And now we wait, but not too long.

I kept trying to carve out a few moments here and there today to write a blog, but then the Chauvin verdict news came in, and I thought: Wait until after, or before?

Before, I guess. New thread for verdict discussion.

In the meantime, three quick items:

If you need a break from bad news, we saw “Shiva Baby” on Amazon Prime video last night, and it was funny and cringe-y, and if you like that kind of thing, it’s that kind of thing. New York magazine called it “The Gradiate” meets “Uncut Gems,” and that’s right.

This story is five years old, but I just read it today, and it’s very funny: How Morrissey ruined Bill Cosby’s set on “The Tonight Show,” 30 years ago now.

Finally, since some of you are talking about Walter Mondale today, let it be known that for a tryout on MPR many years ago, I interviewed by Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Simultaneously! On one show! I didn’t get the job. If I had, I’d probably still be there, and my heart would be pounding right now.

Fifteen minutes.

Posted at 4:16 pm in Current events, Media, Movies | 21 Comments

A lion, lost.

I was saddened to read, early Saturday morning, of the death of Vartan Gregorian. You’ve probably never heard of him. I hadn’t, before I met his son, Vahe, and later the man himself, during my year in Ann Arbor. Vahe, a sportswriter then in St. Louis and now in Kansas City, was in my Knight-Wallace Fellowship class. Vartan was invited to be one of our seminar speakers later that year.

Like I said: Never heard of him, but then, I was a Midwestern girl. He was president of the Carnegie Corp., and about as big a cheese as you could be in New York City, as we were all soon to learn.

Vartan served as president or provost at several universities, but his real claim to fame, and the centerpiece of his NYT obit linked above, was that he saved the New York Public Library from near ruin. He had his work cut out for him:

The underpaid, overworked staff was demoralized. The beautiful Gottesman Exhibition Hall had been partitioned into cubicles for personnel and accounting. Tarnished chandeliers and lighting fixtures were missing bulbs. In the trustees’ board room, threadbare curtains fell apart at the touch. Outside, the imperious marble lions, Patience and Fortitude, and the portals they guarded, were dirt-streaked. Bryant Park in the back was infested with drug dealers and pimps and unsafe after dark.

But the main problems were not even visible. The library faced a $50 million deficit and had no political clout. Its constituencies were scholars, children and citizens who liked to read. The city had cut back so hard that the main branch was closed on Thursdays, and some branches were open only eight hours a week.

To Dr. Gregorian, the challenge was irresistible. The library was, like him, a victim of insult and humiliation. The problem, as he saw it, was that the institution, headquartered in the magnificent Carrère and Hastings Beaux-Arts pile dedicated by President William Howard Taft in 1911, had come to be seen by New York City’s leaders, and even its citizens, as a dispensable frivolity.

He seemed a dubious savior: a short, pudgy scholar who had spent his entire professional life in academic circles. On the day he met the board, he was a half-hour late, and the trustees were talking about selling prized collections, cutting hours of service and closing some branches. He asked only for time, and offered in return a new vision.

It so happened that 1980-ish is when I started receiving the Columbus Dispatch fashion editor’s copies of Women’s Wear Daily, and I remember that new vision appearing in its society columns: The Literary Lions, a huge fundraising effort led by business titans, socialites like Brooke Astor and Vartan, which coincided with the city’s comeback and the flood of financial-industry money rolling in from Wall Street. What better, what nobler cause than libraries and literacy? People like Jackie Onassis and Isaac Bashevis Singer jumped on board, along with…pretty much everybody.

It was a huge success. The grand institution was saved. By the time he spoke to our group in Ann Arbor, he’d long since moved on. The night he visited, Wallace House was at standing room only, with many of the guests other university administrators who’d worked with him at one of his previous posts — Brown, Penn, University of Texas. The atmosphere was like a low-key Bruce Springsteen concert prelude. I soon learned why.

He spoke that night about his stewardship of the committee that chose the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan. (This was 2004, and I believe Maya Lin’s design had recently been revealed to the public.) As you can imagine, every macher in New York wanted to be on that committee, and the ones who were selected all had their own ideas about how it should do its work and what the winning design should look like. Vartan talked about how he tamed these mustangs, hitched them to his wagon and got them pulling in one direction as a team.

Wallace House seminars were officially off the record, and we were discouraged from even taking personal notes. If I had a recording of that talk, I could sell it as a MBA-level class in effective management. I can’t even recall individual details now, but how he made them all responsible for the entire group’s success, kept them from leaking to the media to their advantage, and even showing up to every meeting so that their work could proceed smoothly and quickly? Was genius, like watching someone work a complicated math proof in 30 seconds. And he did it all through charm and ego-stroking and flattery; I doubt he had enough strong-arm in his personality to lift a coffee cup, but he could levitate it and make it dance in the air through the focus of his attention.

I got a glimpse of that part later. We had the chance to ask questions, and I posed an overlong and convoluted one. I’d recently read a scathing critique of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial in the New York Observer, and the writer made the case that its biggest flaw was: Too Soon. Tragedies need time to understand, particularly those with political elements, and in its rush to honor those who died in the Murrah building that day, the designers had left out the Why of it all.

So I asked Vartan about Too Soon, but said that lower Manhattan real estate was some of the most valuable in the world, and was the goal to get an appropriate memorial up while they still could, or something like that. I don’t recall his response (probably “yes”), but I do remember afterward, when we were introduced and he said, “That was such a smart question! Why aren’t you working for the New York Times?” He had that gift, so vital in a fundraiser, of making the person you’re talking to feel like a) the focus of 100 percent of your attention; and b) the most interesting person in the world. And to somehow do it without a whiff of ass-kissing or sucking-up or smarminess. He just liked you so much! Thought you were great!

His late wife, Clare, called him “the one-man swarm,” someone who could pay a call at any Upper East Side apartment and leave with a check worthy of transport in an armored car. No wonder he saved the library. No wonder he boosted the endowments of all his academic employers. No wonder he appeared so often in Bill Cunningham’s Evening Hours column that after we met, I started looking for him there. I thought of him as the Silver Goatee of Merriment.

Anyway, because of my belief that personalities are always more interesting with a little shadow in the picture, I should also say that Vahe, Vartan’s son, said his upbringing wasn’t always easy, that as the American son of an Armenian immigrant, they had profound differences as he grew up. I’m sure that as a PhD who wrote books and spoke seven languages, it probably drove Vartan crazy to have a son who played football and read Spider-Man comics. But by the time I met them, they seemed to be on the best of terms. In his later years, with the Carnegie Corp., Vartan mostly gave money away, and often took his family with him to faraway destinations to watch the check-passing and do a little sightseeing after.

One such trip was to a town in South Africa, where Vartan was endowing, what else, a library. The rest of the family arrived jet-lagged and slept through the ceremony, all except for Vahe’s wife, Cindy, who was a witness. She told me the town made a big fuss, and the fuss included a band with high-stepping dancers, or majorettes, or something, and how delighted Vartan was to see it all. He would have been around 80 by this point, a man who’d stood in the Oval Office to receive the Medal of Freedom, whose Rolodex and life experiences included literally everybody who was anybody all over the United States, and he was thrilled by a band in a dusty town in South Africa.

That, I’m telling you, is how to live your life. Condolences to his family, and all who knew him. The hole he leaves in the world is immense.

Postscript: If I’d had a chance to meet him in recent years, I’d ask him about Donald Trump. Trump’s rise coincided with the Literary Lions, and I’m sure that social-climbing piece of crap got his foot in the door of a few of those dinners. I bet he had some stories. I hope he told them to someone before he left us.

Posted at 7:42 am in Current events | 58 Comments

Jobs for days.

Another week where I thought it might ease up after a while, but didn’t. But no matter — work is better when it’s busy and this week I got to interview Don Was, so that was a cool interlude, although it was on video, which I hate, but oh well that’s where the ad buy is this month.

It’s up, and you can see it here. Please don’t say anything cruel about my hair or makeup.

The weather cooled off this week, and Alan’s been working in the yard. New bushes, transplanting a hydrangea, the usual mulching and cutting back and waiting for spring to really hit the gas, as well as getting the boat ready for the water in a few more weeks. Much of the work we’ve been doing (OK, Alan’s been doing, although I scrub the fucking toilets, so it evens out) around here is stuff we’ve put off for years, which makes me wonder if homeownership is even worth it. It’s wonderful on a summer night when you can go into your back yard, put some cool tunes on the Bluetooth speaker, start a fire in the pit and enjoy it all, but man — keeping even a well-built house in good repair is exhausting.

On the other hand, a friend of mine just bought a house in Ann Arbor, and the prices there are — no other word for it — simply jaw-dropping. Like, over $400 per square foot jaw-dropping. They’re bad here, but there? Ai yi yi. Then I think about people I know who went back to renting after owning, and simply hated it. The noise, the neighbors, dealing with a landlord after being your own, all of it — they couldn’t deal, and bought another house p.d.q. Our own is approaching payoff, and I expect we’ll be here until we can no longer climb steps.

What’s going on in the news? Afghanistan, the world’s tar baby, claims another victim. It’s the Venus flytrap of quagmires, to mangle a metaphor. And someone asked about Covid in Michigan. It’s…complicated. The governor is resisting further restrictions, and pushing vaccination instead, but the acceptance rates are insanely low. I can’t explain it. Unburned forest, i.e., large numbers of uninfected? Yes. Variants? Yes. Dumbasses who won’t get the shot? Also yes. We’re carrying on, and fully vaccinated. Doesn’t look like a month in Europe will be in the cards this fall, though, as I had hoped. Sigh.

On the other hand, children are still being shot to death by police, so. Things could be worse.

Happy weekend? Yes, happy weekend. I’m going to watch the new Bob Odenkirk movie and be an extra in a video — not for Kate’s band, another one. Tell you more after.

Posted at 8:22 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments

How to make a bunny cake.

First, make your favorite cake recipe in two 9-inch cake pans. I chose carrot, because Duh, from Mark Bittman’s How To Bake Everything book — it has a lot of crushed pineapple in it. On a sheet-cake cardboard, which I had a five-pack of, leftover from a years-old experiment with making a blighted gingerbread house, place one layer about two-thirds of the way down. Cut ears out of the second layer and place the leftover piece at the bottom, like so:

Frost it all over with your favorite frosting. We went with the classic cream cheese:

Then, bunny it up:

And that is how you make an Easter dessert. I can’t believe that we spent all those years with a little girl in the house and this is the first year I’ve made one. Oh well, it’s never too late. It looks a little like a child helped with the decoration, doesn’t it? Things to remember for next time: Make a separate batch of icing for piping the details, because the cream cheese was too creamy to pipe very well. Also: Be more creative, but I was specifically requested to make jelly-bean eyes, so that’s what I did. Also might try toasting the coconut for a brown bunny.

The rest of the meal was fine, but simple — smoked a turkey breast on the grill, mac/cheese and a nice potato salad. And the traditional nibbles beforehand:

I love deviled eggs. Why don’t I make them more often?

So that was my Easter. I drank too much wine, had an afternoon nap, and went for a bike ride after. The weather was perfect — clear and sunny, warm but not too. I hope yours was as pleasant.

The weekend being what it was, I paid little attention to what news there was this weekend, except that Michigan is No. 1 in the country in new Covid cases, and had an eye-popping number Saturday — 8,413. We should change our name to New Variants, because that appears to be what’s driving all this. My second shot is Thursday. Can’t come soon enough.

OK, then, Monday commences. Let’s get through the week.

Posted at 8:47 am in Current events, Holiday photos | 74 Comments

Shiny new surfaces.

A productive weekend, on the House Overhaul project. Alan took most of two days to clean out the garage, and the number of heavy-duty trash bags at the curb — oy. Me, I handled a Problem Closet, and added one bag to the lineup, and also did some basement tidying, so while I didn’t pull my weight equally, I did my part.

In between, I came up with little chores to do. Like finally taking some copper polish to the bowl I bought at an estate sale a couple years ago:

I was so amazed, I looked it up online, because the polishing revealed a previously undetectable maker’s mark; that’s a $200 beating bowl, made in France. I got it and another saucepan for around $15, as I recall. Surround yourself with beautiful, functional things, if you can. You don’t need a lot — one or two will do.

In other news at this hour, I cooled on “Genius: Aretha” as it went on. It did do an interesting job with the central relationship of her life — with her father — but like so many of these things, it was too damn long and the dialogue could grate. The last episode or two was all OK time to wrap this up, so we’ll put the actress in a fat suit and give her some needlessly expository speeches. Why is it so hard for screenwriters to listen to the way people talk and then try to duplicate it? And watching the animations of the song titles rising to the top of the charts were…ugh.

Now I’m just waiting for some inspiration to strike, and allow me to progress with my day, which is mostly filled with chores, but oh well. Fortunately, I have some bloggage:

Mother of six fatally shot in road-rage attack. Yeah, this is perfectly normal and just collateral damage from all this freedumb:

Officials said they responded around noon to a report of a person shot on Interstate 95 in Lumberton, N.C., about 125 miles from Charlotte, N.C.

They discovered Julie Eberly, 47, of Manheim, Pa., had been shot through the passenger door of the vehicle her husband, Ryan, had been driving. She was taken to Southeastern Health in Lumberton, where she later died, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office said. Mr. Eberly was not injured.

The couple celebrated their anniversary this week, Sheriff Burnis Wilkins of Robeson County said on Facebook. They were headed to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for a getaway, the sheriff said.

The story says they had a close call during a merge, so the other driver came around to the passenger side, rolled down his window and let fly. No suspects yet.

The Man With Ohio’s Most Punchable Face, Josh Mandel, was a participant in this so-called “Hunger Games” competition for the favor of the Lord of Mar-a-Lago as the Buckeye State’s Senate race heats up:

The contenders — former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former state GOP Chair Jane Timken, technology company executive Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons — had flown (to Mar-a-Lago) to attend the fundraiser to benefit a Trump-endorsed Ohio candidate looking to oust one of the 10 House Republicans who backed his impeachment. As the candidates mingled during a pre-dinner cocktail reception, one of the president’s aides signaled to them that Trump wanted to huddle with them in a room just off the lobby.

What ensued was a 15-minute backroom backbiting session reminiscent of Trump’s reality TV show. Mandel said he was “crushing” Timken in polling. Timken touted her support on the ground thanks to her time as state party chair. Gibbons mentioned how he’d helped Trump’s campaign financially. Moreno noted that his daughter had worked on Trump’s 2020 campaign.

The scene illustrated what has become a central dynamic in the nascent 2022 race. In virtually every Republican primary, candidates are jockeying, auditioning and fighting for the former president’s backing. Trump has received overtures from a multitude of candidates desperate for his endorsement, something that top Republicans say gives him all-encompassing power to make-or-break the outcome of primaries.

And the former president, as was so often the case during his presidency, has seemed to relish pitting people against one another.

Of course he does. He’s that kind of asshole.

Posted at 8:45 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 96 Comments


And just like that, spring has kissed us on the forehead, blessed us with her favor, coaxed the first green shoots out of the thawing earth.

All this by way of saying we saw a couple of squirrels fucking in the driveway the other day. The male was having a hard time getting his lady to hold still, and we lost track of them in the higher branches, so I don’t know if the deed got done. I imagine it doesn’t really matter; there’s never a shortage of squirrels in these parts. Wendy managed to catch one the other day; its pea-size brain told it to outrun her, which was very bad braining. It got away, but I suspect it was mortally wounded, so score one for Wendy.

If you’re sensing I don’t care for squirrels, you’re right, but hey — they’re part of the kingdom. I don’t poison or shoot them or anything. Live and let live.

What a glorious weekend, though. Got a lot done. Got a bike ride in. Got over my first vaccine’s side effects (a sore arm) and the first truly warm weather got me fantasizing about a summer of outdoor socialization without fear of death. What a concept.

Couple bits of bloggage today:

This is the local Covid-related dustup: Another recalcitrant Michigan restaurant owner collides with The Book, thrown by a judge who is just not havin’ it:

A 55-year-old Holland restaurant owner operating in defiance of a court-ordered closure and the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, including Michigan’s mask mandate, will remain in an Ingham County jail for up to 93 days.

The story is not paywalled, and reading it, you get a sense of the judge’s impatience. This paragraph, though? Chef’s kiss:

During Friday’s hearing, Aquilina also ordered a man attempting to represent Pavlos-Hackney as “assistance of counsel” to be arrested for contempt of court because he allegedly had represented himself as a lawyer when he was not licensed to practice. Richard Martin, who described himself as a constitutional lawyer and is the founder of the Constitutional Law Group, was ordered to serve 93 days in jail.

It’s worth a google to see the Constitutional Law Group website, especially the video, showing Martin in action.

Here’s video of him getting arrested, and sounding like a dolt:

This is the judge who allowed the extraordinary Larry Nasser sentencing hearing, by the way. It took the better part of a week for every assaulted woman to make a statement.

Also, since we were talking about Josh Mandel here just last week, here’s his latest blurtage. What a dick.

But let’s not let that ruin this lovely day! Let’s get it under way — oh wait, it already is.

Posted at 11:41 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Twelve steps.

Anyone who’s ever been a young man, or been the sex partner of a young man, knows one obvious fact: Young men like to have a lot of sex. (So do young women, but a young man will outdistance her almost every time.) Three, four, five times a day is not unheard of, if only for the honeymoon period before abrasion or urinary tract infections (usually in the partner) kick in.

So tell me that a 21-year-old man considers himself a “sex addict,” and that killing prostitutes will “remove temptation,” at least in his mind, is lunacy. A pair of sunny-side-up eggs on a plate will buzz his nuts. Get the hell out of here with that crap. Someone put that idea in his head, that somehow a normal sex drive constitutes “addiction.” The racism too, most likely.

There’s a vigorous school of thought that holds there is no such thing as sex addiction. I’m not a therapist, so I speak only from my own observation, but I’m not entirely sure about that. If you define addiction as a form of compulsive behavior that interferes with the course of one’s daily life, then I’ve certainly seen and heard a few cases that suggest it does. Men with perfectly willing and receptive partners who masturbate incessantly or hire prostitutes, to the point they get fired or arrested, mostly. Women who use anonymous sex to fill a bottomless well of affirmation, need, whatever. Compulsive sex that doesn’t just put your relationship in peril, but also breaks the law, or endangers others — that’s addiction, to me. And I realize my assessment may be entirely wrong.

I’ve also heard of people who are essentially just assholes use S.A. to excuse bad behavior. So there’s that.

What I do know is, this guy in Atlanta is full of shit. Of course, a man who shoots and kills eight people, then lights out for another state to kill more, all in the name of squelching temptation, isn’t playing with a full deck. But to hear police dispassionately relate his stated motivation at a press conference, followed by “he had a bad day, and this is what he did,” is maddening. Brother, I thought, you need a better comms team. Police aren’t hired for their communications skills, but by the time you’re the guy behind the podium giving the briefing, you should know better.

Some things that aren’t getting talked about much:

Have you noticed how many media outlets are still referring to these places as “spas?” And tiptoeing around the idea that they’re places where sex work happens? And while I am absolutely down with “sex work is work” and that women who do it willingly should have their choices respected (assuming they made the choice), I don’t see it as a career path, for a million obvious, common-sense reasons. How much better it would be if young female immigrants got the language and job training they need, in order to get work that doesn’t involve giving hand jobs. There’s not a lot of work you can do fresh off the boat that will pay as well as prostitution, if you’re young and even moderately pretty. And it doesn’t pay all that well, once the house gets its cut.

And for all the talk about the race of the victims, there hasn’t been much, at least as of today, about this detail: Authorities also said that Long legally purchased a 9mm handgun gun he used in the killings on Tuesday. I long, long, looooong ago lost my patience with people who can’t support so-called common sense gun laws, but if this isn’t a case for them, I don’t know what is. Impulse purchase, impulse murder, “addiction” excuse. I can’t fucking stand it.

Oh well. Not a good mood to take into the weekend. Especially now that I am half-vaccinated. Halfcinated, if you will. Hope spring eternal. I feel like maybe we’ll be OK, if we can stay away from sex addicts.

Posted at 8:46 pm in Current events | 92 Comments


Two good things happened Tuesday.

First good thing: I got a vaccine appointment for Thursday, without having to lie, even a little bit, although I admit some confusion at the scheduling end may have worked in my favor. Word got around that the state had decided “media” were essential workers, and I saw my opening. My opening, I should add, was only three days ahead of another opening, i.e., the 55+ with no complications opening. But man, the days are lengthening and getting warmer, and I need to get this over with.

When I called, I was able to get an appointment in 48 hours. I don’t think I’m taking a spot from someone more deserving. But the guy who booked the appointment seemed confused about whether I was essential, and couldn’t find it in the most recent guidance.

“I’ll put you under….’other,'” he said. Good enough.

So that’s great. The other good thing is, Kate has a lead on a job — running the board at a local jazz club. Which is a gig, granted, but the first gig actually related to her field that she’s had since the pandemic started. So maybe, in small baby steps, we’re getting there.

What a concept: The AfterTimes, within reach. It’s been so long.

More Kate news: Last month, she and her band did a very fast trip to Los Angeles, not to perform but to be, get this, models. Long story short, when she was living there in late 2019, the other two came out to visit and on their perambulations around town met a woman there with a vintage clothing store. That woman was branching out into something a lot of vintage people seem to be doing these days — buying deadstock fabrics, i.e., odd lots no longer in production, and designing their own clothes using them.

So they did a quick photo shoot then, it went well, and this year she has a new line coming out, and hired them back. They spent three days striking poses around Oceanside, California, and now the pix are rolling out on the ‘gram:

I lived through the ’70s once, and none of this stuff is for me. But I guess the kids like it. Here’s Kerri, the drummer, and the one with the longest stems in the group, showin’ ’em off:

They’re doing it for many reasons, but raising their profile on social media is a big one. I told her hey, Rihanna sells a lot more lipsticks and bras than records these days. More power to ya.

Time to get Wednesday under way. Have a good one.

Posted at 8:23 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

The mute button.

I know some people, maybe some of you, were able to relax at 12:01 p.m. January 20. It was a trendlet on Twitter to say you’d had the best sleep in four years, that night and thereafter. It didn’t happen that quickly for me. But I cracked my third novel in a month and realized, Holy shit, I have an attention span for this stuff again.

It’s been a minute. It’s been a lot of minutes. For a long time — four years, to be exact — it was hard to concentrate on anything other than the brewing shitshow in Washington. I had trouble sleeping. I still have trouble sleeping, but not as much. I’ve decided to go limp on my insomnia. No more melatonin, no more cannabis; I just accept that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and don’t get back to sleep for an hour or two, and that’s OK, because the same world that gives us insomnia also gives us black coffee, which is delicious. Little by little, it’s getting better.

The great unclenching, like most transitions, didn’t happen all at once. But the world feels a little less clenchy at the moment.

Honestly, stuff like this helps:

We’re having a challenging discussion of late about our responsibility in how we cover the candidacy of Republican Josh Mandel for the U.S. Senate in 2022.

This is from the (RIP, Cleveland Plain Dealer) executive editor, and Josh Mandel is the former state treasurer. He is, shall we say, cut from the Trumpian cloth. Chris Quinn goes on:

Usually with political campaigns, we cover where the candidates stand on various issues and report what they say. They lay out how they would improve the lives of constituents and attack their opponents’ failings. It’s pretty straightforward.

The issue is that Mandel has a history of not telling the truth when he campaigns – he was our PolitiFact Ohio “Pants on Fire” champion during his first run for Senate because of the whoppers he told. More recently, he is given to irresponsible and potentially dangerous statements on social media. He’s proven himself to be a candidate who will say just about anything if it means getting his name in the news. We have not dealt with a candidate like this on the state level previously.

What an excellent question for a journalist to ask. You can click through and read the whole thing — it’s not long — but here’s the tl;dr:

As we get closer to election time, what Mandel says might be news, and I don’t believe the right approach to covering dangerous statements by candidates is the traditional “he said-she said.”

A round of applause for Editor Quinn! It took four years of hell, but we’re starting to get it.

I trust everyone’s weekend was good? Mine was fine, although I spent a chunk of it working, which chaps my ass. But I got a good book from the library (“The Sympathizer,” Viet Thanh Nguyen) and, well, see above. Also, saw our pot of chives stirring to life, so even though it’s still fucking cold, it’s less fucking cold, and that’s good.

Bloggage: Like my insomnia, it’s going to take a while to rinse these tinpot con men out of the system, because there’s a sucker born every minute, and sometimes they converge in a state legislature:

In early October, Kris Kobach, Kansas’ former Secretary of State, and Daniel Drake, a Wichita-based venture capitalist-turned-CEO, made a sales pitch to Kansas legislators. The duo wheeled in what looked to lawmakers like a “refrigerator” — a shiny metal box Drake called a “revolutionary” device that would “kill COVID” and bring “several hundred jobs back to Wichita.”

“This stuff is very cutting-edge,” Kobach said. The local development of such exciting technology was why, he told lawmakers, he wanted Kansas to get the “first bite at the apple.”

During their pitch, Drake explained that his company, MoJack Distributors, had developed a line called “Scent Crusher” that uses aerosolized ozone, a tri-oxygen molecule, to sanitize hunting and sports products, “only to realize that we weren’t here today to be able to get hunters or sportsmen to be better athletes or better hunters, but to kill COVID.” He told lawmakers the sample product next to him was part of a new line called “Sarus Systems.”

See if you can guess how well this miracle device works:

There is no evidence Sarus Systems has made material steps toward rehoming hundreds of jobs to Kansas, and shipping records show products are currently being manufactured in China. There is also scant evidence their machines, or ozone in general, can safely eliminate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. And while the pair have hyped the products’ popularity, claiming a three-month backlog and international interest, we were unable to verify any purchases — from the state of Kansas or otherwise.

Kris Kobach, I remind you, used to serve as Secretary of State in Kansas, and did the GOP thing of implementing strict voter ID laws, purging voters from registration rolls, etc. Presumably his post-officeholder career is as a petty grifter. As I said on Twitter, the Trump era is sort of a rancid remake of “The Music Man,” only no one can sing. And Marian the Librarian is a villain now.

Oh, well. It’s Monday, and we can all do better. So let’s.

Posted at 9:42 am in Current events | 62 Comments

They were SO mean.

So I didn’t watch Meghan and Harry and Oprah. From the Twitter reaction, I believe a bomb has been detonated in Buckingham Palace. I read the highlights and lowlights, and I’ve come to — jumped to — a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion No. 1: Meghan was never going to kill herself. Depression, sure, but she strikes me as a striving and ambitious woman. She could have exited her marriage if it were that bad, and honestly, I’m not sure I even believe she was denied help for her despair. Diana saw a therapist, and royals see medical professionals of all sorts. But saying one had “thoughts of suicide” is a neat way of getting the attention and sympathy without having to actually do it. Hell, probably all of us have at least had thoughts of suicide; what would I do if I were diagnosed with a terrible disease and all hope was gone? I’d think about suicide, yes I would.

Conclusion No. 2: The racism is offensive, and not surprising, although I really want to know who wondered idly about the skin color of the unborn Archie. Prince Philip came up in the Empire days, is a million years old, and racism is in his DNA. Charles I’d be more disappointed by, as it seemed he is, relatively speaking, the progressive of the family. But I guess we’ll have to wait for a follow-up special to see that.

Did we see Archie at all last night? Has anyone? Is he a cute baby? I expect so.

Of course this will reanimate the Diana Cult, but at this point, who really cares. The Firm will survive the way it always has: By keeping calm and carrying on.

And that’s as much attention as I plan to devote to this.

You could read my story about Detroit’s Covid anniversary, written oral history-style, which is one of my favorite ways to do pieces like this. (I submitted the transcripts to all the subjects for approval, and only one told me to fix his grammar, which was a matter of changing two adjectives to adverbs.) I was struck, again, by how little we knew a year ago, and this is why I cannot abide those who now complain “these doctors, they don’t know anything, they keep contradicting themselves.” Oh, fuck you.

My favorite single quote from that story: When the governor shut down everything, you know, I live at the top of Lafayette Tower and I looked down at the streets where no one was out, it just looked deserted. I told my wife, this must be what Passover was like.

OK, then. Monday. Let’s take this bull by the horns, but first: The crossword puzzle.

Posted at 10:01 am in Current events, Detroit life | 85 Comments