The balm of b.s.

Believe it or not — and I had a hard time believing it myself — I saw David Brooks speak yesterday, and I enjoyed it.

One of the organizations I work for, the policy group, wrapped its pre-election work, and yesterday was an uncharacteristically light day. So I decamped for the CityLab conference downtown. There wasn’t much news being made, but the speakers moved through quickly and some were interesting, and then, whaddaya know, here’s David Brooks, and he’s talking about mending the social fabric.

Apparently he’s joined the Aspen Institute as some sort of adjunct, and his initiative is called Weave — get it? Fabric? — and he gave the 20-minute version of his speech about it. There were a lot of impossible-to-verify statistics (35 percent of Americans are lonely), and some heartwarming anecdotes about communities coming together to lift up children, but at the end, you couldn’t help but think: Mensch. I mean, yeah, you can pick it apart and think we need a truth and reconciliation commission before we can start weaving, or whatever. But on a Monday afternoon, after a gruesome week? I was happy to let it wash over me.

Maybe a balm of bullshit. But it beat the alternative, i.e., reality.

So, a few items of bloggage today:

When I heard Whitey Bulger was dead in prison at 89, of course I figured he’d had a heart attack or stroke or something. Nope, a beatdown. Mercy. What does it take to kill at 89 year old man? I wouldn’t think much. Tough old bastard to last that long in the first place.

Did you ever think you’d see a time when the president of the whole damn U.S. of A. would arrive in a city, and the usual bigwigs would pass on even meeting him? Remember Jan Brewer’s finger in Obama’s face? Seems like a kiss on the cheek.

Two women from Detroit were raped in a Jamaican resort last month. Today, the reporter who wrote the story in the Freep followed it up with a piece on how often that happens in Jamaica, even in gated, all-inclusive resorts, where guests presumably feel safe. A terrifying story that I’d consider if I were planning a Caribbean vacation.

Posted at 9:49 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 77 Comments
 

Scary weekend.

Well, friends, no two ways about it: We just came through a shit-tastic week, and there’s every chance next week will be equally shit-tastic. I was looking at an inside page in the NYT this morning, and there was a story about one homicidal maniac above the fold, and another below, both with headshots, and they even looked alike. They’re blurring together, the homicidal maniacs who are absolutely, positively not motivated by our president at ALL. Just ask any prominent conservative. The guy in Pittsburgh actually disliked Trump:

Because we are obliged by the sickness of our political culture to analyze every despicable event in a manner designed to confirm our priors, we have already, mere hours after the barbarity, sunk into a nauseating discussion about how much blame to assign to the president for this unspeakable act. The obvious answer is: None. Donald Trump should be assigned no such blame, even if the shooter were the president of the Donald Trump Fan Club, because he pulled no trigger and committed no crime. Period. To do that, to assign blame, is to whitewash the crime itself and the criminal’s responsibility for it. He becomes a cultural robot, seized by an evil collective unconscious that drove him to his crimes.

Remind me of this the next time someone claims Barack Obama is the godfather of ISIS, OK?

Blech. What an awful weekend. We went to a costume party at the end of it. The topical costume of the night was an easy one for middle-aged men — Brett Kavanaugh. Needed: A black robe, a Yale baseball cap and a calendar with BEACH WEEK blocked out. Not bad, although I think this pic, which I found on Facebook, might win the whole holiday:

Alan and I went as devils. We were devils the last year we went to a Halloween party. Horns, simple eye masks, demonic attire — Alan in nothing pants and shirt, me in a tight red dress with black gloves and seamed stockings. Also bright red lips, because that’s a demonic color. I put a spell on you…because you’re mine.

Ultimately, as bad as things have been lately, I’m trying to shrug off the worst of it, and just concentrate on Nov. 6. And the election after that, and the one after that, and so on. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

So, bloggage:

Why social media sucks at doing what editors have done for decades.

Anything lighter? Just checked the usual traps and…no.

We hope for better things.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events | 60 Comments
 

Pipe bombs.

I was tired last night and thought I’d blog this morning. Thought I’d have a few minutes early. I didn’t. Then the pipe bombs began turning up, and game over for the blog.

Because I haven’t had enough misery today, I’m watching the televised Michigan gubernatorial debate and want to open a vein. No, an artery. A big one. Eight, nine good spurts and then vision would start to fade and I’d be out of my misery. Remember when debates were actual arguments? These are contests in who can come up with the most bumper-sticker phrases and put them into a Vitamix, pouring out smoothies on command.

What a terrible day.

Here, this is fun: Can you spot the fake or the real photo? I couldn’t. I got 22 percent. Maybe you’ll do better.

Tom and Lorenzo pointed out an amazing fact today: Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Cathy Cambridge, is now as old as Princess Diana was when she died. Damn, they’re right — where does the time go? Pretty sure the tiara in that pic is the one Diana was married in.

This is old, but it’s good: Stormy Daniels on the last year. Which has been…strange, to say the least:

And now if you go to one of my shows, it’s large groups of women, oftentimes in homemade matching Stormy shirts. They are loud, and they’re angry. They’re like, “Fuck Trump.” Or they’re crying. I’m like, “Jesus Christ.

There’s no crying in tittie bars. What’s happening?” People are grabbing me and giving me money, and then later they’re sharing their personal stories — women are saying, “I was molested or I was raped, and you’ve given me the inspiration to file charges against my boss.” Just heavy, heavy shit every night.

“We hope for better things” is part of Detroit’s motto. Let’s all think that before someone gets killed.

Posted at 9:23 pm in Current events | 69 Comments
 

Pants ablaze.

Today I coped with Oncoming Election Stress Syndrome by clearing off a pile of crap on my desk. Renewed our auto registration, paid the cable bill, made some lists, dusted and vacuumed the second floor. I was feeling pretty good. Then I read the Axios newsletter for Sunday and headed back to a full boil:

Trump told reporters in Nevada yesterday that he and House Republican leaders are working “around the clock” on “a very major tax cut for middle-income people. And if we do that, it’ll be sometime just prior, I would say, to November.” But Republicans on the Hill seemed to know nothing about it, and both chambers are out until after midterms.

There’s also the non-existent dissolve-the-borders bill that he keeps claiming Democrats are ready to drop, and the number of jobs tied to the Saudi arms deal has now been bloated to more than half a million.

I’m not the world’s biggest Frank Bruni fan, but he certainly hit the nail on the head with this column:

Trump enjoys a kind and degree of immunity that few if any politicians in my lifetime have been given. His own exhaustively established indecency inoculates him. As a result, all manner of ugliness slips by — unnoticed, barely noticed or noticed and accepted as Trump being Trump.

And so back I go to the little tasks that keep me sane. Next will be closets, and the bathrooms could use a scrub. Just a couple more weeks.

We’ve been having a macabre little local story unfolding here in Detroit of late. First was the discovery of a funeral home that wasn’t finishing the job, so to speak, and had mold-covered bodies stacked in a garage and a number of fetal remains stuffed behind a false ceiling. This was called the classic One Bad Apple case, until police, acting on a tip, raided another funeral home and found something like 63 more fetuses in freezers and boxes.

I’m pretty flummoxed by this one. I have one authoritative source about the funeral industry, and he doesn’t get it, either. Most mortuaries and crematoriums will handle fetal remains and stillbirths at low or no cost, and funerary services are offered to all women who miscarry. This latter case is apparently tied up with couples who thought they were donating their infant/fetal remains to scientific research. But man, what a creepy story.

Is anyone else a little leery of balconies? Balconies, cantilevered walkways and other flat surfaces with sketchy means of support? Yes? Good, then you should know we’re justified in our caution — an actual floor collapsed during a dance party in South Carolina this weekend.

And with that, have we had enough Halloween-y frights and freakouts to start the week? Yes? Then let’s do so. Because we all have work to do.

Posted at 8:25 pm in Current events | 66 Comments
 

Dumbstruck.

I think one reason I’m finding it hard to blog of late is this: Every hour or so, I read something like this, and I’m struck dumb:

President Donald Trump again blamed California for the year’s dangerous and deadly wildfires and threatened to withhold federal funding from the state.

During a cabinet meeting Wednesday, he said the state needs to clear old trees to prevent fires.

“What’s happening should never happen. I go all over the country and I meet with governors. The first thing they say is there’s no reason for forest fires like that in California. So I say to the governor, or whoever is going to be the governor of California, you’d better get your act together because California, we’re just not going to continue to pay the kind of money that we’re paying because of fires that should never be to that extent,” he said.

Nineteen days before the election. Maybe 18, 17 by the time you read this. I’m just numb at this point. I have Battered Voter Syndrome.

But all is not lost. From time to time, when I feel like my life needs more complications in it, I read Dan Savage’s column, and it clears right up. I love “Savage Love,” because it makes me feel very suburban and boring. I have never, for example, considered the conundrum of being a straight guy with a yen for receiving oral sex, who’s been letting his gay friend do the job:

My problem is I am starting to feel guilty and worry I am using Sam. He’s a very good buddy, and I’m concerned this lopsided sexual arrangement might be bad for our friendship. Sam knows I am not into guys and I’m never going to reciprocate, and I feel like this is probably not really fair to him. But these are literally the only bl*wj*bs I’ve received since I was a teenager. What should I do?

Savage contacted Sam, and Sam said, hey, not a problem! Problem solved. (I asterisked that word, just in case any of you have content filters at your offices.)

I’m amazed at how many people have polyamorous or otherwise open relationships, and the kinks? Wow:

I’ve been dating this guy for almost a year. Everything is great, except one thing: He wants me to kick him in the nuts. It really bothers me, and I’m not sure what to do.

I would…not know how to answer that compassionately. My advice would be one word: Leave. Not that I wish to kink-shame, but um, wow.

Nineteen days. Remember that. I’m off for a very long Friday and — I devoutly hope — a pleasant weekend. Hope yours is, too.

Posted at 9:14 pm in Current events | 41 Comments
 

Frozen faces.

I was just thinking about how, as the fall colors peak at our latitude and the lovely crescendo of autumn takes us inexorably into winter, just a few weeks away, we have this to look forward to:

A new season at Mar-a-Lago.

And a new season at Mar-a-Lago means new press photos of the Trumpettes!

See, the older I get, the more I notice bad plastic surgery on women of a certain age. Take a look at the taut puss of Toni Holt Kramer, self-identified leader of the Trumpettes. I see…nose work, lip fillers, maybe a chin implant and certainly those weird cheekbone puffs that make a woman’s face look like a freshly restuffed saddle, not to mention the shiny skin that screams Botox.

Actually, the entire Gallery pulldown on their website is worth your time, but especially Ms. Kramer’s birthday lunch, which looks positively surreal. Also, her busy time is split between her homes in Bel Air, California and Palm Springs, where she lives with her husband Robert and her beloved poodle, Caviar Deux.

I bet her hero never called her Horseface.

How’s everyone’s midweek? I had to take Wendy to the vet today — she caught one of her dewclaws in the leash ring on her collar, and it was sticking straight out, bloody and sore. She wouldn’t let me touch it, but by the time we arrived at the vet, she’d self-cared by biting it off, and seemed to be feeling pretty good again. The vet clipped her nails all around, said she’d be fine once it grew out, and didn’t charge me a dime.

“Don’t you want to amputate?” I asked. He looked startled.

“Not her paws,” I said. “Her dewclaws.”

No, he didn’t. Most breeders who do that do it when they’re three-day-old pups, because it actually requires snapping off a bone. Ouch, not for my sweetie pie. She has a natural tail, and I guess she’ll have a natural set of toenails, too.

And then I had a very long phone interview with a fascinating person that I hope grows into a story worth reading, and by then it was early afternoon, so I worked from home the rest of the day.

Do I have some bloggage? A bit:

Remember how shutting down Backpage was going to thwart online sex trafficking? And how sex workers said it wouldn’t work that way? Listen to the experts, because they were right.

Meanwhile, this pimp is dead — and after partying with Grover Norquist, no less. Of course, he still may be elected, because:

Nevada law specifies that candidates who die after the fourth Friday in July will still appear there, but the county clerk must post a notice that the candidate is deceased at every polling place.

And that, I think, is all. Three weeks until Nov. 6. A little less, actually.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Crazytown.

Anyone who’s knows a person with bipolar disorder knows how hard it is to treat — how hard any mental illness is to treat. Medication is imperfect, dosages have to be tweaked and adjusted regularly, and in the case of bipolar, often patients don’t like how they feel when they’re free of the cycles of the illness, at least the manic, “good” parts.

Many people heading into a full-blown manic episode go through a phase called hypomania. Here are some of the symptoms: Elevated mood, increased activity, decreased need for sleep, feelings of creativity and power. If you could bottle that, I’d buy it, and I bet you would, too. Who would want to cut it short with some dumb old drug that makes you feel like everyone else?

I was thinking about Kanye West over the weekend, and what bothered me about the Oval Office shitshow last week. West has said he was “mistakenly” diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a breakdown last year. In a New York Times story early this summer, he had this to say:

…(O)ver time, he began “learning how to not be on meds,” adding proudly, “I took one pill in the last seven days.” …On “Yikes,” from “Ye,” he announced the bipolar disorder diagnosis. “That’s my superpower,” he scream-rapped. “Ain’t no disability/I’m a superhero! I’m a superhero!”

Yeah, that person is most definitely of sound mind. I mean, it’s so obvious.

So WTF was he doing meeting face-to-face with the president of the United States, a man with plenty of more important things to do, and in front of a mob of cameras to boot? I can only conclude West was feeding POTUS’ bottomless need for approval, to cozy up to his true peers (celebrities), to feel like he has black friends. Why the media covered it like it was some sort of light, whoa-check-out-this-daffy-artist episode and not a mentally ill man off his meds, well, you’ll have to ask the people in that room. If he were in a full-blown schizophrenic episode, raving to unseen demons, I doubt the coverage would have been the same.

And while I know this is utterly prejudiced and speculative, I simply can’t believe Barack Obama would have allowed such a thing. I have to think his staff would have advised against it, instead of capering for selfies with the celebrity:

Every day, a new bottom.

So how was everyone’s weekend? Mine was pretty good, although I am working on Sunday and probably will be until the election is over. Have an assignment coming up at the end of the week that should be fun, so that will enliven things. We had friends over last night to watch “The Romanoffs,” the new series by Matt Weiner, the “Mad Men” creator, so that prompted us to get the house tidied up and all the weekend chores done. Alan is off at the marina stripping the boat before it’s pulled from the water week after next. It’s a beautiful day, and I should be on a bike ride, but the doughnuts have to be made, and make them I will.

As we draw closer to the election, I warn you, I’m going to find very little politically oriented news to post here. Of course the comments are your playground, but honestly, at this point? It’s mostly just a distraction. Locally, the coverage is all about horserace-y stuff — ad buys, polling nuances, endorsements. And I simply Do Not Care. I probably should vote absentee and get it over with, but I expect we’ll be covering stuff at Deadline Detroit, and that involves going to polling places, so I might as well start with my own. Nationally, it’s beginning to blur — this House race, that Senate seat — and I figure there will be time after it’s all settled to figure it out. Right now, I’m focused on November 6, and I’m mostly skimming past stories that don’t grab me with the headline.

The story I’m most looking forward to today? Tom & Lorenzo’s examination of the outfits worn to Princess Eugenie’s wedding. For the record, I thought her dress was basic, but I liked the tiara very much; all redheads should have the opportunity to wear giant emeralds, and this one actually has access to some. And boy, does Randy Andy look old now.

Remember how Mitt Romney mourned the 47 percent of Americans who paid no income taxes? Yeah, me too. Crickets from Mitt on this story, natch.

With that, let’s get out of here and let the weekend wind down to a close. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 2:58 pm in Current events | 38 Comments
 

What day is it? What are we upset about today?

You guys are the best readers in the world, continuing to show up when I don’t, and I really appreciate it. It was another fairly ridiculous week, work wise, punctuated by two weeknights out, so something had to fall by the wayside.

But it was so fun to get out two weeknights, even if it was a little exhausting. Man, how do people do it night after night? Probably not by getting up at 5:30 to work out.

And I missed today’s. Eh, no biggie.

Once again, it’s a week when the news gallops so quickly it’s hard to remember, on Thursday, what was outraging all of us on Tuesday. Today’s meeting with Kanye West, a walking case of untreated bipolar illness? I lack the shock juice to do more than point you at the annotated transcript of what he said in his 10-minute monologue, or whatever the hell it was. Me, I noticed something I’ve noticed before, in photo ops of our president meeting with people in the Oval: He always sits behind the desk.

Maybe not every time, but often enough that it made me google “trump meeting in oval office” and compare it with “obama meeting in oval office” and boy, there’s a difference. Obama favored — at least in these photo ops — putting people on the couches around that modern coffee table I never really liked, the one that always had a bowl of apples on it. Trump sits behind the Resolute Desk, while people either sit on the other side, or fan out from his elbows for photo ops. He doesn’t stand for the photo ops. He sits, visitors stand.

Some of these photos are ghastly. Have you ever seen so many miserable, doomed people in your life?

So, a quick run by the bloggage:

The president and a weary nation that raises its middle fingers in response. An interesting read.

Kara Swisher on good and bad bosses. The worst? John McLaughlin:

That asshole of a human being. I got the sense he sort of respected me because I didn’t put up with his shit. Because I wasn’t a Republican. I was a liberal, obviously. All these people were weird acolytes to him because he was a big deal during the Reagan administration. That was his power. So he used that. These people would do everything to work for one of the top Republican people, and I was like, I don’t give a fuck. My whole history is not going to depend on this. He enjoyed a smart woman in a weird, sick way.

He was awful and abusive and terrible—and as it turned out, he was like Sexual Harasser 101. He was harassing a woman on the staff who was a friend of mine. But he was abusive to the whole staff. He would line people up by height and then make them look for a dust ball under his couch. Stuff like that. This was Captain Queeg kind of behavior. He was just super crazy. Everyone had a beeper—he had to know where you were.

Once again, a Silicon Valley whale decides he knows how to do something better than people who’ve done it for years. Once again, he’s proven wrong.

Happy weekend to all, and to all a good night.

Posted at 9:17 pm in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Statement dressing.

Having enjoyed a few days of not having to be under the same roof as her husband, the First Lady of this once-great country wishes people would stop paying so much attention to what she wears. To which I reply: Then stop dressing so goddamn weird.

I have Tim Gunn and “Project Runway” to thank for introducing me to the concept of an outfit being “costume-y.” That is to say, it moves beyond style — which flatters and communicates something about the wearer — and becomes something that calls attention to itself alone. Also, it makes people looking on say, essentially, WTF?

Lady Gaga’s meat dress is an easy example of this, in contrast to, say, one of her other many fun evening outfits.

Lots of attention was paid to FLOTUS’ overseas wardrobe, but perhaps most to the meet-your-British-overlords equestrian ensemble, complete with pith helmet. Especially the pith helmet, which scholars explained elsewhere has a particular attachment to colonialism, but honestly? I don’t think that entered FLOTUS’ head for even a second. I don’t think she was sending a message to white nationalists or anything like that. I think she’s playing dress-up. She saw a picture of a Kenyan coffee plantation in a book and duplicated the look.

I mean, she’s also wearing riding boots; why? Is she getting on a horse? Walking somewhere that snakebite might be feared? No. Any old broad-brimmed hat could shield her face from the sun, but the picture of the coffee plantation had a pith helmet, so a pith helmet it is.

Where does anyone even buy one of those things? It’s a puzzle.

Then there was the other outfit, which she saved for the pyramids of Egypt:

I think this one came out of an Indiana Jones movie. It makes absolutely no sense to me. The hat is fine — again, strong sun — and there’s nothing wrong with a pantsuit, but the hat with the pantsuit and then the windblown necktie? Hello, Dr. René Emile Belloq.

It’s really baffling. If we’re all supposed to pretend that Melania Knauss entered this country as a “model,” shouldn’t she have learned something about clothing along the way?

Ugh, a Sunday after a tough week with another one ahead. I am coping by arranging as much as possible ahead of time, a to-do list and food prep and all laundry done and all the rest of it. I’m also avoiding the news even more than I did last weekend. I went to the library and checked out three books, all of them novels. This isn’t avoiding reality, it’s bolstering sanity. There comes a point where you just can’t take this crap another day.

One bit of news I did see this weekend is about the melee that broke out after the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Vegas Saturday night. The bout was between Irishman Conor McGregor and Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, which made me reflect, first, that Ireland was the old source of great-white-hope fighters, and Russia is the new one. Besides the Ukrainians (Wladimir Klitchko and his brother Vitali) and the famous Triple-G (Gennady Gennadyovich Golovkin, aka Triple G, and boy do the announcers like to draw that one out in the introductions), there are a shitload of ferocious fighters from the north Caucasus, i.e. Muslim Russia. When we saw Claressa Shields fight here in Detroit in June, the undercard had a couple of Chechens on it, and Nurmagomedov is from Dagestan, right next door.

And now that I think about it, Dearborn has a little bit of a boxing community, which makes me wonder why Russia and why Muslim Russia. Anyone have any ideas?

OK, I think I’m done for now, and I hope this week brings you peace, quiet and as little static as possible. God knows we need it after last week.

Posted at 5:49 pm in Current events, Popculch | 117 Comments
 

Raw wounds.

It’s impossible to get through life without offending someone, but this feels like a particularly wearisome week for offense.

There’s this lady:

Linda Dwire was outraged over two women speaking Spanish in the aisle of a grocery store in Rifle, Colo., on Monday. She confronted them over what she believed was an erosion of American values.

Then another woman intervened to restore civility in a personal moment inflamed by national tension over immigration policy and American identity.

“I’m calling the cops. You leave these women alone! Get out!” Kamira Trent roared in a video taken by one of the women.

Man, I hear languages other than English spoken in public all the time. In fact, most aren’t even Spanish. I recognize Spanish. I’m pretty good with most of the other common tongues around here, too — Arabic being the big one, but in a typical week, it’s not unusual to hear many, many others. My favorite is when you hear some version of Whatever-glish; I once eavesdropped on a Latina in a Mexican restaurant who was switching, at top speed, between Spanish, English and slang that almost qualified as its own dialect. It was dizzying, blahblahblahblahBITCHPLEASEblahblahblah. It didn’t make me worry about American values. But you knew that.

And there’s this oft-remarked-upon plague, the leaf blower. (Disclosure: I own one. But it’s the far, FAR quieter electric version:

A bunch of neighbors were sitting around the other night, talking yard work, and the conversation returned to a frequent target: a certain ex-neighbor, now long gone, who was unduly fond of his leaf blower. This is a familiar tale, how he tormented the block every autumn weekend chasing leaves around his small yard with his shrieking machine, leaving behind the lingering stench of gasoline fumes and resentment. I never met this fellow—he moved out before I moved in—but his legacy is secure: He is The Asshole With the Leaf Blower.

Perhaps that’s redundant. The tragedy of the leaf blower is that it makes assholes of us all, users and neighbors alike.

You can say that again.

And then there’s this column. Headline: I watched a rape. For five decades, I did nothing. Yep, it’s pretty raw. Read at your own risk.

Guys, I’m trying to get back into the groove of three entries a week, and I know this is pretty thin, but it’s been a far busier week than I anticipated. So go and have a weekend, and I’ll see you here afterward.

Posted at 12:16 pm in Current events | 49 Comments