Paint by numbers, but not bad.

I am absolutely not a fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, although I did like “Munich,” but that was probably because Eric Bana wore pants cut ’70s-style (with those big belt buckles that only emphasize his hard flat lower abdomen and swoon…). Also Daniel Craig and also that Irish guy, Ciarán Hinds. It started with his wildly successful early work, all those children’s faces turned up in a golden-lit closeup, blah. Work out your boring childhood neglect somewhere else, dude. But even his later, “mature” work left me barely more than lukewarm; I’m thinking about “Lincoln” here. Spielberg paints in primary colors, leads his audiences along well-trod paths with a big orange RIGHT THIS WAY FOLKS flag in hand.

I further acknowledge I am in the minority here, and that’s fine. I might not have watched “The Post” if I’d known it was a Spielberg deal; for some reason I thought Ron Howard directed it. And while it had the usual problems I mentioned, along with a few more, I liked it pretty well, even though I fell asleep for a few minutes along the way.

The story of how the New York Times and Washington Post competed to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 is established history, and is the capsule plot description, which is maybe why I avoided it – journalism movies leave me cold for the most part. It should have been called “How Katharine Graham Got Her Groove Back,” which is closer to what the story is about, just as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” should have been bundled as the Steven’s Parents Were Cold and Neglectful Collection.

What saves it is the cast. Which is, as it was in “Lincoln,” stellar to the last man and woman. Forget Hanks and Streep. There’s also Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood (in a hilarious Robert McNamara ‘do), Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, OMG it was a delight. Some of these folks got one or two scenes, but they all held their own against the megastars at the top of the bill, and even though you knew how it would end and the script was pretty much paint-by-numbers, it was still fun to watch. I may not like Spielberg, but he knows how to wrangle a cast, evidently.

:::pause:::

I wrote all of the above thinking “The Post” came out for Oscar season in 2018, and just discovered no, it was the year previous. So forgive me. I did my taxes this weekend and some work today, so it wasn’t much of a weekend. We have to pay this year, so I’m particularly happy about that, as you can imagine. America just feels greater and greater to me these days.

Starting this week, I will not be concerned with silly movies, anyway. Rather, I will be speaking in a British accent, which is actually a Westerosi accent, with occasional lapses into High Valyrian. Yes, “Game of Thrones” kicks off next Sunday, and I will be So There. If you don’t watch and don’t care, keep your yap shut, because I’m into it. And I’ve been waiting a long time for this final season.

Some bloggage to consider:

Rick Reilly on presidential cheating at golf:

And it’s not just the cheating. It’s the way he plays the game—with all the golf etiquette of an elephant on Red Bull. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. He’s definitely Made Golf Gross Again.

He drives his golf cart on greens. He drives it on tee boxes. He never, ever walks, even on the courses he owns that have banned carts (Trump Turnberry.)

…It stinks because we were finally getting somewhere with golf. It used to be an elitist game, until the 1960s, when a public-school hunk named Arnold Palmer brought it to the mailmen and the manicurists. Then an Army vet’s kid named Tiger Woods brought it to people of color all over the world. We had ultracool golfers like Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy, and pants that don’t look like somebody shot your couch, and we’d gotten the average round of golf down to $35, according to the National Golf Foundation.

We were finally making the game cool and healthy and welcoming, and along comes Trump, elbowing his way into the front of every camera and hurling my sport backwards 50 years to its snobby roots.

I’ve been indifferent to golf my whole life, having been raised in Jack Nicklaus’ hometown, and can at times be hostile to it — the overbuilding of courses near ecologically sensitive rivers in northern Michigan, to name but one burr under my saddle — so I don’t give a shit whether Trump is ruining it. But this is a good read.

My editor at Deadline Detroit was raised by Yiddish-speaking parents, so it’s safe to say that in a few months I feel I’ve picked up enough of the allegedly dead language to move into a 19th-century shtetl and at least be able to indicate that I’m a meshuggeneh shiksa from the future and would maybe enjoy a little schmaltz on a piece of rye bread, thanks so much. Anyway, I know what he’d say if he could see the photo accompanying this story: A shanda.

The animals take their revenge. In Africa.

OK, let’s get the week ahead moving, shall we?

Posted at 5:15 pm in Current events, Movies | 57 Comments
 

Amazing grace.

I wish I could say I were surprised by stuff like Betsy Devos’ budget proposal for the Department of Education, the one that zeroes out funding to the Special Olympics, but who could be surprised at this point? And yes, it’s just a budget proposal; it won’t pass any more than zeroing out support for the Great Lakes ecosystem will.

But it says something. Doesn’t it?

I wish I could shut out what’s happening to the country, but that can only happen for brief snatches of time. So I was fortunate to get a couple of tickets to “Amazing Grace,” the long-delayed — like, 40-some years delayed — film of the sessions that produced Aretha Franklin’s album of the same name. It was her gospel album, made after years of pop hits. A return to her roots, two nights of performance at a Los Angeles church with James Cleveland guiding the session and Sydney Pollack filming it all.

Needless to say, the songs are great. The film is imperfect — lots of ’70s technique, which is to say, cut to out-of-focus shot and several-second delay while camera finds focus; grainy film stock; lots of cuts because cinema verité, dude — but imperfect in a great way. Aretha sweats through her makeup, along with everyone else, because gospel music is hard work. There’s a spectacular choir backing her up, and an even more spectacular choir director with the amusing name of Alexander Hamilton.

The film was shelved because Aretha didn’t like it, probably because of all the sweating. She doesn’t look glamorous, but she looks about as taken by the spirit as it’s possible to be. And now she’s dead, and her estate is not so picky, so here we are.

My favorite number was this one, “How I Got Over.” Mainly because of the choir.

It was screened at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the second night of a two-night run. The first night, the Franklin family threw things off by putting a few close friends on the guest list — a few hundred, which meant there weren’t enough seats, which meant a second night was added. We were lucky to get the seats, but it was worth it.

This was actually a Plan B. We were originally going to Extreme Midget Wrestling at some bar. Next time, maybe. You have to leave your Tuesday nights open from time to time, for stuff like this.

So, bloggage:

Actually, I don’t have any. You can look up Betsy Devos if you like. It’s not going to be a good week for her.

Posted at 10:12 pm in Movies, Uncategorized | 55 Comments
 

‘Us.’ And them.

The Mueller story is breaking as I write this, and I’m treating it like a mass shooting; I’m not paying attention until more facts are on the ground. Besides, I want to talk about “Us.”

We saw Jordan Peele’s new film Saturday night. I was fearing a sophomore slump, after “Get Out.” I thought I might want to see it, and avoided reading too deeply into the early reviews. A couple had headlines that suggested it was OK, but not quite as good as “Get Out.”

People? I found those reviews…wrong.

I loved “Us.” I spent most of Sunday cleaning the house, and thought about it much of that time. I kept putting it through new unified theories, thinking of new metaphors you could tease out of it. Horror is my least-favorite genre. I find most repulsively violent, and even the well-reviewed ones like “A Silent Place” I mostly avoid. But if Jordan Peele keeps making horror movies, I am entirely down. He uses everything in his head – his deep knowledge of film history, his fondness for pop culture, his insistence that the audience rise to meet him, rather than stooping to the horror-fan level – to make scary movies like no other.

“Us” is about a family of four on vacation at their summer home, when a strangely dressed family appears at the foot of the driveway. As they come closer, something strange is evident: They’re them, the same family, played by the same actors, only…off, somehow. Only the mother (Lupita N’yongo) speaks clearly enough to understand, and she lays out what these doppelgängers want: What the other family has.

“We’re Americans,” she croaks.

Unfortunately, they’re all carrying a pair of golden shears, and they’re not there to make paper dolls. (Well, one is, but not for many, many minutes.)

It’s a violent movie, but not stomach-turningly so. I was too busy, as all this was unfolding, trying to think if this was about…slavery? Trumpism? Class? The answer is all of the above, and then some more. A lot more. There are Easter eggs galore, a veritable basket full of them, with unexpected laughs. Just one: A character under attack gasps to her smart speaker, “Call the police.” The speaker responds by blasting NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police.” Mis-hearing smart speakers may well be the new no-signal plot device, but this one is genuinely funny.

Also, there’s a Hands Across America plot line. Seriously, this is a very original movie. I loved it.

