Shoot him ‘fore he run, now.

Back when Alan and I shared a computer, I used to track his enthusiasms through our bookmarks. He researches major purchases with a thoroughness that would shame Consumer Reports, and in those pre-Safari, OS 9 days, when all bookmarks went under a single menu (“bookmarks”), I knew when they started filling up with, he was soon to make an announcement involving that very thing.

Multiple users and folders give us all a bit of privacy, and I’m not the prying type, anyway. I guess the joke’s on me if I open his laptop one day and find active on the screen, but this latest thing is being announced with books. All over the house are books on sporting clays, wing-shooting techniques and the art of shotgun engraving. This one has been building for a while, since our year in Ann Arbor when we took a trip north and our host gave us each a chance to kill a clay pigeon. Alan was the only one who drew blood:


I don’t know what it is with my husband and the gentlemanly sports. You’d never know he was brought up working-class in a northwest Ohio factory town. By rights, we should have his-and-her Barcaloungers with a freezer full of venison in the garage, and instead we own a million dollars’ worth of Hardy fishing reels, half a dozen graphite rods suitable for catching everything from bluegill to 25-pound salmon, a handmade McKenzie drift boat and an English saddle (that last one’s mine). And now, soon, a shotgun. One of our new shooting books instructs us on the etiquette of firing so as not to hit your beaters, as well as techniques for switching quickly between multiple weapons, the last predicated on the assumption you have an assistant standing next to you with a second gun.

“Who are you going shooting with?” I asked. “Prince Charles?”

Ha ha. Although really, at this rate I think we could be weekend guests of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall and hold up our ends with only a bit of shopping beforehand. All Alan needs are some plus-fours, or maybe a kilt.

Actually, I’m looking forward to trying out our new weaponry, although with our history of marital squabbles while co-recreating — we nearly divorced on our honeymoon, after discovering our paddling styles were incompatible for a double-cockpit kayak — maybe not.

A friend of mine once had a really bad boyfriend, from whom she had an acrimonious split. Some years later, he married a woman who gave him a shotgun for a wedding present. As a journalist and veteran of many murder stories, she knew that it was only a matter of time before the new husband went back to his cheatin’ ways, and his bride would be driven to take action with both barrels. “I can see it now,” she said, fairly rubbing her hands together. “‘Police say the murder weapon was, ironically, a wedding gift from bride to groom in happier days.'” Cackle, cackle. I’m waiting for this story, too. I remember that guy, and boy did he have it coming.

OK, enough blue-steel romance. Haven’t current events been marvelous of late? “Marvelous” in the “what a great story” sense, that is. The French Poindexter who may end up bringing down a 150-year-old bank single-handedly; the destruction of the Gaza wall after months of surreptitious weakening of the structure; and, of course, yet another lesson why it’s dangerous to mix chess and alcohol.

Which should be enough bloggage to get you chatty folks started, but I do want to point you to a couple of nice considerations of Heath Ledger, starting with Glenn Kenny’s, which has its own links within to explore, and Roy’s.

Please, God, keep me away from the Daily Mail. I have a life to live! But how can one resist it, when they include photos of Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a blue doughnut?

Finally, those of you who spend all day online have probably already seen the infamous Craigslist vagina couch, but maybe you haven’t heard the ne plus ultra oh-snap from my new fave site, Datalounge, where a million queers get together to trade the snark: Once a month you have to stuff a sheep in it for five days.

You’ve been a great audience! Have a wonderful weekend!

Posted at 10:02 am in Current events, Friends and family, Popculch | 26 Comments

Digital lipstick on his collar.

Sing along with me now: When will they ever learn? Oh when will theyyyyy ever learnnnn? Detroit’s mayor becomes approximately the millionth public official to learn that it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. The Free Press FOIAs his text-message records and discovers a rather mundane game of hide the salami going on between the country’s first hip-hop mayor and his chief of staff. Which is tawdry, but only tawdry, until you consider that the denial of said affair under oath was the centerpiece of a lawsuit brought last summer against the city, one that led to a number of whistle-blowing cops swallowing a $9 million canary. I won’t bog you down with details, which you fans of public-official ugly-bumping can look up yourselves; it’s a complicated story and the Freep provides a million links. Just absorb the takeaway lesson: Sometimes you have to stop lying, even if it’s really, really embarrassing.

Also, this: If you really have the rank to pull, you shouldn’t have to pull it. The chief of staff, pulled over for speeding in 2004:

The cops say she pointedly asked them: “Do you know who the (expletive) I am?” before calling Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings. Beatty later acknowledged calling the chief from her cell phone, but denied pulling rank on the officers. She was never ticketed.

Someone needs to teach these folks: You sit silent and take the ticket. Then you hand it to your close personal friend, the chief of police, who makes it disappear. Is there any sentence that looks worse in the cold light of morning than “Do you know who the (expletive) I am?” Don’t think so.

Reading this story reminds me of the olden days, when reporters staked out love nests with long lenses. I guess another takeaway lesson is: Everybody leaves tracks. It’s just a question of what form they take.

Speaking of the cold light of morning, the sun is blazing on new snow outside, which fills the house with light and casts every dog hair into sharp relief. I should be cleaning, but I’m not. (Obviously.) Instead, I’m making preparations for the next emergency I might face, by adding Mary-Kate Olsen’s number to my speed-dial:

The masseuse who discovered the body of Heath Ledger in a Manhattan apartment on Tuesday twice called a friend of his, the actress Mary-Kate Olsen, before calling 911, New York City police officials said on Wednesday.

I suppose it’s a side effect of the preposterous spotlight even D-list celebrities find themselves in that when an ancillary member of the support staff finds another human being unconscious, unresponsive and not breathing, her first impulse is to call an actress rather than 911 — when in doubt, think: Damage control! Or maybe not. Maybe what we have here is a young woman of rather spectacular dimness. Or just confused. It doesn’t sound like it would have made much of a difference, but still.

A final note: I’m sucking Brian Stouder’s tailpipe on this, but so be it: prokopowiczOf all American presidents, probably none is more-studied than Abraham Lincoln, and yet there’s always something new to learn about him. “Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln” is the new book by Lincoln scholar Gerald J. Prokopowicz (pictured), and he’ll be reading and signing January 28 at Border’s in Grosse Pointe.

Gerry teaches at East Carolina University, but spent many years in the private sector, as resident scholar at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, which is where I came to know him. But he has a local connection, too — he moved to the Shores in ninth grade and his mother still lives here. So if you’re one of my few local readers, stop by Monday night at 7, and I’ll see you there.

Posted at 9:44 am in Current events, Friends and family | 42 Comments

Michael’s world.

MichaelG sends a photo of his weekend activities:


This is roughin’ it, California-blackout style: Coleman lantern, book to read, glass of wine and a roaring fire — all four burners.

Let me just say, on behalf of the journalists in the room: We have all covered a zillion fatal fires that started exactly this way. If you leave the room, turn off the stove.

Posted at 1:49 pm in Current events, Friends and family | 25 Comments

Kilroy was here.

Ah, the things we leave behind. I think I’ve mentioned before that Alan’s father, Roger P. Derringer, was an infantry paratrooper during World War II. I’ve called him the Zelig of the European theater because it seems he was everywhere, and he was — southern France, the Battle of the Bulge, North Africa, Italy. Their job was to jump in ahead of regular forces and raise hell.

Anyway, he came home with three Purple Hearts and many souvenirs — maps of the front printed on silk, handmade uniform patches, the thanks of several grateful nations — and a lot of snapshots, many taken with a Leica camera he took off a German officer they captured (and gave to an American surgeon not long after). But the most interesting relic turned up decades later, after he died.

Their regiment underwent training in England, and were billeted at Chilton Manor in the village of Chilton Foliat, a country estate belonging to some titled aristocrat. During restoration work at the estate in the late 1990s, workers turned up what appeared to be a discarded roofing tile, upon which a bored soldier had etched his name:

R.P. Derringer, Sept. 1, 1942
2nd BN, 503 parachute RN

The workers checked the records, contacted his widow and shipped the tile to her. Decent of them, I’d say. Alan’s sister had it framed behind glass, making it difficult to photograph, but you get the idea:


Underneath that, a little parachute:


The 503d was later reorganized and redesignated the 509th, and they fought and died nearly to the last man. Wikipedia’s entry on the 509th says that of the original 700, only about 50 survived to January 1945, at which point the unit was disbanded and survivors plugged into gaps in the 82nd Airborne. Roger’s war ended in a VA hospital stateside. He didn’t tell many stories until near the end of his life, but I think this was the time he had both his arms splinted by a battlefield medic, pointed away from the front and told, “Run, or your ass belongs to Hitler.”

His ass never belonged to Hitler, but he got one of the Fuhrer’s battle flags, liberating St. Tropez. That picture’s in a book somewhere. If it turns up in the estate distribution, I’ll scan it and post it.

Well. Back from Ohio, safe, sound and ready for the new year. Thanks again for all your kind comments. Life is going on, and will commence with some more blogging later today.

Happy new year to all of you.

Posted at 9:19 am in Friends and family | 9 Comments

The last word in 2007.

This was the plan: To celebrate Christmas with my family in Columbus on Saturday, head for Defiance on Sunday and celebrate with Alan’s family then. It was all going according to plan and we were en route to northern Ohio Sunday when Alan’s sister called with the news that his mother had fallen and was being taken to the ER with a goose egg rising rapidly on her forehead.

This was no surprise, in that Alan’s mom is 89, has had a series of strokes and was generally weak as a kitten. Also not surprising, though upsetting, was that the blow to the head was now a “significant” subdural hematoma, bleeding in the brain, the only treatment for which was invasive surgery. What was more surprising were the preposterous hassles all this touched off, even after her children made the difficult decision that this injury was not survivable in any meaningful way and that she be given comfort care only in the final days of her life, but, well, life begins in pain and ends the same way.

Alan’s mom, Marian Derringer, died Thursday afternoon in a hospice in Defiance. As you can imagine, this will preoccupy us for a while. We thank you in advance for your condolences, and we’re doing fine. Once all the hoops had been jumped early in the week — did you know you have to be in a facility where you can have brain surgery before you can refuse brain surgery? Visit beautiful Toledo! — the last few days were about as peaceful as can be expected. The hospice movement has been a great comfort to many families going through a difficult time. I expect that’s because after a long interaction with the medical profession, it’s pleasant to interact with nurses who speak plain English, move at a leisurely pace and let you have a dog in the room.

That’s what we did Wednesday — had our family Christmas at the hospice, with the dog. It was a nice afternoon.

There’s a lot going on in the world this week, and I’ve been jotting notes everywhere. (Heard there was a big to-do in Pakistan; you might want to check the papers.) But for now, I’m laying that stuff aside, closing the laptop and stepping out for a bit. Be back…let’s say New Year’s Day. You’ve been a great audience, and we’ll see you then.

Posted at 11:36 am in Friends and family, Housekeeping | 33 Comments

Fatal distraction.

Nothing like a little smack in the face to start your Monday off right. From a story in my alma mater, the Columbus Dispatch:

Patrick Sims was driving and typing a text message when he fatally struck a bicyclist in Colorado. Ashley Miller was doing the same when she killed a driver in Arizona. And New Yorker Bailey Goodman might have been reading or typing when she slammed into a tractor-trailer, killing herself and four passengers.

Even if you discount the final example — dead men tell no tales — that’s some sobering stuff there. People sometimes ask me why I still drive a stick shift, and I tell them, “Because you have to pay attention.” Also, it occupies your texting hand.

Ah, what a weekend. Lessons learned: Don’t eat braised lamb shanks at 10 p.m., followed by a big cup of strong coffee, if you want to sleep well that night. Also, avoid scallops the next night, unless you want to spend early Sunday morning throwing up. In between was some fine sailing with John C and his wife Mary, on their share-boat Voyageur, which is docked at Windmill Point, Grosse Pointe Park’s public marina. Windmill Point is at the very bottom of Lake St. Claire, where it funnels into the Detroit River. The current is stronger, and the freighters come a lot closer:


But you get a little skyline with your sunsets, imperfectly captured here:


Everybody looks at the sunset, but when you’re on the water, it’s always rewarding to look to the east, too, to see the dark rising out of the lake:


I don’t know if I got bad scallops or just too much fine food in too short a time. My life is so PB&J these days, it’s a shock to the system to see a white tablecloth. Maybe that’s what did it. In any case, it made for a wasted Sunday; nothing like dehydration to take it out of a gal.

So let’s skip to the bloggage:

The pros but mostly cons of mercenaries: “If I’ve got one ambition left here,” (the American officer serving in Iraq) said, “it’s to see one of those showboats fall out.” Out of the helicopter, that is:

In a style now familiar to many living beneath Baghdad’s skies, a Blackwater sharpshooter in khaki pants, with matching T-shirt and flak jacket, sat sideways on the right side of each chopper, leaning well outside the craft. With their automatic weapons gripped for battle, their feet planted on the helicopter’s metal skids, and only a slim strap securing them to the craft, the men looked as if they were self-consciously re-creating the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Blackwater defends its low-flying, ready-to-shoot posture as a powerful deterrent to attacks on American officials being moved through the capital’s streets. But that posture has become, to the company’s critics, a hallmark of its muscle-bound showiness.

…Contractors say the high profile of their armored convoys, coupled with the covert nature of the insurgents, places a premium on high mobility and rapid response — driving at high speed and in a bullying manner through city traffic and driving on the wrong side of boulevards and expressways, always ready to resort instantly, at the first hint of threat, to heavy firepower.

It is a formula fraught with potential for error. To be overtaken on Baghdad’s airport road by a private security convoy driving at 120 miles an hour, with contractors leaning out of windows or part-opened doors with leveled weapons, waving their fists in a frantic pantomime, is a heart-stopping experience even for other Westerners in armored cars with guards of their own. For ordinary Iraqis, with no weapons and no armoring, it can be pure terror.

No shit. Never mind when they open fire on a carload of civilians.

I guess the UAW didn’t learn from the Detroit newspaper strike: It’s unwise to strike an industry already on the ropes. But hey, they’ll give it a try. Maybe. This all comes with the news the state legislature has one week to get the lead out and put together a budget agreement that will keep state government running into the next fiscal year. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a UAW strike and a government shutdown at the same time?” Alan wondered this morning, a surly note in his voice. Sure. Our house has already lost 18 percent of its value since we’ve lived here; soon it’ll be like Mississippi, only with more snow.

T-minus 12 minutes to strike deadline? Better hit publish and hope for the best.

Posted at 9:53 am in Current events, Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 14 Comments




Ah, the Cranbrook Educational Community. The hoity-toityest private school in all of southeast Michigan. Its classrooms and studios have gestated luminaries as numerous as the stars: Michael Kinsley. Bob Woodruff. Mitt Romney! Nestled in the green bosom of Bloomfield Hills, it’s known for its lovely, peaceful campus, its public art — that’s Carl Milles’ Orpheus Fountain, above, along with Europa and the Bull — its museums, academies and general devotion to learning and enlightenment.

Eliel Saarinen was the main architect of the place, as well as the art school’s director. He and his wife lived in a house on campus. Since Alex was here, taking advantage of the Stay With a Blogger Weekend special, and since Alex is a huge fan of 20th century modern, it seemed a good time to finally get out there and see the Saarinen house.

Well, it’s everything you’d expect a Saarinen house to be — beautiful, austere, clean, symmetrical, attention paid to the last detail, and terribly uncomfortable-looking. Those Finns and their hospitality — everything about them says, “Come and admire, but don’t stay too long.” There was a “cozy corner,” a built-in banquette that ran around two sides of a room. A rug was draped over the seat, and extended out onto the floor. The guide said guests would sit on the bench and pull the rug up over their legs to stay warm. How cozy. What hospitality.

But hey, it’s Saarinen. Some people design for the comfort of the body. Others design for the benefit of the eye. You need a mix.

After that we took the long way home. I wanted Alex to see the Theatre Bizarre, in the back yard of a house along State Fair Road:


It’s…well, I’m not sure what it is. Nearest I can tell, it’s a performance space that opens one night a year — Halloween or thereabouts — for a night of macabre revelry. More pictures at the links.

The next day we spent on the water. Blue sky, blue water, blue T-shirt, blue freighter:


Our next Stay With the Blogger weekend will be after I change the sheets. Make your applications soon.

Bloggage: Ashley Morris has met his match.

Some people don’t like Crocs. Some people must not have children. Or a job that requires standing up for long periods of the day, evidently.

The Columbus Dispatch is running a three-part series on the shooting of a local teenager by the sort of resident politely described as “eccentric.” I’ve read enough multi-part series on wrenching medical conditions to see me through the rest of my life, but part one — about the shooting and how it happened — is well-done and well-worth your time. Some people shouldn’t have guns.

That’s it for me. Time slips away, and I have a lot to do in what remains.

Posted at 9:51 am in Current events, Friends and family, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 26 Comments

Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday, John Christopher Burns, half a century old today. We’ve been friends since college. We met in 1977, at an organizational meeting for the following year’s student-newspaper staff. The editor passed around a sheet for everyone to write down their summer mailing address. Mine was 1832 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio. His was 1860 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio.


Turned out John didn’t really live there; it was one of the apartments his mother occupied in her post-divorce perambulations, and the closest thing to a permanent address he had. But it was an opening. We’ve been friends ever since.

Lots of years ending in 7 in this story, I just realized. I guess that means we met when we were both 20, and we’ve known each other 30 years. The older I get, the more I value long-term friendships, people who saw you through the disco years, three unfortunate perms, five bad boyfriends, one good husband, two horses, a dog and I-don’t-know-what-all, and still like you anyway. One is silver and the other’s gold, etc.

Here’s some of what John taught me: Computers, typefaces, design. I was never much of a design student, but I know more about typefaces than the average person because of him. I appreciate good design because of him. I use a Mac because of him. Here’s some of what he did for me: Designed three or four resumés, my wedding invitations, this website in all iterations (which he has hosted for 6 years now, at a cost to me of $0.00). He even designed the name on Alan’s boat.

But mostly, he’s been my great, good and true friend for 30 years now, and I hope for at least that many more. Happy birthday, John.

P.S. In one of those twists that I just love, he shares his birthday with Helvetica. Typically, he has an opinion about Helvetica: “ubiquitous, beautiful, and intolerable in its ubiquity.”

P.P.S. Don’t ask him about Optima.

Kate and I are headed out of town for a couple of days. (I wish for: Florida. I settle for: Columbus.) But we have some bloggage for y’all to chew on in our absence:

I don’t know what to say about Don Imus that won’t add to the general cacophony surrounding a story that isn’t really that important in the grand scheme. (Number of Imus-related stories in yesterday’s Free Press? Four. Number of stations that carry Imus’ show in Detroit? Zero.) I used to listen to the show and I liked it, but I also winced a lot. I always thought of Imus as a palate-cleanser after an hour or so of NPR, the guy you listened to on the way to work who prepped you for a day of office politics. So I don’t really have anything to say, but that’s OK, because two of the best things I’ve read are Doghouse Riley’s and Lance Mannion’s.

This is for newspaper people only, so be forewarned: When Neal Shine died last week, at first I couldn’t understand why I felt so sad — considering I didn’t know him or work for him. And then it dawned on me, as it did on Jack Lessenberry. It’s about the death of newspapers, not one man. And this passage, about the role Shine played in the tragic strike of 1995, made me wince:

He had worked for (Knight Ridder) his entire life, and they had promoted him from copy boy to publisher. Threatening to fire people he had known for decades must have given him enormous pain, but it was something he felt bound to do.

Where his tragic mistake lay was in thinking that the modern corporate newspaper company appreciated and valued loyalty. Indeed, Knight Ridder mostly undervalued Shine. They never gave him the top newsroom position (executive editor), probably because he was from Detroit and never had worked elsewhere. Indeed, he had to help a succession of out-of-town bosses find Woodward and try not to unduly embarrass themselves.

And now, I must hop to and drive south. Escaping — strangled sob — a winter storm warning en route.

Posted at 10:53 am in Friends and family, Media | 32 Comments

Touch the man.

New York Times photo. Shamelessly stolen.

Everybody in New York is from someplace else, right? It’s just so, so amusing, when I see Zach Klein making yet another cultural splash — this time on the Thursday Styles cover of the freakin’ New York Times — to remember the first time I met him face-to-face, in a Chili’s on Coliseum Boulevard in Fort Wayne. We had appetizers and grown-up drinks, and Zach showed his fake ID. We were just about the only bloggers in the city.

And now look at him, being pawed by a crowd of omnisexual pretty people, participating in the focus-group research for the new version of CK1. The story notes he’s “no relation” to the original Calvin Klein. And he speaks his mind, and calls the new name — CKin2u — “lame.” Love those plain-spoken Hoosiers.

Posted at 8:27 am in Friends and family | 5 Comments

That puppy smell.


This is Kenny. Say hi to Kenny. (Hi, Kenny. You are a cutie pie.) Kenny is about to move in with my friends Mark and Judy. All this talk of dogs this week prompted them to send a baby picture. Always happy to put your dog pix on the internets, folks. Especially when they’re of Kenny.

(Please note: His eyes aren’t really that creepy-looking. My Photoshop red-eye removal technique is pathetic.)

One of our number here — I think it’s Brian — wants me write more about “The Looming Tower,” the current On the Nightstand selection. Patience, Brian. I’m not finished with it yet, although I’m finding it fascinating and really should make a run at polishing it off this weekend. In the meantime, I’m savoring the details of Osama bin Laden’s road to piety, which at some point included a shift to playing soccer in long pants. A few more inches, a beard and a skullcap, and Sammy bL will find Ohio State University’s new basketball uniforms entirely pleasing to Allah. As it is, the hemline of those shorts would pass muster in the strictest academy for Catholic girlhood. Isn’t fashion funny?

Note the uniform allows for “personalization” among players. “Uniform” and “personalized” would seem to be in opposition to one another, but I never claimed to understand sports.

I’m tapped out of amusing anecdotes about life in the snowy Midwest (two inches last night, temperatures expected to push 50 by the weekend — winter’s back is to the wall, but not yet broken), so let’s make this an all-bloggage Wednesday:

Everybody loves a right-wing man in uniform, particulary when he goes on Fox News, but I love a right-wing man in uniform when he has a colorful past as a gay-porn star known as “Rod Majors.” It’s Corporal Matt to you, however. Link is safe (links from that link are decidedly not), and scroll down for bonus photo of Ann Coulter posed with a real you-know-what. His high-and-tight haircut doesn’t look like it requires the styling attention of John Edwards’, however, so we know who the real faggot is.

Odd Detroit factoid: The bridge to Canada, which carries one-quarter of U.S. trade with the Great White North, is owned outright by a single individual who doesn’t like to answer questions about it. Jack Lessenberry thinks the newspapers should pay more attention to this intriguing fact. Me, too.

Showerward, ho.

Posted at 10:09 am in Current events, Friends and family | 21 Comments