Trump rant:

Have you looked at his face? The strain. The white circles around the eyes. He just doesn’t look like a well man. Yes, his keeling over dead sometime in the next six months would be a deus ex machina solution. But God looks kindly upon America. Or did.

Not to get overly personal and mean, which smacks of Trumpism. I don’t wish the man dead, just not living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The toughest challenge, facing him, is not to become like him. Because we lose that game, since he’s better at being him than we are.

“When fighting monsters,” as my favorite Nietszche quote goes, “take care not to become a monster.”

A daffy fashion piece by Robin Givhan, about Elizabeth Warren’s sleeves. Headline: Elizabeth Warren is sending you a subliminal message with her sleeves. For real.

The week ahead will be a bear, but I think I’m ready. I better be. You too?

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events, Detroit life | 41 Comments
 

This way to the weekend.

A mixed bag today, as the week lumbers to a close. It was a fairly productive one; can’t complain, even though I was a no-show yesterday. Just one of those days, when nothing much went well and I ended it thinking all I wanted from life was a little Netflix and a book. The next thing you know, you look up and there’s been a plane crash, Morley Safer checks out and…it’s Thursday night.

Happy Friday.

So let’s start with the best bloggage of the bunch. We were talking a few weeks back about the various eagle cams and falcon cams and all the rest of the cams that show us avian predator life in its cuddly fledgling stage. A great piece follows, from the WashPost, about the nest-cam operators who are shutting down, because the thousands watching online? Can’t handle the truth:

The osprey cam at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is trained on a nest near the Massachusetts seaside, and the pair that call it home are now waiting for three eggs to hatch. But for the first spring in a decade, the camera is dark, and a note on the institute’s website offers only a two-sentence explanation.

“Regrettably, the cam will not be operating this season due to the increasingly aggressive actions of certain viewers the last two years,” it begins.

That is a staid reference to cam fans whose emotions about the nest morphed into vitriol — and fighting words. When the osprey mother began neglecting and attacking her chicks in 2014, anxiety exploded among some viewers, as did demands that the institution intervene to save the baby birds. When the same thing happened in 2015, the public passions took a more personal turn.

“It is absolutely disgusting that you will not take those chicks away from that demented witch of a parent!!!!!” one viewer emailed to Jeffrey Brodeur, the communications specialist who ran the camera. Another wrote: “I realize this is nature, but once you put up a cam to view into their worlds it is no longer nature. You have a responsibility to help n save when in need.”

It’s a great story — lots of anecdotes about people who are way too over-invested in the world that flies around over our heads. How much so? Oh, you have no idea:

In 2014, when the chicks featured on a bald-eagle cam in North Fort Myers, Fla., weren’t getting much to eat, some viewers decided to take matters into their own hands. Under cover of darkness, they headed to the nest site and tossed meat into it — a roast, to be specific.

I love the eagle cams as much as the next person, but when things get a little dicey, I just click away. That’s why we have Donald Trump – for the distraction.

Speaking of which.

The WP also has a pretty good piece about the next generation of Trumps, specifically his sons, Eric and Don.

It’s pretty good, but Hank Stuever started an interesting Facebook conversation about the difference between the Trump scions, who at least talked to the Washington Post, and Chelsea Clinton, who apparently still thinks it’s 1993 and she’s 13 years old, protected like the tender bud she was then. Now it’s 2016 and she’s 36, and she still doesn’t answer a question that wasn’t vetted, but feels she can campaign for her mother and face only the scrutiny she approves. So, then: Props to the young Trumps, who I liked better after reading this. Dammit.

Can we trust the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education? Because these numbers are crazy:

If 10 percent of American smokers gave up cigarettes and the rest cut back by 10 percent, the U.S. could shave $63 billion off medical costs the next year, the analysis found.

It doesn’t pass the smell test, but I have no idea it’s a big number. But is it that big?

The new study found that regions with lower smoking rates had substantially lower medical costs from 1992 through 2009.

Californians spent $15.4 billion less on healthcare in 2009 than they would have if they smoked as much as the national average, the analysis estimates. At the other extreme, Kentucky residents spent an estimated $1.7 billion more than the national average on healthcare because they smoked more.

Maybe.

Here’s a nice Neal Rubin column from Detroit, about the breakup of a chain of sleazebags ripping off Detroit Public Schools. I don’t want to excerpt anything from it, but read it — it’s good.

Finally, Lisa Belkin, the former NYT reporter and author “Show Me a Hero,” wrote a piece about the time when, as a young reporter, Donald Trump made a pass at her. It attracted this fan mail:

belkin

Sorry for the language, but this is the sort of thing women who write on the internet get used to. Enjoy your weekend. May you get no communiques like that.

Posted at 12:02 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

The new secondary.

Bernie is coming in for a lot of abuse in these parts, and I don’t disagree with most of it, but he’s on to something when he offers young people free college. I think he has it wrong, though.

We all know college, or some form of post-secondary education, is almost certainly the necessary credential for a middle-class station in life. But college the way many of us experienced it — four years, consecutively, at one school, with either the full or partial support of our parents — is swiftly becoming a thing of the past.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve written a couple of times about so-called early college or middle college programs. They’ve got a little toehold in Michigan, mostly with kids considered at-risk, though lord knows why. It’s a great idea: Instead of four years of high school, you go for five, and graduate at 19 with a high-school diploma and either an associate’s degree, a technical certification or up to I-can’t-remember-how-many college credits, that will transfer to a four-year institution.

The one I wrote about in Flint is pretty typical — it’s connected to a community college, and students move back and forth between the high school and college buildings freely. I came away thinking of it as high school minus the bullsh–, errr, those little extras that make it so. Few or no extracurriculars. No sports, no music (although students could play sports at their “home” schools, or participate in music via the college classes and ensembles. But no prom, no pep assemblies, none of the stuff we make movies about. Kids enter in 10th grade and are sort of eased into higher ed; it’s like a splint between the two worlds, and one reason I think “at-risk” kids tend to respond well to it is, they’re treated like adults, and they like that.

And it’s all free, paid for by the state’s per-pupil allowance.

If this is what Bernie means by free college, then bring on the free college. I wonder how many years we’ll have to wander in the wilderness before a generation or two rinses away the rose-colored hindsight about the best years of our lives, etc.

And, of course, we’ll have to build a lot more facilities attached to higher-ed institutions. Which will cost money. So of course it will never happen.

In other news at this hour, I read this excerpt from Frances Stroh’s memoir — or “debut memoir,” as the editor’s note says, which makes me wonder how many more may be coming — today. It’s called “Beer Money,” and of course you know which beer we’re talking about here. Fire-brewed Stroh’s, once proudly made in Detroit, now just one of those brands you cringe to remember. But when it was big, it was very very big, until the family succumbed to Kennedy Syndrome and drank and frittered it all away.

Hence the memoir.

It’s not bad at all; she’s a good writer, if a little on-the-nose about touching all the Grosse Pointe rich family bases: Indifferent to food, check. Topsiders without socks, check. Mother with freckled calves, check. Family in sprawling, icy house, check. And so on. But this part brought me up a little short:

I turned the car around by the yacht club and started heading back. The lights of Windsor were just coming on across the lake: Canada — our unlikely neighbor.

Never mind why it’s unlikely that Canada is next door; where else would it be? The problem is, you can’t see Windsor from the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. It’s just all lake when you look out from there, maybe some blobby forms way out there on the clearest day, but not close enough to see the lights coming on.

This sort of thing drives me nuts. I know it’s poetic license and all, but it still does.

I’d like to pin down someone who writes regularly about a real place — Laura Lippman, maybe, or one of her confederates — about when you can invent streets and geography. It always takes me out of a story. One of Elmore Leonard’s kids writes novels (not well) and at in one had a couple “skidding to a stop in the gravel” alongside I-94 in Detroit. There is no gravel alongside I-94. It’s an urban freeway, not a fucking goat trail.

OK, enough bitching for now. No links today, and besides, you guys always have better ones.

Posted at 12:05 am in Current events | 102 Comments
 

Send in the cupbearer.

Kate’s been working her way through “Game of Thrones” in the millennial fashion — watching nothing else for days at a time — and I keep walking into the room just as big things are about to happen onscreen. The Red Wedding, Joffrey’s wedding – you Throne-heads know what I’m talking about. I like the show, but I think the immersion is seeping into my bloodstream; I just asked Alan to bring me a flagon of wine.

He brought me half a flagon. I considered beheading him, but he said there was more in the pantry.

Thanks for carrying the conversation yesterday. As to the burning question of Deborah’s library, here’s my method: Sort by mass-market paperback / trade paperback / hardcover, shove them wherever, and just know, more or less, where stuff is. Or sort by color. Oversize volumes on low shelves, trashy novels up high, classy stuff at eye level.

With all I had to do today, I thought I might stop over at MLive, the statewide online news network that carries Bridge content. I was actually wondering if the chatty, informational op-ed by a high-school guidance counselor, on the advisability of gap years for graduating high-school students, was attracting a sewer full of racist comments. (It was pegged to Malia Obama’s decision, of course.) I couldn’t find it, but I found the story I wrote yesterday, which was briefly on the Top 5 most-commented list. It’s about the movement to make menstrual supplies more affordable and/or free in certain situations, and I figured it would be trailing a long string of… never mind. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find readers, male readers, saying they supported the idea of free tampons in schools, because they had daughters themselves.

Sometimes the human race can really surprise me. Pleasantly.

And then something like this happens, and I realize we will never change:

An Arkansas judge accused of swapping sex for reduced sentences resigned Monday after a state commission said it discovered thousands of photographs from his computer that depicted nude male defendants.

…Boeckmann’s resignation came after the commission said in a May 5 letter to his lawyer that it was in the process of recovering as many as 4,500 photos.

“They all depict young men, many naked who are in various poses inside the judge’s home and outside in his yard,” the letter states, adding that many of the men had received checks from the judge and had appeared before him as defendants.

Arkansas is sort of another country, isn’t it?

So, want to own a piece of internet history? How would you like to buy the birthplace of this very blog, for the low-low price of practically nothing? Well, you can, because my old house in Indiana is on the market. In the years since we left, someone has taken up the carpet and refinished the floors, and I suspect a bit of staging was done, too, because those pillar candles are always a dead giveaway, don’t you think? The floor Alan put in the kitchen remains, and thank goddess they didn’t paint the kitchen cabinets. Those are some serious wide-angle lenses in some pix, but ah well — that’s real estate for you.

Finally, this may be the only Trump news I have the stomach for at the moment: Speculation on who he might choose as a running mate. Seeing as how he already has a transition team in mind, I don’t see how this is wrong to do, do you? Note how he uses the phrase “take over the White House.” Ha.

OK, outta here. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 56 Comments
 

An agenda full of OMG.

I was just looking at my work and personal calendars for the next month, and realized it’s entirely possible I will not have ONE SPARE MINUTE to do anything I actually want to do before I take a two-week overseas vacation. Two big projects to finish at work, plus getting the house ready to host our house/dogsitter for two weeks — which is to say, cleaning this dump up and jotting down the million notes on garbage day, laundry machines, etc., as well as hoping the air conditioning doesn’t pick that fortnight to go on the fritz.

There may be gaps here. I’m always saying that, but this time I mean it, dammit.

I may be feeling surly because I’m working my way through this NYT profile of Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, which seems to boil down to speechwriter/Twitter virtuoso, and it’s stirring up a range of emotions and random thoughts, among them:

1) I’m glad people this smart are working for us.
2) I should write more than this stupid blog and a million emails a day. Write-write, like some fiction. Or whatever. This guy is inspiring.
3) Fuck, what if Trump wins? Who will have this job then? Do you think that person will have even read a novel in their lifetime, much less aspired to write one?

I probably had about nine million more, truth be told. It’s a long piece, but absolutely worth your time.

As was this much lighter, fluffier Table for Three feature, with the president and Brian Cranston shooting the shit with an NYT reporter, on the subject of…well, on a lot of subjects. Ostensibly it’s pegged to Cranston playing LBJ in a new movie, but there’s lots of good stuff in there, like this, from the prez:

One thing you have to keep in mind is that I’m probably the most recorded, filmed and photographed person in history up to now. Because I’m the first president who came along in the digital age. Every leader is a funnel for the culture he lives in. And despite the exotic name and weird background, I grew up as an ordinary middle-class kid. The cultural touch points that shaped you are the same ones that shaped me. And the fact that that was true until I was 45 probably differentiates me from most presidents. For somebody like L.B.J., who fastened onto a political career early, it probably changed the way he experienced culture and presented himself. It never felt like a burden to me. What’s felt like a burden is seeing how politics has changed in ways that make it harder for Washington to work. There are a set of traditions, a constitutional design that allows someone like L.B.J. or F.D.R. to govern. And when those norms break down, the machinery grinds to a halt. That’s when you feel burdened. When you say, “Here’s what we need to do.” I’ve made my argument; the majority of the population agrees with me. Yet we’re confronted with endless filibusters and polarization that forbids us from getting stuff done.

The luxury to absorb all these long reads was one detail of my Mothers Day. I was served blueberry pancakes and a bloody mary and then left to my own devices, so I pretty much frittered the day down to its fringes, with a little bike ride and a big dog walk and a mental organization of the month ahead.

At the end of which: Iceland. Still hard to believe.

So, with that sort of week ahead? Best hop to it. But first, “Game of Thrones.”

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

Later, John.

And then there was one, and lo, it was the orange-haired one, and there was both glee and trembling in the land.

Reader, I had a little of both.

First was of course the obvious gloating one is bound to feel when just a few months ago, the usual suspects were calling the GOP field of primary contenders the best in years. Years, they said! Such a range of philosophies and approaches to the governing of our God-given Republic, yessiree. :::Draws deeply on pipe, or whatever stupid face accessory these people favor nowadays::: It will be a bracing race, and at the end, why, the world will be ours!

Meanwhile, see Gin and Tacos for a somewhat different take on the field:

The big money and bag men in the conservative movement bet on a candidate (Walker) so marble-mouthed, uncharismatic, mean, and stupid that he didn’t even make it to the Iowa Caucus and one so fundamentally incompetent (Bush) that not even a famous name, all the money in creation, and the blessing of the entire GOP establishment could win him better than a third place finish anywhere. The field was so bad and the Republican electorate is so mentally skewed that a man with no elected experience who is quite possibly insane and who never even pretended like he was campaigning seriously (Carson) got 10% of the vote. Red-meat Bible thumpers like Huckabee and Santorum never got off the launching pad. Recycled losers like Jindal, Rick Perry, and Lindsey Graham got so little attention other than mocking laughter that they quit before they too could win their 1% in Iowa. Rand Paul proved that he has a cult following of about 8% of the GOP electorate, just like his dad, and nothing beyond that. Shockingly, it turned out that nobody in any party was prepared to take bloated live-action Nelson Muntz / Tony Soprano hybrid Chris Christie seriously, nor a hatchet-faced sociopath with literally no professional, political, or personal qualities to recommend her to serve as dog catcher let alone president. It was worse than a clown car; clowns are, at least occasionally, funny.

So there was that. And because I am deeply suspicious of victory, knowing the grinding feeling of defeat, the inevitable It Could Happen thoughts intruded, and — may I just say something about victory and defeat? There have been times, in recent years, that I’ve felt a tiny hint of sympathy for conservatives, particularly younger ones, who have never known a world without Reagan worship, when Tax Cuts = Economic Growth is as indisputable as John 3:16, or that if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind. These are the people who are bleating that the problem with people like John McCain and Mitt Romney is that they weren’t conservative enough. The twin state-level disasters of Louisiana and Kansas, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, large-scale laboratories for this school of thought, faze them not in the least. MOAR CONSERVATIVE, they rage, and then offer up…Ted Cruz. Srsly. (If I may lard this paragraph with ‘net speak.)

Anyway, wheels turn. Today you might be feeling pretty high on that wheel. Six months from now, it could be President-elect Trump. So don’t get too comfortable.

By the way, if you didn’t read Dahlia Lithwick’s marvelous piece on being on the the college debate circuit with young Ted Cruz, do so now. I found it simultaneously irritating — jeez, do all these Ivy League pricks know each other from their summer-camp days? — and amusing, because it’s Dahlia. Funny and wise, of course:

Most of my memories of debating Ted Cruz involve being hollered at. Austan (Goolsbee) was always defter than I was at deflating that which was most infuriating about Ted—the way he’d reframe a debate topic into something he had prepared, or would become fake-angry in ways that suited a 19-year-old even less than it suits a 40-something-year-old. I do remember that he wasn’t funny, and also that he never ever seemed comfortable in his skin. He always wanted to relitigate whatever round had just been decided, even if everyone else was careening drunkenly around the quad.

I have not one single memory of a relaxed Ted Cruz, or a joyful Ted Cruz, or an unguarded Ted Cruz. In every mental snapshot he is leaning forward and importuning someone to believe he is charming.

Sounds like the child really is father to the man.

Elsewhere in politics, the president came to Flint today. He was preceded at the podium by the governor, who was roundly booed. Cruel boos; this is pretty bad by any measure short of flying shoes.

Then Obama started to speak, and at one point asked for guess-what:

Mr. Obama, who coughed occasionally throughout the speech, paused at one point and looked offstage. “Can I get a glass of water?” he asked, drawing laughs and applause.

“I really did need a glass of water,” Mr. Obama said as he sipped the water that an aide handed to him. “This is not a stunt.”

It may well have been a stunt. But last month, when the governor was telling people that filtered Flint water was safe to drink, he was asked if he’d consider drinking it himself. He said he’d be willing to talk about it. Later he agreed, but the moment had passed, the moment when you reach out, grab that glass, and chug it down.

Oh, this week is going slowly, but once Thursday happens, stuff speeds up.

Let’s hope so.

Posted at 12:28 am in Current events | 38 Comments
 

Adios, Rafael.

I don’t have norovirus, but I do have some reading to do for a project, so this will be short.

So Ted Cruz is out. But of course Ted Cruz is not out, will never be out. Like the original Terminator, he’ll be back, and like the second Terminator, perhaps in a different form. No one that ambitious just goes away, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to marvel at the way his mouth, when he opens it to make a big point in a speech, makes a rectangle:

cruzrectangle

Have you noticed that? So weird. How does anyone go so far in the world, so utterly bereft of charisma? Intelligence opens doors, ambition gets you through them, but personal appeal is an important asset if you want people to put their faith and trust in you, to elect you to high office. But contempt – for almost everyone – oozes from the man. It’s behind his facial expressions, his smug sanctimony. I’d say he’s almost Shakespearean, but Shakespeare wouldn’t have written him, because he’s so utterly devoid of empathy. Even Richard III had a reason behind his menace, his deformity that led so many to reject him. What’s Rafael’s excuse? “My mouth makes a rectangle and my children seemingly shrink from my touch — vote for me!”

Doesn’t work.

I drove to Lansing today. I drove back from Lansing today. I enjoyed it as much as I could, which is to say, I noticed the unearthly green of the fields, the delicate green of the budding trees, and the fact that of all the cars that passed or I passed, a strong majority of drivers were looking at a phone. To be sure, I listened to a podcast on the way there, so I at least glanced at a phone, but still. The podcast was Marc Maron’s WTF, and it was good, because he’s a good interviewer. The subject was Garry Marshall, and it’s a testament to how good Maron is that I kept listening, because I despise Marshall’s films and even his voice gets on my nerves. Maron goes deep with his guests, deeper than Terry Gross, and my one complaint about WTF is that it’s frequently at least an hour and a half. But he turns up some good stuff. Today I learned that Marshall’s neighbor in Toluca Lake, Bob Hope, once gave out autographed photos of himself to trick-or-treaters.

In between my drives I had lunch with my old boss, who looked dapper, happy and successful, which I guess he is. Very smart guy, funny and astute. I’ve been lucky with my bosses at Bridge, and mostly lucky in Michigan. Shoulda left Indiana sooner, maybe, although I’ll be forever grateful to the Hoosier state for humbling Ted Cruz.

With that, I leave you. Discuss the events of the day, as is your wont.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events | 56 Comments
 

Pounds, lost and found.

File this under Emails You Probably Don’t Want to Receive. It arrived late this afternoon:

We have been informed that a large number of the staff at (company deleted) came down with a gastrointestinal illness over the weekend. We do not know the source of the illnesses. As a precaution, we are sanitizing all drinking fountains and public restrooms in the building, as well as common areas recently utilized by (the) staff. We are not aware of any other tenants experiencing multiple illnesses among their staffs. If you or members of your staffs have or are experiencing similar symptoms, please let us know. At this time, we are considering this an isolated incident.

Bad news: This is at our co-working space. Good news: It’s four floors above ours. Fingers crossed, but those noroviruses are sneaky bastards. Good news: I’m a dedicated hand washer. Good news: I think I drank only bottled water today. I guess we shall see.

Good thing there is much good bloggage today. If you don’t see me for a while, perhaps I’ll be barfing. Or maybe just lazy — it’s always a strong possibility.

First off, a terribly depressing and still interesting story about the aftermath of the 2009 “Biggest Loser” contestants. Guess whether they kept their weight off. Yes, you’re right — hardly any of them did, and one or two are even heavier than they were when they left the show, stones and stones lighter. Nut graf:

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.

What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.

Mr. Cahill was one of the worst off. As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size. Anything more turns to fat.

This is great research, and may well lead, down the road, to an understanding of obesity not as a character flaw but something more complicated – part disability, part psychological condition, part mystery.

Moving on to someone who is not fat and would probably be sent back to Slovenia if she gained so much as an ounce, we have a long-awaited profile of the uncooperative Mrs. Donald Trump:

Melania appears to have internalized many aspects of Donald’s culture: his ahistoricism; his unblinking gall; his false dichotomies between murderous scofflaws and deserving citizens, women who ask for nothing and nagging wives. Like Donald, Melania doesn’t drink. She never breaks ranks, not even with a teasing criticism. “I like him the way he is,” she has said, of Donald’s hair. She has taken on her husband’s signature pout, in a connubial version of people who grow to look like their dogs. In 2013, Donald tweeted, “I love watching the dishonest writers @NYMag suffer the magazine’s failure.” One of them, Dan Amira, retaliated, writing, “Your wife is waiting for you to die.” One couldn’t help but detect Donald’s influence when Melania fired off a reply: “Only a dumb ‘animal’ would say that! You should be fired from your failing magazine!” (Last week, when Julia Ioffe reported in GQ that Melania has an unacknowledged half brother, Trump supporters flooded social media with images of Ioffe that they’d doctored to depict her, among other things, wearing a yellow star in a concentration camp.) Melania is the ultimate embodiment of Trump’s bargain with the American electorate. If the Obama promise was that he was you, the Trump promise is that you are him.

She’s a tabula rasa who speaks in a heavy accent, an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

You might think this is the best election ever, and when I see clips like this, I have to agree with you.

You might think this is the best election ever, and when I hear that a young Hoosier yelled “you suck” at Ted Cruz, I have to agree with you on that one, too.

And this little bit of satire is a little bit amusing.

Off to Lansing today. Let the conversation begin.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments
 

T*t soup.

We went out Saturday night, and in the manner of Olds, were inside with the latchstring pulled before 10:30 p.m. I could have probably gone later, but it would have required another food/alcohol game plan, and the couch is so, so inviting at that hour.

Anyway, being without cable but with broadband, I found the president’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner with little trouble, and had it playing on my phone as I drifted in and out of consciousness. When we were out earlier, one of my friends said, “I read that the Key & Peele guys write his jokes,” like that was a terrible thing. I responded that of course Obama has a joke writer, like virtually every comedian. Besides, the joke on the page is only half of the miracle; the rest is in the delivery, and that’s all his. And, as has been noted a million times before, Obama has spectacular timing and delivery skills.

You can read the whole speech transcript here, if you like. You’ve probably already read the best zingers:

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.

…And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.

…Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

You can find your own favorites. The last Facebook message I got was from a friend who heard Larry Wilmore’s speech, which ended with this bit, which actually played in a key of pride and nostalgia —

Thank you for being a good sport, Mr. President, but all jokes aside, let me just say how much it means for me to be here tonight. I’ve always joked that I voted for the president because he’s black. And people say, “Well, do you agree with his policies?” And I always said, “I agree with the policy that he’s black.” I said, “As long as he keeps being black, I’m good.” They’d say, “What about Iraq?” “Is he still black?”

But behind that joke is a humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means.

When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.

Words alone do me no justice. …Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it.

Only he didn’t say n-dash-dash. He said, “my nigga,” and I guess parts of the mediasphere lost their shit. Feh. The world, she changes every day.

A good weekend in our neck of the woods. The theme was sweat: First in Saturday’s workout, then in Sunday’s schvitz, the last until September. In between our friends who recently honeymooned in Napa held Taco Night, and we marveled at their embryonic wine cellar and stories of spectacular dining experiences. Face it, Napa is just grownup yuppie Disneyland. All the pleasures — food, wine, million-thread-count sheets.

The schvitz was pretty great, too. The proprietor turned on the bubbles in the jacuzzi, which are some SERIOUS DAMN BUBBLES. I think my back actually got numb. Everyone in the spa was topless, and I was reminded of one of the funnier lines from “Sex and the City,” when Miranda, at the Playboy Mansion, rounds a corner in the grotto to find a similar sight. “Look,” she says. “Tit soup.”

Bloggage! I know you’re all Princed out, but I chuckled over this Roy take on a National Review Prince column, so what the hell, you should enjoy, too.

And Neil Steinberg disposed of Chris Christie nicely here. By “nicely,” I mean, “with a stiletto.”

…Christie showed up at the Republican debates, delivered his prepackaged zingers and hit his cues. And when it was over he was among the first former opponents to embrace Donald Trump.

As a reward, Trump lets him join the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album cover melange of models and GOP mercenaries who have drifted over to his banner and are allowed to stand behind him at speeches.

Christie, though, is noteworthy for that expression, that stunned, miserable stare that often comes over his face. I think of that woman trapped in the hive in “Aliens,” who croaks “Kill me.”

Finally, last week I mentioned not keeping up with internet culture so much anymore. One individual I did notice from my keeping-up days, though, was Jeff Jarvis, who was one of those post-9/11 guys, the purported Democratic peacenik who went whole-hog for the warblogs, and later became convinced blogs were oh-so-much-better than boring old ink-on-paper stuff, etc. (It’s more complicated than that, but I don’t have time.) Lately he’s reinvented himself as an eminently parody-able journalism futurist, and a parody Twitter account — @profjeffjarvis — has been parodying him for a while. The other day, Esquire’s website ran a piece by the spoofer, which made the original recipe very, very mad. Gawker took him down nicely.

Busy week ahead. I am not tanned, but I am rested and ready. Bring it on.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Detroit life | 41 Comments
 

This thing, not that thing.

When I was in high school, and I’m fairly sure I’m remembering this correctly, a teacher was dating a student. She wasn’t his student, and she was a senior, and I don’t think their relationship was a deep, dark secret, although they were discreet. I’m also fairly sure they married shortly after graduation, so I have to assume her parents knew. A little Googling reveals that he was employed by the district for many years, and may well still be. He was a rookie then, so let’s say he was…23, 24? And she was 18, maybe 17. That’s an age gap that wouldn’t turn a head if they were a few years older, or if this happened a few years earlier. To this day, I have no idea how it slid past the administration, but maybe her parents approved, and – hell, I don’t know.

But even then, I think it was understood that the teacher wasn’t a child molester. (It might have been a little creepy, but they did get married, after all.) The problem with people like Dennis Hastert isn’t that he’s a molester, but that he abused a power relationship, that he imposed himself sexually upon someone in a subordinate position. It’s about consent, and when it’s appropriate to even ask for it. But a 17-year-old is at least physically an adult.

I believe the term for this is not pedophilia, but ephebophilia, describing a sexual attraction to adolescents. A while back I was complaining about the May-December – no, March-December – sexual relationships that turned up in Jim Harrison’s later fiction, between a 60-something man and a 15-year-old girl. The character says he thinks 15 is the cutoff, a thought I find pretty fucking gross, and still do. But there has to be a cutoff somewhere. Arbitrarily, we set ages of consent or legal majority. A 17-year-old might legally be a child, but they’re not.

If you’ve had one in the house, you know what a maddening mix of both they can be.

Fuck Dennis Hastert, anyway. Imagine groping some poor high-school boy, after telling him a massage will help him lose weight.

And speaking of him, Neil Steinberg’s column about the very same.

I pay less attention to internet culture these days, and this is why.

The new hockey arena in Detroit will be called the Little Caesar’s Arena. NO ONE likes this (and there are still more than $200 million in public dollars in this goddamn thing). I hate the new era.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 12:33 am in Current events | 59 Comments