A few days away.

This weekend seems to be all about luxury for me. I’m house-sitting/nannying at my friends’ house two miles away from my own. They’re in London, but their 15-year-old twins are here, and the dogs need to be fed. So this is really a pretty sweet gig — the girls are self-sufficient and look after themselves, the dogs just need to be let into the yard from time to time, and the house is very pleasant. I basically just sit around and wait to do practically nothing, ensuring there is an Adult Presence on call and no teen ragers take place, because the midcentury modern furniture is too nice for that.

This must be what it’s like to be in a harem, only I don’t have to screw anyone. I never realized how much I do on a typical Saturday until I didn’t do anything. It felt pretty good.

(Of course, this means I’ll have to do the laundry Tuesday, when I get home, but eh, no biggie. There’s something to be said for watching the rabbits play on the front lawn as the sun comes up, listening to the coffeemaker burble away in the kitchen. Also, the bed I’m sleeping in is vast and has a firm mattress. After all this exertion, I took a siesta yesterday afternoon that was the best nap of my life.)

Here’s my buddy Leo. We’re reading the Times together.

And besides lounging, that’s what this weekend has been about, for me: Reading the Times. Reading the Post. Reading reading reading reading, because I don’t want to miss a nuance of the news breaking this weekend, which, like so many things, has been right in front of us all along. I’ve been checking Deplorable Twitter for reaction, and — this house having cable TV — an occasional Fox News fly-by, but there’s nothing there you wouldn’t expect. Just crickets or BFD. I expect we’ll have to wait for another round of pulse-taking out in Red America to find out what they’re thinking.

A few days or weeks ago — who can say — I saw a story about a farmer who was starting to suffer from the agricultural tariffs. He was feeling the pain, he said, but he just had to keep believing the president knew exactly what he was doing, and all would be revealed soon. I’ve seen less childish belief from first-graders talking about Santa Claus. I expect that’s what’s going on out there now.

So! How was your weekend? Leave links in the comments, if you wish. There are so many stories about what’s going on out there, I feel like I can’t pick just two or three, especially when so much of what I read is behind paywalls. But there’s this, from Politico, on what’s going on in North Carolina, and it’s free:

In the two weeks since Thanksgiving, Bladen County has been the focus of investigations into irregularities in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district. Specifically, how did the Republican, Mark Harris, win 61 percent of the absentee-by-mail votes when Republican voters only requested 19 percent of all absentee ballots? How did he manage to win the county at all, given the fact that it has three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans?

The numbers are close enough to jeopardize Harris’s apparent 905-vote victory over Dan McCready and might even force a redo of the election. That a small-scale fraud in a rural county of only 35,000 people could have fudged the result of one of the most watched Congressional races in the country is a reminder once again of the outside influence of economically left behind places like Bladen County, where the poverty rate is 20 percent and the median household income of $32,396 is about half the national median.

Local and national news outlets have done a fairly convincing job assigning blame for this fraud to a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless. A lifelong county resident, Dowless took money from an organization that took money from Harris’s campaign and, in turn, handed that money out to anyone willing to go door-to-door and persuade people to request and then hand over absentee ballots. A few of the foot soldiers have confirmed their parts, and several voters signed affidavits saying someone took their unsealed and incomplete ballots, which is illegal.

A fruitcake true-crime story for fruitcake season, via Laura Lippman. I’m only halfway through, but it’s wonderful, and so far, there haven’t been any murders.

With that, I find that I grow weary of this back-breaking labor, and need to relax some more. Happy Sunday, all.

Posted at 9:43 am in Current events | 44 Comments

Memo day.

With just a few exceptions, our life has improved since we cut the cable cord a while back. We’re not missing much great TV, and don’t feel obligated to watch, to name but one example, George H.W. Bush’s funeral. The best stuff is always streaming somewhere – that’s how I took in the Kavanaugh testimony – and the best of the best will live forever on Twitter, or until it is GIF’d and meme’d and otherwise enters the memory hole of the internet.

I thought of this while not-watching the Bush funeral. I guess I missed some eulogies that were OK, but ultimately, I wasn’t a GHWB fan, so I’m not going to invest a few hours watching. (This sentiment doesn’t apply to the current POTUS’ funeral, whenever it may be. That one I will pregame, watch and maybe watch again.) Ultimately, he was a public figure with strengths and weaknesses, and people are going to have opinions about that. Most of them are dumb. Next.

One thing I’ll give him credit for: The Americans With Disabilities Act. I did some reporting about that one its…10th anniversary, maybe? Around there. As I recall from the obits, the story about how Bush came to take up the cause came after the parents of disabled children were losing some key benefit in a sunset clause, and complained to him about it. He found them, and their children, and the disabled adults who supported them, impressive. That is very true, and if it’s something he should have already known, well, it’s never too late to learn something.

I recall interviewing a man born with incomplete limbs — one good arm and three flippers, basically. He was a hoot. He walked with prosthetics and could do anything with his good hand. Among the jobs in his work history: Repo man. I asked him about that one.

“The big secret is that it’s not nearly as exciting as you’ve been led to believe,” he said. “Ninety percent of people just give you the keys.”

“And the other 10 percent?”

“Well, I tried to get a foot in the door,” he said. “Then they’d slam it on my foot, and I’d say, ‘Lady, you can do that all day. It’s plastic and I can’t feel it.’ Then they give you the keys.”

Like I said earlier this week: I love to talk to people about their jobs. Especially interesting ones.

The ADA is monumental legislation that opened new worlds to people who have to navigate it differently than most of us. (And yes, it probably wouldn’t pass today, because a business might be burdened by it.) I came away wishing every house could be build along the principles of…I forget the term. Deborah would know. It’s the term of art to describe wider doorways, lower countertops, levers instead of knobs and the rest of it, the sort of easily incorporated modifications that would have kept my parents in their house for years longer than they ended up staying. I expect the Trump administration will overturn that one any minute now.

Today is Manafort Memo Day, right? I think I’m going to just step aside and wait for that one, and I hope it’s a good one. POTUS has already gone a little nuts on Twitter this morning, so I expect he’s at full pucker right now.

Two bits of bloggage today, both from the NYT and I apologize for that, but they’re both good:

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Boom. Also, this, a lovely look at Michelle Obama’s book, beyond the tear-into-the-index-and-find-out-what-she-said-about-Trump approach of the first days. Which is to say, the writer actually read the thing.

Posted at 9:55 am in Current events | 34 Comments

Adventures in latex.

I drove up into Macomb County at evening rush hour tonight — which you non-locals should read as, “I willingly inflicted painful torture upon myself” — to meet with a friend, one of my old filmmaking gang. He’s applying for an arts fellowship, and wants me to help write his application. He’s a special-effects makeup artist, a great guy, who worked for Chrysler for 15 years, took his buyout money and trained and transitioned into this practical art. It was very practical while the filmmaking tax credits existed, but today he spends a lot of time building prosthetic limbs in the long intervals between film work. We were talking about the intricacies of working with silicone skin when I said, “You should make sex dolls.”

“I’ve made a lot of sex toys,” he said.

Not the whole doll, but he had an early apprenticeship at a place in Los Angeles that makes dildos and fake hoo-has and various other love aids for the lonely.

“You mean, like the fake dicks of the stars?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? I cast…” And then he named a famous male porn actor who probably has a Google alert on his name. He described the PVC pipe full of latex molding compound that he prepared, with a hole cut in the middle for insertion. The actor was a pro, preparing himself for this very modern star appearance with no need for a fluffer or any other visual aid. Just drop trou and get to work. It was all quite efficient.

How about the women? I asked. They would come with a friend who would “twiddle the bits,” my friend said, until they were sufficiently protuberant, then the work was over fairly quickly. The latex only went on the outside, and then they hopped down and cleaned up.

