Sushi night.

Oh, you guys. My lovely, lovely readers. Where would this stupid blog be without you? Monday night was a late night for me, if “late” means “feeling sweaty and unwilling to sit in front of a screen for another 45 minutes to an hour.” I’d tell you I watched the convention, but I didn’t watch much of it. Sue me. I edited a cover letter for a friend and read a little in “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s great memoir about investigating her estranged father, who had gender-reassignment surgery late in life.

(Alex, this is going to you when I’m done. Not because you have a particular interest in trans issues, but because her dad is Hungarian, and much of the narrative takes place in Budapest.)

So I missed the FLOTUS speech, but after reading the raves today, I looked it up and watched it over my lunch hour today. Outstanding. Talk about someone who slays all day. Beyonce has nothing on FLOTUS (and I suspect she knows this; I suspect, if FLOTUS decided to try a little career in pop music next year, Bey would retire or maybe take a job as one of her backup dancers).

I promise I’ll watch more tonight, but I’m attending a sushi pop-up Tuesday night and may not be into it tonight, either. Truth be told, I generally find following it on Twitter more entertaining and time-efficient. And of course, you guys are invaluable.

So I’m going to post this on Tuesday afternoon, and I’ll see you again in 36 hours or so. With a sushi review! Maybe.

I discovered the “Keepin’ it 1600” podcast over the weekend, and that may be my second-favorite way to enjoy the conventions. This is produced by Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, former Obama aides who now do their own thing and enjoy the freedom of doing a podcast full of laughter and casual profanity. Like lots of podcasts, it’s way too long — lookin’ at you, Marc Maron — even while you enjoy every minute of it. But I have been chuckling over one passage all day, which I’ll try to paraphrase: “I voted for the first time in the election of 1994, and if you’d told me then that I would still be having to see Newt Gingrich speaking at conventions 22 years later, I’d never have believed you.”

Any other podcast recommends? They make me feel guilty, because I’ve found they generally require a more focused attention than regular old music-on-the-radio, but I can rarely devote an hour or more to them. And I’m out of the radio habit. But I want to be open-minded. So throw ’em out there.

Quick bloggage before I book out of here:

Does anyone care about Milo Yiannopoulos? I don’t, but I guess he’s someone who begs for attention, so here ya go.

Speaking of profanity, but the funny stuff, the case for Hillary, by “Hillary.”

I know you’ll keep me posted on what I need to watch tomorrow. For now, post away here.

Posted at 3:43 pm in Current events | 39 Comments
 

Make America suspicious again.

After the week we had, it was nice to have a nice, boring weekend, where it was too hot to do much but chores around the house, the usual errands, a little shopping and the neighborhood block party. I brought Mark Bittman’s corn salad, which I recommend if you have a little mint growing in the yard, and who doesn’t? I hope your neighbors like it. I sat quietly (heat; 90 degrees) and looked around, trying to imagine who’s voting for Trump.

That’s what the events of last week did to me.

Later, we chatted with one of our closer-in neighbors, who told us a lively story about the time in 2004 she was cited for putting up a Kerry sign more than 30 days before the election. A neighbor — a neighbor who had an enormous sign in his own yard reading I SUPPORT PRESIDENT BUSH AND OUR TROOPS — complained. The police explained that his wasn’t political. She had an identical sign made reading I SUPPORT SENATOR KERRY AND OUR TROOPS, and then the ACLU was called. The sign ordinance was challenged and pitched, as they all are. Why do dunderheaded city councils allow these things to go through? If the first amendment protects any kind of speech, it’s political speech. This happened in Fort Wayne, too. City councils aren’t always the most forward-thinking governmental bodies.

Which reminds me, I was watching a Facebook thread about the local rules about putting out trash and garbage, and whether it’s OK for others to go through it, in search of treasure. The discussion was divided between the pro-picker community and those who found the idea simply reprehensible, and didn’t see why they should have to alter their behavior one little bit — such as, putting out trash close to the predictable pickup time — to keep bums and scrappers out of it. One argued forcefully for an ordinance banning the practice. I don’t need to tell you that in other forums, he’s a loud voice for Getting Government Out of Our Lives.

This is what the events of last week did to me.

And now a new week awaits. More heat ahead, slightly less oppressive, but not much. I may have to double down on swimming workouts until it passes. Here’s what was waiting for me on Friday:

duckswimming

The duck paddled around all the lanes as the lap swimmers did their thing. She was eating the bugs in the gutter. That’s Tim, the old coach/lifeguard. When he’s gone and I’m old, I’ll remember he taught me how to do the butterfly.

I don’t know how he’s voting. When he remarked on the sparse numbers at the workout Friday, I said maybe everyone was crouched, fearful, in their homes, after listening to Der Fuhrer the night before. No one smiled.

I guess they were feeing the strain, too.

So much to link to and comment on, really too much. Events are moving so quickly, why try to keep up. But I thought this piece summed things up nicely:

We noted four years ago the dysfunction of the Republican Party, arguing that its obstructionism, anti-intellectualism, and attacks on American institutions were making responsible governance impossible. The rise of Trump completes the script, confirming our thesis in explicit fashion.

Consider, as a sign of the party’s decadence, how quickly Bob Corker, a card-carrying member of the Republican Party elite — the center-right chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — caved in to this horribly miscast party standard-bearer. Trump’s campaign has been filled with statements whose ignorance and bombast have appalled the establishment. Then a ballyhooed foreign policy speech in late April was widely panned by experts across the foreign policy spectrum. (“A very odd mishmash”; “strident rhetoric [that] masked a lack of depth.”) Corker’s response? He praised “the broadness, the vision” of the speech.

Sigh. Bring on the Dems, and let’s see how their show goes.

Posted at 12:13 am in Current events | 84 Comments
 

Open thread.

I’m bloody to the elbows from all this red meat that was thrown around a few hours ago. Let’s discuss.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events | 70 Comments
 

The shame statement.

I think every writer who wants to make a living at it says, at some point, “I’ll write labels that say, ‘Aim sprayer away from face,’ as long as I’m making a living as a writer.” And in our heart of hearts, we all fret we might end up like Meredith McIver.

This is the ghostwriter who fouled up the Melania Trump speech, or at least, she is the one who fell on her sword for it, only to be rescued by None Other, if her statement is to be believed.

There’s no shame in any job, and ghostwriting can be a lucrative line of work, requiring its own kind of writing skill. It’s not easy to write in the voice of another. And god knows, people who have to channel Jack Welch or Bill Gates or Donald Trump deserve every penny they earn.

But McIver isn’t a co-author on “The Art of the Deal” or the sorts of books that get mentioned in a famous person’s obituary; rather, she worked on the ones that might charitably be lumped into the phrase “…as well as other titles.”

She’s co-author on “Trump: How to Get Rich” and “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” as well as other titles. These are books so slight they’re sold in “pocket editions” with built-in bookmarks with a little silver dollar sign dangling at the end. Because these are the sorts of books you want to keep handy, I guess, like the Bible or a Moleskine or the Tao Te Ching. In case you forget how to think like a billionaire. Let’s read the customer reviews:

The first half of the book gives some very common sense advice that can basically be summed up by; keep and open mind, stay positive, and be persistent in achieving your goals/dreams. The second half of the book was lousy. It was just name dropping and telling us whether or not he loves or hates the person

Poor Meredith. Sixty-five years old, forced to commit public seppuku under the Trump letterhead. Melania read her some passages written by Michelle Obama, Meredith took notes and drafted the speech in such a way that it took phrase after phrase and reproduced them intact? I’ve been taking notes all my life, and this woman’s transcription skills are far beyond mine.

[pause]

Sorry. I’ve got the RNC playing in the background, and Ted Cruz is getting lustily booed – he’s not endorsing the nominee, ha ha. God, this week is so weird. Now, the Trump children. The boys look like extras from a party scene in “Wall Street,” and Ivanka, all of 35, has the youthful polish of a woman five years older.

I’m glad to be living through this era, in equal measure which how much I’m appalled by it.

But when the choices include a man who apparently cannot understand seventh-grade levels of humor and irony, what can you expect? Ben Carson sounds like the people who used to call me when I hosted talk radio, worrying that naming a minor league baseball team the Fort Wayne Wizards would bring down the wrath of God.

Oh, I need to go to bed. There is only so much Ted Cruz one can handle.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events | 44 Comments
 

Dizzying reality.

The news the past few weeks has been so weird I’m starting to get vertigo. Last night I drank a fair amount of wine — not stumbling drunk, just one of those sip-sip-sip for several hours deals — and the last thing I watched was Melania’s speech. It was pretty much what I expected, and I headed off to bed more worried about Screamin’ Rudy than the lady with the exquisite highlights. Then I woke up at 5 a.m., turned on the iPad for the overnight headlines, and: whoa.

I was giving her the benefit of the doubt at the first scan of headlines. I feel like I have a little expertise in this area (ahem) and I’m pretty generous in my judgment, compared to some. I’ve seen plagiarism accusations made over very thin evidence — five words, eight words, not even a full sentence. But as soon as I saw the texts and saw the video, I was astounded. But now, 24 hours or so after it dropped, this already feels like old news. Because day two is in progress as we speak, and Roger Ailes is packing his bags at Fox.

Roger Ailes. Well, he only managed to have a career until he was 76. I’m sure scores of women are out there, remembering his jowls quivering while he said stuff like, “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys,” in one memorable phrase. Some surely believed him. Imagine sex with Roger Ailes. Ew. Ew. EWWWW.

Wheels are turning. As I’m sure today’s reading will be overcome by events, let’s post it anyway. Some of it was already in comments, but not every reader here reads the comments:

Josh Marshall at TPM, making some important points about the dangerous territory we’ve entered:

It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.

This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance rewatch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don’t fool yourself: worse can happen.

Marshall’s been killing it the last few days, btw.

James Fallows on why the speech screwup matters. Many good points.

Finally, because we can always use one of these, a dog picture:

closeupwendy

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events | 49 Comments
 

We’re in a land with no maps.

J.C. and Sammy blew through town last night, and lo there was drinking and snacking and yes, another tri-tip. I was going to take the day off, but here it is 7:30 a.m. and I’m wondering how much weirder this day can get, now that Mrs. Trump’s handlers have been caught red-handed stealing the words of Mrs. Obama. I’m not speechless, but I prefer the words of Neil Steinberg, whose comment was, “This abyss really has no bottom, does it?”

No, it doesn’t. Meanwhile, here’s a story I scrambled up yesterday, about Cleveland and a Michigan entrepreneur who is making bank on current paranoia with a product seemingly designed for crazy times — a $299 bulletproof vest.

Talk amongst yourselves. I feel like the roller coaster has left the station, we can feel the clack-clack-clack through the floor, but what’s at the top of the hill? No one knows.

Posted at 7:40 am in Current events | 64 Comments
 

It rocks, you know.

So, Cleveland. Cleveland! Love that town, and always have. Growing up in Columbus, Cleveland was always the bigger, cooler brother and Cincinnati the pretty, popular sister. We were just…in the middle. The middle C of the Three C Highway. The place with the safe, boring, white-collar economy that ended up being the horse to bet on. Cleveland sank to its knees when its rust-belt industries closed or moved. Cincinnati is still pretty, but in the end, it’s uptight and does all its sinning across the river.

(You can get a nice bourbon in Cincinnati, though, I’ll say that. My first boyfriend’s father was a raging alcoholic and a big success, and used to have a kid drive a case over the river for him every week. Yes, a case. Yes, weekly. See previous sentence.)

But Cleveland is a different kettle of three-eyed fish. Cleveland had WMMS, the best radio station in the region. They had pro sports, great local music, the same sort of sweaty, blue-collar ethnic energy that Detroit has. They had their own squashed-vowel local accent, as anyone who’s heard a story about “the Fleeats” can tell you. Ten-cent beer night. River on fire. Their own REM song. An infamous rock hotel. And there’s the one about the mayor’s wife turning down an invitation to the White House because it conflicted with her bowling night.

And its core, buoyed by new stadiums and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, is back with a vengeance. Hey, they have bus rapid transit! How much more cosmopolitan can you get?

So I’m looking forward to the #RNCinCLE, as the hashtag goes. Not heartened by the weather forecast, though — it’s going to be in the 90s here all week, and that doesn’t mean it’s going to be 72 at the other end of Lake Erie. Kate picked up a job last Friday for a friend of mine who sells bulletproof vests, delivering four cases to a cop-supply store there. The friend was delivering the rest of his inventory the following day. Fingers crossed.

How was everyone’s weekend? We had a birthday party on Friday, and a lot of choices on Saturday — three different music fests, plus more. We considered attending the Don Was All-Star Review at the Concert of Colors, but I decided we would not wallow in what-was nostalgia — this show puts people on stage straight from their assisted-living suites, I’m convinced — and went to Crash Detroit, a smaller, looser celebration of street bands in the New Orleans style. It was raucous and fun and not too hot, a blessing:

crashdetroit

The final act, the Detroit Party Marching Band, had three people in sloth outfits mingling through the crowd. I snagged a sloth selfie:

sloth

I think this might be my spirit animal, many days.

So, on to the bloggage, then.

I’m reading the speakers lineup for the convention, and people? I’m finding it both easy and hard to believe. This will be a pass-the-popcorn event for sure. Of course, it had to include one of these feebs:

Also, Scott Baio, enough assorted Trumps to fill an extra-long luxury SUV and this poor girl:

On another topic, how food became a religion.

And then, of course, this, in Baton Rouge. A developing story, so I’m going to let it develop for a while.

Monday and the 90s approach. Let the great work begin.

Posted at 12:04 am in Current events | 49 Comments
 

Which way does the water run?

I don’t know whether this story is a reflection of the War on Science, Man’s Disconnection From Nature or just Our Idiot Nation. I do know it’s damn funny.

Three women buy inner tubes on a hot day and set out to float the Muskegon River. They’ve never tubed and they don’t know where they’re going, but this isn’t a dangerous voyage by any measure. And besides, they have a plan:

“They went and bought some tubes and they went to the Maple Island Bridge, which is one of the access points to the river, a popular spot,” Grabinski said Thursday. “They were misinformed: Somebody said (the river) makes a big loop and they’d come right back to their car.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT DOES AT CEDAR POINT.

“Right about dark they realized that that was not the case and so they got off the river onto the bank, screaming for help,” Grabinski said. “It was an isolated area. Unless somebody else is coming down the river, nobody’s going to hear them.

“I can only imagine how frightened they were,” Grabinski continued. “They had no food, no shelter, and they were in swimsuits.”

They also had no cellphones, Grabinski said. They were rescued by chance more than 20 hours later, about 3 miles downriver from where they launched their tubes.

Oh, well. Some vicious mosquito bites, I’m sure, but they survived intact.

So. Friday, you have arrived. Bobby Knight lookalike Mike Pence is poised to bring more infamy to Indiana’s recent history with vice presidents. The less said about that, the better. Besides, funnier people than I will say funnier, more brittle bon mots.

And now we have another attack to contend with, this one in France. Jesus Christ, a semi driven into a crowd. I can’t stand it. I had some notes sketched out to write something about what’s been bugging me ever since Dallas — this idea that police must not only be respected and obeyed, but revered and elevated as the only thing keeping our society from the abyss. I reject this idea; they aren’t infantry soldiers, and we don’t live in a war zone. A lot of things keep us safe. A functional, fair economy goes a long way. Teachers, schools that work for all, or as many as possible. Freedom and opportunity. Police have a part to play, but it’s far from the only, or even the most important part.

But I don’t really feel like expounding on that today. A Bastille Day attack in France. A tubing trio of dimwits. That’s what I’ve got. We have a lot to talk about anyway. And a weekend ahead. Let’s enjoy it.

Posted at 12:08 am in Current events | 34 Comments
 

Clips.

I was reading a story about the ongoing Penn State/Jerry Sandusky affair. It turns out – stop me if you find this simply unbelievable – that more people might have known, far earlier, that something terrible was going on between Sandusky and the young people he was supposedly helping through his charity.

One of them was a member of the coaching staff. Supposedly, he “came into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower.”

I thought what I’ve thought often since that story broke: This is the difference between men and women. A man scurries away and turns white as a ghost. A woman, pretty much any woman I know, especially the ones who are mothers, walks up to that asshole, grabs him by the ear and starts twisting.

Or maybe not. Women can abuse children as terribly as men can. But we’re hard-wired to protect them, and every time I hear one of these stories, I think of what a terrible thing fraternity can be, how loyalty to a team can lead otherwise good people to ignore something so evil, literally right in front of their faces.

Not to start with a bummer, though! Comedy, dead ahead!

Here’s my old newspaper, on the prospect of Mike Pence behind Trump’s veep choice:

At the risk of sounding like knee-jerk cheerleaders for the favorite-son candidate, we think Pence would be a good choice because he complements Trump in so many ways. He will balance Trump’s flamboyance with his quiet and even-tempered thoughtfulness. He has all the political experience Trump lacks, bringing both executive and legislative experience to the ticket. He has impeccable conservative credentials that would immediately add to Trump’s support from that bloc of the GOP.

As the kids say: Facepalm.

Now here’s Politico, on the same subject:

A firestorm around a 2015 law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act placed the state center stage in the culture wars, leading to intense backlash from the business community. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce called the law “a tremendous hit” to Indiana’s “national identity as a welcoming and hospitable state,” and Pence delivered a memorably bad performance on ABC’s “This Week,” in which he declined to answer whether or not it should be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

He was also embarrassed by — and forced to abandon — a plan to create a state-run news service, an idea that drew national ridicule. All of it took place against the backdrop of rumblings that Pence had ambitions of his own for the Oval Office.

…He’s facing a tough rematch against Democrat John Gregg, a former state legislator who lost to Pence by three percentage points in 2012, even as Mitt Romney won the state by 10 points.
Pence’s job approval rating is underwater at 40 percent, according to a May poll, and even among Republicans only six-in-10 supported his re-election.

And people wonder why my resume now has a line that reads: “1984-2004: In a coma.”

Finally, this, from this year’s Nordstrom anniversary sale catalog. I love this sale; I usually buy one or two trinkets to jumpstart the fall wardrobe and feel, in my old-hag skin, just a touch…fashionable. But not at this cost:

B9292EFD-2460-4536-BBDE-7B1BDFD13CEB

Can you believe this ugly-ass shit? Whose idea is flared denim cropped pants? Not mine. Ring me up next year.

Finally-finally, an oral history of “Magic Carpet Ride.” Because the world was waiting for this, right?

Happy hump day.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events, Popculch | 93 Comments
 

Blue.

I say this with some self-mockery, but: Last night was bad. Couldn’t sleep. My insomnia usually presents as middle-of-the-night wakefulness, but Thursday night I just plain couldn’t get to sleep. Might have dozed a bit, but at 11:45 p.m. I was still tossing and turning. Thought, screw it, let’s read Twitter. And that’s when I saw the news of the tragedy in Dallas, which many of you are waking up to now. That was 14 minutes before what’s below was about to publish, and for that, all I can say is: whew.

Rereading it, though, I’m not going to change anything, although I’m glad I waited. I don’t think it’s cognitive dissonance to say you condemn both the sort of police work that leaves two men dead in two nights, AND the ambush massacre in Dallas. It’s clear to me that the police are the infantry in a lot of wars we’ve chosen to fight, or been led into fighting. The low-level cracked-taillight cop hassle that led to Philando Castile’s death earlier this week, and the GET DOWN GET DOWN GUN GUN GUN paramilitary screwup that killed Alton Sterling even earlier (and that was, what? Tuesday?) are all of a piece with a larger brokenness in our society that we haven’t addressed, and can’t even really see. We can’t even agree on what it is, which is one reason I’ll be tuning out a lot of the social-media static over the next few days. I’ll read you guys commenting here, because you are in the main smart and thoughtful, and I’ll read some selected news sources, but right now the best strategy seems to be to step back and ask: What is really going on here? It’s not what we think. It’s something worse, I fear. So, then, below is what I wrote before Dallas. It’s yours now.

I know everyone is talking about a particular police video today, but I want to draw your attention to a different one. This one. A 911 operator in Avon, Ohio gets two calls, one from a young woman, one from a man, claiming a woman they both know (daughter to the man, sister to the father) is a desk clerk at a Fairfield Inn, and just observed an Arabic man with “multiple disposable cell phones” and “full headdress” pledging allegiance to ISIS in the hotel. Come quick, she’s terrified!

And they do.

The tape is long, but the action is in the first few minutes, when the police roll into this suburban McHotel parking lot like the Marines into Fallujah, weapons drawn, shouting GET DOWN GET DOWN SHOW ME YOUR HANDS GIVE ME YOUR HANDS at this poor guy, whose “full headdress” is basically just a traditional white robe and kaffiyeh, whose pledge of allegiance to ISIS was a phone call in Arabic. He complies immediately, but the YELLING ORDERS stuff goes on, and at no point does anyone in a law-enforcement uniform offer him a hand up or, god forbid, an apology. Eventually the guy has some sort of medical crisis while he’s lying down, and he’s taken away on a stretcher.

A few things to stipulate here: Yes, I know this is standard police training. Go in big and loud and don’t back down. My question is, why not back down when you’re obviously wrong? Is there, anywhere in the training manual, any room for common sense to take over, for an officer in charge, or even in the rank and file, to rub a few brain cells together and think, “Hmm, Avon? A Fairfield Inn? Does this make sense as a terrorist target? And doesn’t the Cleveland Clinic do a lot of business with Middle Eastern patients? Who is this clerk and her sister and father? Maybe we can go in a little less…erect, shall we say, at least until the shooting starts.”

This is why people keep getting shot by police. We train officers to go in like the Marines, when a little more Andy Taylor may be called for. I think Jeff gets at the nut of it in his comment yesterday. A lot of police today came out of the military. A lot of their equipment is military surplus. They’re trained to think of themselves as soldiers. We see the attitude here in Detroit when we cross the border to have lunch or a drink in Windsor. On the Canadian side, a polite border officer asks where we’re going, whether we’re carrying firearms, hands back our passports and tells us to enjoy the city. Coming home, a scowling guy in a bulletproof vest asks why we’d cross an international border to have lunch. (“Well, the dim sum in Windsor is really superior to anything you can get over here.”) The vibe is AGGRESSIVE and DO NOT FUCK WITH THE UNITED STATES BORDER PATROL.

A while back, I was listening to a local radio station’s news roundup. It’s Canadian, but rarely broadcasts its call letters, and I’d forgotten until I heard a story about the Windsor police releasing their use-of-force data for the year. They consider unholstering a nightstick a use of force, and it’s overwhelmingly the weapon of choice for Canadian police. Not that it is used often.

The week’s news sickens me, and almost as sickening is the justification that’s immediately offered, by talking heads right down to the comment sections: Police work is hard, it’s stressful, you never know when someone is going to bust a cap in your ass, SHOW ME YOUR HANDS GET DOWN GET DOWN. I’m not denying any part of that. I’m postulating that maybe more common sense is called for. Maybe more humanity. Maybe fewer traffic stops for cracked fucking taillights. Do you know what it costs to get a taillight fixed? Do you have any idea what that amount of money represents to a poor person?

Ugh. Well.

I didn’t mention Newt Gingrich in my veep odds the other day, did I? I should have. I’m thinking he’s my favorite. He’ll take the gig because he has nothing to lose. He’s well out of politics, and makes his living entirely by consulting and writing unreadable books and elsewhere in the shadow D.C. economy. In other words, he has a lot to gain from a brand-build that a veep run with Trump would offer. Newt is 5:2.

If Fox News is like this on the air, imagine what it’s like off the air.

Finally, you all have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:02 am in Current events | 84 Comments