The litterbox is full.

Because life can’t be all despair over the country or the weather or one’s lack of preparedness for the upcoming holiday, I devoted a small bit of time today to absorbing Art in the form of a short story that evidently has half of men’s-rights Twitter running around with their hair on fire and their butts extremely hurt.

It’s called “Cat Person.” Go ahead and read it; it’s pretty good. Not to spoil, but it tells the story of a doomed kinda-relationship that’s mostly carried on via electronic devices. It doesn’t end well, and features an explicit – for the New Yorker – sex scene that should ring true to anyone who’s ever had bad sex, which I assume = pretty much everyone. It also touches on a number of ripped-from-the-headline themes. Which explains the butthurt.

The reaction to the story has its own Twitter account. Don’t look before you read the story. And if you read it, be sure to read the Q&A with the author, too.

Man, pop culture lighting up over a piece of fiction that isn’t “Gone Girl” or “50 Shades”? This is a banner day. And it’s only Monday.

And Mario Batali is the first sexual harasser of the week to go down in flames. I don’t watch cooking shows, but I know who he is – the ponytail guy who has a house in northern Michigan and hung a lot with Jim Harrison before he died. I am, how you say, not surprised. Isn’t this sort of the culture of commercial kitchens? An old boyfriend of mine used to be a server in a white-tablecloth place, and told stories that curled my hair, one involving a chef throwing knives across the kitchen at some waiter who’d displeased him. Sex shenanigans would seem to be an improvement.

And tomorrow (today if you read this Tuesday) is Roy Moore’s fate. That’ll be a fun one to bat around. Or maybe consider emigration/suicide over.

What am I talking about? He’s going to win.

It’s snowing where I am. May it cover all of our sins.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Current events, Media | 47 Comments
 

Fast news day.

What a day to be working all day in Lansing – John Conyers quits, and…well, it was big news here. This remarkable column from the alt-weekly should give you an idea what things had come to by the time he stepped down. Bonus: It includes the phrase “polishing his knob.” In the lead!

(I would have messed with that, had this been mine to edit. Did he call it polishing the knob, or is that the writer’s euphemism? Also, I just want a lot more detail about the quid pro quo.) And it seems knob-polishing is only part of what was wrong in that office by the time its leader threw in the towel. To be sure, congressional offices can be efficient no matter whose name is on the door, as long as the staff is competent. But there’s a line.

Then there was the Russia Olympic ban, which led me to this story, which led me to watch the film in question, “Icarus,” last night. Highly recommended if you have Netflix – it’s that rare documentary that is simultaneously funny, serious, eye candy and important. It’s about sports doping, but it’s fascinating to watch in light of what we now know about Russian election interference. These people do not play, and the fact our president admires Vladimir Putin will eventually go down as a shameful chapter in American history, assuming we survive it. So do so.

Back to our sexual-harassment theme, you may have already seen this NYT piece, their follow-up to the Weinstein story. It’s devastating, in that it details the webs of accomplices, both active and passive, who allowed him to get away with his activities for so many years. The part about the National Enquirer is particularly nauseating. You think you can’t lower your opinion of those guys any more, and then you have to. Because, as Josh Marshall tweeted today, in calling it a “deeply malevolent” force in American life, “beyond just publishing exposes it’s also a kind of protection racket and enforcer for some of the county’s worst people.” Amen, brother.

Got some work to do, so I’m-a do it. Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 11:17 am in Current events, Media | 72 Comments
 

Lights, camera, Fellini.

So, the Washington Post/Project Veritas story. Of course you’re allowed the belly laughs you undoubtedly had, watching James O’Keefe’s moron underling try to “cancel” her interview with the Post reporter batting her around like a cat with a mouse. But once you’ve had them, consider what this is saying about our particular moment.

O’Keefe sent this woman on her mission, apparently in the belief that Washington Post reporters would say, in essence, “Tell me your story and I will immediately put it in the newspaper. Will it affect the election? Oh my, yes. Judge Roy Moore is finished, I tell you. Finished!”

And if they wouldn’t use those exact words, well, they can always fix it in post. (TV joke there.)

I guess what amazes me most about this caper is how…not just dumb, but ignorant it was. You don’t have to know much about how reporting is done to be flabbergasted that anyone thought this would work. Or, giving them credit for a few more IQ points, assume they knew it wouldn’t work, but they could get enough to piece together something their supporters would accept as Stickin’ it to the Man, and keep O’Keefe in $300,000 worth of high cotton for a little while longer.

I read somewhere that bloggers — bloggers! — at Breitbart are knocking down six figures a year. This gravy train has many cars; in Tomi Lahren’s, you can get you hair highlighted. But how long will the people who pay for the coal to keep it running down the track keep doing so?

The trouble is that many of these rich donors are out of touch with reality (if I had a billion dollars and nobody ever told me “no,” I would probably be out of touch, too). Rather than investing in the tedious and time-consuming work of incremental gain, they demand instant gratification. Rather than supporting young conservatives who have a steady working-class temperament, they fawn over eccentric young dreamers with delusions of grandeur.

Meanwhile, lots of deserving conservative causes and individuals wither on the vine.

What a world, when a whole, well-funded organization is built on telling lies to support a candidate alleged to have molested young teens. AMERICA.

I was going to write more on this, but again, my feeble efforts have been overtaken by events. Today? Matt Lauer, aka the Phantom Graduate of Ohio University. (Seriously. I graduated from the j-school there the same time he did, and I have zero memory of him. Assuming he may have been in a different sequence, like radio-TV, well, J.C. was a fixture in that department, and he doesn’t remember him either. None of our classmates, ditto. Weird.) More chainsaws can be heard in the forest, and more trees will be falling soon.

One of the women I swim with said today, while we were showering, that all of 2017 seems like a Fellini movie. Either that, or Kubrick:

What a natural-born model that lady is. So expressive.

Happy Wednesday. all.

Posted at 8:43 am in Current events, Media | 166 Comments
 

A loud chorus.

Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to teach writing, from classroom visits to fourth-graders to adjunct gigs at the local U. I’ve “taught,” so to speak, everything from fiction to journalism, with most falling in the personal-essay category, thanks to my long stint as a columnist. And if I had to boil down the best single bumper-sticker piece of advice I have, it’s this: Tell the truth. If you’re writing in your journal, tell the truth about your day and feelings about it. If you’re writing journalism, don’t make shit up. Fiction uses make-believe to tell truths that readers recognize. If you make the 17 syllables of a haiku paint a particular picture, make sure every brushstroke is correct.

Journalists are big believers in facts, but facts do not always add up to truth, and it’s this that’s been bothering me in recent years. It’s a fact that propagandists have set up vast informational networks that look like journalism, but aren’t. Consumers are too busy, distracted, ignorant or angry to insist on anything better. I don’t think it’s any mystery why I started watching MSNBC during the worst of the Iraq war; as I said of Twitter recently, I needed something that validated the angry voices in my head, and Keith Olbermann filled the bill. (For a while, anyway. Now he just chaps my ass.) Imagine being old and confused and fearful of death, and you can understand the appeal of Fox News pretty clearly.

Add to that the both-sides thing, in which it reporting on Something Bad being done by one politician must be matched by Something Bad done by someone on the other side. So you end up with Donald Trump’s buffet table of outrages contrasted with a private email server, or Uranium One.

Hey, at least we got some memes out of it. But her emails!

I was thinking about how traditional reporters can work better, smarter, without becoming beholden to one side. Because even though “both sides do it” is trite crap, both sides – all sides – definitely do stupid and newsworthy things that have to be reported on. It’s just that one side is doing so much more of it at the moment. But the pendulum will swing, as it always does.

These thoughts were pinging around my head when I heard this story explained on the NYT morning podcast.

On Sunday afternoon, when Elmer T. Williams’s wife told him that a mass shooting had taken place at a church in Texas, he leapt into action. First, he skimmed a handful of news stories about the massacre. Then, when he felt sufficiently informed, he went into his home video studio, put on his trademark aviator sunglasses, and hit record.

Roughly an hour later, Mr. Williams, 51, a popular right-wing YouTube personality who calls himself “The Doctor of Common Sense,” had filmed, edited and uploaded a three-minute monologue about the Sutherland Springs church shooting to his YouTube page, which had roughly 90,000 subscribers. Authorities had not yet named a suspect, but that didn’t deter Mr. Williams, who is black, from speculating that the gunman was probably “either a Muslim or black.”

… YouTube has long been a haven for slapdash political punditry, but in recent months, a certain type of hyper-prolific conspiracist has emerged as a dominant force. By reacting quickly and voluminously to breaking news, these rapid-response pundits — the YouTube equivalent of talk radio shock jocks — have successfully climbed the site’s search results, and exposed legions of viewers to their far-fetched theories.

It so happens I follow a disgraced former state rep on Facebook, a guy who started out far to the right and since his downfall, has drifted deep into these weeds. And I see this sort of thing on his page all the time. I don’t know if he’s weighed in on the Texas shooting, because he may still be hashing over the Las Vegas shooting. Did you know there was a second shooter? You don’t? You need to stop listening to the lamestream media, then, and here, allow me to show you a bit of video the authorities don’t want you to see.

He has lots of company. I followed a bunch of them back when I was trying to understand them better, and man — there’s a lot of them. And one thing these YouTube people are doing is blanking out the voices of the sane and the professional. You might think, big deal, they’re nuts. And they are, no doubt, or close to it. But their work is surprisingly effective at spreading misinformation at a critical time, in both how the event is processed in real time and in this moment in history. I promise you, you know someone who believes this shit:

His hit productions have included fact-challenged videos like “Barack and Michelle Obama Both Come Out The Closet,” which garnered 1.6 million views, and “Hillary Clinton Is On Crack Cocaine,” which had 665,000. He was admitted to YouTube’s partner program, which allows popular posters to earn money by displaying ads on certain types of videos, and claims to have made as much as $10,000 a month from his channel.

“I like to call myself a reporter who reports the news for the common person,” Mr. Williams said.

Real reporters don’t respond to this, for the same reason you don’t invite the crazy people who send you letters and leave 3 a.m. voicemails on your office phone to lunch. Maybe they should.

Oh, well. Related: How American politics went batshit crazy, an instructive timeline.

And finally, in case you wanted to be made even angrier today, let’s check in with Omarosa, shall we? A great read.

And I live in Wayne County. My previous permanent or semi-permanent addresses were in Franklin, Athens and Allen counties. BOR-ring.

Posted at 12:14 pm in Current events, Media | 105 Comments
 

Blue collar.

God bless this nice lady, Heather Bryant for falling for, and marrying, a truck mechanic. As someone who did what lots of journalists do — marry a co-worker — I could have spared myself a lot of grief over the last 15 years if I’d done the same. As it is, our two-income household is a very fragile thing, and likely will remain so until we collapse, exhausted, into retirement like a couple of people outrunning zombies in a horror movie. A truck mechanic likely out-earns both of us, and maybe both of us together.

And of course, all journalists love a good essay, especially one that tells us how much we suck. I’d have probably given her a version of the look she describes, too:

While they didn’t explicitly say it, the person was very much thrown off by the nature of my husband’s work. I was left with a very strong feeling they were expecting a more middle-class answer than a garbage worker. Their facial reaction has been stuck in my head for a while now. Surprise. A little confusion. And just enough distaste to notice.

Face it, you just don’t meet many Stanford Fellow/truck mechanic couples these days. And lady, that’s a hell of a lot of subtext to read into one facial expression, but never mind that.

Because I agree with her: Journalism would be better if we hired more people who had the basic skills, or a trainable aptitude for the job, but no college degree. As she puts it:

That person was genuinely surprised that the spouse of a journalist had such a blue collar job. The reaction makes me wonder how badly our industry really lacks for people with more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Our journalism would be better if we were a better representation of the backgrounds and experiences our audiences have.

From time to time during my career, I’ve heard of various programs to do just that. All collapsed, or graduated trainees into jobs at such insultingly low salaries (because that was the motivation for starting it in the first place — to snag candidates without an expectation of ever making a college graduate’s living) that they failed to sustain themselves.

I remember one at my alma mater, and can’t remember if it was for non-grads or just those with no journalism classes or experience. It was specifically for racial minorities, because the lack of diversity in the newsroom was and remains a stubborn problem. I’m not sure how it turned out, because its big splash was ruined by one of its leaders calling it a six-week journalism boot camp, and someone else informed the world that “boot” was an obscure, but definite, racial slur. (Yeah, I’d never heard it either, and I thought I’d heard them all. I think the etymology is shoeshine boy > boot black > boot.)

Another I remember was started by a chain of weeklies whose bosses simply couldn’t get people to work for the poverty-level wages they were offering, and I thought I’d seen most of those, too (the lousy salaries, that is). Many of the younger staffers in Fort Wayne had second jobs, if not to make ends meet, then at least to have a little bit of extra spending money. Fort Wayne is a cheap city to live in, and a running joke — which was actually true — was that the bosses lured potential hires by mentioning that all the grocery stores doubled coupons, and sometimes tripled them.

I don’t think that training program worked, either. Probably the chain went under, or was sold to an even more chintzy owner. Even in rural Kansas, even in double-coupon Fort Wayne, being a journalist is a hard choice these days; the pay isn’t great, the hours are long and the president rains contempt on the whole craft with every tweet. You’d think being an enemy of the people would pay better.

Michael Moore hired a guy, Ben Hamper, off the line at some GM factory to be a columnist, first for the Flint weekly he ran, then for Mother Jones. I think I read a couple of his pieces, and they were pretty good — one took aim at Bruce Springsteen, Troubadour of the Working Class — but Moore didn’t last at MJ, and neither did Hamper. I just checked, and his home page is dead. Facebook says he lives in northern Michigan now, and works for a public radio station. Talk about frying pan to fire.

There are some lucky people who can make a decent living, and I count our co-prosperity sphere among them. But as I said before, it’s a creaky arrangement and has been for a while. I’ll be honest: If Kate told me she wanted to change her major to journalism, I’d cry, then tell her to reconsider.

So yeah, sure, let’s get some blue collars in the newsroom. I knew one at WANE-TV, in the early ’90s. He’d been a union electrician in Michigan, a very smart guy who decided one day he was tired of wiring buildings, put himself through Michigan State and graduated into a sub-100 media market, i.e. Fort Wayne.

I went to his going-away party. I asked what he planned to do next.

“Get re-certified as an electrician,” he said. “I found some of my tax returns a few months ago. I was making more money in 1973 than I am today.” This was 20 years later.

God bless him, too.

So, bloggage:

Someone on Twitter remarked that she’d been trying to figure out who in the Trump family was Fredo, then realized they’re all Fredo. Yes, I’d say so:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

“Game of Thrones” fan, are you? The definitive essay on George R.R. Martin’s fondness for soup.

Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events, Media | 86 Comments
 

Drowning in…something.

So, Father’s Day is upon us. Barely noon, and I have already tired of the social-media parade of World’s Greatest Dads. (Admittedly, I contributed.) Holidays like this turn us all into Mitch Albom; there’s just no room for shadows, even though shadows are what give figures dimension and make them more interesting.

My dad did OK. He could be a jerk, but he was my jerk, my dad, and he did well enough. That’s all you need to get a headstart in the world. Good-enough parents, not great ones.

And in the Department of Pre-emptive Apologies, I have a week’s worth of evening stuff coming up. And guess what it is? One of the women in my swimming cohort is training a few of us to be lifeguards. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I haven’t had a CPR refresher since I took a class in the ’80s, and my first aid is equally rusty. Tim, our coach, is 77 and creaky, and has said often that he’d really like to have some backup on morning swims, so here we all go. It should be over in a week, but I have another conflict Thursday, so it might take a little bit longer.

I did the qualifying stuff Saturday: 300-yard swim, two minutes of no-hands water treading and the infamous pick-up-a-brick exercise. That’s where you swim 20 yards or so, surface-dive to pick up a 10-pound brick in 10 feet of water, then take it back to the starting point, get it out of the pool and then heave yourself out behind it, all in a minute-forty. The last was harder than I expected, but I made it with plenty of time to spare. The two women I was testing with needed multiple tries, but then again, none of us are planning to get jobs as lifeguards. But you never know. The siren song of the red tank suit and the privilege of sitting on the high chair in mirrored shades may well lure me out of journalism.

Speaking of which, this is an outstanding “This American Life” segment on a 66-year-old lifeguard who sued New York City for age discrimination. A NYT account of the same situation.

Who knows, I may not pass the final. But I’ll be fresh on my CPR and first aid. I have this fantasy that my post-retirement career will be as a personal trainer to postmenopausal women. Step one!

Just one link today: Mark Bittman is doing regular food writing again. For New York magazine, no no registration, no paywall. Huzzah.

So, maybe see you guys on…Wednesday? That’ll work.

Posted at 1:31 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

We meet again.

Yes, my little minions, I made it to and from Columbus in one piece. The greatest threat was potentially dying of boredom on the trip down from Lansing on Friday, which seemed endless, all gray skies and flat fields and nothing on the damn radio. I turned on Google Maps’ navigation function as I drew near, and it led me, turn by turn, into an area I remembered as a slum, where today the greatest threat is being hit by a guy on a $3,000 bicycle who was just doored by a BMW.

Gentrification. On the one hand, it displaces the poor. On the other, it displaces the Short North Posse.

Anyway, the party was fun. Nice to see friends old and new, and my biggest fear — that I’d look around and think, “What do I have in common with all these old people” — was not realized. We have a strange relationship with the people we work with; we often spend more time with them than our own families, and when it comes to an end? Sometimes we stay in touch, sometimes people fall off the earth. But it was great to see everyone.

Several journos-turned-authors in the group, or editors of authors. That was interesting. Also, lots had bailed out when the parachutes were still pretty big. Not so much anymore. The copy desk has already been outsourced – to Austin, Texas. That’s how you get mistakes like this, which is not the Columbus Dispatch’s, but a Michigan chain with similar cost pressures:

frontpages

Oopsie. The Lions played the Giants this weekend, not the Cowboys.

And while you’re feeling contempt for the media, do consider that this AP photographer literally risked his life to capture some startling images of the Russian-ambassador assassination in Ankara earlier today.

A strange business. Let’s turn from the tragic to the comical, shall we?

Remember how Tim Goeglein disgraced himself and embarrassed his hometown paper by plagiarizing a couple dozen columns over the course of several years? Well, guess what? He’s writing again — for the same paper, which apparently now has no standards whatsoever.

But he’s delivering a message they’re comfortable with, so I guess all is forgiven:

In 1988 Dan Quayle became vice president of the United States and Dan Coats was plucked from near-obscurity by Indiana Gov. Robert Orr and appointed the new U.S. senator from Indiana. Without peer, Coats was the right man for the job because his character and integrity were unassailable and because he had never lost an election. Even though most Hoosiers hadn’t a clue who he was, those who knew him best knew his personal integrity and natural grace would carry him to the heights of political power.

It’s really a remarkable column. I’m sure it’s not plagiarized, but it’s so…weird and icky that I had to read it a couple times. Coats, who is leaving the Senate at the end of this term, moves Tim to many adjectives, most of them deployed with some stupid adverb, so he’s “loved and respected roundly and widely,” a man who “intentionally widened his gyre in a manner that would serve him and our country powerfully in all the years ahead.” Needless to say, his faith is “deeply felt.” About that faith:

It is that faith that is at the heart of the man himself – utterly foundational to understanding everything he finds most important in life: his long marriage to Marsha, his boundless love for their three children, and the unmatched devotion he has for their many grandchildren. His exceptional respect, love and devotion to his wife and family are his pillars.

Tim! If you’re reading this, here’s a lesson from Comp 101: Show, don’t tell. If you can’t think of a single anecdote or example of all this love and respect in action, adding a bunch of extra adjectives won’t help sell it. And if you choose the wrong ones, it’s just creepy. Lots of people respect, love and are devoted to their spouses and families, so to call one guy’s exceptional, absent of any evidence, is irritating to many readers. And almost everyone would do anything, even give their life, for their own child, so calling Coats’ paternal love boundless is just trite.

Also, stop saying categorical. And immutable. You use utterly twice in adjacent paragraphs. And slipping in the vanilla good in the midst of all that silly froufrou is almost jarring.

At the end, Tim stands revealed as the worst kind of boot-licking toady, all flattery and blandishments and sweet nothings in the ear. Which, when you come to think of it, is probably a good skill set in Washington these days. There’s a new administration hiring, and they like that stuff.

Expect spottier posting for the next couple of weeks, as we move through the holidays. The spirit may move within me, it may take a fortnight off. Fingers crossed.

Posted at 5:38 pm in Current events, Media | 73 Comments
 

In the grinder.

Wasn’t I just saying I hoped this week would be a little easier than last? Guess what? It’s not. Nothing horrible, just a fairly blistering pace. Plus, Alan’s sick — came home with a sore throat and a canker sore, the latter of which seems to be bothering him more than the other. I hate canker sores so bad, so I get it. Probably shouldn’t have made ribs with so much chipotle pepper in the rub, however.

But once the weekly menu is set in this household, it is set. No substitutions!

Now it’s Wednesday, and things are finally slowing to a nice, steady trot. Have some lines to re-bait, and an application for a workshop/conference next spring in Columbus, spaces in which are to be awarded on a competitive basis. That means I must start the bullshit machine that lives deep in my chest, so a nice steamy batch can be perked up when I start to write.

The spot includes a week of lodging in my ol’ hometown. That’ll be fun. I’ll invite all my friends over to trash the hotel, Led Zep-style.

Before I go on, though, I want to make a book recommendation. (I haven’t changed the On the Nightstand feature in close to a year, but I have been reading, promise.) I recently finished “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s memoir about the last year’s of her father’s life, after he underwent a sex change in Thailand and emerged as Stefanie. I bought it on the advice of Hank Stuever, mainly in an attempt to sort out my frankly confused thoughts about transgenderism. I lie somewhere between full-and-open-embrace and the position laid down by more radical feminists, who reject transwomen as having a claim on the gender at all.

I don’t come to the debate with animus, however. I’m just very confused.

Faludi came to the reopened relationship with her parent — they had been estranged — as a middle-aged woman and an incisive journalist. And she misses very little about the tangle of contradictions that Istvan Friedman, who became Steven Faludi, who became Stephanie, presents to the world. A man who’s had three names and two genders in the course of a lifetime will have an interesting life’s story, and s/he is no exception. Istvan Friedman was a Jew in WWII Budapest, which meant he was no safer than Jews anywhere else in Europe. Born to a wealthy family that was atomized by the Holocaust, Istvan survived on luck and hustle, shape-shifting his identity and front to match the occasion, many of them perilous to his health. He later emigrated to Brazil and then to the U.S., where he became Steven Faludi (“a good Hungarian name”), married and became a father. But that didn’t work out, and he repatriated to Hungary and eventually shed another skin, emerging as Stefanie. His tale is only reluctantly told by the septuagenarian matron that was his final identity, but his daughter is relentless in her pursuit of her parent’s true nature. The picture that emerges — the title is a play on both her father’s occupation as a photographer and photo processor and the nature of his manipulated self — is hardly sharp. People are complicated, and some people are really complicated.

But the book is wonderful. It’s in Alex’s hands now; his father was a Hungarian immigrant, and Stephanie’s story is of a piece with her native land, itself a bundle of contradictions. I thought I knew my Holocaust history, but I knew little of Hungary’s role in it, it turns out. The details were appalling and dispiriting in the age of Trump, and the behavior of Istvan/Steven/Stephanie, both then and in the contemporary era, are baffling and revelatory. (Stephanie votes with the far-right party, the one that teeters on the edge of ethnic cleansing.)

I don’t really understand transgenderism that much better now, but I’m enlightened about one of its story threads now, and I recommend “In the Darkroom” to anyone in search of a good read on this or any of its related topics.

So, a new thread for us to chat about the final debate, and some bloggage: I’m appearing on WDET tomorrow to trade snappy banter about it with two other panelists; I’ll be the one with the higher voice and XX chromosomes. Listen live in the 9 a.m. hour Thursday, if you’re so inclined.

Last week I went to Flint and stared into a hole, watching a typical pipe replacement, a huge project just getting ramped up. Read this thrilling tale of mud and infrastructure, here, after it goes live at 6:10 a.m., EDT.

The catastrophe of citizen journalism, from NYMag.

“Mulatto cock.” OK, I’m done.

Posted at 5:50 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Rainy day.

Yeah, it was just that kind of day:

lodgeflooded

Torrential overnight rains FUBAR’d all the local freeways, not just the Lodge, abated for much of the day, and then picked up again at quitting time. Alan generally works from mid-morning until early evening, leaving for work about 9:30. Typically it takes him 20 minutes to make the drive. I texted him at 11:15 asking how bad the commute had been, and he reply was: “Just got in.” Ugh. There are days when I wish I had more contact with two-legged mammals during my work day, but there are just as many that I’m profoundly grateful my work can be done anywhere I can take my laptop and phone.

Right now I’m propped up against the foot of my bed, with Wendy close by. Cozy, but she’s going to need a walk soon and she hates the rain.

I did a fairly innocuous story a few weeks back, about how Michigan cities are changing their infrastructure to deal with rain events like these, which are far more frequent in this era of climate change. An interesting thing I’ve noticed lately: No one I spoke to, or speak to on related matters, bothers to deny climate change, and I’m not just talking to commie college professors who’ve walked across melting glaciers. It’s here, it’s happening, we better get used to it. Someone from a state farming organization told me a grain elevator is either built or being built near Saginaw, a farther-north location than had ever been able to support one before. Corn and beans are being grown, in pockets, as far north as Gaylord; make your Michigan hand map, find the topmost knuckle on your middle finger, and that’s where Gaylord is. That’s pretty damn far north, 50 miles south of the bridge, above 45 degrees latitude, for crops we generally associate with the flatlands of downstate Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, among others.

Meanwhile, many elected officials continue to insist it’s either a) not happening; or b) not our fault; or c) can’t be fixed, so woo, let’s all put a pineapple tree in the back yard. Also meanwhile, we just endured a blistering, dry summer, and just took in a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours.

Sorry, great-grandkids, we broke the planet. Enjoy the off world colonies.

I’m not really depressed or anything. In truth, I adore an occasional overcast day like today. We had one — just one — when I was in California, and the locals were moping about it. “You mean, the sun isn’t actively trying to kill me today?” I said. “This is not a terrible thing.” We had a very California summer, so this feels like a pleasant reprieve. Of course, knock wood, I got no water in my basement (yet). So there’s that.

Now I’m thinking about dinner, and have some grocerying to do beforehand. Let’s see what sort of bloggage can be scrambled here.

The Detroit News, Alan’s employer, has never endorsed a non-Republican for president in its 143-year history. Until today, when the editorial board endorsed…Gary Johnson. Sigh.

Remember how Donald Trump kinda-sorta defended himself for stiffing contractors at his various properties, saying, “Maybe they didn’t do work to my satisfaction”? I wonder what this piano dealer did to displease him. Was middle C flat?

The New Yorker knows how to deal with this beauty queen.

Great weekend, all. See you Monday.

Posted at 5:45 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 117 Comments
 

This way to the weekend.

A mixed bag today, as the week lumbers to a close. It was a fairly productive one; can’t complain, even though I was a no-show yesterday. Just one of those days, when nothing much went well and I ended it thinking all I wanted from life was a little Netflix and a book. The next thing you know, you look up and there’s been a plane crash, Morley Safer checks out and…it’s Thursday night.

Happy Friday.

So let’s start with the best bloggage of the bunch. We were talking a few weeks back about the various eagle cams and falcon cams and all the rest of the cams that show us avian predator life in its cuddly fledgling stage. A great piece follows, from the WashPost, about the nest-cam operators who are shutting down, because the thousands watching online? Can’t handle the truth:

The osprey cam at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is trained on a nest near the Massachusetts seaside, and the pair that call it home are now waiting for three eggs to hatch. But for the first spring in a decade, the camera is dark, and a note on the institute’s website offers only a two-sentence explanation.

“Regrettably, the cam will not be operating this season due to the increasingly aggressive actions of certain viewers the last two years,” it begins.

That is a staid reference to cam fans whose emotions about the nest morphed into vitriol — and fighting words. When the osprey mother began neglecting and attacking her chicks in 2014, anxiety exploded among some viewers, as did demands that the institution intervene to save the baby birds. When the same thing happened in 2015, the public passions took a more personal turn.

“It is absolutely disgusting that you will not take those chicks away from that demented witch of a parent!!!!!” one viewer emailed to Jeffrey Brodeur, the communications specialist who ran the camera. Another wrote: “I realize this is nature, but once you put up a cam to view into their worlds it is no longer nature. You have a responsibility to help n save when in need.”

It’s a great story — lots of anecdotes about people who are way too over-invested in the world that flies around over our heads. How much so? Oh, you have no idea:

In 2014, when the chicks featured on a bald-eagle cam in North Fort Myers, Fla., weren’t getting much to eat, some viewers decided to take matters into their own hands. Under cover of darkness, they headed to the nest site and tossed meat into it — a roast, to be specific.

I love the eagle cams as much as the next person, but when things get a little dicey, I just click away. That’s why we have Donald Trump – for the distraction.

Speaking of which.

The WP also has a pretty good piece about the next generation of Trumps, specifically his sons, Eric and Don.

It’s pretty good, but Hank Stuever started an interesting Facebook conversation about the difference between the Trump scions, who at least talked to the Washington Post, and Chelsea Clinton, who apparently still thinks it’s 1993 and she’s 13 years old, protected like the tender bud she was then. Now it’s 2016 and she’s 36, and she still doesn’t answer a question that wasn’t vetted, but feels she can campaign for her mother and face only the scrutiny she approves. So, then: Props to the young Trumps, who I liked better after reading this. Dammit.

Can we trust the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education? Because these numbers are crazy:

If 10 percent of American smokers gave up cigarettes and the rest cut back by 10 percent, the U.S. could shave $63 billion off medical costs the next year, the analysis found.

It doesn’t pass the smell test, but I have no idea it’s a big number. But is it that big?

The new study found that regions with lower smoking rates had substantially lower medical costs from 1992 through 2009.

Californians spent $15.4 billion less on healthcare in 2009 than they would have if they smoked as much as the national average, the analysis estimates. At the other extreme, Kentucky residents spent an estimated $1.7 billion more than the national average on healthcare because they smoked more.

Maybe.

Here’s a nice Neal Rubin column from Detroit, about the breakup of a chain of sleazebags ripping off Detroit Public Schools. I don’t want to excerpt anything from it, but read it — it’s good.

Finally, Lisa Belkin, the former NYT reporter and author “Show Me a Hero,” wrote a piece about the time when, as a young reporter, Donald Trump made a pass at her. It attracted this fan mail:

belkin

Sorry for the language, but this is the sort of thing women who write on the internet get used to. Enjoy your weekend. May you get no communiques like that.

Posted at 12:02 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments