Slide show.

So what happens the day after thousands descend on a city center and drink themselves into a stupor in the interest of celebrating spring and the return of baseball season? This:

trash

And this was pretty tame, as these things go. The vacant lots we could see from the office were strewn. Most of it was being picked up by day’s end, but the day was windy, and the wind picked up more of it.

And since we’ve already kicked off with a photo, let’s make this a picture-heavy post, because I’m tired and cranky and want to read a book or something. OK? Here goes.

How about a story you can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that you do NOT want to read the comments? This one:

bleachers

And in case you’re wondering? No, it’s not exactly true; guess which TV network is involved in trying to make it so, however:

However, because it’s a lot more fun to say the big, bad ol’ government is oppressing people, the Narrative (there’s always a Narrative) quickly established that the feds told the boosters to tear out the seats (or as often misreported, bleachers). Two of the boosters appeared March 30 on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” and it only took until the first question for them to be asked if this government-ordered seat removal wasn’t un-American. The boosters, apparently not regular viewers of “Fox & Friends,” seemed a little surprised by that line of questioning.

Someone believes it is embarrassing to show her belly spots to the whole world, but she’s so cute what the hell:

bellyspots

Finally, we saw this over the weekend:

wolf

That’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which I didn’t expect to like but ended up enjoying very much. It’s absolutely over the top, disgusting at many points, too long by about 40 minutes — there were moments when I was mentally telling Thelma Schoonmaker, who has at least one Oscar, that she needed to cut this scene like, yesterday — and yet absolutely exhilarating. I should just face it: Martin Scorsese had me not at hello, but at the moment his own camera panned past him sitting on that step in “Taxi Driver.”

marty

I’m just going to see all his movies until one of us dies.

Which could be tomorrow, if I don’t get some rest. Happy birthday to my sister Pam, and hump day to everyone.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 35 Comments
 

Here comes the fun.

Here’s an Opening Day text from a buddy, who was breakfasting at a place where, if you’re a singleton, they seat you at a table with others:

Tigers fans at my table now imitating black people arguing over the price of fried chicken. I’m going to kill them all and then fire a .44 into my soft palate. You can fight for my record collection and cameras in probate, if you’re so inclined.

I didn’t really understand what a mixed blessing the Tigers are, for locals. Every year, someone who lives in the city writes an angry op-ed aimed at suburbanites who descend upon the stadium district on Opening Day, drink themselves into a stupor, and spend the rest of the afternoon scattering trash, puking and urinating on walls. Because (belch) the city is a shithole, (urp) and who cares if there’s one more piece of trash blowing down the gutter (sorry, dude).

Not only was the bar around the corner from my office open at 7 a.m., the Fillmore, around the other corner, was open at 7:30, with live music and — of course — serving liquor. I understand it’s a big moneymaker, but lordy, won’t someone think of the children.

Related: What it costs to propose (via scoreboard) at every major-league ballpark.

At least the weather cooperated. Glorious and soft enough that spring’s promise no longer seems false. A few hardy sprouts are pushing up, although dirty snow piles are still everywhere and our back yard feels pretty hard. As always in these cases, it could be worse, and is, elsewhere.

So, Hobie Alter died this week, at 80. He democratized surfing, then sailing, and along the way — I love obituary details like this — was married five times:

“I have a tendency to get too involved with my projects. I’d go to 4 or 6 a.m., hear the newspaper drop, and know it was time to quit,” he told The Times in 1977. “It’s not the kind of thing that’s conducive to a marriage. It tends to drive everyone around you crazy.”

I’ve sailed a Hobie Cat a time or three, and they are a blast, if a little quick to get up on one hull. But lots of people want exactly that in a fun little beach boat. I regret I never got to try out the 16-footer, which comes with a rig for hiking out; you put on sort of a big diaper, hook on to the mast, and hang your ass way out to counterbalance the heeling boat.

Hobie built himself a career where he never had to wear a necktie, or even shoes. Not bad.

So. A nice easy nine-miler today, basically a grocery run (coconut milk, soup) with a long detour, something to work the kinks out and map the worst of the potholes. Out and back in 45 minutes and, to my relief, everything worked. We’ll see about tomorrow, but as Mondays go? I’ll take it. And that’s no foolin’.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 43 Comments
 

The old man.

For some reason I found myself reading the cover story in the current issue of Rolling Stone, about Justin Bieber. I managed to avoid Bieber more or less entirely; he either fell just outside of Kate’s teen-idol sweet spot, or she never had one at all. (I suspect the latter; smart girl.)

Anyway, he’s really terra incognita, so I read nearly all of this stupid story (no link; firewall), pegged to his recent screwups. And it was sort of fascinating, with many rich details of what you might call Graceland Life, that zone that rich entertainers and sports stars can afford to live in, surrounded by yes-men and layers of lawyers, managers, fixers and others who make unpleasantness go away. I learned that Bieber carried $75,000 in small bills, packed in two duffel bags — carried by underlings — to distribute to strippers’ G-strings at a Miami club. A photo array in the article featured a devastating headline: “The Wolf of Sesame Street.”

And I learned that many trace this arrested infant’s current spiral to the re-entry of his once-estranged father into his life. Pa Bieber, a brawler, recovering addict and all-around swell guy, has taken his place in the charmed circle.

And that reminded me of something I read over the weekend, a book excerpt about Lance Armstrong. A chunk of it concerned J.T. Neal, Armstrong’s first real mentor, who served as guess-what to him in the early days of his career:

Neal’s first impression was that the kid’s ego exceeded his talent. Armstrong was brash and ill-mannered, in desperate need of refinement. But the more he learned of Armstrong’s home life, the sorrier Neal began to feel for him. He was a boy without a reliable father. Linda Armstrong wrote in her 2005 autobiography that she was pleased that her son had found a responsible male role model, and that Neal had lent a sympathetic ear to her while she dealt with the rocky transition between marriages.

Neal soon recognized that Armstrong’s insecurities and anger were products of his broken family: He felt abandoned by his biological father and mistreated by his adoptive one.

Neal, ironically, was diagnosed with cancer around the same time Armstrong was. But he didn’t survive. And that reminded me of Pete Dexter’s several stories about Cus D’Amato, the boxing trainer, who made Mike Tyson into a profoundly dangerous heavyweight fighter, and then died, leaving the 19-year-old bereft and at the top of a very fast ride straight down. A father figure who left before the job was done.

Fathers. They’re so important. I bet Jeff could write a few million words about that one.

Yesterday we were talking a bit about music, yes? Their albums — especially “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” — were part of the soundtrack of the ’70s, but I haven’t given Little Feat much thought, so I read this Slate piece on the band with some interest. I don’t know if I’m down with the first sentence; “the most underrated band of the ’70s,” really? But what the hell, it’s just pop music.

I wasn’t entirely convinced, but there were some good memories in those video links. “Willin’,” I told someone the other day, is the trucker song America was too stupid, and too busy making “Convoy” a smash hit, to appreciate.

And while it may seem the long way around, I followed a link in the piece to a Rolling Stone reader poll on the best live albums of all time. Just to see what the other nine were. And when I saw that “Frampton Comes Alive” was included by not the J. Geils Band’s “Full House,” well, that’s when I knew what a Rolling Stone reader poll is worth: NOTHING.

Some people I knew in Indiana would have an annual party in honor of Lloyd Lowell George, Little Feat’s founder, who died young. While Peter Frampton yet lives. I ask you.

And now we come to the end of the week. I’m headed out tonight to see a friend and former student play in his new band at the Lager House, one of those Detroit institutions. The band is called Clevinger, named for the character in “Catch-22.” It’s been so long since I’ve read the book I can’t remember, so I asked Wikipedia to tell me about Clevinger:

“A highly principled, highly educated man who acts as Yossarian’s foil within the story. His optimistic view of the world causes Yossarian to consider him to be a ‘dope,’ and he and Yossarian each believe the other is crazy.”

One piece of bloggage: If the Detroit Tigers can replace an entire goddamn baseball field’s worth of grass in the depths of this winter, why can’t we send a manned mission to Mars? Surely it can’t be that hard.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 50 Comments
 

Meanwhile, back here…

Texas and Arizona are getting all the ink, but Michigan is having its own gay-rights moment this week. A lesbian couple is seeking to overcome the state constitution’s same-sex marriage ban in federal court, so they can get hitched and formally adopt the three special-needs they’re raising together. They’re already a family, but the children had to be adopted by each woman as singletons, which puts their custody at risk should one of them go the way of all flesh.

This family is right out of 21st century Central Casting, and absolutely adorable.

I predict the state is going to lose. Their central argument is that the ban is valid because being raised by gay people is objectively worse for kids than by straight ones, and they’ve got the experts to prove it:

In meetings hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington in late 2010, opponents of same-sex marriage discussed the urgent need to generate new studies on family structures and children, according to recent pretrial depositions of two witnesses in the Michigan trial and other participants. One result was the marshaling of $785,000 for a large-scale study by Mark Regnerus, a meeting participant and a sociologist at the University of Texas who will testify in Michigan.

The judge has telegraphed his thinking before; he continued the case for several months until the SCOTUS cases were decided, and with no jury, a lot of people see this as yet another domino ready to fall.

And so we arrive at the end of the week; how long was it, exactly? Twenty days, or forty? Wendy’s going to the vet tomorrow, as she has not shaken her malaise. It’s supposed to be 7 below by daybreak and more snow is coming over the weekend. Can you see why I’m not exactly energetic at the keyboard these past few days? Let’s have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 73 Comments
 

The prom report.

Not a great bunch of pix this year, and I’m not sure why. I wasn’t really drunk, and I think I had it on the point-and-shoot, go-ahead-and-decide-the-exposure camera setting, but nothing really stuck out on the roll. But hey, let’s jump in.

I think part of the weirdness of the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview, i.e., the Car Prom, is the lighting. The wattage at Cobo is aimed and amped to set the shiny sheet metal off at its most flattering; that isn’t necessarily the best for human flesh, but there you are. Anyway, here are some tarts on the People Mover, en route:

threebells

We always go on the People Mover. The parking is easier at Alan’s office, and then there’s a pre-game at the next-door hotel bar, to which all the people who put in the inhuman hours early in the week get to come, and then it’s a block to the PM, which drops you off right in Cobo Center. (The fur came from a Grosse Pointe estate sale, and the lining is rotten silk. Fortunately, I have the self-esteem to hand it over to a coat-check staffer without shame.) The other two nice ladies are Alan’s colleagues. We’d had a couple at this point.

But then there we were, under the Fellini lighting. For some reason I was entranced by this lady’s chinchilla stole:

chinchilla

That’s in the Jaguar display. Pronounced British-style: Jag-you-are.

It was hard to spot a simple theme this year. We’re back! was the message of the last couple of years, since the bailout. Also, Electric cars! There were plenty of them — stay tuned — but the big stories were the new F-150 and, and… I’m drawing a blank. The Corvette was North American Car of the Year, and we spent some time gawking. You know I’m pretty practical, but even this out-of-focus shot gives you a sense of the ground clearance on this ‘vette; how do you drive one without freaking the hell out about every bump and change in pavement smoothness?

lowfrontend

There were many tail ends to be seen throughout the night; here are two:

tworearends

Don’t judge. Winters here are long, and subcutaneous fat is frequently your best friend.

Speaking of back ends, women here are not afraid to climb up on running boards and check out the bed liner while wearing evening gowns:

runningboard

This may be just me, but I love these new-style headlights with all the LED action:

headlight

They’re a little off-putting to come upon as a driver of, say, a 10-year-old Volkswagen coming toward you, but they are bright as all get-out, and very stylish, no?

Here’s Alan, regarding a Chrysler:

chrysler

It is, what’s the word I’m looking for? Blue.

Speaking of blue, I was entranced by the reflections on everything. That is my blue dress, and that is my necklace, but that is not the Jessica Rabbit bustline suggested; it’s just some weird distortion.

reflections

Finally, I always like to eavesdrop on the car-guy chatter. Two stopped behind me while I was examining this Honda concept; I believe the quote was, “Speaking of things that will never be built…” And then they moved on. Honestly, I can’t argue. Some concepts are just there to be looked at and become part of the creative mix, like early drafts or outtakes:

hondaconcept

After two hours or so, my feet were screaming so loud they could be heard above the crowd noise, so we booked for a restaurant with some amusing cheap house wines. But before we go, another plastic flute of champagne? It’s for charity:

trash

Until next year, I remain your correspondent, The Crone in the Tatty Fur.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 38 Comments
 

Saturday morning market.

The only thing more pathetic than the silver-painted statue buskers are the people who are charmed by them.

20131228-122010.jpg

Posted at 12:20 pm in Detroit life, iPhone | 72 Comments
 

Good stories, well-told.

We were talking — I was, anyway — about how print isn’t dead yet, not always for the reasons you might think. Today the NYTimes posted yet another multimedia package, “Gun Country,” which I recommend you check out.

It’s deceptively simple. Seven linked stories on one theme, told through a photo montage and an edited audio interview. It’s only simple until you look at it, and realize how many more photos had to be taken to get the 50 or so used in each montage, how many interviews had to happen to get the perfect narrative, how much time the reporter and subjects had to spend together for trust to be established. Hell, how long did it take to get just the right seven people.

My favorite: “Father Language.” My least-favorite: All the rest. But this is a 360-degree view of gun country, and that brings me to my point. I said years ago that I hoped the first expeditions into video storytelling by newspaper journalists might remake the form, at least somewhat. That hasn’t happened; TV news is as stupid and shallow and showboat-y as it’s ever been. (And here in Detroit, the biggest showboat is none other than ex-newspaperman Charlie LeDuff.) But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how newspaper journalists can tell excellent stories with video, but what would you expect from your local TV crew, print-wise? Not bloody much, unless it’s a personal appeal to donate to the United Way, because the pretty-lady anchor is the honorary chair, or some such.

You know what’s hard? Audio editing. The few times I’ve tried it, it made me nuts, trying to cut an interview, interspersed with my own questions, background noise, what have you, into a coherent thread. I think it’s almost easier to do video — more places to cover your missteps. NPR, you guys get a deep bow. It’s tough.

That’s not to say all print people are pros above reproach, although I’d like to salute the New York Post, where even a case of raving mental illness isn’t enough to get you moved to a quiet spot on the editorial page:

The president of the United States, leader of the free world, standard-bearer for everything upright, good and wholesome about the nation he leads, lost his morality, his dignity and his mind, using the solemn occasion of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service Tuesday to act like a hormone-ravaged frat boy on a road trip to a strip bar.

Yes, it’s the selfie story that would not die, although the photo is the least of it for Andrea Peyser:

In front of 91 world leaders, the mourning nation of South Africa and Obama’s clearly furious wife, Michelle, the president flirted, giggled, whispered like a recalcitrant child and made a damn fool of himself at first sight of Denmark’s voluptuously curvy and married prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Not to be outdone by the president’s bad behavior, the Danish hellcat hiked up her skirt to expose long Scandinavian legs covered by nothing more substantial than sheer black stockings.

Danish hellcat! That’s the spirit.

Finally, a little Detroit real estate porn for you Californians, New Yorkers and Chicagoans. I’ve been to this house, both before and after its restoration, and folks, it’s a jaw-dropper — a Tudor that curves in a gentle arc. It’s spectacular, and at only three-quarters of a mil, probably less than a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

I’m limping into this weekend, but I must march out the other side, because it’s now or never for Christmas shopping. Hope yours is great.

Posted at 12:33 am in Detroit life, Media | 83 Comments
 

The week of socializing frequently.

Sorry for the late entry today. It’s been a top-rack week around here, and now that I look back on the last time I used that term, I see it was precisely this time last year. It’s auto-industry holiday-party week, and Alan has been able to attend precisely one of them, because it’s also been a crazy week for auto-industry news. I hope the party planners don’t mind. They can always forward the sugared almonds to the office, and we’ll see them at the auto show, anyway.

As for me, I had a meeting in Lansing that ran to nearly three hours, causing me to miss what was apparently the wingnut story of the day, but fortunately, Roy Edroso has it covered.

I’ll bring you something else. I was in Sephora over the weekend, the makeup superstore, picking up stocking-stuffers. How do you sell makeup in such a crowded environment? Simple: The way you sell everything else.

sephora1

sephora2

I don’t want to be the old man yelling at a cloud, but I’m reminded of what got Molly Ivins fired from the New York Times back in the day: She wrote a funny piece about a chicken-plucking contest and used the term “gang pluck.” This, I read, led to an epic shaming confrontation with Abe Rosenthal, in which he railed that she was “trying to make the readers of the New York Times think of the phrase ‘gang fuck,’ WEREN’T YOU MOLLY,” etc.

Well, no one ever accused A.M. Rosenthal of having a sexy mother pucker. Although I understand his wife writes some pretty spicy lady-porn.

So play nice amongst yourselves today, and if you need me I’ll be off in the corner, shaking hands and bowing.

Posted at 7:00 am in Current events, Detroit life | 63 Comments
 

A tale of two appliances.

Some years back, I posted a picture of my popcorn popper. This one:

popcornpopper

It’s a Sears Kenmore. My late Aunt Charlene — who was really my mother’s cousin — worked there all her life, and gave it as a gift to my Irish-twin elder siblings when they were “real little kids,” in my mother’s recollection. They’re both Medicare-eligible, so I’d put its age at, conservatively, 60 years.

It still works perfectly. I use it about once a month.

I don’t have a picture of the other appliance in this tale, because it’s sitting in the trash and I’m not going out in 20-degree weather to get a mugshot. It’s my Cuisinart coffee maker, dead at the age of 2. It replaced the Krups, which lasted about five years, maybe more. I don’t know what the hell happened to it; one day I turned it on, the light lit, but nothing happened. The plate didn’t get warm, the gurgle didn’t start, it just laid there like a sick old whore.

Once upon a time, I’d have taken it to a small appliance repair shop and gotten by for a week with Starbucks and the Kuerig, but nowadays? You just pitch it and buy a new one. It so happened I got another Krups, pretty much the identical model we had before. And I realized I’d forgotten something about that one — a design flaw that makes the pot dribble all over the counter unless it’s poured at precisely the right speed and angle.

“If you pour it at precisely the right speed and angle, it doesn’t drip,” I told a swearing Alan as he mopped up a spill yesterday.

“I SHOULD BE ABLE TO POUR IT HOWEVER I WANT,” he snapped back, and you know what? He’s right. I realize a coffeemaker is a more complicated appliance than a mid-century popcorn popper, but for cryin’ out loud, we ain’t putting up a shuttle here, either.

I haz a mad. So in that frame of mind I’m presenting a news roundup I’m calling the YOU FUCKERS digest.

She said she was a victim of the Knockout Game, that two black men had punched her in the face when she left a St. Louis bar, but guess what? Her boyfriend did it, and she was covering for him. YOU FUCKER. Do click through and check out that super-shiner she got, and scoff with me at the explanation:

The two claim Simms inadvertently hit DePew in the eye after she placed her hand on his and he “flung it back violently.”

Brandon Rios didn’t look that bad after going 12 rounds with Manny Pacquaio. But hey — blame the black guys.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the streetlights on I-94 between downtown and my exit were out, contributing to the general haunted-forest atmosphere of the east side. So in the last year,
the state department of transportation spent millions replacing all the lights with shiny new ones — I suspect LEDs because during the brief time they were on, lo they bathed the freeway in the pure light of heaven, or an UFO tractor beam.

Well, they’re all out again — copper thieves. YOU FUCKERS. This is a crime all authorities seem powerless to stop.

I need a job like this, where they fire you and then pay you $8 million just to keep your mouth shut. Because you and everybody you work for is a FUCKER. I would retire and move someplace where fuckers like me are welcome.

Non-fucker bloggage?

Here’s something amusing and fun — evidently students at Taylor University, a Christian school in Upland, Ind., observe a tradition called “silent night” at basketball games. (I don’t know if it’s every game or just one.) They sit in absolute silence in the stands until the 10th point is scored, at which point they — well, watch the video.

There isn’t much to do in Upland. I’m sure they like it that way.

Off to Lansing this morning.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, News, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

The cultural cornucopia.

I found this via Tumblr, so the usual cautions about authenticity apply, but what the hell, it’s worth sharing. This is a purported listings page from an unnamed New York newspaper in November 1963. The hell with JFK — talk about mourning a lost world:

listings

This, pals, is why I regret never living in New York City. Imagine an entertainment buffet spread with everything from Bill Monroe to Miles Davis to Sam Cooke to Bob Dylan. I looked it over twice before I noticed Stiller and Meara hiding in the cracks.

Was everyone’s Thanksgiving wonderful? Ours was just fine, if a little repetitive of last year’s. I was looking up a green bean recipe I like at this time of year, and a menu fell out of the book — exactly the same one I’ve been making for a while now. Oh, well. With a table set for only four, two of them picky eaters, what’s the point of adventure? That’s what dinner parties with friends are for.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to lazing on the couch watching Netflix, errands and the usual. Kate and I went to the DIA for a few hours on Friday, to tell “The Wedding Dance” we would always love it, even if it’s sold to Rupert Murdoch. Watched a couple of movies I would likely not have seen without streaming — “What Maisie Knew” and “The Panic in Needle Park,” which I was astounded to learn was written by Joan Didion and her husband. I cannot tell a lie: I love many, many things about the 1970s, and its strong tradition of antiheroic cinema is one of them.

So, then, some bloggage:

Today’s NYT ran a smoochfest on Jim Delany, whom I didn’t know about. Evidently he’s the guy responsible for the Big Ten conference being little more than a “brand.” Rutgers? Maryland? Now in the Big Ten? Fuck that noise. I prefer the Grantland take on this development:

In ways that matter to college administrators, Delany is a genius: The Big Ten Network is a money-making machine, and the conference actually made more money last year than even the SEC. Last fall, when I spent a day with the Indiana football program, they informed me that they’d been able to upgrade their facilities almost entirely with money procured from their Big Ten Network share. But that’s what makes this so frustrating for those of us who actually give a damn about the product: Speaking to Rittenberg, Delany appeared to characterize the conference’s football woes as a short-term concern, as something that could be attributed to an influx of new coaches and the consequences of immoral behavior at Penn State and Ohio State. He made no real acknowledgement of the long-term statistics, of the Big Ten’s 34-52 bowl record since 2000, of the fact that the Big Ten has won 37 percent of its nonconference games against nationally ranked teams since Ohio State won the national championship in 2002. The top of the conference is largely shaky, and the bottom has never been worse: I imagine Purdue and Minnesota and Illinois would struggle to finish .500 in the MAC.

Anything else? Yes, these rather astonishing-not-astonishing charts, about who uses marijuana and who gets busted for it, via Ezra Klein.

Finally, a fine piece by John Carlisle, former Detroitblogger, now roving columnist for the Freep. It’s about a community of legal scrappers in one of the most cursed neighborhoods in Detroit, who eke out a living digging holes in a now-vacant scrapyard, seeking out the long-buried bits of metal there. If you’re thinking, “why, that sounds like something you’d find in the Third World,” join the club. I was struck by the comments, which swung between that sentiment and a certain witless, attaboy-to-the-bootstrappers attitude, which ignores the fact the bootstrapping isn’t leading anywhere. Unless it’s to another generation of metal men:

Domenic Anderson used to follow his dad down here and watch him dig.

“Everybody would sit there, dig, get along,” he said. “All the grown-ups would be doing their own things, running their own crews out of here, making their own money.”

Now he works here, too. He stood on a dirt mound next to his twin brother, David Anderson. The 19-year-old brothers live just down the street and work in the lot six days a week. They’re rough edged and dirt streaked, and they share a distinct southwest Detroit accent and a kind of small-town genuineness.

For them, it’s not just work; it’s also their social life. Most of the neighbors moved away long ago, so there weren’t many kids to play with when they were younger, and there aren’t many to hang out with now that they’re older.

People around here like to say that we’re America’s future, so hey — look forward to it.

And so the long slog toward the holidays commences! Can you feel my excitement?

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments