This thing, not that thing.

When I was in high school, and I’m fairly sure I’m remembering this correctly, a teacher was dating a student. She wasn’t his student, and she was a senior, and I don’t think their relationship was a deep, dark secret, although they were discreet. I’m also fairly sure they married shortly after graduation, so I have to assume her parents knew. A little Googling reveals that he was employed by the district for many years, and may well still be. He was a rookie then, so let’s say he was…23, 24? And she was 18, maybe 17. That’s an age gap that wouldn’t turn a head if they were a few years older, or if this happened a few years earlier. To this day, I have no idea how it slid past the administration, but maybe her parents approved, and – hell, I don’t know.

But even then, I think it was understood that the teacher wasn’t a child molester. (It might have been a little creepy, but they did get married, after all.) The problem with people like Dennis Hastert isn’t that he’s a molester, but that he abused a power relationship, that he imposed himself sexually upon someone in a subordinate position. It’s about consent, and when it’s appropriate to even ask for it. But a 17-year-old is at least physically an adult.

I believe the term for this is not pedophilia, but ephebophilia, describing a sexual attraction to adolescents. A while back I was complaining about the May-December – no, March-December – sexual relationships that turned up in Jim Harrison’s later fiction, between a 60-something man and a 15-year-old girl. The character says he thinks 15 is the cutoff, a thought I find pretty fucking gross, and still do. But there has to be a cutoff somewhere. Arbitrarily, we set ages of consent or legal majority. A 17-year-old might legally be a child, but they’re not.

If you’ve had one in the house, you know what a maddening mix of both they can be.

Fuck Dennis Hastert, anyway. Imagine groping some poor high-school boy, after telling him a massage will help him lose weight.

And speaking of him, Neil Steinberg’s column about the very same.

I pay less attention to internet culture these days, and this is why.

The new hockey arena in Detroit will be called the Little Caesar’s Arena. NO ONE likes this (and there are still more than $200 million in public dollars in this goddamn thing). I hate the new era.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 12:33 am in Current events | 31 Comments
 

Ew.

I’m an opinionated person, but – you may have to take this on faith – I really do try to look at most issues objectively. In part it’s because I’m a journalist, but also because I’m a novelist who can’t write fiction, i.e., a frustrated one. Show me a fucked-up person, and I try to think what made him or her into such a mess, and if I think I have a pretty good idea, I start to feel empathy. So while I might express very strongly worded opinions, inside I’m thinking, you poor thing.

Did that make sense? Because I’m trying to explain how I feel about Ted Cruz. And I have to add this: I can’t get my head around him.

I mean, I understand how this ambition monster was birthed and nurtured, but what I can’t understand is how he can not know that hardly anyone actually likes him. Lindsay Graham says (in public!) that everyone in the Senate hates him, his college roommate has a second career making funny insults about him – and he doesn’t care, he still thinks he should be president, and who knows, maybe he will be, someday. Repellent candidates have worn down the American people before (koffNixonkoff), and anyone who thinks Cruz will go away after 2016 is a fool.

But I’m amazed at how tin his ear is, how a guy who’s so smart can be so amazingly bad in any sort of candid spotlight. Every photo of him, even allowing for the prejudices of photo editors, makes him look greasy and smarmy. How does a man with an ounce of self-awareness use a term like “basketball ring” in a place like Indiana? And having done so, how does he not make an immediate joke – something about jet lag or brain farts – at his own expense? I understand why so many comments/tweets make reference to “his human suit getting itchy.”

And now he’s picked a running mate who is every bit his equal, personality-wise.

There’s a guy who sometimes rides the bus when I do. I see him reading National Review, and once he and a couple of other guys had a little chat about their personal weaponry that made me want to move and go sit next to a homeless guy. From where he gets off, I know that he lives a block away. When, before the primary, a solitary house sprouted a TrusTED sign, I had a feeling it was his, and sure enough, it was.

Maybe I should ask him.

Or not.

Speaking of politics, here’s a writer I’m not fond of, hitting a nice triple about “the woman’s card.” I sense improvement.

Happy Thursday, y’all.

Posted at 8:46 am in Current events | 44 Comments
 

Halfway through.

Apologies for yesterday’s no-show. I spent much of Monday on the road, driving to and from Battle Creek. I get out into farm country so seldom these days that it comes as something of a shock to see fields and lakes and freeway exits with Steak & Shakes. Come to think of it, I don’t see much fast food these days, either. GP has zoning prohibiting drive-throughs, with only one sad, grandfathered-in Wendy’s, and much of the fast food in Detroit between here and my office is dicey for one reason on another – cleanliness and security, mainly. Once I got off the freeway at Harper and Cadieux with a late-night, mad craving for Taco Bell. The drive-through window had one of those bulletproof plexiglas turntables, a detail of commerce you folks in the nicer neighborhoods don’t see so often, I imagine.

I used to love a long, solitary drive, but yesterday’s left me back-achey and cranky. It was the lunch that did it. I went to a craft brewer in downtown B.C. and had a mediocre, indifferently served roasted-squash soup that tasted like canned pumpkin-pie filling, and burnt ends slathered in a syrupy barbecue sauce. How hard is it to do these two dishes halfway decently? Not very.

Should have gone to Steak & Shake. Or had a bowl of Battle Creek’s finest. I’m sure a whole box of Honey Bunches of Oats would have contained less sugar than that soup.

Tuesday was better. Long swim, with lots of variety; the elderly lifeguard/retired coach who runs the early-morning swim puts a different workout on the board every day, and offers free advice to everyone who wants it. It’s a generous gift. Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned flip turns, corrected my terrible breast stroke and am on my way to mastering the butterfly, a stroke I’d never have dared try before. And my freestyle and backstroke have improved as well. When I think of the swimmer I was when I got in the pool just two years ago, it’s sort of astonishing – I’m surprised I didn’t drown or anything. He does all this for probably something close to minimum wage and the impetus to get out of the house in retirement. AND he’s running a summer program at a local park, which I will sign up for as soon as I’m able.

The tree across the street is having a glorious bloom, too, and it’s in my sightline as I write this. So y’know: Little things.

With that, let’s get to the bloggage, then:

I hope you guys can read this, as it’s a WSJ link, but I can, so fingers crossed. A rumored “fountain of youth” drug has seniors clamoring to get into the trial:

A few people said they craved significant life extensions—complete with retirement benefits. “The thought of living on until 120 years old fills me with great excitement, and also the thought of drawing my pensions until then would be an amazing gift,” a 71-year-old British man wrote.

Others seem motivated by their dread of an emotionally and financially challenging decline. “It’s not so much a fear of dying, it’s a fear of living in pain and agony and being a burden to everyone else and my wife and so forth,” said Bill Thygerson, 70, a retired missile-systems engineer.

Many who raised hands, including Mr. Thygerson, of Huntsville, Ala., already live carefully. He has cut way down on sugar and red meat. He’s a gym regular. A few years ago, he got back to his college weight. (“I did have three vegan cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday,” he confessed.)

Is this what I have to look forward to? Pain and agony and vegan cupcakes? Maybe I should hope for a terrorist attack or instant-death car crash. (Note the Brit, thinking about pensions. As if, America!)

A Michigan substitute teacher is fired. Why? Because she spoke the word “vagina” in an 8th-grade art class, discussing the work of Georgia O’Keeffe:

Harper Creek Community Schools released a quote from their school handbook, indicating teachers are required to get advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.

Wint says even so, she is still in disbelief she was dismissed.

“I honestly had no words, because I’ve always been an advocate of not censoring art and music and writing,” she said.

Now to wait for the primary returns to roll in. Happy Wednesday, guys.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 90 Comments
 

Cold-hearted.

After a couple years of shooting Kate and the band, I’m sort of out of angles, but I never claimed to be a photographer. So it was nice to get this snap from one of Alan’s colleagues, whom we met at this show Saturday night. Guess what? She’s a photo editor, so she’s got the eye:

hair

Head-bangingly good.

How was your weekend? I’ve reached Peak Prince, I think. Neil Steinberg argues that every celebrity doesn’t need to get the Full Diana (a phrase I wish I’d turned, alas), although I think he forgets what the Full Diana was. We’re here at, what? Four days after Prince assumed room temperature? He’s already been cremated and funeral’d, and inevitably the world will move on, by Wednesday at the latest. I seem to recall the Full Diana going for at least three weeks. The Full Reagan was about 10 days. The world needs content for all the content providers, so it’s to be expected.

But the fine weather continued, if a little chillier this weekend. Sunny, though, and by Sunday even fine for shirtsleeves. Did some grillin’, did some chillin’, spent a little time looking over the comments and marveling at you people. FYI, Danny, my friends visited Bistro Jeanty in Napa on your recommendation and said it was fantastic, and they’ll probably be back in the next couple of days. They even sent a photo:

marrowbones

Marrow, mmmm. Perfect food for carnivores.

And LAMary, I am now using “tired and emotional” as my new synonym for “drunk,” a la Princess Margaret.

So today I am a happy girl. Tomorrow I might not, but for now, let us wallow. A little bloggage for y’all? Sure.

An essay appropriately titled, “The End of Empathy,” right here:

My brother’s 32nd birthday is today. It’s an especially emotional day for his family because he’s not alive for it. He died of a heroin overdose last February.

This year is even harder than the last. I started weeping at midnight and eventually cried myself to sleep. Today’s symptoms include explosions of sporadic sobbing and an insurmountable feeling of emptiness. My mom posted a gut-wrenching comment on my brother’s Facebook page about the unfairness of it all. Her baby should be here, not gone. “Where is the God that is making us all so sad?” she asked.

In response, someone — a stranger/(I assume) another human being — commented with one word: “Junkie.”

Let’s give this whole thing some context: this one word was posted in response to a comment posted by my mother on the Facebook page of her only son on his would-be birthday had he not died at thirty years old of a heroin overdose less than two years ago.

Maybe you saw the photo that appeared over the weekend, of little Prince George being introduced to the Obamas when they visited the U.K. The pic is heart-meltingly sweet, with little George in his jammies and robe and Obama in the deep-squat, meet-kids-eye-to-eye pose he does so well. I made the mistake of reading the comments on one news site where I saw it, and I won’t be making that mistake again. Talk about a lack of empathy.

Generally I leave keeping up with the wingnuts on the right to Roy, but I follow a few myself. I couldn’t help but notice that Rod Dreher, whose middle name is very likely Hysteria, has been on a roll lately about transsexuals in bathrooms, just simmering with OMG and THIS IS CRAZY and so forth. I can understand his argument, not being utterly bereft of empathy myself, but on Friday he had a particularly screechy post sandwiched between two tributes to Prince, and I just got pissed, because it reminded me of one of the best things Lance Mannion ever wrote, about Kelsey Grammer and his Conservative Republican act:

Grammer doesn’t live anything like a Republican-approved lifestyle. He lives the life of the sort of big city liberal Republicans affect to despise. And as far as I know he’s quite happy with that life and has no plans to change it. He’s not about to move to any place Republicans regard as part of the “real America.” He’s not leaving Hollywood or New York for Topeka, Biloxi, or Wasilla. He’s not about to give up acting to start an oil company, become a hedge fund manager, or a cattle rancher.

…Now, I don’t believe that any Republican should have to go live in Topeka, Biloxi, Wasilla, or anywhere else on Sarah Palin’s short list of places that count as the real America. But I do believe that happy and contented East and West Coast elitists like Grammer—and conservative members of the punditocracy in Washington—should stop talking as if they believe that the lives lived in places like Topeka, Biloxi, and Wasilla are more “authentically” American than lives lived in Brooklyn, Brookline, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, or San Antonio and that the people in the one set of places are more American than the people living in the other.

And it’s probably too much to ask, but could they acknowledge that the lives they live in the most decadent parts of decadent Blue America have been made possible for them by liberalism?

People like Dreher, they want all their culture. They want plays and orchestras and great food and interesting novels and museums and all the rest of it, but they don’t want to acknowledge that many, even most, of the people who produce such things and run the institutions that encourage them, are mostly filthy liberals who don’t care if a transsexual woman might still be packing a penis into the ladies room. Confine them to their authentically real communities of Fritters, Ala., for a few months and they’d go stir crazy, but they’d never acknowledge that Prince, who may have been a Jehovah’s Witness but also danced in his undies and gave Tipper Gore fits, might be one of the Other.

OK, it is now time to top off the weekend with “Game of Thrones.” Later, folks. Let’s have ourselves a week, shall we?

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Detroit life | 81 Comments
 

Happy birthday from the family.

Forgive, guys. A friend of mine here has been studying for a difficult professional-licensing exam for months, took it yesterday and PASSED WITH A GREAT SCORE, so last night was taken up with a celebratory dinner and champagne party.

In place of a better blog, please accept this fan-fuckin’-tastic photo, which Buckingham Palace released to honor great-grandma Betty’s 90th birthday today:

royalfamily

Annie Leibovitz, who else? Only a Yank would get the idea to give the handbag to one of the kids. Looking at this, I’m sorta glad Diana didn’t live long enough to participate in this birthday party. She just wasn’t goofy enough for this crew.

The official lineup, if you’re keeping score at home:

The children are, from bottom left:

Mia Tindall (holding The Queen’s handbag), the two year old daughter of Zara and Mike Tindall;
James, Viscount Severn (aged 8) and Lady Louise (12), the children of The Earl and Countess of Wessex and the youngest of The Queen’s eight grandchildren; Savannah (5) and Isla Phillips (3), daughters of The Queen’s eldest grandson Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn; Prince George (2) and, in The Queen’s arms and in the tradition of Royal portraiture, the youngest great-grandchild, Princess Charlotte (11months), children of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Autumn! Savannah! I’m howling here. Have a good Thursday.

Posted at 8:59 am in Current events | 61 Comments
 

Paddled.

I may be the only American not utterly fascinated by the late pinup Bettie Page, but I will usually read articles about her as I find them, because they often contain fascinating looks at life in midcentury America.

I may be misremembering some of the key details, but there was something about the Klaws, the brother-sister photography team who promoted her career. They ran a company that sold stills from Hollywood pictures, which people collected back then. They wondered why they couldn’t keep certain Tarzan stills in stock — the ones that featured Jane or some other woman tied to a tree. Then they realized there was a market for bondage photos. (Many featuring Bettie.)

I thought of that when I read this rather marvelous Jezebel piece on spanking in old movies.

Spanking doesn’t appeal to me erotically, but I certainly know it’s a Thing, and it’s pretty damn obvious there’s a rather large segment of the population who is totally into it. At least, if you could up all the actresses who were turned over men’s laps and swatted with hands, shoes and whatever else was at hand:

In early 1946, a woman from Carmel, California wrote the Hollywood fan magazine Screenland to say how much she had enjoyed the recent Christmas release Frontier Gal—not just for its lovely performers and dazzling Technicolor vistas, but for saving her marriage by teaching her husband to spank her.

After he’d returned from the war, she’d struggled to warm up to him again, she wrote, which caused a problem—and here was the solution. “In desperation, after seeing the show, he tried little Beverly’s philosophy,” wrote Mrs. J.B.M. “Daddies spank mamas because they love them. While this old-fashioned approach probably wouldn’t work in all cases, it did for us, and I would appreciate an opportunity to publicly thank Universal and Frontier Gal.”

The letter is mysterious—is it describing erotic play, or spousal abuse?—but the context is less so. Frontier Gal was one of at least five movies with scenes of women being spanked released in 1945 alone. Though the movie culminates in a minute-long spanking of its star Yvonne De Carlo, the plot device was so unremarkable as to not even make the reviews. From the beginnings of cinema up through the 1960s, a spanking was just a routine part of a certain type of screen romance: watch the supercut below.

It’s a wonderful exploration, with lots of GIFs and stills and that long supercut. It’s easy to see the visual appeal for a movie audience; the actress gets to poke a shapely butt skyward and wiggle a pair of even shapelier calves in protest, simultaneously throwing her mop of shiny curls around. Ooh la la, eye candy. That this stuff skated past the Hays Office is odd, that it was reflected in the larger culture is even odder. It turns out mom and dad may have been into all sorts of kink while we were sleeping in our flannel jammies.

More bloggage? This is what I’m going to be doing early mornings in Iceland. You won’t be able to keep me away with a machine gun. (Which basically don’t exist there, anyway.) It’s a piece on the great, public swimming pools/hot tubs of that country. I’ve already planned where I’ll be going, of course.

Haiti, cholera and the U.N., from Slate.

Now to take my non-stinging behind off to bed.

Posted at 12:18 am in Current events, Popculch | 44 Comments
 

Open thread.

I think I’m sort of empty tonight. I’ve been up to my neck in some fairly complicated and not particularly interesting material (except that it sometimes is, for a certain kind of nerd), and nothing much interests me at all now. By “now,” I mean, “at this moment,” not the howling void of existential despair. Just hit a wall.

So, a link or two:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager is a little weasel.

Jon Carroll doesn’t want to get a dog. (His wife does.)

Robert DeNiro and the anti-vaxxers, including some of the most notorious.

A good weekend to all.

Posted at 12:10 am in Current events | 66 Comments
 

Bringing home the paper.

Thank you for all your kind thoughts about our probable success in the SPJ-Detroit contest, but it wasn’t quite so grand. We have always entered the Online category, ‘cuz that’s what we are, and always done well, because there aren’t very many online-only publications in Michigan. Which is fine, but you want your wins to be significant. So this year we entered the largest print category, up against the big dailies.

And we won three awards. But the one that had my name on it (along with, y’know, three others, and the unseen name of our editor, who made it immeasurably better) was a first place.

award

That was the college-drinking project, fyi.

So it was a good night. I had three glasses of wine and regretted it yesterday, because I am old and can no longer handle liquor. (Next stop: The grave.) Either that, or I didn’t have enough to eat, a strong possibility as I try to go Clean again. It was still a fun night. One of Alan’s staffers won Young Journalist of the Year, so a good time was had on both sides of the Nall-Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere.

May I just say? While you guys were carrying the load here over the last 48 hours, I was highly amused by Danny’s comment on the Tinder date, a very only-in-California story. And I was moved and heartened by MichaelG’s travel to Europe. Sail on, sailor.

Perhaps weighed down by trying to process a mere 12 ounces of wine, Wednesday was a snoozer. Fortunately, the bloggage is not. Somehow I got on the Wayne County prosecutor’s press-release mailing list, and every so often it delivers a gem:

An American Airlines co-pilot, John Francis Maguire, 50 (DOB 9/30/65), of Pennsylvania has been charged with the misdemeanor charge of :Aircraft – Operating Under the Influence. On March 26, 2016, at approximately 6:45 a.m. at Detroit Metropolitan Airport it is alleged that Maguire in the cockpit of an American Airlines plane and was under the influence of alcohol when he was detained and then arrested. He was later released by authorities on the same day.

Maguire will be arraigned and have a pre-trial hearing on May 11, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. in 34th District Court.

Prosecutor Worthy said, “Although we do not often hear of pilots being allegedly intoxicated, the laws apply to everyone – whether one is on the roads or airways.”

There’s nothing worse than drunken white girls, especially when they run in packs:

It’s a Friday night in Provincetown, in late August, and the mise-en-scène of this delicate ecosystem, plopped atop a sandbar in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is being threatened by a new and unfamiliar scourge. They are called, simply, The Bachelorettes.

Provincetown is, of course, as gay as …a very gay thing.

Determined to find some bachelorettes who will let me spend the night bar-hopping around Provincetown with them, I go to MacMillan Pier on Saturday morning to await the first boat from Boston. Immediately, I encounter a sextuplet of blondes wearing team bride tank tops. Maid of honor Stacey will not shake my hand. I ask if I can hang with them tonight.

“I don’t think so,” Stacey says. “Girls only.”

I am completely befuddled. “In Provincetown?” I ask. She is standing only feet away from a gaggle of bearded men sipping Muscle Milk and talking about Beyoncé.

“Sorry,” Stacey says in a smug, dense way.

I’m told they do that here, too, but I haven’t been invited to a bachelorette party in decades.

Finally, while I know there are a great many charter-school foes in this readership (coff-Brian-coff), after a few years of reading and reporting on them, I think the whole movement was best summed up by a charter expert who told me, “I’ve been in charters so good they make me want to give up a tenured professorship and go teach in them. And there are some that are just terrible.”

Here’s one in Detroit that Bridge wrote about. Guess which kind it is?

Now I’m going to swallow a melatonin and try to make up for the sin of drinking on a Tuesday night.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Detroit life, Media | 31 Comments
 

Kibbles ‘n’ b.s.

The day we took our first Jack Russell terrier home, the breeder gave us a deli container of food – Iams Eukanuba. “I’ve always fed my dogs Eukanuba, and they’ve done well on it,” she said.

So we took Spriggy home, gave the bag of Purina we’d already bought to the shelter, bought a bag of Eukanuba and never looked back. Sprig lasted until a month shy of his 18th birthday. So when we adopted Wendy, we bought a bag. I couldn’t find it at my beloved locally owned pet store (Lou’s, the best in town), so I bought it from a regional chain a few blocks away, one with a very all-natural, snooty kind of nothing’s-too-good-for-my-fur-baby vibe. They had a frequent-buyer’s program, and I dragged that punch card around for the more than two years it’s taken to buy 12 bags. On Saturday, I took it in for my free 13th bag.

“Just to let you know,” the clerk said, “but we’re not going to be restocking this when the inventory is gone. It has…corn in it, which is contrary to the Snooty Pet Store philosophy.” All this delivered in a sort of of-course-you-agree airiness.

I stood there thinking, “If it weren’t for the Chinese and their poisoned pet food, this place wouldn’t exist.” Also thinking, “If this is a ploy to get me to pay even more for dog food, it ain’t gonna work.” You can put organic lamb and mountain blueberries in kibble, but we’re still talking about an animal that will eat its own poop, and with gusto.

Any suggestions? This place gets on my nerves.

So, then. Perhaps you’ve heard about Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently learned the man who he thought was his father, wasn’t. His real father turned out to be Sir Anthony Montague Browne, an aide to Winston Churchill. But until you’ve read his mother’s marvelous explanation of how this happened, you really haven’t lived:

Gavin Welby, my ex-husband, was a very strong, possessive character. At the end of March 1955 he was bullying me to leave my job as personal secretary to the Prime Minister and run away with him and marry him in the United States where his divorce was being finalised. At the age of 25, as I was, the pressure became too great and in the end I found myself unable to resist.

One feature of this pressure is that I was already drinking heavily at times. Although I could then ensure that this did not affect my work, it was later to develop into serious alcoholism during the 1960s which only came to an end when I entered rehab in 1968. I have not drunk alcohol since.

Although my recollection of events is patchy, I now recognize that during the days leading up to my very sudden marriage, and fuelled by a large amount of alcohol on both sides, I went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne. It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn’t work and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison.

Girl, that sort of thing happens all the time. Relax. You got a fine boy out of it. He grew up to be Archbishop of Canterbury! Blood will always tell. I’m sure he’ll forgive you.

You might have heard that Andrew Sullivan, the ultimate bad penny, is back on the job, or will be soon, this time at New York magazine. Roy makes the case for not forgetting Sullivan’s background, in case you need to be reminded, you fifth columnist.

God, here comes Tuesday. No entry tomorrow, alas — journalism awards tonight, so I’ll be curling my hair and getting my Oscar dress steamed.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

Desperately seeking zzzz’s.

If you’re looking for some pithy content today, you’re in the wrong place. Slept extremely badly last night, so I’m looking for an extra-early bedtime, a melatonin and fervent hopes for a good night’s sleep.

I was in Ann Arbor much of the day, and had a first: A source who grew up in Columbia City, and remembered my stupid face in her parents’ evening newspaper. That would be Columbia City, Indiana, for you non-sophisticates out there. A real happenin’ town. I showed my horse there a couple of times, passed through the McDonald’s drive-thru lane. Woo. Good times.

Bloggage: Here’s the story I was writing when Wendy was editing me, on Friday.

I’m also reading up on the Panama papers, so I can think about them coherently.

I suppose y’all will be discussing Wisconsin by the time I check in tomorrow, but for now, it’s lights out for me.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments