On the road.

I got virtually all my shopping done before December 1, so I thought I might spend this month doing the things other people do, but I never seem to have time for. Like…baking. I’m not one to make dozens of family-recipe cookies and breads and candies, but a friend sent me this one for something called Negroni cookies and I whipped up a batch last night.

They turned out pretty great. Not overpoweringly sweet, interesting flavors, nice to look at on a plate. A lot of work for about two dozen cookies, but oh well. Endorsed.

Cookie reports. That’s what I’m reduced to. Wait — I also do the crossword puzzle and the NYT’s Spelling Bee, so I haven’t quite tipped into full-on pathetic old-lady existence just yet. Or is that the actual evidence. Thought so.

Sorry I’ve been so scarce this week. Two problems: I have little to say and I’m doing some freelance work. No giveaways, but how about a hint?

Yeah, you’re gonna have to wait for this one. Sorry.

I woke up the other morning to the news that Elon Musk was booed — loudly, and for a long time — during a Dave Chappelle set in San Francisco last month. From his reaction, ” a first for me in real life (frequent on Twitter),” it sounds like he’s like most rich guys, in that he’s surrounded by ass-kissers and thinks his shit doesn’t stink. (“No sir! Smells like fresh blueberry muffins back here!”) I will never understand this level of self-delusion, but then, I guess that’s what he pays his entourage to do. Plump his pillows, fluff his feathers, you know the drill.

Dave Chappelle, I figured, would know better. I guess he likes to punch down now.

As public comedowns go, it’s hard to beat the one Musk is going through now. Without being arrested or charged with a crime, he’s managed to squander a large chunk of his wealth, do serious damage to his reputation and stand revealed as an empty, silly twit, given to replicating his shallow gene pool with multiple women and tweeting slander about Dr. Fauci.

Dolt.

Now I’m watching “Pelosi in the House” and it’s getting to the good part, so. See you later. I hope before the end of the week, but you never know — the cup needs to refill.

Posted at 7:05 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Notes from a prone position.

Because Twitter didn’t collapse in a heap five minutes after Elmo got the keys, there’s a fair amount of pushback from his weird fans. But I’ll tell you: I no longer get served ads for new movies, cars or from any other legit brand, even gambling. Rather, it’s all these super-fast-cut commercials for shit like miracle cleaning brushes, or a wrench that looks like a snowflake, or 25 Times Famous People Ate In Restaurants and You Won’t Believe What Happened.

So I think the longer view is that Twitter won’t collapse in a heap, but rather, be eaten away by glitches and bad user apples like Kanye. Musk will get bored if no one is paying attention to him, and he’ll sell it for pennies on the dollar.

Too bad. Twitter was fun while it lasted. Politics, jokes and cute animals:

Thanks for all the back-care advice. Today, Friday, is the first I’ve felt on the road to recovery. PT starts week after next. Until then, no heavy lifting.

In my convalescence, I’ve been reading the news, oh boy. Two big stories here: One, the battle to lead the Michigan Republican Party, which is revealing that the MAGA wing learned nothing from last month’s election. Either that, or they don’t want to go back to work at their boring old before-times jobs just yet. The losing AG candidate and the losing SOS candidate both have announced their party-chair bids, along with losing U.S. Senate (in 2012) candidate Pete Hoekstra. You junkies might recall him as the guy who ran the “Debbie Spend-it-Now” ad during that year’s Super Bowl, which was so racist the Asian actor cast as Rice Paddy Girl issued a public apology the next day. And he’s the “mainstream” candidate.

The other is about the reshuffling of the Democratic primary calendar for 2024, in which Michigan’s place in the order will move closer to the front of the line. We’re hearing everything from second (after New Hampshire, which for some reason HAS to be first) to fourth, but anything is better than what it’s been in recent years. In 2020, my primary ballot had something like 13 candidates, all of whom had dropped out by the time I voted. Screw Iowa; we can do better than this.

And I guess everyone here has heard what happened when someone put Kanye West in front of a live mic yesterday. A shitshow.

OK, my back is starting to bark again, so wrapping this up. More muscle relaxers! Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 8:46 am in Current events, Media | 23 Comments
 

Airbnb, and other things.

(One last holiday-related post, sorry. But I think many of you can relate.)

I love Airbnb. Also, I hate Airbnb. It makes the sort of travel we’ve been doing in recent years not only affordable, but possible; there’s no way we could have stayed deep in the medinas of Morocco without it. Our last place, in Essaouira, was magical – it looked like the set of a French New Wave movie. The feral cats knocked on the door to the courtyard at 2 a.m., and were somehow charming rather than annoying. The host stopped by one day, and we got into a conversation about the difference between vegetarianism and veganism, both of which he found baffling. In other cities, Airbnb has given us space to spread out, to make simple meals, to take refuge in a place other than a hotel. On a couple of trips, traveling alone, I’ve done the single-room-in-a-house deal, and had not only comfortable lodging but made great connections.

However. When we met friends for dinner in Barcelona, I told her we were staying on a particular street in La Gracia. “Our Airbnb was on that street too,” she replied, and as we walked around the neighborhood, the signs were ummistakable: The doorbells/street mailboxes that all carried the same label, because a management company was renting them all. The “Tourists go home” graffiti everywhere. Airbnb had so infiltrated that charming neighborhood that locals were being priced out of it.

This isn’t a matter of opinion; short-term rentals are driving housing shortages in desirable cities everywhere. And problem rentals, like those in any hot American city where young people hold destination bachelor/bachelorette parties, are a headache for everyone. A friend here lives in Midtown Detroit, another area with skyrocketing rents, especially in Midtown. On a recent stroll down his own street, he said, he realized all the closest blocks were thick with Airbnb. In Detroit.

In west Michigan, a few communities have tried to enact local ordinances governing them, which prompted an influx of Airbnb lobbyists to the capital, who had little trouble convincing the GOP-controlled legislature that their allegedly foundational belief that small government knows best is wrong, at least in this case. Now there’s a law that says you can’t restrict short-term rentals in your own community.

And not all of our experiences have been great. We had to wrangle with our Madrid host, who took one flat and turned it into three, and stuck us in one that was decidedly not the one in the photos when we booked. He moved us after a couple days, which was fine, but the two unpictured flats were likely inescapable in a fire, something I think about a lot, especially in Europe. Our friends who met us there had an even worse experience, arriving to find their building wrapped in scaffolding, and workmen clambering around on it with very loud power tools, starting at 8 a.m. They bolted for a hotel after two days.

VRBO, I’m told, is better, but it’s much rarer, too. (We rent a VRBO cottage in northern Michigan, far from neighbors, and our cleanliness and care with the place inspired the owner to offer to deal with us directly, waiving the VRBO fee, etc. I treat rentals the same way I treat my own house.)

In the end, I feel like Airbnb is one of those supremely irritating move-fast-and-break-things products of Silicon Valley, where some guy says hey I got an idea, more guys shower him with money, and a few lucky people walk away multi-millionaires, while the rest of us get to sort out the inevitable consequences.

Nevertheless, we’ll probably use it again. Sigh.

How was everyone’s weekend? Ours was fine. We’re still working on the house, or rather, Alan is. (I provide domestic support in the form of laundry and meals.) Cooked some, shopped some, went out some. Shadow Show opened for another all-girl band at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, which was an excuse to get out and about. Talked a lot to a random kid sitting nearby, who told me all about his Birthright trip to Israel. I found a reference to a previously unknown biography of Warren Zevon, which prompted me, the Zevon superfan, to look it up on Amazon. Used the look-inside feature to get a sense of it. The epigraph alone put me off:

It didn’t improve. Here’s something I’m always telling writers I edit: Don’t use a quote to repeat something you just said, not in a quote. Do they listen? Maybe some do. This guy didn’t:

And now the same writer is doing a biography of Elmore Leonard. Guess I’ll be giving that one a pass, too.

So. The week ahead yawns with possibilities. So far I’ll be…meeting with a Medicare guru, schvitzing with a swimming friend, taking online training to be a poll challenger. I was going to work the absentee counting boards, but all the training — required by law — was held during our time away. My job is literally, LITERALLY, pulling the stubs off ballots, but I can’t, by law, work without being retrained in how to pull the stubs off ballots. Remember, Donald Trump told you Detroit was a lawless place, “so corrupt,” and that, my friends, is bullshit. So I’ll help out this way.

Good week ahead to all. Don’t use quotes to repeat something you just wrote! Use quotes to illuminate and add dimension to what you just wrote!

Here’s a random Spain pic for you, the high altar in the cathedral in Toledo. Notre Dame looks like a simple country church compared to this place:

Posted at 10:48 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 30 Comments
 

We had ourselves a time.

A former colleague messaged me on Facebook the other day, asking for my address. He’d been cleaning out some papers and had some stuff to send me. Stuff like this:

And stuff like this (not my handwriting, and I don’t know whose, but I have a suspicion):

And stuff like this:

Newspaper people keep amusing files. So does everybody short of actuaries, but ours are best. Were best, anyway.

Once, after I left Ohio, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo sent a young giraffe to the Columbus Zoo. Giraffes are delicate and don’t travel well, and this one was let out of its crate, made a single galloping lap around its new yard and dropped dead. Evidently I sent a postcard:

I was big on postcards for a while. I still have boxes of them. I should get rid of a few. Send me your mailing address at nancy (at) nancynall.com and I’ll send you one. Puns not included. I don’t know how I got so pun-ny in this one, because I’m generally not a pun person. I have no memory of being a pun person. But I guess that’s why we save stuff like this.

Also included, but not reproduced here: Several notes I wrote on the half-sheets that were on every desk, which we used to, duh, send notes to one another, typed on our IBM Selectrics. There’s also an evening-news roundup, which the night staff was required to watch and summarize for the morning crew. I tried to make mine funny, because what’s the point of such boring duty if you can’t be funny. It begins:

good morning, carolyn. it’s (i mean it is) 6:35 p.m. and this is the news.

I never used capital letters back then. The “it is” stuff refers to a high-ranking editor who, furious that his people couldn’t tell the difference between its and it’s, banned the contraction from the newspaper. Which led to some awkwardness in copy and headlines: Happy New Year! It is party time! And so on.

The most interesting part, to me, is that in my on-paper notes, I used perfect manuscript editing marks. I bet you can’t find a journalist under 50 who even knows what they are.

Anyway, thanks to Robin for, at the end of my career, taking me back to its beginning. Life is all about bookends for me, lately. This was a good one.

And I think this will be the last entry before we leave, unless something huge happens. I’ll be posting photos, etc., on my social channels (@nderringer on Insta, @nnall on Twitter). And there’s always a chance I can make something work on our Airbnb wifi and my ailing iPad Mini. But no promises. This is a vacation, after all.

Bon voyage to us, happy first-of-the-fall to you all.

Posted at 5:31 pm in Media | 218 Comments
 

Fatness.

I don’t know when it happened, if it was them or me, but I’ve kinda lost my taste for NPR.

It’s been so long since I was a regular listener to commercial radio I can’t even remember — 35 years? Forty? A long time. Obviously nothing should stay frozen in time, especially not a journalism outlet. I don’t miss Bob Edwards, but I miss the personal essays they used to run. I miss the offbeat stories from corners of the world I’ll probably never visit. They’ve been replaced by sometimes painful, flop-sweaty pieces to satisfy someone’s diversity agenda, and what’s worse, they’ve elbowed out actual news.

The other day Alan remarked that one of the January 6 hearings had gotten 30 seconds in the top-of-the-hour news roundup, while a stupid feature on a group called the Lesbian Avengers had gone about eight minutes. What are the Lesbian Avengers? “…An organization that focuses on lesbian issues and visibility through humorous and untraditional activism.” Thanks, Wikipedia. Alan only remembers that they sometimes pass out Hershey’s Kisses with notes attached: “Smile, you’ve been kissed by a lesbian.”

OK, then. Today the story was about Brendan Fraser’s six-minute standing O at the Venice Film Festival, where his latest film debuted. Called “The Whale,” it’s (quoting from the NPR story):

…about a reclusive English teacher (Fraser) who weighs 600 pounds, and as he struggles with his health, tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. A combination of prosthetics and CGI help Fraser as he portrays this character.

The first half of the story was about how beloved Fraser is, by fans and colleagues alike, and how recent years have been rough on him, for a variety of reasons. He’s had some health challenges, and gained weight, although nowhere near 600 pounds. Maybe 40. He’s no longer Hollywood-slender and matinee idol-handsome. He looks like a Green Bay Packers fan. So what, though. In Darren Aronofsky, he’s probably found the ideal director for his comeback. (Remember what he did for Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler.”) So why does the headline for this story read Why Brendan Fraser’s Hollywood comeback story is both warming hearts and raising ire, hmm?

Because an advocate for fat Americans is miffed, that’s why:

Indeed, critics have turned to social media to say that the movie’s premise is inherently dehumanizing. There’s a question of whether it should have been made at all.

Aubrey Gordon, an author and co-host of the Maintenance Phase, a podcast focused on debunking health fads, took to Twitter to call out the movie’s aim.

“It’s so telling that so many only see fat people as ‘humanized’ in media that shows us doing exactly what they expect: living short, small lives; ‘eating ourselves to death’; feeling sad & regretful. All reminders of how tragic it is to be fat, and how superior it is to be thin,” she wrote.

This kind of media just “reinforces viewers’ anti-fat bias,” she wrote.

Gordon is smart, and I’m with her on the inherent societal bias against obesity. (She’s fat, if you haven’t guessed.) Fat acceptance, sign me up. Different-size models in advertising? Yes, please. Fat doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy. But 600 pounds? Any way you slice it, that’s pretty damn unhealthy. One of the undone stories of my career, one I wanted to do for Bridge but left before I could put it together, was on super-obesity, those whose weight has passed the quarter-ton stage and suffer mightily as a result. I met a doctor who paid house calls on those patients, and told me what it leads to, i.e., a spiral. The bigger you are, the harder it is to move, the harder it is to move, the less you move. The less you move, the worse you feel. Which leads to more eating, weight gain, etc. Most of his patients that size were virtual shut-ins, afraid to get out much in the world, for all the reasons you can imagine. Needless to say, everything hurt, especially hips and knees.

Tommy Tomlinson is a gifted writer, a former columnist in Charlotte, married to a former colleague of mine in Fort Wayne. At his heaviest, he weighed 460 pounds, and his memoir, “The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America,” was full of excruciating detail about the million calculations one has to make when you’re that size: Will that chair hold me? Will any other furniture hold me? If I’m not sure, can I stand without social awkwardness? And so on. I read excerpts and felt not anti-fat bias, but deep empathy – we all have our addictions, our weaknesses, and the idea of seeing an actor as talented as Fraser bring this complicated emotional stew to life sounds pretty great to me.

I’m reminded of the backlash to “Fatal Attraction,” the way feminists hollered over the idea of a crazy spurned lover, that it dehumanized single women, etc. As a sane single woman at the time, I didn’t feel dehumanized.

So while I appreciate that NPR is stretching like Elastoman to include the fat person’s perspective, I think this is fairly ridiculous in this context, and if it weren’t for the musical weekends on WDET, I probably wouldn’t give them another dime. There’s a question of whether it should have been made at all! Mercy.

So, bloggage:

It was a pretty fun long weekend for us. We saw Kate play in both of her bands, at the Hamtramck Labor Day festival, and both performances were pretty great. The second band, the side project, is GiGi, which got a little ink ahead of the fest, and I had NO IDEA it had appeared, which shows where my head’s been of late.

A local theme park, Cedar Point, announced it was retiring one of its very edgy coasters, following the injury of a rider a couple years back. The park was not held responsible, for the record. I always thought there was a book in the development of a modern roller coaster. When I started taking Kate to Cedar Point, I was amazed at how high-tech and insanely scary they are, yet still (mostly) safe. They gave me heart palpitations just to look at them, honestly. But I’d read a book like that. Cedar Point, hire me! I’m a good explainer.

Finally, in the bottomless pit of indignities our former president has visited upon our land, here’s this: He tried to pay a lawyer – a Jones Day lawyer, no less! – with a horse.

That’s a good note to end on. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 8:37 pm in Current events, Media, Movies | 49 Comments
 

The calm before you-know-what.

It doesn’t seem possible, but my world – which is to say, our house – has contracted even further. Not only is all the stuff from the master bedroom, including our closet, shoved into the two other bedrooms, we realized last week the hall linen closet will have to be emptied, too, and that took up both laundry baskets. All to accommodate the floor-refinishing crew AND the furnace/AC-replacing crew, both of whom are arriving tomorrow morning.

The floor guys said they’d be here “sometime in August.” We’ve been living like this for a month now, waiting. Of course, tomorrow is still technically August.

Fair warning, this week may be a mess, blogwise. We’ll do what we can. I have a little carve-out in the spare bedroom/office that works for now, but we’ll see what happens when the dust tents go up.

For now, though, things are calm. So on to the main thing I want to talk about today, this piece, which is sports-focused, looking back on a famous (for those concerned) confrontation between sportswriting titan/Jabba the Hutt Buzz Bissinger and the at-that-time Deadspin editor/founder Will Leitch on HBO’s “Costas Now.” But it’s really about the clash between old media and new, and why it happened. It’s long, but smart and worth your while.

Perhaps you’re too young or you were too offline when it went down, but this was an industry-defining moment, and it illustrated a generational standoff.

Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, plus other books and big-time magazine articles, unleashed tirades directed at the younger generation of sports writers. He assailed the blogs of that era as ushering in something cruel and glib. The great bulk of the media response to the incident, which skewed BlogBoy, was highly dismissive of Buzz, perhaps responding in kind to his highhanded dismissal. Look, the old man doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand that some blogs are great. He isn’t aware of how the industry is being disrupted for its own good, towards some greater ideal.

Now 14 years later, it looks like old Buzz had a point or two. There was no halcyon era on the horizon, no media utopia after Deadspin, Fire Joe Morgan, SportsbyBrooks, Kissing Suzy Kolber, With Leather and Mr. Irrelevant. Indeed, quite the opposite.

On that fateful night of April 30th, 2008, Costas’ HBO show featured a panel discussion on sports blogs, with Deadspin founder Will Leitch present. NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards was also there, but served more as bystander to the car wreck than as an active participant in the proceedings. This show was the most public Leitch would ever be as Deadspin representative, and it would accelerate his exit from that mantle. Will has, subsequently, been edited out of Internet history just a bit, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he deleted himself. Leitch still works as a successful writer at New York magazine, but he left Deadspin behind in 2009, and hasn’t exactly worn that background on his chest since leaving. When people, well, media people, talk Deadspin, you hear Gawker, Nick Denton, and A.J. Daulerio. Seldom discussed is the man who invented this website that changed Internet culture.

As we were discussing blogs here a few days ago, you might find this interesting, even if you don’t care about either Deadspin or Buzz Bissinger. But two passages stood out to me. This one:

Bissinger’s performance was mostly ridiculed by critics. He was rude to Leitch and, unfashionably, read from printed out Deadspin pages like a triumphant prosecutor. The easy take back then was “what a boomer.” My take, however, is more admiring: What a boomer! Look, I can’t defend many aspects of Buzz’s assault on Will. Overall, I like both guys and was certainly more partial to Leitch’s perspective when I watched in 2008. But there’s a redeeming aspect to Bissinger’s presentation, something you just don’t get from the younger generations. It’s authentic, it’s passionate, and it’s confident. Buzz, who likes to explore nontraditional aspects of gender expression, is classically masculine in this moment. He isn’t, as the younger generations so often do, mystifying his meaning with stylized irony. His tenor isn’t undermined with upspeak. This man is just gloriously unreconstructed. He hasn’t been conditioned, as my generation has, to worry about how public acts will be received on the Internet.

So true. I feel bad, I really do, for kids in Kate’s cohort, who grew up having their pictures taken 25 times a day and grew to fear where those photos – and their words, and their opinions – might end up. They’re now almost literally afraid to answer their phones. Many of them seem nearly crippled by self-consciousness.

This was the other part, which comes at the end, after a section higher up about what it was like to be a younger sportswriter trying to break into the business at a time when people like Bissinger and Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica were squatting at the top, holding onto their sinecures while the industry dissolved around them:

What the boomers missed, however, was how they created this generation. They promoted an aesthetic of rebellious gatecrashing, then pulled up the ladder once safely ensconced. Moreover, they demeaned their privileged perch out of a moralized pique, all while ceding no purchase. This food is terrible, and such small portions, but none for you. No tradition was upheld because no tradition was offered.

So the younger generation responded in kind, not with tradition, but with an all-out assault on it. They beat the establishment, then beat themselves, and in the end, almost nothing endured.

You could blow out this part to describe many other beats besides sports. I wish Albom would at least occasionally reveal that he understands this position. But I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, big media is nearly over now, beyond a few titans like Fox News and the New York Times, etc. Deadline Detroit threw ourselves a party Saturday, although we’ll stay afloat a few more days – I even have a story in the pipeline – and the site will stay up for a while. In the end, it wasn’t a bad place to end a career. We had fun, all four of us:

And now, to get some recreation in before the sanders arrive and the check-writing begins.

Posted at 12:45 pm in Media | 34 Comments
 

Get me rewrite.

The Columbus Dispatch wasn’t a great newspaper when I worked there. After I left, it got better, a lot better. (I hope my departure didn’t have anything to do with that.) But even in the darkest days of being the Disgrace, as it was called, when the publisher commissioned hit pieces and the cartoonists drew ethnic stereotypes in cartoons and all the rest of it, I don’t think we ever did anything like this:

I mean, if I had written that headline, I’d have put a period after “Go get one.” There’s no sense in writing declarative-sentence headlines (of which I approve, btw) without properly punctuating them.

It’s kinda funny. The URL suggests the original headline was “Wendy’s Strawberry Frosty is out. Here’s how to order one” (again with no period). Maybe the powers that be thought that was stupid, because presumably the answer is, “Go to Wendy’s and say, ‘Gimme one-a them new strawberry Frosties.'”

Wendy’s is a local company; most Ohioans know that. When I was there, Wendy’s executives would sometimes leave the company and start their own fast-food restaurants, which led to an embarrassment of riches for people who, say, lived alone and didn’t cook much, i.e. me and sometimes Jeff Borden. There was one called G.D. Ritzy’s — their thing was griddle-style burgers and high-quality ice cream. Some of these efforts seemed to follow the Wendy’s founding model. Dave Thomas was a simple soul whose favorite food was hamburgers, so he set out to make a better one. Apparently the G.D. Ritzy founder loved smashburgers and ice cream for dessert. It didn’t succeed, but it was resurrected just a few years ago by the founder’s sons. One location, same basic menu, same idea. Fat and salt for dinner, followed by fat and sugar for dessert.

Then there was a place just a block or two away from the four-flat that Borden and I occupied, called Big Bite. It was pita-style sandwiches on flatbread. I always ordered the Big Natural, because it had more vegetables in it. Later I learned what the term “big naturals” means in the world of pornography, and I don’t think I could eat another one.

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips had a big presence around town, and was one of Dave Thomas’ gigs before he started Wendy’s. Then there were the longtime brands — White Castle, and about a million other imitators. Can’t forget Skyline Chili, which oozed up I-71 from Cincinnati.

Back to this stupid story:

“We’re always listening to our fans and as the most-requested item, it was a no-brainer for us to bring the Strawberry Frosty to the menu this season,” said Carl Loredo, chief marketing officer for The Wendy’s Company, in a statement.

The Strawberry Frosty is available through July 3. Wendy’s is also offering a Summer Strawberry Chicken Salad, which combines sliced strawberries, bacon, grilled chicken, a crispy lettuce and spring mix. It’s topped with an Italian cheese blend, candied almonds and a sweet Champagne vinaigrette.

I like the way Champagne is capitalized, because surely this vinaigrette is only made with the real thing, from the Champagne region of France. Also, “a crispy lettuce and spring mix.”

It goes on and on like this. I give up.

Oh well.

And now we face Wednesday. I hope yours goes well. Why not order a refreshing strawberry Frosty? They’re only available for a limited time.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Media | 40 Comments
 

Some people.

When Alan was features editor in Fort Wayne, he had an intern one summer with a shall-we-say-foundational problem. She had no real instinct for a story.

One in particular sticks in my memory. A new freeway bypass was being constructed at the time, and of course it included many overpasses. When those are built, the ‘dozers pile up a lot of earth, leaving holes in the ground that become stormwater retention ponds. You’ve driven past approximately a million of these in your lifetime. In this case, one of the property owners whose land abutted this project had a dream, and worked out a deal with the highway department to make the retention pond near him just a little bit bigger, big enough to be the minimum size required to accommodate that dream: To host sanctioned water-skiing competitions. In that very pond.

I believe he had landed his first event, nothing Cypress Gardens-level, but still: A sanctioned water-skiing competition! In a freeway retention pond, the boats tracing extremely tight triangular patterns, with the traffic screaming by! Now there’s a story.

The intern could not be convinced. “It’s just a guy with a pond in his back yard,” she argued. “So he’s going to run a boat around on it. Big deal.”

I don’t think Alan won that one, and didn’t try to — any story written by any reporter who couldn’t see the humor and absurdity in that situation would be stillborn. But I thought about her when I read the comments on a short aggregation/rewrite I did for Deadline, of a charming story written for the Freep by my ottering friend Bill. He freelances a regular feature called Free Press Flashback, which is pretty self-explanatory. Sunday’s was on the time the city police department rolled out the red carpet for a Hollywood movie production, and the ensuing film, “Detroit 9000,” turned out to be a piece of crap:

A Black congressman from Detroit announces his run for Michigan governor in the ballroom of the Book Cadillac Hotel. After he collects $400,000 for his campaign in money and jewels from Black supporters, a group of masked robbers cleverly steals the loot.

That bold caper is the opening scene in “Detroit 9000,” the low-budget tire squealer that made big headlines in 1973. Hyped as the first locally filmed feature movie, it ended up embarrassing city officials and local celebrities who had fallen hard for Hollywood’s promise to splash the glories of Detroit across the silver screen.

After allowing filmmakers to use police assets from headquarters to horses, Mayor Roman Gribbs blasted the production team as “a garbage organization that produced a garbage movie.”

The police commissioner got a bit part, for which he will win no acting awards. Local celebrities got similar roles and walk-ons. And were rewarded with a film whose marketing line called their city “the murder capital of the world” — “where honkies are the minority race.”

It’s a funny story. Here are a few of the Facebook reactions:

So why bring it up?

Ya I know all about it. Do we really need to re live every one of these moments?? Certainly things are different now?

So.. Michigan is doomed, if all our media sources keep bringing up past filth and horrors. We’ve got to get past these garbage racist viewpoints. It’s too decisive and all it does is make this place slow and miserable.

Sigh. It must be terrible to go through life without a sense of humor. Like not being able to smell. Although I have to say, I’ve known reporters like that. Give them the job of writing about “Detroit 9000,” and they’d spend six paragraphs noting that a $400,000 fundraiser, in 1973, would be the equivalent of $2.6 million today, and that’s totally unrealistic for a single state-level function, plus it would be against the law to accept jewelry in lieu of cash.

I’m reading “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, because some state senator concerned about Dirty Books is hooked up with some people who want it out of school libraries. It’s a Morrison novel I had not yet read, so I thought I might see what the fuss is about. The problem is a scene depicting the incestuous rape of an 11-year-old. It made me recall my high-school English teacher assigning Maya Angelou’s memoir “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” in which the 8-year-old Maya is also raped. My teacher was a very prim and proper old-school sort, but she did not shrink from the horror of those passages, and we had a very serious classroom discussion about them.

Perhaps this is why I grew up to be a Democrat. I was forced to read dirty books.

“The Bluest Eye” is a masterpiece, step one on Morrison’s path to the Nobel Prize. I pity the idiots who see it solely as obscenity. I wonder what they read for recreation, if they read at all. I guess the Left Behind novels had to sell to someone.

Hope all had a good weekend, with lots of recreational reading.

One of the things I read, not for recreation, was the New York Times’ Haiti project:

(F)or generations after independence, Haitians were forced to pay the descendants of their former slave masters, including the Empress of Brazil; the son-in-law of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I; Germany’s last imperial chancellor; and Gaston de Galliffet, the French general known as the “butcher of the Commune” for crushing an insurrection in Paris in 1871.

The burdens continued well into the 20th century. The wealth Ms. Present’s ancestors coaxed from the ground brought wild profits for a French bank that helped finance the Eiffel Tower, Crédit Industriel et Commercial, and its investors. They controlled Haiti’s treasury from Paris for decades, and the bank eventually became part of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates.

…How is it possible, many ask, that Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, with its underground subway system, health care coverage, public schools, teeming resorts and impressive stretches of economic growth?

Corruption is the usual explanation, and not without reason: Haiti’s leaders have historically ransacked the country for their own gain, legislators have spoken openly on the radio about accepting bribes and oligarchs sit atop lucrative monopolies, paying few taxes. Transparency International ranks it among the most corrupt nations in the world.

But another story is rarely taught or acknowledged: The first people in the modern world to free themselves from slavery and create their own nation were forced to pay for their freedom yet again — in cash.

I knew nothing of this history, and I found the whole package fascinating. I checked Twitter for the reaction and found it to be, shall we say, derisive:

OK, fine. Sorry I brought it up. Man, people are so damn touchy.

I guess that’s all. Do yourself a favor and read a dirty book today.

Posted at 5:02 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Weekend things.

Something else my friend wrote me the other day, about the hard-right lunatic of our mutual acquaintance:

As for how to move on in a nation nearly half-filled with people who would vote for Donald Trump, I think it’s back to the basics of organizing: If you and your neighbor disagree on 10 vital questions but agree on two, there’s the start of a coalition on two issues.

I hear that a lot. It’s Counseling 101: Find the things you agree on, however slight, and work from there. I worry that I’m past that. That requires me to assume that the other side is dealing in good faith, and I no longer do, even as I realize the reason they aren’t, and can’t, is that they’ve brainwashed themselves. They’ve locked themselves into an information bubble so thick and impenetrable I’m not sure it can be breached. Something has to happen to make them unlock it from the inside and come out into the sunlight of facts.

And that’s where my thoughts are on what is, for 2022 anyway, a reasonably nice spring day. The sun is out, it’s chilly but not intolerably so, and I have something in my chest that is making me cough like a tubercular wino. No other real symptoms despite Despair Over This Dog, so I haven’t repeated my Covid test. Maybe I should. We’ll see how things develop.

The dog: Today Kate came over to print a couple of documents for her European trip (they leave tomorrow night). Kevin growled and barked at the printer as though it was an invading predator. He’s also doing it, still, when Alan comes to bed, which is usually an hour or two after I turn in (morning person / night owl). He cries non-stop in the car, and I’m talking about from the end of the driveway to destination, no matter how long or short the trip. Every day this week I open my eyes and think: Fuck. Kevin. What will today be like? No wonder I’m grumpy.

Ah, well. Neutering is bright and early tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes from here. My vet: “It’s the start.”

I joined a Facebook group for former employees of the Columbus Dispatch. This photo was shared today:

The copy desk was outsourced to some other place – maybe Texas – a while back, and I guess the workload is starting to strain capacity, eh? Either that, or someone started the Saturday-night party a bit early.

Finally, in what is turning out to be a mixed Sunday bag: I’ve been reading the reactions to the verdict Friday, the one that acquitted two defendants in the Whitmer kidnap plot and deadlocked on the other two. Of course this is being spun in MAGAville as COMPLETE EXONERATION, as though two other defendants weren’t so convinced they’d be going up the river for a long time that they didn’t plead to six years in return for their testimony. Ah well. The best thing I’ve read so far is this column by Brian Dickerson at the Freep. It’s paywalled so you can’t read it, but here’s the gist:

In her star-crossed 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton famously consigned half of Donald Trump’s supporters to a “basket of deplorables” that included “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” Trump pounced on her indiscretion, insisting that Clinton had slandered every Republican voter in the land. MAGA devotees responded by donning shirts and hats that proudly proclaimed their “deplorable” status.

But Clinton was giving voice to what has since become an article of faith among millions of Americans (including many Republicans): the conviction that, far from being a fringe minority, the paranoiac “deplorables” she spoke of have become a significant presence in thousands of communities.

And even before they began deploying their theory that Whitmer’s accused kidnappers had been snared in an entrapment scheme masterminded by FBI provocateurs, defense attorneys set out to convince the public that their clients were no more sinister or dangerous than the deplorables we encounter everyday at our workplaces, grocery stores and family reunions.

And:

In his closing argument, defendant Adam Fox’s lawyer sought to convince jurors his client posed no greater threat than the garden-variety deplorables in their own lives. “He isn’t a leader,” defense attorney Christopher Gibbons insisted. “He doesn’t have the equipment. He doesn’t have the skills.”

Gibbons was being diplomatic, but his subliminal message to jurors was unmistakable:

Look, Adam Fox and his friends are idiots. When Hillary Clinton spoke of those pathetic souls you’d cross the street to avoid passing on the sidewalk, she was talking about my client.

But hey, you all know people like my client. And if we allow the government to lock up all the Adam Foxes in the country, how long before your own neighbors and crazy uncles find themselves behind bars?

Sorry for the longer-than-usual snip, but: Paywalled.

Personally, I think the jury, freighted with Up North Michiganians, just couldn’t face their neighbors back home if they didn’t acquit at least some of them. So they did.

OK, then. Time to make Sunday dinner and maybe a cocktail. God knows I need it.

Posted at 5:48 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Double-secret probation.

Kevin is still on probation. After a nipping incident Monday morning, I was ready to surrender him to a shelter, but a very nice trainer saw my Facebook post on it, dropped everything and came right over. She worked with him a while and taught us some tricks to get some manners into his head. Her assessment: A very smart dog, but stubborn, and virtually untrained. We’re working on Sit/Stay, and he’s doing pretty well. Still to come: Down, Shut Up and No Goddamn Dogs on the Bed. But I have faith in the little bastard, who has many good traits besides cuteness — a prancing walk that’s fun to watch, 99 percent housebroken, walks well on the leash for a lunatic and a lotta personality.

Fingers crossed for Kevin, who may yet need a good lawyer.

Sometimes my morning rambles take me past the Indiana Policy Review, the right-wing organization in the Hoosier state, which the editorial-page editor of my former employer departed to found and run sometime in the late 80s/early 90s, can’t remember. They exist to spread ideas, etc., because there’s a real shortage of those in Indiana. Some of you have mentioned that the Kendallville papers run the column they offer by my former colleague Leo. Does anything else they offer ever see eyeballs other than in their magazine/website? Because I gotta say: This shit is whack.

The founder, who signs his pieces “tcl” but otherwise goes by T. Craig Ladwig, devoted the home page today to an attack on, get this, the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper. For an opinion piece. About the right’s favorite pinup girl, Ann Coulter.

Craig, like lots of newspaper editorial writers, considered himself something of an oracle. He didn’t mix much, but when he did he’d say things like “the problem with journalism today is a lack of adult supervision,” which I never quite understood but he seems to think quite witty, because it’s a phrase that turns up often in his work. It seems to be the driving force of this column about the IDS, anyway. He starts by complaining that the speech wasn’t covered by any other media, “for posterity,” although a quick Google turned up a video of part of the speech and a fairly perfunctory report from the local public-media stations. The speech was billed as, “Conservatism. Let’s Review the Evidence with Ann Coulter,” but the news seemed to be that Coulter abruptly left the stage, claiming she had a plane to catch and had already stayed longer than she’d agreed to. (She’d make a good prostitute. Admirable time management.)

It doesn’t sound like she was shouted down or otherwise abused, although she complained about the final question (about her religion) before leaving. What I found weird? In that video I posted above? Look at all that male-pattern baldness on the heads watching. Doesn’t look like a student crowd.

Maybe Craig hasn’t figured out Google yet.

But I don’t want to go deep on the Indiana Policy Review, an outfit that essentially hung another co-founder, Mike Pence, out to dry after January 6 — he wasn’t asked to do anything other than give us a little more time to investigate was the argument, as I recall. For years now, it’s essentially functioned as a sinecure for Ladwig and maybe a couple of others.

A sinecure. That would be nice, except for the putting-your-balls-in-escrow part.

What an exhausting week, and it’s only Tuesday. I feel like Josef Stalin, and all I’ve done in the last three days is yell NO and grab this dog out of one form of mischief or another. Let’s get over the hump and see what the downslope offers. Please behave, Kevin.

Posted at 8:42 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments