Things can’t stay the same forever.

I’m thinking lately of making some changes here. Not shutting down the blog, no, but I’m trying to figure out a way to re-fit it into my life. It seems, night after night, I find myself sitting in front of this screen, trying to think of something to write about, tapped out. Sometimes this goes on for far longer than it should. A hobby shouldn’t be frustrating, and it shouldn’t consume this much time on the way to being frustrating.

It’s not that I lack opinions. I have them. My job doesn’t allow me to express (many of) them (publicly). It’s not that I lack links; I have those, too, but Jolene usually beats me to them. No, what I’m lacking these days is the energy and time to post those long, meandering column-like things that built whatever readership this blog once had, and maybe still has, but probably doesn’t. Honestly, I haven’t checked my traffic in years, because I fear what I might find. This was never a big-readership blog, but it had some fans.

So I thought, hell, treat it like social media — a post here, a post there, and let the comments coalesce around them. Then I consider how our commenting community here is very much like a family, and I fear what would happen if there were three posts a day here instead of one. Then I think, is that my problem? and I’m afraid the answer is yes, it is. I am my blogger’s keeper. To mangle a phrase.

All of which boils down to this, I think: Maybe we’re in a dry patch, maybe I’m sapped by too much stuff here and there, maybe it’s just one of those things I have to ride out. I’m not sure now. What I am sure of is, I don’t want to be staring at my laptop screen for hours after the work day is done. I may have to trim here and there. I’m asking for forbearance.

The blog can’t go away. Because otherwise, where would I share gems like this?


(THAT’S WHAT JUNE SAID, as Jim Romenesko noted.)

Here’s the story of the day for me, about how Colorado took a bold chance on sharply reducing unplanned pregnancies in the state, and damn if it didn’t work. The magic formula: Long-acting birth control, provided free of charge to anyone who wanted it. And holy shit, look at these numbers:

The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

“Our demographer came into my office with a chart and said, ‘Greta, look at this, we’ve never seen this before,’” said Greta Klingler, the family planning supervisor for the public health department. “The numbers were plummeting.”

White House Warns Insurers About Surcharges and Gaps for ContraceptionMAY 11, 2015
The changes were particularly pronounced in the poorest areas of the state, places like Walsenburg, a small city in southern Colorado where jobs are scarce and many young women have unplanned pregnancies. Taking advantage of the free program, Hope Martinez, a 20-year-old nursing home receptionist here, recently had a small rod implanted under the skin of her upper arm to prevent pregnancy for three years. She has big plans — to marry, to move farther west and to become a dental hygienist.

“I don’t want any babies for a while,” she said.

It’s not just birth control, it’s good, long-term, safe and free birth control. Spend a dollar there, save $6 in Medicaid funding. What a radical idea. And it worked. Amazing.

Do I have anything else?

No, I don’t. Onward to a new era. Or maybe not.

Posted at 12:30 am in Housekeeping | 57 Comments

Where I am today.

So here we are, in beautiful, warm, sunny Atlanta. For a wedding, but of course we’re staying with J.C. and Sammy. Who have some spectacular neon in their neighborhood.




We drove, and broke it into two days, leaving after work Thursday and spending the first night in Cincinnati. A question for the room: Whatever happened to Red Roof Inn? I recall it as the cleanest and safest of the budget-hotel segment, and given that we were staying for less than 10 hours, it seemed silly to pay for anything more. Alas, it was seedy and smelly and creepy. There were bloodstains — yes, bloodstains, falling well short of shotgun-massacre but definitely WTF-happened-here — on the wall of the bathroom, and the door of the room next door had dents in it, at precisely boot-kicking height: CHRISTINE! YOU BITCH! YOU AIN’T KEEPIN MY KIDS FROM ME! OPEN THIS DOOR OR I’MA KICK IT DOWN!

Well, we got shut of that p.d.q. Friday morning and had breakfast at Bob Evans. Another bad idea, alas.

But now we’re here and dinner last night was far from a bad idea. And it’s not cold, and the sun is out, and everything is groovy. Open thread, and enjoy the pictures. Because I’m a journalist, one more — Manuel’s, the media-hangout bar, doomed-but-not.


Happy weekending, all.

Posted at 9:40 am in Friends and family, Housekeeping, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments

I been workin’.

Sorry no post for a while; in the past few days I’ve been up and back to Port Huron twice, then up and back from Mackinac. I have a freelance assignment to write/edit the 100th anniversary book for the local yacht club that sponsors the Port Huron-to-Mackinac race, and it was last weekend. Today, two German teenagers are arriving for a few days; we’re a host family for their summer-camp arts tour, a way to close the circle on Kate’s trip to Europe last year.

So it’s been one of those weeks, and will continue to be so.

But here’s what the sunset over St. Ignace looked like on Monday. As the kids say, it’s all good:


Carry on. I’ll be in and out as circumstances allow.

Posted at 11:27 am in Housekeeping | 103 Comments

Some housekeeping.

First, an announcement and some general air-clearing: There may be gaps here in the next few days, and over the course of the summer. I’ll be doing some traveling next week for my book project, and I won’t necessarily be near wifi and all the rest of it. And then I will need to double down on the book project, so that might mean some dark nights or days. I think I will put up lots of photo posts this summer, sort of like T-Lo’s lounge posts, for general chitchat in the comments and something to look at in the bargain.

Next week I will be in a pretty place for a couple of days. (Mackinac.) So we’ll start with that.

And today, I’m a little wrung out. Slept badly, drove a long way (to Lansing), drove back. Thank God for the iPod, so I could sing, loudly, all the way home. I love me some public radio, but after a while, the only thing that keeps my heart beating is the original cast recording of “Oklahoma!”

Gonna give you barley, carrots and potaters, pasture for the cattle, spinach and tomaters — that’s my favorite line.

Hello, am I ever out of gas. So.

J-Lo, don’t ever change. Don’t ever change the batshit outfits and especially don’t change your makeup.

Taylor Swift, optimist, takes apart the contemporary music business. Of course I don’t believe she wrote a word of it, but nice try.

He shot his eye out, kid: Local TV weather guy loses an eye messing around with fireworks.  Not at my neighbor’s house.


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


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.

Posted at 8:01 pm in Housekeeping | 37 Comments


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 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?

Posted at 12:30 am in Housekeeping | 66 Comments

RIP, probably.

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.

I fear Prospero has left us.

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.

Posted at 2:52 pm in Housekeeping | 53 Comments

Get-well cards.

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.

Posted at 6:25 pm in Housekeeping | 86 Comments

A day away.

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.

Posted at 12:37 am in Housekeeping | 84 Comments

More technical difficulties.

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.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Housekeeping, Movies | 37 Comments