Once more, with feeling.

Just watched the president’s statement on the Oregon shootings. He was righteously, and rightfully, pissed. Then I checked Facebook. One of my gun-nut “friends” said Obama will do anything to score political points, and the clear answer is for everyone to go around armed, because shooters choose gun-free zones, blah blah blah bullshit bullshit bullshit.

Yeah, unfollowed that guy. Don’t need to hear that today.

As the week of the drinking project draws to a close, I’ve been thinking? ‘Bout drinking. Our magazine is policy-focused, but as I said in a radio interview yesterday, extreme college drinking is not a policy problem, at least not wholly. It’s cultural. I’m not sure what caused it, if anything caused it. I talked to one dean who said the modern era of blackout drinking started with “Animal House.” I said, “But that movie was about an earlier era of campus drinking,” and she essentially shrugged. Who knows? Most people my age who were lucky enough to have the traditional college-as-sleepaway-camp experience probably drank beer, and only beer. We were out to get hammered, yes, but there was a certain act-like-you’ve-been-there-before mood in the room. If you barfed, you’d gone too far. These days, I think barfing is the point. Puke and rally! There’s a phrase I learned this year.

If you haven’t checked out the I’m Shmacked YouTube channel, you really should. These videos keep getting better; check out the one from Florida Central University and tell me that doesn’t look like the most fun school in the world (with lots of great, shakin’ booties). Who wouldn’t want to go there and party with all those fine booties? Universities can’t compete with this. So what’s the answer?

I’d start with lowering, yes lowering, the drinking age. Phase in a new threshold of 19, say. It’ll be a rapprochement, of sorts, with kids. How do you make someone trustworthy? Trust them. Who doesn’t think that part of the problem is that we make alcohol this ridiculous, forbidden fruit for 20 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes? Then one…more…minute and WHOA 21 SHOTS FOR YOUR 21ST, DUDE. I’ve been letting Kate have a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and other occasions for a couple years now. Of course, it can’t be when she will ever drive a car, because if she’s stopped and breathalyzed, if she blows a whisker over.00, she loses her license.

Bottom line: We can’t treat the most popular and pervasive mind-altering drug in the country like crack cocaine on one side of the line, and like ambrosia on the other.

But I’m already sick of talking about this. I want to enjoy the weekend, eat a taco or three, chillax. Think I will. Hope you will, too. Let’s all join hands and think good thoughts for my young friend Dustin, who’s getting his gall bladder out today, too. All together now: Ommmmmmm.

Posted at 12:32 am in Current events | 75 Comments

Leopards and spots.

I get why so many of you are disappointed with Pope Francis, over his meeting with Church Lady Kim Davis. I would caution you, however, that this Pope (and so many other public figures) is basically a blank canvas upon which we project what we want to see. We judge him on the basis of a few quotes lifted, context-free, from interviews, sermons and statements we don’t bother to read and understand.

Or, as one of my dumber Facebook friends commented when Francis first came on the scene: “I really like this Pope. I’m looking forward to his statements about abortion and gay marriage!”

The Pope is CEO of a powerful institution that has existed for 2,000 years. And what is the first rule of powerful institutions? Preserve institutional power at any cost. He’s not going to reverse church doctrine to please liberal Americans. He’s just emphasizing a different part of it.

For all the abuse flung at Benedict, I never found him all that awful. He had the same doctrine as JPII, without the charisma and with a lot of the high-dollar details that arouse those how-many-starving-children-could-be-fed sentiments — the Prada shoes, the ermine-trimmed robes, etc. Y’all forget there is a small but vocal cohort within the church that expects and wants those things in their reigning Vicar of Christ. Remember how many people sneered at how Jimmy Carter carried his own bags? Same thing. Take your rough-wooden-cross act down the street to the Methodists; the Catholics roll a little higher than that.

And after all, they sold the papal crown decades ago.

Francis seems like a very nice man. But he’s not going to change the church all that much.

This drinking project is blocking out my sun. I have to start spackling on makeup for a noon TV interview, so I gotta run. Yesterday’s radio interview should be at the top of this list, if y’all have nothing else to do today.

Hurry, Mr. Weekend.

Posted at 9:59 am in Current events, Media | 41 Comments

Another brick in the wall.

Sometimes I feel 100 years old. I was never a full-time police reporter, but I’ve covered enough cop-shop shifts over the years to remember how it used to go. When I worked nights, that was my Friday-night assignment. I’d go to the little press office in the station itself, shared with the reporter from the other daily. A big stack of photocopied police reports was on a table, and I’d go through them in search of stories. Then I’d make the rounds inside the building, stopping in various squad rooms, shooting the breeze, asking around.

Police didn’t like reporters any more then than they do now, but it was usually cordial. I think only one room was locked, and they’d open up if you knocked. I picked up one front-page story by sitting quietly in a chair, listening to a juvenile-squad detective asking a judge for a warrant to take a home-birthed preemie out of a home; the baby’s sibling had died during delivery, and the parents had called the police to ask whether they were permitted to bury the body in their yard. (Yes, really.)

Things have changed. Now it’s common for public entities — working for us, accountable to us — to be as impenetrable as the Kremlin. I needed a police report earlier this summer, and I had to file a FOIA request for it. (That’s Freedom of Information Act, for you civilians; it’s supposed to be for documents that are public, but require some effort to dig up. It’s not for routine stuff, which should be online, if you ask me, and available to everyone.)

Agencies have their arguments in favor of walling themselves off, I know. Far more people these days consider themselves amateur public watchdogs, and some are legit pains in the ass. Others do important work that used to be done by journalists, so it balances out.

So I was struck by Neil Steinberg’s blog today, about trying to do a followup to a story he wrote 30 years ago, about a functioning high school in the Cook County Jail. The Chicago Public Schools flacks were, shall we say, uncooperative:

Nothing. Not even a reply. The CPS reaction to my simple, reasonable request for a mundane feature story is perhaps the most unprofessional performance I’ve encountered in 30 years of Chicago journalism, They lacked the consideration to even say “No” so I could stop asking. Just silence. Weeks and weeks. The September back-to-school moment has come and gone.

I give up, and am posting the story I liked so much from 29 years ago. It was an inoffensive thing, a nod to the hard work that teachers do, day in and day out, in the Cook County Jail. The teachers there now might want to ask their bosses why their efforts could not be showcased in the newspaper.

I shudder to think why it was possible for a young freelancer to write it in 1986, but that months of steady pressure could not replicate it in 2015. We are a nation with freedom of the press, in theory, but that freedom is curtailed and hobbled by fearful government bureaucrats who lack faith in themselves, in their organizations and in their employees, and so gag them, not realizing that the gag is a worse indictment than anything they might say. Those terrified of bad publicity use that fear to bat away good publicity, then wonder why all the news about them is bad.

Bottom line: our American freedom erodes, undermined, not by foreign enemies, but by domestic cogs.

Amen, brother!

Which sort of leads us into the bloggage. The drinking stories made this a big day, plus a new Tuesday volunteer obligation I’ve taken on, an after-school thing. So I ain’t got much, but I got Gin & Tacos, making a point about John Boehner. Can’t say he doesn’t have a point.

Oh, and guess who was testifying in the Ohio legislature yesterday? Look at the entry for September 29, and download his testimony if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of testimony, I gather the Planned Parenthood hearing was a real show trial, without the trial, and the lady at the table put on all of the show. Keep shooting yourself in the feet, guys. You really got a winner here.

Off to bed with me.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 44 Comments

Cheers, it’s done.

Why do I get up so fucking early every day? Because I can’t sleep anymore. 5 a.m. today. Out of bed by 5:30, on the bike at 5:45, gym by 6, then hit hit hit and crunch crunch crunch for 45 minutes, 15 more minutes home, then eggs and shower and drive downtown and work work work and home home home and walk the dog and now we’ve fast-forwarded to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, and if anyone needs anything from me, this is what you’re going to get:

Not bloody much.

Seriously, though. Finally the college-drinking package is dropping, and you can read the main story here. Related stories are here and here. I’ll be interested in your reaction. Is this blowing the lid off nookie, or is it news to you? We went to four schools; three have had alcohol-related deaths in the last year, which I find astonishing. Ohio University had a solid rep as a party school, and there was plenty of drinking, and plenty of drunkenness, but I don’t recall anyone going to the hospital, much less dying. You tell me.

Read, digest, react, I’ll be back tomorrow when I’ve had more rest.

Posted at 5:20 am in Current events | 32 Comments

A stretch of paradise.

As we seem to be starting every blog with a weather report these days, now hear this: The weather is perfect. For the next week? Perfect. Mid-70s every day, mid-50s at night, not a cloud in the sky. You need sunglasses to look out the window. It’s spectacular, nature’s payback for a frequently taxing summer. I’m trying to get back on the straight-and-narrow, food-wise, after a few months of slacking. I’m still maintaining all but about six pounds of last year’s weight loss, but this is mostly about trying to feel better. When in doubt, take care of your body. I’ve spent my whole life thinking mood was all about what was going on inside and outside your head, when the truth is, about half of it is what you’ve been eating.

