We had a power surge today that appears to have fried our internet. Open thread until we get it sorted out? As always, thanks for your patience.
I posted the following over at Prospero’s obit:
To Michael’s friends and family,
Michael’s passing poses a very 21st-century quandary: How to sincerely acknowledge the passing of someone I’d never met, couldn’t identify in a lineup and yet still feel I “know” — via his near-daily participation in the comments section of my blog.
In fact, it was his silence on the passing of Phil Everly that led one of our number to wonder why we hadn’t heard from him in a while. As he was one of the few who knew “Prospero’s” real name, he googled and got the bad news.
We knew Michael as amazingly intelligent, eccentrically knowledgeable and never boring. His interests, his passions and, of course, his colorful vocabulary — all set him apart from the rest of us mortals.
We who knew him at nancynall.com will miss him mightily. Please know you have our condolences, and best wishes for comfort.
I also plan to make a donation to his charity — Second Helpings of Hilton Head, S.C. — and if any of you are so inclined, I’m sure it would be appreciated.
If you’re just joining us, go check out the previous comments thread. Pros’ daughter and at least one other relative checked in to say thanks for the good wishes.
What a strange world we have constructed, where we are having a virtual wake for a virtual stranger, although someone we “know” via the internet and communicate with, or hear from, almost every day.
Perhaps more will be revealed. I hope so.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if I checked out suddenly. J.C. is in charge of the NN.c archive, and can do with it as he likes. Maybe there’s a book in these millions of words. Maybe there’s a new blogmaster or mistress who wants to wrangle the commenting community. At some point it won’t matter.
I have links, but I think I’ll save them for tomorrow. For now, the news of Prospero’s death cut short the Tonya Harding thread, and late in the day, a newcomer posted this comment, and it bears repeating:
What I recall, though, was how completely and utterly (Harding) reminded me of the people I knew who came from the same parts of Clackamas County she did. These were people who were just accidents waiting to happen, a deadly combination of barely-bright, poorly-educated, indisciplined-and-almost-undisciplinable shit magnets. “Bad stuff” just “happened” to them; car wrecks, arrests, lost jobs, lost husbands and wives. Tonya was a kind of patron saint for those people. She WAS them, just a little bigger, a little sparklier, a little better known.
You Jim Harrison fans might enjoy this:
Once I start, I very rarely change my mind about the nature of the story. And when I begin writing, it’s sound that guides me—language, not plot. Plot can be overrated. What I strive for more is rhythm. When you have the rhythm of a character, the novel becomes almost like a musical composition. It’s like taking dictation, when you’re really attuned to the rhythm of that voice.
You can’t go to it. It has to come to you. You have to find the voice of the character. Your own voice should be irrelevant in a novel. Bad novels are full of opinions, and the writer intruding, when you should leave it to your character.
I love Jim Harrison, but most of his characters sound very similar to one another, but oh well –he’s right about this.
Me, I have a big day Wednesday, and should prepare for it. Let’s all stay this side of the soil for one more, eh?
Friends, I think I have some more bad news to share, and you can thank/blame Coozledad, who has better reporter’s instincts than me, evidently.
He last commented Dec. 27, and, as Coozledad noted in an email, “It was totally out of character for him not to weigh in on Phil Everly.” Absolutely right.
The age is right, the name is right, the city is right, even the sketchy details of the obituary are right; I know he lived with a woman, had a daughter and young grandchildren. I guess it’s possible it’s some other Michael Johnson — it’s not that rare a name — and if so, I look forward to him crashing the funeral like some sort of profane Tom Sawyer. However, something in my gut says this is real.
This is such a strange relationship we all have here. I guess at some point I will have to compose a note for the guestbook, but I have no idea what to say. Dear relatives of Michael, those of us who knew him only as Prospero will miss his crazy presence in our virtual community. Or what? Honestly, I’m stumped. I guess I’ll wait a few days and then make a donation to his designated charity.
In the meantime, weigh in if you’re so inclined. The bar is open, and the wake is under way. As Coozledad said in his note, “Poor bloke. I was wondering how long his heart could take it.”
UPDATE: As he has done for our previously deceased commenters, J.C. has collected all of his comments — 7,673 of them, under at least three names — on a single page. You can find it here, in chronological order.
The surgery went well, thanks to all who asked. I am already seeing a much brighter picture, although even a few hours post-op, I’m still ridiculously dilated, and it hurts to look at a laptop screen for very long.
So I’m going to eat some Wheat Thins and watch a very bad movie — “Savages.” (Oliver Stone, you magnificent hack, don’t ever change.) Sometimes, it’s the only way to recover.
Open thread, etc.
Screw these internet problems. I’m off to New York this morning, and I’ll be back Sunday.
Open thread. Here’s one conversation-starter, about Michigan football, but I think the impulses behind it apply to a lot more than just one school. Greed ruins everything.
See you after the weekend.
First things first: As most of you have figured out by now, our connectivity problems continue. It is out of our hands, in large part, but J.C. is sitting in the NN.C control room, which is encased in lead and concrete and located deep beneath the earth in an undisclosed location, working on it. To the extent that he can. Long story short, we hope it will improve soon. If not, we’ll find a new hosting company.
In the meantime, don’t try to resubmit comments! J.C., yesterday: We’re doing a cache thing to help our poor hobbled server and the downside of that is that you may not see your comment show up immediately.
Thanks for hanging in there with us. This site is nothing without you guys.
Because I don’t have much to offer, many days, do I? But here’s this: A movie recommendation, now that it’s out on streaming/DVD — “The Bling Ring,” which we watched over the weekend. (Alan’s a big Sofia Coppola fan.) A light fictionalization of a real story, about how a gang of Los Angeles teens robbed a series of Hollywood stars’ homes, aided and abetted by the internet and the stars’ own carelessness (for the most part, they entered through unlocked doors and windows). They took clothes, jewelry and cash, but mainly seemed interested in stealing as much stardust as possible.
“Is this Herve Leger? I LOVE it!” one says, pawing through Paris Hilton’s closet. “This. Is a Birkin,” says another, helping herself. In a world where luxury brands are shoved in the faces of these vapid teenagers — or all of us — it’s almost a case of can-you-blame-them? Paris Hilton kept the key to her front door under the mat, and had to be informed of the thefts; she had so much stuff, she didn’t notice anything missing. And so this aimless and empty little band drifted from one house to the next — getting tips on their owners’ absences from TMZ and other gossip sites — collecting luxury items and cash and crap. An emptier existence could hardly be imagined, but uncommon? No way. Didn’t we spend some time yesterday batting around those Emmy runway photos? “Who are you wearing?” is a common question. We all know who Herve Leger is.
It’s not a great movie. It’s sort of depressing, especially when you consider how many stories I’ve read about what a clotheshorse Sofia Coppola is, how much she swims in this world she holds in such contempt. But I liked it anyway.
We have some good bloggage today.
Newspapers have stripped away so much of their content in recent years I almost forget how much I enjoy reading a smart critic from time to time. Especially Hank Stuever, writing about a forgettable sitcom that wants to be a nostalgia trip:
You could set your atomic clock by the predictable rhythms of retromania: When I was a boy in the ’70s, we briefly wanted nothing more than to be Fonzie in the ’50s (inasmuch as “Happy Days” struggled to depict the ’50s; in reruns it just looks like the ’70s). Out came the Dippity-Do and switchblade combs.
If only our forebears had possessed the wisdom to outlaw public displays of nostalgia! When I got to college in the mid-’80s, every other dorm room had a Jim Morrison or John Lennon poster on the wall, yet our preoccupation with the ’60s while living in the ’80s is something you never see in today’s films and TV shows that are set in the ’80s. The anachronisms — then and now — require too much nuance and an understanding that the passage of time and accumulation of popular culture is a fluid experience: It’s less like a free-flowing river and more like a dammed-up lake.
Meanwhile, someone explain to me how this bizarre story about a horse biting a man’s penis works: It’s written in English, but the quotes are in (presumably) Tagalog.
Criticizing AIG bonuses is just like being a Nazi. The AIG executives say so. Talk about confirmation bias.
Hump day. Thank ya lord.
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?
I’m rolling out of town as you read this, off on what we used to call “assignment.” (Actually, we still call it that.)
But if you’re sensing this is yet another lame-ass phone-it-in, why…you’re right!
I do have one piece of bloggage, this Detroit Jalopnik roundup of what breaking news is like these days, at least as it pertains to the Detroit fireworks. Long story short: Someone set off a string of ‘crackers at the larger civic explosion-fest. Some spectators thought it was gunfire and set off a brief panic, which TV — always, TV — jumped into with both feet. What, we verify? is the new code of journalism, along with hey, nice tie.
I will post when I can for the remainder of the week, but I don’t know when or what that will be. If I’m not here, enjoy the rest of it. I’ll be back for sure on Monday.
Sorry for the late update today. I stepped in a bad website last night and Safari is now wearing cement overshoes. I have to do some work under the hood. Back later, but until then, open thread.
OK, well, that was quick. I dunno what happened, but now I’m behind, so I’m afraid I won’t have much more.
They’re digging for Jimmy Hoffa again. “Again,” as in, “the third time since I’ve lived here, and I’ve lived here only eight years, and he’s been missing since 1975.” So many of these circuses seem to feature an aging mobster purportedly making a clean breast of it, you’d think the FBI would have figured it out by now. The latest one, sort of an Uncle Junior type in tinted glasses (the kind my daughter and her friends consider “pedo shades”), is selling autographed photos of himself and a self-published book. And still, on they dig.
OK, 8 a.m., I have to get out. Have a good day, all.
I’m sorry for yesterday’s absence. I had one of those very long days on little sleep, and still managed to drag my flabby ass to the gym, and re-watch “Mad Men” just for the hell of it, and by the time I realized it was 10:30 and I hadn’t written a word, my head was nodding. But I did squeeze out a few! They were these
Brian Stouder, this is for you.
Also, this. Dorothy Rabinowitz, ack ack ack. I’ll be in later, because for now I’m simply too pooped.
And then, evidently, I forgot to hit Publish. Well, that’s how it goes.
But now it’s Tuesday evening, I’m better-rested, and besides the links above, a few notes:
We leave Friday to take Kate to camp, where she’ll rehearse for a week and then jet off to the Continent. We are celebrating by taking our first just-us vacation in a decade, and we’ll be far from wi-fi and the rest of the internet. I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER, she said, right before her eye started to twitch.
How will the week go? Not sure. I still have a bunch of old newspaper columns (thanks, Mark P.!) I might dust off and rerun. As I recall, it took me forever to find five that I could stand to re-read the last time I did this two years ago. But I just scanned a couple, and find they don’t suck as much as I remember. We’ll see. But you’ll be on your own otherwise. If your comment gets stuck in the spam filter — Prospero, I am looking at YOU — it’ll stay there for days.
It sorta hurts — in a non-painful way — to write this. Just returned from my one-month post-op check at the eye doctor’s, and was reminded anew how much I’m not looking forward to this stage of my life. The appointment was screwed up, and they tried to hit me for a $50 co-pay I contend I didn’t owe. I won easily, which should give you an idea of medical-office economics. That colonoscopy piece in the NYT should have been horrifying to anyone still trying to defend the American health-care system in its current form.
Anyway, my eye is healing, but the cataract — which I was told was a possible complication, years down the road — is already starting to form. Fuckety-fuck.
So since we’ve already started with a jab at American health care, let’s start the bloggage with a charming BBC story about the fascinating miracle known as the Finnish baby box. Every expectant mother in Finland gets one:
The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.
It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.
With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.
The box, with a shower’s worth of useful products to take care of the new critter, is only part of the miracle. To get it, women have to see a doctor before their fourth month of pregnancy. So it’s win-win — mothers get prenatal care, and the government sees fewer babies in NICU units, leading to Finland having a tiny infant-mortality rate. A good investment, I’d say. A great read, especially if you’re a mother.
Two stories about rich people:
A few days ago, Detroit’s Masonic Temple — a wonderful Gothic pile sadly fallen on hard times — was at the risk of foreclosure due to unpaid taxes. In the nick of time, an anonymous check for $142,000 arrived to save it from becoming yet another empty building in a city full of them. Today, the anonymous donor was revealed: Jack White. Who really wanted to remain anonymous, but the Masonic owners insisted on naming the central theater after him.
Meanwhile, in California, the damage to the Big Sur redwood forest done by Sean Parker’s (Napster/Facebook Silicon Valley shithead) wedding was tallied, and this Atlantic explication of it is such a delicious read, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But this is some shameful shit here, the sort of willful, stupid behavior for which the term “rich douchebag” was invented.
Finally, I see the Chicago Sun-Times, in its nonstop effort to strip the paper of every possible reason to buy it, has cut off Neil Steinberg to spite its face. I am a late-coming fan of his column, but I find this amazing — he’s a consistently good read, and this is an invitation to find the exit. I hope someone reconsiders, or snaps him up elsewhere.
And with that, I leave you to a good Wednesday, I hope.