I’m thinking just “Saturday morning” today. Hope yours is going well.
The Tour de Troit was pretty cool, and if Saturday’s picture looks muddy and pixelated, well, I apologize. I tried to fix the tiny picture — bug in WordPress for mobile devices, IMO — and it ‘sploded. Oh, well. It’s not like there aren’t 90 zillion other pix out there if you feel like searching #tdt2013 in the usual social networks.
More than 6,000 riders, we were told. You’d think riding in a group that size, it would be difficult to go off course, but somehow we managed. Don’t look at me, I was just following the people in front of me when suddenly there was a SCREEEECH of brakes and a very pissed-off driver what-the-hell’d us as we rolled through an intersection. An intersection without the usual police, corking it. And hey, there weren’t any at that last intersection, either, were they? A bunch of us stopped and consulted with the map, and a bunch more took out their phones and stared at those, and we managed to cobble together a way back to the route. It involved taking a group of three dozen or so down Woodward, a daunting proposition for some people who thought they’d be riding in a tunnel of police protection, but we got everybody back to the group, and now a few out-of-towners will have a better story to tell.
Afterward, there was beer and food and music. I observed a man at the next table learn that you are supposed to take the corn husk off before you eat a tamale. (“That’s nothing,” said Alan. “I’ve seen Hispanic people learn that lesson.”) A chilly morning turned into a glorious afternoon, one of those days when you’re happy to be right here, right now.
Then I took a nap. Because of the beer.
The weekend didn’t go so well elsewhere. I’m reading about the Kenyan mall attack now, one of those events you’re frankly amazed doesn’t happen more often. I am, anyway. Terrorists are fond of bombs, but there’s nothing like a few well-trained, or even adequately trained men with guns to do maximum damage in the right environment. If only all those shoppers had been armed! I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.
And if you haven’t seen it yet, you should check out this remarkable NYT photo blog of the massacre, with pictures taken by a staff photographer who was actually in the mall at the time of the shooting.
Speaking of shooting, I also strongly recommend this piece from the WashPost, about the life of shooting-rampage survivor, and of their loved ones. It is, what’s the word? Oh yeah: Searing.
“Thoughts and prayers and it ends there,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot and injured at Virginia Tech. “I can’t do anything anymore with thoughts and prayers.”
“I’m learning that you have to be brutal with these people,” said Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away a magazine clip and disarmed the shooter at a 2011 event in Tucson where Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were shot. Maisch took out a picture she carried of the six people killed at that event and set it on the table. “Now I show this to people and start getting graphic,” she said. “This is not a pretty death like you see on ‘NCIS’ or ‘Law and Order.’ This is six people murdered on the sidewalk on a beautiful Arizona day.”
“Bloody and scared,” said Bill Badger, who was shot in the back of the head that day.
“Oh, and by the way, loved ones aren’t lost. They are killed,” Haas said.
“Murdered,” said Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter was murdered at the event in Arizona.
“I just want to shake people,” Badger said. “If this was some disease . . . we’d be in a national emergency.”
“You’d see planes dropping medicine,” Maisch said. “Instead, it’s another day. It’s nothing.”
Also searing, but in a very different way: “Tomato Can Blues,” also from Sunday’s NYT, a story about a mid-Michigan loser MMA fighter and the tangled web he wove along the way to faking his death and holding up a store called, I am not kidding, Guns & Stuff.
It’s an entertaining kind of searing. I kept imagining Bunchy Donovan as the tomato can, and if you get that reference, fine, and if not, I’m not going to explain it.
And so the week begins. May yours be filled with smooth sailing and apple cider.
The Free Press did its readers a real service over the weekend. Though we might wish they’d cashiered Albom, they actually did something better, publishing a comprehensive, no-stone-unturned, no-urban-legend-unaddressed report on why, precisely, Detroit went bankrupt. It’s a fascinating document, but thousands of words long. If you’re a resident, it’s essential reading. If you’re a municipal finance nerd — a surprising number of them are out there — ditto. If you just appreciate finding answers that aren’t easy, can’t be summarized in a tweet or a few minutes on some cable-news yak show, you might also benefit from it. If there are three essential paragraphs, it’s these:
When all the numbers are crunched, one fact is crystal clear: Yes, a disaster was looming for Detroit. But there were ample opportunities when decisive action by city leaders might have fended off bankruptcy.
If Mayors Jerome Cavanagh and Roman Gribbs had cut the workforce in the 1960s and early 1970s as the population and property values dropped. If Mayor Dennis Archer hadn’t added more than 1,100 employees in the 1990s when the city was flush but still losing population. If Kilpatrick had shown more fiscal discipline and not launched a borrowing spree to cover operating expenses that continued into Mayor Dave Bing’s tenure. Over five decades, there were many ‘if only’ moments.
“Detroit got into a trap of doing a lot of borrowing for cash flow purposes and then trying to figure out how to push costs (out) as much as possible,” said Bettie Buss, a former city budget staffer who spent years analyzing city finances for the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “That was the whole culture — how do we get what we want and not pay for it until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow?”
Compare it, if you read, to these two smug pinheads — one Manhattan Institute, one Wall Street Journal editorial board — discussing former mayor Coleman Young (who singlehandedly CRUSHED DETROIT) somewhere in the WSJ video studio, where evidently the standards for on-camera performance fall well short of, say, Fox News.
Finally, in one of the surest demonstrations of the value of most internet comment sections (not this one!), the very first one that appeared on this one, after I waded through thousands of words of exhaustively researched reporting? “Unions = Corruption = Democrats = Detroit. Stop O-bomb-a!”
So. How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. We had two 17-year-old houseguests, the son of one of my Fort Wayne friends and one of his friends. They came to town to play in a tournament of Magic, the Gathering, which is a card game so nerdy one of the boys said he’s heard tournament organizers ask players to please consider their personal hygiene before sitting down at the table. (I sliced a pungent onion for the crock pot Sunday morning, Kate made a face and he said he’d been smelling so much B.O. recently he didn’t even notice.) It was great to have teenage boys around, if for no other reason than they always clean their plates. Always. And these two made their beds, too.
Took a 20-mile bike ride. Watched “Scanners” with the boys. Made pulled pork (the onion). It was a good one.
I liked Joyce Maynard’s take on J.D. Salinger, enough that if Prospero feels like going into a towering snit about her not being fit to wipe his boots or whatever, he — or anyone else who raises this point — is welcome to kiss my nether regions. A 53-year-old who woos an 18-year-old “woman” is a creep, pure and simple.
The Ralph Lauren spring 2014 collection, via T-Lo. Blackwhiteblackwhiteblackwhite then WHOA, COLOR.
I hope a grand week awaits us all.
Haven’t done one of these for a while. It seems the only caption that applies is: The glory of everything.
I do apologize for the performance issues we’ve had of late. It appears to be a server problem, and for once, it’s a problem out of J.C.’s capable hands. And we’re not entirely sure what’s going on. But someone is working on it. Eventually, it will be fixed. This seems fairly easy to say.
If we haven’t been giving it top priority, it’s because J.C. has been working on another project for me. I’m not supposed to make a big deal of it, but it’s in the world, so we’ll just make a lower-case deal out of it. No boldface, nothing like that:
J.C. redesigned Bridge. And that’s all we’ll say about that.
Given that our connectivity goes in and out, I’m hesitant to put much into this until the kinks are worked out. But let’s get it going and see what happens.
So. Around the beginning of 2012, we had a homicide in Grosse Pointe — a well-known and well-liked local woman was found strangled in her Mercedes, parked in an alley in Detroit. I remember well, working at home and getting the tip about the body. I called a student who was contributing to GrossePointeToday.com and asked if he could roll out on it. This is a student who has been contributing to his local paper since he was 14, and not exactly wet behind the ears. As he was heading out the door, he said, “Hmm, sounds like her husband killed her.”
And yeah, when you think about it, it’s a little strange to think that anyone bent on a carjacking would leave the car behind, after strangling the occupant.
Long story short, after a few ridiculous days of OMG DETROIT CRIME hereabouts, it turned out the woman’s husband was indeed a “person of interest,” and then a guy was arrested, who said the husband had hired him to do the deed, and even longer story even shorter, this week the husband is behind bars and a preliminary hearing is going on.
The story unfolding is of a lousy marriage, affairs, sexual kinks, financial shenanigans and all the rest of it, and in the middle of it all, I tripped over this paragraph:
Bob and Jane Bashara’s marriage was rocky and ending it had been brought up once their children were out of school, according to Monday’s testimony.
Because by all means, when your husband is into S&M (and you’re not), can’t get it up, is taking money from your 401K without your knowledge, has a mistress and a failing business, the time to get divorced is after the kids have graduated from high school.
Ultimately, tragically, the husband figured out who had the most to lose from a divorce, and opted to be a widower instead.
That might sound cruel, and I don’t want to blame this poor woman for her fate in any way. Over the years, I’ve blown hot and cold on divorce, and I know a lot of people blow very, very cold on it. Despite its easy availability, despite all the justifications we make, it’s still a tough step to take. I hear stories like this and think, sometimes you gotta take it. She was a great friend to many people, with a big life. She should still be living it, and not her stupid-ass husband in his prison clothes in court every day.
So, do I have bloggage? Let’s try:
Kerry Bentivolio, the accidental congressman, has something new to look into — “chemtrails.”
Out of all the 9/11 coverage, it seems worthwhile to dig up this Hank Stuever essay on something that had nothing to do with Islam, terror or Why They Hate Us.
And my connection is faltering again. Best publish this while I can. Is Mercury retrograde?
Kate had to read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” for her summer project in one of her AP English courses, so I’ve been paying more attention to him lately, too. I read this strange essay in the most recent New Yorker, which started out with those sort of great, Gladwellian anecdotes that drag you in. He’s talking about individual, extraordinarily gifted athletes and what makes them so — freakish genetics, mostly. One guy makes more red blood cells than any three of us put together; another guy has just the right legs, plus lives at the right altitude, for excellence in long-distance running.
And then, all of a sudden, we’re on to Floyd Landis, the cycling cheater, and I had to rub my eyes and reread a couple paragraphs, because Gladwell seemed to be making the case that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t so bad, are they? Because what do they really do? Give people who aren’t born with these remarkable genetic gifts a shot:
The other great doping pariah is Lance Armstrong. He apparently removed large quantities of his own blood and then re-infused himself before competition, in order to boost the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in his system. Armstrong wanted to be like Eero Mäntyranta. He wanted to match, through his own efforts, what some very lucky people already do naturally and legally. Before we condemn him, though, shouldn’t we have to come up with a good reason that one man is allowed to have lots of red blood cells and another man is not?
No. No, we don’t need to come up with that reason. Because the very nature of the human race is that some people have lots of red blood cells naturally, and others don’t. Some have long legs, others short. Ian Thorpe was a great swimmer, in part, because he had huge feet — veritable flippers. The Chinese are great gymnasts and divers, in part, because they’re smaller people than, say, Germans. This is what makes the Olympics interesting. Of course, the real reason they’re great is that they train and train and train; the genetic gifts just provide the edge (sometimes). And every so often a real outlier turns up — a swimmer with itty-bitty feet, say, or a gymnast that fills a B cup. And that’s what makes sports thrilling.
Not so hard, right? I should probably read “Outliers” and find out what other crap she’s been exposed to.
No, I probably shouldn’t. Distinguishing crap from non-crap is an essential skill.
So! Today it is forecast to be an astonishing 96 degrees. Friday’s high? Sixty-one. Last chance, tomatoes. Git ‘er done.
Not much bloggage today, but Charles Pierce drove me to this Politico profile of David Barton, “evangelical historian,” which sort of sounds the origin title of a long-running series: David Barton, Evangelical Historian. The peg: Many thought he was through when, last year, he was accused of such scholarly chicanery that his own publisher disavowed his latest book, “Thomas Jefferson, True Christian!” (Something like that, anyway.)
But to his critics’ astonishment, Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.
In 2010, Barton helped shape new social studies standards in Texas that emphasize America’s Christian roots and question the validity of separating church and state. (He also pushed to have textbooks describe America’s values as “republican” rather than “democratic.” As he explained at the time, “We don’t pledge allegiance to the flag and the democracy for which it stands.”) He says he has advised on mainstream history textbooks used in other states as well, though he declines to give details.
Oh, I’m sure.
It’s growing late, and I have a big day tomorrow. A big, hot day. Let’s see how it goes.
Those of you who live in the nation’s squeaky-clean places, your Iowas and Minnesotas, with their fine schools and responsible public servants who actually live up to the name, pray tell: With what do your local papers fill their front pages, stories of kittens being rescued from trees? This was an inside story Thursday:
At 6:10 p.m., a 21-year-old man was fatally shot in the 11200 block of Craft. Police sources say it took several hours for Wayne County Medical Examiners to pick up the body, which lay in the street.
“That incensed the crowd,” a police supervisor who was at the scene told The News. “Something like that is entertainment for a lot of people; you could probably sell beer and popcorn.”
The officer described a chaotic scene: “The street lights were out, and it was dark” he said. “The body was laying in the street covered by a blanket for hours. There were 200 people out there getting crazy. We put crime scene tape up, but they crossed the tape. We got on a bullhorn to tell them to disperse; they didn’t comply.
“Finally, we had to call the (Special Response Team) and officers from across the city to keep the crowd away from the crime scene so homicide could investigate,” the officer said.
It reportedly took between 4 and 6 hours before the morgue picked up the body.
Inside the paper, and 11 paragraphs into the story! Above it were details on the 19 other shootings, two carjackings and a sexual assault that all took place in Detroit over the past weekend.
Sometimes I can’t believe this place. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the Page One stories were, well, there was this:
In bankrupt and frequently bizarre Detroit, dying is easy. It’s proving you are dead that’s hard.
The story was about a days-long gap in getting certified copies of birth and death certificates from the city’s vital records department, in the days after the bankruptcy filing. The reason? To be official, they must be printed on a special embossed paper, and the paper vendor was demanding cash instead of selling on credit.
Well, they warned us bankruptcy would be a bumpy road. Guess they were right.
Bloggage for a long weekend? Yes, we haz it:
I was just saying the other day how “consider the source” has never been more important for news consumers, a fact that was made abundantly clear by this p.o.s. “news story” on a once-reputable local radio station’s website.
You know how people once used to believe incubi and succubi existed, demons that would enter a person’s room at night and have sex with them? And then it was all about aliens and their anal probes? An interesting take on how culture affects psychosis: Paranoid schizophrenics now hallucinate about hidden cameras and reality TV:
The first person to examine the curiously symbiotic relationship between new technologies and the symptoms of psychosis was Victor Tausk, an early disciple of Sigmund Freud. In 1919, he published a paper on a phenomenon he called ‘the influencing machine’. Tausk had noticed that it was common for patients with the recently coined diagnosis of schizophrenia to be convinced that their minds and bodies were being controlled by advanced technologies invisible to everyone but them. These ‘influencing machines’ were often elaborately conceived and predicated on the new devices that were transforming modern life. Patients reported that they were receiving messages transmitted by hidden batteries, coils and electrical apparatus; voices in their heads were relayed by advanced forms of telephone or phonograph, and visual hallucinations by the covert operation of ‘a magic lantern or cinematograph’. Tausk’s most detailed case study was of a patient named ‘Natalija A’, who believed that her thoughts were being controlled and her body manipulated by an electrical apparatus secretly operated by doctors in Berlin. The device was shaped like her own body, its stomach a velvet-lined lid that could be opened to reveal batteries corresponding to her internal organs.
Although these beliefs were wildly delusional, Tausk detected a method in their madness: a reflection of the dreams and nightmares of a rapidly evolving world. Electric dynamos were flooding Europe’s cities with power and light, their branching networks echoing the filigree structures seen in laboratory slides of the human nervous system. New discoveries such as X-rays and radio were exposing hitherto invisible worlds and mysterious powers that were daily discussed in popular science journals, extrapolated in pulp fiction magazines and claimed by spiritualists as evidence for the ‘other side’. But all this novelty was not, in Tausk’s view, creating new forms of mental illness. Rather, modern developments were providing his patients with a new language to describe their condition.
Finally, one to leave you disgusted and/or heartened: The Crusading Sisterhood of Revenge-Porn Victims.
Let’s all have a great weekend, and maybe we’ll see Deborah’s completed bathhouse before too long. When next we speak, it’ll be September! How’d that happen?
I had one of those days yesterday. Spent: Talking on the phone, leaving messages, sending a million emails and mostly hoping we don’t bomb fucking Syria.
Even though I know we’re going to bomb Syria. How many times do we have to learn this lesson? Or rather, how many times does it have to be taught before we learn?
At the end of it, I rode my bike through some seriously bombed-out neighborhoods adjacent to GP. As usual, it was eye-popping. In two adjacent blocks, this:
And these photos were taken on a good day. All that vacant land is now covered in knee-high grass. The bankrupt city only mows a few feet back from the sidewalk and at the corners, so you can see cars coming. And yet, people were sitting on their porches, talking to their neighbors, smiling and laughing. This is not a nightly event in my neighborhood.
In my web work today, though, I found an awful lot of tasty linkage. Let’s get to it.
I don’t generally follow links to stories that promise me Pat Robertson has OMG’d in his pants again, but this latest one made it all so clear to me: This man is senile. He’s senile and no one wants to say anything to him, because he’s the boss. I bet he wanders the backstage areas of the “700 Club,” talking to the walls, and everyone leaves him alone because they think he’s at prayer. Imagine what he says when he doesn’t think the cameras are on. And where can I get my special AIDS-spreading hand-slicing ring?
While we’re at the megachurches of the world, this made me laugh. Because I am a bad, bad person. (How does a guy presumably demonstrate enough bird-savvy to get a permit to own bald eagles and then take them into indoor spaces and let them fly around? You could see that one coming a mile away.)
Today’s Only in Detroit story: Father and daughter caught trying to bring $270,000 in cash through Metro Airport.
Finally, the March on Washington at 50 roundup. When MLK Day became a national holiday, a friend wondered how long before we’d see “I Have a Dream, and Now You Can Too!!!” January mattress sales. In our lifetimes, I predicted. Not quite, but we’re getting there.
I think we’ve all heard about the King estate’s zealous guardianship of its copyright on the man’s writing and image, but here’s a wrap-up. Personally, I have no problem with a dead artist’s work supporting his immediate family, but once we get into the second and third generation, I think it’s a good thing copyright is not indefinite in this country. (Unless you’re Disney, of course.)
Finally, because eagles crashing into windows and babbling old bigots and the like might lead you to think I’m some sort of monster, let’s close with this genuinely good-news story that isn’t sappy or Albom-ish in any way. Quick, read it before the man himself makes it that way. From New Jersey:
Surveillance video from the Buddy’s Small Lots on Route 23 showed four young men entering the closed store Sunday night, taking a few goods and — wait for it — paying for them in full.
They didn’t know it at the time, but they were caught on camera doing the right thing.
A report from News 12 New Jersey about the incident spread far and wide, appearing on local TV stations across the U.S. The Huffington Post called them “accidental burglars,” and the store’s management wanted to offer them a reward.
Who were these mystery men? New additions to William Paterson University’s football team, school officials told NJ.com.
We’re on the downslope of the week, folks. Let’s enjoy it.
“Low Winter Sun” just aired its third episode, and I am watching out of a sense of duty — it was shot here in Detroit, the story relocated here (from Britain, I understand), friends worked on the crews, etc. My tax dollars at work. I want it to succeed. So far? Not an unqualified success.
I do give Ernest Dickerson, who directed the first two episodes, a great deal of credit for finding the visual interest in the city. He gets the ruin thing, of course, but that’s not all he gets. The cameras have found some largely unseen (even by locals) corners, particularly down near the end of Alter Road, one of my favorite bike routes. He sees the way someone who’s been here a few times (but hasn’t been jaded to it all) sees, so I can’t complain about the look of the show or its setting.
What has bugged me are the local touches to the dialogue, all of which sound like they were gleaned from a one-sheet sent over from the Free Press features department. One character cuts down another, saying something like, “You haven’t gotten a thrill like that since you were 15 and got a
blow job hand job at the Dream Cruise,” truly a laugh line, as the Dream Cruise is attended almost exclusively by older people who generally have to plan for blow jobs hand jobs, with medication.
This week, there was an exchange about coneys. Detroit has two next-door neighbor coney islands in the middle of town, American and Lafayette, and allegedly there is a great tribal thing over which one you patronize. You know me, I’m just a tourist here, but I find both equally gross, and I keep waiting for someone to point this out in the many stories I’ve read about this great dividing line. (Interestingly, I have never, not once, heard a native express a preference for one over another, although they’re always doing so in newspaper and magazine stories. Whatever.)
I keep thinking about “The Wire,” in which the city of Baltimore was, as the critics like to say, a character in the story, and the difference between it and “Low Winter Sun.” I think it comes down to David Simon and his writing staff’s deep familiarity with the place. Simon, of course, worked as a police reporter there for years, and had a long embed with the homicide squad. That’s how you get wonderful details that became plot points and other great moments in the show — the Sunday truce, the exchange between the tourists and the stoop-sitting corner kids about the Poe House, and the two cops eating crabs in an interrogation room, one scooping out the guts with his fingers and reproving the other for being too much of a pussy to eat them.
It’s the difference between really knowing a city and only being here for the scenery and tax credits.
Last week on “Low Winter Sun,” one cop tells his partner that he took a woman “across the border, to Windsor.” No one would say that here; they’d just say Windsor, or across the border. Not both. That’s forgivable, though, because most non-Detroiters don’t know where Windsor is, and judging from how often the Canadian border is even left off locator maps in major newspapers, maybe we should be glad the line wasn’t, “I took her across the Canadian border, to Windsor, Ontario. That’s a province in Canada, Frank, not exactly equivalent to a state in the U.S. More a regional thing.”
I’m going to keep watching, because the show isn’t bad. I only wish they’d hire a local to read the scripts first. (I think I’m available.)
So, speaking of local weirdness, I was amazed by this story in today’s Freep, about a longtime political fixer — sort of a professional connector — suing a judge over an unpaid bill. The fixer, a woman named Jean West, brokers appearances by candidates running for office at local churches, senior centers and neighborhood groups. This was the part that hit me:
The 77-year-old plaintiff, a retired nurse who dived into politics after helping the first black woman get elected to Detroit’s City Council, called it a first. Never in her 43 years of working on campaigns had she ever gone unpaid, she said, despite her old-school methods.
When candidates seek her services, West brokers deals with a verbal contract and a handshake, promising to get them into as many Detroit churches as possible. And when she wants to get paid — her typical fee is $350 per week — the clients meet her in her backyard or at her dining room table and pay her, usually in cash.
No invoices. No formal contracts. She gets paid.
She’s suing for $3,500. Do you think the attention she’ll draw from the IRS will be worth that much?
Via Jeff the MM, one of those great Telegraph obits, of Col. Julian Fane, deceased at 92, a war hero:
On May 28 they received a message to make a break for it and head for Dunkirk. Fane, at the head of a small group of men, managed to slip away in the darkness. He was wounded in the arm by a mortar bomb as they scrambled through hedges and over ditches, guided by the flashes of guns on the coast and the light from burning farm houses.
At 3am they hid up in a barn and grabbed some sleep. During the day, the Germans arrived and the farmer climbed up a ladder and whispered to them to stay concealed under the straw. The next night, Fane and his men crept past an enemy bicycle patrol which was fast asleep under a hedge beside a towpath.
On June 2, after covering more than 20 miles of enemy-held country, he was standing in the doorway of a small terrace house close to the beach when a bomb fell nearby. The house collapsed and he was blown into the street.
His party reached Dunkirk in time to be evacuated back to England. Fane received the first of his MCs for his part in the fighting withdrawal.
Finally, I have nothing to say about a certain Disney pop tart a few years past her sell-by date, and her activities of the past couple of days, but before you write her off entirely, ask yourself whether this girl still lives inside her somewhere, and how she might be encouraged to reassert herself.
In the meantime, I just wish she’d put her damn tongue back in her mouth.