Falafel is not an anagram of alfalfa.

Today I lunched in Dearborn with my colleague, Bill. You know Dearborn — where Sharia law (makes dragon-roar sound, paws the air with terrible claws) prevails! Where Detroit police dare not go! Where the mayor goes by the very no-fly list name of… Jack O’Reilly?

Yep, that one. I was just there for the hummus and falafel. Bill’s a native, so we had a mini-tour, checking out the houses that have been remodeled and rebuilt for the Arab community and their multigenerational families. And then we stopped at his favorite Lebanese sweet shop to celebrate the end of my sugar binge. Let me just say that after a month off? Those date-pistachio cookies and coconut whatever-it-was hit me like a ton of bricks. It might as well have been nerve gas, it put me down so hard.

Tomorrow, nothing racier than an orange. Maybe a banana. I learned my lesson.

Now I’m watching the Iowa results coming in. Cruz up by 3 percentage points, Hillary ditto, but it’s still early. Who gives a crap about Iowa, anyway? Rick Santorum won Iowa, remember. (And yeah, Barry O did too. But also Mike Huckabee.)

Annnnnd… this is the point where I had computer problems last night, and elected to shut things down and go to bed. Let’s discuss Iowa. My icebreaker: Should we worry about Hillary, or not?

Posted at 8:56 am in Current events | 67 Comments
 

January, now on ice.

What a difference a weekend makes. I went into it a teetotaler and came out free to imbibe again. The Whole 30 is over. January is over. And I discovered I have knack for curling. Sorta-curling, anyway.

I was invited to a fundraiser by a woman in my boxing club, for a new group that’s trying to help women in difficult circumstances. Alan was under the weather, so I went stag. (Doe?) The house was large and beautiful, but the party was in the back yard. Where I found this:

curling1

Now that’s a backyard ice rink. The host said he’s been doing this for his kids since they were little, just knocking the frame together and filling it with a hose. They skate a couple hours a day, and then he goes out after they’ve gone to bed and manually Zambonis the surface, with scrapers and a big squeegee. But we weren’t there to play hockey; backyard curling was the night’s entertainment. I found their homemade curling stones charming — two mixing bowls filled with cement, with pipe handles. We played backyard-curling rules, which was basically ice bocci: Throw a puck down the ice, then try to get your stone as close to it as possible.

curling2

The temperature was just above freezing, so the brushing was pretty inconsequential. Mostly we just slid the stones down the ice. Our team was trailing in the final, caught up and was down by one on the final point. The other team had two stones in scoring range and our last player sent his down the lane and knocked both to kingdom come, leaving his close enough to the puck to kiss it. A real Michigan-Michigan State 2015 finish. The prize was any bottle from the booze table, and I chose a nice bottle of champagne. A great way to end Dry January.

And that means the Whole 30 is over, too. Truth be told, it was more of a Whole 15 and a PrettyMuch 15, but it accomplished what it was supposed to do. I lost seven pounds, and while I didn’t break my sweet tooth in half, I held it at bay and learned it was not my master. Didn’t miss alcohol even a little bit. Bread was different, but I broke some habits there, too — I no longer consider eggs without toast a pathetic excuse for breakfast. And not only is it possible to add vegetables to every meal, sautéed vegetables make scrambled eggs pretty damn special, as Mark Bittman can attest.

Now to keep the trend going. My opinion of Paleo recipes has changed, but not by much. I still think most of them suck (TOO MUCH SEASONING), but I’ve found a few exceptions. But I’m never buying a bottle of coconut aminos, and I sorta regret this coconut oil, too, because it makes everything taste like coconut. I like coconut, but not that much.

I was regretting the bottle of unfiltered organic apple-cider vinegar I bought a few months back, once I realized I could never find a way to choke that stuff down like the healthy people do, and why would I want to anyway? Until I started using it to treat a small patch of toenail fungus that appeared on one of my tootsies last spring. It never spread or got worse, but never got better, either. OTC remedies were expensive and did nothing, and my doctor said the Rx solution wasn’t much better, had a potentially serious side effect and wasn’t something he liked to recommend for a non-critical case. “It might go away on its own, or you might have it for years,” he said. “They’re stubborn.” So I sadly stripped off my summer nail polish (that would make it worse, the Internet said) and scowled at it, week after week. Toenail fungus. It sounds like something bums get. I’m sure it is.

Until I thought, what the hell, and started dabbing the spot with cider vinegar twice a day, and dripping a little under the nail. One sock smelled like vinegar, but that was the only side effect. After a few weeks of this, damn if it didn’t get smaller, and smaller, and today is on the verge of disappearing altogether. An old-timey remedy that’s actually a remedy! Could this January get any better?

A little bit of bloggage to start the week.

Michael Phelps in a gold Speedo and a chest full of medals would certainly distract me. I guess he’s the ultimate shiny object. Check out the core strength on that young man. Not to mention the quadriceps. #swimminggoals

Welcome back to DellaDash, aka St. Bitch, who showed up in comments over the weekend. She’s an Iowa caucus voter. I have to say I’m very glad I don’t live there, because I would grow weary of shooting my TV over and over:

A super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee produced an ad for both radio and TV in which two women express doubts about Cruz’s commitment to Christian causes, saying that he speaks in one way to Iowans and in another to New Yorkers whose campaign donations he needs.

“I also heard that Cruz gives less than 1 percent to charity and church,” says one of the two women.

“He doesn’t tithe?” asks the other. “A millionaire that brags about his faith all the time?” They conclude that he’s a phony.

Thanks, Mike Huckabee, you loser, you also-forgotten piece of crap. Thanks for all you do for your country.

Grr. I guess I’m ready to start Monday, then. Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments
 

Water, everywhere.

Another …day. Another day, but it started with a pretty good swim, and so there’s that. This is why I work out with the dawn patrol; if the day goes well, it goes well. And if it doesn’t, at least you got a workout.

I’m working on learning the butterfly. I’m terrible at it. Wikipedia explains why:

The breaststroke, backstroke, and front crawl can all be swum easily even if the swimmer’s technique is flawed. The butterfly, however, is unforgiving of mistakes in style; it is very difficult to overcome a poor butterfly technique with brute strength. Many swimmers and coaches consider it the most difficult swimming style.

But like I said a while ago: Just keep swimming.

Water is sort of a theme around these parts. Today this story broke:

The state provided its workers in Flint with bottled water in January 2015, 10 months before officials would tell residents the water was not safe to drink, according to state emails released Thursday by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan.

The decision was unrelated to elevated lead levels that were later found in Flint’s drinking water, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Instead, the management and budget department decided to provide water coolers in a Flint state office building after the city sent out a notice saying it had been found in violation of the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act because of high levels of disinfection byproducts.

It just keeps getting worse. This is going to be such a mud bath.

I had the world’s most boring task today (transcription), and a lot of busy work, so my brain feels steamrolled this evening. But hey! So some pix today.

My colleague Chastity did a story on breed-specific legislation, i.e., banning pit bulls, and it’s attracting the expected slapfest in the comments, but I only want to call your attention to this puppy:

chiapet

That pup is the offspring of, wait for it, a Chihuahua and a pit bull. They lived under the same roof, and the owners never had them neutered because they figured, what are the odds? So now there’s this litter of chia pets (or chit bulls). For some reason, it reminded me of the puppies we meet in the final scenes of “Babe: Pig in the City,” one of my favorite kid movies, and maybe movies, period:

poodlepitpups

Supposed to be 40 degrees this weekend. Woo. Have a good one.

Posted at 12:27 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

Ask the sage.

I’m missing Rachel Maddow’s Flint town hall, which makes this the…first? Maybe second thing I’ve regretted missing since cutting the cable cord a few months back. I’m interested in seeing what R.M. does with the known information, although I can imagine. This story is going to blot out the sun in Michigan for quite some time, and the long tail of investigations and lawsuits is going to consume us even longer.

Meanwhile, I want to explore a moral question with you smart people: Do we have an obligation to donate to ease a man-made disaster?

I ask because water drives are the big thing here, and everyone is using social media to either collect for them or recruit people to shlep cases of bottled water to Flint. And this is very admirable, but I find myself wondering why anyone feels the need. It’s pretty clear this whole disaster came about through the direct actions of various arms of government; which ones and how blame is distributed is what all those investigations and lawsuits will be about, but still, government. Flint wasn’t hit by a tornado. This wasn’t an act of God. So shouldn’t the state pick up the tab for disaster relief? The whole tab?

I think people are simply good. They want to help. But this feels a little different, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Long day, lotsa driving, late lunch, dog walk, short errand run, late dinner. I’m-a ready to snooze. Quick bloggage:

When a person evades taxes, we call them unpatriotic shirkers, criminals. When a corporation does it, it’s just doing what corporations do.

I’ve barely had time to process the surprise grand jury indictments in the Planned Parenthood case. I should probably do that.

And now, Thursday. Huzzah.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events | 32 Comments
 

Bund-tastic.

(Sorry about this, guys — I had this cued up to publish shortly after midnight, or so I thought. So here ya go. Just imagine it’s 6 a.m., or whenever you usually read it.)

I’m about Flinted out at the moment, so let’s talk about another ongoing fiasco, eh? Let’s talk Bundyville.

I’ve been following it at something of a remove, via the social-media feeds of a friend who works at Oregon Public Broadcasting (but isn’t covering the standoff at the Malheur wildlife refuge). And I must admit, I’m …puzzled.

Let me say right up front I’m not one of those who consider this crowd of freedom lovers terrorists. I don’t want to go all Waco on they asses. Rather, I think the best strategy to handling this situation is to wait them out but in the meantime, not make it too easy for them. The feds could cut the power, but I’d rather they not. Just let them run out of food, starve them of attention strategically, and let nature take its course. But that’s not what appears to be happening.

They’re letting the mail through, for one, and even though this has led to amusing scenes like the boxes o’ dildos video, it’s also keeping them stocked with white cheddar goldfish crackers. They’re letting reporters in (of course I approve) and apparently young children, too (of course I disapprove). And they’re allowing them to fire up the bulldozer on site and cut new roads (and I totally disapprove of that one).

It’s hard to know what the strategy is for ending this thing. Apparently the FBI is giving no briefings whatsoever. It’s all a matter for conjecture:

As the Bundys will seemingly speak with anyone who will listen, law enforcement spokespeople won’t talk about the investigation. Requests for detailed comment on the situation are routinely denied.

However, federal sources familiar with the occupation, investigation and legal case did speak to OPB on the condition of anonymity.

Those sources tell OPB there is still hope among law enforcement leadership the occupation will end without violence. That’s why law enforcement doesn’t patrol the area, block travel to the refuge or take other actions that could lead to a confrontation.

There’s also a legal concern that a shootout, or raid, could make it harder to get jury convictions and prosecute material supporters.

For now, it seems as though the FBI is taking a chance: If the militants can’t get the standoff they want, they’ll get sick of standing around.

Part of me sees a plan in all this; see paragraph three. These guys are self-deluding little drama queens, and the best strategy with a drama queen is to deny them drama. On the other hand, this Missoula Independent piece on Ryan Payne, the occupiers’ security chief (if indeed they truck with titles, and I bet they do) suggests that if the drama won’t come to them, well then they’ll bring it themselves:

Payne came to believe …that the government uses regulations to deliberately undermine the average American, “that they are purposely destroying industry, they are purposely taking this land from people.” The more he looked, the more he saw a deliberate and nefarious plan being orchestrated by a small number of people wielding enormous power. He saw a pervasive conspiracy to control all aspects of the media, the financial system, the entertainment industry, the military and the government.

More specifically, he came to believe that slavery never really existed in the United States and that African Americans in the antebellum South “didn’t view themselves as slaves.” He came to believe in “an effort by some Jews to control the world.” He came to believe the founders of the United States intended for the states to act as sovereign countries. He came to believe taxes are a form of “legal plunder.” He came to believe names are spelled in all-caps on driver’s licenses because U.S. citizens are actually “corporate entities.” He came to believe U.S. courts are actually foreign admiralty courts. He came to believe that “in most states you have the lawful authority to kill a police officer that is unlawfully trying to arrest you.” He came to believe when a newborn child’s footprint is made on a birth certificate, that child is effectively entering a life of servitude to the U.S. government, which borrows money from China based on that child’s estimated lifetime earning potential.

He came to see all aspects of government, culture and society as mechanisms of control. “And they’ve set everything up so they can maintain that control,” Payne says, “because they believe they are God.”

Every person who’s done time in a newsroom meets these people from time to time; they write insane letters to the editor (or did, before the internet, when they all traded a typewriter on a card table under a single hanging bulb for a PC on the same card table), they self-publish books that they press into your hands, they stalk columnists and editors until one finally sits down with them in a conference room with a glass door, which is checked often by worried colleagues.

And we’re letting these people accept deliveries of food and ammo. Wonderful.

The weekend passed in a blur of sobriety and efficiency. Laundry, market, dry cleaner. Watched “Straight Outta Compton,” which mainly served to remind me why I dislike biopics, and why I shouldn’t watch them if there’s any alternative to be had. I watched my feeds and enjoyed the snow news from the east coast; we enjoyed high pressure, low-but-not-too-low temperatures and a rare blue sky. No snow, little ice and a good day to take the dog for a walk on Belle Isle:

icyriver

But while you’re still thinking snow, thanks to Hank you can read this lovely piece by David Von Drehle, on the peculiar peace of shoveling. I feel exactly the same way — that a well-shoveled walk or cleared driveway speaks well of the person who did the work. (You may not, I understand.)

Monday! Bring it the hell ON.

Posted at 12:30 pm in Current events | 58 Comments
 

A grimy spotlight.

I keep thinking about Flint and its river. (Who wouldn’t?) Fort Wayne gets its water from a fairly dodgy river; so does Columbus, and I’d bet there are cities all over the country with a water source that isn’t exactly bubbling out of a pristine mountain spring. The Midwest is the country’s breadbasket, and what drains off its farm fields and into its rivers is decidedly…unpleasant, chemically speaking.

But all is not lost. You can make all kinds of water safe to drink with proper treatment. A lot of attention is being paid to how and why the city switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. That’s important, but the problem is that the water wasn’t properly treated. As beb has pointed out, adding anti-corrosives to municipal water supplies to control lead leaching has been standard operating procedure for decades. Someone fell down on that job, for sure.

Another oddity: For all the talk of the “poisoned river,” most of the lead comes through your service pipes, i.e., the line between your house and the main line running down the street. The older the house, the more likely you are to have lead or lead-soldered service pipes. So the lead exposure, in Flint, tended to be concentrated in older housing, rather than widely scattered.

You think of all the things in old, crumbing neighborhoods, in old, crumbling cities — all the things that can hurt you. You don’t think of the water.

How was your day? Or your last couple of days? Mine were uneven. Gave blood, worked late. For the first time ever, the nurse had to…dig a little for the vein, even though it was standing out like a good little soldier. It was an oops moment for her, but now I have a sexy bruise for a couple of days. Forgiveness for the spotty appearance here, please. The last couple of days have been a little hectic at work, for obvious reasons:

baddayinmichigan

Crazy week for all Michigan publications. Traffic off the charts, people looking for something, anything, about Flint. To answer a few of your questions: Yes, the Rude Pundit pretty much made hash of that moronic National Review editorial, although there is blame to be assigned to Democrats, for sure, especially at the EPA. Republican scribes are helpfully referring to this agency as “Obama’s EPA.” Bottom line: Complicated story, complex explanations. I thank you all, especially beb and BigHank, for your smart and informed comments on water chemistry and treatment issues.

So, let’s limp to the bloggage and the end of the week, then.

A good Flint timeline/explainer. One of several.

The ancient roots of man’s best friend.

Naked men in locker rooms, and how journalists interact with them.

A “manosphere” denizen gets his. Deservedly so.

Good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events | 57 Comments
 

A whirl of a week, so far.

Sorry for the no-show yesterday. Remember the story I was aiming to finish by 4 p.m. Friday? It wrapped at 9:30 p.m. Monday. Complications. Still ahead of deadline, so: #winning. In the meantime, Glenn Frey died, the Michigan State of the State address happened, and about a million other things, including $arah Palin coming out for “the Donald,” as I’m 99 percent sure she calls him. The week started at a gallop for sure.

Here’s a Glenn Frey story you won’t read in Rolling Stone, from a friend of mine:

One of my dad’s friends, John, ended up at a driving range near here next to an elderly woman and broke the head off his three-iron. The woman offered to lend him one of hers and he said “No, I don’t want to break one of your clubs, too.”

She said, “Don’t worry, my son sends me new golf clubs all the time. He’s in a rock band.”

John: “What band?”

Elderly woman: “Have you heard of the Eagles?”

John: “Who’s your son?!”

Woman: “Glenn Frey, dear.”

John: “OK, I’ll take a club.”

Frey was from Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb. Good one.

I didn’t see any of the Palin endorsement. Did she use the phrase “shake things up?” I don’t think I’ve heard a single phrase used so often in connection with one candidate; it’s like there was a memo I missed, or something. Actually, I kind of miss $P. With the fading of her star, I haven’t seen her strangely angled face – which looks weirder by the year, and I can’t tell if it’s weight loss bringing out new bones, plastic surgery or something CLAWING TO GET OUT – and her daffy word-salad statements. Seeing her reminds me of all the Republican men I knew who were so, so taken with her at first, and how they soured on her the way you do a one-night stand who immediately starts texting nude photos.

Oh, wait, here’s a recap: “Post-apocalyptic poetry,” Slate says:

When we’re talking about the power that comes from strength, power through strength, well then we’re talking about our very existence. No, we’re not going to chill. It’s time to drill, baby, drill down and hold these folks accountable and we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect a candidate that represents that and America first, finally. Pro-Constitution. Common-sense solutions he brings to the table. Yes, the status quo has got to go. With their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged, it must be savaged and Donald Trump is the one to do that. Are you ready for new and are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s going to take a whole team.

That it is.

So. I have not yet seen “Making a Murderer” beyond part one. Truth be told, I just didn’t have the heart for another true-crime procedural, and 10 hours? I’ll read 10,000 words, but 5,000 would be better, and a 10-hour commitment just seemed a bit much for the cruel depths of winter. But Laura Lippman watched, and has some rather incisive things to say about it here. The New Yorker, ditto, here.

Why the Eagles were great, a list with which you may not entirely agree.

Finally, a note on the Flint water situation. I can’t let a great deal hang out because of my job, but those of you who live far away and have questions, feel free to ask. There are already a lot of misconceptions out there, and even the facts are murky; part of what’s driving the story is the multiple finger-pointing parties at the heart of it. But if I can answer you out-of-staters, I’ll try. We also have at least one employee of the Detroit water department in our commentariat, and he knows the chemistry part. So ask away.

And have a good Wednesday.

Posted at 12:14 am in Current events | 63 Comments
 

She contemplates her domain.

The goal today is to finish two stories by 4 p.m., so have a dog picture instead of thoughtful sentences:

princesswendy

Princess Wendy, captured in a pensive moment. Original watercolor by Coozledad in background.

If you haven’t read this, you should: Pete Wells takes on a Thomas Keller Cafe du Snoot and, well, does what Pete Wells does so well:

The kitchen could improve the bacon-wrapped cylinder of quail simply by not placing it on top of a dismal green pulp of cooked romaine lettuce, crunchy and mushy at once. Draining off the gluey, oily liquid would have helped a mushroom potpie from turning into a swampy mess. I don’t know what could have saved limp, dispiriting yam dumplings, but it definitely wasn’t a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water.

Stipulated: I know MichaelG dined recently at Keller’s French Laundry in Napa, spent four figures and pronounced every penny Worth It. But the comments on the review from other disappointed Per Se diners suggest someone is failing at this one. And lest you think Wells is just an effete prick taking down another effete prick, let it further be stipulated that he approaches restaurants the way Roger Ebert approached movies, asking: What is this restaurant trying to be, and how successful is it in execution? Witness his dizzy review of Señor Frog’s, a Times Square tourist trap that nonetheless delivers on its promise.

Bridge took on the spiking death rates among less-educated white males story earlier this week. Interesting.

I think Frank Bruni gets to the heart of it in his column about last night’s GOP debate. Or, as I prefer to think of it, the circular firing squad, slowly reducing itself to a duel.

Back to the keys. Back to the phones. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Media | 62 Comments
 

They come in threes.

Not Alan Rickman? Nooooooo, I loved him so. The perfect foil to Bruce Willis’ macho bad boy in “Die Hard.” The perfect villain in a million British costume dramas. He was always in on the joke, but never gave it away, which made his lip-curling sneer so wonderful. I haven’t seen more than 20 minutes of a Harry Potter movie, but I’ll treasure him in many, many others.

Sixty-nine is young these days. Probably a smoker. Bowie was a smoker. The sooner this habit enters the ashtray of history, the better.

And the third? You probably didn’t know him, but I did: Brian Bedford, Canadian stage actor extraordinaire. He was part of the company at Stratford, and played every role you can think of, always spectacularly. Another argument for the importance of the arts, right here:

Mr. Bedford was born on Feb. 16, 1935, in the mill town of Morley, near Leeds and Bradford, in Yorkshire — “a pretty awful place,” he told The New York Post in 1971, comparing it to Lawrence, Mass., another city that played a grim role in his family history. “Only much dirtier. Chimneys belching smoke night and day.”

His father, Arthur, was a postal worker; his mother, the former Eleanor O’Donnell, was a factory weaver. Two of his three older brothers died of tuberculosis. Sometime after Brian left home and began his acting career, his father took his own life.

“Suicide runs in the family,” Mr. Bedford said in a Times interview in 1971. “My father’s brother also committed suicide. He got a girl into trouble when he was 22, and in order to save face for both families, he emigrated to America, took a boat to Boston, went to a tiny place — Lawrence, Mass. — booked into a hotel and shot himself in the mouth.”

The austerity of his upbringing fostered a lively fantasy life. “I used to spend all my time pretending to be a radio,” Mr. Bedford said. He attended a Roman Catholic school in Bradford but left at 15, working in a warehouse by day and performing in amateur theater at night. At 18, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

And it’s the arts that certain elements of the education-reform movement would like to push aside in favor of more things that dollar up on the hoof, so to speak. Job skills, you know, not poetry and drama and other fag stuff. Fuck that noise; if it weren’t for the dream of escaping these grimy tank towns to play music or act or just to enjoy these things in an audience, a lot of kids like Brian Bedford would have ended up living and dying in places like Morley.

So with the death of these three artists, let’s look toward the tail end of the week. I have a big project to start writing, and so I will. Before I do, though, I leave you with the best SOTU analysis I have yet read. It’s pants-wettingly funny. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events | 31 Comments
 

The state of the union is…

I’m watching the State of the Union. I could listen to Obama talk all day, but when he says “POCKeestohn” it drives me nuts. That’s mitigated by watching the GOP text through all of the best applause lines. And there are so, so many.

Because I know you’re going to talk about this… ooh! ooh! They just showed Kim Davis, scowling, frumpy, stupid hairdo and all. Could the contrast be any starker? Which America do you want to belong to? Hers? Or the smart guy talking?

So let’s talk SOTU. Alternatively,

People are sending dildos to Vanilla ISIS? I did not know this.

A smart thing about the Oregon situation Sherri posted yesterday in comments, but you should read if you’re not a comments person, because it’s good.

She wore her best sweater. Really, give her a break:

kimdavis

Posted at 10:20 pm in Current events | 44 Comments