What we mean when we say THIS.

I always think the best columns are those that don’t tell you what you already know or flatter your existing prejudices (Mr. Albom’s territory), or even those that make you think of something you hadn’t before (which is still a pretty good column), but those that make you think YES THIS IS EXACTLY IT and it’s something that was right in front of you all the time. Like those 3D puzzles where you have to find the dolphin in the pattern. You let your eyes swim out of focus, and then the dolphin is right there.

Today, that distinction goes to Monica Hesse at the Washington Post, writing about the infamous picture from Baraboo High School, of the Nazi-saluting kids, taken last spring at the prom.

On Monday, this photo surfaced online (under the hashtag #BarabooProud) and immediately went viral. The photographer later maintained he’d merely asked the boys to wave, though the gesture didn’t resemble a wave made by any hand-possessing human. In response to an outpouring of outrage, the superintendent issued a statement: “We want to be very clear. The Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment.”

If this response sounds familiar, it’s because it echoes the bland assurances recited by officials whenever poison bubbles up in America.

…So, to the Baraboo superintendent: If your defense is, “We’re a hate-free environment,” but there’s a photo of 60 of your students Sieg Heil-ing on the steps of the county courthouse, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you are, in fact, a hate-filled environment.

Maybe it hit home because it has happened a few times around here, particularly before kids realized that social media is not a private affair. There were some kids who wrote “I (heart) n*ggers” on their bodies, took pictures and sent them around, then seemed amazed that they ended up on the 6 o’clock news. There was another closer to the 2016 campaign, where they shot video of themselves being racist.

Here, as in Baraboo, the reaction was exactly the same: This isn’t who we are! And, to be sure, it isn’t who most people are, at least not out loud and in public. However, anyone who denies the casual racism that percolates in suburban and rural communities — hell, in pretty much all communities — isn’t paying attention.

I think a lot of people would like to believe they live in a hate-free environment simply because they won’t let their children drop n-bombs at the dinner table, but as Hesse says, when 60 kids will sieg heil on command, either you’re not teaching them what it means, or, option B, they think it’s no big deal.

And that’s a big deal. That’s the dolphin in the 3D puzzle.

Hesse’s columns are really good. Find them here.

And that will be it for me today, for lo, though the week is still young, it has me feeling very old. Gotta eat more protein tomorrow. Carbs are poison.

Posted at 9:16 pm in Current events, Media | 31 Comments
 

Manhandled, men handling.

I was just thinking of all the women I know who have had an experience like the one Christine Blasey Ford describes having with a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh. And I can’t count them all, not if you throw in all unwanted, sexual, rape-adjacent touching, pawing and manhandling. Mine were comparatively minor, but then, I’ve always been tall-ish and built fairly solidly, and maybe that discouraged some guys who might have been inclined to do so. For years, I envied those tiny girls whose boyfriends could hold them on their shoulders during the encore at the Elton John concert. I guess I shouldn’t have, although who knows whether that had anything to do with it? My point is: This is a common occurrence. It really is.

So now, Sunday afternoon, we can already see how it’s going to go. Senate Republicans will lash themselves to the mast; there’s no way they’ll back down now, not after they helped put a pussy-grabber into the Oval. And now, a few more women will contemplate their choices and decide they can do way better in November. This is a true dilemma, i.e., a choice between two equally bad outcomes.

I pause at this moment to remind you that Douglas Ginsburg was forced to withdraw from consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court because he smoked weed.

They’re not only not backing down, they’re going to be real pricks about it to the end:

A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn.

“No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”

I can’t even. So I won’t.

Speaking of bad men, though, do give a read to Sarah Weinman’s snappy riposte to John Hockenberry’s use of “Lolita” to explain his own bad behavior. It’s good. But man, between him and Jian Ghomeshi and Kavanaugh, it was kind of a Bad Men weekend.

Fortunately, none of them live under this roof, so it was mostly running errands, going to shows, eating good food and watching my only child drive away in her new car, which will help the overnight parking situation in our driveway. We went to the local contemporary-art museum Friday night to do something we never do, i.e., see a DJ set by Questlove, in town to promote a new book, something about food. I just wanted to hear him make music, and he didn’t disappoint — his knowledge of pop music is encyclopedic, and hearing him weave and blend deep cuts, decades-old Top 40 and about a million beats into one seamless, irresistible groove was great fun. However, after about an hour of this, it became steam-bath hot in there, so we booked.

Saturday, Kate and her new band — now a trio, after they lost their vocalist a few months back — played out for the first time. I couldn’t get close, so I mainly listened to Kate’s bass lines from the bar while Alan watched from a closer vantage point. Here’s their single, if you’d like to listen. And here’s a picture, because I thought she looked cute, but then, I’m prejudiced:

How was your weekend?

Posted at 6:01 pm in Current events, Media | 55 Comments
 

Tickling the ivories, baying at the moon.

Sundays recently have been Nance Day — laundry is done, groceries are gotten, chores are (mostly) out of the way, and I have time to read and write, so what am I doing? Googling “dogs playing piano and singing.”

Try it yourself. There is a rich archive of video evidence that this is no one-off dog trick.

I first became aware of this oddity of canine behavior when I visited my friend Deb in Michigan City, and we visited a local restaurant called Maxine & Heinie’s, and no, I’m not sure about that spelling. It was the after-deadline hang of Deb’s newsroom, and Heinie, the co-owner, had a dog named Timmy. I think Timmy was a Boston terrier, but not sure about that, either. Anyway, Heinie had a piano, and Timmy would jump up on the bench, hit the keys with his paws, and howl along. It was very funny, but difficult to live with, so they mostly kept the keys covered, because once he started — and he started every chance he could — he couldn’t be stopped.

There was a grainy video that Heinie would play on the bar TV when requested, of Timmy doing his thing. It was funny. Funnier was the story about how Heinie, who walked home after closing up late at night, was doing so one night with an armed escort; he’d recently been mugged, and the police offered to protect him, probably in return for the usual police discount.

Anyway, someone had left the piano keys uncovered, and as they approached the front door, the cop stopped and drew his weapon. “Someone’s inside,” he said. “Wait here.”

“It’s just Timmy,” said Heiny. “My dog.”

The cop still made him wait while he unlocked the door and entered, gun at the ready. As he hit the lights, sure enough: Timmy. God knows how long he’d been playing.

So, as I said before, this seems to be a common thing. Does anyone have any working theories on why they take so easily to this trick? Obviously it’s something they have to be taught, but as in the case of Timmy, it’s one that many will continue without the reinforcement of praise or a treat.

I guess the short answer is: Dogs are smart in ways we don’t even understand. And mysterious. Which is why we love them so.

OK, then. Second on the Nance Day topic list: Aretha. There is a rather extraordinary interval between her death and her funeral — 15 days. There will be two days of “lying in state,” which I put quotes around because I’m a strict constructionist on that phrase; I think it should be reserved for those individuals whose bodies are displayed in public buildings, like a capital building. Aretha will lie in the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History, which I think would make the ritual, technically, lying in repose, but don’t listen to me. (No one does, necessitating Nance Days from time to time.) This means the media coverage will roll on and on and on, a sort of Princess Diana II. Rosa Parks was the most recent mega-funeral we had here, with a similar build-up to what ended up being a nine-hour service.

We take funerary traditions rather seriously here, is what I’m saying. Especially for a figure so steeped in black history, and church history, and black church history.

However, there are rewards. I’ve been dipping in and out of radio tributes all weekend. How marvelous to hear the whole breadth of her career in a couple hours or so. There’s some other stuff I will say in time, but that time has not yet arrived. It isn’t sinister, so no implication of same. Rather, it’s about artists and artistry and that conundrum they inevitably pose to us — separation.

I see some of you were discussing so-called “access journalism” here a few days ago. I have some thoughts on that. All beat reporting is access journalism, to some extent. If you are covering a beat over time, you must have access to the people you need, and not all of them may be willing or even interested in extending some. So you start approaching the line, with so-called beat sweeteners, i.e., puff or positive pieces on various individuals, so they’ll think kindly of you. And for some, it goes on.

It’s a thorny topic; in my experience, police and political reporters are most often accused of practicing access journalism. Cop reporters, again in my experience which is not necessarily backed up by empirical study, tend to grow pro-cop over time. They spend their time with cops, they see the way the job is done, they empathize. And cops can be real pricks about opening or closing doors depending on how they feel about your work on any given day. On the other hand, without a good cop reporter, you don’t have much of a news organization. Maggie Haberman at the NYT is often singled out as an access journalist on the political side, and I see the argument, really I do. Personally, I think it’s balanced by the good pieces she’s done since January 20, 2017. This latest story, about FLOTUS, got some people on Twitter up in arms, but overall, I think it’s fair. Melania is never going to talk to the NYT for a profile, so there were a lot of anonymous sources, critics and otherwise, having their say about her. To some, any profile that doesn’t refer to her as an evil-enabling former sex worker is going to be seen as LIES LIES LIES, but that’s not the way the job is done.

The one other thing I have to say about that story is this: The photo editing in it is brilliant.

Nance Day needs to have a little fun for its namesake or it’s not Nance Day, so I’ll sign off for now and relax before the usually brutal Monday/Tuesday whirl begins. I hope your week ahead is great.

Posted at 1:41 pm in Current events, Media | 47 Comments
 

The zombie newspaper.

I see the word got out that my alma mater, the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., alma mater of my husband as well, not to mention a few of our commentariat and some very good journalists who used it as a stepping stone to bigger careers elsewhere, is muerte.

Or rather, not dead, just downsized. How, you might be wondering, is that even possible, when the staff — around 80something when Alan and I worked there — is now down to eight? Easy. You lay off seven of them. This allegedly daily newspaper, which dispensed of its print product when it downsized to eight, will now be staffed by a single soul, who happens to be the right-wing columnist who also does news stories, because hey, having a columnist is kind of a luxury, when ya think about it.

Here’s the closest thing to a company press release, delivered two full days after the layoff happened. Get a load of this bullshit:

“We’ll still have a website. We’ll still have a page in The Journal Gazette every Monday through Saturday. And we’ll still have a presence at key events in the area,” he said. “Kevin Leininger is staying with us to provide great community, business and political coverage.”

That’s the “publisher,” a company man recently called back to corporate HQ in West Virginia. I hope he enjoyed his time squeezing every last nickel out of the place. I wonder who will get the Pulitzer hanging on the wall when they finally call it quits.

Guys! Let’s put together a raiding party and steal it! If the building security is anything like it used to be, it’ll be a proverbial candy/baby situation. (Once a female security guard maced herself. It’s a long, embarrassing [for her] story; another time.) We can donate it to the Newseum or find a more useful place for it than on the wall of an empty newsroom, or, worse, on their corporate boardroom wall, assuming they have one. For all I know, this outfit operates out of a former strip-mall insurance office down there in Parkersburg, West-by-God.

Yes, a little testy about this, I must say. I’ll also say this: There is always meat on a carcass’ bones, no matter how long after it dropped to its knees and expired out there on the prairie. And there is always a scavenger willing to gnaw off its share.

Otherwise, not a bad weekend. Got a fair amount done, including two workouts and a dinner on the table. Alan’s been curious about Filmstruck, the new all-movies streaming service, for a while now, and finally bit the equipment-upgrade bullet necessary to get it here — it only works with the second-generation AppleTV, evidently, unless you want to link it to your laptop somehow. So I’m accustomed to hearing chortling coming from downstairs as I drift off to sleep, as Alan plows through the entire Jim Jarmusch catalog, for instance.

Last night we watched “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” a John Huston adaptation of Carson McCullers’ novel, c. 1967. Talk about ahead of its time: Marlon Brando plays a repressed homosexual Army major, teaching “leadership” or some such on a remote southern base, so far off the beaten path it could be existing in a dream. (It’s dedicated to the mounted — as in, on horseback — cavalry. This after World War II.) Elizabeth Taylor is his wife, described in the synopsis as a “nymphomaniac,” which I guess means that she finds sexual solace other than in her gay husband’s arms. Her lover is Brian Keith, of all people. Her role is basically Martha from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” almost down to the letter — she’s a middle-age spoiled brat whose husband will never be as manly and powerful as daddy. Then there’s Julie Harris as Keith’s neurotic wife, Zorro David as her mincing Filipino houseboy and “Introducing Robert Forster.” He plays a young private, gifted with horses, who becomes obsessed with Liz while Brando becomes obsessed with him. (He — the private — likes to take a horse out for a bareback spin, stopping to shed his own clothes after he’s out of eyeshot of the barn. Bareback and bareassed.

It’s quite a story, and of course it tanked. The gay stuff was probably unheard-of for a mid-’60s audience, and very explicit without being so; at one point Liz takes off all her clothes to taunt her husband, who flies into a rage. The idea of America’s violet-eyed sex goddess not being devoured by a healthy man couldn’t have sent a stronger message that Maj. Penderton was not all there, sexually.

Fun fact, via Wikipedia: Stills of Brando in character, and in uniform, as Maj. Penderton were used in “Apocalypse Now” — they’re the pictures in the dossier about Col. Kurtz that Martin Sheen looks through as he goes upriver.

Now I think I’ll go downstairs and start scaring up some dinner. There might be some purple involved:

Variations on a theme of #Purple. #farmersmarket #detroit

A post shared by nderringer (@nderringer) on

Have a good week ahead, all. The pace should be slower. I certainly hope so.

Posted at 6:12 pm in Media, Movies | 46 Comments
 

A new bag?

I suppose it’s a measure of my increasing disengagement with media inside baseball that I noticed this when it was happening, but didn’t register it as an issue I should care about, but I’m glad Farai Chideya (a name you public-radio people should know) said something:

I was at Harvard for two conferences last week: one on gender bias in the technology industry, the other on fighting disinformation in news. While I was at the tech conference, tweeting out notes on presenters’ data-driven studies of gender in the industry, I also composed a Twitter thread on the story the death of designer Kate Spade and the coverage of it. “The class-based assumptions in the writing are staggering,” I wrote. “From A1 lede: ‘Buying a Kate Spade bag was a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of Americans.’” What about those of us, like me, who grew up wearing a mix of clothes from Sears and JCPenney, secondhand garb, and outfits my mother sewed; and then, in college and after, continued to shop at vintage and discount stores?

Yep. That was me, too. We were a long way from poor, but my parents were Depression children, and the idea of buying overpriced accessories as a “coming-of-age ritual” for their children is laughable. College was enough of an uphill climb; a plain-but-fancy bag in a shade usually reserved for the phrase “pop of color” would have prompted my mother to raise one eyebrow and give me her you-are-kidding-right look. She was a stylish woman, but her style came from inside, not labels. I remember showing her a pair of $90 Frye boots in Glamour magazine, and her reaction was, “Layaway.” And I did — I laid them away and paid $10 every so often until they were mine.

So while I mourned Kate Spade in a general that’s-very-sad sense, I didn’t wail and gnash my teeth. Bottom line, Coach is what I consider a luxury handbag, but only the leather ones, not that C-branded crap you get at the factory outlets. And I have plenty, and don’t need any more.

This is a weekend to look forward to: J.C. and Sammy are headed our way, en route to opening their cottage in the U.P. They’re not staying over, but maybe if we pour enough likker down their throats, they’ll be forced to. It’s a good time of year to have your friends swing by, as I could rustle up a wonderful dinner from a speed-shop at the Eastern Market on Saturday. Morels are plentiful, as well as strawberries and leafy greens and all the rest of it. We split a New York strip tonight with some sautéed morels, grilled romaine and a pasta thing I sorta threw together. It’s a wonderful time of year in Michigan.

Meanwhile, do we have any bloggage? Yes.

The Divine Dahlia, on the shameful separation of families at our southern border:

Most of the women I know are as heartsick about the obscene actions taking place at the borders as I am. I think a year ago we would have been out on the streets, were the government stealing the children of asylum-seekers and refugees and sending them halfway across the country or stacking them up like lumber in detention facilities. But today, I worry, we are horrified but numb. We want to be told what to do.

I think about this numbness constantly, because I worry about normalization all day, every day. Numbness is something thrust upon us, a physical or emotional reaction to external shocks, a natural bodily response. It is also maybe a buffer we put up against the devastation of being part of a group that is constantly told it is worthless and undeserving of meaningful attention.

That we are finding ourselves unable to process or act or organize because the large-scale daily horrors are escalating and the news is overpowering is perfectly understandable. But we need to understand that and acknowledge it and then refuse it any purchase. Because to be overwhelmed and to do nothing are a choice.

God, yes. Once you live through a national crisis, what blows your mind is this: The dailiness of life never stops. You still have to put food on the table, drive kids to school. This is “normalization” of a sort, but you never stop checking yourself. What do we do? You tell me.

Hank has some thoughts on how you might spend your summer TV time. Me, I’m working my way through “The Americans,” even though I saw some spoilers about the series end, and don’t care. I love the long scenes in Russian, because — wonder of wonders — I’m understanding about 10 percent of it.

And with that, I welcome the dawn of the weekend, and hope you do, too.

Posted at 9:21 pm in Current events, Media | 50 Comments
 

Deplorables.

Alan came home from work one day last week and reported his employer was about to drop a break-the-internet story, and a few hours later, it did, with the publication of this piece about Matt Patricia, the new head coach for the Detroit Lions. It turns out that 22 years ago, while a college student on spring break on South Padre Island, he and another young man were charged with raping a woman. He was arrested, charged and indicted by a grand jury, but the case never went to trial because the alleged victim decided she didn’t think she could handle the stress of a trial and declined to testify. Charges were dropped.

This is the nut of the story, to my mind:

Although both men have gone on to successful careers, the relevance of even old and untried charges raises questions for the Lions at the height of the “Me Too” movement, which has brought new scrutiny to sexual misconduct allegations.

The indictment remained an untold part of Patricia’s past during his rise in the coaching ranks, and the Lions said it eluded them during a background check that only searched for criminal convictions.

When approached by The Detroit News, team president Rod Wood initially said “I don’t know anything about this” — but hours later said his review of the situation only reinforced the team’s decision to hire Patricia.

The NFL prides itself on its towering moral superiority — witness how lovingly they look after the reputations of its cheerleading teams, for instance — but somehow no one knew this. Patricia’s record was literally part of his Nexis profile, available to anyone with an account and the dexterity to punch his name into a search field. You can argue whether a dismissed 22-year-old case should matter today, and whether it should be brought up in the news media, and I will listen respectfully. But virtually no one in the Lions fan base is doing that, preferring to leave steaming turds in the comment section of, well, this follow-up piece from the weekend, detailing that, contrary to Patricia’s lawyer’s description of the case, this was not a he-said/she-said scenario, but one with medical evidence. Here’s one:

Ok, let me point something out for Snell. Let’s take each witness on their own merit.
1) Detective = took statement
2) Roommate = heard roomate talk about sex with two football players including DP.
3) Nurse = found semen in slut
4) Doctor = confirmed semen in slut
5) Slut = slut. Enough said

And this:

Without dna evidence tying these two guys to the sex, you have a bunch of witnesses who can testified that the accuser had sex, maybe aggressive sex. Now think about all the possibilities on south padre island during spring break.

And this:

Us older Americans think if the “#” system as the pound sign. So guess what we we’re thinking when we saw #MeToo.

I know, I know: Never read the comments, especially on a sports story. But I did, because I’m stupid.

Happy mothers’ day, if you read this while it’s still going on. I’m spending it with my feet up, at least for a while, until I have to make dinner. The only person who qualifies me as a mother — besides Wendy, of course — is not in a place where wifi is easy to get to, so she’s forgiven.

In other news at this hour, the grifting goes on. But enough current events.

After having my heart dug out of my chest by last week’s Saturday-night couch movie, “Call Me By Your Name,” we opted for simpler fare this week, “Dr. No,” the first Sean Connery Bond movie, produced in 1962. A different time, you’d say. Two characters who are supposed to be Asian, or half-Asian, are played by white actors, including Dr. No himself. I know makeup artists back then used to try to Asia-fy white eyes with tape, and it looked like something similar was going on with Joseph Wiseman and Zena Marshall, who played The Girl, or A Girl, or more accurately, A Girl Bond Screws Before the Real Girl shows up, and that was, of course, Ursula Andress in her white bikini and knife belt. I thought she played the Bond girl who shot a guy with a pair of guns hidden in her pasties; as I recall, she was doing a sexy striptease or something, and gave him the old one-two with a couple of shoulder shrugs. Cherchez la femme, Bond actors! Which one was that? You guys can dig up any information, but all the googling I’ve done so far is fruitless.

And if there’s a bra available with shoulder-activated firearms built in, I’d like to know where I can buy one, because you never know when you’re going to overhear someone bitching about the Matt Patricia story, right?

Kate just called. Said she’s having a blast, working very hard, and they will soon be learning Santeria dances of the various orishas. Good. I may need her to summon Chango when she gets home, just in case we have to deal with some pissed-off Lions fans.

Great week ahead, all. I’m going to read something fun and non-Twitter-adjacent.

Posted at 4:46 pm in Media, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments
 

Terrible people, terrible enablers.

Guys, I had this mostly written and thisclose to being ready to post on Friday, then Friday slithered out of my grasp. Yeah, I know. Excuses, excuses.

Remember when we all first discovered the internet? Whether you came aboard in the Compuserve era, or with America Online, or after that, or before, we probably all had our aha moment, when we realized this vast network of souls connected by keyboards meant we are not alone.

For years, I felt like the only Warren Zevon fan in the world. Of course I wasn’t the only one at the shows, but the fellow Warren fans I actually knew were few, far between, and could mainly be counted on one or two hands. Then I went on AOL and found…a community! Warren Himself sometimes came into the chat room, or the bulletin board, or whatever it was, and would say a few words. It was thrilling. It was amazing. The world felt smaller, and in an entirely good way.

Of course, sooner or later I realized that not everyone looking for a community wanted to celebrate the work of an underappreciated singer-songwriter. I recall a letter to Dan Savage, a guy confessing a terrible secret lust for pornography featuring women in snow-white Keds sneakers. Where can I find my tribe, he asked. Savage’s reply: Duh. The internet. When I turned 40, I told Alan he was permitted to buy me an Hermes scarf for the next significant gift-giving occasion, and went online to see what I might find under the tree. It turns out Hermes-scarf bondage porn is a thing, too, and I’m sorry to say that I am so bougie about these expensive accessories that the thought of some dude ruining one forever made me shut down my browser in horror. Shudder.

We all know how it went from there. The internet makes social movements easier to organize. It helped spread the early word about Barack Obama. It’s given us YouTube stars, and journalism stars, and generally freshened things up by elevating and amplifying new, interesting voices.

But because there is literally nothing we can’t fuck up, things took a turn. We once thought television would bring a university into every living room, and we got “The Apprentice” instead. And so the same internet that brought me together with new nursing mothers and Zevon fans also now provides you-are-not-alone cover to pedophiles, anti-vaccine lunatics and, we now know, so-called incels, or “involuntary celibates,” colloquially known as guys who can’t get laid.

You know all this, but here’s what bugs me: You know how newspapers are always on about their ethics, which invariably leads someone to roll their eyes and say, whoa, there’s an oxymoron? Well, it’s not. Journalists — traditional-source journalists, anyway, and most of the others — do have certain ethical standards, and most of them are based on a single principle: You are responsible for what you publish.

This is another idea that the internet’s creative destruction has done away with. Facebook isn’t responsible for allowing Russians to sow lies and confusion. Google isn’t responsible for its blogging platforms. Hey, don’t look at us! To them, they’re Goss, the company that makes printing presses, not publishers. Meanwhile, it’s hard to get them to even shut down websites that turn a mass murderer into a hero. What? You don’t like free speech?

A former state representative I once wrote about now spends significant chunks of time online, posting tinfoil-hat stories about crisis actors and chemtrails and government schools. He believes the UK’s National Health Service killed that sick little kid in cold blood. He is carrying on. He is nuts.

Here’s an article about the founder of 4chan, one of the most notorious sites for the sort of content that seeks to wound, to spread lies, to foment violence. The reporter describes it as “controversial.” The story is about this guy joining Google, where presumably he isn’t regularly pelted with rotten fruit, as he deserves.

The world is an awful place sometimes, and the worst among us are celebrated.

While you can read about incels at dozens and dozens of places, this skimmable piece from a fashion site does offer a helpful graphic. This more serious piece — HT to Sherri — is good, too.

On to the White House correspondents dinner, of which I have only this to say: If people don’t want a comedian to make jokes, don’t hire one. I actually saw one tweet that claimed this evening is about showcasing “decency and purpose.” O rly? Coulda fooled me. I thought it was a mutual-congratulation schmoozefest with a comedy routine thrown in. I watched Michelle Wolf’s set, and I dunno, maybe I watch too many comedy specials on Netflix, but it didn’t seem that bad to me. From the advance whining, I thought she’d called Sarah Sanders something horrible. She called her “Aunt Lydia,” a Handmaids Tale joke, and said something about her eye shadow. BFD.

OK, enough.

How Trump trickles down to the local level, in Michigan. Both the candidate featured here and the opponent he’s attacking are polling way, way below other candidates in their respective primaries, making this fight something else entirely, i.e., a sort of far-right virtue signaling to the base.

And with that, I’m wrapping and getting outside, because it’s a beautiful day. A bit chilly, but nothing terrible. A fine week ahead to all.

Posted at 12:39 pm in Current events, Media | 81 Comments
 

Still sprinter.

I wish I could tell you that this weekend’s hellstorm was followed by something more seasonal, but no. It’s still cold, and yesterday we woke up to snow on the ground. Yes, it melted after the sun came up, BUT STILL.

Hello, Wednesday. Stormy Daniels is in Detroit tonight. Plans to see her still not gelled. She had to scratch her last date because travel delays didn’t put her in town in time to get her cabaret license, which she needs to dance in the city. I went out with friends last night, and suggested we tweet at her about taking her out to dinner. The way I figure it is, she’ll have to get the license during business hours, but her shows aren’t starting until close to midnight, which leaves hours to kill, and why not kill them with nice people who know the fun spots and won’t stare at her boobs?

This is my life now: Chasing strippers, and teaching myself podcasting. Which isn’t easy.

How’s everyone otherwise? What’s today’s news? Last night, someone said, rather mournfully, “I want gridlock in Washington again.” Who can’t identify?

So, a little bloggage? Sure:

Donald Trump’s addiction to lawyers, via Politico.

Via the WashPost, a spectacular video about how the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School journalism students put out the issue of the school paper dealing with the shooting there. Twenty minutes, well worth your time. I pass it along not only because it’s great video journalism, but because the picture it paints of the school itself, which is a virtual cathedral of learning, with a beautiful building, new computers, and opportunities for field trips to places like New York City. Compare this to a school in the poor parts of the city where you live. Kate’s high school was like this. Like many public institutions, quality varies widely.

OK, enough of the morning has slid by. Have a good one, all.

Posted at 11:13 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments
 

Starving them isn’t working.

So, it must have been a million years ago, when I was fooling around with talk radio in Fort Wayne, an action-packed chapter of my life I already bored you with, when the wife of the station owner told me that she’d recently scored a new show that was going to be big. I should check it out, she said.

“His name is Rush Limbaugh,” she said. “He’s on his way up.”

She was certainly right about that, and as WGL was among the very first stations in the country to buy his show, I had the luxury of getting to know the host and his show before anyone had noticed or written about him. And I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I listened to him for 10 minutes and told someone, “This is a fat guy who cannot score with chicks.”

I hadn’t seen his picture, I swear. I could just tell. I’m witchy that way.

Anyway, soon he was well-established and very successful, and his various bits were familiar, one of which was the various songs he played to introduce certain “updates,” as he called them. The homeless update, the feminazi update, etc. For Carol Moseley Braun, he played the theme from “The Jeffersons.” Movin’ on up, to the east side, and so on. So I added “racist” to “fat guy who cannot score,” and I’ll stand by that. And while Rush Limbaugh is not the first troll that modern conservatism produced and certainly won’t be the last, he was one of the first I encountered as an adult. Alas, there have been so many more.

There’s an old internet saw that says you shouldn’t feed trolls. It’s certainly my instinct, but lots of people must be throwing them popcorn, because one of the truly horrifying things about the current era is how successful a troll can be. You can say any old stupid-ass thing, call people terrible names, repeat bullshit until you’re blue in the face, and you’ll get…a book contract, a cable-news gig, a sinecure of some sort. Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Tomi Lahren — it’s a crowded business, but there’s always room, and a paycheck, for one more.

Of course I’m thinking now of Kevin Williamson and his fun hang-the-whores opinions, which finally cost him his new job.

Media, Right and Left Twitter – which is to say, the nucleus of Twitter itself – went a little nuts about it. Many dumb things were said. A few smart things were said. Hysteria was deployed, as was reason. In the end, I’m a walking shrug emoji; if you wanted the bigger paycheck and bigger platform and bigger profile a “mainstream” publication offers, perhaps you should be a little more mainstream, in the sense that you shouldn’t cavalierly call for the execution of a significant percentage of an entire gender, asshole.

Maybe we should stop rewarding trolls. Maybe that’s a good start. Maybe this is a bullshit justification:

Williamson uses colorful and sometimes rash language. He didn’t have to detail the grisly form of punishment he would inflict on women who decide to terminate their pregnancies. He chose to do so because he enjoys provoking a reaction. But The Atlantic knew that about him before it hired him.

Maybe “provoking a reaction” shouldn’t be an end in and of itself. Are we short of reactions these days? Do we really need more? I know, I know — reason and moderation and compromise are BOR-ing! and facts are for the Olds, man, but I’m thinking 30 years of letting trolls bait us into outrage hasn’t been productive. That’s one reason I find the Parkland kids so impressive. They just laugh in the faces of these people, laugh and then organize boycotts. More power to them.

History will not be kind to people like Rush Limbaugh. I suspect he doesn’t give a shit about that down in his Palm Beach mansion, his wife-of-the-moment off doing Pilates somewhere else and crossing big red X’s through dates counting down to key milestones in the pre-nup. But it’s all I have at the moment.

Bloggage:

A long read, but worthwhile, on how police and prosecutors built their case against Larry Nassar. Females all around, for the most part. I liked this passage, and forgive me breaking my three-paragraph rule:

Munford started the interview asking what Nassar had changed about treating patients since 2014, when Amanda Thomashow told police and an MSU Title IX investigator that Nassar had sexually assaulted her. The two investigations ended without repercussions, although new protocols were put in place for Nassar when treating patients at MSU.

Nassar said he’d tried to adapt his techniques, then asked his own question.

“Has there been another complaint?” he said. “I’m just, like, confused right now.”

Munford redirected him back to talking about his changes since 2014, hoping to learn if the description of anything he had stopped doing matched what Denhollander experienced 16 years earlier.

When Nassar began making excuses about why he wasn’t following the new protocols, Munford later said, she knew he was being intentionally inappropriate with patients.

“I lecture on this,” Nassar told her. “That’s the thing that’s frustrating. It’s so, you know, the sacrotuberous ligament, it runs from the pubic symphysis, the falciform process, it runs, it’s like the pelvic floor.”

“OK,” Munford said.

“People don’t understand this stuff,” Nassar told her. “So you’re really coming in, the way I describe it, you know, even in some of the videos is, is that if you go towards the labia and go lateral, so you’re going in and apart. And that, there’s muscles that attach to the ligament. And so as you’re treating that, you can feel the release. And that’s, like, a great teaching thing, too.”

The spiral into technical terms in Munford’s interview illustrated how Nassar evaded prosecution for so long. His medical explanations convinced Meridian Township police not to pursue charges in a 2004 investigation. Medical information also was part of the unsuccessful 2014 case.

He couldn’t explain why he had visible erections while this was going on, however. But “sacrotuberous ligament” — that was enough.

OK, weekend dead ahead. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 9:27 am in Media | 40 Comments
 

Dander

Most days, I don’t go around feelin’ all feministy. The older I get, the less touchy I get about things that some women are extremely touchy about. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m absolutely a feminist. But I’m taking a longer view, watching the arc bend toward justice, and trying to be more charitable toward the entire human race, not just women.

That makes no sense. But here’s where I’m going with it:

Even with this mellow outlook, I can still be prodded to incandescent heights of rage from time to time. This week was one of them. The catalysts, in order:

Larry Nassar’s boss. William Strampel, the former dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, has been primarily known so far as the man who told the perp in the biggest institutional sex-abuse case in god-knows-how-long that he was doing a great job, and keep doin’ what you’re doin’. Which makes him look like a twit, but this week new charges were filed against him, and now he looks like another monster from the same mold:

Four women told investigators that, while they were medical students at MSU, Dr. William Derkey Strampel, 70 either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, court records say. The women said he made sexually inappropriate comments, groped them and appeared to offer them favorable treatment in exchange for sexual acts.

He also had plenty-plenty porn on his office computer. Police said many of the photos appeared to be of MSU students, likely the same medical students whose lives he was making miserable. If you read the story, Strampel comes across as a 70-year-old man who combines the arrogance of too many medical professionals with the sensibilities of the Mad Men era. He grabbed asses, eyed women up and down while they stood in front of him, and oh yeah he was a bully, too:

In 2011, a woman identified as Victim 2 fell asleep in class and Strampel summoned her to his office later. He told her not to sit down but to turn around twice so he could observe her body, she told police, before going on a rant degrading her body.

The woman told police Strampel told her she needed to dress sexier if she wanted to advance in her profession. The conversation lasted about an hour and Strampel never brought up a reason for the meeting.

For anyone likely to cut this guy slack because it’s a different era now or whatever, please consider that there’s probably no group in America who’s had more training on the subject of sexual harassment than academics. Which means this geezer just plain thought he could do whatever the hell he wanted and get away with it, more or less forever.

You wonder how people like Nassar get away with it for so long? It helps to have bosses like this.

Then the Atlantic hired Kevin Williamson.

You might know Williamson as a troll-y scribe for National Review, the conservative magazine. It’s safe to say that getting beamed up to the more mainstream Atlantic is a big career move. A few years ago, and not that many, Williamson got into a tweet-spat about abortion and the appropriate punishments for doing or having one. Unlike most right-to-lifers, who like to tell women they’re “the other victim” of the procedure, Williamson took off the gloves and got right to the point: Women who have abortions should be executed, he said. Painfully, perhaps by hanging.

He has deleted the tweets, but never retracted the statements. Women having a legal procedure he disapproves of should be executed painfully. That’s what Kevin Williamson said, and apparently still believes. So of course he’s working for a high-profile national magazine now.

Ask yourself how likely this would be if Williamson had expressed similar thoughts about African Americans, or any other group of people in this country. Ask yourself why this sort of statement is acceptable. If that’s too depressing, amuse yourself by considering, first, how common this belief is among virulent abortion opponents (it really is) and how much the very same people are clutching their pearls over some of the potty-mouthing coming from the Parkland kids. Oliver Willis puts it plainly:

Jessica Valenti gets it:

How can you say that you want a workplace that values women when you hire someone who wants 25% of those women dead? How can you lead in a newsroom when your female subordinates now know that you consider their lives worth less than the clicks you’ll generate from a handful of articles?

I have had two abortions — one when I was younger and not ready to be a parent, another when I was a mother who desperately wanted more children but doing so could put my life at risk. I do not believe I should die because of this. I cannot believe that I need to write that sentence.

Any time I have written or spoken publicly my abortions, I have been threatened with death — and I’m far from alone. Women are terrorized about their reproductive decisions — whether it’s threats online or the increasingly frenzied violence against abortion providers and clinics. And, of course, it was just over two years ago that a shooter killed three people and injured nine others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, screaming about “baby parts” — rhetoric directly taken from conservative writers.

By hiring Williamson, The Atlantic is sending a clear message: That the worst kind of harassment and intimidation women face — extremism that has been directly linked to real life violence — is acceptable. And that it’s more valuable to the magazine than the women who read it or work at there.

Yup. So right now I’m feeling real feministy. How do you feel?

Posted at 12:48 pm in Current events, Media | 92 Comments