What else happened this weekend? The aforementioned house-cleaning, and Alan handled the yard, which is ready for spring. I got my bike tuned up, along with a new, better-padded seat, so I’m ready when it finally gets warm for good. We had some nice weather, but there was too much work to do to enjoy it.

We did get to the dog park for a bit. Too soon — it was a muddy mess.

Wendy worked that hole all last summer. It was the first thing she headed to this year.

Forecast tomorrow? A high of 40. Oh, well. It is coming.

Posted at 7:00 pm in Movies | 39 Comments
 

At least no trains and tunnels.

I envy those of you who have vivid dreams, funny dreams, the kind with truly David Lynch-ian symbolism and imagery. I hardly ever remember my dreams, and when I do, they involve one of two things, and sometimes both: Houses and water.

In dream symbolism, these are primary colors, no-brainers, the sort of thing Sigmund Freud would delegate to the interns. Houses are oneself, water is…well, it’s usually emotions, but it’s also anything you might find in poetry. I never wake up groggy and think, “What did that mean?” I know as soon as I wake up.

When I was pregnant, I had a recurrent dream of a koi pond. I could see the brightly colored fish moving around just under the surface, with one occasionally breaking the surface long enough for me to catch a glimpse, then diving down again. It was so obvious. I was very disappointed in my unimaginative subconscious.

Here’s my typical house dream: I am living in one, and one day I open an interior door and find…a previously unknown room. Which is actually part of a whole warren of undiscovered rooms, in a variety of states of repair, but usually good, but maybe with outdated decor. In the end, I realize that my house is far bigger than I knew.

Then I wake up.

I am large, I contain multitudes — of rooms.

How was your weekend? I put a couple of 2018 things behind me, and now truly feel ready for the new year. I was going to have a schvitz, but opted to clean a bathroom instead. One makes me feel as good as the other, and the schvitz will be there next weekend, whereas my bathroom needed cleaning now.

The auto show begins tomorrow — it’s already begun, actually — and that means the Charity Preview is Friday, and that means I have to spend a few days thinking about whether it’s OK that my jewelry is silver and my clutch, sorta gold. Weigh in, if you like.

Bloggage: This is a terrible story that will make you hate the pharmaceutical industry even more than you do already:

In the meantime, a portion of the more than 7 million diabetic Americans who take insulin are stuck with debilitating costs. Though most don’t pay the full list price for insulin because of insurance coverage and other rebates, some do, especially those who are uninsured, underinsured or facing a coverage gap through Medicare. “The most vulnerable patients are subsidizing the system,” William Cefalu, the chief scientific, medical and mission officer of the American Diabetes Association, told a Senate committee in May.

At the same hearing, a father from Maine told senators that a 90-day prescription for just one of his son’s insulins would cost him $1,489.46. That’s with his high-deductible insurance. He testified that he has taken to buying the same three-month supply from a Canadian pharmacy for about $300 plus $50 in shipping. (It’s technically illegal to import medication from other countries, but the Food and Drug Administration generally doesn’t prosecute individuals if it’s a short-term supply for personal use.) He is not alone in his dilemma: The website GoFundMe has thousands of posts with people pleading for help to pay for insulin.

This stupid country. A friend just got back to the U.S. after an extended stay in France. He’d needed an ultrasound while he was there, and had to pay out of pocket. “But it’s so much money!” the clinician fretted. Never mind that, he said; he’d pay. The bill was $60. For an $800 procedure in the U.S.

Couch-based entertainment update: Now watching “Killing Eve” (excellent), just finished “Leave No Trace,” which is merely heartbreaking.

Hello 2019, hello auto show. Hello, week. Hope yours is good.

Posted at 9:33 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol', Television | 91 Comments
 

Deleting in the underwear drawer.

No big themes emerging as I sit down to wrap up the weekend, so accept this mixed grill:

Lately my social media feeds are showing me ads for undies — all sorts of undies, almost all of which I will never buy, because I think $20 for a pair of plain old panties is highway robbery. I think I mentioned the phenom of Startup Underwear here a while back, but that’s not why I bring it up.

It’s because the short video clips included in these ads frequently include un-models, i.e., normal-looking women with pregnancy stretch marks, fat asses and similar real-women bodies, and please note that I didn’t describe the above as “figure flaws.” Apparently women respond well to advertising that shows clothing on women’s bodies they actually identify with.

As part of my Delete campaign, I’ve been going through closets and looking for crap to pitch. I found a strapless/backless bra with still-firm elastic that doesn’t fit anymore, but might fit Kate, so I offered it to her. “It’s not something you’ll wear every day, but when you need it, you’ll want it,” I said. As I passed it over, I noticed the label: Victoria’s Secret. I remembered I bought it in…Fort Wayne, probably at Glenbrook Mall. Glenbrook was Da Place back then, but it’s a shadow of its former self. Also, malls in general are shadows of their former selves. And Victoria’s Secret, with its “fashion shows” featuring models with nine-foot-long legs, tight abs and gigantic fake breasts, is now a low-quality joke, mainly coveted by middle schoolers who still want PINK emblazoned across their butts. How the wheel, it do turn.

We took the holidays to the curb Sunday. It was Epiphany, a few days later than we usually do the chore. For a person like me, very little feels better than sweeping up that giant pile of pine needles and saying sayonara, tannenbaum. Kate said it makes her sad to not smell the tree in the house anymore, so there goes my scheme for a bare-branch tree next year, but oh well.

If I’m committed to Delete, deleting the holiday decorations feels pretty damn consequential, even if they’re just going back to the basement. A fellow blogger once observed that taking out the tree on New Year’s Day is like getting a room added to your house. Nothing to do now but wait for spring, and in the meantime, read some books and watch Netflix.

On that front: Watched “First Reformed” on Saturday, which I do not recommend to the Rev. Jeff, as it will probably make him want to stick his head in the oven. I liked it, Alan didn’t. Also watching the second season of “Atlanta,” which is spectacular. I’m reading “The Real Lolita” and “Dead Girls,” both of which I received for Christmas, both good so far. I also got the Sister Pie cookbook, a local bakery’s, which looks promising.

Finally, everybody’s talking about Rashida Tlaib’s comments about the president last week. You may want to see what she wrote two years ago, after she disrupted then-candidate Trump’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club. It was a planned protest that involved more than 20 people, who bought tickets, spread out in the room and, one after another, rose to yell at him, and then were frog-marched out of the place. In other words, she’s been after this motherfucker for a while. Good background to know.

With that, I bid you and the holiday season adieu, and look ahead to deleting more stuff.

Posted at 8:25 pm in Current events, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 42 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
 

Phoning it in.

Sorry for the spotty posting, guys. I’ve been busy, and will continue to be until the end of the month. Today, in fact, I’m working. But it being Sunday, I may do some of it in my underwear.

Alan’s working too – leadership change at Fiat Chrysler, so it’s all good. Fortunately, it’s raining and muggy as hell, so we’re not missing much. And I’m suffering from wicked allergy symptoms at the moment. Alan and Kate are 365-day antihistamine takers, but I’ve only been bothered in recent years, and only intermittently. Yesterday I sneezed more or less continually for about 15 minutes. Love when that happens, eh? By the end they’re what I call “snoughs,” pronounced “snoff,” because everything that can be sneezed out has been, and it’s more like a cough with a convulsive nose element.

So, today I’m back on Zyrt*c and Fl*nase, which I asterisk so as not to attract the ‘bots that have been sending me increasingly sophisticated email spam: “Hi, it’s Jenny. I see you’ve been writing about (some stupid fucking product),” accompanied by a link to this blog that may be 10 or 12 years old. “Can we partner on some branded content?” All of which is merely a nuisance; how long does it take to click the Spam button on your email? But then come the followups — “Hey, it’s Jenny again. I know we’re all crazy busy these days, but I wanted to circle back and make sure you’d seen my offer,” etc.

Go away, Jenny.

I did make a little time this weekend to go to the movies. Saw “Sorry to Bother You,” which was absolutely bonkers and entirely enjoyable, a social-satire mashup of art, culture, organized labor, wealth and then, whoa, sci-fi. It reminded me of what Spike Lee might have made if he were, you know, funnier.

But that’s been pretty much it. Work, sleep, movie, a little sushi.

I have a couple links saved, but at three days old now, they seem positively outdated. But here goes:

This should lead to some interesting speculation, if it doesn’t get lost in the garbage pile: Trump properties have been paying their property taxes late. What does it mean?

The missed deadlines puzzled real estate experts, who said that for a long-established property company such as the Trump Organization, paying property taxes should be a routine task. The bills arrive for predictable sums of money, at predictable times, with predictable penalties for paying late.

Many companies use computer programs to track upcoming bills and flag them long before they become overdue.

“If you’re a professional organization, you’re typically not late on property-tax bills,” said Matthew L. Cypher, a former real estate executive who runs a real estate center at Georgetown University’s business school. He said the Trump Organization did not seem to have saved itself any significant amount of money by delaying the payments; in fact, it did the opposite.

This is a pattern change, too. These businesses have previously paid on time.

You all know my fondness for Neil Steinberg’s blog. This past week he’s been traveling, and pre-loaded a series of posts he called Traitor Week, a daily look at some famous turncoat in history. He winds up today with guess-who. My Yes moment:

Honestly, I’m not that interested in what Trump actually did. What is more important, to me, is how indifferent his supporters are to the possibility of Trump treachery. They just don’t care. Nothing is going to make them care. This is worse than any meeting with Russians. Their my-side-versus-your-side, dodgeball mentality is a staggering revelation.

…Maybe the horror of the Trump years is not that America became some awful place under his watch, but that a certain segment looked around and realized what we are. The illusion vanishes, the beautiful skin withers, and we see the grinning skull that has been here the whole time.

I actually read a social-media post by a local lunatic saying this very thing: So what if Russia helped? Big deal.

Finally, because we have librarians and library-lovers in this community, behold the stupidest thing ever written: Amazon should replace local libraries to save taxpayers money The author made the mistake of posting a link on Twitter and is currently being ratio’d to beat the band. Pretty sure Forbes.com is one of those brands with a website that shames its print counterpart. This certainly does.

OK, I’m out. Gotta shower, grocery shop and then do an interview. Have a good Sunday and I’ll see you back here…eventually.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events, Movies | 71 Comments
 

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

It’s Memorial Day as I write this, and while I have largely kept my resolution to minimize screen time this weekend, even a reduced schedule of check-ins reveals the patriots are out in full force, demanding I give thanks for my freedom, purchased with the blood of brave soldiers.

Which is why I was struck by a final post, by a veteran, positing that we haven’t fought a war for our freedom since 1945. Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Wars I and II and the many skirmishes in between — Grenada, anyone? — were mainly foreign-policy blunders for which we are still paying, in one form or another, while their architects go about unpunished.

A bold statement. And yet, one with which I largely agree.

Grenada, man. Haven’t thought of that one for a while. I sat next to a Grenada vet at a dinner party once, who had me in stitches describing the ambitious officers who swarmed all over the island during that brief war-with-umbrella-drinks, getting their campaign ribbons so as to continue their career climbs unimpeded by a failure to “see combat.”

“And what did you do there?” I asked.

“Maintained a radio beacon for aircraft,” he said. “It was on the beach. I had to check it every 30 minutes, which was good, because it reminded me to turn over and tan the other side.”

And yet, still, about 20 American lives were lost, 6,000 troops were sent, to protect 1,000 American civilians in residence, most of them medical students. I wonder how those dead soldiers’ loved ones feel about their sacrifice.

Ah well. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

The long weekend was much-appreciated, even if it was fairly formless. The heat descended like a sledgehammer, and I spent much of Monday indoors, reading lazily and trying to avoid the outdoors. Had a long bike ride early, just to shake off the laziness, before it got too steamy. Saw an old friend, met a new one — Icarus, one of our commenting community. We sat in a nearly deserted air-conditioned bar and had a couple of beers, chatting about Grosse Pointe and Chicago. Sunday was a long day, starting at 5 a.m., when I went to a sunrise party, one of the many, many unofficial events connected to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, or Movement. It was held at an art park run by a merry chap, and a certain happy anarchy presides over the place. Note the spire, a new addition in the last couple of years:

It shoots fire:

Gentrified Detroit is creeping out to him, and I wonder how long the place can endure. A graffiti artist died there a while back; he fell through a roof. It seems only a matter of time before someone decides such lawlessness can’t be tolerated, especially with flamethrowers. But for now, it rocks on, and I was happy to be there, one of a handful who arrived after a night of sleep. Most appeared to have played through the night.

In between all this lazing about and dawn’s-early-light partying, we watched “All the Money in the World,” a reminder that rich people are often some of the absolute worst ones in it. And I read the news, paying attention to the repeal-the-8th vote in Ireland, and the conservative keening about it stateside. I wish they’d spend less time worrying about culture war and more studying politics. A friend told me that a four-point win or above in any race qualifies as decisive, and this one, with 66 percent in favor, is a legit landslide, without qualification. That speaks to a deep dissatisfaction among the people who had to live with this law, the humiliation it heaped on women who had to go abroad to get abortions, the real harm done to those with medical complications related to pregnancy (including the worst complication of all), not to mention Ireland’s shameful history with the Magdalene laundries and other mother-and-baby homes. A vote that lopsided speaks to a people trying to right a wrong, and at times like this it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut, if you disagree.

And now, in the waning hours of this lovely long weekend, I’m going to return to my book. A novel. An escape. Let the summer begin.

Posted at 5:51 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Movies | 65 Comments
 

A weekend of wonders.

Hey, everyone! I finally saw “Black Panther.” And…well. I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I found a lot to like about it. The costumes were fantastic, production design ditto. Can’t complain about the acting, certainly, and the script was pretty good, too. It’s taken this long, but now I can state with confidence: I just don’t like comic-book movies.

I felt the same way about the equally praised “Wonder Woman.” Every story is the same hero’s quest, every outcome predetermined. The fight scenes go on and on and ON, and ever since Chinese kung-fu movies decided human beings could run straight up walls, what’s left for superheroes to do? Apparently Black Panther’s suit “absorbs kinetic energy” and allows him to dish it back out in equal measure. So you shoot at him, and he only gets stronger. Wow, how exciting.

The most interesting character in the story is the bad guy. (And — spoiler alert — he dies in the end.)

Why is this so hard for writers to understand? People’s flaws are as important as their strengths, maybe more so. They’re the shadow that makes the light more defined. The worst thing you could say about T’Challa, i.e., Black Panther, is that he’s too good. Bor-ing.

Good thing the outfits were so fab. And T’Challa was hilarious on “Black Jeopardy.” But the people talking about this being a Best Picture nominee are full of it.

That was the second cultural event we took in Saturday. The first was the Tom of Finland show at the local contemporary-art museum. For those not up on Tom of Finland: He was to leather daddies what Alberto Vargas was to pin-up girls. Google if you dare, but much of it is porn, with comically outsized dicks. This pretty tame piece gives you the idea, though:

Well, hello sailor. At the Tom of Finland 🇫🇮 show.

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I still chuckle whenever I see a bunch of kids dancing to “YMCA.” Gay culture seeped in under the door, and hardly anyone noticed.

And then, because last week was our 25th anniversary, we went out to dinner on Sunday night, a rare event for us. It was great, at a pop-up space in Hazel Park run by a photographer I worked with once when I was a freelancer. Four courses with twin themes of Thai and Springtime, which meant fiddlehead ferns in chili oil with something called a 63-degree egg, which is, I learned via Professor Google, a thing. It was amazing — almost an egg pudding. The menu was full of wonders, including soft-shell crabs and avocado ice cream. The photographer seated us at the table closest to the action, so we could watch the cooking and the plating and all of it. Quite a night. I woke up with a food hangover today, but pushed through. I don’t expect to be hungry again for two days.

More Instagram? Sure why not:

What else happened this weekend? Oh, right: Two people in England got married. Don’t tell me your problems with the dress, because I’m not hearing them. That dress was perfect for a 36-year-old divorcee marrying into a royal family in front of 1 billion eyeballs. Of course, there were 2 billion photos, but for my money, I love the official ones released by the palace, if only because it captures the royal family in all its weirdness. I know Phil and Betty are now in their 90s, but man, he looks like a cadaver these days. I expect he won’t truck with having a little concealer dabbed around those sunken black eyes. The kids are adorable, of course. All these pictures needed was a corgi or two.

And with that, I’m out and offline. I need to sleep off 2,000 calories, still.

Posted at 8:00 pm in Detroit life, Movies | 53 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