Fewer followers.

Hey. So how’s your week going? Mine’s OK, the usual roller coaster of I-don’t-have-time-for-this and Oops-forgot-I-have-to-do-that, but I’m maintaining. The incredibly detailed to-do list is working, for now. But messy.

So let’s just hop bunny-quick to the news. What is today’s outrage?

The president is mad at Twitter, yawn. Barack Obama has 106 million followers, Trump not quite 60 million. I’m sure that has nothing to do with his displeasure. Anyway, in a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey yesterday:

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

But Twitter long has explained that follower figures fluctuate as the company takes action to remove fraudulent spam accounts. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s work to enforce its policies, according to the source, who described the meeting as cordial.

Looks like Dorsey took off the stupid hat he wears in recent pictures, but did not put on a tie:

Well, I wouldn’t, either.

One of my favorite spots in Eastern Market is closing, because the area is changing quickly, and the new landlord appears to want more money from the deli than they’re willing to pay. The dispute is officially over a $50,000 floor repair; the landlord has spent $20 million buying buildings over the last couple of years, but is balking at a $50,000 repair on one of the market’s best-loved businesses. Anyway, I wrote a thing about it. Maybe you’d like to read it.

Finally, a story this weird could only come out of anti-vax land, or whatever you call it. Goopville, maybe:

This world is full of surprises, some of them involving anti-vaccine activists, sedated bears, and the small-scale production of literal fake news. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was working on a quick, weird story about an anti-vaccine activist in Florida who was attempting to hold a rally in her hometown featuring a drugged bear. As it turns out, that’s not the story at all. Here, instead, is a story about someone who worked extremely hard to generate a news cycle involving a rally that they clearly have no intention of ever holding and a real activist who had no idea her name was being used. The bear also seems to be fake, and—despite my initial, hopeful understanding of the situation—is not named Ron.

Anyway, it’s funny. Me, I gotta run. Ciao!

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Media | 63 Comments
 

Inferno.

I guess the talk today was about Notre Dame, about which I have this to say: Very sad news. I really don’t know what else to add, but maybe this: What sort of people look at an event like this an immediately try to warp it into their paranoid world view, in which the Mooslims are responsible? I mean, have they ever read the police and fire briefs in their local paper? “Firefighters believe the blaze began in the roof space, likely started by a spark from a worker’s blowtorch” — that’s a sentence I have read approximately nine million times. As Neil Steinberg noted today: The roofers did it. The roofers always did it. Writing about another church fire, years ago in Chicago, he notes:

It’s ALWAYS the roofers. Do you realize how many public buildings burn during roof work? Two years ago, the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton caught fire. In 2002, we almost lost another Louis Sullivan building, the magnificent Carson, Pirie Scott Building downtown, when roofers set the place on fire, and exploding propane tanks sent burning debris showering onto State Street. In 1999, it was another black church, St. Stephen AME Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the city, that was burned, destroying the roof and charring the walls. I’m telling you, roofers are worse than the Klan.

OK, that’s a bit extreme. It isn’t always the roofers. Countless roofers are reading this now, with their coffee and doughnuts, waiting for the supervisor to show up, and if there were ever a group that could tar and feather a guy, it’s roofers. So we should recognize that other trades also torch the places they’re supposed to be fixing. In 1998, the 120-year-old Barrington United Methodist Church burned to the ground when workers repairing a window burned a hole through the wall. Old churches are generally tinderboxes that could be set on fire with an ice cube.

That said, roofing is a particularly nasty, smelly, extra-dangerous business involving open flames and hot tar, which burns like napalm.

Fires are scarce these days, relatively speaking; you can credit GFCI plugs and outlets, as well as smoke detectors. Where I live, we don’t have full-time firefighters. We have “triple-trained” “public safety” officers, i.e. cops with firefighting gear in the trunk. They handle EMS, too. We have the trucks and all, and a staffing system so the garage is covered and they’re ready to roll, but fire is, blessedly, less of a concern than it once was. But Steinberg is right — old churches, and lots of old buildings, are just waiting to erupt into flames. Add cutting torches, and it’s only a matter of time.

