Some thoughts at week’s end.

OK, then! Back-to-back 12-hour days, my legs are sore, I feel fat as hell and now, god help me, I’m taking advantage of the next hour or so by watching a Tyler Perry movie on Amazon.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Tyler Perry movie. Some people I kinda-sorta knew when the film tax credits were going strong in Michigan now work a lot in Georgia, and they work in Perry’s film factory quite a bit. And a factory it is, pumping out morality plays, but what the hell, it’s a living. The people I know who work on films have a different measure of whether one is any good. Do the checks clear? Then it’s good. Good enough, anyway.

Boy, does this movie suck. Have you ever heard of a simple car accident not bad enough to crinkle a bumper giving a woman “ruptured ovaries?” Yeah, me neither. “Acrimony” — look it up. Even Taraji P. Henson can’t save it.

So now the weekend is approaching. It feels like breaking a tape, but mainly it’s just a matter of making lists of things to do, then doing them, then starting it all again next week.

I hope there will be some reading.

Some things you might be able to read:

I know you’re sick of Roseanne Barr — so am I. Worth reading, anyway.

A friend posted this on her Facebook, and the first comment was, “Nikki Haley can go fuck herself.” Headline: What it’s like living in a country where giving birth costs $60. Second graf:

It started when presidential candidate and longtime Medicare for All advocate Bernie Sanders tweeted that it costs an average of $12,000 to have a baby in the United States, compared to just $60 in Finland — at which point former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley decided to weigh in. “Alright @BernieSanders, you’re not the woman having the baby so I wouldn’t be out there talking about skimping on a woman when it comes to childbirth. Trust me! Nice try though,” she replied, adding, “Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer.”

You know how it went, right? Finnish maternity care is superior in every way, going well beyond the famous baby box. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Nikki Haley can absolutely go fuck herself.

Here’s something I wrote the other day, about a Detroit R&B oddity who died Sunday. Deadline Detroit appreciates the clicks.

(All of the above was written Thursday night. Friday morning addendum below.)

Neil Steinberg, most definitely a top-five blogger, wrote something the other day that kinda chilled me. After a discussion of how things end, with some elegant snatches of poetry, he dropped this:

Honestly, I read the poem and, inspired, thought of posting it here and quitting the blog cold after five years. Here, figure this out, good-bye. Because whatever the world wants, this obviously is not it. Five years is plenty.

Spoiler alert: He decides to go on. But every January I pass the anniversary of this blog, which has been going on since 2001. Not every goddamn day, but most goddamn days until recently, when I shortened it to three days a week and lately it’s coming in at two. Honestly, this has been a tough winter for me, and there have been days, many of them, when I just want to pack it in. This makes me worry that I’m losing some essential edge, some drive; doesn’t a writer write because they have to? I mean, because it’s an urge, not an obligation? If I’m dry, then this is it, right? Retirement, a rocking chair, Social Security and a final wave en route to the grave? My friends are starting to retire, and an amazing number of them (which is to say, two or three) have expressed a desire to never, ever do what they did all their careers. No hobby journalism for them. They’re out, and happy to be out.

It has to end sometime. Steinberg’s been doing this five years, I’ve been at it for 18. Eighteen years when I should have been writing books, right? But so many of the people I know who write books don’t have an audience at all — they’ve dropped their work into a well of sorts, all that work for one or two respectful reviews and then, nothing. At least here I have feedback. And it’s a discipline, and that is very important for writers. Laura Lippman does 1,000 words a day. You can fritter away a lifetime intending to write, but not doing it. It’s a muscle. It needs exercise.

But man, am I tired. And it’s snowing.

I’m not quitting. And I’m not fishing for encouragement. I’m just giving you an update on why I’ve been scarce here. The blog will go on, but one day it won’t. (I’ve actually added a short letter to our estate paperwork, bequeathing the contents of this blog, all XX years of blather, comments, links, dustups, changes, all of it – to J.C. Burns, who can do with it whatever he likes. That’s assuming he outlives me. I hope he does.)

What a merry ending, eh? I am off to the gym, to re-sore my legs. Have a great weekend, all. I will be back. Promise.

Posted at 9:33 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 36 Comments
 

With the swamp-drainers.

You guys. What a week. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to have two half-time jobs, but I like both of them, so I guess I’m just going to have to figure it out. But my world is a series of spinning plates. This week, it culminated with this event, which I covered, and you can read the story here, and I’d appreciate it if you did.

But if you’re rushed: It was the We Build the Wall Town Hall, a traveling grift-a-palooza that stopped in Detroit last night. A sad event. It was originally scheduled for a church in Warren, which for you out-of-towners is most definitely MAGA country, but was relocated to Detroit when they outgrew the space. The organizers claimed they had more than a thousand people registered; maybe 300 showed up. They were dwarfed by one of Cobo’s zillion-square-foot halls, but what the heck, the energy was about as high as a crowd with a median age of maybe 52 could drum up. I thought what I’ve thought many times in crowds like this: This issue is resolving itself, one funeral at a time. So many gray heads, so many canes, so many of those rolling walkers. The Bikers for Trump looked like the crowd at last summer’s Steppenwolf concert, with a titanium hip for every Harley-Davidson.

Maybe the rest were scared off by having to come to Detroit, who knows.

I went because Bannon was on the bill. I originally figured he’d be a no-show, “called away by vital business,” but there he was. You’d think he’d elevate such an event, but not really, not when he’s up there with as grifty a bunch as this. Here’s the scenario: This “We Build the Wall” GoFundMe has already raised $20.6 million. People are being given the chance to back out, but — they say — few have. But let’s say have $10 million to spend. For this sum, they intend to put up parts of a wall, on private property. How easy would it be to slip away with a big chunk of that? I say not very.

Bannon is independently wealthy; he doesn’t need to hustle old people for $5 contributions. He still considers himself a person of ideas and vision. What is he doing up there with Sheriff Clarke? Just organizing? Someone with a more devious political mind, chime in. I’m really interested.

One of the books I’m reading these days is Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a critical job — staffing the parts of the government people don’t think about until they fail. It’s terrifying. Lewis concentrates on one department — Energy — but I thought of the FAA when I read this headline: Trump wanted his personal pilot to head the FAA. The critical job is still vacant amid Boeing fallout.

Lewis makes the case that not only do these departments do what everybody hates, OMG REGULATION, but play critical roles interacting with private industry in guiding that which they oversee. Running a major federal agency is not the same as flying a plane, but I guess that’s too hard to see.

Man, what a week. I’m outta here. Have a great weekend, and back on Sunday/Monday.

Posted at 12:29 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 32 Comments
 

Radio sucks.

Continuing a theme of recent weeks, I once again find myself ashamed of this stupid country. That Tucker Carlson is a pig surprises me not in the least. That he, ostensibly a serious person, appears on a radio show with someone named Bubba the Love Sponge simply depresses me.

The NPR station in Fort Wayne wasn’t running the usual news shows when I first moved there, and so for a while I contented myself with the usual morning-zoo numbnuts. This being Fort Wayne, they weren’t particularly racy, just boring dudes in baseball caps who wouldn’t have made it on the open-mic standup circuit. Lots of them were overweight. Most of them were Republicans. (They didn’t do politics, but you could just smell it on them.) Hardly any of them were even a little bit funny; a song parody was about the best they were capable of.

Every so often I’ll station-surf past one now. They’re all racy now. Crude, actually. I think there’s one team around here who make callers say “penis balls” in the course of their interactions. I try to imagine the sort of person who finds this sort of thing amusing, and come up blank. Silence, Spotify, the CBC — there are so many options around here.

I know smart people who think Howard Stern is great. I am not one of them. I flirted briefly with Don Imus, then dropped him when it became evident what a schmuck he is.

(You wouldn’t believe how much money some of these guys — and they’re all guys, with the occasional Girl Sidekick — earn, too. Imus at his peak was in the $7-million-a-year range. Bob & Tom, in Indianapolis, were around $1 million. I guess “talent” is rare, and advertisers like them, but holy shit.)

So much radio sucks. When I briefly toiled at WOWO, I was astounded at the stuff that was posted on the employee bulletin board. The don’t ask/don’t tell policy was in the news at the time, and the anti-gay stuff alone was horrible. When I mentioned something to the station manager, she said, “Well, we don’t have any gay employees.”

I still listen to public radio, and NPR, every day. I still get a little frustrated when they do those long, earnest pieces on something I can’t even muster a whisker of a care about — and I’m an empathetic person. But now I just switch to a podcast.

