Shut in.

Woo doggies, this heat. Mid-90s all weekend, and that is no fun, my peoples. From a glance at the weather map, it appears much of the NN.c readership knows what I’m talking about. We went sailing for a while on Saturday, and that helped, but the sun was a weapon for sure:

It was worse in northern Michigan, if you can believe that. Ninety-nine degrees at Boyne Mountain, way up near the tip of the mitten. Kate and her boyfriend went camping in the Upper Peninsula and came home a day early, after they were caught in, quote, the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen, unquote. The tent was flooded and they couldn’t get a hotel room, so they slept in the car.

When I wasn’t on the water, I tried to stay indoors. Ventured out to do some weight work at the gym, and even with the a/c on, it was still miserable. I told Alan that’s the last exercise I intend to do that’s not in a pool until this is over. I guess I’ll be spending some time in the pool.

When I was indoors, hiding from the heat, I did some reading. There was a lot of good reading to be done this weekend, so let’s get to it.

Everyone reads the New Yorker online, but I prefer the ink-on-paper version, and just saw this, so maybe it’s old, but what the hell — it’s a good read about the farce that ensued when Milo Yapyapyapalot came to Berkeley, or tried. You might recall that interlude, when he announced he’d be bringing a slate of high-profile conservative speakers to Berkeley for “free speech week,” and then it turned out the only losers who showed up were Mike Cernovich and Pam Geller, both creatures who actually live under the barrel, not at its bottom:

“Milo, what’s the deal tomorrow, man?” Cernovich said. “Are we speaking on campus? Off campus? What the fuck is going on?”

“O.K., so this hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re giving a big press conference on Treasure Island,” Yiannopoulos said. “I’m going to make my entrance by speedboat, with a camera trailing me on a drone, and we’re going to be live-streaming it all on Facebook.”

“I don’t do boats,” Geller said. “I projectile-vomit. But I love it for you, Milo, it’s a fabulous idea. I predict two hundred and fifty thousand viewers watching that live stream, at least.”

“I’ll be wearing this gorgeous Balmain overcoat—I’ll show you—with this huge fur collar,” Yiannopoulos said.

Geller and Cernovich changed the subject to Internet censorship. “They kicked me off Google AdSense,” Geller said. “I was making six figures a year from that. You can’t even share my links on Pinterest now! I’m ‘inappropriate content.’ ”

Yiannopoulos looked bored. “You guys are so selfish,” he said. “We used to be talking about me.” He turned to his stylist, a glassy-eyed, wisp-thin man, and whispered, “Go get the coat.”

They continued hashing out plans. “So we’ll walk in with you, through the streets of downtown Berkeley,” Cernovich said. “If there’s a screaming Antifa crowd, and if I maybe have to street-fight my way in and break a few noses in self-defense, that’s all good optics for me.”

“Maybe we should line up on the Sproul steps,” Yiannopoulos said, “surrounded by Berkeley students wearing ‘Defund Berkeley’ T-shirts.”

“Why don’t we march in with our arms linked together, like the Martin Luther King people, singing ‘We Shall Overcome’?” Cernovich said.

“We’ll do our thing, and then at some point the protests will turn violent,” Yiannopoulos said. “That will become the focus, and then we can just get ourselves out of there.” He reclined in his chair and smiled. “It’s all coming together,” he said.

The stylist came back with the coat, and Yiannopoulos squealed. “Pamela, is this coat to die for or what?” he said.

“Oh, my God, Milo, I’m dying,” Geller said. “It’s sick.”

He put the coat on and turned around, again and again, examining his reflection in the darkened glass of a window.

“It’s fabulous,” Geller said. “It’s sick. I hate you.”

Sorry for the long quote, which breaks my three-paragraph rule, but it’s a long piece. If you had any doubt that the whole free-speech-on-campus “crisis” was manufactured bullshit, this should settle it.

That story is like one long terrible joke. This one, on largely the same subject, isn’t:

The two (SCOTUS) decisions were the latest in a stunning run of victories for a conservative agenda that has increasingly been built on the foundation of free speech. Conservative groups, borrowing and building on arguments developed by liberals, have used the First Amendment to justify unlimited campaign spending, discrimination against gay couples and attacks on the regulation of tobacco, pharmaceuticals and guns.

We’ve lost our ambassador to Estonia, friends. (He was an Obama appointee, so no biggie.)

Finally, an essay by Virginia Heffernan you should read, on how profoundly lost the nation’s moral compass is at the moment:

There’s plenty of talk in Trump times about an assault on factual truth. But the more vicious attacks are on human perception, common sense and baseline notions of right and wrong.

…The Trump syndicate leverages this ludicrous stuff every day. It’s repeated and amplified by trolls and botnets, Fox News, far-right haranguers like Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos, and, of course, the president himself.

It gets loud.

And then the stupid inversions of reason are picked up by influential voices who should know better. Worse yet, they’re given a hearing, as American citizens are forced to sit for monotonous schoolings in the media conceit of “both sides.”

It’s really good. Me, I’m going to make tacos and edit a podcast. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 6:33 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments
 

Cloudy with a chance of anything.

A long day today. A very long day. Kind of a depressing day, given the news. Gileadian, if you catch my drift. I take consolation in one thing that I know: That you never know. You just don’t. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, it won’t be exactly the way you imagine it. Stuff happens. Wheels upon wheels turn, and then there’s our old friend Chaos who could yet throw a wrench into the whole works.

Who knew a 28-year-old socialist could defeat a cemented-in-place incumbent who outspent her almost 20-to-1? Nobody. Supreme Court justices get cancer and drop dead unexpectedly, just like your uncle. Presidents, too. No, I am not wishing for anyone’s death. I’m just saying, you don’t know.

The future could be better than you fear. It could be worse. So waste no time fretting over it. Do the work you need to do, do it well, and wait. All will be revealed.

(I think this is a line in the Tao Te Ching, in fact. I just looked it up. Close, but not quite. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful sentiment, so here you are:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you: This is no time to be zen. I get it. All I’m saying is, you can drive yourself crazy with this stuff, and you should save your strength.

Meanwhile, this is who will likely be Hope Hicks’ replacement.

What a day! Have we hit bottom yet?

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events | 51 Comments
 

Tired of this.

I have a friend that I see every few weeks or so. About five years older than I am, so…Medicare-eligible, but not old-old. Whenever I mourn the current state of affairs, he tells me not to get so fretful, that things were worse in the ’60s. He’s right. We forget, but he’s right.

Unrest in American cities — race riots (Detroit, Newark, D.C., Los Angeles, et al.) and police riots (Chicago). Families torn apart by Vietnam, one way or another, either the ones who sent their sons who never came back, or the ones where the sons refused to go, and lit out for Canada or refused induction outright. Families torn apart by even worse things, like hair or hemlines or birth-control pills. It was far worse than today, he always says.

I’m usually reassured by that. But I usually want to know how much further we’re going to slide before we come to our senses, either on our own or because some horrible, 9/11-type event slaps us silly. Today, it’s plain we have a ways to go.

I think it was Neil Steinberg who, in the days between the election and inauguration, compared that period to the clack-clack-clack feeling of the roller coaster climbing the first big hill, and we know the plunge is coming, but we don’t know what it’s going to be like, so we just have to hold on and ride it out. Today the Sun-Times published his column, with this subtle headline: Donald Trump is a racist leading our country toward disaster, so you get the idea how he thinks the ride is going.

Meanwhile, Politico is writing about the trials of being a young, single member of the administration, the Washington Post leads us into a right-wing group’s safe space for young Trump-supporting women, and Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant. Dim glimmer of amusement in Jennifer Rubin’s blog about that last incident:

Anti-immigrant zealot Stephen Miller, who pushed as hard as anyone for snatching kids from their parents, was dining in a different Mexican restaurant last Sunday when, according to the New York Post, a protester called out, “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”

Remember a couple years ago, when I wrote about the Float Down, this sort of fun, renegade floatie trip on the St. Clair River up near Port Huron? The wind picked up out of the west and blew all these drunk Americans in their inner tubes across to the Canadian side, and the Canadians rounded everyone up, warmed them up, and drove them back across the bridge to the American side? A French jogger went for a run along a Canadian beach in British Columbia and wound up on the U.S. side. She was arrested. Her mother hustled down to the immigration office with her passport, hoping to clear everything up.

She was held for two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

I’m so, so tired of this. I’m tired of current events. I want to pick up a fat novel set in someplace like Victorian England and just tune all this crap out until, oh, November, without feeling like I’m not doing my part.

I want to live in a world where the French lady would be told to turn around and head the few steps back into Canada and have a nice day. I remember that world.

Well, another weekend gone. It was a good one. The Claressa Shields fight was great, and I wrote a column about it for Deadline Detroit. I’ll add a link when it goes up.

Otherwise, let’s get to the week ahead.

Posted at 9:20 pm in Current events | 83 Comments
 

It’s not about the coat.

Guys, I feel this as strongly as my own heartbeat: The coat is a deflection. Don’t be fooled. She’s wearing the coat with the right hand, but you should pay attention to the left.

Don’t get upset about the coat. These are not normal people. Don’t rail about how they don’t get it, or don’t understand optics, or whatever. That’s all they understand. They are all about surfaces. But something larger is going on. Don’t forget that.

I mean, it’s a $39 coat. That woman doesn’t carry $39 handkerchiefs.

So. A long, busy day, but the thing about busy days is, you put on the harness on Monday and the next thing you know, it’s Thursday and the week is almost over. So there’s that.

Just one bit of bloggage to take you into the weekend: The meltdown of Qanon, and if you don’t know what Qanon is yet, you should, because it’s the craziest crazy shit that’s ever been crazed. If you’re on Twitter, follow Will Sommer and JJ McNab, both of whom keep up with the far-right fringe, and are mostly very entertaining, to boot.

Me, I gotta sleep and rest up for a big night tomorrow — the Claressa Shields fight, topping an all-female night of boxing in downtown Detroit. Can’t. WAIT.

Posted at 10:07 pm in Current events | 33 Comments
 

A new bag?

I suppose it’s a measure of my increasing disengagement with media inside baseball that I noticed this when it was happening, but didn’t register it as an issue I should care about, but I’m glad Farai Chideya (a name you public-radio people should know) said something:

I was at Harvard for two conferences last week: one on gender bias in the technology industry, the other on fighting disinformation in news. While I was at the tech conference, tweeting out notes on presenters’ data-driven studies of gender in the industry, I also composed a Twitter thread on the story the death of designer Kate Spade and the coverage of it. “The class-based assumptions in the writing are staggering,” I wrote. “From A1 lede: ‘Buying a Kate Spade bag was a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of Americans.’” What about those of us, like me, who grew up wearing a mix of clothes from Sears and JCPenney, secondhand garb, and outfits my mother sewed; and then, in college and after, continued to shop at vintage and discount stores?

Yep. That was me, too. We were a long way from poor, but my parents were Depression children, and the idea of buying overpriced accessories as a “coming-of-age ritual” for their children is laughable. College was enough of an uphill climb; a plain-but-fancy bag in a shade usually reserved for the phrase “pop of color” would have prompted my mother to raise one eyebrow and give me her you-are-kidding-right look. She was a stylish woman, but her style came from inside, not labels. I remember showing her a pair of $90 Frye boots in Glamour magazine, and her reaction was, “Layaway.” And I did — I laid them away and paid $10 every so often until they were mine.

So while I mourned Kate Spade in a general that’s-very-sad sense, I didn’t wail and gnash my teeth. Bottom line, Coach is what I consider a luxury handbag, but only the leather ones, not that C-branded crap you get at the factory outlets. And I have plenty, and don’t need any more.

This is a weekend to look forward to: J.C. and Sammy are headed our way, en route to opening their cottage in the U.P. They’re not staying over, but maybe if we pour enough likker down their throats, they’ll be forced to. It’s a good time of year to have your friends swing by, as I could rustle up a wonderful dinner from a speed-shop at the Eastern Market on Saturday. Morels are plentiful, as well as strawberries and leafy greens and all the rest of it. We split a New York strip tonight with some sautéed morels, grilled romaine and a pasta thing I sorta threw together. It’s a wonderful time of year in Michigan.

Meanwhile, do we have any bloggage? Yes.

The Divine Dahlia, on the shameful separation of families at our southern border:

Most of the women I know are as heartsick about the obscene actions taking place at the borders as I am. I think a year ago we would have been out on the streets, were the government stealing the children of asylum-seekers and refugees and sending them halfway across the country or stacking them up like lumber in detention facilities. But today, I worry, we are horrified but numb. We want to be told what to do.

I think about this numbness constantly, because I worry about normalization all day, every day. Numbness is something thrust upon us, a physical or emotional reaction to external shocks, a natural bodily response. It is also maybe a buffer we put up against the devastation of being part of a group that is constantly told it is worthless and undeserving of meaningful attention.

That we are finding ourselves unable to process or act or organize because the large-scale daily horrors are escalating and the news is overpowering is perfectly understandable. But we need to understand that and acknowledge it and then refuse it any purchase. Because to be overwhelmed and to do nothing are a choice.

God, yes. Once you live through a national crisis, what blows your mind is this: The dailiness of life never stops. You still have to put food on the table, drive kids to school. This is “normalization” of a sort, but you never stop checking yourself. What do we do? You tell me.

Hank has some thoughts on how you might spend your summer TV time. Me, I’m working my way through “The Americans,” even though I saw some spoilers about the series end, and don’t care. I love the long scenes in Russian, because — wonder of wonders — I’m understanding about 10 percent of it.

And with that, I welcome the dawn of the weekend, and hope you do, too.

Posted at 9:21 pm in Current events, Media | 50 Comments
 

New routines.

Yeesh, it is but Tuesday and I’m already hitting the wall. Part of this is, I have taken another half-time job. Two halves = one whole income, more or less, and about 50 percent less energy for me.

But once again, I’m going downtown on the bus with my bike on the front rack, and that puts a merry song in my heart. I love working at home, with Wendy as my constant companion, but there’s a lot to be said about coming into a downtown office building, and not one of those hipster co-working places with the free coffee and pop-up lunch opportunities, but an old-school lobby canteen with regular old coffee and snacks.

My boss has been bringing me a small bottle of Perrier every morning, which he picks up there. The proprietor gives him half price on the bottle, because he’s a regular. This is my new goal: $1 Perrier because I’m a regular.

I’ll post my stories when I start producing more of them. Never fear.

I think now is the time to discuss the North Korea agreement, right? As I see it, we got real concessions out of the Iranians, but that was a bad deal. From the Norks, a vague promise, but this is Nobel material. I give up.

Just a little bloggage:

Did you know that, in addition to being Prime Minister McDreamy, Justin Trudeau is also a boxer? You didn’t? Now you do.

Also, what do we think of the DeNiro thing at the Tonys? My feeling is Meh, but I got an outraged email from a Bernie supporter quoting, of all things, a Federalist piece claiming Bob gave the right a great gift by potty-mouthing the president in New York City.

Sorry for the Tuesday/Wednesday blahs, but I’m sleep-deprived. Damn birds are waking me up at 4:30 a.m., but I’ll take the longer days.

Posted at 8:15 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Blame Canada?

Greatest invention of summer: The Bluetooth speaker. With no trouble at all, you can have high-fidelity outdoor sound. No wiring required — just pair it with your phone, boot up Spotify and enjoy.

Worst invention of summer: The Bluetooth speaker. Because your neighbors, the ones who think Christian rock is the cat’s ass, all have them, too. Also, they are deaf, or at least have no concept whatsoever about what constitutes a polite volume level in a densely platted neighborhood.

I have two neighbors with these things. One I like, the other I can’t stand, even though he’s throttled way back on the behaviors that made me despise him, i.e., insane fireworks displays and shooting squirrels with a pellet gun. Now that he’s got a bomb-ass backyard speaker, he’s back on my shit list. His concert starts in late afternoon, generally with hip-hop before abruptly switching to what Kate calls butt rock, i.e. undistinguished radio filler that sounds like the lead singer is bearing down on a toilet somewhere.

The nice neighbor also has fairly terrible taste, but his problem is repetition — when he likes something, he puts it on repeat. Last summer it was Mumford & Sons, i.e., slow banjo/fast banjo/slow banjo. This year it’s something I don’t recognize, but it, too, is first cousin to butt rock, and like I said, the same few songs over and over and over. And over.

Some years ago, when we had our lake cottage, a neighbor’s speakers cranking AC/DC cycled through the same album three times before I went over to ask him to either turn it down or put on another record. The front door was standing open and our neighbor was snoring on the couch. I walked in and turned off the stereo. He never stirred.

You might ask why I don’t call the police. First, because I like the one neighbor, and I don’t think there’s a code in the Uniform Crime Reports database for lame taste in music, and as for the other one, well. I’m making it a practice not to call the police for annoyance issues. I just don’t trust police anymore, and besides, it’s a minor issue, all things considered.

Alan likes to sit on the patio in the dark on warm nights, sipping a drink and listening to KEXP out of Seattle on our own Bluetooth speaker. Turned very low. For what that’s worth.

I guess I should be glad none of the neighbors have teenagers. This was our outdoor-music alternative, as I grew up in a time before the boom box.

Anyway, how was y’all’s weekend? Mine was OK. Got a lot of stuff done, but I’m recovering from one of those bike rides where you feel great, oh let’s go fast and far, and then you get to the turnaround point and realize you are running on fumes and now have to go all the way back. If I hadn’t looked like death warmed over I’d have stopped for a hot dog somewhere, but my hair was dirty and sweaty, my legs were hairy and even a coney-island crowd would have looked askance. So I powered home, ate some leftover spaghetti, showered and went to bed with a book. All told, not a bad Sunday.

On the way, I thought about the news coming out of the G-7 conference in Quebec City, and saw a tweet somewhere that said something like, when are we going to face the reality that the President of the United States is an agent of the Russian state? Can’t disagree.

At least we had the Trooping the Colour ceremony to watch. I know it’s part of the queen’s birthday celebration, even though her real birthday is in April. I confess I don’t know exactly what it means, except that it has something to do with dressing up real fancy and riding horses in even fancier uniforms. The Royal Family’s Twitter had a bunch of pictures, but if you want to know who’s who in those big furry hats, I hope you can recognize family members from their noses, because that’s all you can see.

And speaking of horses, I watched the Belmont with my heart in my throat, once Justify jumped out to set the pace. Noooo, don’t do such a crazy thing, I thought. This is a 1.5-mile race, and its history is full of early leaders that faded to sixth place in the stretch, but Justify was the real deal, leading wire-to-wire. He was beautiful and clean for his winner’s circle appearance, whereas all the horses that had been behind him had dirt all over their chests, heads and legs. Justify’s dirt. He’s a true champion.

I’ve been enjoying David Letterman’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” at least until the Howard Stern episode, which debuted this month. Easily the weakest of the bunch, but I’ve never been a Howard Stern fan. He just isn’t interesting at all.

And now we head into the weekend, having alienated our closest and most loyal allies. Maybe we’ll be in a shooting war with Canada soon. Signs and wonders.

Posted at 6:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Anthony Bourdain.

Well, goddamnit.

Most celebrity deaths come when death is supposed to come — at the end of a long, productive life. Those don’t hurt. The ones that do are when death comes too soon, and the worst of all are when it comes by one’s own hand. I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain, but he was only 61, and leading an enviable life that showed no signs of fading. He had wealth, rewarding work, a beautiful girlfriend.

Be kind to the people you meet today, because everyone is carrying a great burden.

Damn.

If you scrolled this far, a poem for today.

Posted at 8:21 am in Current events | 52 Comments
 

No more ‘poise?’

No more swimsuit competition in the Miss America pageant.

No Rose Garden meeting for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, after nearly all the team sent regrets and the POTUS excoriated them for kneeling during the national anthem, even though none of the team members took a knee during the anthem all season.

Oh, and it’ll be a pardonpalooza in weeks ahead, we’re told:

A White House official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity said Trump is “obsessed” with pardons, describing them as the president’s new “favorite thing” to talk about. He may sign a dozen or more in the next two months, this person added. …The White House is also now weighing whether to grant a presidential pardon to two ranchers from eastern Oregon, Dwight and Steven Hammond, whose 2016 imprisonment on arson charges inspired the 41 day-armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Ranching and farming groups, as well as some militia adherents, have pushed for clemency to send a signal that federal officials won’t engage in overreach out West.

I don’t know about you, but I read all this and all I want to do is go to bed.

So I’m gonna.

Posted at 9:11 pm in Current events | 44 Comments
 

The C word.

No one asked, but I have a policy on use of what I’ll call here the C-word, not because I think it’s so terrible but because some of you read this page at work, and have informed me that your company’s firewalls may screen out certain profanity. Normally, I don’t mind coming right out and saying it, at least in appropriate company. But I’ll refrain.

So. I have a policy. It’s this:

** Men may not casually use the word to refer to women, although I grant exceptions in certain cases. For friends. Best not to drop C-bombs in my presence unless we know one another pretty well. In this, it’s sort of like the N-word policy that I hope most readers follow: Just because black folks use this word doesn’t mean white folks can. Again, some exceptions may apply, but when in doubt, don’t say it. It’s just one of those things.

** Personally, I will use the C-word only to describe a certain sort of woman, who actively works to the detriment of other women. In this category: Phyllis Schlafly; Laura Schlessinger; most of the female op-ed writers of the 1990s who opined that women with small children who continued to work “outside the home” were selfish and only doing it so they could buy Mercedes-Benzes and get a manicure every week; actresses who said the casting couch is no big deal; others. You get the idea. In the case of Ivanka, Barbara Ehrenreich appears to be following a version of this rule:

** In English-speaking Europe and in Australia, the word is an insult used on men as well as women. “Game of Thrones” viewers have probably heard it used this way, because the producers of that show are employing the old tradition of Creating New Worlds, which the show’s setting, Westeros, decidedly is: When in doubt, use British accents. And so when the Hound tells somebody he’s going to “shut your c*nt mouth,” and he’s talking to a man, that’s in line with the tradition. And speaking of high-budget HBO dramas, Marc Antony in the production of “Rome” some years back, had a swear that I always enjoyed: “On Juno’s c*nt!” So that’s OK.

Otherwise, I respect the word’s power, so I try to deploy it selectively, and only on the truly deserving.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I read my ink-on-paper Detroit News wire story that I heard the better line from Samantha Bee’s tirade, wherein she told the First Daughter, “Put on something tight and low-cut, and tell him to f*cking stop it!” Which made me laugh.

So now you’ve got it.

I expect the story of the weekend is the 20-page memo the president’s lawyers delivered to Robert Mueller in January. Of this I have nothing to say publicly. I think I heard someone on a podcast recently say they were “out of shock juice” for commenting on day-to-day outrages, and were instead fixing their gaze on November. That seems a sane strategy to follow. Also, I have a bad case of scintillating scotoma at the moment, a nuisance affliction that was hitting me twice a week a couple years ago, then went away entirely, and recently returned. I’m taking it as permission to close the laptop and take Wendy for a walk. You all enjoy your Sunday and start of the work week. I’m out.

Posted at 1:05 pm in Current events | 31 Comments