You just hope it never happens at a place like the Notre Dame cathedral. And then it does. And you watch these crabbed, broken, twisted, awful people try to fundraise off it. Not to rebuild the church, but to stoke the fires of paranoia. It’s so repellant. If I ever have to peddle fear to make a living, just shoot me in the head.

And in just about 24 hours, I don’t want to hear any more about fires. Especially Notre Dame. I’ve looked at all your vacation photos on social media. I’m full.

Someone asked why Michigan has the highest auto-insurance rates in the nation. A few mentioned no-fault, but that’s not it. No-fault insurance is like no-fault divorce: Better. Instead of “you got hit, let’s figure out who’s at fault and recover from him/her,” it’s “you got hit, let’s fix it.” Michigan does have an unusual wild card — our catastrophic-care law, which decrees that if you are injured in a motor-vehicle collision, you can get the care you need, with no cap. A good thing! But under the law, health-care providers can charge whatever they like for that care, and the catastrophic-care fund must pay. There’s no negotiation, no agreed-upon prices. So an MRI related to an auto accident may well be billed at three times what it would be in a hospital. It’s lunacy.

So it’s not the service that’s provided, but the way it’s provided, that causes the problem. It wasn’t implemented well, and it’s quite difficult to change.

I think of cases like this when I read about all the vital functions of government that conservatives want to delegate “to the states.” Clarence Thomas wrote in one recent opinion that the states could figure out their own libel laws. Um, have you ever been to a state, Clarence Thomas? Visited the legislature? You might be surprised.

Let’s just call this Mueller Report II Eve and be done with it. It’s going on Wednesday. Hump Day, and I’m going to bed.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Current events | 89 Comments
 

Paint by numbers, but not bad.

I am absolutely not a fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, although I did like “Munich,” but that was probably because Eric Bana wore pants cut ’70s-style (with those big belt buckles that only emphasize his hard flat lower abdomen and swoon…). Also Daniel Craig and also that Irish guy, Ciarán Hinds. It started with his wildly successful early work, all those children’s faces turned up in a golden-lit closeup, blah. Work out your boring childhood neglect somewhere else, dude. But even his later, “mature” work left me barely more than lukewarm; I’m thinking about “Lincoln” here. Spielberg paints in primary colors, leads his audiences along well-trod paths with a big orange RIGHT THIS WAY FOLKS flag in hand.

I further acknowledge I am in the minority here, and that’s fine. I might not have watched “The Post” if I’d known it was a Spielberg deal; for some reason I thought Ron Howard directed it. And while it had the usual problems I mentioned, along with a few more, I liked it pretty well, even though I fell asleep for a few minutes along the way.

The story of how the New York Times and Washington Post competed to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 is established history, and is the capsule plot description, which is maybe why I avoided it – journalism movies leave me cold for the most part. It should have been called “How Katharine Graham Got Her Groove Back,” which is closer to what the story is about, just as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” should have been bundled as the Steven’s Parents Were Cold and Neglectful Collection.

What saves it is the cast. Which is, as it was in “Lincoln,” stellar to the last man and woman. Forget Hanks and Streep. There’s also Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood (in a hilarious Robert McNamara ‘do), Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, OMG it was a delight. Some of these folks got one or two scenes, but they all held their own against the megastars at the top of the bill, and even though you knew how it would end and the script was pretty much paint-by-numbers, it was still fun to watch. I may not like Spielberg, but he knows how to wrangle a cast, evidently.

:::pause:::

I wrote all of the above thinking “The Post” came out for Oscar season in 2018, and just discovered no, it was the year previous. So forgive me. I did my taxes this weekend and some work today, so it wasn’t much of a weekend. We have to pay this year, so I’m particularly happy about that, as you can imagine. America just feels greater and greater to me these days.

Starting this week, I will not be concerned with silly movies, anyway. Rather, I will be speaking in a British accent, which is actually a Westerosi accent, with occasional lapses into High Valyrian. Yes, “Game of Thrones” kicks off next Sunday, and I will be So There. If you don’t watch and don’t care, keep your yap shut, because I’m into it. And I’ve been waiting a long time for this final season.

Some bloggage to consider:

Rick Reilly on presidential cheating at golf:

And it’s not just the cheating. It’s the way he plays the game—with all the golf etiquette of an elephant on Red Bull. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. He’s definitely Made Golf Gross Again.

He drives his golf cart on greens. He drives it on tee boxes. He never, ever walks, even on the courses he owns that have banned carts (Trump Turnberry.)

…It stinks because we were finally getting somewhere with golf. It used to be an elitist game, until the 1960s, when a public-school hunk named Arnold Palmer brought it to the mailmen and the manicurists. Then an Army vet’s kid named Tiger Woods brought it to people of color all over the world. We had ultracool golfers like Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy, and pants that don’t look like somebody shot your couch, and we’d gotten the average round of golf down to $35, according to the National Golf Foundation.

We were finally making the game cool and healthy and welcoming, and along comes Trump, elbowing his way into the front of every camera and hurling my sport backwards 50 years to its snobby roots.

I’ve been indifferent to golf my whole life, having been raised in Jack Nicklaus’ hometown, and can at times be hostile to it — the overbuilding of courses near ecologically sensitive rivers in northern Michigan, to name but one burr under my saddle — so I don’t give a shit whether Trump is ruining it. But this is a good read.

My editor at Deadline Detroit was raised by Yiddish-speaking parents, so it’s safe to say that in a few months I feel I’ve picked up enough of the allegedly dead language to move into a 19th-century shtetl and at least be able to indicate that I’m a meshuggeneh shiksa from the future and would maybe enjoy a little schmaltz on a piece of rye bread, thanks so much. Anyway, I know what he’d say if he could see the photo accompanying this story: A shanda.

The animals take their revenge. In Africa.

OK, let’s get the week ahead moving, shall we?

Posted at 5:15 pm in Current events, Movies | 57 Comments
 

A dry spell.

Here’s something I found really interesting lately:

The share of U.S. adults reporting no sex in the past year reached an all-time high in 2018, underscoring a three-decade trend line marked by an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people.

At first glance, it looks like simple demography; in an aging country, aged people simply have less sex, for the usual reasons. Here’s the interesting part:

But changes at the other end of the age spectrum may be playing an even bigger role. The portion of Americans 18 to 29 reporting no sex in the past year more than doubled between 2008 and 2018, to 23 percent.

It’s because they’re not partnered:

For most of the past three decades, 20-something men and women reported similar rates of sexlessness. But that has changed in recent years. Since 2008, the share of men younger than 30 reporting no sex has nearly tripled, to 28 percent. That’s a much steeper increase than the 8 percentage point increase reported among their female peers.

There are several potential explanations for this, Twenge said. Labor force participation among young men has fallen, particularly in the aftermath of the last recession. Researchers also see a “connection between labor force participation and stable relationships,” she said.

I don’t know about you, but I find this worrisome. Not only for economic reasons, but because sexually frustrated young men are dangerous. Men with no prospects, sexual or otherwise, have been the engine of social upheaval throughout human history. Times change, people don’t. A man who can’t find a human partner is not going to be happy with masturbation forever.

It’s an interesting story. I recommend it.

Have you been following the great Leggings War? I know the Notre Dame skirmish was a topic here last week, but this is nothing new. Ruth Graham explains in Slate:

It’s fitting that Maryann White’s jeremiad against the troublesome trousers sprang from an encounter in a church. The leggings debate takes on a special urgency in Christian circles, where the stakes are not just which pants are flattering, but which pants are godly. Modesty is a virtue named in the New Testament, and lust is a sin. But the Bible unhelpfully does not include original illustrations. Does modesty require covered shoulders? Long skirts? Or just a spirit of not “trying so very hard to look good in all the ways that are so relatively unimportant,” while also, of course, looking traditionally feminine? Meanwhile, huge swaths of mainstream Christian culture are almost indistinguishable aesthetically with mainstream American culture, and even take pains to imitate it. The result is that many young Christian women feel perfectly comfortable wearing leggings, while others see them as not just unflattering but immoral.

The result is seemingly endless cycles of debates within the Christian community about the communal ethics of spandex, a hothouse version of the broader cultural debate. “Modesty, Yoga Pants and 5 Myths You Need to Know”; “To the Christian Men and Women Debating Yoga Pants”; “Yoga Pants and What the Bible Really Says About Modesty”; “Should Christian Women Wear Leggings?”; “Why I Chose to No Longer Wear Leggings”; and my personal favorite, “Leggings: A Catholic Man’s Perspective.” For what it’s worth, America is doing pretty well right now by traditional measures of Christian morality: Teen abstinence is up; teen pregnancy is down; divorce is down. The visible-butt revolution has not ruined us yet.

That second graf, in the original, is full of links. Follow a few; this is a topic some people are simply obsessed with. From the Catholic man’s perspective:

Many of my brothers struggle with pornography and are trying to rewire their brains to be clean from all the horrible things they’ve seen in porn. When a woman in real life walks by in an immodest outfit – say, a crop top, something low-cut, something sheer, or something very tight (like leggings), the visual of those body parts can recall images from porn to the front of their brains. It’s extremely hard to purify the brain, and we desperately need your help.

My goal is to get men to treat you more respectfully, and I’m simply asking you to treat us that way, too. Not only does dressing modestly help protect you, it helps protect us, too.

Got that? You must dress “modestly,” whatever that is, because your butt might recall images from porn.

Here’s what I don’t get: Why are leggings bad, but jeans, almost all of which are tight, are not? Don’t they both trace the curve of one’s bum?

Everybody is crazy.

It’s a great midweek blog, isn’t it? Mostly others’ work. But we have the demise of World Net Daily to celebrate, so that’s a good thing.

Posted at 9:17 pm in Current events | 75 Comments
 

Sunday again.

Oh, hello Sunday. I was just thinking, in one of those weirdly linked slide shows that happen in our brains, the following:

The Spanky and Our Gang song, “Sunday Will Never be the Same,” 52 years old this year. When it was released in 1967, a 50-year-old song was…Googling…“Over There,” which tells you something. “Sunday Will Never be the Same” was licensed for a commercial in the mid-’80s, for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I remember seeing it at the time, when I was visiting a friend there. It was beautifully shot, promoting the new and improved Sunday edition, showing Clevelanders waking up, starting the coffee, retrieving the big fat paper from the porch, enjoying it with their pancakes and eggs. When I got back to Fort Wayne, I saw that my paper, too, had a new commercial. It used a public-domain recording of “The Blue Danube Waltz” and bargain-basement production – a series of overhead shots of anonymous hands tearing coupons, articles, etc., out of the paper, scored to the dat-dat, doot-doot rhythms of the music. The tagline: “Worth tearing into.” How wonderful to be one of those Clevelanders, able to smile and relax and find enjoyable things in the paper, instead of opening it to read about human shitstain Alex Jones, and how he fueled the paranoid fantasies of a Sandy Hook truther, who fixated in particular on Avielle Richman, one of the dead students. Avielle’s father committed suicide recently, of course. The truther is named Wolfgang Halbig, and dig this, peeps:

Another parent, Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah died in the same classroom as Ana, reported the abuse, and after six years of appeals, Twitter suspended Mr. Halbig’s account last month. Mr. Pozner founded the HONR Network, a nonprofit combating online hate, after Noah was targeted by the conspiracy theorists.

The boldface is mine, of course. It only took six years of a certified lunatic clamoring for autopsy photos and receipts for crime-scene cleanup for Twitter, that temple of free speech, to do something about it. How honorable. Meanwhile, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, came to Detroit last week for something-or-other, and either he or his staff posted a couple pix of themselves, one in front of the Motown Museum, and every single person in the pictures is white. Give ’em six more years, and maybe they can find some staffers of color.

Anyway, I guess what I’m thinking is: Sunday will never be the same. I used to like Sunday. Brunch! Friends! Sunday Funday! Now, too often, it’s just another work day, starting with the morning paper.

