Wheels up.

We leave in about 36 hours. Still no health pass. Panicking? Who, me?

I was really hoping to get this settled before we left, but there’s another day of work ahead in France, so who knows, maybe a miracle will happen. In the meantime, a few things to remember:

I’m taking my laptop with us, but will not necessarily stick to any sort of schedule here. I’ll post when I’m moved to do so, probably mostly pictures but who knows. Part of the excitement of this trip will be getting out of the usual ruts, so let’s hope the next rut isn’t too trying.

Meanwhile, for some reason I started thinking about Italy the other day. Most of us here are old enough to remember when Italian voters put an adult-film actress in their parliament. Ilona Staller, stage name Cicciolina, took office in the ’80s sometime.

And while I’m a modern person and believe there’s no reason a porn star can’t be a policymaker, as I recall, Staller’s career seemed to be mostly dedicated to, as we say today, brand-building. If you can stand the exploding pop-ups and CSS, here’s a Daily Mail story about what she’s up to these days, now that she’s 70-ish. One of the subheads says so much: Between 1987 and 1991, she grabbed headlines with outlandish policy pledges. It would seem so. She offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein in return for peace in Iraq, for one. She married artist Jeff Koons, the guy who floated two basketballs in an aquarium and called it art, obviously a kindred spirit. And now she’s trying to get her ex-MP pension back, after it was reduced by two-thirds.

At the time, as an ignorant American, I recall reading a little more about how it happened – Staller’s career, that is. The upshot was that Italy is so deeply cynical about its politics that the idea of electing a porn actress who’s never going to get anything done, just dick around and make headlines, is seen as n.b.d.

And I think we’ve become Italy.

Look at the current crop of morons vying to become the next Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Cawthorn. I was keeping notes on them for a while, but have abandoned the effort. There are so many, most of them young and capable only of barking slogans into a camera while promising to go to Washington and fight the deep state.

Karoline Leavitt, in New Hampshire, called Black Lives Matter a Marxist terrorist organization. Graham Allen, in South Carolina, actually has the oldest cliché in reality TV in his pinned tweet: “I’m not going to DC to make friends.” And of course we can’t forget Caitlyn Jenner, the deeply unserious candidate for California governor, and yes I know she only got 1 percent in the recall vote, but still.

(However. If you have Netflix and are following the Untold series of sports docs, I can recommend the one on Bruce Jenner and his Olympic decathlon experience. I learned a lot about the decathlon, and despised Caitlin maybe 1 percent less afterward.)

Anyway, I think we’ve become Italy. These people are the Cicciolina of their time, treating the deadly serious work of guiding the nation as yet another reality TV show. If we’re not doomed outright, I think we’ve turned the corner to it.

Not that I wish to leave you with bummer thoughts! I’m looking forward to my future anyway — the next four weeks of it. Watch this space. I’ll try to make it worth your while.

Posted at 1:25 pm in Current events | 43 Comments

A frazzled frizzle.

Man, there is something about taking a piece of writing that is too long by half and trimming hundreds of words of fat from it. Sharpening focus, excising tangents, simplifying overlong sentences — you end your task thinking, man, this is better. You wish you could show readers what you started with. But the job of an editor is to be invisible, and so all I can do is leave behind this silver bullet, and…

…forgive me. My mind is awhirl with details and errands and crap, even though we’re well-organized for the upcoming trip. The to-do list is made and is being ticked off. Alan ordered some new books to read on the planes/trains. We upgraded our KN95 mask supply to fashionable black, because hey — Paris. But I’m still on the job, and we’re moving forward with a planned bathroom(s) rehab for later this fall, and the supplies are all being delivered – what supply-chain issues? – which is the long way of saying I just helped Alan carry six doors to the basement and then consulted with the writer I just trimmed.

A little scattered this morning. So how about a wee mixed grill?

** Who decided the hashtag for 9/11 anniversaries was #NeverForget, and why do I overwhelmingly see it on right-wingers’ social media? I mean, to paraphrase Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line,” did they think we maybe forgot? I don’t want to give these people any more, seeing as how they’ve already glommed onto the American flag, the word “patriot” and the once-essential, now-hives-inducing OK and thumbs-up gestures. They don’t get 9/11, too, no matter how many memes they hit the Share button on. As long as there are meme lords, there will always be a way for them to express their feelings, and it will probably feature a candle burning in a dark room.

** Unsatisfied with just one band to play in, Kate has hooked up with a second, although this is more casual. GiGi, another all-female lineup “dedicated to the power of anthems,” as their social media says. They played a quick five-song set (all they have right now) and they have a single/video, which you can watch here. It’s very…anthemic. The story of the song (and the genesis of the band) is in the notes on the video. If you watch carefully, you might see an old bag lady they dragged in from the street to add a little age diversity. We shot it last spring sometime. Here’s Saturday’s soiree, which was in Becky Tyner’s back yard in Detroit. It was fun — lotsa people. The deck made an imperfect stage for photography, but I did what I could.

** Finally, what is -core, to you? What sort of -core are you? The WashPost asks:

The spring of 2020 seems quaint in retrospect: We learned to knit, baked sourdough bread, solved puzzles and sewed handmade masks. Some people moved out of cities to get away from people, and spend more time in nature. This, we decided, was called “cottagecore” — performative cozy nesting, dried flowers, vintage aprons, a sense of optimism.

…And now? It’s still ramping up, but the new pandemic “core” is “goblincore.” Because that’s apparently where the summer surge has taken us. Goblincore is about pure fantasy and escaping humanity to live in the woods: Think homes filled with dark wood and plants, mossy colors, whimsical mushroom prints, earthen homes, tarot cards, extreme isolation, plenty of brown corduroy and tweed.

“All three of these movements are about trying to create an ideal,” says Ruth Page, who teaches English and linguistics at the University of Birmingham in England, “which is a way of comforting and alleviating the distress of the reality that is around us.”

I’m not sure which I am. Agingcore, maybe. OK, then, time to get this up before I lose every reader I have.

Posted at 12:19 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments

Twenty years gone.

I guess, since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of you-know-what, I should write something about that today.

But I don’t know that I want to. I grew up with “where were you when you heard the president had been shot,” and it’s been replaced by this tragedy, and few of the answers are all that interesting. I was in school. I was at work. I was in the subway. I was there. We all carry a little bit of that day in our hearts, and we all have our stories. Like most of daily life, they’re quotidian for the most part.

I remember the after-times. I once said that I forgive everyone in the world anything crazy they said from that date until…January 1. Bomb Afghanistan to glass? You said that? Fine with me. You said you were glad George Bush was in charge that day and not Al Gore? Sure, that’s OK, as long as you admit history has shall we say proven you wrong. And so on. After 9/11 came anthrax, remember. We saw news anchors flipping out on live TV. Maureen Dowd was howling for Cipro. It was a strange, scary time. You were permitted to be afraid.

All I want to remember this weekend is my own personal slideshow of moments. Like…we had digital cable installed that day, which necessitated turning the TV off for about half an hour while the guy worked on the pole outside. I could hardly stand it. When it came back on, I said THANK GOD or some such, and this incredibly mellow and chill cable guy glanced at the TV, shrugged and said, “Yeah. Crazy.” Like I’d been watching roller derby.

I remember the stupidity, the witless public statements, that no one was embarrassed to say out loud. A woman ahead of me in the Target checkout line went on and on about 9/11 and 911 as an emergency number, and wasn’t it obvious the attackers had chosen that day for that reason? The endless rumors, such transparent bullshit, repeated by people who should know better. Did you hear about the six firefighters who were found safe in the basement because they’d been in a sturdy full-size SUV that somehow stood up to having a building fall on it? Remember the photo of the guy standing on the World Trade Center observation deck while the plane zoomed in behind him? Professional debunkers had to take that one apart like the Zapruder film. The “speech made by the pilot on the first flight afterward” story? The advice to travelers? Pack a can of Spam in your carry-on, and throw chunks of it at the hijackers. Evidently they’d be repelled, like Kryptonite. And this was before social media. If Facebook had existed then, we’d still have our thumbs up our big dumb asses.

And the wars, oh my god. The marketing names alone. First it was Operation Infinite Justice, because we can’t just call a war a war anymore, but that was rejected because Muslims were offended or something, and so it became Operation Enduring Freedom. How’d that work out, everyone? Are the Afghans free? Is it enduring? How about us? In my brief period as a copy editor, I took sadistic pleasure in changing every reference in copy from the marketing name to “the Gulf war,” “the second Gulf war,” “the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan,” etc. Over the years, however, I’ve found it’s a pretty good marker for the sort of person I’m talking to/reading. “When I was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom…” is a signifier that you are not dealing with a straight shooter. Anyway, there have been so many Operation Windy Adjective Patriotic Nouns of late, it’s hard to remember which is which.

The fear. I remember that, too. Sitting in earshot of the police reporter on Friday afterward, listening to the calls on the scanner, one after another, all of which boiled down to: Swarthy Man spotted on my street. Maybe he was walking with another Swarthy Man. These calls were especially prevalent around the east-side neighborhood in Fort Wayne that contained a technical college favored by South Asians. Who are swarthy, by and large.

The newspapers and websites are full of tell-us-your-story stories, already. There are some pretty good ones, but most are about Plucky People Who Never Gave Up Hope, because that’s what we like, I guess. I think of the stories I’d like to read, and I think of …maybe this WashPost piece on the summer before that September. My current editor worked there then. He was on the Chandra Levy story, for weeks on end. Spent two weeks in Modesto, Calif., knocking on doors. What an amazing indulgence that would never, ever happen today. I would like to read a story aimed at young people, telling them all the things we now take for granted that we owe to 9/11: Surveillance cameras everywhere. Taking off your shoes to go through airport security. That sort of thing.

I think I’ll try to tune out as much as possible this weekend. I don’t need to relive it, I don’t want to relive it. The local firefighters will hang a big flag from a fully extended ladder truck over the main avenue through town, and I’ll probably pass under it in the course of my usual Saturday grind. I’ll keep my eyes front. These guys, by and large, weren’t there. Some of them were still in diapers. I hate sentimentality. Everything changed that day, and most of it wasn’t good. I see no need to get emotional about it.

So. Happy weekend to you? Last weekend before we leave (still assuming we leave, which is not at all certain). Weather’s supposed to be nice. I hope yours is good.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events, Media | 62 Comments

Taken for granted, no longer granted.

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than 50 years for the story around abortion to go from “Did you hear about X? I heard she was on the flight to New York” last Tuesday to driving your best friend to the clinic to putting your daughter/granddaughter/niece on a flight to New York. Legal abortion, nationwide, 1973-2021.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Privileged Woman version of abortion in the U.S., of course. The flight to New York out of Columbus was well-known in my suburban high school. It left early, which left you all day to visit the clinic, get the procedure, wait through recovery and get back to LaGuardia in time for the late-afternoon plane back home. I knew a few women — girls — who did that. A woman my sister’s age told me about her own pre-Roe abortion; it took place in a hotel room in Missouri, and it was awful, but it was as safe as a hotel-room abortion can be.

Then came Roe, and for a while we had three clinics in Columbus to choose from. The women I know preferred the one near Ohio State, for the protective coloring of blending in with a bunch of other college-age women. The peace and quiet didn’t last long, because once the anti-abortion movement got ramped up, you had to run a gantlet of screaming lunatics. Early in my career, you could call up a doctor you knew worked in a clinic, do an interview, and he wouldn’t have to worry about being shot in the head at church. That didn’t last long, either. By the time I got to Fort Wayne, those people feared for their lives, and why shouldn’t they? “Pro-life” activists shot up their clinic. So they stopped doing abortions at all (one was my own gynecologist) and left it all to the sad clinic downtown, with the circuit-riding doctor who came in from Illinois one day a week. Eventually, that clinic had to relocate, and then shut down.

Hoosiers, what was the name of that Operation Rescue guy? Wait, it’s coming back — Wendell Brane. As I recall, he and his wife suffered from secondary infertility, i.e., they had one child, but couldn’t conceive another. So did the main editorial writer at my newspaper who most often inveighed against abortion. His wife was a real piece of work; at a work party she whined to me about how unfair it was that this reporter and that editor were pregnant out of wedlock, but she couldn’t have a second. I thought of telling her the Lord works in mysterious ways, but just nodded and held my tongue.

Anyway, anecdotally I’ve noticed a lot of infertility issues among anti-choice activists: It’s not fair! They also believe that every woman who has an abortion spends the rest of her life In Quiet Mourning, waiting for her breast cancer to arrive. I’ve never had an abortion, and I can’t speak with certainty about anyone else’s interior life, but the ones I’ve known who seemed OK afterward. Mad at the men in their lives, who often behaved abominably, yes. But the idea that they weep for their lost little angel? Haven’t seen it, myself. (Miscarriages are another story, although even that varies wildly along a continuum of gestational age and religious devotion. I wonder if the serious Catholics who’ve miscarried ever ask themselves why God aborted their baby. Probably not.)

So this week Roe was effectively overturned. I mentioned above that I speak from the Privileged Woman’s perspective, and still do. If Kate or another young woman of my acquaintance needs this service, I’m fully prepared to buy — and able to buy — a plane ticket or drive across the bridge or whatever else I have to do to help them out. The unborn bay-beeeez (sorry, that’s always how I say it in my head) that will be born due to this will be born poor and disadvantaged, although maybe a lucky few will be adopted by Betsy DeVos types, at least as long as their mothers took good care of themselves through their pregnancies.

I expect Susan Collins is terribly, terribly disappointed in Brett Kavanaugh right now. Well, fuck her. Fuck them all.

If you’re looking for something to get a sense of what we’re up against now, I recommend “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always,” which you can probably find on a streaming service somewhere.

Why am I so low-level angry today? This is why. Also, at this:

OK, then. Tomorrow is Friday, and I think this will be the last one for the week for me. See you Sunday/Monday, and have a great weekend.

Posted at 1:37 pm in Current events | 53 Comments

Disappointed? Who, me?

Well, this is not good:

BRUSSELS — The European Union is set to advise member states that they should reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States, three E.U. officials said on Sunday, as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have surged in the U.S. in recent weeks.

Starting Monday, the officials said, the United States will be removed from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, will not be mandatory for member countries, and it will remain up to those countries to decide whether or not to impose them.

Not mandatory. So there’s a chance that…France, say, might decide to allow only vaccinated Americans in. So the lights aren’t out on our trip yet. But they’re growing dim.

Feeling smug about only booking places with generous cancellation policies. But very blue about missing beaujolais nouveau season in France. All fingers crossed.

I’m not here to whine, because holy shit New Orleans:

A slow-moving Hurricane Ida has left all of Orleans Parish customers without power due to “catastrophic transmission damage,” according to Entergy New Orleans.

The intense storm had caused all eight transmission lines into the New Orleans area to go down, spokesman Brandon Scardigli said in an emailed statement. That created a load imbalance that knocked all power generation in the region offline, Scardigli said.

A million people without power in not just one city, but an entire region. This is gonna get ugly. I’m not a big fan of nostalgia, but I’m recalling the aftermath of Katrina, and not just what happened, but how ugly and discordant the national discussion around it was: Sure it’s terrible what’s happening there, but they had the chance to leave and they didn’t, so? :::shrug::: But we’ve grown so much and learned so much since then, right? I’m sure it’ll be much better this time.

A steamy, oppressively hot weekend that ended with a banger of a thunderstorm. Alan was off fishing all weekend, and said his experience was the same, only a little cooler. He had to shelter from a huge one under some trees (yeah, I know) and actually bail his drift boat, because it was coming in so fast. We’ve had at least half a dozen, maybe 10, of these storms this summer. The most recent one before this was…Friday, I believe. A short one that cooled things off by maybe a degree or two until the sun came out and heated all that rainfall into steam. A friend and I stopped at a free techno show for a bit; the artist, an EDM musician, if turntables count as instruments, was launching his own weed brand and announced a pop-up show at the last minute. He threw free samples to the crowd and I marveled at our changing world.

However, I also marveled at the lack of masks, the close quarters (although still outside) and the flying sweat droplets. So we didn’t stay long. I’m booking a test on Wednesday, anyway.

The last storm broke the back of the heat, at least. Cooler today, then mid to high 70s the rest of the week. Ahh.

While we welcome Monday, let’s keep a good thought for Louisiana — the good parts, anyway.

Posted at 8:09 am in Current events, Detroit life | 67 Comments

The busy reaper.

I think today’s post should be, in honor of all the people dying from Covid because they refused to get the vaccine? A roundup. Let’s begin in…Florida:

A Florida mom lost two sons to COVID-19 within 12 hours of each other after they failed to get vaccinated.

Lisa Brandon told News4Jax that she and her sons Aaron Jaggi, 35, and Free Jaggi, 41, who lived with her, got sick with COVID-19 in late July.

While Brandon got better, both of her sons got worse and had to be hospitalized and eventually put on ventilators after developing double pneumonia. Free died on August 12, followed by his brother just hours later on August 13.

Lisa, to her credit, had been vaccinated.

Phil Valentine, radio host who, well, you know:

Valentine had been a skeptic of coronavirus vaccines. But after he tested positive for COVID-19, and prior to his hospitalization, he told his listeners to consider, “If I get this COVID thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?” If so, he advised them to get vaccinated. He said he chose not to get vaccinated because he thought he probably wouldn’t die.

After Valentine was moved into a critical care unit, Mark Valentine said his brother regretted that “he wasn’t a more vocal advocate of the vaccination.”

This guy’s wife just died, but guess what he did?

A Republican legislator in Maine who lost his wife to COVID-19 last week appeared at a rally on Tuesday that featured a GOP colleague who compared the state’s Democratic governor to a Nazi doctor who performed deadly experiments on Jews during the Holocaust.

State Rep. Chris Johansen, who emerged in the early days of the pandemic as a fierce opponent of public health-related restrictions, joined a group of lawmakers at the event in Augusta. State Rep. Heidi Sampson delivered a speech to the crowd that baselessly accused Gov. Janet Mills, who has introduced a vaccine mandate for health-care workers, of operating a government campaign to test “experimental” vaccines on unknowing citizens.

Stephen Harmon, mocked vaccines? Died.

Texas GOP leader says vaccines don’t work? Died.

I was seeing these all weekend.

Here’s a video, where a central interviewee — spoiler alert! — dies. But not before saying he hasn’t been vaccinated because “I’m basically a libertarian,” even though there is absolutely nothing about being a libertarian that would preclude a person from being vaccinated. The video is actually really good; you should watch.

Besides watching the proudly unvaccinated drop like flies, it was a hot, steamy weekend and wasn’t good for much other than staying inside, so I read an old John D. McDonald book and a bunch of other things. How about you?

Posted at 9:06 pm in Current events | 48 Comments

Our dogs, ourselves.

I look in the mirror, and I look one way. I look OK. Presentable, anyway. Good enough for what I need to do that day. Then I pass a reflection in a store window, in a mirror at the gym, or on a Zoom camera, and all I can think is: Who’s the old fat lady?

A friend says when we look in our own mirrors, we have our own presets. We know what we’re supposed to look like, and so we see ourselves that way. But other mirrors tell the truth. This is a very strange conversation, but it makes as much sense as anything. It’s like the United States, when we tell ourselves we live in the greatest nation in the world, the land of freedom and opportunity, and all of that is our preset. I heard an interview with an Afghan woman on the way to work out this morning. She was spitting with anger at how betrayed she feels by the United States, and who could blame her? She’ll probably swing from a rope before too long, if she isn’t killed some other way, for the crime of being educated, English-speaking, intelligent.

I saw a tweet by Ted Cruz, jeering at the CNN correspondent covering the fall of Afghanistan. She’s female, and she wears an abaya on the streets when she’s working. Cruz jeered at her “burkha.” It’s not a burkha, you dumb fuck, Mr. Harvard, it’s an abaya. Didn’t we learn this after 9/11? An abaya is a full-length dress, usually black, worn with a hijab, but leaving the wearer’s face uncovered; a burkha is the garment that covers everything and the wearer can only look through a crocheted screen. That’s three terms of art about Islamic religious dress for women; is it so hard to remember? I remembered, and I didn’t go to Harvard.

But of course, not remembering, calling everything you don’t like a burkha — because we agree that’s the most medieval garment, the worst one — is its own mirror. It says, who gives a fuck what these awful people call their outfits? The guy can probably expound on different styles of cowboy boots, but can’t be bothered to step outside his comfort zone, even to sound smarter than he is.

I turned off the radio on my way back from the pool. It was a lovely morning, and I wanted to enjoy it, feel thankful that I don’t live in Afghanistan or Haiti. There will always be a Haiti. You have to enjoy good fortune when you have it.

How can it only be Tuesday? It feels like it should be next Thursday.

Two pieces of bloggage today, neither of which has anything to do with Afghanistan, Ted Cruz or Haiti:

Do you talk to your dog? (Of course you do.) What sort of voice do you use? And when your dog talks back (of course it does), what kind of voice does it use? The WashPost investigates:

Most nights, as he is about to go to sleep, Josh Lieberthal gets into an argument with Werner Herzog. It is often over the pillow, which the 30-year-old communications specialist refuses to cede.

“You gave me part of your pillow,” the argument goes, in the German director’s soft, accented timbre. “The pillow is actually part mine, now.”

The voice belongs to Lieberthal’s dog, Rocky — a 5-year-old wheaten-poodle mix, or “whoodle” — with whom he and his fiancee share a bed. The argument is one that Lieberthal has with himself. Rocky’s voice, which Lieberthal provides, is that of the 78-year-old director of “Grizzly Man,” which just seems to suit his dog.

…He doesn’t remember when, or how, or why he — er, his dog — adopted a thick German accent, dropping the “w” and “th” sounds, but he and his fiancee do it all the time now. Even, occasionally, when they’re not with their dog.

“I feel like a crazy person,” he says. “But at the same time, this is just so normal for us.”

Of course it’s normal! Our last dog, Spriggy, had his own fantasy sitcom, the scripts for which we would sometimes improvise as we dressed for work. It was called “The Spriggy Show, starring Spriggy! Co-starring Alan and Nancy” and the episodes usually involved Spriggy getting into some sort of mischief and escaping all consequences. There was the one where Spriggy called the state of Michigan and ordered a truckload of sand to be dumped in our back yard. That one came after a blissful camping weekend where he ran wildly on some sandy riverbanks. There was the one where he talked the dumb hound dog next door, Samson, into letting him climb up the bigger dog’s back so Spriggy could raid the dumpster at Casa d’Angelo, the nearby Italian restaurant.

“Are we gonna get in trouble, Spriggy?” Samson would ask in a Southern accent. “Hey, can I get one of those meatballs?” Spriggy, deep in the dumpster and speaking with his mouth full, would reply that he couldn’t find any. “And his head pops up, and he has spaghetti hanging off it,” Alan would say. “Hmm, good note,” I’d say. “Make sure to tell the writers’ room.” More from the Post:

Sarah Coughlon, 27, has an ongoing bit with her girlfriend that their dog, Maurice, is the manager of the Bedford-Stuyvesant WeWork.

“He’s also sort of bumbling and, no offense to WeWork, but they seem sort of bumbling. And so I think he’s, like, kind of overwhelmed,” Coughlon says. “He’s really doing his best.”

Maurice, a mix that Coughlon describes as “a German shepherd that has beagle ears,” has a Midwestern accent for reasons that Coughlon cannot explain and always refers to his owners as “the ladies.” Coughlon, who works in advertising, doesn’t even go to a WeWork. Maybe this whole weird comedy bit comes from “trying to sort of make sense of the fact that our home that’s like our sanctuary suddenly becomes a workspace and that my girlfriend becomes my officemate. And that’s a weird relationship for us to have,” Coughlon says. “I think we are sort of trying to mediate that through the dog.”

“The ladies.” Cracks me up.

And if you watched “The White Lotus,” which was a very very fine HBO limited series that ended Sunday, you might want to read this interview with writer/creator Mike White.

And that’s it for the midweek. Enjoy talking to your dog.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Current events, Television | 55 Comments

Blue skies, fire on the horizon.

Finally, after a week of heat and storms and blackouts, we got our ottering in. It was worth the wait, a perfect Pure Michigan day. The water was cool but refreshing, the sky a fathomless blue and there was a fairly craptastic band playing at the microbrewery across the street from the park. They were wheezing through “Live With Me” as we arrived; what makes a cover band think they can handle the Rolling Stones, anyway?

But in the river we couldn’t hear anything but the wavelets hitting the seawall and one another’s voices, catching up and taking the news of the day apart like a rotisserie chicken. It was a good time.

Then we had a couple beers at the microbrewery, just as the band was getting into “Dance to the Music,” and if there’s any band other than the Stones that a cover band shouldn’t attempt, it’s Sly & the Family Stone.

But enough about that.

Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban. A trillion dollars and in a week or so it’ll be like we weren’t there at all, except for all the weapons and vehicles and god knows what else is left behind. What a goddamn failure.

And what a way to start the week. I’m enjoying your comments in the last thread about all of this, if “enjoying” is the right word for it. It’s a grim moment. The dumbest people on my timelines are all Biden-Biden-Biden, but even their hearts don’t appear to be all the way in it. The truly dumb ones have a mendacity and cynicism that’s nearly breathtaking.

Meanwhile, in Covid news, conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, who “expressed skepticism” about social distancing, vaccines and masks, now has the bug himself and is on a ventilator. The lord moves in mysterious ways.

Time to start Monday.

Posted at 8:00 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments

Day to day.

The Derringer family trip to France is now on day-to-day status. I’m not afraid of navigating the country in a mask, but I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to see a lot of Closed signs, either. So: Day-to-day. We applied for our Covid passes today — yes, vaccine passports! — and are keeping our fingers crossed.

Fucking Delta. Ah, well. What can you do besides get vaccinated, follow the rules and watch the world collapse because FREEDUMB? And lack of access, true; let’s be fair. Still. God knows what this burning, flooding world will be like by next year. Might as well go to France now. We’ll play the odds, and the odds aren’t bad, at least against getting sick. Seeing the Louvre? That’s still up in the air.

We had another storm yesterday, and another fierce one overnight, and another mini-storm this morning, and there’s a 40 percent chance of more tomorrow. Then we get a break, maybe.

When it comes to climate change, I think we have fucked around, and now we’re finding out.

And yet what other end were we expecting?

The temperature maps are terrifying, the prognosis for the future not much better. So let’s go to France. Maybe Spain next year. I hope I have a trip to Asia in me before my knees give out.

But as the city of Detroit’s motto says (in Latin): We hope for better things.

Between Monday’s power outage and Tuesday’s heat and Wednesday’s heat and Wednesday night’s storms and Thursday morning’s storms and GOD WHAT IS NEXT I’m kinda looking forward to the weekend, how bout you? And I have little to say other than I’m tired.

How about you?

Posted at 8:17 pm in Current events | 83 Comments

Monday notes.

Why do the weekends go so fast? It seems like 10 minutes ago I’d dragged Alan to a Delray dive for some tacos and Modelos, and 30 seconds ago I was ordering a pizza instead of cooking on a Sunday night. In between, lots of heat and humidity, a storm, errands, blah to the blah. But weekends are never blah, at least not when you’re out under the sun and in a pool and otherwise enjoying summer.

So into August we gallop. Five weeks until France. I’m staring to feel like Rhoda Morganstern when she’s offered a snack: “No thanks. I have to lose 10 pounds by 8:30.”

Saturdays are generally my favorite part of the weekend: Farm market, solitary breakfast at the coney island, food prep, vague hopeful anticipation at what’s ahead over the next 48 hours. And even though it turns out to be some book time and some looking-at-the-thunderstorm time and a little bathroom-cleaning, it’s still a weekend, and it’s great.

But now it’s Monday. Going ottering with Bill later this afternoon, as it’s going to be a scorcher. It’ll be nice to catch up and maybe watch a freighter go by. The Canadian border opened today, so if for some reason we end up there, it’ll be somewhat less illegal than it was last week. The Canadian-side customs workers staged a slowdown Friday, and the lines to cross the Ambassador Bridge were insane. We drove around picturesque Delray for a while before we left, but nearly got ensnared in it. Definitely pee-in-a-bottle time for a lot of truckers.

The pleasant days leave me less time to think about hell-yes autocrats hanging out in Hungary, listening to Tucker Carlson say, and I wish I were kidding:

Rod Dreher is, of course, one of the leading “intellectuals” pushing this idea, that Hungary does autocracy right because it keeps out Muslims and represses gays. I’ve been reading this guy for years, and early on it became clear what his animating force is: Fear. He’s afraid of everything, so it figures he’d be right at home in a place where Big Daddy is always looking out for you.

Later that day, Brother Rod tweeted an article by John Derbyshire (who he calls “Derb”) in VDARE, the explicitly racist and white-supremacist publication. When he was immediately called on it, he spent hours calling all his critics crazy because he didn’t know anything about VDARE, he just thought the piece was good. Hours and hours later, he finally deleted it. How is it possible that I, a shlub in Detroit, know what VDARE is, and not a leading intellectual of conservative America? It is to puzzle.

The incident did give me a reason to poke around the explicitly racist conservative mediasphere for a while. Steve Sailer wrote a piece on racial differences vis-a-vis athletic achievement, linking it to the Olympics and with the headline, “Arguing With the Inarguable.” This is well-trod ground – I guess that’s why it’s “inarguable” – and it’s the sort of thing that might be interesting in the hands of a non-racist, but there you are.

Some people on Twitter are asking why this story isn’t making a bigger splash, and I don’t have an answer other than TSF, i.e. Trump Scandal Fatigue:

WASHINGTON — Jeffrey A. Rosen, who was acting attorney general during the Trump administration, has told the Justice Department watchdog and congressional investigators that one of his deputies tried to help former President Donald J. Trump subvert the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the interviews.

Mr. Rosen had a two-hour meeting on Friday with the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general and provided closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday.

The investigations were opened after a New York Times article that detailed efforts by Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, to push top leaders to falsely and publicly assert that continuing election fraud investigations cast doubt on the Electoral College results. That prompted Mr. Trump to consider ousting Mr. Rosen and installing Mr. Clark at the top of the department to carry out that plan.

Whatever happens, I hope the full weight of the Justice Department’s internal affairs division (whatever it’s called) falls on Jeffrey Clark’s head like a ton of shit.

And with that, I suggest we get Monday under way. But first, breakfast.

Posted at 7:39 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments