A whirl of a week, so far.

Sorry for the no-show yesterday. Remember the story I was aiming to finish by 4 p.m. Friday? It wrapped at 9:30 p.m. Monday. Complications. Still ahead of deadline, so: #winning. In the meantime, Glenn Frey died, the Michigan State of the State address happened, and about a million other things, including $arah Palin coming out for “the Donald,” as I’m 99 percent sure she calls him. The week started at a gallop for sure.

Here’s a Glenn Frey story you won’t read in Rolling Stone, from a friend of mine:

One of my dad’s friends, John, ended up at a driving range near here next to an elderly woman and broke the head off his three-iron. The woman offered to lend him one of hers and he said “No, I don’t want to break one of your clubs, too.”

She said, “Don’t worry, my son sends me new golf clubs all the time. He’s in a rock band.”

John: “What band?”

Elderly woman: “Have you heard of the Eagles?”

John: “Who’s your son?!”

Woman: “Glenn Frey, dear.”

John: “OK, I’ll take a club.”

Frey was from Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb. Good one.

I didn’t see any of the Palin endorsement. Did she use the phrase “shake things up?” I don’t think I’ve heard a single phrase used so often in connection with one candidate; it’s like there was a memo I missed, or something. Actually, I kind of miss $P. With the fading of her star, I haven’t seen her strangely angled face – which looks weirder by the year, and I can’t tell if it’s weight loss bringing out new bones, plastic surgery or something CLAWING TO GET OUT – and her daffy word-salad statements. Seeing her reminds me of all the Republican men I knew who were so, so taken with her at first, and how they soured on her the way you do a one-night stand who immediately starts texting nude photos.

Oh, wait, here’s a recap: “Post-apocalyptic poetry,” Slate says:

When we’re talking about the power that comes from strength, power through strength, well then we’re talking about our very existence. No, we’re not going to chill. It’s time to drill, baby, drill down and hold these folks accountable and we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect a candidate that represents that and America first, finally. Pro-Constitution. Common-sense solutions he brings to the table. Yes, the status quo has got to go. With their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged, it must be savaged and Donald Trump is the one to do that. Are you ready for new and are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s going to take a whole team.

That it is.

So. I have not yet seen “Making a Murderer” beyond part one. Truth be told, I just didn’t have the heart for another true-crime procedural, and 10 hours? I’ll read 10,000 words, but 5,000 would be better, and a 10-hour commitment just seemed a bit much for the cruel depths of winter. But Laura Lippman watched, and has some rather incisive things to say about it here. The New Yorker, ditto, here.

Why the Eagles were great, a list with which you may not entirely agree.

Finally, a note on the Flint water situation. I can’t let a great deal hang out because of my job, but those of you who live far away and have questions, feel free to ask. There are already a lot of misconceptions out there, and even the facts are murky; part of what’s driving the story is the multiple finger-pointing parties at the heart of it. But if I can answer you out-of-staters, I’ll try. We also have at least one employee of the Detroit water department in our commentariat, and he knows the chemistry part. So ask away.

And have a good Wednesday.

Posted at 12:14 am in Current events | 63 Comments
 

She contemplates her domain.

The goal today is to finish two stories by 4 p.m., so have a dog picture instead of thoughtful sentences:

princesswendy

Princess Wendy, captured in a pensive moment. Original watercolor by Coozledad in background.

If you haven’t read this, you should: Pete Wells takes on a Thomas Keller Cafe du Snoot and, well, does what Pete Wells does so well:

The kitchen could improve the bacon-wrapped cylinder of quail simply by not placing it on top of a dismal green pulp of cooked romaine lettuce, crunchy and mushy at once. Draining off the gluey, oily liquid would have helped a mushroom potpie from turning into a swampy mess. I don’t know what could have saved limp, dispiriting yam dumplings, but it definitely wasn’t a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water.

Stipulated: I know MichaelG dined recently at Keller’s French Laundry in Napa, spent four figures and pronounced every penny Worth It. But the comments on the review from other disappointed Per Se diners suggest someone is failing at this one. And lest you think Wells is just an effete prick taking down another effete prick, let it further be stipulated that he approaches restaurants the way Roger Ebert approached movies, asking: What is this restaurant trying to be, and how successful is it in execution? Witness his dizzy review of Señor Frog’s, a Times Square tourist trap that nonetheless delivers on its promise.

Bridge took on the spiking death rates among less-educated white males story earlier this week. Interesting.

I think Frank Bruni gets to the heart of it in his column about last night’s GOP debate. Or, as I prefer to think of it, the circular firing squad, slowly reducing itself to a duel.

Back to the keys. Back to the phones. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Media | 62 Comments
 

They come in threes.

Not Alan Rickman? Nooooooo, I loved him so. The perfect foil to Bruce Willis’ macho bad boy in “Die Hard.” The perfect villain in a million British costume dramas. He was always in on the joke, but never gave it away, which made his lip-curling sneer so wonderful. I haven’t seen more than 20 minutes of a Harry Potter movie, but I’ll treasure him in many, many others.

Sixty-nine is young these days. Probably a smoker. Bowie was a smoker. The sooner this habit enters the ashtray of history, the better.

And the third? You probably didn’t know him, but I did: Brian Bedford, Canadian stage actor extraordinaire. He was part of the company at Stratford, and played every role you can think of, always spectacularly. Another argument for the importance of the arts, right here:

Mr. Bedford was born on Feb. 16, 1935, in the mill town of Morley, near Leeds and Bradford, in Yorkshire — “a pretty awful place,” he told The New York Post in 1971, comparing it to Lawrence, Mass., another city that played a grim role in his family history. “Only much dirtier. Chimneys belching smoke night and day.”

His father, Arthur, was a postal worker; his mother, the former Eleanor O’Donnell, was a factory weaver. Two of his three older brothers died of tuberculosis. Sometime after Brian left home and began his acting career, his father took his own life.

“Suicide runs in the family,” Mr. Bedford said in a Times interview in 1971. “My father’s brother also committed suicide. He got a girl into trouble when he was 22, and in order to save face for both families, he emigrated to America, took a boat to Boston, went to a tiny place — Lawrence, Mass. — booked into a hotel and shot himself in the mouth.”

The austerity of his upbringing fostered a lively fantasy life. “I used to spend all my time pretending to be a radio,” Mr. Bedford said. He attended a Roman Catholic school in Bradford but left at 15, working in a warehouse by day and performing in amateur theater at night. At 18, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

And it’s the arts that certain elements of the education-reform movement would like to push aside in favor of more things that dollar up on the hoof, so to speak. Job skills, you know, not poetry and drama and other fag stuff. Fuck that noise; if it weren’t for the dream of escaping these grimy tank towns to play music or act or just to enjoy these things in an audience, a lot of kids like Brian Bedford would have ended up living and dying in places like Morley.

So with the death of these three artists, let’s look toward the tail end of the week. I have a big project to start writing, and so I will. Before I do, though, I leave you with the best SOTU analysis I have yet read. It’s pants-wettingly funny. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events | 31 Comments
 

The state of the union is…

I’m watching the State of the Union. I could listen to Obama talk all day, but when he says “POCKeestohn” it drives me nuts. That’s mitigated by watching the GOP text through all of the best applause lines. And there are so, so many.

Because I know you’re going to talk about this… ooh! ooh! They just showed Kim Davis, scowling, frumpy, stupid hairdo and all. Could the contrast be any starker? Which America do you want to belong to? Hers? Or the smart guy talking?

So let’s talk SOTU. Alternatively,

People are sending dildos to Vanilla ISIS? I did not know this.

A smart thing about the Oregon situation Sherri posted yesterday in comments, but you should read if you’re not a comments person, because it’s good.

She wore her best sweater. Really, give her a break:

kimdavis

Posted at 10:20 pm in Current events | 44 Comments
 

El Chapo meets Spicoli.

Truth be told, although I should be interested in journalism’s meta-story, I haven’t clicked on the Sean Penn El Chapo thing. It was far more entertaining reading about it, both the sober, official accounts, which I treasure the way I do gossip-column summations of celebrity bios — it gives you the good parts without having to wade through the rest. But the real fun was to be had on Twitter, which took apart so many lines so hilariously that now I wonder if I should even spoil it by reading it.

But I have to read it. So… stand by.

(10,000 words later.) Man, that was pretty awful. Pretentious, overwritten, long on information about the writer (he farts, he looks lovingly at his penis, and no I’m not kidding) and short on…so many things. Structure. Coherence. Editing. Oh, for a sharp editor on that thing. It would have been shrunk to 15 paragraphs. I don’t know what Rolling Stone is even about these days, between this and the fake rape story. Attention ≠ credibility.

How was everyone’s weekend? This one was the kickoff of the auto show, which means I mostly experience my husband in the form of damp towels and a snoozing lump under the covers between 14-hour days, but it’ll all be over by Friday’s auto prom. I’m wearing the same scandalous red dress I wore last year, as I haven’t had an opportunity to wear it in the interim and it’s a sin to retire a dress after only one night. A friend scored an Ungaro gown at a local vintage shop for $50 and encouraged me to get down there, pronto. Eh. I rarely find anything nice in high-end vintage, mainly because I’m a size 10 and in designer circles, a 10 is an XL and the sort of women willing to drop four figures on a dress keep a lot slimmer than I do. But I might see if there are any interesting shoes on the racks, what the hell.

And now it’s Sunday night, snow has fallen, the temperature has dropped, wind is up and it really feels like winter, finally. Maintaining on the Whole 30 at the 33.3 percent mark. I’m waiting for the promised bloom of health and well-being to arrive, although I’m sleeping better and mostly just fine, when I’m not feeling like G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over an open flame. I made a pork shoulder. Gonna poach some chicken. And dream about eating oatmeal again.

How about some bloggage? It’s getting harder to be a boxing fan these days. Last month a local kid died — died! — in his four-round pro debut, a victim of terrible officiating. Now this, a wrenching account of even more terrible oversight by the people who were supposed to be protecting him (to the extent a heavyweight fighter can be protected). Beautifully written by the masterful Dan Barry, but hard to read.

You’re going to be hearing more about the Flint water crisis in the coming weeks, now that the layers are finally being peeled from the onion. It’s a huge story, and as always in these things, I encourage you to read local news sources before national ones, although admittedly, for those coming late to the game, a national paper’s perspective can be useful. But this story, about the triumph of dark money in state politics, is absolutely worth a read, too.

And so the week begins! Five days to the red dress.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events | 40 Comments
 

Our motley human family.

Well, chalk up one accomplishment to the Whole30 — I discovered spaghetti squash tonight, one of those things I’ve only had in restaurants and thought best left to the experts. When I want spaghetti, generally I just reach for the box in the pantry. But with an imperative to cut out grain, well, time to try new things, so tonight, spaghetti squash and meatballs. And damn, it was pretty good. You can’t cut one of those suckers with a sawzall, but an hour in the oven at 400 degrees and it softens right up and the innards turn into a nice neutral, spaghetti-shaped base for anything you want to put on it.

Write that down. You might need to avoid grain some day.

And so we veer from cooking to crazy: The Florida Atlantic University professor who became obsessed with the Sandy Hook tragedy, and made it a campaign against the bereaved survivors, has been fired from his tenured position. Good, but… How does any rational person believe this sort of thing? Is he insane? How else was his craziness made manifest in the world? It’s hard to understand how a person can live in this sort of dream world, and still function well enough to pass in the reality-based one.

And here’s a different kind of crazy story, also involving tragedy with children. It’s hard to turn away from, but one of those long-form narratives that always leaves me feeling a little squicky: The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuk, from the Tampa Bay Times. If you have the stomach for it — I should say here that I don’t recommend it for Jeff, who sees this sort of thing on the regular at his office — it’s very compelling reading, but at the end, ultimately I’m left with the same thought: And now what changes? The spoiler-free tl;dr: A crazy man killed his 5-year-old daughter. “The system” was given approximately 1 million chances to stop him, and failed. Along the way we are given a look at how desperate and squalid some people’s lives are, and yet, as they continue to have functioning ovaries and testes, can and do bring children into the world, who inevitably suffer the worst of it.

And it happens, and continues to happen, over and over. This is Florida, and I have no doubt it will happen again and again and again, alas. Which is why I feel squicky after I read these things. I want something to change.

Don’t want to leave you with a bummer to start the weekend. How about a unique OID pet adoption opportunity?

A Detroit dog shelter will soon be offering an fairly unusual pet for adoption: a hermaphrodite dog, which the shelter’s director hopes might provide therapy for transgender residents.

…The dog is a silvery-gray pit bull mix named Cody, who arrived at the Detroit-based rescue shelter on Tuesday. The dog was listed as a male, but upon inspection Cody turned out to have both sex organs.

She’s still in medical rehab, so not even technically adoptable yet.

Have a swell weekend! Seven more days until Auto Prom, so I have to hit the gym.

Posted at 8:58 am in Current events, Detroit life | 85 Comments
 

A break from craving bread.

I have some deep thinkin’ and clip-readin’ to do, so a short thing today. But good links, eh?

Stories like this make me happy I never read celebrity biographies: C. David Heymann, serial fabulist and all-around sleaze.

The president’s speech yesterday stirred up the trolls, but even I am capable of being appalled by the comments on the stories. This is but one, but every one I looked at yesterday was simply…rancid.

This story out of Germany, about an apparently coordinated attack on women by “Arab-looking men,” is simultaneously amazing and appalling. What do you guys make of it?

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events | 56 Comments
 

The house, brought down.

All you really need to see today is Aretha Franklin at the Kennedy Center Honors last night.

I think this is the point at which we call upon Coozledad to sketch out a Kennedy Center Honors program under President Trump.

Ta-ta, all. Can’t top Sister A.

Posted at 8:44 am in Current events | 22 Comments
 

A nation of dummies.

So, in re Friday’s post, I read this over the weekend, the announcement of the final installment of What Was Fake, a Washington Post column devoted to debunking Internet rumors and so forth. It’s not that the author has run out of material, but rather, it’s more she’s run out of hope of ever improving things, mainly because of the rise of fake-news sites.

I try to curate my friend list, and subsequent news feed, so a lot of these things don’t get through. So I was a little surprised to click a link within that story and find this one, about a fake-news entrepreneur who consistently fools credulous readers. This would normally be a reminder that some people simply don’t understand satire, but I found this passage depressing:

Where debunking an Internet fake once involved some research, it’s now often as simple as clicking around for an “about” or “disclaimer” page. And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case. Headlines like “Casey Anthony found dismembered in truck” go viral via old-fashioned schadenfreude — even hate.

There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

This is so dispiriting. The country doesn’t need this much ignorance, especially hate-driven ignorance.

So, now that we are officially On Vacation, and in the grip of the holidays, expect nothing much from here, other than an occasional photo, linkage, whatever — I have a lot to do. Cleaned two bedrooms and a bathroom today, which was about as much as I could manage on a mild hangover. It actually made me look forward to my January teetotaling, which I am serious about this year; one dry month with maybe, maybe one night off for the auto-show gala, but maybe not. Stocking up on Pellegrino and lime, and of course, lots of Diet Coke.

So a quick pop to the bloggage, then:

A nice little feature on Jim Harrison, Charlotte’s neighbor, reported just before his wife of 55 years died.

Looking for something to read on your days off? You’ll absolutely find something in Longform’s best of 2015 roundup of very readable journalism.

Any Raffi fans out there? I am, and #notashamed about it at all. A nice piece on the man and his career in New York magazine.

Let Christmas week commence.

Posted at 9:28 pm in Ancient archives, Current events, Media, Popculch | 38 Comments
 

Collapse.

What a weekend. Temperatures nudging 70. Humid. Overcast. Weird. Everyone went around talking about the weather. Took a long bike ride and got all sweaty, then chilled, then just sort of tired because sweating and chilling in one day takes it out of you.

But if you’re wondering why I didn’t blog yesterday, I’d have to say this: Because I spent most of last evening making the basics for a gingerbread house.

Yeah, I didn’t think you’d believe me.

Seriously, this is for a weekend party a friend of mine here has every year, featuring blighted gingerbread houses. If you contribute, they don’t necessarily have to be blighted, but they need to be different somehow, because they’re auctioned, and people don’t want to bid on some Martha Stewart shit. So now that I have my parts — my sides, my roof, my gables — I have to figure what to do with it all.

I’m thinking…TRUMP. First I have to hit the decorative-baking aisle at Joann Fabrics and buy as much gold shit as I can get my hands on. Ideas welcome. They must be YUGE ideas. And they must not require very complicated structures, because man, it is wearisome, rolling out gingerbread dough, which is inedible and unappetizing, and right now I am committed to a basic rectangular house with a roof and overhanging eaves.

Plenty of room for yugeness, as long as it’s not too yuge.

So. We’ve talked here, many times, about the folly of the facile idea that “government must run like a business.” While there are certainly aspects of it that should follow certain rules of finance, to say government should run like a business misunderstands both government and business. Even businesses are sufficiently distinguished from one another that there’s no one-strategy-fits-all. Many successful governors would flounder in the public sector, and vice versa. But we’ve hashed this all out before.

Still, I recommend this ProPublica project on how new management at the American Red Cross has driven the venerable nonprofit nearly onto the rocks, due to a fundamental misunderstanding — that a strategy that works in one industry doesn’t necessarily work in another:

As part of her effort to run the Red Cross more like a business, McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions. The move stirred resentment inside the organization, with some longtime Red Cross hands referring to the charity as the “AT&T retirement program.’’

McGovern laid out a vision to increase revenue through “consolidated, powerful, breathtaking marketing.”

“This is a brand to die for,” she often said.

Her team unveiled a five-year blueprint in 2011 that called for expanding the charity’s revenue from $3 billion to $4 billion. In fact, Red Cross receipts have dropped since then and fell below their 2011 level last year.

It’s not entirely the CEO’s fault; the organization was in failing shape when she took over. But it drives me crazy when these folks swagger in like the cavalry and then screw things up even further. The lionization of business people in this country has been insane for some time; you’d think we’d have learned by now.

Back to the gingerbread drawing board. Thanks for holding the place together when I flake off for a while.

Posted at 10:01 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 52 Comments