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.


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

The rogue.

A link I forgot to post yesterday, from Tuesday’s Free Press (and I apologize in advance for the auto-playing video piece): A story about what can happen when one — just one — bad cop gets the right job. It starts with an anecdote about a regular guy who gets the crap beaten out of him by three cops for “resisting arrest” after being caught urinating in the parking lot of his own small-town bar. And gets, in time, to the nut graf:

(Police chief Victor) Pierce’s critics say there have been other examples of aggressive policing lately, and question why Pierce needs nearly three dozen, non-certified reserve officers to protect a population of 3,900 with the most serious crimes generally theft and burglary.

The department also has two Humvees and two armored personnel carriers received free of charge from the U.S. Department of Defense for a township with only four full-time officers.

This — the militarization of ordinary police — has been a national story, and the Freep found the perfect local example, with the added fillip of a chief who has been… well, let him tell you:

Pierce, 56, a former Battle Creek police sergeant, recently told the township board, “I have preached a vision and the Lord put me here for a reason.”

I think I’ve mentioned before that my own peaceful, leafy city also got an armored personnel carrier recently, for the low low cost of Free, thanks to Uncle Sam. It rankles me just the same. Police work is best done in one-to-one face time with residents, by learning neighborhoods and the people who live there, not by driving a goddamn tank. And why is this chief so dedicated to flood-the-zone policing? Guess:

“So the numbers seem high but shortly after Sandy Hook (school shooting), I said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back … I don’t want all these things to happen, but shame on me if something did.”

You think living in fear is just a problem for those who do. It’s a problem for everybody.

A follow-up story suggests things may have gone too far; the chief is facing a job review, but I bet he keeps his job. And his armored vehicles. Because Sandy Hook, and terrorism.

So, then. How was y’all’s Tuesday? It rained here, and even though it wasn’t very hot, I left the air-conditioning on so I wouldn’t have to touch the woodwork and find it sticky. Slept in and didn’t swim due to some wee-hours insomnia, which has been creeping back into my life after a nice stretch without it. I’ll have to figure out what was working then that isn’t now. Probably clean living. So what did I do today? Ate a bunch of nacho cheese Doritos, which I don’t even like that much, except when I do, and today I did. I still feel sick.

We have a couple of good Bridge pieces today, underlining something I’ve always believed: There’s no squalor like rural squalor. I was up in Lake County last year to report on Idlewild, and came across a woman running a free clothing store out of a shell of an old house. Guess one of her reasons for opening it: To keep people from dumping their old clothes in the woods. Lake County encompasses vast tracts of national forest, and getting your trash hauled costs money. It’s a pretty poor place. Much of northern Michigan is pretty poor, too.

But I am rich in so many things, including you guys. So have a great Wednesday, muggy and hot or dry and cool as yours may be.

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

A Fellini movie, every day.

Sitting at a Detroit office of the Secretary of State – an office people in most parts of the world think of as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or, in Indiana, the license branch – is a strange experience. A guy across the aisle looks exactly like Slim Charles from “The Wire.” Another is dressed, head to toe, hat to sandals, in orange. (And I doubt he’s a Tigers fan. Not a stitch of blue.) There’s a grandma tending a fussy baby who, you can tell from the look on her face, is working his way up to a blowout.

A woman clears her way though an aisle, claiming loudly, “I’m just looking for a place to sit.” Ninety seconds later, she goes back the other way: “I’m just going to get a smoke.”

I’ve been told to use all the online tools — the check-in, the text alerts for when your place in line is coming up — and I do, because if there’s one thing that will ruin your day, it’s sitting that waiting room for longer than 20 minutes.

One thing I forgot: To lie about the purchase price. Damn, I forgot they were the ones who collect the sales tax.

But now the car is fully insured and legal, and woo. Time to start pouring more money into it.

The conversation yesterday about factory farms reminded me to post this story and video, about a guy I wrote about for Bridge a couple of years ago, who’s still struggling to close the deal on his urban amoeba farm, all organic. It was written by a former student, so win-win, etc. It gives me a little hope for the future.

Besides, what crisis? Toledo is free to drink the water again. What fertilizer runoff? Oops. Spoke too soon.