I promise not to become that person, though. “Have you tried cutting out gluten? OMG, it’s aMAZing.”

Actually, being too into your body’s constant feedback loop is sort of the hallmark of a certain kind of asshole, but on the other hand? If you pay attention, it can be useful. When you start popping off at people, it’s nice to know that half of it is because your blood sugar is messed up, and the other half is because you’re under-caffeinated.

Ah, fuck this narcissism. It’s been a day.

First thing I want you to do is read this comment by our own JeffTMM, who is one of those rare conservatives that gets it. Things are weird in his part of Ohio these days; things are weird in lots of places. Actually, follow his comments all the way down; they make a very specific kind of angry sense.

There is very little interesting about a writer’s life. I started volunteering at an after-school program, for the first time in a while, and I missed the first session and was an hour late for today’s (traffic). This drives me nuts. I chose Tuesdays because Tuesdays are almost always a good day for me, but the last two Tuesdays, the first two days of my obligation? Not so much. But all was forgiven when I showed up, and I think I made arrangements to help a kid with his college essay. We’ll see. This empty-nesting can’t be all about sleeping with the bedroom door open. You have to give back. Here, take my pajamas.

Some bloggage, then:

Don Pellman, centenarian athletic titan:

Pellmann, the most senior athlete in the San Diego Senior Olympics, became the first centenarian to break 27 seconds in the 100-meter dash and the first to clear an official height in the high jump. He also broke records for men in the 100-and-over age group in the shot-put and the discus and set a record in the long jump.

Wearing baggy shorts and a faded red T-shirt with “Donald Pellmann Established 1915 Milwaukee, WI” written across the front, he opened his program by trying to become the oldest man, by roughly nine years, to record a height in the pole vault. He dislodged the bar three times at 3 feet 1 ¾ inches, which gnawed at him the rest of the day.

“I thought I was in better shape,” he said.

My role model!

When I read stories about the VW recall, you know what I think? Alan and I won’t be having dinner together for days and days.

Meanwhile, today’s OID story: Carjacker abducts and robs two little old ladies. Punchline: He has a six-figure income. (And a gambling problem.)

It’s the autumnal equinox! In six months it’ll be spring. Let’s enjoy the time as it passes, because it’s all we have, right?

Posted at 12:03 am in Current events, Stuff reduction | 62 Comments


Ah, the glories of September. Today I wore a scarf — around my neck and everything — and didn’t sweat. It was a perfect day for almost everything, including a baseball game, but I didn’t go to that. Worked at my bleak little desk. A Monday. Sigh.

But it was pretty productive, and here we are at the end of Monday, and it’s in the rear-view mirror. So that’s good. And some other things happened today, the biggest being the exit of Scott Walker from the scene for a while, at least until he pulls another feat of strength in Madison. Jeb Lund had his number two weeks ago:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way: one of Walker’s selling points was winning three elections in five years (the first one, the recall, then the reelection). In theory, Walker should have been the most experienced, most natural and most effortless Republican candidate. Jeb Bush hasn’t run this decade; Ted Cruz only ran once; Chris Christie is dogged by corruption allegations; Rick Perry has the mental aptitude of two dogs in an overcoat; and Rand Paul was gifted his father’s movement and all his out-of-state donors but none of his charisma at talking about basing an international currency on stuff you dig out of the ground.

Walker should have been able to campaign circles around everyone else in the race. Instead, he’s getting his rear end handed to him by a meringue-haired hotelier and a political neophyte surgeon who speaks with the dizzy wonderment of someone trying to describe their dream from last night while taking mushrooms for the first time.

I’ll say he did. By the time he brought up the idea of a border wall with Canada, I knew he was done, and done good. So thanks for playing, and what sort of consolation prize do we have for this gentleman? Time will tell.

And there’s this:

He’ll return to Madison now, to shore up his presidential bona fides at the expense of the very people most in need of a government that serves them. In four years he’ll surface again, maybe with a new pair of eyeglasses, peddling viciousness and mercilessness disguised as clear-eyed discipline, railing against a public sector that has been employing him for his entire professional life, conning support out of the common people whose dignity he sucks away like the leech he is. Fuck Scott Walker. May he fall into a manhole.

The world is full of Scott Walkers today, isn’t it? Including this guy, drug-price-gouging hedge fund jerk:

Ever since an HIV/AIDS patient advocacy group began raising questions last week about why Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price for a medication from $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight, anger against the company has been boiling over.

The medicine, Daraprim, which has been on the market for 62 years, is the standard of care for a food-borne illness called called toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite that can severely affect those with compromised immune systems. Turing purchased the rights to the drug last month and almost immediately raised prices.

He has put a kick-me sign on himself, and is adding flashing neon signs to it, too:

John Carroll, the editor of Fierce Biotech, a daily newsletter about the industry, was one of the first to ask Turing chief executive Martin Shkreli directly to explain the move. In a hot-headed Twitter exchange over the weekend, Shkreli declined to provide additional information and instead launched into a series of personal attacks against Carroll — calling him “irrelevant” and someone who doesn’t “think logically.”

He also called him a moron. Boy, this is going to be fun.

Other news was even more depressing. The front-page NYT piece on the rape of young boys by our Afghan allies was stomach-turning:

KABUL, Afghanistan — In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.

Our allies! What are we doing in these cesspools? Who threw us into this briar patch? Don’t answer that.

Posted at 12:07 am in Current events | 53 Comments

Two terrible benches.

OK, so let me get this straight: Last week, Noted Neurosurgeon And Healer Of Children Dr. Benjamin Carson came out in favor of letting junk science have a voice in the vaccine debate. This week, he said Muslims are not qualified to be president.

Prediction: Tomorrow, higher poll numbers for the doc.

Carly Fiorina lays smack down by describing a graphic scene in one of the Planned Parenthood videos that doesn’t exist. When asked to answer for this, she says, essentially, nuh-uh, does too exist.

Today? A front-runner.

Last year I wrote about that elusive creature, the African-American Detroit Republican. I had a great conversation with a black lawyer who explained the essential role in democracy of the loyal opposition — the people who disagree with you and stand in opposition to you, but still respect your right to govern. Good opponents make stronger parties, he said. And Detroit’s Democrats have grown so flabby from a lack of meaningful opposition that he thought that was his role in the city. (P.S. He voted for Obama. Twice.)

I think he’s right, which is why I’m so worried about this election. I can no longer take a certain sneering distance from this crew. As I said a while back, one malignant tumor and Hillary is toast, and the Dems have no bench. Bernie is a torch-carrier for the old left. Biden’s charm would evaporate if he were moved from the bucket-of-warm-spit job. And on the other bench? These guys. That guy. And her.

I have a sense of history, yes. I know this country has faced peril before, far worse than this. But I see people I know are intelligent sharing lunatic-fringe nonsense on their social-media accounts. Some batshit in one of my networks suggested the other day that I and others like me have “blood on our hands” because the president is vetoing the Planned Parenthood defunding. I had a class in high school, Communications, that taught me how to judge the veracity of a news story.

I guess they don’t teach that anymore.

So, it was a pretty good weekend. What happened? Can’t remember. Oh, right. Friday night, dinner at the Polish Yacht Club, a wonderful restaurant down in the old Poletown ‘hood. The streets around it are so deserted and sketchy that you tip the car guy — who only suggests street spaces, as there’s no parking lot — at least $5 on your way in. In return, he keeps your catalytic converter from being sawed off. Inside is Polish-food heaven, pierogis and potato pancakes and fried perch that’s out of this world. Also, Polish draft beer and Polish hospitality.

After that, we had a nightcap at the Raven Lounge:


Those of you who saw “Detropia” should remember it. It’s the blues bar in that movie. Too early for any sort of crowd. We paid the cover, caught the first couple numbers in the first set, and left.

On Saturday, a market day to make you sad, because it was rainy and the harvest is so plentiful you know it can’t last forever:


But I got my September sword of brussels sprouts, some nuts, this, that and the other thing. Next week I’ll be back. And so on and so on until it’s winter and there’s nothing to do on a Saturday morning but day-drink. (I’ll probably do that to, at least once.)


The most depressing thing about this are the comments from the nastiest wing of the childless-by-choice crowd, claiming a workplace that makes no allowance for parents is simply the way it should be, because having children is a choice, you know. Like raising shih tzus, apparently.

I didn’t expect much from “The Overnight,” which we watched via iTunes last night, but we were both pleasantly surprised. Dirty for sure, but still funny.

The woes of McDonald’s. I almost didn’t get past the first sentence, which reads:

Al Jarvis was 16 when he started working at a McDonald’s in Saginaw, a city in Michigan, in 1965.

I was born in St. Louis, a city in Missouri. Later our family moved to Columbus, a city in Ohio, and I didn’t leave until I relocated to Athens, another city in Ohio, for college. After that it was…you get the idea. Hello, editors? Wake up.

With that note, let’s get the week underway, OK?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

The horror show.

It was midafternoon before I finally noticed no one was commenting on the post I made this morning. Checked the dashboard. Oops. Never posted it.

Apologies. This project is coming to a boil, and it’s flyspecking time. Also, when I got home Wednesday I made the mistake of watching the GOP debate, at least as much as I had the patience for. I was torn between breaking out in hives and weeping for my country. I certainly didn’t hang on until the end, so I missed the vaccine discussion. This writer hits the predictable notes of outrage, but I think Brian Dickerson makes a subtler point:

If Carson had addressed Tapper’s question squarely – if he had stood up for science, for his own, hard-won expertise and for the integrity of his profession – what Trump said next would have been pathetic.

But Carson did none of those things, because his objective was not to debunk a dangerous medical myth, but to avoid offending those who traffic in it.

Trump, who could scarcely believe his good fortune, spotted the escape route Carson had left him and bolted for it.

He was not opposed to vaccines, he explained to Tapper – “I love vaccines!” – but rather to the frequency and dosages with which they are dispensed.

“You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” Trump continued.

“I only say it’s not — I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount. But just in — in little sections. I think — and I think you’re going to have — I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.

Instead of renouncing his spurious claim about the causal link between childhood vaccinations and autism, Trump managed to repackage it as a spurious claim about the causal link between the frequency and strength of childhood vaccinations an autism.

Through this ridiculous process — remember, the election is more than a year away — I’ve tried to maintain an attitude that allows me to stay sane. It changes from day to day, from amusement to sneery contempt to bleak semi-depression, but I didn’t get angry until I read about this. Two highly educated doctors refusing to endorse a cornerstone of modern medicine for fear of irritating a slice of the electorate who is, frankly, too dumb to vote. I can’t stand it.

I’ve said before, I’m no fan of Hillary. But she is Winston Churchill combined with Abraham Lincoln compared to this crew. Neil Steinberg has said that if Donald Trump is elected president, it will only be what we deserve. I’ll say.

So. Question for the Indiana side of the room: What do we all think of the job Mitch Daniels is doing at Purdue? I ask because I had to write a story recently about college affordability, and many people think he’s doing a lot of good there. I know there was a dustup over Howard Zinn early, and I know he’s agreed to lay this stuff aside for now. Is there something I’m missing?

When the project drops next week, we can all discuss the topic uppermost in mind: Alcohol. Until then, some smart reading on the subject, an interview with Susan Brownmiller. She makes some excellent points; do you agree?

Good god, it’s the weekend. I thought you’d never arrive, weekend! Let me give you a great big kiss and fall into your arms.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 71 Comments

The dog park and the lozenge, and not much else.

Mostly pix today, because the day was long and the drive was long but afterward, with Alan working late on the UAW talks, I decided to call a friend in Midtown and take Wendy over to the Shinola dog park for some frolickin’.

Which we did. She frolicked with a four-month-old Chihuahua puppy named Scooby and a big lunk of a mutt called Dr. Gonzo. I think Dr. Gonzo’s dad was sweet on Scooby’s mom. Well, it was a beautiful night for hanging at the dog park. Tell me: Does every dog park have someone who brings a pit bull that charges around and gets on everybody’s nerves while his owner says, “Don’t mind him, he’s just a big sweetie”? Asking for a friend. Anyway, Wendy had fun:


On the way there, I was stopped at a light and watched this orange lozenge come around the corner, so small I suspected it was a remote-control toy. But as it passed me I could see a face in the middle, so it was something else. A couple hours later, after the dog park, I saw it parked in front of a trendy restaurant. Behold the lozenge:


As I took the picture, a voice came from a nearby table. “It’s a bike,” he said. I told him I figured as much. He said he’d been stopped for speeding. How fast? “Way over 30. I asked for a ticket, but they wouldn’t give me one.”

So, then, just one piece of bloggage while I wrestle a few big stories to the ground. When the Donald Trump era ends, what will it have accomplished? Waking up Latinos, says this guy. It’s a zag-don’t-zig take on this issue, and I recommend it.

Short rations this week, but I’ll try to keep the pix coming.

Posted at 12:21 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 128 Comments

Beanies, bandies and breezes.

Long, long weekend — I worked for most of it. But it was a good kind of work, the sort that got me out of the house and into the fresh air, which…freshened throughout the day. Which is to say, the day started sunny and cool, was briefly glorious, and then a cloud bank swept in from the west — you could see it on the horizon, bearing down like a malign force — and covered us all in gloom and chill.

But Michigan won the football game. I wasn’t in the stadium, but I was outside when the band passed by:


Look at those snowy white gloves. I’m always a sucker for a good marching band, and by “good” I mean Big Ten style — lots of brass, a loud-ass drumline and no silly arrangements of music that was never made to be played by a marching band. Leave that to the high schools. (In Indiana, marching bands compete with a ferocity generally seen only on reality shows featuring drag queens and dance moms. And they don’t really march, but sort of slither around the field in this weird walk-y gait, constantly moving — it’s harder — and never playing anything as mundane as, oh, “Across the Field.”) Marches! Fight songs! HAIL TO THE VICTORS! Or, you know, whatever they play for your school. But something rousing. That’s why the good lord gave us brass.

Story will be appearing in a couple weeks.

Kate wasn’t in Ann Arbor, amusingly enough. She came home for a Wayne State event with her friends, and we discovered another miraculous perk of enrollment at the state’s flagship university — the Detroit Center Connector, a free bus that runs between the Ann Arbor campus and Detroit four days a week. All that hang-wringing during the application process over how she was going to get home for band practice, the stuff I patiently answered with “Greyhound, Amtrak, ride-sharing and you’ll figure it out” has been vastly simplified. I dropped her off at 3 p.m. in front of the Ren Cen, where she joined three girls in hijabs to wait for pickup. And that was that. That student ID is worth its weight in gold. Plus a lot more. (Which we are paying, yes.)

Some good bloggage today that covers a vast span of emotional ground, so gird your loins and let’s do the depressing stuff first.

That would be the Washington Post’s remarkable look at the people with whom Dylann Roof stayed before he massacred nine people at a Charleston church earlier this summer. As is frequently the case, Roof gave ample warning of his plans, and he gave them to the people in this trailer. They didn’t say anything. Why? Read the story and shudder — it is terribly sad and depressing, and JeffTMM, you might want to stay away. As always, I ask, “What are we going to do with these people?” We used to have a place for them. We don’t anymore. But they’re still out there.

Moving on. One of the memories of Kate’s early childhood I recall fondly was the Beanie Baby era, although I did not play the tulip-fever game; we just played with them. She was still an infant unable to sit up unaided when a friend dropped by and gave her her first one, a rabbit of some sort. I thanked her, and when I later told someone else about it, they said, “You can’t let her play with it! It might be a valuable one!” I was under the impression we were talking about a $5 stuffed animal small enough for a baby to pick up, but no. And that’s how I was introduced to the silliness of Beanies, which was silly indeed. I recall a quote from a woman in the local paper: “These are going to pay for my daughter’s college education,” which even then a person with a room-temperature IQ could tell was bullshit. My neighbor did try to get a couple of hot ones, and nearly got herself and her toddler trampled in the process, which ended her enthusiasm quickly and before she spent more than a few bucks on them.

We bought our share and always took the tags off and played with them, and I remember how I tucked her in with a couple many nights. I was quite fond of them. You might enjoy this Vice piece on how they arced through the mid-90s pop-culture sky like a comet.

I laughed out loud at this account, by a Knight-Wallace Fellow from last year, on how he pledged a fraternity during his time in Ann Arbor. Yes, at the age of 38, hence the title, “The 38-year-old frat boy.”

I was about to give up when, on the last day of rush week, the Greek gods smiled upon me. It was at Alpha Delta Phi, otherwise known by students as “Shady Phi,” a popular frat on campus, with a beach volleyball court in the front yard. (As I would later learn, the prevailing rumor about A.D.P. was that even the sand in the volleyball court had herpes.)

I managed to hit it off with the president. He was an unconventional frat boy, a vegan who did yoga. He told me he wanted to be a life coach. We started going to the same meditation group and having lunch together on campus. Thanks to him, I got invited back to more events. I won first place at the beer pong party — turned out I was something of a beer pong savant, a skill I attributed to having a master’s degree in physics — and ably slammed Cuervo Silver and Simply Lemonade at Taco Tuesday. With the president’s political capital behind me, I was in.

Finally, Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, for a food startup of some kind. Best of luck to him, but I hope he doesn’t get all food-scoldy like everyone else in that community.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Detroit life, Popculch | 66 Comments