Oh well. Truth be told, there were some great reads this weekend:

This Frank Bruni column is getting a lot of shares, for good reason. It’s about why we are less enamored of trendy restaurants as we age:

I was once under 50. I’m now over that mark. And it’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.

I’d advance a side argument: It’s restaurants, and what they’ve become, too. I’m an adventurous eater, and never mind trying something new. But I hate many new restaurants, not for the food, but the atmosphere, mainly the noise. If this is a sign of aging, so be it, but man — the cacophony in many of these places is simply off the charts. You can Google up a dozen stories about why that is, but I find it really off-putting to have to lean in and yell at your tablemates, which only makes the problem worse.

And while we’re on the subject of restaurants, you might enjoy this column from the Detroit News, about a century-old columnist for the Jewish News here in Detroit. Danny Raskin wears an obvious toupee, and has so much joie de vivre, you understand why he’s still kicking at 100. Even if centenarians don’t interest you, read until you get to the Purple Gang story.

Finally, many thanks to LA Mary for finding this. I let my New Yorker subscription expire, so I’m stingy with my clicks, and this one is worth it, about the strange story of Shen Yun. If you live in a city of any size, you’ve likely seen the Shen Yun billboards, which are utterly ubiquitous in Detroit, or were, before the Chinese dance troupe performed here earlier this month. I didn’t know what it was other than “something Chinese and dance-y,” and neither did the New Yorker writer. But it’s something…more.

With that, it’s on to cleaning up what I didn’t get done last week and compiling an unreasonable to-do list for next week. Sunday Funday!

Posted at 11:33 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Some thoughts at week’s end.

OK, then! Back-to-back 12-hour days, my legs are sore, I feel fat as hell and now, god help me, I’m taking advantage of the next hour or so by watching a Tyler Perry movie on Amazon.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Tyler Perry movie. Some people I kinda-sorta knew when the film tax credits were going strong in Michigan now work a lot in Georgia, and they work in Perry’s film factory quite a bit. And a factory it is, pumping out morality plays, but what the hell, it’s a living. The people I know who work on films have a different measure of whether one is any good. Do the checks clear? Then it’s good. Good enough, anyway.

Boy, does this movie suck. Have you ever heard of a simple car accident not bad enough to crinkle a bumper giving a woman “ruptured ovaries?” Yeah, me neither. “Acrimony” — look it up. Even Taraji P. Henson can’t save it.

So now the weekend is approaching. It feels like breaking a tape, but mainly it’s just a matter of making lists of things to do, then doing them, then starting it all again next week.

I hope there will be some reading.

Some things you might be able to read:

I know you’re sick of Roseanne Barr — so am I. Worth reading, anyway.

A friend posted this on her Facebook, and the first comment was, “Nikki Haley can go fuck herself.” Headline: What it’s like living in a country where giving birth costs $60. Second graf:

It started when presidential candidate and longtime Medicare for All advocate Bernie Sanders tweeted that it costs an average of $12,000 to have a baby in the United States, compared to just $60 in Finland — at which point former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley decided to weigh in. “Alright @BernieSanders, you’re not the woman having the baby so I wouldn’t be out there talking about skimping on a woman when it comes to childbirth. Trust me! Nice try though,” she replied, adding, “Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer.”

You know how it went, right? Finnish maternity care is superior in every way, going well beyond the famous baby box. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Nikki Haley can absolutely go fuck herself.

Here’s something I wrote the other day, about a Detroit R&B oddity who died Sunday. Deadline Detroit appreciates the clicks.

(All of the above was written Thursday night. Friday morning addendum below.)

Neil Steinberg, most definitely a top-five blogger, wrote something the other day that kinda chilled me. After a discussion of how things end, with some elegant snatches of poetry, he dropped this:

Honestly, I read the poem and, inspired, thought of posting it here and quitting the blog cold after five years. Here, figure this out, good-bye. Because whatever the world wants, this obviously is not it. Five years is plenty.

Spoiler alert: He decides to go on. But every January I pass the anniversary of this blog, which has been going on since 2001. Not every goddamn day, but most goddamn days until recently, when I shortened it to three days a week and lately it’s coming in at two. Honestly, this has been a tough winter for me, and there have been days, many of them, when I just want to pack it in. This makes me worry that I’m losing some essential edge, some drive; doesn’t a writer write because they have to? I mean, because it’s an urge, not an obligation? If I’m dry, then this is it, right? Retirement, a rocking chair, Social Security and a final wave en route to the grave? My friends are starting to retire, and an amazing number of them (which is to say, two or three) have expressed a desire to never, ever do what they did all their careers. No hobby journalism for them. They’re out, and happy to be out.

It has to end sometime. Steinberg’s been doing this five years, I’ve been at it for 18. Eighteen years when I should have been writing books, right? But so many of the people I know who write books don’t have an audience at all — they’ve dropped their work into a well of sorts, all that work for one or two respectful reviews and then, nothing. At least here I have feedback. And it’s a discipline, and that is very important for writers. Laura Lippman does 1,000 words a day. You can fritter away a lifetime intending to write, but not doing it. It’s a muscle. It needs exercise.

But man, am I tired. And it’s snowing.

I’m not quitting. And I’m not fishing for encouragement. I’m just giving you an update on why I’ve been scarce here. The blog will go on, but one day it won’t. (I’ve actually added a short letter to our estate paperwork, bequeathing the contents of this blog, all XX years of blather, comments, links, dustups, changes, all of it – to J.C. Burns, who can do with it whatever he likes. That’s assuming he outlives me. I hope he does.)

What a merry ending, eh? I am off to the gym, to re-sore my legs. Have a great weekend, all. I will be back. Promise.

Posted at 9:33 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 36 Comments
 

With the swamp-drainers.

You guys. What a week. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to have two half-time jobs, but I like both of them, so I guess I’m just going to have to figure it out. But my world is a series of spinning plates. This week, it culminated with this event, which I covered, and you can read the story here, and I’d appreciate it if you did.

But if you’re rushed: It was the We Build the Wall Town Hall, a traveling grift-a-palooza that stopped in Detroit last night. A sad event. It was originally scheduled for a church in Warren, which for you out-of-towners is most definitely MAGA country, but was relocated to Detroit when they outgrew the space. The organizers claimed they had more than a thousand people registered; maybe 300 showed up. They were dwarfed by one of Cobo’s zillion-square-foot halls, but what the heck, the energy was about as high as a crowd with a median age of maybe 52 could drum up. I thought what I’ve thought many times in crowds like this: This issue is resolving itself, one funeral at a time. So many gray heads, so many canes, so many of those rolling walkers. The Bikers for Trump looked like the crowd at last summer’s Steppenwolf concert, with a titanium hip for every Harley-Davidson.

Maybe the rest were scared off by having to come to Detroit, who knows.

I went because Bannon was on the bill. I originally figured he’d be a no-show, “called away by vital business,” but there he was. You’d think he’d elevate such an event, but not really, not when he’s up there with as grifty a bunch as this. Here’s the scenario: This “We Build the Wall” GoFundMe has already raised $20.6 million. People are being given the chance to back out, but — they say — few have. But let’s say have $10 million to spend. For this sum, they intend to put up parts of a wall, on private property. How easy would it be to slip away with a big chunk of that? I say not very.

Bannon is independently wealthy; he doesn’t need to hustle old people for $5 contributions. He still considers himself a person of ideas and vision. What is he doing up there with Sheriff Clarke? Just organizing? Someone with a more devious political mind, chime in. I’m really interested.

One of the books I’m reading these days is Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a critical job — staffing the parts of the government people don’t think about until they fail. It’s terrifying. Lewis concentrates on one department — Energy — but I thought of the FAA when I read this headline: Trump wanted his personal pilot to head the FAA. The critical job is still vacant amid Boeing fallout.

Lewis makes the case that not only do these departments do what everybody hates, OMG REGULATION, but play critical roles interacting with private industry in guiding that which they oversee. Running a major federal agency is not the same as flying a plane, but I guess that’s too hard to see.

Man, what a week. I’m outta here. Have a great weekend, and back on Sunday/Monday.

Posted at 12:29 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 32 Comments
 

Radio sucks.

Continuing a theme of recent weeks, I once again find myself ashamed of this stupid country. That Tucker Carlson is a pig surprises me not in the least. That he, ostensibly a serious person, appears on a radio show with someone named Bubba the Love Sponge simply depresses me.

The NPR station in Fort Wayne wasn’t running the usual news shows when I first moved there, and so for a while I contented myself with the usual morning-zoo numbnuts. This being Fort Wayne, they weren’t particularly racy, just boring dudes in baseball caps who wouldn’t have made it on the open-mic standup circuit. Lots of them were overweight. Most of them were Republicans. (They didn’t do politics, but you could just smell it on them.) Hardly any of them were even a little bit funny; a song parody was about the best they were capable of.

Every so often I’ll station-surf past one now. They’re all racy now. Crude, actually. I think there’s one team around here who make callers say “penis balls” in the course of their interactions. I try to imagine the sort of person who finds this sort of thing amusing, and come up blank. Silence, Spotify, the CBC — there are so many options around here.

I know smart people who think Howard Stern is great. I am not one of them. I flirted briefly with Don Imus, then dropped him when it became evident what a schmuck he is.

(You wouldn’t believe how much money some of these guys — and they’re all guys, with the occasional Girl Sidekick — earn, too. Imus at his peak was in the $7-million-a-year range. Bob & Tom, in Indianapolis, were around $1 million. I guess “talent” is rare, and advertisers like them, but holy shit.)

So much radio sucks. When I briefly toiled at WOWO, I was astounded at the stuff that was posted on the employee bulletin board. The don’t ask/don’t tell policy was in the news at the time, and the anti-gay stuff alone was horrible. When I mentioned something to the station manager, she said, “Well, we don’t have any gay employees.”

I still listen to public radio, and NPR, every day. I still get a little frustrated when they do those long, earnest pieces on something I can’t even muster a whisker of a care about — and I’m an empathetic person. But now I just switch to a podcast.

How’s everyone’s week going? Sorry for no Sunday. I’m trying to save my sanity by reading more for pleasure this month, and opted for self-care. Enjoying a little Scott Turow (“Testimony”) after years of not reading him. He’s the Grisham-who-can-write, for those unfamiliar.

OK, off to the showers, huge week ahead. Stay well, all.

Posted at 7:45 am in Current events | 90 Comments
 

An earlier Lent.

Well, at least I know now why I was feeling so listless on Sunday. I woke up a few hours later with a mild fever, and spent the next 24 hours feeling thisclose to barfing and swinging between that little fever and waking up in a sweaty tangle of sheets.

I’m better today, but still semi-queasy. It’s paçzki day in Detroit, and I haven’t felt even a whiff of a craving.

Paçzki are, of course, the jelly donuts that Polish folks around here — and everybody else, for that matter — eat on Shrove Tuesday. And I don’t care how many worthless stories are written about them every year, they’re fucking jelly donuts, and you can buy them at Dunkin’ all year long. So I’ll start a Lenten deprivation a little early.

I’ll be back at work tomorrow. I was “at work” Monday and today, but in a diminished fashion. But here I am, getting ready to watch the State of the City address, even though I’d rather watch almost anything else.

(Watching it now. Yep, anything else. No offense to the mayor, it’s just that these things are all the same.)

So, summing up my complaints in a bumper sticker? It just hasn’t been my year. Fortunately, it’s still young. And as my husband points out, it’s not like I have cancer or nothin’. All true.

Man, though, that Michael Jackson documentary? Chilling. Awful. Even worse is the braying from the hashtag-innocent crowd, who are simply rabid. And by rabid, I mean “diseased and crazed.” “There’s no evidence!” they cry. As though direct testimony, voluminous photos, faxes and other ephemera and classic behavior patterns somehow aren’t evidence. I think the squicky feeling I got watching it was not just my brewing stomach bug, but the feeling of…complicity, somehow. How easily the world swallowed that bullshit about the real-life Peter Pan who simply enjoyed the company of children, because he never had a proper childhood himself. Seeing shot after shot of MJ running from a hotel to a limousine, screaming fans an arm’s length away, while a little kid runs a few feet ahead of him — it was so familiar. How often did we see that in the ’80s and ’90s?

Vile.

The governor unveiled her budget proposal today, too. This happens every year. It’s usually big news when a new gov is doing it for the first time, because there are always tricks up the ol’ sleeve. Without going into the details, which aren’t all that interesting to anyone who doesn’t live there, be advised there’s a big per-gallon gas tax on the table, because our roads are in Third World condition and getting worse. There’s simply no way to finance what it would take to get them to fair — fair! — condition without more revenue. You can already see how the rest of this debate is going to go: Find the waste! No new taxes! As though $2.2 billion dollars, per year, is just sitting around, going to waste. For professional reasons, I can’t say much more, but still: Please.

For once, though, prominent conservatives are saying, essentially, we gotta do it. And if you think there’s so much waste in the system, point it out. I doubt the hashtag warriors will get far this year. But they’ll make her pay in four years. More will be revealed.

So, any bloggage? Is there anything new on the Trump Outrage beat? Well, it’s Tuesday. What do you think?

Time to go see how Ray Donovan’s going to get out of his latest fix. I’m enjoying Showtime for as long as I have it – I think it’ll expire with Kate’s graduation – and it beats Jacko’s abuse narrative.

Carry on, all. It’s Wednesday.

Posted at 8:02 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments
 

Jacko.

Do you ever get depressed around this time of year? Look out the window, watch yet another glaze of snow gently falling from the sky, consider you should be cleaning the bathroom but decide you’d rather read this Scott Turow book you picked up in New York, and then sigh deeply and wonder what’s the use, what’s the damn use? This stupid country is so screwed, what’s the damn use?

No? OK, then, carry on.

I shouldn’t be watching this Michael Jackson documentary. It’s not sitting well with what I read this morning about the president’s two-hour standup act at CPAC Saturday. Sort of like eating something bad, followed by something even worse. It’s not helping my mood.

So let’s hop to some good bloggage, shall we?

I’ve been interested for some time in pet culture — the way we treat our dogs and cats and so forth. It’s simultaneously fascinating and appalling. I know grown women who are happy to share their beds with 80-pound pit bulls. I know people who think of their dogs and cats as children. Truth be told, I think of my dog as a child, although not really. You have to respect an animal’s essential nature, which is not the same as ours. But there’s little doubt that a dog or cat in a middle-class home lives better than lots of human beings in lousier neighborhoods.

So this CityLab piece on dog parks and gentrification was interesting:

Parks and recreation departments face tremendous pressure today to dedicate more and greater space for the nation’s fur-babies, even in cities where there aren’t enough local parks for actual children. The rise of dog parks—up 40 percent over the last decade—has consequences for neighborhoods that have them as well as those that don’t. More than half of the nation’s parks departments now boast a dog park.

Back in the day, “a dog park wasn’t a thing” says Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “You walked your dog around the neighborhood. You took your dog around the block. Standards and expectations for dog owners have shifted. The culture of dog ownership has changed.”

The fancy-town dog park in the early designs for Lincoln Yards might be among the least-divisive features of this project, which closed in on as much as $1.3 billion in public funding (through a tax-increment financing scheme) last week. But it is nevertheless a small marker of disparity in the city—one that can be found all over. It’s a pattern whose consequences range from worrisome sign of neighborhood gentrification to outright structural inequality.

From the Cohen hearing fallout, more of the Best People ™:

…Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide turned federal housing bureaucrat, has long reveled in the limelight and has asked permission to star in a reality-TV show while serving as a HUD official.

Oh, but of course she did.

Finally, a bizarre story about the fake-credentialed sex doctor who buffaloed many smart people into believing him.

Back to Michael Jackson. It’s like bad medicine I have to take.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events | 37 Comments