This doesn’t happen often around here, but often enough that it doesn’t really surprise anyone:

Harsens Island — While a woman fights for her life after being injured in a boating accident that killed her husband and another person, police said Monday they are releasing a man connected to the accident Sunday evening on Lake St. Clair.

Authorities said Monday they expected to release a 32-year-old Chesterfield Township man, whose name is being withheld because he has not been charged. He did submit to a blood test to determine alcohol levels given that police say drinking and high speed may have been factors in the collision.

…Algonac resident Alan Block, who is a local sailboat racer and senior reporter for Sailing Anarchy, was sailing in the southbound channel and was about 200 feet from the collision when it occurred.

“I came to a stop because I knew something was going to happen,” Block said. “There were two large boats — perhaps 40 footers — headed southbound and they were leaving large wakes. One of the boats looked like a fishing vessel and the other was a cabin cruiser with an upper deck. A third boat, a 25-foot Baja, which is a very fast speed boat, was headed northbound in the shipping channel doing about 45 to 50 mph.”

According to Block, the Baja failed to slow down for the large wakes caused by the bigger boats.

Here’s a headline that says read me: Kid Rock: I don’t have glass sex toy sought in Insane Clown Posse case.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t deliver.

Good Tuesdays all around.

Posted at 12:32 am in Current events, Detroit life | 20 Comments

What a wonderful weekend.

In addition to all the tsuris of the last week, I’m starting to have the sort of computer problems that are nothing but dire portents — sudden freezing, crashes, you know the drill. If I were a conscientious person, I’d have spent a chunk of Sunday at the Apple store. But you know what I did instead?

I went to the pool. First I did yoga, then rode my bike to the pool. I swam no laps, but practiced my back float and lazy sidestroke. I was haphazard with my sunblock, so I have some rosy spots here and there. Then I came home and Alan fixed me a Moscow mule. It was delicious and precisely what I needed. The last 10 days have been all work. I needed a little play, and I got some.

And now I have a new car, the Grosse Pointe mommiest car possible — a 2006 Volvo XC70 wagon. Five cylinders, meh gas mileage, but safe and all-wheel-drive, which after last winter feels like pulling into a safe harbor. It’ll hold all the DVAS plus most of their gear. It’ll hold a bike or two. It’ll hold a lot of stuff. That’s sort of what Volvo wagons are known for — their holding capabilities. That, and their safety features. This thing has everything but an iPod jack, but I’m going to call around on that today and see what the damage is to have one installed after-market. I’m sure, in 2006, the Swedes thought this iPod thing was just a fad and there was no need to alter their world-famous design to accommodate such a silly gewgaw.

And on top of everything else, we had comp’ny Friday night, although it was J.C. and Sammy, who are always welcome. We took them out to meet some of our Detroit friends, and a good time was had by all. At least I think so. How bad can an evening be when everyone unites in shared hatred of the waitress? She treated us like we had ebola. Of course I tipped her 20 percent.

Fortunately, I have some great bloggage.

If you asked me if I would like to read a mid-length essay about a man’s love for his cat, I’d have said, “Why, no, but thanks for asking.” Which is why I’m glad I overcame my snap judgment to read “A Man and His Cat” on the cover of the NYT Sunday op-ed section. It’s a stitch:

I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object — a child or a lover, a parent or a friend — they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant. Konrad Lorenz confirms this suspicion in his book “On Aggression,” in which he describes how, in the absence of the appropriate triggering stimulus for an instinct, the threshold of stimulus for that instinct is gradually lowered; for instance, a male dove deprived of female doves will attempt to initiate mating with a stuffed pigeon, a rolled-up cloth or any vaguely bird-shaped object, and, eventually, with an empty corner of its cage.

Although I can clearly see this syndrome as pathological in others, I was its medical textbook illustration, the Elephant Man of the condition. I did not post photographs of my cat online or talk about her to people who couldn’t be expected to care, but at home, alone with the cat, I behaved like some sort of deranged arch-fop. I made up dozens of nonsensical names for the cat over the years — The Quetzal, Quetzal Marie, Mrs. Quetzal Marie the Cat, The Inquetzulous Q’ang Marie. There was a litany I recited aloud to her every morning, a sort of daily exhortation that began, “Who knows, Miss Cat, what fantastical adventures the two of us will have today?” I had a song I sang to her when I was about to vacuum, a brassy Vegas showstopper called “That Thing You Hate (Is Happening Again).” We collaborated on my foot-pedal pump organ to produce The Hideous Cat Music, in which she walked back and forth at her discretion on the keyboard while I worked the pedals. The Hideous Cat Music resembled the work of the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, with aleatory passages and unnervingly sustained tone clusters.

I’ve never had a cat, but all of my dogs have had approximately 7,000 diminutives. You all know Wendy, aka Wendall, Wemberley, etc. Enjoy.

Coozledad sent this thing, a sketch of life aboard the custom jet used by Led Zeppelin, Elton John, the Rolling Stones and others during their ’70s super tours. Take a look at that fake-fur spread on the queen-size waterbed and imagine what it would have looked like under a UV light. Ew.

Finally, another NYT link, for which I apologize, but it was a good Sunday paper for August: Missouri is considering adding right-to-farm to its state constitution. What a…terrible idea. Those of you who don’t live in an agricultural state cannot know how wealthy and powerful these farm-advocacy groups can be, all the while poor-mouthing about the Plight of the Farmer. And why is this happening?

…(A) coalition of state farming groups and major agriculture corporations have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take aim at the Humane Society, which led a successful fight in 2010 to regulate inhumane dog-breeding practices in Missouri.

Backers of the amendment are wary of laws that have passed in other states, like California, where voters in 2008 approved roomier living conditions for hens, and Oregon, where a rural county’s ban on genetically modified crops was overwhelmingly passed in May.

…Opponents have protested that the amendment would be a boon for large industrial farms that would like to avoid potential laws controlling their treatment of animals or the environment, allowing them to pollute the land, extend the use of genetically modified crops and freely experiment with the use of antibiotics in livestock, a trend that has concerned scientists.

As someone who lives in an urban area a lot of people are hot to farm (and are farming), I can tell you these laws are all written to favor rural landowners and their interests. If I lived in my native state (St. Louis born!), I’d be voting no.

Seriously. You know why half a million people in Toledo are without water today, why it can’t even be boiled to safety? Algae blooms caused by agricultural runoff. Imagine these folks with a constitution backing them up.

But I vote yes on this upcoming week, and hope yours is wonderful. I sure hope mine is.

Posted at 12:31 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments

Whining again.

I really do apologize for being such a craptastic blogger of late. It’s not going to get better for a while, but it will get better. This has truly been the week from purgatory, and simply unrelenting. Lots of tasks, normally something I like, but it was a big pile and I didn’t get the most important ones done, which means – well, you know what it means. More work.

But it’s purgatory, not hell. Like wearing an itchy sweater. Although it didn’t help that I got rained on during my afternoon dog-walk. The sun stayed out the whole time, but it rained pretty hard. Hollywood rain, but no rainbow.

So, then:

Here’s Charlotte’s neighbor, the famous poet. Boy, does he look every day of his 75 years or so. I’ve grown exasperated with Jim Harrison in recent years, but there are some good lines in a breezy read. Worth a click.

We have a proposal on the August ballot, what should be a simple approval of an allegedly revenue-neutral change in the tax laws. There’s no opposition, both D’s and R’s agree, and? It’s not doing so well. I liked this comment from a local expert:

The fact that almost all the politicians in the state are supporting the proposal might have been valuable 40 years ago, when many people genuinely trusted state government. But today, it’s more like hearing that all the mafia families have gotten together and are hatching big plans.

And that’s about all I have. Let’s get through the weekend and see what happens.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments

Cliff’s Notes theater.

