Parents and their toys.

Alan brought this book — written by a Michigan author — to my attention a while back. “My Parents Open Carry” tells the story of young Brenna Strong (subtle, that) and her pistol-packing parents. They carry their heat right out on their hips, and “Our goal was to provide a wholesome family book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, i.e., that self-defense is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defense,” as the description goes.

You can imagine.

It was amusing to see the book is now being bombarded with Amazon user reviews:

Can’t wait for the sequel,. “My Black Parents Open Carried Until the Police Shot Them 146 Times”.

I got really excited when I found out there was a sequel coming out for the really little ones: “Goldilocks and the Three Open Carry Bears”

SPOILER ALERT: This does not end well for the blonde moocher who commits a Breaking and Entering.

Three stars because…Freedom.

I am taking away two for missing the obvious opportunity for this to be a pop-up book. Each time a figure popped up, the whole family could decide to shoot or not. Maybe include a detachable color palette of skin colors to help decide.

Who needs a little Isaac Hayes on a Thursday? Note who assists him with his outfit. That’s Jesse Jackson if it’s anyone:

Thursday! It is here.

UPDATE: Y’all would do me a solid if you’d hit my story on gentrification over at Bridge. Start with the mainbar and the map. There’s a sidebar with links to a potty mouth Spike Lee rant, too. Thanks.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 33 Comments
 

Crickets in the evening.

How about a nice mid-week link salad? Because all I have to report today is: Summer, she is fading. I swam on the dawn patrol at the city pool, and it wasn’t even dawn. The lifeguard was dozing, which means he wasn’t much of a lifeguard, but what the hell, we were all good swimmers.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” I asked as I was leaving. (Gently. I’m not an asshole.) He’ll be back at college soon enough; I think this is the last week for dawn-patrol swimming. And then comes Labor Day, and alas alas alas.

September and October will be glorious. I hope, anyway. Just a lot less light.

So have yourself some tasty readin’:

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten canned tuna. Truth be told, I’ve liked it a lot less since they started packing it in water or even dry(ish), in those little pouches. And I liked it even less when I learned more than half of what is sold as tuna isn’t even tuna but something called escolar. I cannot deny that I still have a baby-boomer’s fondness for greasy tuna sandwich from time to time, but I have an excellent fish market at the end of my block, and I’d rather eat from their weekly offerings.

So here’s a little WashPost piece on how Americans have gone cold on canned tuna, for a variety of reasons. Hats off to the editor who resisted making “Sorry, Charlie” the headline.

The GOP might have had a chance to win a Senate seat this November, but it’s not looking good right now. One of a million reasons.

The original op-ed referred to in this Gawker rant is amazing. A cop explains how to avoid being a victim of a cop: Just do everything the cop says. OK. A few years ago, a cop made a Detroit couple perform sex acts in front of him. Is that what he means? Clarification is needed.

Great job, Officer Wilson!

And with that, happy hump day.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Up in smoke.

The blues jam I mentioned yesterday was family-friendly and included everyone from babies to seniors, but it was impossible not to note the smell of marijuana in the air from time to time. As we were leaving, I looked around and saw two men in their 60s, passing a joint back and forth.

There’s been some good data published in the last year on the difference between black/white marijuana use (not much) and punishment for same (a whole lot). I thought of that when I read today that Michael Brown “had marijuana in his system,” which led to the usual cocked eyebrows here and there, as though being stoned — or, as this story points out, not being stoned, but only being guilty of having consumed marijuana sometime in the last month or so — explains everything.

I get up pretty early these days, and sometimes I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, and I will turn on my iPad and check Twitter. Ferguson keeps burning. I find this terribly depressing. So does Charles Pierce, it would seem.

You should also read this Ta-Nehisi Coates piece:

We are being told that Michael Brown attacked an armed man and tried to take his gun. The people who are telling us this hail from that universe where choke-holds are warm-fuzzies, where boys discard their skittles yelling, “You’re gonna die tonight,” and possess the power to summon and banish shotguns from the ether. These are the necessary myths of our country, and without them we are subject to the awful specter of history, and that is just too much for us to bear.

When is this going to end? Who can make this situation right? Maybe the National Guard. But I doubt it.

Some slightly less depressing bloggage. The hipsters vs. family models of urban development.

How much is $100 worth in your state?

What’s Tuesday worth? We’re about to find out.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 32 Comments
 

The throwdown weekend.

Every so often you have to go out and have yourself a time. A pound-the-table, pound-some-shots, sing-karaoke-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, another-round-for-all sort of time. I had one Saturday night.

Probably shouldn’t say too much more about it, except that at some point I posted this photo on Twitter with the caption FUCK ALL Y’ALL:

karaoke

Not quite sure what I was thinking, there.

This was at a bar that’s going to close at the end of the month, a victim of the new hockey arena. It looks like a wino dump from the outside, but inside? Ohsomuchfun. I have no doubt the Applebee’s or whatever the hell will replace it won’t be nearly as good a time. Nor will it have multiple Wu-Tang Clan albums on the jukebox.

(And have no fear, I paced myself admirably. By nursing beers, palming the vile butterscotch shots and slipping an occasional Vernor’s in there, I drove home with nary a fear of lights in the rear-view. I’m an adult now.)

That was Saturday. On Sunday, on four hours of sleep and still hoarse from kicking out the karaoke jams on “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” a friend and I rode bikes to John’s Carpet House, recently reopened after a brief shutdown by the authorities. The Carpet House has no house and no carpet, but it does have a stage and a small generator, enough to power a live blues jam on Sunday afternoons throughout the warm season. If you’re a Detroiter and you’ve never been there, what are you waiting for, and if you’re an out-of-towner, you should check it out, because it is awesome.

Once we arrived, I called Alan to come with lawn chairs and some beers, and after a couple of those, he was kind enough to give us a ride back and spare us a 10-mile pedal in the heat of the late afternoon, belching craft-beer fumes.

The Carpet House is an opportunity for entrepreneurs – food vendors mostly, but also this guy:

john

No drama.

All of which adds up to a great weekend, although I’m guessing I’ll be going to bed early.

A little bloggage? Sure:

The Freep did a nice job turning around a localization of the Ferguson fiasco — looking at the militarization of Michigan police. Mercy:

Michigan police departments have armed themselves with grenade launchers, armored vehicles, automatic rifles and other equipment — 128,000 items in all, worth an estimated $43 million — under a federal program that allows police to obtain surplus gear free from the U.S. military.

A Free Press review of items transferred from the military since 2006 shows Michigan law enforcement agencies have received 17 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles or MRAPs, built to counter roadside bombs; 1,795 M16 rifles, the U.S. military’s combat weapon of choice; 696 M14 rifles; 530 bayonet and scabbards; 165 utility trucks; 32 12-gauge, riot-type shotguns; nine grenade launchers; and three observation helicopters.

And the situation in Missouri has led to a miracle of the stopped-clock variety: I agree with Ross Douthat.

Abortion isn’t always a difficult decision. Someone had to say it.

A busy, busy, busy week awaits. Expect gaps and maybe some photos. But let’s enjoy it, eh?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 45 Comments
 

Rounding up.

I don’t want to obsess on the Ferguson stuff, because I think it has peaked. The locals have been broomed, and with the state boys in charge, my guess is things will calm down. But before they do, let’s take a look at a couple of explainers on how we came to this point. First:

Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.

The idea was that if the U.S. wanted its police to act like drug warriors, it should equip them like warriors, which it has—to the tune of around $4.3 billion in equipment, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The St. Louis County Police Department’s annual budget is around $160 million. By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics.

This is instructive, too:

Fears of Al Qaeda in the heartland led to the further transfer of surplus military equipment like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to cops, as well as billions and billions of dollars given to them in the form of Department of Homeland Security grants used to purchase such equipment.

Suddenly, you had small towns in Texas and New Hampshire with armored vehicles, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, bomb robots, night-vision goggles, and lately, drones, all in the name of counterterrorism. Such grants have totaled about $34 billion since 2001, a number that has no doubt increased since the Center for Investigative Reporting released that figure in 2011.

Of course, since Islamic terrorists have yet to storm America’s small towns, this equipment is not used for counterterrorism. The police have to use these fancy new toys, so they use them for more and more SWAT operations, like the service of no-knock warrants, drug arrests, expensive and lengthy standoffs with empty houses, and as we saw in Ferguson last night, taking on protesters.

And finally? This:

There’s a no-fly zone in an American town because police are worried they might retaliate against police for shooting and killing an unarmed boy. So far, here’s the headcount:

At least five reports of unconstitutionally detained journalists. Two civilians shot by Ferguson Police this month; one killed. Four nights of tear gas, a chemical banned in war. At least one family teargassed in its own backyard and home. Twenty-one thousand people who have no one to call in case of an emergency, like the man left to struggle for his life while police carted away two journalists last night for sitting in a McDonald’s.

Zero shot or killed police officers. Zero names released for the shootings police committed in the last week. Zero apologies. No accountability.

But really? The story of the day has nothing to do with cops and tear gas, but Starbucks — a deep dive into the life of a single woman trying to keep her head above water and maybe get ahead in the world, but can’t. Not because she isn’t willing to work, but because Starbucks, and thousands of companies elsewhere, have adjusted their labor costs by screwing over their employers with truly impossible scheduling. On-call hours, short-notice shifts, some sort of unique torture called “clopening,” where you close at a late hour and then open the place four hours later — all of this whittles away at the labor costs and improves the bottom line, but makes it impossible to negotiate as a lowly barista. It’s a great, infuriating read, and I encourage you to make it.

Alos, have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 46 Comments
 

Urban unrest.

OK, I apologize; obviously the Ferguson story is national news now. I’m only wondering why I’m not seeing some pictures on the front pages of the papers I read. Like, say, the one at the top of this story.

I’m no fool. I know that one frame is not a reality, but I’m seeing a lot like this, and it bothers me — militarized police coming on like gangbusters for what are, after all, some protestors. This is what comes of arming police like an army. We’ll see what happens. I’m not optimistic.

Friends, I spent the evening sitting with a friend celebrating her birthday and drinking the fine Pouilly-Fuissé her partner bought for her. It was lovely. I rode my bike home in the dark, and that was even lovelier — the cool night, the blinking taillight, the swooping in and out of street and cul-de-sac. If everyone rode a bike more often, we’d have…well, we’d have healthier people, anyway. The ones who haven’t been run over.

So I’m getting out of here early. Enjoy Thursday, the downslope of the week.

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

Water, water everywhere.

A couple of you mentioned the flooding here yesterday and the day before, brought on by the sort of torrential rains you don’t see every day. Several inches fell over the course of the day, and the freeways, which around here were built in that urban-canyon style, turned into rivers. It was truly remarkable — some had enough water pooled in underpasses to safely hold a diving competition.

We came through it bone-dry. Don’t know how. We just did.

So my head was thinking water when I heard this NPR story Tuesday morning. It touches on some geography most of us know, Arizona, which is having an unusually wet year, and where farmers are growing so much alfalfa they are, I shit you not, shipping it to China to feed cows in that country’s burgeoning dairy industry.

Not far away, California cooks like bacon in a skillet, but that can’t be shipped there, and Arizona farmers must use their entire allotment or risk losing it. It’s an insane situation, summed up by one dim-bulb farmer trying to argue it’s better to ship hay to China than fill Hollywood swimming pools so movie stars can sit around them and “drink hot toddies.” (Yep.)

Why is anyone growing alfalfa in goddamn Arizona? It makes less sense than a golf course.

Glennon says, exporting more and more alfalfa is unsustainable – a classic example of an economic dilemma known as the tragedy of the commons. Centuries ago, farmers in Europe grazed their cows on common ground. Each farmer acted rationally in their own self-interest, but together they depleted the common resource -grass. In this case, self-interest is a record high price for alfalfa. The common resource is water.

…Agriculture uses 80 percent of Colorado River water. Cities want more of it. But there’s no incentive for farmers to conserve water. Under the Byzantine law of the river, farmers like Dave Sharp don’t even have the option to use less water. If he doesn’t use his allotment, he loses it.

We in the wet regions of Michigan can make no sense of this. At all.

Back to the office tomorrow for a big staff meeting, so I’m going to bed early. Just a little bloggage:

You gotta love a woman willing to build in, and live in, a place like this.

The photos coming out of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., are shocking. Why isn’t this a bigger story?

Happy hump day, all. However you spend it.

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

Chips, cashed in.

I guess you can go elsewhere for your Robin Williams news this morning. When I heard the cause of death I was surprised, but not really. Comedians are infamous for their misery and anger, which they build under pressure into diamonds of humor (theoretically, anyway), and no one was ore infamously demon-plagued than Williams. He had his cocaine period, and his women period, and probably a few more that I don’t know about because he was never one of those entertainers who compelled my attention other than reading an occasional People magazine cover while at the dentist’s. Although I loved Dahlia Lithwick’s wonderful recollection of a day spent with him, and you will, too.

No, here’s where we’ll chat up Myrtle Young, who was made into an international sensation via her own strange hobby — collecting oddly shaped and colored potato chips from the line at Seyfert’s, where she worked — and by the prose stylings of my husband, who told her story in our paper and reported on her from coast to coast, first to Letterman (where she did not capture his acidic attention) and then to Carson, where she and the host meshed perfectly and produced a charming segment TV Guide later named the funniest single moment in television. (Yes, that sentence was way too long. Sorry.) Myrtle died over the weekend. She was 90.

That’s the first and last time Alan ever saw Los Angeles. We really need to get out more.

When I think about Myrtle, I consider a few things. First, that the Seyfert’s potato-chip factory where she worked first closed and was then torn down. Consolidation, I think, or some other economic force that cannot be denied. Potato chips used to be a local product, or at least a regional one, due to the realities of how fried potatoes travel, but I guess that’s not true anymore. There are still local brands, but they’re likely to be owned by Frito-Lay.

Then I wonder if Myrtle’s job would even exist anymore. She stood over the conveyer and pulled the chips off by hand. It might make a person crazy, but it certainly meshed with her personality; lost in hours of watching chips go by, she found herself seeing things in them that others wouldn’t have. Now that job is surely done by some sort of electric eye. She retired with her pension and lived out her old age, but there won’t be many more like her.

Which is sort of melancholy, I guess. But the world changes and changes again, every single day. A toast for the old lady. I thought Alan did a great job with his stories; I think she reminded him of the women in his family.

Bloggage today? No. You guys always find better stuff than I do. Here’s a Twitter follow I’ve come to love, the Worst Muse. Advice for writers.

And that’s how the week lurches into second gear.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 43 Comments
 

The katydids of August.

August is firmly established, otherwise known as the month when it’s frequently too hot, when you stop pulling every weed, when you linger on a fall sale ad and start thinking, if only vaguely, of boots. Not snow boots, cute boots, the kind you wear on a date in October. If you still go on dates. If you still think like a dating person. Whatever.

I bought a new pair of boots this fall, at Nordstrom’s annual sale. They were a great deal, and now they’re sitting in my closet, waiting for the first cool breezes, the bomb that will once and for all end summer.

But summer still has a good month to go, and a few weeks of benevolence after that. I intend to enjoy them. Eight more pounds until the Centers for Disease Control no longer considers me overweight, 10 until I reach my pre-pregnancy weight, now that the baby who resulted is about to apply to colleges. Well, they never said it would come off easily.

So. I spent a little time today watching the now-notorious sprint-car accident that killed a young driver in New York Saturday night — video embedded at this link — and all I know is, I don’t know enough. I’ve spent more time at racetracks than most women, and the very first thing I thought, when I saw the clip, was what the hell is that guy doing, stomping all over the track like a bantam rooster? I have no opinion on whether the maneuver that took him into the wall and out of the race was OK or dirty or what; that I’m not qualified to have an opinion on. But it seems incredibly foolish and hot-headed to then climb from your car and go marching off, waving your arms and pointing at the driver you think wronged you, while the race is still in progress, even under a yellow flag. What was he going to do, pull Tony Stewart from his car and punch him out? (Maybe that’s what racing has come to when I wasn’t paying attention, like those baroque moves with the stapler in “The Wrestler.”) All these stories, like the one above, referring to Stewart “running over and killing” the other driver, seem to be ignoring a very big piece of the narrative.

I know a lot of you are racing fans; feel free to discuss.

I was thinking the other day that I don’t go to nearly as many weddings as I used to. The few invitations that have arrived in recent years have been for friends’ children. At this age, unless you know the marrying couple well, your job at these things is to sit quietly, give a nice gift, don’t stay too late or hold up the receiving line and whatever you do, don’t propose any toasts. Actually, that’s not terrible advice for any age, although if you’re a close friend of the bride and groom, you can get away with a great deal more. But probably you shouldn’t go this far. (Malcolm Gladwell link; be forewarned.) Still, a funny read.

Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors, and I watched the first episode of “The Knick” Friday night with optimism. This Grantland career appreciation is scarred with that plague of internet snarkers, i.e., gifs, but it’s still pretty good.

Finally, I was moving some boxes around and came across some old photos. Thursday is the traditional day for this, but seeing as how this was taken in Charlotte’s neighborhood, I thought I’d jump the gun by a few days. This was our 1988 vacation, which was spent half at Yellowstone National Park and half at a dude ranch down the Boulder River valley. The photo was taken on one of our most memorable rides, when we climbed an ordinary-looking hill and came out on some sort of bench — I think that’s the word — that went on forever. Rainless clouds covered the sky and the look, and the light, was remarkable. I offer this because I look a) young; b) happy; and c) even a little girlish, an adjective that stopped working for me well before my girlhood ran out. And because you can see why Charlotte prefers Montana to suburban Chicago.

montana3

Curly perm, double denim and that hat. It was a great day.

Have a good one yourself, all. See you back here tomorrow. I hope.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments
 

Seeing the forest, and paying.

One of the things that drives me nuttiest about the anti-government movement in this country is its easy assumption that all those who do work for the public are, at heart and at the root, Evil. Exhibit A: The woods of Huntington Woods.

Here we have a tiny (1.6 square mile) suburb that would likely be called “leafy,” mainly because it is. It’s Huntington Woods, after all. See if you can follow this: In 2007, the city does a survey to develop a community master plan. How do you feel about trees? the city asks. Ninety-six percent — 96! percent! — says yay trees. The next question: Would you support an ordinance to protect them? Ninety-one percent says hell yes. So in June the city passes an ordinance that discourages people from removing trees that aren’t diseased or dying. It’s patterned after one that already exists in 13 communities. Requires inspections and fines. And…

On June 17, Huntington Woods’ five-member city commission unanimously passed the new tree protection ordinance, Sullivan said.

It amended the city’s code of ordinances to require permits for cutting down trees — something that previously wasn’t on the books, she said.

The city only keeps permit fees of homeowners removing mature, healthy trees; it returns fees for removing dead or dying trees, according to the city manager.

I know you know what’s coming next: A citizen who says, like Madeline, “something is not right!”

“My personal feeling is they shouldn’t be able to tell us that we can’t take down any tree on our property,” said Iversen. “It’s ridiculous.”

Yes, it’s a property-rights activist who had determined that if she should want to take down her sycamore, it would cost her a lot, even though the sycamore is fine and yadda yadda principle of the thing.

It’s stories like this that make me heave a deep sigh. There’s a lot of this sort of thing locally — the endless surveys, the consensus-building that sometimes turns an entire administration into a finger in the wind, stripped of leadership. But I get why they do it, and when you get two surveys that show more than 90 percent of respondents are Pro-Tree, it shouldn’t be this complicated.

And yet it is. And somewhere out there, an eagle-eyed citizen is ready to upset the apple cart.

You wonder why anyone runs for a local office, with rewards like this waiting for them.

And so another week has collapsed under the collective weight of the work we’ve done, and a weekend awaits. Wait, did that sound grim? I didn’t mean it to. It’s just been a week. A little bloggage:

It’s not the Trayvon Martin Trial, part 2. This thoughtful Brian Dickerson column explains why.

Why do we say “big brown dog” instead of “brown big dog?” The semiotics of adjectives, for you language geeks.

Finally, oil and gas drilling (tries to) comes to the last, 49-acre stand of virgin white pine in Michigan.

A good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 40 Comments