A personal slide show.

I spent part of a busy weekend migrating my photos to Google’s photo app. I’m trying to extend the life of my phone a while longer; at four, it’s apparently ancient, at least according to the tech writers covering the new generation of iPhones, who assume everyone in the world wants a new phone every year.

Anyway, with G-photo doing auto backups at the default quality, I can delete all the ones on my phone and free up some space for more crap, like scooter-rental apps. Twice in the last week I’ve wanted to grab a scooter and spare my aching feet (plantar fasciitis acting up), only to find the available ones were from the company I don’t have the app for, dammit.

But that’s a tangent. Google photos are amazing. As soon as it synced with my phone, it started sorting everything, with almost terrifying accuracy. It recognized Kate’s face in pix taken from age 3 to present day. It recognized our old neighbor Allie with a full set of dreadlocks and a shaved head. At first it thought Spriggy and Wendy were the same dog, but once I corrected it, boom, two folders. Then, sometime overnight, it got into “things.” There are 41 Things folders; and I’m sure more are coming. It sorted food pix into Baking and Cooking. Landforms are divided by Beaches, Cliffs, Waterfalls, Caves, etc.

It’s not 100 percent accurate — it put all my sunrise pix into a folder called Sunsets, which bugged me, because what, it can spot my daughter’s eyebrows in a group picture from a homecoming dance six years ago, but not read a time stamp? The Flowers folder includes shots of a birthday cake for J.C., which included a frosting flower on top. But that cake is also in Baking, so no biggie.

It got me to spend some time with old photos this weekend, which most of us don’t do. It also dug up pix I thought had long been deleted, including this one, which I’m calling “selfies are stupid:”

(There are about three dozen selfies in my G-photo account.)

Here’s the view from the top floor of Michigan Central Station, after the official launch event Ford put on in June:

That’s going to be nice when it’s finished, assuming it gets finished.

It was a pretty good weekend — dinner with friends, a bike ride, and a Saturday-night stop at an after-hours party, whoop di do for a person who’s generally asleep by 11. I regret to say the after-hours was nothing much, though — fun enough, but I’ve been to a million of these so far, and the only difference between the legal, before-closing variety and this one was: Open marijuana smoking and nitrous balloons for recreational gas-sipping. Not my thing, although I do remember a party in Fort Wayne where a friend offered that particular canapé, and ran into his landlord when he was carrying the tank in — “Carl, I didn’t know you were a scuba diver!,” etc.

I don’t really have any bloggage today. I stopped reading Kavanaugh takes Friday afternoon, because I’m full-up and only awaiting the inevitable confirmation vote. And Kavanaugh takes were all there were to read this weekend.

Well, there was Tom & Lorenzo on Lady Gaga. I generally agree, although I think her boobs look like they’re in pain.

So let’s face the week ahead with strength and honor. It beats cowardice and scandal.

Posted at 6:45 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 59 Comments
 

So long, suckers.

Another week where the news has pretty much defeated any effort to keep up with it, make sense of it, put it in context. I woke up about an hour ago and reached for my iPad to scroll Twitter and see what happened overnight. I learned:

There is potentially another Trump in the world, Qanon lunatics got into the Oval Office for photo ops this week and Infowars is telling the world that John Kerry is connected to an Antarctica energy beam that split a hurricane apart.

We booked the ticket a while back, but it appears the train has arrived in Crazytown. Please check around your immediate area for any small items you may have brought on board before you exit.

So I’m going on vacation. We’re spending a few days in Toronto. It’ll be nice to visit a sane country for a while. I intend to see Lake Ontario, eat some good food, maybe check out the racks at the big Uniqlo store, perhaps buy some skin-care serums at The Ordinary shops there. Beyond that, no plans. I will post some photos, depending on the quality of the wifi at our rental.

Haven’t had a vacation in a year. This will be nice. If they shut down the country in our absence, we will come as far as Windsor and wave at y’all. Or maybe we’ll stay in TO. Such a nice city — it’s “New York as run by the Swiss.” You ever hear that one?

I actually think about that sometimes. How I might behave in a national emergency, that is. The Handmaid’s Tale got me considering borders and the crossing thereof in a martial law-type situation. I can’t run anymore, so I’m glad we have a boat. I’m glad we have a kayak. I’m glad I can swim. I know the narrowest point in the Detroit River. Of course it’s all the sort of paranoid fantasy one considers on a long bike ride, or while turning laps in the pool, but you know, World War II wasn’t that long ago. Europeans had to decide which side they were playing for, and how they might resist if they opted to go that way. One thing I know is, if anything like that were to happen here, it would be a lot stupider, because we’d have Twitter and Fox News.

Before I leave, a few items:

The Michigan State alumni magazine, Spartan, tried to address the Larry Nassar situation in its summer issue. It was overruled from the president’s office. The student newspaper — God bless student newspapers everywhere — got a copy of one of the scratched covers. It’s remarkable. So is this passage:

The original teal-laden version of the summer 2018 MSU alumni magazine, aiming to “build a path to a better future,” was stripped down and changed to Spartan green.

The State News obtained the original special issue of the MSU alumni magazine from someone close to the administration of Interim President John Engler. This version, solely focused on ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and issues surrounding it, was not distributed to alumni.

Engler scrapped the three potential covers, according the Detroit Free Press, of a woman donning teal lipstick, a single teal ribbon and a wall of 60 teal ribbons all bearing the title “Finding Our Way” from a special issue of the MSU alumni magazine.

A Spartan green background, with a quote from Engler praising the university for having emerged from its “most difficult challenge in its history,” replaced these covers.

Propaganda is everywhere. Always.

A ProPublica essay to consider: Why Manafort and Cohen Thought They’d Get Away With It. Here’s some yup-yup-yup right here:

But how anomalous are Mssrs. Manafort and Cohen? Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the IRS? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement. The FBI shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of 9/11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s. The IRS’ criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition. The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Cohen and Manafort were so brazen. They must have felt they had impunity.

Finally, I imagine John McCain will no longer be with us by the time I post again. So farewell to a man who aspired to greatness, achieved it fleetingly, was as flawed as any of us and unleashed Sarah Palin upon us. Requiesicat in pace.

When I see you again, I’ll be using plastic money. (Not a card. Canadian cash is plastic. For reals. Another innovation that, in this country, would first be blocked by the vending-machine industry and then by paranoid lunatics.)

Posted at 7:53 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 124 Comments
 

Overnight sensations.

Late update today — sorry. Been a rather busy week, but as often happens when we gallop through Monday and Tuesday, things are improving.

I have a story in Deadline Detroit today; it turns out the filmmakers who made that video for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are not only Detroiters, but I already know one of them. She used to work for the advocacy firm where Bridge had its Lansing office for a spell, so I mainly recall her as one of the young people who worked in the bullpen, who I sometimes chatted with on my way to the coffeepot or giant vat of peanut butter-stuffed pretzel nuggets. (That is a disgusting-sounding snack, I know, but I tried one and soon was filling a bowl with them to furtively carry back upstairs. I’d never buy them, however, because I’d fear the disapproval of others in the checkout line.)

Anyway, Naomi’s reaction to the 2016 election was to start attending socialist-feminism discussion groups, which led in a more or less linear fashion to her quitting her job and starting a new media company for socialist candidates. And that led them to make the Ocasio-Cortez video, which is fantastic and partially credited for her success.

Predictably, the comments on the story are whack. I thought of contributing to the discussion, drafted a comment, then trashed it because why engage, and on the internet of all places. I’ll paste it here, just to get it out of my system:

Hi, everyone. As the writer of this piece, I think some of you are overlooking an important point: It’s easy to make fun of socialism. So many spectacular failures, yes. But you are also forgetting what led to it, and why it’s appealing to so many younger people. The Gilded Age and industrial revolution after the Civil War led to an era of great wealth for the few, while the working class toiled in backbreaking labor, for little money and with few to no protections, as a nervous middle class looked on and wrung their hands.

(Yes, an oversimplification. Bear with me.)

Many of these young people talking up Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others are graduating from college — if they went to college — with mortgage-size debt into a gig economy with a shrinking middle class, exploding wealth for the top tier, and a political class that simply *does not hear them.*

You look at her platform and say it’s crazy. Medicare for all? Every Western democracy has some form of universal health care that won’t impoverish those who need it. Free public college? Maybe not four years’ worth, but a two-year associates degree wrapped into a slightly longer term in high school — all paid for from the school aid fund — is called middle college, it’s happening in Michigan, and you should google it.

Judicial reform? When poor people sit in county jails for nonviolent offenses because they can’t afford $500 bail, that doesn’t seem crazy. Housing as a human right? Good news, kids! All the decent jobs are in those cool big cities you like so much. Bad news, kids! Rent is a zillion dollars a month, and even your decent-job salary won’t cover that. Also, those cool cities need bartenders, teachers, waiters and so on, so that Ivanka’s apartment can be kept clean and her children minded while mom’s at work. But for those people? Womp-womp.

My point: This doesn’t sound crazy to people who are dealing with these realities. And what is the reaction? Sneering at those who didn’t major in STEM fields, because if you studied art history you *deserve* to be poor, losers! (One of the most successful people I know, a C-suite vertical blur, majored in English lit. He says analyzing poetry and novels taught him problem-solving skills he employs every day.) Health insurance for those gig employees? You can’t have that, because Obamacare = tyranny. Help with housing? Get a couple roommates, or move to the ex-ex-exurbs and enjoy the 90-minute commute. Judicial reform? You should have thought of that before you rode your bike on the sidewalk, or talked back to a policeman (Blue lives matter!!!) or sold a couple joints to an undercover officer.

And so on. I’m not taking a stand here, and I realize that wading into any internet comment section is a waste of time. (I’m also not going to engage with any of you further, because see previous sentence.) I’m only making a plea for empathy, to try to step out of your own shoes and into someone else’s. You can learn a lot.

It wouldn’t have done any good, of course. Which is why I deleted it.

God, the last 48 hours have been a blur. Clemency for the Oregon rancher/arsonists. NATO. Kavanaugh. Where to start? I don’t think I will. Instead, let’s be stupid on this fine July afternoon. A screen cap from the Axios newsletter a couple days ago, because I don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription:

There’s a restaurant around the corner that does this with hot chocolate, inserting skewers laden with doughnuts, cookies, gigantic marshmallows and stuff like that, drizzled with chocolate syrup. I see a lot of kids in there who seem to be celebrating birthdays; maybe next they’ll balance an entire chocolate cake on top. But adults are supposed to know better. A $55 bloody mary! Surely we’re in the end times.

Some commenter-community news: Snarkworth has published a book – “Same River Twice,” available in the usual places. I haven’t read it, so I have no opinions about it other than Books Are Good, and Writing Books Is So Hard That They Should All Be Celebrated. (Unless we’re talking about Dick Cheney’s memoirs, or whatever.) Congratulations, Snarkworth. Now go write the next one.

Posted at 3:36 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Housekeeping | 77 Comments
 

Happy holidays to all.

Hey, it’s the end of the week and I haven’t blogged for a while. Didn’t mean to blow you guys off, but I was wrapping presents and working my way through “High Maintenance,” my new favorite HBO show. Those of you who have a subscription, start with the web series of shorts, then start the main, 30-minute episodes. They’re wonderful.

I don’t really have much to say other than that. We’re off to Ohio and then back to Michigan, and as I pass by some of you, I send you greetings for whatever holiday you are celebrating. We’re past the solstice, so hey, longer days!

Here’s a Christmas photo, from the Santa Speedo Run a while back. One mile through downtown and back to the only gay sports bar in Detroit, and in fact, the only one I’ve ever been to, period. While I was there, they were showing years-old MMA fights on some of the big screens, and Janet Jackson videos on others. My kinda place:

Stay warm! I’ll be back next week.

Posted at 3:19 pm in Housekeeping, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Fear of everything but God.

Alan grumbles over his newspaper from time to time, but seldom says, “This is really good,” so when he does, I pay attention.

He said this is really good. I agree. It’s about how evangelicals have sold their souls, ha ha, to a new kind of religion, which the author, Amy Sullivan, calls Fox Evangelicalism:

But if the conservative media has created a category of Fox evangelical converts, it has also influenced the way a whole generation of churchgoing evangelicals thinks about God and faith. On no issue is this clearer than guns.

In fall 2015, I visited Trinity Bible College, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in North Dakota, to join the conservative evangelical students there for a screening of “The Armor of Light,” a documentary by the filmmaker Abigail Disney. The film followed the pastor and abortion opponent Rob Schenck on his quest to convince fellow evangelicals — the religious demographic most opposed to gun restrictions — that pro-life values are incompatible with an embrace of unrestricted gun access. I found Mr. Schenck compelling, and my editor had sent me to see if his target audience bought the arguments.

It did not.

As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.

These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”

Imagine living in a state – not a city, a state – with 21 homicides in a year, only three of which were by an unknown assailant. I’m subscribed to a number of Facebook groups about various communities in the Grosse Pointes, and I’m amazed at how many people talk wildly about using guns to remedy petty-crime issues like theft from unlocked cars or package thefts from front porches, a common crime at this time of year. Imagine somehow catching a person trying to abscond with an Amazon box containing a Bluetooth speaker or pair of pants or whatever, and putting a bullet into their body.

Also imagine being the person who fans that fear, and uses it to gather power, or make money. I shudder to think.

But as the recent election in Alabama indicated, this particular segment of the electorate is willing to go very very far afield of their stated principles. From Politico, another rather alarming dispatch, about Jen Hatmaker (great name), an evangelical leader who went on the record as a never-Trumper and a supporter of same-sex marriage:

That’s when the full weight of conservative Christian outrage crashed down on Hatmaker. There were soon angry commenters and finger-wagging bloggers. She says people in her little town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, pulled her children aside and said terrible things about her and her husband. She was afraid to be in public, and she wasn’t sleeping or eating well. “The way people spoke about us, it was as if I had never loved Jesus a day in my life,” Hatmaker recently told an audience in Dallas. The gilded auditorium was quiet, its 2,300 seats filled to capacity with nearly all women. “And I was just an ally,” she said. “Think about how our gay brothers and sisters feel.”

Such a strange time to be alive.

It was a strange weekend, too, here in Detroit. A prominent journalist, Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, Pulitzer winner, host of a daily public-radio show and with fingers in many other pies, became the latest man to fall to you-know-what. However, it was handled about as badly as these things can be handled, with the paper declining to release any details to their readers whatsoever. I’m not the only person who was shocked to hear this, and I have doubts as to the nature and seriousness of these unspecified incidents. This has led to a social-media frenzy, as you might imagine, with uninformed readers speculating as to the nature of these offenses, whatever they may be.

There’s a time when it’s best to shut up, and best to come clean. There are also times when you should talk to a lawyer. This was a big career to fall without a single justification being publicized.

Finally, I mentioned I’m back to work. I’m the new — and founding — director of communications for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a policy-research nonprofit with roots dating back to the progressive era. It so happens I wrote the story for Bridge on the group’s 100th anniversary, in which its president emeritus described it as the best-kept secret in Michigan. My job, which is funded by a capacity-building grant, will be to raise their profile. I’m not doing any of the research, just helping them spread the word. It’s a new role for me, and a challenge – they’re scrupulously factual and nonpartisan in a time when that approach is both more necessary and less common than ever. Not much will change around here, but I feel like I could host an ask-me-anything about Medicaid expansion right now.

The homestretch to the holidays is on.

Posted at 5:21 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 65 Comments
 

Back to the mangle.

And in just a week, that’s that.

No complaints here. Last year’s vacations were about getting out and exploring and doing new things. This year’s was more about retreating and refreshing, and that is fine. Fine, I tell you. I desperately needed both parts of that R ‘n’ R, and the setting was lovely. The image above was from the same walk that yielded the last one, when the first maples were just starting to redden. By the time we left, the bracken ferns were browning, the milkweed was yellowing and while the forest is still mostly green, the last act of the year is underway. Sorry to break it to you, but I guess most of us check the calendar from time to time.

Thank you all for keeping up the conversation in my absence. I tried to avoid most news, but couldn’t get away entirely. Actually, me on a news diet is approximately an average American who considers themselves well-informed, I suspect, at least judging from the conversations I overhear in restaurants. We had zero cell signal where we were staying, and no wifi. Have you noticed how the only place you find video stores these days are in rural areas and poor neighborhoods? One can’t get decent-enough internet service to stream, the other can’t really afford it. I’m leaving out the exceptional film-snob place deep in some university-adjacent neighborhood, but even those are going away, I expect. So we watched cottage-shelf DVDs and read. Got through three New Yorkers, one a disappointing fiction issue, and two books – “Conversations With Friends” and “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which a friend gifted me with and said I’d love. (I realize it was a best-seller for a long time, but I remind you, I was the very last person in the world to see “A Chorus Line” on Broadway, too.)

It turns out I liked-short-of-loved it, but it’s an interesting artifact of its time, I’ll say, that time being the bygone Clinton presidency. Sigh. Remember that time? Everybody was earning good money, the newspaper business was robust and Al Kida was a guy who sold you your morning bagel. (Carbs were OK then, too.) You could publish a memoir about resetting your life by undertaking the renovation of an Italian villa on an American academic’s schedule, and people found it refreshing rather than self-indulgent. Even “Tuscany,” back then, was sort of a yuppie Brigadoon, a destination you visited, fell in love with and vowed to return to ever after. It’s a richly detailed book, but after the main work on the house is over, it lost steam for me.

“Conversations With Friends” was richer, and I bought it based on the fact I read this New Yorker piece about it all the way to the end. It’s not a substantial book, but it’s interesting, as a glimpse of how young people think about love. At least the young person who wrote it.

I did much of my reading on the screened porch, because the weather was so warm, approaching fall or not. This is overexposed; I was trying to capture the gnat cloud at the center — look closely — but it also captures the warmth of the day:

The next day was ever warmer, and we floated on the river for about six hours. Lunch was a sandwich on a convenient gravel bar. Longtime readers will remember the boat from 2004, when Alan built it.

Our time in the cottage was done Thursday, but we couldn’t bear to go home, so we headed over to Traverse City in hopes that the usual summer crowds had abated somewhat. They had, but the place is still too much for me, except food-wise. We had a couple of good meals there, a couple more good beers, and I found a pair of cool boots, half-price, which makes it a good trip.

And then, homeward bound. As the cell signal grew stronger, I caught up on some reading. Almost all of it is outdated, but here are a couple you might not have seen yet:

The death of expertise, via Politico. We’ve hashed this out here many times, but the dark side of the internet’s democratization of everything has been the idea that anyone can be…oh, take your pick. A filmmaker, a publisher, a writer, a politician, a designer, etc. etc. I’m ready for the smart people to make a comeback, but god knows when that might be:

Voters say they reject expertise because experts—whom they think of as indistinguishable from governing elites—have failed them. “Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, ‘What have experts done for us lately?’” one USA Today columnist recently wrote, without irony. Somehow, such critics missed the successful conclusion of the Cold War, the abundance of food to the point that we subsidize farmers, the creation of medicines that have extended human life, automobiles that are safer and more efficient than ever, and even the expert-driven victories of the previously hopeless Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Experts, in this distorted telling, have managed only to impoverish and exploit ordinary Americans; anything that has benefited others apparently happened only by mere chance.

Also from Politico, the loneliest president, by Michael Kruse, who has made Trump-the-man his beat over the last year.

Finally, maybe a little housekeeping note. I’ve decided to continue the 3x/week posting, instead of the former 5x. I need to do some other writing, personal writing, and I need the time. You folks seem to carry the freight well in my absence, so keep on keeping on.

Now to find the bottom of my inbox. Over and out and back to the mangle. See you Wednesday-ish.

Posted at 4:04 pm in Housekeeping, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 85 Comments
 

RIP, Michael G.

I just saw this on my Facebook. I’m cutting and pasting it here. It’s written by his friend Teresa Rodrigues:

It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I inform you that our dear friend Michael has succumbed to his illness. Michael died on June 6th.

Michael was diagnosed with stage 4 Osteosarcoma right before retiring, March of 2014. After going through an initial brutal chemo treatment which nearly killed him and took 5 to 6 months to recover, Michael started his last journey in this world with gusto, and a ferocious appetite for life!

He traveled, mostly to Barcelona, his very favorite spot. Discovered and enjoyed the best art, wines, food, restaurants. Looked forward to and enjoyed immensely socializing with his friends, made new friends and of course read many many many books.

He accepted his fate with resignation but never lost hope. Michael remained active till the very end, trying his best to enjoy life and his friends in the most normal and casual way. Despite his terrible illness Michael was not in excruciating pain and despite discomfort was able to remain independent. At the end, life was soft and gentle on him.

I lost and will forever miss my very dear old friend. I would like to thank all of those who stood by him and were part of his life. You made it all so much better and were the source of great joy and comfort to him.

RIP Michael…

On edit: Me again. I believe, although I’m not sure, that Teresa is “T,” whom he referred to regularly. I think she might be his wife, from whom he was legally separated for years, but never divorced, so as to keep her on his excellent state medical benefits. That’s what you call a good man.

Posted at 1:34 pm in Housekeeping | 45 Comments
 

Down days.

First, just a bit of housekeeping: For the remainder of the summer, I’m taking the blog down to a M/W/F schedule. I realize it’s been erratic for a while, pretty much a four-times-a-week thing unless it’s three times a week, so why not just do it? Three times a week it is, through Labor Day. Perhaps beyond, if the quality picks up, which I hope it does.

I dunno what’s behind this, except that I’m tired, and feel like there’s a new direction to take this thing, but I’m not sure what it is, yet. It’s not shutting down, it’s just slowing down. After all, I never promised to blog Every Goddamn Day, only most goddamn days.

Not shutting down, nosirree. Rest easy. We’ll just have some longer comment threads.

So. Today the indispensable David Fahrenthold dropped this lovely item into the mix: At at least four different Trump golf clubs, there’s a framed Time magazine cover on the wall. With Trump out front, of course. And it’s fake. Of course.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

In fact, the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.

“I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” Kerri Chyka, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

I don’t know what to think anymore. The country is caught in some sort of horrible vortex. Why aren’t we running down the middle of the street, screaming?

If I’d been to Seth Mnuchin’s wedding, I’d sure be doing that.

Wellness: Such a goddamn scam. Thanks, Gwyneth:

When Gwyneth Paltrow first launched Goop in 2008, it was a great place to find out where to eat the best tapas in Barcelona. It was straight-up celebrity-lifestyle voyeurism, and Paltrow, with her long blonde hair and aura of complete self-satisfaction, was irresistible. There’s the expression “living your best life,” and then there is Paltrow: best life manifest.

But then Goop’s focus started to shift. Paltrow began to describe in detail her exercise regimen with her trainer Tracy Anderson, who believes one should work out two hours a day, six days a week. Then she began providing information on a cleanse she does each January. The mission became less about revealing the trappings of the good life and more about the notion that the really good life is internal. Rich and beautiful people don’t just go to nicer places, their organs work better. They even know how to breathe better, with more oxygen per ounce. They’re not afraid to try fecal transplants, with really top-notch, vegan-only feces. Goop became less about hotels and restaurants and more about chakras and thyroids, with the implication that maybe what’s actually standing between you and your inner Gwyneth is some mysterious virus that your overextended, pharmaceutically corrupt doctor is too narrow-minded to address.

If you spend even a minute of your day thinking, “Should I get a fecal transplant?” and you’re not in the hospital with C.diff, you need more things to worry about. Maybe the wrong fecal transplant will give them to you.

See you Friday.

Posted at 9:23 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 91 Comments
 

Working on the weekend.

New thread, guys!  Sorry, but my last few days have been a little full. Today I’m training at MSU with, among others, the architect of the Tampa Bay Times amazing “Failure Factories” project. 

Talk amongst yourselves. 

Posted at 10:11 am in Housekeeping | 45 Comments
 

How we got here.

Well, happy new year to y’all, too. I hope you had a pleasant pair of long weekends, or in my case, TWO SOLID WEEKS of not having to think about work (too much). I had a particularly fine time reading the comments on the last entry, about how so many of you made it here, and why you stick around.

To clear up some points made there, which I might as well do now, because I’m not sure when, precisely, this blog began, although J.C. probably does:

NN.c was born out of boredom, restlessness and a sense that things were changing in my business, and some skills in the new era might be useful. J.C. had already launched his own site — and that’s what we called them, just websites or “personal websites” — which was updated then more often than it is now. I always looked forward to reading it, and in his always-encouraging way, he urged me to try it myself. At least secure your name.com, he said, so I did, at Network Solutions, for something like $25. I only got the .com, because $75 to secure the .net and .org seemed like a lot of money to spend on something I might not ever even do.

On one of J.C.’s swings through town, he showed me how to work Adobe GoLive in sort of an all-thumbs, basic way, and in about 10 minutes, mocked up the first NN.c. Dominant color: Blue. He showed me how to make new pages, how to upload to the server. I understood what a server was. And so I tapped out a tentative first entry, introducing myself and telling the world that I now had a personal website. There were pages devoted to my scary-clown news clippings, and my postcard collection, links to sites I regularly visited, and that was about it. All this was in January 2001.

I sent emails to everyone I know, saying hey, I now have a website. And I told my editors, just in case there was a conflict. They decided there wouldn’t be, as long as I didn’t try to sell anything that might be construed as competing with the paper. Everyone looked at Day One, patted me on the head and said, “Isn’t that nice” and went back to putting out the paper.

I believe I got 104 visits that day. Clicks, anyway. Google analytics didn’t exist yet.

As Day One drew to a close, I called up my page and looked at it. The question “now what?” seemed to announce itself. Guess I should write something new, I thought, starting the first weekly archive page, pasting the first day’s content to that and starting anew in the now-blank box on the home page.

On that second day, I considered a few things when at the keyboard. First, that one of my great regrets in life is that I haven’t kept a regular journal, and large swaths of my life are only committed to my increasingly faulty memory. Another is that I couldn’t keep a real journal on a site that was called by my real name, because it’s the internet and I don’t want everyone reading the intimate details of our household, or that my boss was a jerk that day, or whatever. So I fell into a style that had become familiar to me over the years, in my long-running correspondence with my best friend, who now lives in Milwaukee: A letter to a friend. Sort of easy and breezy and a report on the day’s events, trivial and less-so. A journal with some intimacy, but not total access. And that’s really how it went, for quite a while.

But then a couple things happened: 9/11, which was followed by an explosion of these things called weblogs, or blogs for short (a horrible word, in my opinion). Most of them were atrocious and rightly died a swift death, but they led to a shift in the conversation about websites that weren’t established and maintained by an institution, but by an individual. New tools — Blogger, Typepad, et al. — made it easy to get your own version of NN.c up and running in a matter of minutes. Suddenly it wasn’t just me and J.C. and a few others. It was everyone.

The other thing that happened was the Humiliation and Firing of Mr. Bob Greene, which happened over a weekend. I saw the news via Jim Romenesko, probably, and dashed off a column-length piece about it. I announced what every young woman who’d ever passed within 10 yards of the guy knew — that he was a horndog, a fact so widely known in media circles that it hardly even counted as gossip. I also said he was a hack, and had been for some time, another observation that barely rises above Duh. And I mentioned his stupid toupees, because are they not a metaphor for his hackitude and desperate need to paw women? They are. I uploaded it and went to bed.

The next morning, I looked at my email. “Great rant,” said someone with an address from thenewyorker.com — a staff writer. More continued to arrive through the next few days, one from none other than Lucianne Goldberg. It turned out I’d been linked by Romenesko, and then by Slate, and then by many other blogs and publications and whatnot. Newsweek magazine quoted me. A Japanese magazine writer conducted a phone interview, in halting English, through a bad phone connection. For the first time, I was Internet Famous.

I told the executive editor, expecting an explosion of whatthefuck, but got little more than the that’s-nice head-pat he’d given me on day one. And that, more than anything, exposed a few things in sharp relief. First, that the newspaper business had no idea what was coming for it, and second, that if I wanted to be known outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, I should stop trying to get carried by the Knight-Ridder wire service (which had turned me down more than once) and start writing more stuff like 700 dashed-off words about Bob Greene. If it’s true that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, it’s equally true that no one knows you’re a nobody toiling for a fading daily in the Hoosier state.

I’ve said it many times, in many places: Every good thing that’s happened in my writing life has happened because of this site. I was routinely ignored by hiring K-R editors who passed through the Fort, but here? Here’s where I met Laura Lippman, and her husband Mr. Lippman. Here’s where Ben Yagoda found me, and put me in a textbook about finding your writing voice. (Take that, stupid hiring editors!) This here place is what I wrote about in the essay that got me a Knight Wallace Fellowship. Here’s where the career of Tim Goeglein, White House aide, went up in flames. (And Tim? I am pissed I didn’t get mentioned in your book. Not once.)

And here’s where I met all of you guys. Because after 15 years, frankly, there are days when I sit in front of my blinking cursor and can barely think of one thing to say. Now that I’m a working reporter again, I have to be more circumspect in what I write here, and that chafes sometimes, believe me. But I know that if I put up just a little something, someone here will take it and run with it, or will introduce something else and go in another direction.

Something else I’ve said many times: This place, and its commentariat, is the world’s greatest and friendliest bar. Some people teetotal, some cry into their beer, some fall off their stools (a moment of silence for Prospero here). If “Cheers” had a bigger set and cast, it would be like this site. Which is really one of the things the internet did for everyone, right? If you were a lonely gay boy in Nowhere, Nebraska, you could find other gay boys out there. If you collected paintings of chickens and only chickens, somewhere out there someone is keeping a blog for you. Not all of these communities have been good and healthy ones, but this one? It’s pretty good. After all, it has Coozledad, who not only amuses us here, but also at his own site. (Read that one — it’s pretty good. I so wish he’d write a book.)

And just now, looking at my word count, I’m struck by the horrible feeling I’ve written this thing before, probably many times.

Anyway, today isn’t the anniversary of the blog. That was either the 14th or 21st, maybe? Those dates stick in my head. But I’ll take today to say, once again, how happy I am to have you guys in my life, even on days when I feel like pulling the plug. Because a writer without readers is just shouting into the void, and a writer with readers who can talk back and contribute is lucky indeed.

On to the links:

What the hell is going on in Oregon? Discuss.

If Boston Globe reporters and editors were going to moonlight as carriers, they should have just done it and kept it to themselves. This just comes off as self-aggrandizement, to me.

One of the trainers at my gym just announced she’s planning to attend one of these learn-to-surf camps this summer, to commemorate her 50th birthday, and invited others to come with her. I cannot. Get it OUT. Of my mind. Someone talk me out of spending a September week in San Onofre, Calif. making a fool of myself. But I cannot deny, being able to get even one ride on a surfboard would be a total bucket-list item for me.

Here’s to 2016, all. It can be a pretty great one, if we make it so.

Posted at 3:09 pm in Housekeeping, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments