What a nice man.

Tuesday already, and already: What a week. Post-Labor Day is the time to shift into a higher gear, and the tach is definitely climbing. But still manageable. For the millionth time, it’s hard to work two half-time jobs; you have to be good at planning (which I’m not) and boundaries (ditto), as well as willing to bend everything, all the time.

Ah, well. Employed is better than unemployed.

How is everyone at midweek? The news about Cokie Roberts broke late morning, and as I know a lot of public-radio types, the tributes, as they say, poured in. Until late afternoon, when a different sort of reaction hit the porch like a wet load of manure:

“I never met her,” Trump told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One. “She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional, and I respect professionals. I respect you guys a lot, you people a lot. She was a real professional. Never treated me well, but I certainly respect her as a professional.”

My god, is there anything this idiot can’t ruin?

Truth be told, haven’t been a Roberts fan for a while; she was the high priestess of the conventional-wisdom take for many years, and I’m just done with that. She was also Washington establishment/journalistic royalty, and again: BFD. It did seem that she was a sterling person and a great friend and mentor, so that counts for something. It counts for a lot, actually.

Yesterday, the president of the United States spoke highly of Saudi Arabia as a military partner/client. Because they “pay cash.” I need a vacation so bad I can taste it. A vacation out of the country. One more month.

Not much to blog today, but this is really good. Long, but good. Enjoy. Me, I’m into Netflix tonight.

Posted at 9:16 pm in Current events | 30 Comments
 

Someone else said it better.

I have been thinking about Jeffrey Epstein and the elites for a few days now, and am not really any closer to a coherent opinion on them. I mistrust my brain when my feelings get too involved, and I can’t be absolutely sure they’re entirely disengaged here.

So lucky for me I found a particular Twitter thread, which is long even for a Twitter thread, but gets very close to what I’ve been thinking. I’m-a let this nice lady lay out her problems with the MIT Media Lab, and just say: Seconded. (Along with a HT to Heather for finding it.)

And I’m glad someone brought up Anand Giridharadas, too. I have his book on reserve at the library.

So. Sunday afternoon and I am home alone. Alan is at work, after working Saturday, too, coordinating coverage of the UAW strike called for midnight. I have already cleaned a bathroom and am now in my gym clothes, trying to summon the motivation to actually go there. Weight work is the most difficult motivation for me, because I do it alone. Also, I’ve skipped enough lately that I know I’m going to be sore as hell tomorrow, but I really should go anyway. Maybe after some food prep, and a banana. And a little power nap. And another chapter of “The Sheltering Sky” and ooh look, gym’s closed.

Has anyone seen the new Linda Ronstadt movie? I was always a fan, if not a superfan, but seeing all these YouTubes that keep popping up is making me wonder if I made a big miscalculation, back in the day. Maybe it’s because my brain has been broken by autotune, but when I hear this, I think, goddamn, now that is a voice. Shoulda gone to more of her shows, but I saw her at the Hollywood Bowl, and once you’ve done that, Vets Memorial in Columbus looks pretty small-time.

And with that, I seem to have run out of things to say. I can’t put it off any longer: Gym. (After maybe a little snack.)

Posted at 1:58 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Drain the swamp.

I’ve started and stopped this blog about 90 times since Tuesday. I started out inflamed about the MIT Media Lab thing about Jeffrey Epstein’s enablers, and hence the headline. Then 9/11 popped up, and I went down another dead end. In that spirit, I’m keeping the headline and much of the 9/11 chatter, and we’ll just get to the Publish button one way or another.

I’ve been thinking about 9/11 today, as probably most of you have, too, at least in passing. One thing I hear in the conversational buzz in both the digital and analog world is this: Remember how united we were, afterward? It’d be great if we could get back to that.

See, I don’t remember that.

Oh, there was unity of a sort. We all agreed what had happened was terrible. We all agreed something had to be done. We agreed in a rather vague, amorphous sense, that we were still The Best Country in the World, and Nothing Could Change That.

But I don’t remember any particular unity beyond that. Here are a few things I do remember:

Conservative Republicans pressing their advantage almost immediately. Disagreement with the president was frowned upon. We had to be united! Division is what the enemy wants! So we had to bow and scrape to every pronouncement – that we would “answer this” with fire and fury, etc. That GWB was the man to handle it; OMG can you imagine Al Gore? We needed this tough-talking Texan. And so on.

Even without social media, we endured the stupidest prole-level static imaginable. God, talk radio was insufferable. We didn’t have Facebook, but we had email, and memes. “If you have to fly, carry a small baggie of ham chunks, to throw at the hijackers.” “Did you hear that they found a full-size SUV under the towers with six uninjured firefighters in it? SUVs rule!!!” Here’s this thing Leonard Pitts wrote. Here’s this thing Christopher Hitchens wrote. Here’s something even stupider than the last thing I sent.

I don’t excuse myself from any of this; I was there, I was as crazy as everyone else. But lordy, I don’t look back on those days of grief and pain and fear as something I’d like to get back. Yea, Republicans and Democrats sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps. But about five minutes after that happened, the American flag started to be worn as a political statement and sartorial wish to turn Afghanistan into a sea of glass, not as an expression of patriotism. Who knew an Old Navy T-shirt could be so unnerving?

Anthrax. Also, anthrax. Yeah, that was no fun, either. That sense that what happened with the planes was only Act I, and soon we could look forward to car bombs and amorphous poisons sent through the mail — that was real unnerving. It didn’t help that there kept being more stupid stories in the media; even the lifestyle writers were pressed into service to ask whether high-end cookware might sell more now, because we were all eating in instead of going out. There was a piece on giving “comfort” gifts at the holidays. There was one on workout routines, for fuck’s sake; more women were taking up swimming, so if they needed to evacuate Manhattan in a big ol’ hurry, they could get to New Jersey or Brooklyn in the water. (As a recent open-water swimmer, I have some news for those gals: No, you can’t. Unless you can steal a boat.)

So no, I don’t have any particular nostalgia for 9/12, for the rise of horrible people like Pamela Geller and Instapundit and all of those. I did read this piece on Wednesday, though, which read in part:

The best of us rushed into burning towers in September or descended upon Afghanistan in October. The rest of us watched in stupefaction or satisfaction, or perhaps both. That goes even for direct witnesses of the great massacre, including me. We spectated. It was not two years later that the phrase emerged, not from Afghanistan but Iraq, that in the post-9/11 era only the American military was at war: the American people were at the mall.

It irritated me, only because it underlined something I’ve always despised, this idea that only first responders and soldiers can be “the best of us,” because man, have you been paying attention to what some cops have been up to lately? Did you hear about Abu Ghraib? But it wasn’t a terrible piece, and I read it, and thought, OK, now I have read that.

Today I surfed past the Indiana Policy Review site, to see if it’s still got my old colleague Leo writing his airy, dismissive, who-really-gives-a-shit columns (yes), and found this, by an Evansville attorney named Joshua Claybourn. Note that I’m posting it from one of the Indiana newspapers that accepts syndicated columns from the IPR:

The best of us rushed into burning towers in September or descended upon Afghanistan in October. The rest of us watched in stupefaction or satisfaction, or perhaps both. That goes even for direct witnesses of the great massacre, including me. We spectated. It was not two years later that the phrase emerged, not from Afghanistan but Iraq, that in the post-9/11 era only the American military was at war: the American people were at the mall.

And yes, for a minute I thought, wearily, JFC, another one? But I’m not entirely sure what happened here. Because besides Claire Berlinski’s blog and the IPR site, it also appeared on another site, Israel National News, also with an anonymous byline. Which doesn’t really suggest someone stole it, because it appeared more or less simultaneously at all three sites.

So is Josh Claybourn Claire Berlinski’s anonymous friend and the Israel National News site’s anonymous contributor? Or is some other funny business going on?

I DM’d Claybourn on Twitter. He is indeed Claire’s correspondent. And what are the odds that I, of all people, saw both pieces in the course of two days? I’m probably the only one. What a distinction. Why can’t this happen for the Powerball?

OK, so that’s it. I’m still gathering my thoughts on Epstein’s enablers, and maybe that’ll gel over the weekend. For now, I’m done, and you all have a great weekend. I’m getting my hair cut.

Posted at 7:30 pm in Current events, Media, Uncategorized | 51 Comments
 

Movies and racism.

You know what makes me feel old? Watching something on TV or in the movies and thinking, “Wow, that guy looks just like William Hurt/Bill Hader/Meryl Streep/etc.,” looking them up win IMDB, and discovering they’re either William Hurt’s son or Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan’s son, or Meryl’s daughter or whoever.

And if you read that right, yes, Dennis and Meg’s son looks so much like Bill Hader that if I were Dennis I’d be checking my back calendars to see whether Bill was working anywhere nearby when young Jack was conceived. Although, to be sure, Jack Quaid looks like a perfect amalgam of both his parents. Maybe Bill Hader is their other son.

William Hurt’s son, Alex, looks freakishly like the old man. And Meryl Streep’s daughters are her virtual twins. It’s almost creepy.

I’m talking about actors and actresses because this is what’s happening in the Bahamas, and I’m trying not to start screaming:

Turning away victims of the worst environmental disaster in years. We lift our lamp beside the velvet rope. And you can’t come in.

Also, this, on the MIT Media Lab quagmire.

Happy goddamn Monday.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Current events, Movies | 67 Comments
 

Stupidville, USA.

I wonder why I have trouble sleeping, then I look at the news.

Every fucking day, it’s something. Every. Single. Day.

People keep telling me to watch “The Factory,” but honestly, I can’t stand it, after a day of paying attention to the news. I keep seeking out stupid, non-topical comedies, and while “Workin’ Moms” ain’t cutting it, there are new episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” dropping this month, and that is right up my alley.

Light bulbs, today. Who even asked for this? Is it just Because Obama? Because, as Alan noted at dinner, the light bulb regulations came during the Bush administration, and you know what? THE NEW LIGHT BULBS ARE BETTER. Sorry for yelling, but really. The first corkscrew bulbs gave garish light but as the technology advanced, the bulbs improved. This often happens; I know we’ve had the low-flow toilets discussion here before. Two out of three toilets in our house are now low-flow, and they are awesome. Everything disappears with one flush.

And new, LED light bulbs not only light the room, they do so efficiently, and they last forever. We used to replace our porch lights, which we leave on all night long, every six months. We haven’t replaced the new ones in three years.

This stupid country.

I have some good, less infuriating bloggage for you to enjoy today, however.

Both are from the New Yorker, but it’s early in the month and maybe you haven’t blown through your free articles yet.

A Q&A with Linda Ronstadt. She’s disabled with Parkinson’s now, but not self-pitying at all — clear-eyed, smart and very vital.

And this, about the short-lived adventure of Prince’s biographer, whose work was, shall we say, cut short. Another super-smart guy, who really thinks differently about almost everything.

Beyond that, I’ll just watch some “Succession” and wait for the next onion-y belch from Washington. This stupid country.

Posted at 9:02 pm in Current events | 56 Comments
 

Happy new year.

As always, thanks for hanging around here when the postings get a little sparse. As the summer ends, I realize I’ve taken off more days than I intended, and I don’t really have much of an excuse other than: I did it because I could. As the new year — and September is the new year, as far as I’m concerned — I need to do more non-work writing. If only to keep myself off Twitter and whatever is falling apart in the world at the moment.

At this moment, it’s the Florida coast, as an enormous storm comes ever-closer, at a crawling speed, which has of course pushed the leadership of the country into Command Centers, where they’re closely monitoring the hurricane’s progress, in contact with local relief agencies, ready at a moment’s notice to step in to help save lives and mitigate misery, and…

…never mind, he’s tweeting again:

I can’t let any more of this nonsense keep me away from doing the stuff I enjoy — reading and writing.

It was a good weekend. Some pictures? Sure.

This was Saturday, for Shadow Show’s final appearance before next year. That’s because Kate leaves for California tomorrow, and I told her not to get homesick and come running back. Stay. Stay as long as the job and the money holds out, for cryin’ out loud.

In the distance: Sign in Arabic, because Hamtramck, and a pretty good crowd. This AC/DC tribute band (Icey Dicey) wasn’t doing quite as well, but they were just getting started:

I think they were playing “TNT” when I took that. Can’t remember.

And then on Sunday, we had a sendoff for Kate at a friend’s house. We had a hot dog/not dog bar, which was GENIUS (because everybody gets what they want, and all you have to do is set out a bunch of toppings), and I brought a pie and a cherry tart. Wendy got to spend some time with her favorite uncle:

Then we all discussed our funeral playlists and put each other in charge of carrying out our wishes. Yes, beer was involved.

Today it was a long bike ride in beautiful weather, and now I’m getting ready to dip back into “The Sheltering Sky” for the remainder of the afternoon.

One last pic: The Bassets meet the Dorothys for dinner in Dayton. Someone didn’t finish their onion rings:

And so the New Year commences! Let’s make it a good one.

Posted at 2:43 pm in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

A to Y. (No Zzzzs.)

Insomnia is a form of slow, involuntary suicide. I am convinced of that now.

Just wanted to start a new thread. Because that’s all I’m capable of, these days. However! I like to think this will be a good thread. Because only positive thinking will overcome insomnia.

First, for the love of God, can someone please read this stupid story I wrote, that practically NO ONE ELSE read and shared? Even the people in the story, all of whom were emailed a link, have failed to respond, except for “Bruce Springsteen.” It’s about tribute artists, and it did dogshit traffic. I hate the internet.

But speaking of dogshit, this is very funny: The look at how a dog park has divided upscale Chevy Chase, Md. Rich people are so awful.

Me, I’m off to nuke a hurricane. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep.

Posted at 1:03 pm in Current events | 68 Comments
 

There, there.

Most of us will never be rich and powerful enough that when we say things like, “Why don’t we just nuke that hurricane?” our underlings will say, “Sir, we’ll look into that.” Most of us only get that reaction when we’re gumming our mushy peas in a nursing home.

But that’s the world we live in now:

President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.

Behind the scenes: During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” the source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.

And that’s just wha you need to hear early on a Sunday evening to make sure your weekend ties up in one long, stinky fart. Because that’s the way we live now.

Saturday, on the other hand:

Before we discuss this, I have to make a request: If you’re going to say, “I don’t know any of these songs, and I feel old/resentful/whatever,” just save it. Probably hardly anyone knows all these songs; Alan suspects a consultant may have, shall we say, curated it. I don’t care. I listened to most of it on Saturday, and it bangs. I especially loved the Lizzo track, “Juice,” which I repeated three times before moving on to the Steely Dan.

If it takes the 44th president to introduce me to the music that it is, frankly, hard to find through conventional means, then thanks, Obama. I appreciate it.

The weather was perfect this weekend, and I needed it. How about you? I started reading “The Sheltering Sky” in preparation for our Morocco trip, but kept getting distracted by one thing or another — story of the contemporary reader’s life, eh?

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events | 55 Comments
 

Help from afar.

Well, that particular problem wrapped itself up in a bow. Allow me to explain:

Kate has an internship opportunity this fall that could lead to permanent employment, although that’s a don’t-count-chickens deal for now. It’s in Los Angeles, and it starts unpaid. The job itself is in Malibu, which is a bit of a fur piece from the city proper. Money isn’t a problem yet — we have a lot of her 529 left over (thanks, scholarships and diligent saving) and can help her out for a while, but housing was a big question mark, as she can’t sign a lease without an income or a job. She was hoping to find a co-op house similar to where she lived in Ann Arbor, but no dice in pricey Malibu. Nor student housing at Pepperdine. She’d been Craigslisting her little heart out, looking for a short-term sublet, but when a spare bedroom in Culver City fell through, I told her I’d see what I could do.

L.A. Mary to the rescue, and in about 24 hours, to boot. She knows a guy who has a restored vintage Airstream trailer parked in his back yard, it’s coming vacant soon, and it’s in Venice, which location-wise is about the best possible solution. So barring a disaster, she’ll be moving in in October.

And get this: The house has a pool. About a mile from the ocean. And about 20 miles from Malibu. Man, when you have a problem in a faraway city, it always helps to know a few locals, and it really helps to know our Mary.

So thanks, Mary.

I only wish my commute was on the Pacific Coast Highway, although maybe not at rush hour.

I just spent some time looking at Google Maps. Sigh.

I really hope this works out for her. She’s a hard worker. But we all have to struggle, early in our careers.

Take Jeffrey Epstein, for example. Started as a humble high-school math teacher, but it wasn’t long before his sociopathic charm took him right to the top, and he did exactly what he liked along the way until only very recently, when he decided that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life eating bologna sandwiches and canned fruit cocktail.

You can understand.

I’m not forming an opinion about it yet. Weird shit happens every day in our crazy world, but often, Occam’s razor applies. And if the Clintons were that powerful, why are so many of the people who tormented them for so long, who torment them to this day, still walking around free? Newt Gingrich is a tub of lard who couldn’t evade a trained assassin for 30 seconds. And Anthony Weiner, for cryin’ out loud. Neither man would be much missed by their wives. Callista might even leave the bedroom window unlocked. (Hell, she’d send a thank-you note.)

That said, what an utter failure of what should be simple procedure in a federal lockup. Hanging oneself in a cell isn’t as cut-and-dried as a drop from a gallows; often the deceased suffocates, and that takes time. This never should have happened, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

The other big event this weekend was the old-folks’ swim meet we held Saturday morning. It was all team events, almost all relays. We all swam two or three races, and the teams I was on won some, lost some. It was a very casual event, as you can imagine; we were encouraged to “take the ribbons you think you deserve,” for instance. I left with none. What am I going to do with ribbons? I had a great time, and saw our old buddy Tom, who took much of the last year off as he waited for, and then received, a kidney transplant. Now he’s back in the pool, and here he is, after finishing his lap:

Man, nothing photographs like a pool on a beautiful summer day.

I hope the next day you face is beautiful. See you Tuesday/Wednesday.

Posted at 6:35 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments
 

Too close.

We started to watch “Vice” Thursday night. Not a terrible effort at all — good performances, imaginative telling of a familiar story, interesting creative choices. But I tapped out early. It was too much like current events, and felt too much like watching the president yesterday. Freshly spray-tanned, sniffing, barely able to read the Teleprompter, and then with that stupid god-bless riff at the end, which turned the exhaust-belching sedan of his brain north on I-75 instead of south, and took him to Toledo.

Easy to confuse, Dayton and Toledo. They’re both cities in Ohio, and we all look alike, anyway.

An alternative explanation:

But what if Trump’s problem was a literal lack of focus? What if, where most people saw the words Texas and Ohio on the teleprompter, the president saw a capital T, a big blur, and maybe an O somewhere? Minor Ohio city, starts with T: Toledo.

In 2014, as Donald Trump took the stand to testify in a civil case brought against him by two would-be residents (had his tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ever actually opened), he asked the judge presiding over the case if he could borrow the judge’s reading glasses. According to a photo caption in the Sun-Sentinel at the time, “Trump quipped that he should wear them all the time, but he’s ‘too vain.’ ”

Another curiosity of the Trump presidency has been his approach to stairs. Almost every time he exits Air Force One, Trump can be spotted white-knuckling the guardrail as he stares intently at his feet. And in 2017, The Times of London reported that widely mocked photo in which Trump grabbed Theresa May’s hand was due explicitly to his fear of stairs. …A man with poor eyesight and perhaps poor depth perception, however, would indeed be far more cautious around stairs than most. And a man terrified of embarrassing himself in any capacity, doubly so.

I think she’s on to something. However, I still can’t watch him. Every time he holds up his hand in one of those dumb thumb-to-forefinger gestures he does, I feel a little more dead inside.

So I left “Vice” as Dick was getting the call from Dubya. I’ve literally seen this movie. I know how it turns out.

Sorry I’m so listless of late. I’m just…listless. And stuff like this depresses me. Also, for the record: I absolutely believe the story told in the last comment thread: Oh, FFS, Joe, of course that woman said that stuff about Obama. How dumb do you think we are? How dumb are you? I have heard many versions of her remark in the last few years. I walked out of my last high-school reunion after some blockhead popped off that Obama was “the most racist president ever.” And that was before the last election. I honestly don’t think I could handle that bunch now. I won’t be attending the next one.

So, some odds and ends:

I checked the Columbus Dispatch the other day, looking for fresh angles on the Dayton shootings. I was distracted by a story on the Sale of Champions at the Ohio State Fair, where the prize-winning livestock is auctioned off to the area’s markets and restaurants. It can be a sad occasion, as the 4-H kids say goodbye to the animals they helped raise, knowing they’re all going to their deaths on the altar of our carnivorous culture, but they walk away with big checks, which helps take the sting out.

The lead mentioned something about the top price going to the champion “cow.” I thought, hmm, usually the steer gets the biggest bid, but OK maybe dairy is super-hot this year, and then realized the writer was referring to a steer. She just called him a cow, because he walks on four legs and moos, I guess. A few lines down, she described the sale of “turkey’s.” The errors have been fixed now, but JFC I can’t stand it. My old pal Kirk Arnott, who ran the copy desk with both benevolence and an insistence on upholding the fucking English language, has really left the building.

Of course, the paper is owned by GateHouse now. Which just bought Gannett, which owns the Free Press here in Detroit, so.

What else? I’m doing my first swim meet this weekend. It’s the sunrise swimmers at one park against the sunrise swimmers at another. Everyone is at least 40, and a few are past 80. This should be fun. Wish me luck.

I’ll try to be back before then, though.

Posted at 9:56 am in Current events, Media | 81 Comments