I’ll give Mitch Albom this: The guy has no shame whatsoever, and a nearly Oprah-perfect common touch. Another writer, tasked with a play about a beloved baseball announcer, might have searched for a little chiaroscuro, a few shadows, something, anything to give all that lovin’ a little dimension. Not Mitch. For “Ernie,” his tribute to Detroit’s late and beloved Ernie Harwell, he will have no truck with shadows, nor shades of gray, nor anything that might taint the rosy picture so many Detroiters have of their late hero. The worst thing “Ernie” says about Ernie is that he worked very hard, and his beloved wife Lulu had to spend a lot of nights alone.

And so it was that my friend Dustin and I took in this dose of Albom, something I never thought I’d do. But I park in the garage attached to the theater, and when the posters went up for this annual cash-extraction exercise for sentimental Tigers fans, conveniently scheduled on game days, now in its four year, I had a change of heart.

“Dustin,” I said. “It’s time for us to see ‘Ernie.'”

“OK,” he said.

I was hoping he’d put up more of a fight. But I bought the tickets.

The play, like Mitch’s books, seems a bare minimum of effort (85 minutes; you get the idea it was kept short to eliminate the need for embarrassing bathroom breaks by its elderly audience). It’s set on a nearly-bare stage, with two characters – Ernie and “the boy.” The boy wears knickers, knee socks, high shoes and a newsboy’s cap. I think of him as the personification of the author’s belief that everything was better in the world when times were simpler and boys wore knickers. He’s played by TJ Corbett, with lots of jazz-handsy, run-around-the-stage energy. Ernie is played by Peter Carey with a Georgia accent and an old man’s shuffle that keeps threatening to reveal the younger one beneath.

It’s set in a tunnel at Comerica Park, just offstage, as Ernie prepares to receive an accolade from the organization that employed him for so long. But there’s a rain delay, and the kid in knickers shows up to prompt Ernie through “a broadcast of his life” in “nine innings,” and no, I’m not kidding. So we’re basically talking a monologue, interrupted by the knickers kid, and that’s a heavy lift for an actor, so respect.

Along the way, and this should not surprise you, we learn a lot about the playwright. The phrase “kids today” is repeated more than once. There’s a sneering reference to “Faceplace,” i.e., that website my daughter wouldn’t be caught dead on. The World Series-winning ’68 Tigers “really pulled us all together,” after “the racial strife and riots,” which are given exactly that much attention – five words. There’s reference to fans doing the wave, something I’ve only seen at football games, but what do I know? I’m no sportswriter.

I started jotting down random platitudes lines: “Never judge a man by what others say about him.” “None of them are texting.” “Believe in yourself; God has a plan for everyone.”

I have a friend who reveres Harwell, and on any given day, he can summon up half a dozen lines of his radio patter, the pitcher who “kicks and delivers,” the batter walked for “excessive window shopping.” The ones that turn up in every nostalgia story are the ones we hear here: “Loooong gone,” and the one about “standing like a house by the side of the road.” Similarly ignored is any mention of how the game changed toward the end of Harwell’s career; while Mark Fidrych gets in there, the story about him having sex with a girl on the pitcher’s mound, needless to say, doesn’t make it. Hey, family audiences. Even his firing, during the Monaghan era, is glossed over.

There’s nothing new here, no particular insight into the man’s character, no message about the human condition you could name, other than here was a really nice man and we all wish he were still alive, so here’s a guy to impersonate him for 85 minutes. It’s theater for the Faceplace age.

So at the end of an hour and a half, what you’re left with is an extended version of the Albom obit that is helpfully included in the program, all sweetness and light and puppies and goo. We were probably the youngest people in the house.

A little bloggage to get us into the weekend? Well, OK:

The director of the Ohio State marching band gets cashiered after an internal investigation showed the place featured only slightly less over-the-top, sexually themed harassment than a strip bar next to an oil field. If your team ever played Ohio State, you’ll want to check this handy songbook and learn what they were singing about your band in the locker room.

Tom & Lorenzo do the important work of summer fashion blogging, i.e., putting together a few snaps of Taylor Swift leaving the gym.

Dahlia! Dahlia! Dahlia takes on the two-hour execution in Arizona this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a ritual that has become increasingly—indeed almost numbingly—familiar, the state of Arizona administered a secret drug protocol that took almost two hours to kill a man. Joseph R. Wood III was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. The murder was gruesome, and Wood was guilty. He shot his victims in the chest at close range. The only question that remains, as yet another state botches yet another execution, is whether the two hours of gasping and snorting by the accused before he finally died is excessive, or whether it sounds about right to us.

Love me some Dahlia. And now I love me some weekend, and I hope you do, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 76 Comments

Back to the grind.

I bused it into work today — ozone action alert — to find myself all alone in our little office. First day back from vacation, and apparently I missed the memo about everybody working in Ann Arbor today. No problem. It was a hot day, and I had a lot to do. So I sat in the air-conditioning and went for a short bike ride at lunch and that was that.

Actually, as working Mondays go, it’s pretty good. I love summer, riding past the baseball stadium on the way to lunch, where my favorite pizzeria was CLOSED?!? Well, damn. It was still a lovely day. And there were some good links. This one was horrifying:

Vassar — When people opposed to housing young Central American immigrants here claimed the youths worked for drug cartels, Adam Barden was frustrated.

When the opponents attended demonstrations armed with semi-automatic rifles, he was perplexed.

And when they threatened to boycott his hardware store for not agreeing with them, he got angry.

Yep, the debate over the Central American children has washed up in Michigan. It’s happening everywhere. And the protestors are open-carrying. This will surely work out wonderfully.

So, change of subject? How about this one? I swear, I don’t know why any of the big billionaires waste their money in Washington; the real power can be wielded in state legislatures, and the prices are so much lower:

Missouri is the only state in America that has declined to keep a prescription drug database — the primary tool the other 49 states use to identify people who acquire excess prescriptions for addictive painkillers and tranquilizers, as well as the physicians who overprescribe them. …But while proponents say the vast majority of the Legislature supports the measure, it has been blocked by a small group of lawmakers led by State Senator Rob Schaaf, a family physician who argues that allowing the government to keep prescription records violates personal privacy. After successfully sinking a 2012 version of the bill, Mr. Schaaf said of drug abusers, “If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool.”

See how easy? One guy can gum up the works.

And speaking of one guy, how about a Kennedy? RFK Jr. and his mad crusade against thimerosol, the boogieman chemical of the anti-vaxxers:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine, no evidence supports a link between thimerosal and any brain disorders, including autism. But parental concerns of such an association in the 1990s spurred vaccine fears. This owed to a confluence of factors: highly publicized warnings of mercury-contaminated fish; rising awareness and diagnoses of autism; and vaccines added to the childhood schedule. The CDC urged vaccine makers to remove thimerosal as a precautionary measure.

Some parents took this as proof of thimerosal’s harm. The controversy, which Kennedy helped fuel in the 2000s with a notorious, widely publicized article, prompted additional vaccine fears that linger to this day.

The greatness was rinsed out the Kennedys a generation back, but the publicity remains.

A new week! It’s going to be a hot one. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 31 Comments

Some housekeeping.

First, an announcement and some general air-clearing: There may be gaps here in the next few days, and over the course of the summer. I’ll be doing some traveling next week for my book project, and I won’t necessarily be near wifi and all the rest of it. And then I will need to double down on the book project, so that might mean some dark nights or days. I think I will put up lots of photo posts this summer, sort of like T-Lo’s lounge posts, for general chitchat in the comments and something to look at in the bargain.

Next week I will be in a pretty place for a couple of days. (Mackinac.) So we’ll start with that.

And today, I’m a little wrung out. Slept badly, drove a long way (to Lansing), drove back. Thank God for the iPod, so I could sing, loudly, all the way home. I love me some public radio, but after a while, the only thing that keeps my heart beating is the original cast recording of “Oklahoma!”

Gonna give you barley, carrots and potaters, pasture for the cattle, spinach and tomaters — that’s my favorite line.

Hello, am I ever out of gas. So.

J-Lo, don’t ever change. Don’t ever change the batshit outfits and especially don’t change your makeup.

Taylor Swift, optimist, takes apart the contemporary music business. Of course I don’t believe she wrote a word of it, but nice try.

He shot his eye out, kid: Local TV weather guy loses an eye messing around with fireworks.  Not at my neighbor’s house.


Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 35 Comments