I remember watching a “Real Sex” episode late at night about this practice. I mostly recall the production process, somewhere in Asia, where assembly lines of bored-looking Filipino women would hand-paint the details on the blanks. I wonder what they think of this faraway land known as America, I thought at the time. Today I’d think, I bet they understand why we elected Trump.

Anyway, my friend has come a long way from casting porn penises. He worked on the Hobbit movies, and won a local Emmy for this commercial, although if you ask me, the real workhorse was the poor actor, who had to live in that latex for 17 hours.

I love talking to people about the work they do.

So, a quick midweek hop to the bloggage? Sure.

Do you have coyotes in your neighborhood? And a small dog? That pup may need a coyote vest. Sorry, I don’t think they make them for cats.

Who is Scott Free? Deplorable America wants to know.

I petered out on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” after a few episodes last year, but Hank has convinced me I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ll try it again. What else do I have to do? Besides apply for an arts grant without mentioning penises, that is.

Happy Wednesday! See you (I hope) at week’s end.

Posted at 8:51 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments

The gallop at midweek.

It’s still Wednesday, isn’t it?

Crazy beginning of the week, but at least it went pretty fast. Lots of work makes for flying hours. Two links you might consider hitting, before we start, both by me: A visit to the “Harvard of Santa schools,” with a former Hoosier; and some strict inside-baseball stuff for Detroiters, a quick-turnaround piece on a local scandalette.

Traffic is important in this job, and we’re trying to build a readership. So click and then come back. We’ll wait.

The Santa piece was fun. Ann, the woman at the beginning and end, used to read my column back in the Fort, her hometown. If you went to the Holly Trolley this past weekend, you saw her around town. She connected with me on Facebook a while back, and when this chance to go to Santa school in Michigan came up, she dropped a line. Serendipity.

So, hope you all are doing fine. I’m trying to get my Christmas ducks in a row, with the idea of having my shopping 90 percent done after this weekend. Then, to do the baking, although based on how my waistbands feel after this past weekend, maybe it’s best to delay that a while and go for roasted vegetables for a few days. Alan got me a sous vide for my birthday, and I made my first ribeye the other night. It was good, but too rare, even though the meat thermometer said it was ready. I ground the leftovers the next day and made shepherd’s pie for one (Alan had to work late). Very good. I look forward to exploring the wonderful world of eggs this weekend.

I also committed to my first swim meet, sometime in January. I’m not a fast swimmer, so I expect utter humiliation, but I will power through, as that is my sole virtue — doggedness. I show up, I put in the time, but I just don’t get any faster. Ah, well. The Olympic team needn’t call me up.

Which reminds me: If you’re a podcast listener, I highly recommend “Believed,” which dropped a few weeks ago from Michigan Radio. You can find it in the usual places. It’s about the Larry Nassar case, which I followed closely, but I’m still learning things I didn’t know from these stories. It’s very good at delving into some of the psychology behind these stories, particularly questions like, how could these young women not realize they’d been assaulted? How could this happen with their own parents in the room? And how could so many parents hear their daughters trying to tell them what happened, and still not respond appropriately? You’ll leave with more compassion for the flawed people in the world. (Although not for Nassar.)

As long as we’re back to bloggage, two more quick recommendations, and then I’m out.

Funny: Alexandra Petri on Melania’s bloody Christmas forest. Very funny.

Not funny at all: Laura Trujillo’s account of her mother’s suicide and its aftermath. Painful enough to read that if this issue is painful for you, it might be too painful. My grandfather committed suicide when my mother was 10, and it’s an act that I believe reverberates in our family to this day. But I learned a lot about suicide, and it’s absolutely beautifully written. Thanks to Hank for recommending it.

Time to draw the curtain on Wednesday and maybe eat some pizza. Talk later.

Posted at 7:11 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 82 Comments

Tryptophan hangovers.

You guys! I’m so bad at blogging this week! And I apologize. Somewhere along the way of having a birthday party, preparing 1.5 Thanksgiving meals, driving to hell ‘n’ gone and eating my weight in pretty much everything, this little task got dropped.

So here it is Sunday morning, a turkey breast is in the oven (yes, it’s too complicated and boring to explain), and I’m seizing this chance while I can. So, the weekend! The holiday! How was yours? The feast at Mar-a-Lago looks like it was lit, as per usual. Let’s look at the photos, shall we?

Fox News selected a set in which Melania managed to creak into a half-smile, and even Barron — poor Barron, forced to put on a goddamn necktie — seems to have a semi-pleasant emotion stirring behind his usually impassive face.

The Daily Caller proclaimed Melania “wowed” in a black lace dress, then posted photos where you could see approximately seven inches of the dress. Fashion coverage of Melania’s outfits is the best reason to read right-wing media, because that’s where they really shine. FLOTUS never fails to wow.

This is the pic most outlets went with. I like Melania’s thousand-yard stare.

I trust everyone else had a decent holiday, barring disaster. No neckties, anyway. And I hope the football team of your choice won the big game, although that certainly didn’t happen north of the 42nd parallel. The Lions sucked, the Wolverines sucked, and we’re supposed to get a few inches of snow overnight. Michigan — it’s a character-builder.

I was thinking about fake news a bit, especially after reading a rather disturbing New Yorker story about the future of AI-assisted “deep fake” technology. This is the programming that will someday allow you to see Meryl Streep in pornography and Barack Obama having a celebratory cocktail with Osama bin Laden. You think your Thanksgiving arguments with Uncle Foxnews are fun now? Just you wait.

The problem, of course, is not that people believe these things — although some will — but that far more people will then not believe anything. It’s one reason people grow frustrated with the chilly, cat-lays-the-bothsides-mouse-at-your-feet journalism of today, which is problematic in a world where all the rules have been suspended.

OK, my turkey is beeping and I have to get moving. Happy Sunday, see you soon.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments

More rakes please.

“There are hells below this” is something Neil Steinberg says from time to time. (It seems like it’s a phrase from Shakespeare or something, but when I google? It’s all him.) It’s a more elegant flip on the one lesson I learned from the newspaper game: Never say it can’t get any worse. It can always get worse. And usually does.

Anyway, this past week has been a new, deeper hell, in term of our national situation. By the time the president was rambling, exactly like a dementia-afflicted senior citizen, about raking the forest floor? I no longer had the spirit to even grimly chuckle. The president is deferred to, always — it’s one of the perks of the job — but I can only hope that sometimes, somewhere, there is someone in the White House who is brave enough to correct him.

What am I saying? Of course no one does such a thing. They just write anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.

Happy end-of-weekend, all. Ours went pretty well. After the dinner/cake thing in A2, I took Alan out for a peaceful Saturday breakfast, since any birthday when you have to work isn’t much of a birthday at all, in my opinion. Stopped by John King Books — a five- or six-floor temple of used ones — and bought four novels, in an attempt to rekindle my interest in the concept of reading for pleasure. Cheated with one that I’d already read, but it was long ago and at least I know the author (Martin Cruz Smith) is reliably pleasing to me. I also got a hardcover of “All the Light We Cannot See” and am hoping for the best. Also, did you know Elmore Leonard published a YA novel? No? Me neither. So I added that to the stack. Simplicity and brevity will do me good in the weeks ahead.

After John King there were chicken tacos, which I mention because I know how much you guys need to know that. And then it was “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the new Coen brothers movie that premiered in theaters last week before immediately hopping to Netflix. It was daffy and funny and I recommend it, especially if you’re a Coen fan.

One more thing before I hop to the bloggage: I followed some of the discussion of My Pants over the weekend. I found McEwan’s take interesting, but maybe not entirely convincing. For My Pants to rise, phoenix-like, from Trump’s ashes is no small task. He’ll have evangelicals, of course, but even moderate Republicans are going to be put off by the montages of Pence clapping, smiling and looking his oleaginous, toadying self next to POTUS. That first cabinet meeting alone should suffice, but we’re in a different place now, bets off, but I have a feeling. He’s the only person connected to this White House who I find almost as repellant at Trump himself. And that is saying a lot. I can’t believe the same suburban women who voted for Trump hoping for the best (and flipped blue in the midterms) would fall for this guy.

OK, then: Your greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts story today is this one, about a fake-news farm that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and the people who continue to believe what they publish, even when, for example, he publishes something like this:

He noticed a photo online of Trump standing at attention for the national anthem during a White House ceremony. Behind the president were several dozen dignitaries, including a white woman standing next to a black woman, and Blair copied the picture, circled the two women in red and wrote the first thing that came into his mind.

“President Trump extended an olive branch and invited Michelle Obama and Chelsea Clinton,” Blair wrote. “They thanked him by giving him ‘the finger’ during the national anthem. Lock them up for treason!”

Blair finished typing and looked again at the picture. The white woman was not in fact Chelsea Clinton but former White House strategist Hope Hicks. The black woman was not Michelle Obama but former Trump aide Omarosa Newman. Neither Obama nor Clinton had been invited to the ceremony. Nobody had flipped off the president. The entire premise was utterly ridiculous, which was exactly Blair’s point.

The story hits another gear when they visit one of those individuals who spends all day on Facebook, liking and sharing stuff like this because she thinks it’s true. The mournful violin strains of “Eleanor Rigby” began to play in my head, reading this:

It was barely dawn in Pahrump, Nev., when Shirley Chapian, 76, logged onto Facebook for her morning computer game of Criminal Case. She believed in starting each day with a problem-solving challenge, a quick mental exercise to keep her brain sharp more than a decade into retirement. For a while it had been the daily crossword puzzle, but then the local newspaper stopped delivering and a friend introduced her to the viral Facebook game with 65 million players. She spent an hour as a 1930s detective, interrogating witnesses and trying to parse their lies from the truth until finally she solved case No. 48 and clicked over to her Facebook news feed.

…On her computer the attack against America was urgent and unrelenting. Liberals were restricting free speech. Immigrants were storming the border and casting illegal votes. Politicians were scheming to take away everyone’s guns. “The second you stop paying attention, there’s another travesty underway in this country,” Chapian once wrote, in her own Facebook post, so she had decided to always pay attention, sometimes scrolling and sharing for hours at a time.

..She’d spent almost a decade in Pahrump without really knowing why. The heat could be unbearable. She had no family in Nevada. She loved going to movies, and the town of 30,000 didn’t have a theater. It seemed to her like a place in the business of luring people — into the air-conditioned casinos downtown, into the legal brothels on the edge of the desert, into the new developments of cheap housing available for no money down — and in some ways she’d become stuck, too.

Apologies for the long excerpt, but it’s worth breaking my three-paragraph rule for this one. If you have a lonely older person in your life, ask them to lunch. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

There’s a guy here in Metro Detroit, a civilian who knows the Affordable Care Act better than most legislators. I follow him on the tweeter machine. He recently published a spreadsheet of the “AHCA Class of 2017,” i.e., those legislators who voted to repeal Obamacare and just ran for re-election. This is a one-stop shop to find out the electoral fate of all 217 House Republicans. Most were re-elected, but enough weren’t that it’s worth checking out.

And with that? I’m off to the gym and grocery.

Posted at 12:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments

Natal anniversary.

It’s birthday season. Actually, it’s birthDAY for Alan and Kate, which means little time for you, although here’s a fresh thread. I just finished frosting the cake, and from here on it’s a run-run day until we head to Ann Arbor for dinner. Wendy’s coming along, and will spend the short week with her friends at Kate’s co-op. She loves that place, because it’s pretty much petting and walks and treats nonstop; she sleeps for two days after coming home from these canine bacchanals.

We’ll have a relaxing weekend afterward; Kate will be recording her band, part of her senior thesis. Yes, senior thesis. Assuming all goes well, she graduates in April. Sunrise, sunset.

A few reading recommendations for the next few days.

The NYT’s Facebook investigation is well worth your time. The short version: Fucking assholes. If you’re pressed for time, you can get the short version via podcast on The Daily, today.

Also, a companion piece on the ghastly behavior of Sheryl Sandberg in all of this.

I have a like-hate relationship with e-scooters. How about you? I think this WashPost writer gets the gist:

Electric scooters are a little like Q-Tips .

In both cases, the products are marketed with explicit warnings about how not to use them, even though everyone knows that’s precisely the way pretty much every customer will use them.

For scooter riders here in Santa Monica, it means: Don’t you dare ride on the sidewalk, which is against the law, even though it sometimes feels super unsafe to ride next to cars. Or: Wink-wink, always wear a helmet. Also, the beach bike path is verboten, even though it is the smoothest, most fun, most scenic ride possible. And definitely don’t just dump your scooter in the middle of a busy path or sidewalk.

Aw shucks, well, we did warn you. Guess it’s your fault if you land in the ER.

And with that, I best get moving. Happy weekend, all.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments

What we mean when we say THIS.

I always think the best columns are those that don’t tell you what you already know or flatter your existing prejudices (Mr. Albom’s territory), or even those that make you think of something you hadn’t before (which is still a pretty good column), but those that make you think YES THIS IS EXACTLY IT and it’s something that was right in front of you all the time. Like those 3D puzzles where you have to find the dolphin in the pattern. You let your eyes swim out of focus, and then the dolphin is right there.

Today, that distinction goes to Monica Hesse at the Washington Post, writing about the infamous picture from Baraboo High School, of the Nazi-saluting kids, taken last spring at the prom.

On Monday, this photo surfaced online (under the hashtag #BarabooProud) and immediately went viral. The photographer later maintained he’d merely asked the boys to wave, though the gesture didn’t resemble a wave made by any hand-possessing human. In response to an outpouring of outrage, the superintendent issued a statement: “We want to be very clear. The Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment.”

If this response sounds familiar, it’s because it echoes the bland assurances recited by officials whenever poison bubbles up in America.

…So, to the Baraboo superintendent: If your defense is, “We’re a hate-free environment,” but there’s a photo of 60 of your students Sieg Heil-ing on the steps of the county courthouse, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you are, in fact, a hate-filled environment.

Maybe it hit home because it has happened a few times around here, particularly before kids realized that social media is not a private affair. There were some kids who wrote “I (heart) n*ggers” on their bodies, took pictures and sent them around, then seemed amazed that they ended up on the 6 o’clock news. There was another closer to the 2016 campaign, where they shot video of themselves being racist.

Here, as in Baraboo, the reaction was exactly the same: This isn’t who we are! And, to be sure, it isn’t who most people are, at least not out loud and in public. However, anyone who denies the casual racism that percolates in suburban and rural communities — hell, in pretty much all communities — isn’t paying attention.

I think a lot of people would like to believe they live in a hate-free environment simply because they won’t let their children drop n-bombs at the dinner table, but as Hesse says, when 60 kids will sieg heil on command, either you’re not teaching them what it means, or, option B, they think it’s no big deal.

And that’s a big deal. That’s the dolphin in the 3D puzzle.

Hesse’s columns are really good. Find them here.

And that will be it for me today, for lo, though the week is still young, it has me feeling very old. Gotta eat more protein tomorrow. Carbs are poison.

Posted at 9:16 pm in Current events, Media | 31 Comments

Winter is here.

Woke up to the pitter-patter of rain on the skylight, which I expected, no biggie. I stumbled to the bathroom, put on my workout clothes and filled my water bottle, stumbling out the door to — snow. The rain was the dreaded “wintry mix,” that fat, plopping precipitation that comes at the beginning and end of the season and basically sucks, although at least it’s not too cold when it’s wintry-mixing outside.

Did the 6 a.m. boxing workout, taking a few breaks to work the mitts with the trainer. Smug level: Orange.

Hey, with winter bearing down on us, we take our little rewards where we can — flannel sheets, hearty soups, red wine with friends, online shopping for the holidays. I came home to see a news alert on Alan’s phone, about police responding to another active shooter. A bit later, a correction: Not a mass shooting, a malfunctioning water heater. Well, there’s a relief. I guess we’re all on edge after yesterday’s slaughter in Thousand Oaks, with the revolting detail that some of the people in the bar — some of the people who died — were survivors of the Las Vegas slaughter last fall. We are insane in this stupid country.

I have to go out in the wintry mix later today to attend a seminar on marijuana legalization, so I’m keeping my head light this morning. Did a little scanning for gift ideas, and fell headfirst into the weird world of startup underwear — you know, the MeUndies, Tommy John, all those brands that advertise on podcasts and have their noses in the air because they’re startups, and hence superior to Hanes and what-have-you.. And excuse me for saying this, but: The day I pay $35 for a pair of everyday u-trou is the day I hit the goddamn lottery, and probably not even then. I don’t doubt that it’s got amazingly soft microfiber whatever-the-hell fabric, and I’m sure it fits very well, but it’s underwear. If I’m going to pay that much, I want it to be lingerie, dammit. For just wearing under a pair of jeans, I’m going with something I can buy in a three-pack at Target.

Other mysteries: $200-a-pair blue jeans. Yes, yes, it’s selvage denim, supposedly superior to all other denims. Selvage, it turns out, is basically “self-edge,” and what that means is, the weave is different and it will only fray in two directions, instead of all four. Good to know! I generally expect my jeans not to fray at all — the worst money I ever spent was for a pair of “distressed” Levi’s, which have holes in the legs and can only be worn for a brief window in spring and fall, when it’s cool enough for jeans but not so cold you can’t wear the air-conditioned kind.

Anyway, jeans are one of those things that really rewards brand loyalty. You find the one that works on your bod, and you buy it forever. I’ve got a Levi’s ass, and Levi’s are my jeans jam, and I’m just grateful they don’t cost $200 a pair. You need to know what fits you, because jeans really are almost like, well, underwear.

Enough ranting about shopping. On to the bloggage.

Sarah Sanders is a lying liar, but you already knew that. That intern looks like a Sarah-in-training. Good luck, girlfriend, but I’d advise you to jump off this train at the first opportunity.

Mostly for Detroiters, but the issues are probably universal in contemporary urban America: An interview with the keeper of the Terrible Ilitches Facebook page. The Ilitches are a local billionaire family, owners of the Tigers and Red Wings, and adept at getting the city to subsidize their developments with tax money, promising payoffs that never come to pass.

Why Michigan just passed an anti-gerrymandering initiative: Because since the last round of redistricting, Democratic candidates have outpolled Republicans statewide, but find themselves outnumbered in the state legislature, and in Washington.

And I leave you with this difficult-to-watch clip. But watch it we must.

Off to the showers for a mostly work-at-home day. Enjoy yours, and your weekend.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Don’t mourn. Organize.

I’m reading through last night’s comments now, and I sense a note of gloom among the commentariat. I feel none of it. If the current political situation alarms you, consider that important victories were won last night, and it’s a step forward to reclaiming whatever we mean by “this country.”

Michigan had a one-state blue/pink wave, electing all Democrats (and all women) as governor, secretary of state and attorney general, as well as brooming two GOP congressmen, replacing them with Democratic women. The state legislature will no longer be in charge of drawing congressional and state legislative districts, turning the job over to a bipartisan commission. And hey, we also legalized marijuana. Recreational marijuana.

So if you’re a Democrat, there was a lot to smile about last night, at least around here. If you think it sucked to see Stacey Abrams go down, to see Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum go down, I understand. But as smarter people than I have said more than once: Donald Trump is not a cause, he’s a symptom. All the terrible things he represents — nativism, prejudice, heedless unconcern for the future in favor of now-now-now and me-me-me — is deep-rooted in the American psyche. Wall Street rewards quarterly numbers, not long-term planning. When I am tempted to despair — and despair is a sin, as good Catholics know — I look at a photo of our president and consider what it reveals:

He’s old. He’s insecure. He takes terrible care of himself, physically and mentally. He’s a tar baby of misery, who contaminates everything he touches. He hasn’t read a book in decades. I doubt he’s thought deeply about the nature of his life, his soul, even his family, in his whole life. When he goes down — and he will, because nothing lasts forever — he will take so much with him, so many things that have stuck to his tarry body. I expect Ivanka will be the last into the pit, hair flying, stilettos digging into the dirt on the rim of the hole. “Moderating influennnnnce” will be the last thing we hear from her.

I have hope, slim hope, for the future, because I have to. I’m starting to see Trumpism as the flame-out of supernova, that will eventually shrink down to a cold rock.

I hope.

I haven’t lived here all that long, but I see a theme in Michigan’s election: Don’t overreach. We passed an anti-gerrymandering measure in part because in the last redistricting, when Republicans controlled Lansing, they turned a purple state into one that, legislatively, looked more like Indiana, with four Democrats and 10 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Along with two Democratic senators. Because statewide elections? Purple. And now, after this election? It’s 7-7. Purple.) A lawsuit filed over the current district lines turned up emails between Republican legislators and their consultants, talking about “cramming Dem garbage” into one district, to “raise a middle finger” to a long-time congressman. Another successful ballot proposal, on voting rights, put straight-ticket voting into the state constitution. One-click (or one box, filled in) straight-party voting has been studied again and again, and shown to primarily advantage Democrats. In a practical sense, it helps cities like Detroit, which has lots of Democrats and terrible election procedure, by keeping lines moving in polling places. (We’re a long-ballot state. Really long.) But the GOP has tried to kill it again and again, in the name of “encouraging more informed voting,” etc. It passed by a wide margin.

It’s often pointed out that when Democrats were in power, they did the same thing, aggressively protecting their interests, and they did. But this year, the answer to overreaching was to take the dish off the table entirely. I can’t help but see this as a move forward.

In elected offices, the new AG is a woman who fought the same-sex marriage decision all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. The unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate was the AG who fought her every step of the way, invoking a 2004 election that put a SSM ban in the state constitution, as proof that Michigan simply didn’t want this to happen, with no acknowledgement of the politicking behind that move (it was a Karl Rove strategy to boost turnout for Dubya, imperiled that year), the way society had changed its attitudes, none of it. He overreached. The new secretary of state is an advocate of political reform; her opponent feared same-day registration would encourage voter fraud, an issue that simply doesn’t exist on a wide scale in the U.S.

Pendulums swing, but the lessons stay the same: Remember who you work for. Don’t put party over people. And don’t overreach. It’s a cautionary tale for, yes, BOTH SIDES.

I don’t think happy days are here again. I think a lot of pain lies ahead. But I believe this was an important election that revealed a lot to be hopeful about.

So, a little bloggage:

Sorry about the ads, the exploding pop-ups, all of it, but this column by Neil Steinberg echoes a lot of what I feel about you-know-who, and brings in the Great American Novel in the bargain. Worth the ads.

When I was in junior high, I read a novel with a theme of anti-Semitism. It was honestly hard to wrap my head around; it seemed such a weird prejudice to have. As we know, it’s back in a big way, and it was incredibly blatant in the latest campaign. Just in case you have to be reminded what you’re fighting for.

John Sinclair was Michigan’s “marijuana martyr.” Last night, he watched the state legalize it.

That’s all.

Posted at 12:09 pm in Current events | 79 Comments