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 | 151 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
 

Help wanted: Editors.

Joe Rogan is in the news these days. This is a development that leaves me feeling so utterly out of it, I feel like taking up knitting, mainly because I only recently learned who Joe Rogan is. I didn’t watch the show he hosted (“Fear Factor”), because it sounded boring and ridiculous, and I don’t pay attention to mixed martial arts, his other big claim to fame, and so when you tell me this guy has millions of listeners to his podcast, I think: Huh. OK.

While I don’t doubt the people who claim he’s racist and sexist, podcasts can be cherrypicked and words taken out of context, so I thought I might check him out and see for myself. (I retain my Spotify subscription. For now.)

I should tell you my prejudices about podcasts up front: I think most of them are too long. It kills me that so many pods are produced by people who have undeniable assets but no radio experience, and make shows where the opening small talk between hosts takes 15 minutes. I’m glad people get along, there’s nothing wrong with showing your on-air chemistry, but holy shitballs start the damn show already. And learn how to edit, to take out the irrelevant guest tangent. And most of all, stop assuming people have nothing else to do but listen to you.

Granted, everyone listens differently. And maybe I’m too old to understand the appeal of this or that host chatting with his/her co-host like you are the third person at the table, or maybe the small talk isn’t for me, but I still firmly believe Podcast Bloat is a thing, and I far prefer pods that can get in and out of my ears in either 30 or no more than 60 minutes.

All this by way of noting that two hours is a short Joe Rogan podcast. Two and a half seems to be standard, and some go far, far longer. Jordan Peterson, the Canadian weirdo, talks to Rogan for FOUR! HOURS! (And 13 minutes.) People used to say, “You can’t judge Rush Limbaugh by some single thing he said. You have to listen for a month, then decide if he’s an asshole bigot.” Sorry, pals, I ain’t got time to dedicate a month of the only life I have to divining the essence of Rush Limbaugh, and ditto Rogan. But I did cue up half a dozen of his pods this week, just to see how or if they grabbed me.

Readers? They did not.

Rogan is, as his fans say, undeniably curious on a wide variety of issues (concentrating on bro-y stuff like fitness, stand-up comedy, showbiz and the like), so I’ll give him that. Unfortunately, he employs the Larry King Tabula Rasa strategy of interviewing, which is to say, he doesn’t seem to really prepare for anything. People say stupid shit and it’s not challenged. Rogan says stupid shit and it’s even less challenged; one trainer advocated a particular move that goes directly against every rule about how to treat your knees, and while Rogan noted the contradiction, he didn’t ask the why question.

In other words, while Rogan has the foundation of being a decent journalist (curiosity), he lacks the discipline to know how to craft it in service of others. Not that he won’t chime in when he feels like it. When one guest mentioned omicron, he said, “Oh, yeah, the cold.” And in the exchange that followed, he insisted omicron was no more serious than that, and the only people dying of it were basically fucked to begin with anyway, so. The “no big loss” was left unspoken, but hung in the air.

I guess it’s easy to talk to someone for two hours, especially if you’re on drugs – Rogan is said to be a big fan of those – but far harder to do it responsibly. There’s a clip of Rogan talking to a Holocaust denier that will curl your hair. He just sits there and nods.

So. Other big news of the moment: The Canadian Truckers 4 Freedumb have landed close to home. The privately owned Ambassador Bridge has been closed most of the day, with most of the action on the Canadian side. I was down there today for lunch and didn’t see much – a few trucks pulled over on the freeway with a state police officer talking to one, that sort of thing. But it’s big news, I guess. I’ll keep you posted if a shooting war breaks out.

Posted at 7:45 pm in Current events, Media | 64 Comments
 

Turn the page.

It’s Monday, which is allegedly a day off for me. It rarely works out that way — I always end up doing something work-related — but I have no deadline bearing down, I spent yesterday dusting and vacuuming, there’s food in the pantry and we’re supposed to get two to four inches of snow today, so I’m clearing the decks and declaring this a Real Day Off. I’m going to read my old friend David Heath’s new book about the development of the Covid vaccine and maybe even take a nap.

But first, a few words for you lovely people.

I read Neil Steinberg’s year-old blog about John Kass this morning, and it reminded me of a truth about newspapers, or what’s left of them: Not everything in it is for you. Or for me. A newspaper is what used to be known as a generalist publication, meaning there had to be something in it for everyone in the whole family. Horoscopes, puzzles, comics, sports scores, stock prices, etc. When we arrived in town, the News and Free Press would even include a few paragraphs of shipping news, i.e., which vessels would be passing up and down Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, in case you were curious about what the Arthur M. Anderson was carrying, and where she was heading.

If I had read Neil’s blog before I read yesterday’s Page One weeper in the Freep, I might have found the strength to avert my eyes before they started rolling back in my head. It’s paywalled, so I’ll summarize: A registered nurse, a father of seven young children, is recently widowed. The headline: While ER nurse was saving wounded Oxford kids, his wife was dying from COVID-19. He was working the ER, his usual post, when the school shooting happened last November. The story is pitched as a tribute to #OxfordStrong, as the inevitable hashtag goes, because even though he has lost his wife and has all these kids and a demanding job, his church and neighbors are rising to the challenge, etc.

This is not the sort of story I generally find compelling. I’ve read too many of them through the years, and that people are capable of great good and generous grace is not news to me. I’m glad the guy is getting by with a lot of help from his friends. I’m ready to leave the rest of it unread when, record scratch:

As Holt prepared for Elizabeth’s funeral, he Googled her name, trying to find her obituary for some details, and he came across a website that mocked Elizabeth’s illness and death. John and Elizabeth Fowler held strong anti-vaccination views and were attacked on social media.

“I stumbled upon that website,” Holt said. “You know what? I’m OK if you want to be anti-vax or pro-vax. But I’m not OK when you’re anti-people. The problem with politics and vaccinations and religion, and all of that, is that people get caught up in the concept, or they get caught up in the construct of it, rather than the people.”

This wasn’t a debate about an issue. This was an attack, almost a gleeful celebration that she had died.

I bet I know which website he might have found — there’s one whose URL I can’t remember, which lists the deaths of outspoken antivaxxers, and then there’s the Reddit sub called Herman Cain Awards. Probably one of those two. I’ve seen them, but don’t participate; I haven’t the emotional bandwidth, and the older I get, I figure, why bother, it won’t do any good.

That said, this nurse is full of shit. His late wife was a nurse, too, I should mention that. So these two nurses, health-care professionals, he with a master’s degree with “an emphasis on public health,” are/were not only anti-Covid vaccine, they appear to be anti-all vaccines, if this passage is any indication:

“I don’t trust the vaccine companies,” he says. “Because there’s no control. They can make a product that the FDA or whoever CDC says it’s safe. But then if your kid is affected, you cannot do anything to them about it. They’re completely protected by the government.”

He says that McLaren Oakland allows medical and religions exemptions to a vaccine mandate.

“I have a master’s in nursing with an emphasis on public health,” he said. “So I’m not uneducated, right. It’s just, I, I’ve told my kids I said, ‘hey, when you get older, and if you want to pursue college, I’m perfectly OK with you when your immune systems are stronger. If you do a slow course of the different vaccines you need to forward your education, I’m OK with that.’ I just didn’t want to do it when they’re young.”

“Do you regret that you and your wife were not vaccinated?” I ask.

“No,” he says.

Just once, just once!!! I want to hear one of these people say, “Y’know, we were wrong about that. Elizabeth should have gotten the vaccine. All of our now-motherless children should be vaccinated against the vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. And of course I, a nurse who works in an emergency room during a pandemic, will be getting my Covid vaccine a.s.a.p.”

I mean, he’s a NURSE. He works in a HOSPITAL. He has a MASTER’S DEGREE. He studied PUBLIC HEALTH. And somehow he got that degree without learning about vaccines. Or the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, for that matter. I wouldn’t set foot in that fucking hospital.

I shouldn’t have read that story. It wasn’t for me.

OK, then. The snow is coming down, but in flakes so fine you have to look for it out the window. Time to crack that book. Happy Monday, if that’s possible.

Posted at 10:35 am in Current events, Media | 72 Comments
 

Pants on fire.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the liberal media:

Want more? OK, here ya go:

All of the above is a lie. The people Trump is endorsing in Michigan aren’t making “election administration and investigating last year’s vote central to their platforms,” they’re Stop the Steal lunatics who have stated, baldly, that Trump Won, and that if they’re elected, they’re going to do their best to make sure he never loses again.

The election has been litigated, recounted, audited and investigated, and none of their claims have been found to have any basis in fact.

But this is NBC News here, and to write that Trump “narrowly” lost Michigan is also fiction. He lost Michigan by 154,000 votes. That is not a narrow victory. And these people are not interested in improving elections. This is the “liberal,” mainstream media promoting this fucking garbage. I can’t stand it.

But OK, it’s the long weekend. I got most of my shopping done (online), picked up a couple stocking stuffers from local businesses, and even scored a white shirt I’ve been looking for forEVER from a local business, and a black-owned one at that. So I’m counting this as a win, Chuck Todd or not.

My birthday was very nice, even if I spent much of it cooking, at least it was pretty easy. Thanksgiving is basically a matter of chopping and timing; with enough advance work, you really don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen. We had the usual for our small tribe of four, and it was very fine, topped with two desserts, for Team Cake and Team Pie. The last of the turkey went into tonight’s tetrazzini, and that puts the holiday to bed. With the worst of the chores handled, I intend to spend the rest of December doing January organizing and maybe making some gingerbread. The hell with the holidays; maybe we can enjoy the season for once. See the lights, go to some parties, all of it.

And it was very nice to watch Michigan beat the shit out of Ohio State, the first in a decade:

So the week begins. Enjoy it.

Posted at 7:53 pm in Media | 24 Comments