Done in nine seconds.

I love it when a source suggests meeting for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. This means I can have a doughnut because duh — Tim Horton’s. I rarely eat doughnuts, because they are basically heroin for a sugar junkie like me. I need to detox, but before I do? One more delicious sour-cream glazed from Tim’s.

Sour-cream glazed are my absolute favorite, combining that little tang of sour cream with the sugar overload. My prejudices: Sprinkles are wrong on doughnuts, as is chocolate. Yes, I said chocolate. My mother raised me to believe you don’t eat chocolate before noon, and I’ve never been able to eat a chocolate doughnut in the morning with an entirely clean conscience.

And if you start eating doughnuts, any doughnuts, after noon, you have a problem.

What’s your fave doughnut? Beats bitching about the president, if only for one day.

I don’t have much bloggage, going into the weekend, because I’ve been working on something else and reducing my poking-around-the-internet time. Here’s an L.A. Times photo gallery of a number of national monuments the Trump administration is casting a stern eye at, because wouldn’t the American people really rather have a golf course?

Also, I used to start the day with the L.A. Times crossword, done on the laptop of course, but they changed the interface and I fell out of the habit. Then I realized that if you load the mobile site of the NYT on the laptop, I could do their mini-crossword on a proper keyboard instead of thumb-typing. I generally get it done under 30 seconds, and on Thursday? 16 seconds. I doubt I’ll ever beat my all-time record of 9 seconds, but go ahead and try.

I’m so tired I may walk into a wall on my way to bed. Hope you don’t, and have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 103 Comments
 

How rude.

What was it David Remnick wrote in that piece I linked to yesterday? “For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy.” To me, luxury would be one day, one stinking day, with no Trumps in it.

But how is that possible? If it’s not the president, it’s Princess Ivanka, First of Her Name, Whose Domain is Handbags, Shoes and Casual Separates, which of course qualifies her to sit down with a panel of very accomplished women in Berlin and talk about Issues.

The story here said the crowed “booed and hissed” when she told a big fat whopper about King Donald, whom she described as a friend to women and families and so forth.

I watched the video and was hoping for way more booing, frankly, something like the outburst in a town hall during Congress’ break earlier this year. It was more like a polite rumble, although unmistakably disapproving. Princess Ivanka turned her head, but for my money, the person to watch in that clip is Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who looks at the princess with a sort of scornful amusement: Who invited you, handbag designer? And she smiles when the crowd jeers, because who wouldn’t? When a person lies, they deserve to be called on it. Lagarde’s skill in dressing is well-known, and I doubt she’d get caught dead in anything branded Trump. Check out that shoulder-scarf thing. The hell with you, Ivanka.

As bad as that moment was, though, this may be worse: Chris Cillizza, defending her because:

1) He’s her daddy, and that’s a daughter’s job:

But, it’s important to remember that Ivanka is, first and foremost, her father’s daughter. As such, she is going to defend him — as would almost every daughter in any situation in which her dad is under attack.

I didn’t see the whole thing, or whatever led up to this remark, but I don’t believe he was under attack. She just spontaneously offered the whole my-dad-is-the-best-dad thing. Cillizza goes on:

2) She knows him better than we do, and who knows? Maybe she’s right:

To walk away from that view would be to abandon what she spent the last 18 months telling us about her dad based on her own firsthand experiences.

Which seems to be some combination of the mafia family-first code and a realization that when you’re caught lying, you double down.

No wonder no one respects “pundits.” Or “pundints,” as Sarah Palin likes to say.

Finally, an analysis — nothing heavy — of how the administration is failing to take advantage of imagery, which is to say, photography. Or, to put it another way, the Trump presidency is producing crappy pictures;

The Obama imagery was so powerful not just because of how artful it was, but because of its apparent candidness. Obama and Souza gave us the impression we were flies on the wall, or part of the team—even part the family. In numbing contrast, photographs of Trump are often awkwardly, even painfully posed, with Trump almost always ensconced at the center. Like local chamber-of-commerce snaps or old corporate newsletter photos, they call attention to themselves as slavish, clone-like endorsements here accented by gratuitous thumbs-up gestures.

Shudder. On to the hump day we toil.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Current events | 68 Comments
 

Catching up.

Another lazy Monday night for yours truly, as I caught up with what Alan refers to as “my programs,” i.e. the premium-cable Sunday-night stuff. We canceled Showtime after the last “Ray Donovan” season was such a disappointment, so we’re talking HBO here. Good news: “The Leftovers” is swinging for the mu’fuh’in’ fences, and it is awesome. Bad news: My bedtime is 10 p.m. Hence: The Monday catch-up, for “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.”

I love “Veep,” too, although I don’t recommend it if you’re sensitive about profanity; it really is a cuss-fest, but the cussin’ is glorious. Those of you who saw Armando Iannucci’s criminally under appreciated “In the Loop” know what I’m talking about. If, like me, you believe the best English-speaking accent for swearing is Scottish, then you probably watch this often.

A little bit of bloggage, then, and best wishes for Deborah as she briefly goes under the knife today. They’re a little old, but only Sherri and a few others will notice:

How Donald Trump’s ascent led to Bill O’Reilly’s downfall.

David Remnick on Trump’s first 100 days. A fine, towering j’accuse.

Back tomorrow.

Posted at 8:25 am in Current events, Television | 33 Comments
 

Top model.

I want you guys to know that I tried. I have tried, really tried, to feel empathy for Natasha. It’s what we owe one another as human beings, after all. How did Atticus Finch put it? “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

And so I did. I imagined myself a Slovenian girl, not poor but hey — Slovenian. She’s won a genetic lottery, blessed with height and proportions and a classic Slavic face, all cheekbones and that poreless skin that you only really find among true Caucasians, or at least Caucasians over the age of 10 or so. And she wants out, because who wouldn’t? You use what you got to get what you need. And she got a lot. For a girl like her, there’s only one way out. She becomes a model.

Her quest took her to Paris and Milan, where, in 1995, she had the good luck of meeting Paolo Zampolli – a co-owner of Metropolitan Models, a pal of Donald’s, and a gregarious playboy – who was on a scouting trip in Europe. “I told Melania, ‘If you would like to come to try the United States, we’d like to represent you,’” recalls the fast-talking Zampolli in his Gramercy Park town house. “I say very simple, ‘Please come.’” Melania was in.

Zampolli says he secured Melania’s visa. In 1996 she moved to New York City, settling into Zeckendorf Towers, on Union Square, where Zampolli set her up with a roommate, a photographer named Matthew Atanian.

That’s from the new Vanity Fair profile of the first lady, written without her cooperation, of course, nor that of her circle, whatever that is, so keep all that in mind while judging it. I’ll try to stick to the on-the-record interviews and public-domain quotes and anecdotes. But let’s just stop here and consider modeling for a moment.

Many books have been written about the sleaziness of the modeling business, which takes in girls in their teens and runs them through a sausage grinder; imagine a long tunnel where the grinding wheels consist of hypodermic needles, crack pipes and erect penises. The success-to-failure ratio is greater than for acting or music, and the few people in the business who treat models with any kind of decency can probably be counted on one hand. Most go running back to Iowa or Texas, a few hang on in hopes of, if not success as a model, maybe marriage to an actor or athlete or industrialist with two ex-wives and four houses to redecorate.

But it’s not all grim. They’re models! In New York City! Rent’s high, sure, but a model doesn’t eat, and if she wants something to drink all she has to do is show up at a club in a short skirt and it’s straight to the VIP rooms to party with guys like Paolo and his friends.

That wasn’t Natasha’s M.O. though, the next paragraph tells us:

Unlike many twentysomethings, who come to New York City with an unquenchable lust for experience, Melania, according to Atanian, had little interest in nightlife or making friends. When she went out, it seemed to be with older men, only for dinner, and she always came home before her roommate had gone out, he says. ([Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie] Grisham says that Melania did not do much dating, due to her “extensive travel schedule” as a model.) Demonstrating admirable Slavic discipline, “she wore ankle weights around the apartment and the common areas,” recalls Atanian. “She would strictly eat five to seven vegetables and fruits every day. She drank a lot of water… She was looking to make money (as a model).”

Keep in mind, by 1995 Natasha was 25, which is…49 in model years, maybe 63. For all the talk of Lauren Hutton doing an underwear ad in her 70s, remember, she’s Lauren Hutton. In fact, the story goes on to say, by 26, “time was running out” for her to make it as a model; she was pretty much doing “second and third-tier work” in front of the camera. There’s a photo of her in lingerie with another woman, from around this time, and your eye still looks at the other girl.

So here she is, dating older men, which I have to imagine drew sneers from the other girls at the agency, the ones who won two genetic lotteries, beauty and the great good fortune to be born in the U.S. What did they know of life in post-Soviet eastern Europe? Had they ever tried to make a life in Slovenia? There’s a lot you can put up with when the alternative is a ticket back to Ljubljana.

I’m not surprised Natasha married Donald Trump after six years of dating him. But even the on-the-record humiliations she’s endured for it are jaw-dropping:

Propping up Donald’s sexual prowess called for some public self-degradation, but Melania, as his girlfriend, was willing to do it. In 1999, shortly after they began dating, she participated in an on-air phone call with Trump and Howard Stern, as they discussed her chest, and whether she stole money from Donald’s wallet. When Stern asked to talk to “that broad in your bed,” Trump put her on the line, and she spoke about how they had sex more than daily, and revealed that she was nearly nude. Stern replied, “I have my pants off already.”

As Donald’s celebrity ballooned with The Apprentice, Melania was asked to tolerate even more. His public interchanges with Howard Stern, which provided a kind of Greek chorus to their relationship, went from lewdly objectifying to grotesque. He agreed with Stern that his daughter Ivanka was “a piece of ass.” He joked that if Melania were in a horrible, mangling car crash he’d still love her as long as the breasts remained intact. When asked by Stern whether he’d be up for “banging 24-year-olds,” Trump eagerly assented. Subsequent accusations suggest similar improprieties.

It goes on. You know the stories. So I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, if a woman has shown no evidence of having a red line, so to speak, what do we owe her in our attention? Is it any wonder that she’s snickered at and whispered about? I could forgive a woman like this almost anything, if she’d just demonstrate, somehow, that she has one standard beyond the preservation of her lavish lifestyle, if she cares about anything other than her son and the quality of her wardrobe and jewelry box.

I’ve heard some say she’s a prisoner, that she risks losing her child if she wants out. That’s ridiculous. If she filed tomorrow, more than half the country would have her back, and a large percentage of Trump supporters would, too. Even a half-bright lawyer could win a substantial settlement and sole custody, if that’s what she wants. Ivanka could move from half-time to full-time FLOTUS, and the president could start dating again. I’m sure Howard Stern knows some girls who’d jump at the chance to see the Lincoln bedroom.

So I have to assume she’s chosen to stay. I have to put on my empathy hat again and imagine why. Religion? I doubt it. Does she love him? Her body language and behavior suggest otherwise. So why? Money? Fear? Fear actually makes more sense than anything else. The Pepes who’d descend on her — or rather, ascend on her, crawling up from the sub-sub-sub-basement of the sewers where they live — would mark a new level of rancid cruelty, but money makes for pretty good insulation.

So what, then, do we owe her? Respect? Mmmm, that’s a hard swallow. Pity feels more like it.

I imagine what will happen in the future, when the Trump era is over and all that’s left behind of them in the White House are two oil portraits, hung in some hallway where visitors can gaze upon them and take selfies for their Instagram, they way Sarah ‘n’ Ted ‘n’ Kid did with Hillary’s portrait last week. She’ll be there until the end of the republic, until the house burns down. The flames will lick their way up with canvas, destroying her greatest gig in her chosen profession, better than any Vogue cover. Not bad for a girl from Slovenia.

Posted at 11:57 am in Current events | 57 Comments
 

We got married in a fever.

Another late night — journalism awards; I won some non-firsts — so just a quick link salad before I get to some real work.

This guy, Jonathan Tilove, was live-tweeting the Alex Jones custody trial, and by live-tweeting I mean pretty much everything:

Alas, the judge got all judgey and banned electronics from the courtroom, but I followed him anyway because she might change her mind.

When the Trump “brand” goes up in flames, the sweetest music from the heart of the conflagration, for me anyway, will be the keening of Princess Ivanka. For many, many reasons, some of which are outlined here.

Finally, where can you find a naked woman riding on the back of a motorcycle? Duh. Jackson, Michigan, of course. I’m convinced it, and not one of the southern ones, is the one Johnny Cash was singing about.

Off to work. Enjoy Thursday.

Posted at 8:14 am in Current events | 84 Comments
 

It’s going backward.

I think this explains my bad luck lately:

From the irreplaceable Is Mercury in Retrograde, of course.

And my luck isn’t bad, I’m just crabby about perfectly normal, and not at all terrible, bumps in the road. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I can be a whiner.

Another bananas week that appears to be front-loaded through …Thursday afternoon, which makes it just a stupid week. It’s the evening obligations that end up making you feel nuts, although it’s the evening obligations that make you feel alive, too. At least if you’re an extrovert. And they’re not, strictly speaking, obligations.

So what happened today? Are we closer to war in North Korea? Bombing anyone in the Middle East? How’d the egg roll go yesterday? Did the first lady bring her special brand of frosty, astringent sunshine to the White House?

Speaking of which, much of this analysis is bananas, but when a person doesn’t give you much to work with, some critics have to reach a little — a dissection of Melania Trump’s Twitter photos.

I see my autocorrect is no longer changing Melania to Melanie. Do I have to stop calling her Natasha now?

Just a bit of bloggage: A history of how human beings have treated Yellowstone’s thermal features. (Badly.) Geysers weren’t meant to be washing machines, it turns out.

Don’t think much of George Schultz, but setting aside an hour a day week to stare out the window or at the ceiling isn’t worst idea in the world.

And then, of course, there’s Facebook, which issued everyone in the world a sword and appears astonished that some chose not to beat them into plowshares:

Even as it has become a forum for more sensational events, live and otherwise, it has said it does not want to be a media company that overly arbitrates what is posted on its site. But the more reluctant it is to intervene or the slower it is to respond, the more it may open itself to the posting of killings, sexual assaults and other crimes.

“Any of these platforms — especially live ones — encourages users to perform,” said Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. “Should Facebook have a duty to rescue a crime victim? Should we, or is it O.K. for thousands or millions of people to watch a crime unfold without doing anything except sharing it?”

God, these people.

Posted at 10:01 pm in Current events | 63 Comments
 

Anti-syllables.

I just want to take a minute up front here to say how glad I am how well you guys keep this site afloat when I don’t have the strength or interest. Last week was really a tough one, and the one before that, ditto. And yet, has the world slowed down in his headlong rush to the abyss? No, I don’t think so. In fact, it’s rushing ever-faster. So I’m glad someone else here can keep the cocktail party buoyed with effervescence and, y’know, keening and moaning.

The Berkeley protests in particular seem almost impenetrable, although I have to admit, Twitter does a serviceable job of sketching out the particulars. Correct me if I’m wrong: There was a protest on Saturday, traditional tax day, as there was around the country. And the people in black showed up, and they’re called antifa, apparently because saying “anti-fascist” is too much work for Twitter. And the Nazi-symp shitheads showed up, and there were scuffles, and now there are GIFs all over of some guy punching a woman, and some other stuff, and it seems to portend something bigger, but as usual, much of the media is missing the whole thing.

On the other hand, this might be the greatest photo caption ever:

There was other stuff, too. I tried to stay away from the internet to the best of my ability, but my ability wasn’t entirely up to snuff. I caught the carriage story, which made me smash my head against the wall. But then the weather changed – abruptly, as in 30 degrees warmer in three hours – and so I just went for a bike ride. Fuck all this shit on the weekend when we celebrate the world’s return, is what I say.

In other news, we went to Ann Arbor to have brunch Sunday, and someone had painted the rock with “Christ is risen” in Russian, and I was able to read it, mainly because the phrase is the word for Sunday. We went to a vegetarian restaurant, and it was very fine, if a little too dependent on the cheeses and fats. But what is Sunday without some cheese and fat, I always say?

Feeling better, by the way. Let’s hope it lasts this time. Ten days of a 50 percent cold is no fun at all.

Not much bloggage today, just this: Remember Janesville, Fort Wayners? The place that gave us all the workers for the FW GM plant? It’s all over now, baby blue.

And into the week we go.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events | 75 Comments
 

Cold for Easter.

My god, this cold. It won’t knock me flat, but it won’t let me stand all the way upright. We’re going on day nine, and it shows no sign of leaving. And I’m pissed. Tomorrow I plan to sleep late, finish my taxes and write.

At some point I’m going to have to replenish the tissue stocks, too. What a way to go into a holiday weekend — snotty and headachy.

But it’s just a cold. This is just whining.

Right now, I want to go into the weekend with something new, and as has been the case for months now, the news just keeps on coming. We’re bombing Afghanistan. There’s the seeds of a backlash in Kansas. And in Syria? Oopsie!

And locally? A doctor of immediately indeterminate Middle Eastern heritage is charged with female genital mutiliation. Man, if that’s not a don’t-read-the-comments story, I don’t know what is.

(I just read one. Backing away slowly.)

Have a great weekend, all. Happy Easter. I hope I’m feeling better by the end of it.

Posted at 9:03 pm in Current events | 76 Comments
 

Flying the brutal skies.

It’s 76 degrees outside as I write this, which strikes me as the perfect outside temperature. You can go for a nice walk without sweating. Shorts are comfortable, but if your legs are still Michigan-winter white and dotted with yellowing bruises from that unfortunate business with the pedal clips last weekend, jeans are fine, too. You can open the windows and listen to the birdies tweeting outside, lie on your bed and catch up on the news without needing a blanket. You can wear flip-flops. You can make your dinner hearty or light, and both will work.

Tonight will be perfect for sleeping. It’s a good day.

Back to the pool this morning, which was closed last week while the schools were on spring break. They didn’t leave the heater on, and the water was? Yes, 76 degrees. Which is a bit chilly, gotta tell ya. It’s fine once you get moving, even refreshing — nothing worse than an overheated pool when you’re working hard — but oh my was there bitching from the peanut gallery as the dawn patrol got wet again.

I posted this story in our — the swimmers’ — Facebook group to cheer us all up. So far, zero comments, zero likes. I thought it was hilarious:

An Australian rapper called 2pec racked up a large bill in a seafood restaurant, before running into the sea to avoid paying, a Queensland court has heard.

Police set off in hot pursuit on jetskis for the man, who later claimed he ran to help a friend give birth on the beach, according to local media.

His bill was over A$600 (£360, $450).

Terry Peck, who has been charged with theft and assault, later said the lobsters were overcooked.

It actually continues to improve from there.

Not everyone had a good day, of course. There was that poor man dragged, literally, off a United flight for the crime of refusing to accept a later flight, a travel voucher plus $800. Yes, fresh off Leggingsgate, United chooses to send goons on board to treat a 69-year-old doctor — who said he had to get back to see patients — like a criminal. One of my social-media network observed that the airline’s explanation, which used the Orwellian phrase “re-accommodate these customers,” might have passed muster if only a dozen passengers hadn’t been recording the whole disgraceful incident on their phones. White people are learning what black people learned a while ago: This communication device is a weapon in the right hands. Use it wisely.

Speaking of flying, my friend Dave Jones had a different experience, on Southwest, the airline where you expect to be uncomfortable. If you’re feeling grim about humanity after United’s disgraceful conduct, read that.

And then the Pulitzers. Fahrenthold! Well-deserved! Noonan! Um, no. But that’s always how it is. I’m glad that left-wing blog, ProPublica, scooped one, too.

Because take it from us, guys: The pursuit of truth had never been harder, or more important. (That’s a scary-ass story to read, folks.)

And now we’re having a nice, gentle thunderstorm. What a day. Let’s hope the rest of the week continues in this vein.

Posted at 6:29 pm in Current events | 80 Comments
 

Frog music.

Grocery shopping is suddenly so complicated. Remember being able to buy a whole chicken, cut up? My local Kroger no longer carries this exotic fare, just the beloved-by-yoga-moms boneless, skinless chicken breasts; chicken “tenderloins,” i.e., fingers; and once in a while there will be a sale on whole thighs. Even drumsticks are something you have to hunt for. And so now my food shopping expands to three venues — Eastern Market for vegetables, Kroger for yogurt and canned stuff and vegetables like onions and potatoes, because while I’m sure Alice Waters can tell me there’s a reason I need to fill my farmers-market bags with artisanal onions and extra-special potatoes, to my proletarian mouth regular old white onions and Yukon Gold potatoes do pretty well for almost everything. My third stop is to the specialty grocery here in G.P. that has better-than-Kroger-grade meat.

It must have been a grumpy weekend, you’re thinking. Yes, sorta. But this helped:

That’s Kate, playing the MacBook Air and Ableton, and her classmates, playing similar machines, except for the guy on the right, who was playing a theremin.

The puppetry procession was Julie Taymor-type big-ass puppets on sticks, the music the final product of Kate’s electronic chamber-music class. The weather was perfect, and we found a parking place. Can’t complain about Saturday.

Sunday brought this, however:

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post last year.

Yes, back by (unpopular) demand — the war on drugs!

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Because it worked so, so well the first time, right?

I can’t even. Let’s hope the week goes better than last.

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments