The end of the tunnel.

I’m kind of surprised the Detroit bankruptcy news of Friday didn’t make a bigger splash, news-wise. I checked the usual aggregation sites and found most were still dithering over election results, but trust me: This is huge. On Friday, the judge presiding over the case approved the city’s plan of adjustment, i.e., their blueprint for shedding debt, satisfying creditors and setting the city up for what all hope will be a clear path forward.

It’s pretty complicated, and not easy to sum up for civilians, but here are the bullet points: The city discharges about $7 billion in debt, most pensioners take a 4.5 percent cut (and forego future COLA and health-care increases), the noisiest creditors settled for mostly real estate and the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection is preserved.

I have to agree with Laura Berman here: It was nothing short of miraculous:

The city’s Chapter 9 had begun in shame. But somehow the legal process provided enough incentives and framework for everyone involved to get things done. If (Judge Steven) Rhodes saw it as “all about shared sacrifice,” it was also about high stakes, huge dollars, and the whole world watching — all combined to enable a group of people to focus on solutions rather than acrimony.

Detroit, a city that’s been hard-pressed to get anything done for decades, was suddenly a place where deals got done. Problems that had been insoluble — think Detroit Water and Sewer Department — were resolved by mutual consent of parties that wouldn’t even communicate previously.

“We had a 40 year dispute solved — and it was like a footnote,” (Emergency Manager Kevyn) Orr said of the water department compromise, which created a regional authority.

The bankruptcy enabled a series of voluntary settlements that left little room for appeal: Not a long, litigious nightmare but a framework to quickly and creatively fix a broken city.

This NYT piece gives you a good overview of the so-called “grand bargain” that preserved the art and bolstered pensions.

It’s an imperfect solution, but what would be perfect? And this is very close to perfect for a situation that looked so, so dire only a year ago. I told someone the other day that walking around downtown reminds me of the opening scenes of “Atlantic City.” Woodward Avenue is torn up for the installation of a light-rail line. (Not a very good one, but a start.) Scaffolding rises up half the buildings, which are being converted, restored, condo-ized. Everyone’s complaining about how high rents are, and if you want to buy, you better have cash, because no one wants to wait on the banks to figure out appraisals in a market this crazy.

Of course the stubborn problem of the blossoming core and the withering outer neighborhoods remains unsolved. But streetlights are slowly being replaced, a new auction program to basically give away housing to people willing to bring it back is thriving, and if no one knows what the city will look like in a decade, there is cause for optimism. For the first time in a long while.

I’m just waiting for the pundit class to catch on, and it will be interesting to see what they have to say. Virginia Postrel will surely be disappointed that the art isn’t going to be redistributed to cities where it will be more appreciated — like the one she lives in — but just knowing she will have to live with this charming passage around her neck for the rest of her life…

(G)reat artworks shouldn’t be held hostage by a relatively unpopular museum in a declining region. The cause of art would be better served if they were sold to institutions in growing cities where museum attendance is more substantial and the visual arts are more appreciated than they’ve ever been in Detroit. Art lovers should stop equating the public good with the status quo.

…will be good enough for me. (Just an aside here: Where does a woman with the title of “culture columnist” get off writing that the art “should be sold to institutions,” ignoring the fact nearly all museums don’t buy much of anything, relying on wealthy donors to die and leave them stuff. There are some exceptions; I believe the Getty, in Los Angeles, still shops. I also believe Postrel lives in Los Angeles. What a coincidence. But even the Getty could hardly pick up the best of the DIA’s collection. Van Gogh’s self-portrait would end up in fucking Dubai or Moscow.)

OK, then. So it was a weekend for toasts. Also, another movie — “Whiplash,” which I highly recommend. It’s the story about what happens when a talented musician gets the wrong teacher, an abusive, screaming, hitting, mind-fucking asshole who just might be exactly what he needs. J.K. Simmons plays the teacher, well enough that the ticket-seller actually trigger-warned us: “It’s a very intense movie, and you need to understand that. We’ve had complaints.” Oh, for fuck’s sake.

So, bloggage? There’s this, a Bob Herbert column in Politico, on Bill Gates, education reformer:

There used to be a running joke in the sports world about breaking up the Yankees because they were so good. Gates felt obliged to break up America’s high schools because they were so bad. Smaller schools were supposed to attack the problems of low student achievement and high dropout rates by placing students in a more personal, easier-to-manage environment. Students, teachers and administrators would be more familiar with one another. Acts of violence and other criminal behavior would diminish as everybody got to know everybody else. Academic achievement would soar.

That was Bill Gates’s grand idea. From 2000 to 2009, he spent $2 billion and disrupted 8 percent of the nation’s public high schools before acknowledging that his experiment was a flop. The size of a high school proved to have little or no effect on the achievement of its students. At the same time, fewer students made it more difficult to field athletic teams. Extracurricular activities withered. And the number of electives offered dwindled.

Gates said it himself in the fall of 2008, “Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for.”

Really? You don’t say.

And with that, we start off another action-packed week. I hope yours goes well.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 20 Comments
 

The mop-up.

Well, this is how I spent Wednesday. And this is how my colleague Ron spent the day. I encourage you to scroll down, in Ron’s story, to the subhead on the electoral college. If the legislature takes up that one during lame duck, I might disappear like Coozledad. That fight will make Right to Work look like a picnic.

Some bloggage, before I get back to work:

Hank on “The Comeback,” which I am anticipating like a big slice of cake.

…and that’s it. I’m so election-full, I’m electioned out. Back to more civilized content tomorrow, I think.

Posted at 11:29 am in Current events | 43 Comments
 

Thank you, ma’am. Ma’am, thank you.

I could probably check this, but it was right around a year ago that Comcast, my cable company, tried to make good a fairly minor mistake on their part by dumping a bunch of premium channels on me, “free” for a year. It’s how we got Showtime and Starz and Cinemax and a couple others, most of which we don’t watch, although OK, yes, Showtime’s series have gotten much better in recent months.

But then the cable bill arrived, and it was $70 above normal, so I got back on the phone to express outrage and demand a lower bill. It was so silly; I knew and the operator knew that I was going to get my bill knocked back down to what it was, that the “introductory period” would be extended another year, that my cable service wouldn’t change and all I would have to pay was the $70 overage I just paid.

The “customer service representative,” a phrase that cries out for ironic quotes, was offshore. That’s all she would say, offshore, but I would peg her accent as Filipino, so there you are. She read from her script with varying degrees of success at sounding authentic — “this is your lucky day for today only I am authorized to offer you this exciting introductory rate on the package you are interested in” — and her most annoying tic was inserting “ma’am” every five words. So really it was more like ma’am this is your lucky day ma’am for today only ma’am I am authorized to offer you, ma’am, this exciting introductory rate on the package you are interested in ma’am. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

I really miss customer service when it wasn’t an oxymoron. My mother worked her whole career at the phone company as a customer-service rep, and dammit, she served. She was also in a union. I’m sure her job, if it remains in any way shape or form, is now being done in a dingy call center in Manila.

And while I grant you that this is sort of a Peggy Noonan sort of problem, it seemed to go hand-in-glove with what read, to my eyes, as a better-than-average scene-setter for today’s election in the NYT today:

The uncertainty about the outcome is a fitting match for the mood of the nation. A slowly but steadily improving economy — with six months of strong growth, gasoline below $3 a gallon for the first time in four years and substantial deficit reduction — has not translated into broader optimism. Voters are more inclined toward blame than credit. Instead, they are seemingly worn down by economic struggles and late waves of panic, chiefly about the threats posed by the Islamic State and the possible spread of Ebola.

Polls show voter interest in the election substantially lower than four years ago. The real intensity has been generated by the prodigious spending of outside groups who have aired more than 1.5 million televised campaign ads.

And candidates in both parties have done little to inspire the electorate. Unlike midterms in 1994 and 2006, when the party out of power made strong gains, Republican candidates did not carry a defined platform into this election, nor did they campaign on many policy specifics. Democrats spent months playing down if not denying their support for the president’s agenda.

True dat. I think things are settling in for a lot of people: You will probably earn less next year, even if you get a paltry raise, because your health-insurance rates will gobble up the difference and then some. Your kids’ student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, so borrow wisely and don’t have too many kids in the first place. Anyway, they won’t be buying a house for a good long while, so don’t count on the value of your own going up the way it used to. This grim little ad, which the Truth Squad whistled as a flagrant foul, seems to get at the mood lately:

Here’s another one. It doesn’t really get at the voters’ mood, but it’s pretty damn brutal. How’d you like to have been at this casting session?

I step into the voting booth, and my hope springs eternal, most years. This year I’ll do my best.

Happy Election Day. See you when I’m done working it.

Posted at 11:17 am in Current events | 88 Comments
 

Amateur hour.

Alan and I went to the movies Saturday night, in another congressional district. Our stroll from parking lot to theater took us past a couple of yard signs for a candidate for something. I noted that I would be disinclined to like him based on the verb on his very simple signs: Not “vote” for the man in question, but “hire” him.

That one word tells me so much — that he’s likely one of those guys who thinks “making a payroll” is a core skill for the office, because running a plumbing supply house has so much to do with tax policy and balancing the greater good with constituent service.

I thought of that guy when I read Neil Steinberg’s excellent blog making the case against voting for Bruce Rauner for governor of Illinois. Like a lot of great writing, it starts out being about one thing, and takes its time getting to the thing it’s actually about, and makes you sit back and say, Of course. It’s hard not to break my three-paragraph preview rule with this one:

The Curse of the Amateur often afflicts wealthy men in late middle age. Having succeeded wildly in one field, their egos and ignorance are such they assume they can march into some other completely unrelated area and master that too. Henry Ford, fresh from his success at selling Model Ts, decided he would end World War I. He didn’t. Bill Gates, having made a fortune in software, decided to end the woes of Africa. He didn’t. Those woes turned out to be a problem bigger than money.

Can anyone glance at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and not recognize the Curse of the Amateur? Here’s a guy, 57 years old, who never ran for anything, forget being elected to any public office. He’s someone who has never performed any kind of public service beyond very recently, after he decided he would be governor and started suddenly funding schools and firehosing the money he has so much of this way and that and calling it civic mindedness.

So he campaigns. And his ignorance of, his contempt for, the job he would take on, is so great, that he presents his utter lack of experience as his most enticing attribute. It’s pure hypocrisy. Who can imagine that Rauner would accept that logic in his own affairs? Who believes that anyone could go to him and say, “You know, your Excelo Widget Company isn’t doing so well. I am uncorrupted by any sort of experience making or selling widgets, so am just the man for you to bring in as CEO.”

Yes, exactly. I live in a different state than Steinberg, but this argument is common in politicking these days, and it never fails to rankle.

(A side note to rant about autocorrect, which is starting to loom as a major factor in my writing life these days. For every time it spares me from having to stop typing and fix a few transposed letters, it leads me into dangerous waters in another area. For example, when I wrote “Neil Steinberg” up there, it changed the surname to “Sternberg.” WTF? Apple has an autocorrect that doesn’t understand proper names? This is pissing me off. That said, I’m sure there’s a setting that can be tweaked, and J.C. will write to inform me of it shortly.)

The movie we saw Saturday was “Birdman,” (which autocorrect just changed to “Birman,” grr) and all of you with an interest in art, theater, compromise, self-doubt and any related theme are encouraged to go see it. I’m trying to keep up with the Oscar contenders this year, rather than trying to cram them all into the holiday weeks and/or on-demand cable in February. Last week we saw “Gone Girl,” which I was surprised to like quite a lot — far better than the book, which had me eye-rolling and skipping pages by the final chapters.

The other day I mentioned my love of boxing, and a few of you shuddered. I hope you will put your bad feelings aside and read this great profile of Bernard Hopkins, still defending two of the four major light-heavyweight belts at the astonishing age of 49. This passage sums up what I’ve started to appreciate in boxing, why I watch on the Saturday nights that HBO or Showtime has a card going:

Unlike most other boxers, who train down to their fighting weight only when they have a bout coming up, Hopkins keeps himself right around the 175-pound light-heavyweight limit. Fight people marvel at the ascetic rigor that has kept him perpetually in superb shape for almost three decades, his habit of returning to the gym first thing Monday morning after a Saturday-night fight, the list of pleasurable things he won’t eat, drink or do. But to fetishize the no-nonsense perfection of his body, which displays none of the extraneous defined muscular bulk that impresses fans but doesn’t help win fights, is to miss what makes Hopkins an exemplar of sustaining and extending powers that are supposed to be in natural decline. He has no peer in the ability to strategize both the round-by-round conduct of a fight and also the shifts and adjustments entailed by an astonishingly long career in the hurt business. He has kept his body supple and fit enough to obey his fighting mind, but it’s the continuing suppleness of that mind, as he strategizes, that has always constituted his principal advantage.

Opponents don’t worry about facing his speed or power. They fear what’s going on in his head.

A great read.

The week upcoming is going to be a crusher, with the election and yours truly working around it. So I warn you of the usual holes, gaps and scantiness, but I’ll try. In the meantime, I leave you with one more take on Ben Bradlee, which you should read just to get to this passage:

Meanwhile, the Post’s op-ed pages — that hotbed of stupendously clueless commentary that was separated from the Outlook section in 2009 — prominently featured on the same Sunday a piece to warm the cockles of Hayward’s heart: a fire-breathing offering from former Hewlett-Packard head and indefatigable John McCain crony Carly Fiorina. This bold tocsin, titled “A time for businesses to stand up to activists,” derides climate change activists who have targeted corporate boards in an effort to jump-start action on global warming. In Fiorina’s fanciful telling, business leaders now cringe in fear before a disciplined cadre of “well-organized, professional activists intent on chilling speech and marginalizing the voice of business and job creators in U.S. society … Their attacks on business’ protected speech and political participation are intended to sideline the entrepreneurial perspective and silence the opportunity for nuanced policy discussions.” Never mind that a standing armada of industry lobbyists has kept progress on climate change legislation on total lockdown for the past decade.

Let me pose a follow-up question to Ignatius’ sermon. Why would Bradlee’s old paper publish such patently distorted, power-coddling twaddle? I know from bitter experience that op-ed shops at major papers routinely repurpose these corporate PR briefs in their pages because they professionally adhere to a phony centrism. They believe that responsible journalism is the equivalent of a cuckoo clock display, in which one side warbles at the other and then retires to await its next formulaic set-to an hour hence. How can we have a nuanced debate, after all, if the poor speech-challenged business and job creators who already bankroll the entire electoral process aren’t also protected from dissenting views in their boardrooms or on editorial pages?

And don’t forget to vote, if you haven’t already.

Posted at 12:52 pm in Current events, Movies | 76 Comments
 

Bad boy.

I don’t know if Detroit’s proximity to Canada predisposes us to like America Jr.’s media offerings or what, but I’ve been a fan of Q, a show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi; it runs on WDET here. I guess, for lack of a better description, you’d call it the Canadian “Fresh Air,” only with more guests in a typical hour. Today the word is flying around that Ghomeshi was fired, with various hints at an ugly scandal lurking in the wings – Ghomeshi was said to have hired a crisis public-relations firm; the network said it had information that precluded it from continuing to employ him, etc.

An hour or so ago, Ghomeshi himself posted a statement on his Facebook that, if you take him at his word, has to be the very definition of a 21st-century nightmare:

About two years ago I started seeing a woman in her late 20s. Our relationship was affectionate, casual and passionate. We saw each other on and off over the period of a year and began engaging in adventurous forms of sex that included role-play, dominance and submission. We discussed our interests at length before engaging in rough sex (forms of BDSM). We talked about using safe words and regularly checked in with each other about our comfort levels. She encouraged our role-play and often was the initiator. We joked about our relations being like a mild form of Fifty Shades of Grey or a story from Lynn Coady’s Giller-Prize winning book last year. I don’t wish to get into any more detail because it is truly not anyone’s business what two consenting adults do. I have never discussed my private life before. Sexual preferences are a human right.

Despite a strong connection between us it became clear to me that our on-and-off dating was unlikely to grow into a larger relationship and I ended things in the beginning of this year. She was upset by this and sent me messages indicating her disappointment that I would not commit to more, and her anger that I was seeing others.

After this, in the early spring there began a campaign of harassment, vengeance and demonization against me that would lead to months of anxiety.

It came to light that a woman had begun anonymously reaching out to people that I had dated (via Facebook) to tell them she had been a victim of abusive relations with me. In other words, someone was reframing what had been an ongoing consensual relationship as something nefarious. I learned – through one of my friends who got in contact with this person – that someone had rifled through my phone on one occasion and taken down the names of any woman I had seemed to have been dating in recent years. This person had begun methodically contacting them to try to build a story against me. Increasingly, female friends and ex-girlfriends of mine told me about these attempts to smear me.

I’m a big girl and know everybody has their own version of a story, and I also know I’m predisposed to believe the guy whose show I like, but still – do you come back from something like this? I’m sure some people do, but I can hardly imagine anything worse. (As expected, there are different versions of Ghomeshi’s private life floating around.) ON EDIT: Alas, it’s looking as though Ghomeshi is a garden-variety creep. Too bad. I did like his show.

So, how was everyone’s weekend? I’m still sick, but Sudafed is making things a lot more tolerable, enough that I ventured out for a bike ride Sunday — the glorious days are still with us, but every one feels like it could be the last for a good long while, so you have to enjoy them. Then it was home, groceries and being creative director on Kate’s senior-picture photo shoot, which I hope wrapped successfully. The rest of the weekend was sort of a fog of cold medicine and beer and Halloween candy pilfered from the giant Costco sack I bought. I wonder if it’ll last until Friday. We shall see.

Some bloggage? The Michigan/Michigan State game was pretty awful, as expected, mainly because of Michigan.

Has anyone ever made tarte tatin? I’m thinking of trying this recipe. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Media | 42 Comments
 

Current affairs.

Link salad today, because I haz a tired.

It appears the story of the night is the death of Ben Bradlee, and as you’d expect, there are many wonderful words to read about this titan of the field. I recommend David Von Drehle in Time, an ex-WashPost writer with a great gift for it:

Charisma is a word, like thunderstorm or orgasm, which sits pretty flat on the page or the screen compared with the actual experience it tries to name. I don’t recall exactly when I first looked it up in the dictionary and read that charisma is a “personal magic of leadership,” a “special magnetic charm.” But I remember exactly when I first felt the full impact of the thing itself.

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was gliding through the newsroom of The Washington Post, pushing a sort of force field ahead of him like the bow wave of a vintage Chris-Craft motor yacht. All across the vast expanse of identical desks, faces turned toward him—were pulled in his direction—much as a field of flowers turns toward the sun. We were powerless to look away.

This was after his storied career as editor of The Post had ended. I was the first reporter hired at the paper after Bradlee retired in 1991 to a ceremonial office on the corporate floor upstairs. For that reason, I never saw him clothed in the garb of authority. He no longer held the keys to the front page and the pay scales, so his force didn’t spring from those sources. Nor did it derive from his good looks, his elegance, or his many millions worth of company stock.

I realized I was face to face with charisma, a quality I had wrongly believed I understood until Bradlee reached the desk where I was sitting and the bow wave pushed me back in my chair. It is pointless for me to try to describe this essence, because in that moment I realized that it cannot be observed or critiqued. Charisma can only be felt. It is a palpable something-more-ness—magical, magnetic—as rare as the South China tiger. I’ve met famous writers, directors, actors, athletes, billionaires, five presidents of the United States, and none of them had it like Bradlee.

Or you can try Martha Sherrill in the Post itself, writing about his legacy in the Style section:

“Hey, Tiger.” He said things like that. He had lusty greetings, exotic epithets and obsolete profanities he got away with. He was unabashed, uninhibited. Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, who died Tuesday at age 93, was a Boston Brahmin but enjoyed being an improper one. A lesbian friend from his postwar Paris days wasn’t just “gay,” she was “gay as a goose.” A newly divorced editor with a revived sex life was “finally getting his ashes hauled.” The primal motive driving Jackie Kennedy Onassis was “she needs a lot of dough.” ¶ Men were divided into two camps: those whose private parts “clanked when they walked” and those whose, alas, didn’t. Women were judged differently. The only ones Bradlee didn’t seem to appreciate were humorless. “A prude,” he’d say, as though nothing were more distasteful. ¶ He passed on his sensibilities to Style, the groundbreaking “soft” feature section he invented and launched at The Washington Post in 1969, which replaced the toothless For and About Women. Style wasn’t for prudes. It was designed to entertain, delight, provoke, surprise and occasionally horrify, reflecting its founder’s infinite curiosity about society, appreciation for vivid storytelling and deep love of troublemaking.

Or just the straightforward obit:

Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.

Sigh. The good ol’ days.

I see a few of you veered off on a tangent late yesterday — the OMG Renee Zellweger tangent. So, so sad. We must all clasp hands and thank the gods of our understanding that we don’t have to be pretty to make a living, because evidently it sucks. I would have liked to see what she looked like beforehand, because to my mind, what made her adorable was her wonderfully squinty eyes — she always seemed about to laugh. “Unrecognizable” seems to be the adjective that first comes to mind. I wonder about the plastic surgeon’s art; so many variables to consider. Elasticity, armature, that sort of thing. Oh, that poor woman.

A headline you don’t see every day: Drunken trombone-playing clown fires gun from garage, police say

Our governor considers himself very pro-business, except, of course, when he isn’t.

Let’s hope the rest of the week perks up, eh?

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events | 51 Comments
 

The homestretch.

Sorry for my absence these past few days. It’s been ridonkulous busy around here, mainly during the evenings, which is my blogging time. It’s election season, which is the Center’s busy time, so night before last I was at a “Ballot Bash,” as we’re calling it with our media partners. This was the third meet-and-greet-the-candidates event, and it invited two Democrats — Gary Peters, running for Sen. Carl Levin’s soon-to-be-vacated seat, and Mark Totten, running for attorney general.

(Lest you fret, the GOP was repped at a Ballot Bash in Grand Rapids, and there was another one in Lansing. We are nothing if not bipartisan. It just worked out this way.)

Anyhoo, it was 10 by the time I got home. I get up before 6 for my newly healthy lifestyle, so — well, you’ve heard all these excuses. Many times.

But I’m sort of looking forward to Election Day. Even though three weeks later, I will mark another birthday and be that much closer to death.

To death, I tell you.

Fortunately, I will leave you with a few things to read:

This is great, a look at something I find puzzling — the weird culture of “emotional support animals,” for people who cannot leave their doggies at home even for a minute:

One person’s emotional support can be another person’s emotional trauma. Last May, for instance, a woman brought her large service dog, Truffles, on a US Airways flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. At thirty-five thousand feet, the dog squatted in the aisle and, according to Chris Law, a passenger who tweeted about the incident, “did what dogs do.” After the second, ahem, installment, the crew ran out of detergent and paper towels. “Plane is emergency landing cuz ppl are getting sick,” Law tweeted. “Hazmat team needs to board.” The woman and Truffles disembarked, to applause, in Kansas City, and she offered her inconvenienced fellow-passengers Starbucks gift cards.

In June, a miniature Yorkie caused a smaller stir, at a fancy Manhattan restaurant. From a Google review of Altesi Ristorante: “Lunch was ruined because Ivana Trump sat next to us with her dog which she even let climb to the table. I told her no dogs allowed but she lied that hers was a service dog.” I called the owner of Altesi, Paolo Alavian, who defended Trump. “She walked into the restaurant and she showed the emotional-support card,” he said. “Basically, people with the card are allowed to bring their dogs into the restaurant. This is the law.”

A brief, but great read on Bubba Helms, the potbellied kid who became a symbol of the 1984 riots that followed the Detroit Tigers’ World Series victory. I’ve seen the picture many times, never heard the story behind it.

Finally, one by yours truly, which won’t be readable until after 6 a.m. Thursday, on the effort to sell Detroit — the city, not the metro area — on the GOP. It was fun to report. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Have a swell Thursday. I’m astounded the week has gone this fast, but, well, see above.

Posted at 9:17 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

It’s heeeeere.

EBOLA IS HERE. EBOLA IS HERE. PLEASE COMMENCE PANICKING IN THE STREETS.

I don’t know what else to say about ebola. Tell me there’s a disease in this country that makes you bleed from the eyeballs, and all I have to say is, “How is this different from PMS? Really?”

All jesting aside, I hope this isn’t the beginning of “The Stand” or anything. In the meantime, here’s some reading material:

The deportation of a dangerous illegal immigrant here in Detroit:

For five months, Teresa wasted in a Calhoun County jail cell, some of that time in a maximum security section, where she was placed with armed robbers and other violent criminals. She lost weight; she lost hope. Last week, just as family and friends mounted an effort to plead publicly on her behalf, she was again handcuffed and deported to Montenegro, the homeland she doesn’t remember.

“I do not even know where I am,” she said in a telephone call last Friday, her first day there. “It is surreal.”

Through a series of circumstances and events, most not of her making, Teresa Pecovic is experiencing the kind of culture shock few of us could imagine —dropped into a place travel guides despair of recommending, with limited language skills, and little chance for future reprieve.

A letter to George Clooney from an Arab guy:

Incidentally, now that you will have an Arab wife who advocates for Arab rights, if you were ever going to run for political office in America, you definitely cannot now. Unless, of course, you move to Dearborn, Michigan, where you will be swiftly elected mayor with 99.9% of the vote, Saddam-style.

One of the best condemnations of the machinery behind the Concussiongate fiasco came from my old pal Dave Jones in faraway Harrisburg. You should read.

Later, all.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events | 122 Comments
 

A bad case of Pretty.

So I was at lunch the other day, standing in line, waiting to order and pay. Things seemed to be taking a long time, and as I got closer, I could see why: The cashier was a flirt, and sort of all-thumbs. The credit-card swiper gave her problems, but she smiled and cocked her head prettily and seemed very bent on every (male) customer getting a few moments of her intense focus. She was no raving beauty, but she was cute enough, had a nice figure, a tight T-shirt, and the ineffable glow of Youth.

It was my turn. The bill was $9.81. I gave her a $20 bill and a penny. She stood over the cash drawer, staring down at it like she could transform it with the power of her gaze. (After all, it worked on the men.)

“I’m sorry,” she finally said. “What do I owe you?”

“Ten-twenty,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I really suck at math.”

“You’ve picked the right career, then,” I said.

I offer this anecdote mainly as a tiny glimpse of what it’s like for members of the non-pretty community to confront the realities of life, where a cute face, a snug T-shirt and an inability to make simple change qualifies you to be…pretty much anything, I bet. I guess I should be grateful she was only making change in an inexpensive restaurant and not running a nuclear reactor, but I bet there are a a few of her out there doing that, too.

A bit of bloggage:

Dexter and my other Wolverine fans, here’s John U. Bacon on the ongoing problems with the University of Michigan athletic program, and you might be interested. The football team’s problems have been well-covered, and this week a humiliating ticket-dump was revealed: Two tickets to the Minnesota game with the purchase of two bottles of Coke:

Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.

Michigan fans may be irrational about their love for the Wolverines, but they’re not stupid about their money. Their Saturday habit developed over a lifetime, but they can break it in a week.

I hear constantly from fans of other programs that their team is heading in the same direction. The question is, will other schools learn from Michigan’s mistakes in time to avoid Michigan’s troubles?

In case you’re wondering, yours truly was the unnamed colleague accused of lying in this bit of inside Bridge baseball. As you all know, I am a fearless teller of the truth. Yes, your ass looks fat in those pants.

Finally, not exactly an OID story (it happened in the Twin Cities just a couple years ago), but just one of the many reasons I love living here: Non-stop mayhem. Not that it’s good when infrastructure collapses and kills people, but life here is never boring, even for an adrenaline junkie. And OID would one of the first drivers on the scene be the Detroit Lions quarterback.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments