Worse than manure.

Well, that was a weekend. For once, the news was closer to home. The Michigan GOP held its biannual leadership complex on Mackinac Island. If you know about Mackinac, you know that one of its traditions — one of its laws — is that cars and motor vehicles are forbidden. Bikes and horses are the way you get around, with exceptions made only for emergency vehicles.

Until the leadership conference, and its keynote speaker, Mike Pence.

The Secret Service insisted on a motor vehicle, for security reasons, and what the Secret Service wants, the Secret Service gets. So the vice president rolled in and out of the Grand Hotel in an EIGHT-CAR motorcade.

Seen here:

I don’t really have a strong opinion once way or another. I understand the need for more than a few agents jogging along with a horse-drawn conveyance (although it was good enough for President Ford, admittedly in a simpler time), and I don’t have that long-standing connection with Mackinac that most Michiganians have. But people here went nuts over this. Even Republicans harrumphed over why this had to happen; why couldn’t he make other arrangements, or turn down the gig? Or why couldn’t the service figure another way to keep him safe. And why EIGHT vehicles?

People feel very protective of Mackinac around here. And I think it’s safe to say they don’t like this one little bit. Here’s a roundup.

Eight vehicles. For that empty suit. I ask you.

He made a joke about how Mother wants him to bring home some fudge. Ha ha ha.

Mackinac was supposedly one of the places shopped for next year’s G-7, and didn’t make the cut. Thank God, because that would have been a car shitshow.

The other big thing was this nonprofit I work with, and our second annual House to Home project, wherein we find a woman who owns a house that could use a lot of work, and then do it. (The work, that is.) This year’s was insanely ambitious, and by the end of the weekend, we were exhausted and crabby. It didn’t help that it was about 85 degrees all three days, and the house didn’t have A/C. But we got it cleaned out and painted and redecorated, and the look on her little boy’s face when he saw his new Black Panther-themed room was something to see.

But now I feel like I am running on fumes, and “Succession” starts in four minutes. Guess what I’m going to do.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Bus tales.

Now that the weather is fine, I’ve been riding the bus more. The pluses are what I don’t have to worry about: Parking, mainly. Parking isn’t that expensive compared to other large cities, but I resent every penny I pay for it. Street parking is cheaper, but impossible to find and when you do, you have to monitor the app to make sure you don’t go over for even a second and the enforcement pythons don’t strike you with a $45 ticket.

So when I can, I ride the bus. It’s…an experience. I take the city bus into town, the suburban bus home. Public transit is a divisive issue in a region so fraught with racial politics, poverty and sprawl, and it is highly, highly imperfect. But the inner-ring suburbs like Grosse Pointe are among the places you can make PT commuting work, and I’m grateful.

Why “now that the weather is fine,” you might be wondering? It’s because the most convenient stop for my schedule is a good (checks the app) eight-tenths of a mile from my house, which is a bit of a hike in the morning, when the buses only run every 30 minutes or so. Miss it by a minute, you’ve wasted about 45 more. In the winter, I ride in with Alan and bus home. But in the summer, sweet summer, I can bike to the stop, stow it on the rack, then reverse the process when I get downtown. I like it a lot, although I’m sweaty when I arrive. No biggie.

Anyway, the city bus going in is rarely not full by the time we’re halfway through the route. When you’re poor and work low-wage jobs, you don’t work 9 to 5. And if you don’t work at all, the bus is how you get to your doctor, to the grocery, to see your friends. Which happens all the time.

There’s a driver who’s often on my route, the sort of — if I can traffic in a mild ethnic stereotype here — formidable African-American woman with whom one does not play. Fans of “The Wire” might remember her from season four, when someone very much like her walked into an unruly gym assembly of middle-schoolers and silenced it with a single glower. So the other day, a guy gets on. She takes one look at him and says, “That stays in your pocket. And if it don’t stay in your pocket, I’m putting you off.” I looked at the guy’s pocket, from which poked the neck of a flat pint bottle. Oh. He didn’t like that, but he knew who was in charge. So he sat down next to some other guy who seemed similarly drunk at 10 a.m. The two of them struck up a conversation that was, well, drunk.

I couldn’t quite follow it, but it had all the hallmarks of drunk talk — one or two phrases repeated and repeated and repeated, including “I AIN’T PAYIN NO MORE RENT” and “LIKE JOHNNIE SAY, IT’S CHEAPER TO KEEP HER.” If either one of these guys had a Her that they were somehow keeping, I’d eat my hat, but whatever. “I WAS GIVING NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH, BUT NO MORE. NO MORE RENT.” I tried to imagine what $95 might rent in Detroit. (Shudder.) It seemed they were spoiling for a fight with the driver, but she had no doubt sharpened her skills on scores of others, and just kept her mouth shut. But when the guy sitting next to me started listening to music on his phone without earphones, she pointed, snapped her fingers and nodded to the “no radio” sign. And that was that.

Another day, a political discussion started between two passengers sitting in different rows. It seemed to start over housing, then pivoted through public assistance and wound up with Trump, at which point others joined in and the volume increased. The driver actually turned off the white noise of the A/C so she could listen and join in. It reached a crescendo with one of the original talkers saying IF TRUMP SO GREAT, WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WORK FOR HIM IN JAIL? Another squawked, HE WANT A DICTATORSHIP. Others were chiming in from all corners, and then, suddenly, it was the ringleader’s stop. He stepped down and I gave him a golf clap as the driver caroled, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COF-FEEEEE.

This never, ever happens on the bus home. Maybe we’re all too tired.

Every day I do this, I save $6 — the difference between combined fares and the parking — and gain far more in observational details.

Other than that, the week’s been sucking. I have to take my lifeguard recertification test tomorrow, and I’m-a flunk that bitch, I just know it.

But there are fun things to read. Like this, an account of a visit to some sort of Ayn Rand fest in Cleveland, of all places:

I woke up the next morning ready to learn. It was hard to choose which seminar to attend during the triple-booked 8:40 a.m. slot. “Logic: The Cashing-In Course” seemed to be the biggest draw, but it came with a homework assignment, and “Duty as Anti-Morality” seemed a bit too by-the-numbers even for me, an Ayn Rand novice. Given the conference’s focus on establishing Randian beach heads in American culture, I opted for “Appreciating Ayn Rand’s Tiddlywink Music.”

Tiddlywink music, for the uninitiated, sounds like the score to “Steamboat Willie” or a tune you might hear on an old-timey carousel: manically upbeat and repetitive, calling to mind a sonic hamster wheel. For an hour, we listened to different examples of the genre, which seems to have been classified as such by Rand and no one else. “Pay attention to the tinkling,” the lecturer encouraged us. To me, it sounded like something a homicidal clown would listen to, or what a particularly sadistic interrogator would blast at high volume to torture his quarry.

What made Tiddlywink music uniquely pro-capitalist? It has roots in the 1890s, which Rand insisted was the only historical period of true human flourishing. It was an era of unfettered capitalism—child labor, robber barons, tenements—which she loved not in spite of those things, but because of them.

And here, as in so many other spheres, Rand’s true believers heed their master’s voice. For objectivists, Rand’s whims and fancies are inextricable from the movement’s philosophical precepts—so the assembled faithful were duly tutored in the finer points of grainy music-box melodies of the 1890s. We listened intently to Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz”—an inferior piece of music, we were told, because of its melancholy overtones and low “note density.” Tiddlywink music, in happy contrast, had five-and-a-half notes per second. When the hour was up, the presenter asked if we’d prefer a Q&A or another song. “One more song!” the crowd shouted back.

Pretty funny.

OK, I gotta get some sleep. Fingers crossed for me memorizing those chest-compression-to-breaths CPR ratios.

Posted at 9:44 pm in Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

One night in Detroit.

First, the before.

My editor and I walked up to the Fox around 5, stopping for a light dinner on the way. It was a nice, warm afternoon, no rain in the forecast, perfect for a little demonstrating. The police had Woodward blocked between Grand Circus Park and the freeway, and Detroit did show out for it.

This was protest ground zero. The two sides separated to opposite sides of Woodward. On the pro-Trump side: A man drenched in fake blood (abortion), some bikers with various love-it-or-leave-it signs, a makeshift band of young men plowing through “CNN Sucks,” a few Beckys. This was shot from the Trump side. Here’s Becky on the bullhorn:

The guy in the lei was wearing a yarmulke and trench coat. There were a couple of black folks on this side, one Latino-looking dude with a “legal immigrants for Trump” sign, along with InfoWars, religious people — the usual tossed salad.

On the anti-Trump side, a far larger group, more energized, with a smorgasbord of causes — green new deal, unions for all, one job should be enough, abolish ICE, etc. I took video of this side, but I won’t embed here; no need to eat up bandwidth. You’ve all seen a demonstration before. (Lots of pix of this side at Deadline Detroit, too.) This side was far more diverse, not only in causes but in age and ethnicity. Draw your own conclusions.

At the peak of the chanting, a hayride rolled right through the middle of everything:

Earlier in the day, spotted Marianne Williamson on the street. She’s been called fat-phobic. She’s certainly not fat herself; this is a size-0 XS woman if there ever was one:

After a while, it was time to go inside. Locked up my bike — a bike was very helpful for getting around this complex — and went into the media pen. All the media, except for the CNN moderators, were in the pen. It was a nice pen, thoroughly air-conditioned and well-wifi’d:

But we got no closer to the actual debate than you all did; we watched it on TV:

You all watched it, too, so I don’t have to tell you anything you already know. I was startled by Marianne Williamson, not only by the some of the sensible — but really not pertaining to the presidency — things she said, but also by how many supporters she had outside, and not the ones you’d think, i.e., not people like her. A surprising number of African Americans, for one, and the biggest watch-party venue of the lot:’

This is a couple doors down from the Fox. Which looked gorgeous on TV; kudos to the lighting and staging technicians.

And tonight we do it all again. I might wander down again; I think my credential will at least get me past the barricades for one more night, although unsure of the press pen. No matter. Detroit is fun 365 days a year, but most fun in summer, when we all come outside. As I left, the demonstrations were down to a few plucky sign-carriers, and these folks:

“Replace Rashida” was one of the signs on the pro-Trump side, earlier, but my guess is, they won’t come close. Her district seems to love her, and to be sure, she’s one of the warmest politicians I’ve seen in a while. She came out to march a while in the early demos, along with Nathan Phillips (the Native American guy in the Covington kids story). You can see her picture, along with many, many others, at the Deadline Detroit story.

Me, I’m going to eat some breakfast and get my butt to work. Have a good day, all.

Posted at 8:07 am in Current events, Detroit life | 91 Comments
 

A grim holiday.

I’ve lost track of time again, which happens with midweek holidays. I keep thinking it’s Saturday, but it’s not, and I have to work tomorrow, but it’ll be an easy-ish day, so whatever. All I know right now is, it’s hot, and the fireworks are already starting, and Wendy isn’t happy about that at all.

As I’m sure many of you noticed, it’s a terrible Fourth of July this year, what with the shenanigans in Washington and all the rest of it. The wind was non-existent, so no sailing, either. So we did something completely different, and went to a walking tour of downtown, called “Enemies of Freedom: Monuments of Detroit’s Slaveowners.” We walked from statue to historical marker to statue to historical marker, while the guide, who specializes in African-American history, told us which ones owed their wealth to exploitation of human beings. (Spoiler: All of them.)

The constant struggle in American history, with one army giving way to another, an ocean of blood drenching the ground, a million little tragedies adding up to a paragraph in a history book — I guess this is what you call the long view. And it helped on a day when the short view is so gruesome.

Only one person fainted in the heat, a young girl. Her mother carried her into the Church of Scientology building, where she recovered quickly. The Scientology building had a marker on it identifying it as the original site of Sainte Anne’s Catholic Church, located in the original French fort. Its first pastor, this marker claimed, Rev. Nicholas Constantine De L’Halle, was killed by Indians in 1706, making him the first Christian martyr in Detroit. The guide added that the Indians were upset because one of their number had been shot by the French, after he kicked a soldier’s dog who was bothering him. So they retaliated by shooting the priest. But history is written by the victors, and so: Christian martyr.

The girl was fine, once she drank some water and cooled off. We ended up peeling off ourselves — the tour was already running 45 minutes over, it was 88 degrees, the stops were becoming less interesting and we both needed a beer and sandwich. So that’s what we did.

So, a little bloggage? Sure: An interview with John Waters. He’s funny:

Have you ever done drag?
I was only in drag once, and that was as the Wicked Witch at a birthday party when I was 8 years old. That ended my drag career. You have to be so careful of what you say. My friend told me this story, “You know, every gay man once tried on their mother’s shoes.” You did it once; you never did it again. But now, if you have a very liberal mother and they catch you, you have sexual reassignment lessons at 8 years old. And you might not really wanna do that.

I don’t think that would happen.
Well, people have babies. That’s why Trump will win. Because of things like babies, where you don’t tell your child what sex they are until they figure it out themselves when they’re 3 years old, and then you give ’em a party and say, “You’re a girl.” These children will be in mental institutions. Your parents are supposed to tell you what to do. Then later, if you disagree, you rebel and do the opposite. I think that’s a healthy lifestyle.

That’s it for me this week, and you all have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 62 Comments
 

The gang will all be here.

Because I know you’ve all been on pins and needles: The battery surgery was a resounding success, in fact, quite simple. Made all that running around after a professional fix pretty stupid, in hindsight. Yesterday and today I am calibrating the new battery, which means I let it run all the way down and charge it all the way up, and then it’s more or less broken in.

Current status: 24 percent, running down steadily. Let’s hope it continues.

How’s your crazy life at midweek? We learned today that the DNC debate here next month — July 30-31 — will have a complement of 20 count ’em 20 candidates. And they are, via USA Today to the Freep to Deadline Detroit:

(Those meeting both the 1 percent-polling and 65,000-individual-donors thresholds are) former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; entrepreneur Andrew Yang of New York; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro of Texas; Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, and activist Marianne Williamson.

In addition, Politico reported that that seven other candidates have met the 1 percent polling threshold:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

Marianne Williamson? Andrew Yang? Eric Swalwell? What a field. I’m assuming most will be gone by Christmas, but in the meantime, it’ll be one wacky two-day spell in the D later this summer.

Trying to think of some story ideas around that now. I keep coming back to: Get Bernie Sanders to the Old Miami. (It’s a bar near Wayne State with a big back yard.)

Are bar yards a thing where you are? It’s weird — lots and lots of bars here have them, and I’m not talking about patios, but back-yard hangout spaces, and they predate the smoking ban, so I’m not sure why that is. In nice weather, they’re glorious; the best ones aren’t really “developed” in the traditional sense of having service or anything — just a couple of picnic tables to sit at if you’re so inclined, and just get away from the hurly-burly inside. Although some are quite large, and clustered seating areas tend to happen. Like at the Old Miami. I think Bernie should go there and declaim, see who gathers round.

So, some quick bloggage? Whatever:

Arizona jury hangs rather than convict a teacher accused of giving water, food and lodging to two migrants illegally crossing the border. Interesting.

A tiny crack in the wall of I CAN’T HEAR YOU NAH NAH NAH:

Listen, I don’t have any use for either Donny or Bette. I don’t agree with their politics, I have always been confused at their relative popularity and celebrity status, and don’t doubt for a second that they were unfairly criticizing the president before he retaliated on Twitter.

But none of that justifies the President of the United States of America using his unrivaled platform and bully pulpit to…well…bully American citizens who may disagree with him. When has that ever been okay? I am firmly of the belief that President Obama stoked an immense amount of division needlessly during his time in office, and have even written recently that our only hope of unity in this country requires that he go away.

But President Obama was not rage-tweeting in the wee hours of the morning, calling his critics “total losers” and “washed up psychos” from his official platform. If he had, the right would have rightly condemned him for violating decency norms and the standard expectations of dignity for those holding the office of President. It disappoints me beyond words to see so many of those same folks actually enjoying and applauding President Trump’s decimation of those norms and expectations all in the name of political payback.

Cry me a river, dumbass. You made this bed. Lie in it. “Firmly of the belief,” are you? Tough.

Finally, influencers! The wacky things they do:

With that, I’m off to attack Wednesday. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 9:35 pm in Detroit life | 66 Comments
 

Sunny skies, few clouds.

A delightful last few days and I refuse to let anything harsh my mellow — dinner with friends three nights running, people I like and don’t see often enough. There’s very little that is more restorative, made more so by the dawning realization, as life goes on, that it won’t last forever.

That’s not a cryptic note that I’m dying or anything, just a generalized observation that in the grand scheme of things, we all are.

The lovely weather helped. Motor City Pride ran all weekend, and on Saturday, a small group of Nazis marched past Hart Plaza, surrounded by Detroit police. This led to the usual outrage about police “helping” them somehow, although the alternative — five Nazis march and are stomped by 100 angry counter-protestors — would have been far worse. These folks know exactly what they’re doing and depend on the police to keep them safe in the bargain. They work the system. The system is available to be worked.

In my happy glow, I have only two pieces to recommend, both stone bummers, sorry — this one on how a so-called incel spiraled down into perpetrating a mass shooting, and this one on the radicalization of a similarly rootless young man, via YouTube. And justlikethat, the once-promising technology of the future turns out to be a perfect reflection of our worst selves.

Right now, though, I’m going to turn the laptop over to Alan for the previously discussed battery surgery. Fingers crossed that when the blog comes back, it’ll be on this machine.

Posted at 6:12 pm in Detroit life | 41 Comments
 

Ducking (responsibility), goosing (geese).

I didn’t have a terrible week, but much of it went like this:

The battery in my computer has been in failure mode for a while, with “a while” = “a year.” Finally took it to the Genius Bar and the genius told me sure, they could replace it, but it would have to be shipped elsewhere, because they don’t do that in-house, and with shipping/repair time, I could expect it back in 10 days.

“That’s out of the question,” I said flatly. I use my computer for hours, every day that I work and for an hour or two every day that I don’t work. With no two-week vacations coming up, sorry, a non-starter. A battery replacement ought to be simple; you can’t do it while I wait? Even with an appointment? Nope, sorry, the genius said. “But Micro Center might,” he added, proving his bona fides as a genius. “Try them.”

So I called Micro Center, described my problem, and they said sure, they kept those batteries in stock, and if I showed up very first thing when they opened, they’d do it while I wait. Excellent.

So a few more weeks go by, and there’s a day on my schedule when no dogs are barking for my ass, so I get up and head across town to Micro Center — because of course it’s across town, because nothing I need is on the east side — and am there, as instructed, bright and early at 10 a.m.

I’m first in line at the repair counter. You know what’s coming next, right?

“We can’t do that,” I’m told. “Apple won’t let us work on anything newer than a 2011 model.”

“They literally told me to come here,” I said, using that word correctly in a sentence. “They looked at it, diagnosed the problem” — that’s another Genius Bar rant, how you come in knowing exactly what the problem is, and tell them so, and they run all their diagnostics and tell you to your face, without a hint of irony, what you just told them, in your exact words — “and told me to come here. What’s more, the person who answered your phone when I called said you could do it while I waited, if I came first thing in the morning.”

I didn’t add a second “literally,” but probably could have. The guy was just a serf. He didn’t deserve it.

“Well, that person was wrong,” he said. “We can’t fix it.”

Plan C: Alan and his fearlessness in the face of complex repair problems, as long as there are YouTube tutorials (there are) and Amazon carries the parts (they do). He is my all-purpose Genius Bar.

Also, I hate — and by “hate” I mean with the white-hot fury of 10 million suns — dealing with any Silicon Valley- or tech-based company. I know I’m going to have a ram-butting-heads thing with Hulu next week when “The Handmaids Tale” starts, and it’s going to be ugly.

I took the long way back to the office Friday morning, and took some pictures of Detroit blight for our photo bank. Here’s one:

Also rolled through a squatters’ community that appears well-established in this neighborhood. As you can see: Lots of fixer-uppers.

The lovely weather helped my mood immensely, and it turned out to be an OK Friday. Got some good news about a friend, and even this situation ended about as well as could be expected:

This little goose family was on the sidewalk, attempting to cross Woodward Avenue. They’re blocks from any sort of sustaining habitat, but there was no way I or anyone else could herd them down to the river without a hell of a lot of backup.

But I figured I could save them from getting hit by the light rail if I got them into Campus Martius Park, where maybe they could chill until a quieter hour. So I and a couple other animal lovers made a team and got them into the park and beyond the border hedge.

After which I went to work. Good times.

Do note that blue scooter in the photo. This is the latest entry in the scooter market in Detroit, the fourth company to make these grab-and-go conveyances available. I shudder to think what a bunch of half-in-the-bag bros can do on a few of these. I just hope I’m not there to see it.

No links today, except for this one. Mostly for the picture. Sigh.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 12:51 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments
 

Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.

Tuesday can eat a dick. It was one of those days. But here I am, so let’s hope for better things today.

And once again, the world has rushed ahead of my capacity to think of anything to say about it. Shall we go to the links? No, one story:

We’ve been having some issues with our basement. Nothing terrible, no flooding, but seepage and some cracks that indicate it could get worse if we don’t do something about it. So a parade of professionals have been trooping through, delivering estimates. They range from $900 to $10,000, to give you an idea of how fucked-up basement work is.

Anyway, the other day one rang the doorbell. He was 20 minutes early, and Alan — whose responsibility this is — was still selecting which underwear to put on for the day, so I went down and let him in. Opened the door expecting the usual basement-company rep, which is to say, a youngish man with a logo’d polo shirt, chinos and a clipboard, maybe in one of those cases with an iPad.

This man was far older. Coal-black suit that had seen better days, and coal-black hair, ditto. The hair did not match the face, which is to say, not a thread of gray anywhere. Ronald Reagan hair.

But he was very nice, introduced himself, and I let him in, introduced him to Wendy and showed him to a seat in the living room. Went back upstairs and informed Alan that Sheldon Adelson was downstairs waiting for him.

As it turned out, he had an explanation for his startling appearance. He’s a Johnny Cash cover singer. His most recent gig was in Port Huron, and “they paid me handsomely.” He sings ’60s/’70s-era Johnny, and doesn’t care for the Rick Rubin era, although he was impressed that Alan knew about it. He left us with an estimate and his CD. We listened that night; he’s not bad at all, although we cracked up when the third track opened with, “This song is dedicated to” and the name of the basement company, which I won’t name because Google.

This town. It still cracks me up.

So! To the bloggage!

Years ago, when I lived in Fort Wayne, I met the author of this column. He was a friend of a friend, and a very nice guy. He had recently married, and his wife was sweet, notable for her amazing ginger-redhead coloring — a true coppery red and that pre-Raphaelite-angel skin that looks almost translucent. They had a baby named Henry. I saw Larry once in a while, at parties our mutual friend would throw, and at one of these events I found him sitting alone and struck up a conversation. “Where’s your wife?” I asked.

“She died,” he replied. Hoo-boy, that’s something you don’t want to hear. Later, I heard the story of what happened, which is detailed in the column. It’s a terrible story, but I think he came away with the right lesson. He doesn’t name the disease, but I heard it was malignant melanoma (that skin, so unsuited for the sun). One of the worst cancers you can get.

Anyway, he went on to become a champ single dad, adopting several more kids and appearing on “Oprah,” where his widowerhood was mentioned, but not the story behind it.

Paul Krugman gets to the heart of something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but never really moved to the front. After opening with an anecdote about Stephen Moore, the president’s nominee for the Fed board, shit-talking the Midwest, he notes:

This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.

But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.

Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.

Mm-hmm, that’s right.

Finally, want to buy Patti Smith’s former house in St. Clair Shores? It’s quite something, and I totally would if I had the dough. (I do not have the dough.) Her son is the Realtor, which is amusing.

Let’s hope Wednesday fails to suck. On with it.

Posted at 8:24 am in Current events, Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

Rendering unto Caesar.

I’ve been following the talk in the comments about the price of car insurance wherever everybody is. People? In the words of Jame Gumb, you don’t know what pain is. Michigan has the highest-priced auto insurance in the nation, and Detroit has the highest in Michigan. We’re not in Detroit proper, but we are in the same county, and man, do we pay.

My no-collision-coverage premium on the old-ass Volvo is double what an entire year’s worth of coverage was on my brand-new VW back in Indiana. Most younger people around here pay for their coverage monthly, because a couple thousand in a six-month premium is too much for a lot of people to handle. A monthly insurance premium that costs more than a car payment is very common around here; in fact, I think I just read about a guy who surrendered his lease on a new Cadillac (payment: $540/month) because his premium was something like $560 a month — FOR INSURANCE — and he couldn’t swing it anymore.

Our premiums are due in August and March, and I DREAD August and March. Now that Kate has a car, it’s…about $2,500 extra in those months.

And Alan wonders why I want to give up my car entirely.

Oh, well. Another weekend in the books. I just paid our taxes, and I’m about to make a cherry clafoutis for the “Game of Thrones” watch party we’re attending tonight. There was actually quite a bit of discussion about how the menu should be structured — medieval-ish, with a touch of dragon fire? At one point I was committed to individual savory hand pies, because it seemed very Kingsroad Inn and Hot Pie, but finally the host decided he’d smoke a pork shoulder, so that’s the plan. I’ve never seen a pig on “Game of Thrones,” but the cruel boys at the Wall called Samwell Tarly a pig when he arrived at Castle Black, so…

Wait, you’re not into it? Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s fine. You don’t have to be in on the fun. I don’t even think this is the greatest TV show of all time, but it does have actual dragons, and I’m totally there for that. Also, it is SUCH an improvement on the books, it’s in the ‘Godfather’ Hall of Fame for Adaptations That Transcend Their Source Material, and that’s a plus. Five or six more books I won’t have to read.

I’m really — as in really, really, really — hoping next week is an improvement on the last, which sucked. It was a stung-by-gnats thing, mainly, just a thousand things piling up and conspiring to make me crazy and late and under-rested. All this is balanced by the fact we have some milestones coming up soon, too, and happy ones. Kate graduates from Michigan in just about two weeks, huzzah. We have two separate ceremonies to attend, one for her school (she’s up for an award) and the one for the whole university, in the Big House the following day. I was hoping they’d get Michelle Obama for a speaker, but it’s the governor, and I guess I’m fine with that. I hope her speech is a good one.

Friday was the open house for the senior theses, and we went to that. Kate’s thesis project was an album-length recording of her new band, recorded, mixed and mastered by her. (Here’s their Bandcamp page, with only two tracks on it, both recorded by someone else.) Her boyfriend had a show, too, featuring a dancer with sensors stuck all over her body. The sensors were tracked by cameras that triggered music, so she was essentially dancing to music her body was composing in real time. That was pretty cool, even though one of the sensors flew off in the final frenzied minutes of the performance, and landed at my feet. It was the one on her forehead; when we first saw her, Alan whispered, “What a weird piercing.”

So. On to the clafoutis. In the meantime?

“Fox brain” is a thing, and it has victims. I have many friends whose parents went from nice moderates to angry, fearful racists in a matter of months. I’m sure you do, too.

Ivanka! Everybody’s favorite Trump, discussed here. This is what a person with cotton where their brains should be does:

When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”

Has anyone told her that cultivating authenticity is an oxymoron? Guess not.

Finally, I’m finding Bernie tiresome in the extreme. That is all. Talk soon.

Posted at 5:41 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 85 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