How’s everyone’s week going? Sorry for no Sunday. I’m trying to save my sanity by reading more for pleasure this month, and opted for self-care. Enjoying a little Scott Turow (“Testimony”) after years of not reading him. He’s the Grisham-who-can-write, for those unfamiliar.

OK, off to the showers, huge week ahead. Stay well, all.

Posted at 7:45 am in Current events | 90 Comments
 

An earlier Lent.

Well, at least I know now why I was feeling so listless on Sunday. I woke up a few hours later with a mild fever, and spent the next 24 hours feeling thisclose to barfing and swinging between that little fever and waking up in a sweaty tangle of sheets.

I’m better today, but still semi-queasy. It’s paçzki day in Detroit, and I haven’t felt even a whiff of a craving.

Paçzki are, of course, the jelly donuts that Polish folks around here — and everybody else, for that matter — eat on Shrove Tuesday. And I don’t care how many worthless stories are written about them every year, they’re fucking jelly donuts, and you can buy them at Dunkin’ all year long. So I’ll start a Lenten deprivation a little early.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow. I was “at work” Monday and today, but in a diminished fashion. But here I am, getting ready to watch the State of the City address, even though I’d rather watch almost anything else.

(Watching it now. Yep, anything else. No offense to the mayor, it’s just that these things are all the same.)

So, summing up my complaints in a bumper sticker? It just hasn’t been my year. Fortunately, it’s still young. And as my husband points out, it’s not like I have cancer or nothin’. All true.

Man, though, that Michael Jackson documentary? Chilling. Awful. Even worse is the braying from the hashtag-innocent crowd, who are simply rabid. And by rabid, I mean “diseased and crazed.” “There’s no evidence!” they cry. As though direct testimony, voluminous photos, faxes and other ephemera and classic behavior patterns somehow aren’t evidence. I think the squicky feeling I got watching it was not just my brewing stomach bug, but the feeling of…complicity, somehow. How easily the world swallowed that bullshit about the real-life Peter Pan who simply enjoyed the company of children, because he never had a proper childhood himself. Seeing shot after shot of MJ running from a hotel to a limousine, screaming fans an arm’s length away, while a little kid runs a few feet ahead of him — it was so familiar. How often did we see that in the ’80s and ’90s?

Vile.

The governor unveiled her budget proposal today, too. This happens every year. It’s usually big news when a new gov is doing it for the first time, because there are always tricks up the ol’ sleeve. Without going into the details, which aren’t all that interesting to anyone who doesn’t live there, be advised there’s a big per-gallon gas tax on the table, because our roads are in Third World condition and getting worse. There’s simply no way to finance what it would take to get them to fair — fair! — condition without more revenue. You can already see how the rest of this debate is going to go: Find the waste! No new taxes! As though $2.2 billion dollars, per year, is just sitting around, going to waste. For professional reasons, I can’t say much more, but still: Please.

For once, though, prominent conservatives are saying, essentially, we gotta do it. And if you think there’s so much waste in the system, point it out. I doubt the hashtag warriors will get far this year. But they’ll make her pay in four years. More will be revealed.

So, any bloggage? Is there anything new on the Trump Outrage beat? Well, it’s Tuesday. What do you think?

Time to go see how Ray Donovan’s going to get out of his latest fix. I’m enjoying Showtime for as long as I have it – I think it’ll expire with Kate’s graduation – and it beats Jacko’s abuse narrative.

Carry on, all. It’s Wednesday.

Posted at 8:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments
 

Jacko.

Do you ever get depressed around this time of year? Look out the window, watch yet another glaze of snow gently falling from the sky, consider you should be cleaning the bathroom but decide you’d rather read this Scott Turow book you picked up in New York, and then sigh deeply and wonder what’s the use, what’s the damn use? This stupid country is so screwed, what’s the damn use?

No? OK, then, carry on.

I shouldn’t be watching this Michael Jackson documentary. It’s not sitting well with what I read this morning about the president’s two-hour standup act at CPAC Saturday. Sort of like eating something bad, followed by something even worse. It’s not helping my mood.

So let’s hop to some good bloggage, shall we?

I’ve been interested for some time in pet culture — the way we treat our dogs and cats and so forth. It’s simultaneously fascinating and appalling. I know grown women who are happy to share their beds with 80-pound pit bulls. I know people who think of their dogs and cats as children. Truth be told, I think of my dog as a child, although not really. You have to respect an animal’s essential nature, which is not the same as ours. But there’s little doubt that a dog or cat in a middle-class home lives better than lots of human beings in lousier neighborhoods.

So this CityLab piece on dog parks and gentrification was interesting:

Parks and recreation departments face tremendous pressure today to dedicate more and greater space for the nation’s fur-babies, even in cities where there aren’t enough local parks for actual children. The rise of dog parks—up 40 percent over the last decade—has consequences for neighborhoods that have them as well as those that don’t. More than half of the nation’s parks departments now boast a dog park.

Back in the day, “a dog park wasn’t a thing” says Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “You walked your dog around the neighborhood. You took your dog around the block. Standards and expectations for dog owners have shifted. The culture of dog ownership has changed.”

The fancy-town dog park in the early designs for Lincoln Yards might be among the least-divisive features of this project, which closed in on as much as $1.3 billion in public funding (through a tax-increment financing scheme) last week. But it is nevertheless a small marker of disparity in the city—one that can be found all over. It’s a pattern whose consequences range from worrisome sign of neighborhood gentrification to outright structural inequality.

From the Cohen hearing fallout, more of the Best People ™:

…Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide turned federal housing bureaucrat, has long reveled in the limelight and has asked permission to star in a reality-TV show while serving as a HUD official.

Oh, but of course she did.

Finally, a bizarre story about the fake-credentialed sex doctor who buffaloed many smart people into believing him.

Back to Michael Jackson. It’s like bad medicine I have to take.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events | 37 Comments
 

The bottom below the last bottom.

Well, that was an interesting day, wasn’t it?

I took 30 minutes for lunch today. I was going to get a sandwich and bring it back to the office, but decided fuck it, I’m going to sit at this table, eat and scroll Twitter. I’m in a group chat with a couple of friends, and one of them noted that while we’re all watching Michael Cohen, India and Pakistan are on the brink of war, and both have nukes.

And damn, it’s true.

Today may have been one of those days when my brain broke, a little. Four different people in the office were watching the hearing, on four different feeds, so there was a weird echo effect, punctuated by the occasional guffaw or that’s not true or who is this clown. I was trying to get a job done that generally takes one to two hours, but today took three going on four, and finally I just turned the whole thing off. What have we done to this country? How can we recover from this? What is this going to lead to? How can we go back?

We’re so screwed. We should liquidate all our savings and just light out for the territories, spend the remainder of our time traveling from Bangkok to Vladivostok to Istanbul to Paris until this is over, then travel for a few more years until climate change really kicks in, then I don’t know what we’ll do. Volunteer at the next mega wildfire in California, maybe. Anything to blot out the knowledge we elected a president who set up a straw buyer to bid up a shitty portrait of himself, so it would get the highest price, then paid for it out of a charitable foundation.

Over the last three years, I’ve been baffled, outraged, grimly amused, frustrated – pretty much the whole gamut. But today I feel ashamed of this whole stupid country.

All of this may be exacerbated by today’s bus ride home. I got off at my stop and realized my ass was wet, because apparently I sat in something. I stripped off my clothes 30 seconds after I walked through the door and took a sniff. It might have been coffee, or it could have been anonymous transit-rider pee. So I ran a bath and sat there and the water needed to be hotter, which may be because the hot-water heater is elderly and overdue to fail. Maybe it’ll fail this week! Wouldn’t that be the cherry on top?

Also, it snowed overnight.

But just in case you think I have entirely lost my sense of humor, I have not. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Alabama, but I wish I’d been there to see this:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama police say a dispute over crab legs at a dinner buffet ended in a brawl that left two people facing misdemeanor charges.

Huntsville police officer Gerald Johnson …tells WHNT-TV that diners were using service tongs like fencing swords and plates were shattering, and a woman was beating a man. Johnson says diners had been waiting in line for crab legs for more than 10 minutes, and they lost their tempers once the food came out.

Right now, I think I’ll do a crossword. Have a nice evening.

Posted at 8:01 pm in Current events | 65 Comments
 

Blustery day, eh?

I can feel the wind coming in gusts that seem to have lost at least some of their earlier fury, but we’re by no means done with this bluster yet. And with a computer that no longer has a functional battery, it seems I better get moving on this thing unless I want to be

::zzt. blink::

Kidding. We’re now at 20K without power in southeast Michigan, and we could easily be the next. Alan already pushed a limb off a line in the back yard, and the big oak back there had a bad year. For now? Soldier on!

I’m looking forward to the week, the last of the month and — I devoutly hope — a fairly quiet one. I spent much of last week house/dogsitting for vacationing friends, and I’m happy to be back in my own bed, where there are only three pillows — one for the two heads that lay there, and one for me to hug, because I’m a pillow-hugger and have been for years.

By contrast, the bed in my friend’s house — king-sized, excellent firm mattress and otherwise a very nice place to sleep — has 10 pillows. Ten! I counted them. There’s a base layer of three, three more on top of that, another three, and then a smaller decorative one that sits in front of the whole crew, like a drum major.

“I’m the pillow queen,” my friend said when I mentioned this. We were in the company of other affluent women of the same demographic, and I learned that over-pillowing is definitely a Thing among them. I knew it was with hotels; whenever we stay in one, Alan bats them away like a peevish bear, growling too many fuckin’ pillows. I select my hugger from the pile on the floor, and we go to bed.

I wonder if over-pillowing is a way to build a bulwark against your spouse, even in a loving relationship. Even in a big bed, some people will always claim your part of it, but it’s way harder to do when there’s a dyke of pillows keeping you in your lane, so to speak.

I really don’t know. But three suits our queen-size just fine.

And with that, I need to go start a pot of chili. Back in a minute.

I’m back! Yes, that was fast. I’ve found that chili goes better in our house if I handle the initial meat-browning, onion-chopping, can-opening assembly chores, etc., and then leave the seasoning to Alan, who, like many men, has complicated opinions on various chili seasonings that I do not share.

So, anyway. Been thinking about the Robert Kraft case this weekend, and what I said earlier about trafficking stories. If the facts the police have presented so far hold up, this is about as clear-cut a case as you could find — young women from another country compelled to sexually service an endless line of men. I was struck by the detail that did them in: A health inspector noted suitcases and bedding, an unusual amount of food for a workplace that its employees would leave behind at the end of the day.

It so happens that was one thing that a trafficking expert — a real trafficking expert, not the self-elevated ones you hear so much from these days — said should be a tipoff when I wrote about this subject a while back. She mentioned it in the context of nail salons, not storefront rub parlors, but one thing you learn when you start investigating human trafficking is this: For many people, even advocates, all they want to talk about is sex trafficking, mainly because that’s what the media, especially the electronic media, talks about. But labor trafficking is very real, too. It’s much harder to illustrate during a sweeps-month “investigation.” You can’t use shadowy silhouettes of a young woman leaning into a car, or perhaps weeping into her hands while rolls of money pile up on the bed behind her.

That’s one reason I regard so much of this issue with suspicion. So little data, so much tape over mouths. Cheesy titillation rubs me the wrong way.

Human trafficking has only been part of UCR data — that’s Uniform Crime Reporting, for your civilians — since 2013. We are still groping in the dark toward a fuller understanding of it.

As for why a billionaire would patronize a storefront rub parlor in Florida, when he could presumably order up a Miss America runner-up in a thong to come directly to his hotel suite? You’d have to ask him. But it’s been my experience that the richer a man is, the more likely he is to be cheap in truly cringeworthy ways:

In the case of the Orchids of Asia parlor in Jupiter, where services were listed for $59 for half an hour or $79 for an hour, an arrest affidavit for the women managing the spa detailed a similar investigative approach. Police watched men going into the spa for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

OK, a little bloggage:

My friends had a copy of Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” in the house, and I read a little of it. It was pretty great and amazingly well-written. No ghost is credited, and Obama does acknowledge collaborators, so I can’t say how much of it is her own prose style. But it’s a much more pleasant read than I expected. Neil Steinberg agrees:

“Becoming” is perfect for our perilous national moment, reminding us of when our country had a thoughtful, decent man as president. Donald Trump emerges like a monster in a horror movie, glimpsed first in flashes far off, then rearing up behind us. Obama casts him as the latest in a line of bullies she’s battled.

“Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people,” she writes.

Have you ever heard it put so well?

Speaking of reading books, this was a sobering read. I think I’m going to take a certain amount of it to heart. I still love Twitter, like/loathe aspects of Facebook and enjoy being up on things, but I really need to get a handle on my book reading again. It starts with breaking up with one’s phone, or at least renegotiating the terms of the relationship.

We’re having wind downstate, but upstate — as in, northern Michigan and the UP — they’re having a goddamn blizzard. The photos piling up in my social media feeds are one reason I can’t quite quit Twitter just yet.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 5:29 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 86 Comments
 

Pants, afire.

For the record, I doubted the Jussie Smollett story from the beginning. I didn’t say so at the time, so you can take that with however much salt you need, but I don’t talk about every thought that pops into my head, even if it seems that way.

I doubted the Rolling Stone rape-on-campus story in 2014, too. Actually, I didn’t believe a word of it.

There was a lawsuit filed in the Larry Nassar case a few months ago, regrettably described as a “bombshell” in the news at the time. A woman claimed that as a young athlete at MSU years ago, Nassar drugged her, raped her, taped the assault (with a cameraman), and this evidence was somehow ignored by the athletic director, who confiscated the tape and made everything go away, even though she got pregnant, later miscarried and got HPV in the bargain. I doubted it as soon as I heard the details. Not sure what the status is now, but an AG’s investigation found “no credible evidence” of any of its claims, so if it hasn’t gone away yet, I expect it will soon.

I offer this not to brag that my bullshit detector is better than anyone else’s, only that I have one. You have one, too, and should use it. I wish more people would. But if you’re wondering what it is about these cases that made me doubt them, well, here we go:

All three rely on what you might call the Too Much Evil plot line or perhaps what I call And Syndrome. In the Smollett case, we were expected to believe that a couple of MAGA chuds were out roaming Chicago with bleach and a rope/noose, looking for someone to attack. Which allegedly went like this:

According to TMZ, the attack happened at around 2 a.m. when Smollett went out to get a sandwich, after which someone yelled, “Aren’t you that f***ot ‘Empire’ n*****?” The outlet reports that the the two offenders — who allegedly are white and wore ski masks — beat Smollett badly enough to fracture a rib, then tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him.

“This is MAGA country,” TMZ reports the offenders yelled as they fled after the assault.

So first they yell, then they beat him up, then they pour bleach on him, and then they wrap a rope around his neck, yelling “this is MAGA country” as they run off. Any one of these things would be terrible to have happen to you, but pile them up, and it’s national news.

In the Rolling Stone rape case, we were asked to believe that first “Jackie” was given a spiked drink, then pushed into a room at a frat party, then thrown onto a glass-topped coffee table, which shattered underneath her. Upon this bed of broken glass, she said, she was raped by no fewer than seven men, while two others watched and commented. After which, she somehow managed to get dressed again and found her way outside, where she told some friends what had happened, and asked for help. Imagine what a woman who’s just undergone this punishment must have looked like — her back must have resembled hamburger. I’m surprised she could walk. But her friends — her friends, mind you — say nah, they won’t help because then they might not get into the frats they were rushing.

The Nassar story details I already mentioned. Nassar would have been a medical student at the time, but the AD supposedly took ownership of a videotape depicting a violent rape and…let the med student remain in his job, and later take even bigger ones at the same university.

So. In the first case we have two dudes walking around Chicago — not Birmingham or Salt Lake City or Fargo — carrying bleach and a rope to clear fags from “MAGA country.” And they’re wearing ski masks. In the Rolling Stone story, it’s a drugged drink and broken glass and seven guys and horrible friends. At MSU, it’s a raping med student (all of whose sexual assaults, we now know, were variations on sticking fingers into vaginas and anuses, with masturbation in one case) and a video and a cameraman and a pregnancy and HPV and an evil AD.

And Syndrome.

Smollett’s case would have been more believable if he’d been out that night and admitted to running across his attacker somehow, finding him cute, maybe flirting with him, maybe touching him, which caused the man to flip out and retaliate with violence. Jackie’s rape would have been more believable without the broken glass and two men, instead of seven. The MSU athlete? At least pick the same M.O. Nassar used in every other assault.

But all of these would have been less dramatic, and/or made the victim less sympathetic. If Smollett said he came on to a guy who beat him up, lots of people would think it was his fault. Rolling Stone Jackie somehow needed that horror-movie scenario — seven guys so crazed by lust and violence that they didn’t notice they were kneeling on broken glass — to buffalo a reporter who should have known better. I don’t know about the MSU student, but I would not be surprised to hear that she is not a stranger to mental illness.

I’ve never been a full-time police reporter, but in years in newsrooms, I’ve been amazed at the randomness and weirdness of the crime that appears in the police reports. It so rarely follows the scripts we see on TV. A woman cuts off a man in traffic, he fires a gun into her car, killing a child in the back seat. (This happened in Detroit recently.) Fistfights tend to end after one or maybe two punches, with one guy yelling OW MY NOSE and the other OW MY HAND. The people who throw chemicals, or hot water, on others? Often women, maybe because they know where the bleach is (laundry) and because they’re not as strong as men. And even terrible people have enough self-awareness to know that a gang rape of a young woman at an elite university is not a good idea, and would at least leave the room, rather than watch and participate.

I’ve been lied to, and fallen for lies. My BS detector is certainly not perfect. I want to believe people are basically honest and tell the truth. But many are not, and we should apply simple skepticism, or at least hold our fire until more is revealed. Because more almost always is. \

OK, then! Weekend wrapped. We had surprise Saturday houseguests — Alex and his partner Harry, who came north on the spur of the moment to eat chicken paprikash at a divey little bar under I-75. We ended up at D’Mongo’s, drank too much and sent them off to Ikea to shop for storage solutions. Me, I had a lazy day today, and I regret not a moment of it.

Now it’s snowing. At this time of year, it seems it will snow forever.

Posted at 8:10 pm in Current events | 46 Comments
 

Sick, sick, sick.

In my bottomless masochism, I subscribed to Will Sommer’s Right Richter newsletter. It’s not the reading that’s difficult; Sommer covers the nutso right for the Daily Beast, and man. Man. It’s hard to believe this isn’t just pro wrestling.

The newsletter is free, and if you follow the link above you can get it, too. I’m going to quote more liberally from the latest issue this week than I generally do, just so you can get the gist here:

Two of the internet’s greatest galaxy brains are at war.

On one side: InfoWars chief Alex Jones, who’s been scrambling to get headlines after getting booted off of nearly every social media platform.

On the other: Joe Rogan, the mixed-martial arts commentator, hallucinogen enthusiast, and bro god who doubles as the gatekeeper to the quasi-conservative, quasi-mystical Intellectual Dark Web.

Jones and Rogan used to be pals. The InfoWars chief was on Rogan’s mega-popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, less than two years ago, racking up millions of views for his one-time chum.

But now, Jones will only describe Rogan as a pig he’s going to gut.

“Joe Rogan, metaphysically, is a Christmas hog,” Jones said Wednesday. “And I’m going to politically haul him up by his back legs and slit his throat. His blood will fill buckets — politically, not violently.”

The beef between the two started at least last summer, when Jones, beset by social media bans and lawsuits over his conspiracy theories, watched his influence start to wane. But the feud has turned red-hot after Rogan interviewed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and failed, in Jones’s view, to press Dorsey enough on why InfoWars was banned from Twitter.

Enraged, Jones has “declared war” on Rogan, claiming that he’s working for the CIA and George Soros. In his response video, Rogan said he’s just too busy to be a CIA asset.

Jones insisted that Rogan promoted Bitcoin to his audience as part of a scheme to make himself and Dorsey rich off the backs of his “sucker plantation” audience. Naturally, Jones doesn’t mention that InfoWars, too, went wild for Bitcoin in 2017.

Even Rogan’s enthusiasm for the hallucinogen DMT has come into play, with Jones claiming that Rogan is using the drug to mind-control his fans.

It’s tempting to say that of course this is pro wrestling. Because no one could be crazy enough to believe this. But then you wander…well, take a Facebook profile I found myself marveling over the other day, one I’d found while following a comment back from a right-wing deplorable in northern Michigan. I learned that this person, a woman who also lives up there, is convinced she is being poisoned by, among other things, vaccines, fluoridation, chemtrails and 5G internet radiation. She lives remotely because that’s the only way she can feel safe.

Imagine a mind like that, hearing Alex Jones tell you Joe Rogan is using DMT to control his fans. You’d scoff, I’d scoff, but someone who thinks the internet is giving her cancer? Please, Mr. Jones, tell me more. The other day I was thinking about quackery, for some reason, remembering, yet again, the fabulous Flo Ripley, my high-school health teacher, who taught us about chiropractic and osteopathic medicine, how they differed from the traditional sort (at least as practiced in this country), other topics related to how medical con men work, and how we might know when we were being bullshitted. And then the laetrile story broke big — I think Steve McQueen traveled to Mexico to get this cancer cure that Big Pharma wanted to keep from the people, but spoiler alert, he died of cancer anyway. I read these stories at 16, 17 years old and said, Why, this sounds like bullshit. As I recall, Coretta Scott King did the same thing, although I don’t know whether she was after laetrile. Steve Jobs tried to treat his own cancer with “nutrition” and all that.

All dead. And now we have Goop, vaccine “hesitancy” listed as a public-health threat, fluoridation panics and myriad other ignorance afoot in the land, aided and abetted by the internet. And Alex Jones, of course.

So this is going to be it for me for a few days. We’re packing our bags for a long weekend away, Alan burning auto-show comp time and me? I just need some time away. Of course I am still sick. I went to see my doctor and begged for a Z-pack, because I was sure all this crud had migrated to my ears and become a bacterial infection.

His cold-hearted reply: “It’s viral. I had it. My wife had it, everyone has it. Antibiotics won’t do any good and might give you diarrhea.”

So on I go. In week three now. Maybe I’ll spread this to the whole world before I stop coughing.

Posted at 6:29 pm in Current events, Popculch | 132 Comments
 

Slow down, short month.

Oy, what a week. Can February be a little less ridiculous, please? I hope so, anyway. An extraordinarily busy week ended it all, complicated by the cold.

How did it go? The Henry Ford story went viral and provoked a boneheaded response by the city administration, which culminated in a story in the New York Times, but they included a link back to Deadline Detroit, so hey — win-win.

A former owner of one of Detroit’s two most-beloved coney islands died, so that was a quick-turn obit. Then the deep, deep cold settled in for a two-day stay, and my friend Dustin got CO poisoning from the furnace in his apartment. So we had an emergency houseguest Thursday night. (That’s why no blog Friday.) And on Friday night I helped host a fundraiser with about 200 people, for a 501(c)3 I’m involved with. It was a big success, but with this cold — my cold, not the free-floating cold, although it was pretty nippy that night, too — still hanging around, I was croaking like …something that croaks by Saturday morning, which required a bloody-mary debrief on how the night went.

We stayed in Saturday night. For which I am grateful.

The fundraiser was at a local yacht club. Here’s the last picture I took from the back deck before the guests arrived. You get a sense of the temperature, I expect:

But now it is Sunday, and a relatively normal week lies ahead, which will end with a long-weekend getaway for the Derringers, sorely needed. I hope the news behaves itself.

Random notes: Watched “BlackkKlansman” Saturday night, and hated it. Hated hated HATED it. It was vintage Spike Lee: Heavy-handed, too long, scenes that go on and on and on, the whole nine. Did it have its pleasures? Sure: Denzel’s son John David Washington is fine, and Adam Driver is always worth your time. One of the too-long scenes was a dance montage to Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose’s “Too Late to Turn Back Now,” so at least the music was good. But by the time the fourth or fifth white racist said something like, “One of these days we’ll elect a president who thinks like we do” or “America needs to be great again,” I’d had enough. I turned it off with 15 minutes left. It still took two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I can’t tell whether Spike Lee beats his audience with a Message Stick because he doesn’t trust us to get it, or if he just hates us. I’m going with the latter.

Is there a surge in human trafficking at the Super Bowl, as we hear over and over and over at this time of year? In a word? No.

As for Ralph Northam, I have nothing to say. I checked Twitter during a bathroom break Friday night, when the story was breaking, and thought: I have no more room in my brain, sorry. But for now? I’ll just say that Pam Northam now joins the unhappy ranks of Wives Who Stand in the Background While Their Husbands Self-Immolate.

Also, medical schools have yearbooks? Why?

OK, then. The week awaits, but before that, the Super Bowl. Go Rams.

Posted at 5:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments