A weekend of wonders.

Hey, everyone! I finally saw “Black Panther.” And…well. I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I found a lot to like about it. The costumes were fantastic, production design ditto. Can’t complain about the acting, certainly, and the script was pretty good, too. It’s taken this long, but now I can state with confidence: I just don’t like comic-book movies.

I felt the same way about the equally praised “Wonder Woman.” Every story is the same hero’s quest, every outcome predetermined. The fight scenes go on and on and ON, and ever since Chinese kung-fu movies decided human beings could run straight up walls, what’s left for superheroes to do? Apparently Black Panther’s suit “absorbs kinetic energy” and allows him to dish it back out in equal measure. So you shoot at him, and he only gets stronger. Wow, how exciting.

The most interesting character in the story is the bad guy. (And — spoiler alert — he dies in the end.)

Why is this so hard for writers to understand? People’s flaws are as important as their strengths, maybe more so. They’re the shadow that makes the light more defined. The worst thing you could say about T’Challa, i.e., Black Panther, is that he’s too good. Bor-ing.

Good thing the outfits were so fab. And T’Challa was hilarious on “Black Jeopardy.” But the people talking about this being a Best Picture nominee are full of it.

That was the second cultural event we took in Saturday. The first was the Tom of Finland show at the local contemporary-art museum. For those not up on Tom of Finland: He was to leather daddies what Alberto Vargas was to pin-up girls. Google if you dare, but much of it is porn, with comically outsized dicks. This pretty tame piece gives you the idea, though:

Well, hello sailor. At the Tom of Finland 🇫🇮 show.

A post shared by nderringer (@nderringer) on

I still chuckle whenever I see a bunch of kids dancing to “YMCA.” Gay culture seeped in under the door, and hardly anyone noticed.

And then, because last week was our 25th anniversary, we went out to dinner on Sunday night, a rare event for us. It was great, at a pop-up space in Hazel Park run by a photographer I worked with once when I was a freelancer. Four courses with twin themes of Thai and Springtime, which meant fiddlehead ferns in chili oil with something called a 63-degree egg, which is, I learned via Professor Google, a thing. It was amazing — almost an egg pudding. The menu was full of wonders, including soft-shell crabs and avocado ice cream. The photographer seated us at the table closest to the action, so we could watch the cooking and the plating and all of it. Quite a night. I woke up with a food hangover today, but pushed through. I don’t expect to be hungry again for two days.

More Instagram? Sure why not:

What else happened this weekend? Oh, right: Two people in England got married. Don’t tell me your problems with the dress, because I’m not hearing them. That dress was perfect for a 36-year-old divorcee marrying into a royal family in front of 1 billion eyeballs. Of course, there were 2 billion photos, but for my money, I love the official ones released by the palace, if only because it captures the royal family in all its weirdness. I know Phil and Betty are now in their 90s, but man, he looks like a cadaver these days. I expect he won’t truck with having a little concealer dabbed around those sunken black eyes. The kids are adorable, of course. All these pictures needed was a corgi or two.

And with that, I’m out and offline. I need to sleep off 2,000 calories, still.

Posted at 8:00 pm in Detroit life, Movies | 53 Comments
 

Slipping away.

I could tell you I was totally busy early this week, which would be the truth, but the truthier truth is, sometimes you gotta lay your burden down, and sometimes it’s just nice to get out in the sunshine, and sometimes you have to do it without your laptop. And that’s what I did Sunday: Went for a longish bike ride with an old friend, followed by some Little Kings at a bar, and as Detroit Sundays go, that’s a pretty good one.

We went down to Delray, one of the most shat-upon neighborhoods in the city, for a variety of reasons I don’t want to explain here. (It often smells literally so, thanks to the sewage treatment plant there.) But we went mainly because things are changing fast there; the new bridge to Canada will begin construction eventually, and the customs plaza and various other infrastructure will be there, so I wanted to see how the land clearing was going. In a word: Apace. We rode past a building my friend was always curious about, and lo, the door was open, so we stopped. Inside was an old man who told us many stories about the place, about his life, about Delray, and about the building, which was once a bar.

“There’s a tunnel that runs under the road and comes out in the building over there,” he said. “The Purple Gang used to use it.”

Now. If you laid out all the Purple Gang-used-to-hang-here stories in Detroit end to end, there wouldn’t be a building left for a legit business. But in this case, I think it might be true. The bar is smack on the Rouge River, near where it flows into the Detroit River, and there’s a boat slip/house and dock out back, with not one but two basements. It would be a perfect place to offload liquor in the middle of the night, in the middle of Prohibition, and the neighborhood was never really known for its saintliness. We saw one basement but not the other, because it’s flooded, and that’s where the tunnel would have been. Meanwhile, the old man told story after story after story, some of them surely apocryphal, but maybe not. He was old and a little raggedy, and the bar had been closed for years. He said he was aiming to get his liquor license back, something I doubt will ever happen. But it was a nice interlude on a warm day.

This was the building. The garage just out of the frame on the left is now a pile of rubble. Here’s one man’s story about taking liquor deliveries to the bar. A boy who could ferry a boat over from Canada could make $5 per trip, big money in the 1920s. All soon to be gone, gone, gone. The new bridge will have a bike lane, we have been promised, so maybe someday, an international crossing for me on my two-wheeler.

Monday and Tuesday passed at a gallop, though. Gallops are good; they make the days fly. We’re whoa-ing to a trot Wednesday and Thursday, and may amble into the weekend at a relaxed walk. Time will tell.

Time will tell about a lot of things. The Iran deal cancellation, for one, although I think the time has already told: What a bonehead move. Our genius negotiator-in-chief.

The weekend’s WashPost story about the president’s real-estate financing during the before-he-was-president era is very interesting, too. It doesn’t actually say m – – – – l – – – – – – ing, but it’s certainly an unavoidable conclusion a thinking person might draw from the facts at hand. Some of you smarter people will have to explain how Deutsche Bank plays in all of this. I’m listening.

Oh, and this story is breaking as we speak:

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

And this was the big overnight read:

To many in Albany, New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, seemed staid and somewhat standoffish: a teetotaler who favored coffee shops over bars, liked yoga and health food and preferred high-minded intellectual and legal debate to the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s political arena.

But that carefully cultivated image of a caring, progressive Renaissance man came crashing down on Monday night after the publication of an expose by The New Yorker, detailing allegations of a sordid and stomach-turning double life, including Mr. Schneiderman’s physical and psychological abuse of four women with whom he had been romantically involved. The attorney general’s behavior, the article said, had been exacerbated by alcohol abuse and punctuated by insults of the very liberal voters and activists who had held him up as a champion willing to deliver a fearless counterpunch to President Trump.

Well, OK then.

Charge on into the week, guys. For the millionth time, I miss the olden days, don’t you?

Posted at 7:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 64 Comments
 

The earth moved.

So I’m sitting here, wondering what’s become of my life, why I just ate that cheeseburger, if anything super-good is ever going to happen to me again — you know, just basic end-of-winter self-pity — when what sounded like the world’s biggest truck went down the street. Like, GEM of Egypt big. Wendy popped her head up, the beams creaked, and the truck rumbled on down and, from the sound of it, blew the stop sign on the corner.

Ten seconds later, I got a text from a friend who lives two miles away. “Did your house just shake?”

It wasn’t a truck. It was an earthquake. A 3.6, to be specific. Epicenter was just across the river.

So the moral of the story is: Don’t sit on the couch feeling blue, because even the earth under your feet isn’t permanent. We never get earthquakes here. Except when we do.

Interesting bloggage today.

Not bragging, but I caught this video in the first few seconds; Jordan Peele gets the speech rhythms, but not quite the voice. Still, it’s funny, and the surrounding post is a good lesson for the coming era of fake everything.

Just another stop on Sarah Palin’s ongoing slide into the melting permafrost of Alaska. Soon she’ll be selling time shares.

A lesson in American election law:

With little fanfare, federal regulators took steps two weeks ago to kill a super PAC supporting former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

The Federal Election Commission’s letter of “administrative termination”—the formal process by which it shuts down a group’s operations—received no media attention whatsoever.

That’s because the super PAC was a joke. Perhaps the name gave it away.

“Blaze It for Delegate Jill Stein” didn’t spend a single cent during the 2016 election. If that wasn’t proof of its less-than-serious intentions, consider its origins.

On September 30, 2016, Charlie Baker of South Orange, New Jersey, took out a piece of lined paper, with hole punches in it, and wrote a handwritten application to form the committee. He was 14-years-old, in the middle of an 8th grade social studies in which the teacher had divided students into camps representing various presidential candidates.

Finally, we didn’t see Stormy last night. It started to sleet around showtime, the cover was $20, and if we wanted to sit down, another $40. Fortunately, the News sent one of their best writers.

Enjoy the weekend, all.

Posted at 9:47 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 68 Comments
 

A few minutes on Lucky Place.

I drive I-94 from my house to downtown Detroit, or pretty much anywhere west of me, and almost everything is west of me. So I’m on I-94 a lot. The roads that pass over it are identified with signage, and one has always intrigued me: Lucky Place.

Detroit is an old city, with old-city ideas about what you call the things we drive on to get from one place to another — they’re streets, roads, avenues, boulevards. Not for Detroit the cutesy-poo ideas of suburban developers, with their Ways and Lanes and Crescents, all suggesting either some generic English countryside (Andover Lane) or a darling daughter (Helen Promenade). So right there I was intrigued. The neighborhood Lucky Place cuts through is not in any danger of gentrifying soon. It’s near the Chene-Trombly Market, a large party store, as they’re known locally, that serves as a freeway landmark and has appeared in two or three books. Not long after we moved here, a couple of winos hot-wired a nearby backhoe and used it to tear out the front door of the place. The loss to the business, besides the door and structural damage: $200 in liquor. They were just thirsty.

That none of the writers thought to mention nearby Lucky Place seems like authorial malpractice. Lucky Place should be the title of a crime novel. Or maybe it’s too obvious.

This morning I had an appointment downtown that ended early, so I decided to take surface streets home. I further decided that this would be the day I would finally see Lucky Place from anything other than the freeway.

The map was a help, telling me that Lucky Place isn’t much of a street at all. I said it “cuts” through its neighborhood? It barely scratches it, running from a back gate to the Cadillac assembly plant, across I-94 and not even a block into the neighborhood on the other side. Not a through street, the freeway so close that the noise would be a constant, only a few houses. But Lucky Place-bound I was, and after a short drive, there I was.

If you’re going to visit a street like this, a morning like Friday was a good day to do it — we had a heavy, wet snow the day before, and even dead or diseased trees look good trimmed in white. I arrived just as it was starting to melt off and fall in wet, slushy splats.

Google Street View indicates this house was still more or less intact in 2013. Not so much today:

There are two tires stacked on the collapsed porch roof. I see this often, and always wonder who would bother to lug them up there, and why.

The trash is still being picked up, but it looks like only two of the houses are still occupied:

But as always, it’s all in where you direct your attention. On the other side of this thicket is another street with old houses and vacant lots. But look at it just so, in the snow, and you could be anywhere. You could be up north somewhere:

As often happens, the street of my imagination and expectation was better than reality. But I’m glad I stopped. Now I know.

(I should note that others have investigated before me. But I took pictures.)

So, here we are, well into Friday. Just one bit of bloggage today, but it’s a good one: An intriguing story about latter-day vampires in Florida, and by that I mean medical hucksters trying to sell aging boomers on the quackery of “young blood” transfusions. Yes, it was a joke on “Silicon Valley” last season, but now it’s in the Sunshine State. Scroll down to the photo of Christine Lynn and ask what the odds are that she belongs to Mar-a-Lago.

A good weekend to all. Stay lucky, my friends.

Posted at 1:07 pm in Detroit life | 94 Comments
 

Let’s take a spin.

Hey, guys! Let’s all say hi to Joe Louis, check our coats in the Delta lounge and see what the North American International Auto Show has to offer this year, shall we?

(I’m not sure how we got on The List for the Delta lounge, but I hope we get on it again next year. They had a little pre-party and an after-party, but the best perk was a separate coat check — it let us skip another line. The finger food and the champagne weren’t bad, either.)

Onto the show floor, where every year I’m a little overwhelmed by the first 10 minutes. As I’ve no doubt said before, it’s a very strange event. The lighting is about 1 trillion candlepower, there are liquid-video screens on every upright surface, lots of noise, and thousands and thousands of people dressed in black tie. I was talking to a guy a few months ago who said he likes to take LSD about twice a year. If he did it at this show, he’d run screaming from the floor before he hit the GM space. I want to send an avant-garde cinematographer in to capture surrealism on the hoof. Me, I just hold up my phone and say a Hail Mary:

Hello, Mercedes weirdness. Of course, that’s all anybody does: Take pictures. Of themselves, each other, and once in a while, a car. Like so:

I have no idea who that woman in the pink sequins is, although she appears to know me.

The media are all there, reporting live, reporting for later, just reporting-reporting-reporting. This guy is the No. 1 drive-time morning host on the AM talk station. I find his show almost unendurable; when I’m holed up in a bunker with federal troops outside, they’ll blare it on giant speakers and I’ll surrender in a minute:

Every year, it seems the cars are less of a story than the technology. The show follows the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, every year more seamlessly. The luxury models are more and more like rolling living rooms, with price tags to match, and even the less-luxurious do everything but make you lunch, and that may be on the drawing board. We have an automotive expression in our household — “it comes with all the shit on it,” with all pronounced Texas-style: awwwllll. I’m not sure what this photo represents, all-the-shit-wise; I only welcome our robot overlords with these well-dressed people:

Jeff Borden can tell a funny story about one of his early automotive purchases, where the trunk/glove box light was part of the deluxe accessories package.

But this is a car show, so here’s a car. Ford is reintroducing the fastback Mustang from “Bullitt” in 2019. I always sigh over these nostalgia-wallows, even while I know how useful they are for whipping up the auto press. Here’s the new Bullitt next to one of the two models used in the classic chase scene from the 1968 movie. Guess which one is valued at $4 million?

(Although the first 2019 production model just sold for $300,000 at auction, a price distorted by a charity donation.)

Me, I love a concept car. Freed from the constraints of federal safety standards, designers can go wild with the coolness. Like the carbon-fiber grille on this Lexus:

That’s the LF-1 Limitless, which Alan says is likely to go into production. I’m convinced the product expert was hired because his hair matched the paint job:

“We’re never going to be able to afford this car, are we?”

Look! A bedazzled fun fur!

Here’s a Chinese crossover. The name? A total coincidence, the company says. Well, I’m glad someone else is making money off the name other than you-know-who:

The Ram logo has been squared off and made more macho. Apparently the company thought the old one looked too much like a uterus.

What I said up there about rolling living rooms? Here’s the mileage sticker for the new Suburban, which is basically a bus for soccer moms who like to spend a lot of time at the gas station:

On the way out, we passed yet another refreshment station. Hey, it’s the Detroit News autos team. Good job, guys!

You can see their full coverage here, with more stories and many, far better pictures than these. As for us, bye for now:

Posted at 4:04 pm in Detroit life | 55 Comments
 

BOLO.

Hey, just realized I forgot to blog for Friday. A quick one, because I’m Cinderella-fying myself for the big dance tonight, and brother, that’s a long-term process at my age.

For those keeping score at home: I have just removed unwanted leg and pit hair and moisturized heavily. Next step: Nails.

I’ve also been following internet worm holes on human trafficking hysteria. With the auto show in town, the usual suspects are claiming their share of the spotlight, spewing questionable data and offering such helpful tips as: Watch for situations that just don’t seem right.

See, this is predicated on the extremely shaky contention that any large group of people descending on a city for an event – Super Bowl, Final Four, auto show – will lead to a “spike” in human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, but I bet you knew that. These press conferences aren’t to draw attention to domestic servants who are essentially held prisoner in their employers’ basement, but to give the local TV stations a chance to break out their whores-on-the-stroll video with the faces pixelated out. Anyway, I think the contention is shaky because so far, no one has ever produced any evidence other than this: Sex-service classifieds on sites like Backpage spike around that time.

This week, I tried to test it. To be sure, there are a lot of Backpage sex ads right now. But the ads drop off sharply after they’ve been up a day or two, and I’m not sure why. I also don’t have a control group from a non-auto show week. I tweeted a thread about this yesterday:

Any of you with experience in this area, feel free to private-message me via email or the channel of your choice. I’m genuinely curious.

Earlier this week, the police and some HT advocates held a presser that advised the public to BOLO (be on the lookout, in the cop lingo) for trafficked women at the show. They also said they made 22 arrests last year “tied to” the show, and apparently no one asked for more detail. So are girls, what? Working the floor? I find that hard to believe. Outside of Cobo? Ditto. Almost all prostitution is online now, anyway, so I don’t know how the public might see one of these women in the first place. Then there’s this:

Last year, police made 22 arrests for human trafficking that were tied to the auto show, Craig said. Some cases are still being investigated.

The chief anticipates there will be more reports at this year’s show, which runs through Jan. 28. Sex traffickers often go to major events that attract large crowds to find their victims, Craig said.

Craig emphasized that sex trafficking is much different from prostitution because trafficking means the person is held against their will.

Wait, what? Prostitution cases being investigated for a year? And what is he saying in the second paragraph there? That pimps are trolling the crowd for girls? Has anyone actually been to this show? The public week is hardly a magnet for young women traveling alone — it’s families, couples, and lots of guys. Is he pushing the “Taken” myth here? Oh, and trafficking vs. prostitution, he’s wrong there. He just is.

When I wrote about HT a couple years ago, one of my sources told me that, in terms of understanding the problem, we were about where we were with understanding domestic violence – in 1979.

It’s an interesting topic. I wish we had better data.

OK, on to the nails. I’ll have a photo roundup of the action tonight Sunday/Monday. Be good, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Coalflakes.

Today I will be sticking close to home. Those of you who are over 50 and have decent health insurance can probably figure out why I will be sticking close to home, so I don’t need to go into details, do I? The timing of this will be tricky, as I have a car in the shop and a very nice loaner. I need to turn it in before the rocket fuel kicks in, because those are some sweet leather seats. It’s funny, how we talk of these things in code. I was buying the rocket fuel earlier this week, and pushed it over the counter to the cashier along with a giant bottle of fruit-punch Gatorade.

“If this is what I think it’s for?” the clerk said. “You can’t use the red Gatorade.”

That wasn’t on my instructions, but it made perfect sense. I went back for a bottle of lemon-lime. At times like this, we need to take care of one another.

Today I am grateful for a) health insurance; and, to a far lesser extent, b) the idle hours to get all these tests done before it runs out. The new patient reports on this particular procedure, the one they hand you at checkout, include photos. I shudder to think.

So, for the huddle today, two stories of the Albion’s Seed variety. (I’m sure Coozledad will provide an amusing, obscene footnote.) First, via Reuters:

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Peak Coal passed a while ago. Natural gas killed it, not the Obama administration. This is the broad consensus the story references. Yet many in coal country continue to clap for Tinkerbell, setting up this conundrum:

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

Ta-da! Yes. You have to be willing to change to actually change, although admittedly, I share their cynicism about the “new industries” that might move to coal country once a “trained workforce” assembles itself at whatever critical mass they require. So I sympathize, to a point. But any coal miner who can’t see the forces that took away his or her livelihood — automation and fracking, mainly — simply isn’t paying close enough attention.

Which brings us to this laughter-through-tears piece beb pointed out late in yesterday’s thread. Remember “rolling coal,” i.e., modifying exhaust systems on big-ass trucks to blow thick clouds of black smoke into the atmosphere? Sometimes with amusing rear-window stickers warning of “Prius repellant?” Some states are passing laws to ban the practice. And yeah, well:

Entire dissertations could be written about rolling coal. Even more than Trump’s ascension, it seems to perfectly capture a moment in time, an inarticulate yawp of protest from angry white men. They feel disdained and overlooked and they will blow thick black smoke in your face until you pay attention.

There’s no faux nostalgia involved. Unlike with, say, hunting, there’s no tale of rugged rural self-sufficiency to draw on. This is not some sturdy heartland tradition with which meddlesome elites want to interfere.

Rolling coal is new; it just caught on a few years ago. It does not improve the performance of a truck. It has no practical application or pragmatic purpose of any kind. It is purely aggressive, a raw expression of defiance: I can pollute your air, for no reason, and no one can stop me.

Lots of writers love Hunter Thompson, and I’m one of them, at least before he became a human cartoon and general wrecking ball. “Hell’s Angels” is a fine piece of new journalism, and there’s a long passage in there about the Angels, and the rest of California biker culture, having their roots in American Appalachian/Okie/poor-white culture. I read it when I was 16 or so, and it opened my eyes to class issues as a companion to racial ones. Their flag is the Gadsden. Their motto: “It’s a free country,” sometimes spoken through a belch while crushing a beer can against one’s forehead.

Anyway, the Vox piece is pretty good, and I recommend it.

I keep coming back to something I said often when the auto industry was collapsing, southeast Michigan was contracting and workers everywhere were on the park bench, so to speak: What are we going to do with these people? Retraining was part of the answer. But when retraining itself is resisted, then what do you do?

OK, shower time, then my final solid food for a while, and a few hours after that? Rocket fuel!

Final thing I wanted to share: This photo.

Last Saturday night was a monthly dance-party pop-up my younger friends enjoy, so I tagged along this month, mainly because of the venue, an obscure bar that sits almost literally in the shadow of the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit. From the outside, it looks like a somewhat more upscale version of the thousands of workingmen’s bars all over Detroit’s less-glamorous districts, shot-and-a-beer places where you can prepare for, or wind down from, your shift. But step inside, and it’s the most neon-y neon lounge you ever saw.

“Oh my god, it’s ‘Miami Vice,'” I said as I showed my ID to the doorman.

“I was gonna say ‘Scarface,’ but yeah,” he replied.

Every surface that didn’t have a neon fixture had a mirror, making photography a little tricky. This welcome-to-hell glow was hard to expose for:

But it was so much fun. I saw one of my old Wayne State students. “I always knew you were a badass,” he said. Kids these days — gotta love ’em.

Posted at 10:06 am in Current events, Detroit life | 101 Comments
 

The YouTube pitch.

One of the smarter pieces of journalism I recall in recent years — maybe “This American Life,” but can’t be sure — was about economic development. Working thesis: There’s no such thing. True economic development requires investment, real investment, in infrastructure, in education, in entrepreneurial ideas, which crash as often as they don’t. No one likes investment anymore, at least not public investment, because that = taxes, and OMG can’t have those.

So what we call economic development is really just a bunch of states and cities trying to lure businesses away from one place to another, like prostitutes cutting the price until the customer settles on one. The Sun Belt’s economic development came at the expense of the Rust Belt, to use only the most obvious example.

Which brings us to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. Perhaps your city is capering before the retailer of the future, because it seems half the cities in the country are. Detroit certainly is. The bids were due yesterday, I believe. Ours was accompanied by a video. An excellent video, with maybe some confusing shots here and there. Go ahead, spend three minutes on it. It’s very inspiring.

Detroit should really do some economic development in making cool bid videos. The one when Detroit was angling for the X Games is even better. Didn’t get the X Games; Austin won that one. They had a good video, too. But Detroit filmmakers could certainly improve on Washington D.C.’s, or Danbury’s, or Dallas’, or even Philadelphia’s. (Watching these in succession, I’m wondering how long before the swooping drone shot becomes as cliché as walking-in-slo-mo-away-from-the-explosion.)

I doubt we’ll get the Amazon headquarters, because they’re not going to be looking for a nice video. Like the customer looking over the goods on an Amazon dynamic-pricing page, they’re going to want the best price. So all that yammering about restaurants and diversity and prose poetry is going to come down to: How much public money are you willing to cough up?

Meanwhile, back in Realityville, I need to get back to the job hunt. But I wanted to point this out for people who didn’t follow the links on one of Cooze’s comments yesterday. The story is about contenders to be president of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. Final paragraph:

J.D. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir about his upbringing in Appalachia, was also floated early on in the process as a possible high-profile, younger recruit. He has met in recent months with Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who has since returned to his post running Breitbart News, and Bannon has privately expressed a desire to install an ally at the conservative institution.

So much for the moderate populist, the thinker, the son of the soil ready to lead. The hell with that guy, and I’m sorry I bought his stupid book for my brother last Christmas. Is Middletown, Ohio even Appalachia? I don’t think so.

Miscellanea: Making media literacy great again, from Columbia Journalism Review:

More than 10,000 students have taken Stony Brook’s news literacy course, which is constantly updated to help students identify the latest ways bogus news and information are created. For instance, there are dozens of websites that let anyone easily produce counterfeit social media posts, then retweet them, post them on Facebook, or embed them in a news story. But fake tweets seem positively quaint compared to an even newer threat: Using artificial intelligence to make videos of people saying things they didn’t say. Researchers recently made a video of Barack Obama speaking very earnestly about his priorities for the waning days of his administration.

“The single most important thing I can do now,” Obama said, according to the doctored audio track, “is to play golf.”

When Bridge began its Michigan Divided project, one of the participants, a woman about my age, said she “didn’t give a rat’s ass” about the Access Hollywood tape, because she “got hit on all the time in my job in the corporate world.” Meet just one personification of why hazing continues, why sexual harassment continues, why corporal punishment of children continues: I lived through it, and so can you. Here’s another: I was assaulted, but you were just harassed. Stop cheapening my experience. Ahem:

Remember the schoolyard chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” Words simply aren’t the same as actions. They’re not treated the same — nor should they be — under the law. And their ultimate effects are vastly different.

There’s a spectrum of victimization. At one end is an unwanted advance or comment, and at the other is rape and death. The problem with #MeToo is that it’s almost encouraging people to celebrate that victimization, regardless of where on the spectrum it falls.

I don’t think any woman who #MeToo’d this week is celebrating anything, but you can’t tell that to some people.

The weekend is nearly here. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:45 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 39 Comments
 

Too much news.

It wasn’t a great day. Nothing heinous, just the usual job-related crisis of confidence, complicated by one story after another coming out of Washington. I actually found myself feeling vaguely nauseous, but that might have been the spicy peanut stew I ate the night before. Still. As Josh Marshall has said, he’s poison.

So maybe it’s him after all.

A friend just messaged me: You could read for hours about Sessions, dead troops, Manafort, etc. and still not be caught up on today. I’d add: And if you’re trying to find a job at the same time, you could drive yourself crazy.

But now we have a pizza and a bottle of wine, and there are few things that can’t be made better with that.

Another improvement: Around 5 I closed the laptop and took Wendy to the dog park in Detroit. Unlike the one in Grosse Pointe, the admission to which is regulated more strictly than Studio 54, the one in Detroit is open to all. Not only that, people come with six-packs and marijuana and have known each other for years. Good-old-daysing is rampant in Detroit, and these folks reminisce about the time before the park was even fenced in. “You needed a better-behaved dog then,” one guy said. Well, whatever — it was fun to be out on a fine day and not talking about the president. Wendy ran and played, and there was an obese pit bull named Darla. Plus two German shepherds, a boxer and a couple of indeterminate mutts. A happy crew. Dog parks are great; why did it take so long to think of them?

So, then. I subscribe to the Poetry Foundation’s daily email, which is often the most welcome one of the day. Here is the text of “Enough Music” by Dorianne Laux, but I think of it as The Ballad of the Long-Term Couple:

Sometimes, when we’re on a long drive,
and we’ve talked enough and listened
to enough music and stopped twice,
once to eat, once to see the view,
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.
Maybe it’s what we don’t say
that saves us.

Bloggage? Sure:

Yet another Facebook page created by the Russians, this one called Heart of Texas. Secessionist, of course, and very popular, with 250,000 followers at its peak. Content? Do you even need to ask?

Posts began to follow a perceptibly hard-right course, stressing Texas’s status as a “Christian state,” or touting the Second Amendment as a “symbol of freedom … so we would forever be free from any tyranny.” Some of the page’s contributors talked about the need to “keep Texas Texan,” whatever that meant. There was also a generous dollop of conspiracy theory. There were posts about the allegedly unnatural death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the supposed federal invasion orders behind the Jade Helm military exercise. Fake Founding Father quotes mingled with anti-Muslim screeds and paeans to Sam Houston. And the number of followers steadily crept into the hundreds of thousands.

Though the site’s authors understood their audience well, there was something off about their writing. The page’s “About” section proclaimed that “Texas’s the land protected by Lord [sic].” Grammatical and spelling glitches were everywhere: “In Love With Texas Shape,” “State Fair of Texas – Has You Already Visited?,” “Always Be Ready for a Texas Size,” “No Hypoclintos in the God Blessed Texas.” (Or take this caption for a photo of country music star George Strait: “Life is not breaths you take, but the moments that take your breth [sic] away.”) Yet the typos never seemed to raise any suspicions in readers’ minds.

The #MeToo posts just keep on coming. Here’s one from Mo Ryan, the Chicago Tribune Variety TV writer.

Back to the grind. Tomorrow, I think I’ll clean two closets.

Posted at 9:19 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 48 Comments
 

A hash of it.

I’m a feminist, but I try not to be too prickly about it. A lot of what younger women get upset about — catcalling, being told by total strangers to smile, having men simply assume they can impose upon my time without permission — simply doesn’t happen to me anymore. And I’m older now, and know that everybody, no matter their age or station in life, is figuring it out day by day. Which is to say: I try to forgive. You never know.

Saturday morning is my gift to myself. Almost every week, I get up early and go to the Eastern Market to drink in the glory of fresh vegetables glowing under the rising sun, or at least do a little people-watching. Then I stash my haul and take myself out for breakfast, at a coney island (non-Detroiters, read: diner).

I almost always sit at the counter rather than tie up a table. I usually order the hippie hash with eggs over easy. I’m in and out in 30 minutes.

On Saturday, seating was tighter than usual. Only two single stools.

As I sat down, the guy next to me started talking. To me.

“Man, I love this place,” he said. “It’s a dying breed. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.”

Three statements, one an opinion, the other two incorrect. Just smile and nod, said the angel on my shoulder. Set him straight, countered the demon on the other.

“Of course it’s not a dying breed,” I said. “There are probably dozens, no, hundreds of coney islands like this, all over the city.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s a great place,” he said.

OK, so maybe we’re dealing with someone not quite all there. He didn’t look homeless or mentally ill, didn’t smell drunk, but you never know. He was wearing a day-glo vest that suggested he had a real job, working near traffic. But the devil had led me into temptation, and now we were having a conversation.

“They just know you, they remember your face,” he enthused. “See? She brought you coffee, the way you like it.”

Too late, I smiled and nodded, then picked up my phone and started scrolling Twitter, the universal symbol for we’re-done-talking.

He wasn’t done talking. “It’s so great here,” he went on. “I love this place. The food is so good.” Kept scrolling. “Excuse me if I’m talking too much,” he said. I smiled and kept scrolling: Oh look, the president is yelling about Puerto Ricans. Someone sat down on the other side of him, a man, and he started in with him, only it was about football. The guy gave him two replies, then picked up his own phone. Back to me.

“They really serve the best corned beef I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s so…good.”

The angel reappeared on my shoulder. This poor man probably lives by himself and has no one to talk to, she whispered. Can’t you be a good person, just this once?

“I’m not much for corned beef, but I’m sure it’s very good,” I said, still looking at my phone.

“And the hash browns!” he went on. “They’re so great!”

WTF, I’m thinking. This isn’t a conversation, he’s just babbling. His food arrived. Corned beef and eggs. He started to eat, briefly stopping his patter, but not for long.

“Mmm, I just love this,” he said. “Sooo good.”

By now I was staring fixedly at my phone and actually turning my body away, to the extent I could without imposing on the person on the other side.

“Look at that yolk!” he crowed. “Just look at it!”

I turned back to him and snapped, “OK, that’s ENOUGH.”

He went on chortling to himself: “Mmm, these eggs, so good.”

My own food arrived. I bolted it, grabbed the check and left. A stranger, a man, had successfully ruined my breakfast because I lacked the spine to shut him up immediately.

This is my life now. Squabbling with crazy men in diners.

Of course, when you turn to the news, you get this:

Without taking an iota of glory away from first responders, I am increasingly uncomfortable with what happens pretty routinely now after these tragedies – the deflection of horror into generic praise for first responders, who are, after all, doing the jobs they signed up for. Maybe those who do are only looking for something, anything, good to say when confronting oceans of blood. But there comes a point where Mister Rogers’ advice is simply what it is: Comfort extended to children. It’s fine to look for the helpers. But if you can’t, or won’t, look at why the helpers were called in the first place, you’re simply deflecting.

Yep, I’m politicizing this tragedy. Join with me. Let’s politicize the shit out of it. Because it happened due to a failure of policy. Policy is decided through politics. So let’s get to it.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:17 am in Current events, Detroit life | 63 Comments