Crazy nation.

For some reason I can’t quite explain, I’m a member of a Facebook group for Grosse Pointe moms. Here’s a post from today:

We want to have our daughter baptized but my husband and I aren’t currently members at a local church. Anyone know of a church in the area that will baptize her without a waiting period (seems the ones I’ve contacted require us to become members for six months before they will baptize her)? Don’t want to wait that long because she’ll be too big then to fit into the gown I was baptized in.

I held my tongue, but on this issue I’ve been rather influenced by my brushes with the orthodox Catholics in my circle, as well as our own Jeff the mild-mannered, and am tempted to say, where do you get off, lady? Churches aren’t public utilities, and if you don’t believe enough to even join a church, why bother to baptize your child at all? It’s not just about baptismal gowns, and if it is, again, why even bother?

Religion. Go figure.

I don’t know about you, but the talker of the day, for me, was this fantastic story out of Texas, where they want to claim the state’s share of Fort Knox’ gold and repatriate it to the Lone Star state, for…well, let them explain it:

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that will create a state-run gold depository in the Lone Star State – one that will attempt to rival those operated by the U.S. government inside Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault in lower Manhattan. “The Texas Bullion Depository,” Abbott said in a statement, “will become the first state-level facility of its kind in the nation, increasing the security and stability of our gold reserves and keeping taxpayer funds from leaving Texas to pay for fees to store gold in facilities outside our state.” Soon, Abbott’s office said, the state “will repatriate $1 billion of gold bullion from the Federal Reserve in New York to Texas.” In other words, when it comes preparing for the currency collapse and financial armeggedon, Abbott’s office really seems to think Texas is a whole ‘nother country.

Someone in this readership must live in Texas. I ask you: WHAT THE EFFIN’ EFF? This country is insane. I can’t wait to read the histories of our era, when I’m old.

While we’re on the subject, here’s quite the read from New York magazine. Remember during the last election, when the Mississippi tea party tried to bring down Sen. Thad Cochran, deemed too RINO for the state that ranks 50th in most measures of excellence? They thought if they captured a photo or video of his tragically afflicted wife, in a nursing home for a decade with early-onset dementia, they’d have his scalp, since Cochran had a ladylove on the side. Things didn’t work out for them, and someone took his own life. I’ll say it again: Our country has gone mad.

On a lighter topic, then. Our own Jeff Borden, if he hadn’t been a journalist, would have made a great radio program director. He once told me his idea for a killer rock station: Great music and all-female DJs, none of whom — this was key — would ever show their faces in public. He said, “I don’t care if they weight 300 pounds and have the face of a bulldog. If they had a great, sexy voice they could work for me. But no one ever sees them. Ever.” The idea, obviously, was to create a community where the sound was awesome and the visuals were entirely up to the listener.

So, a local DJ died this week. He was gone way before I ever came here. I never heard him. But from his obit, he had the right idea. There’s a sound check embedded in the story. What a voice.

So we slide down the downslope of the week. More work to do. Do yours.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 58 Comments
 

A long sit.

If you have to have a four-hour meeting, you should have it in our Ann Arbor office, where three windows look out onto green loveliness and you can gather strength from the verdant fields stretching away into more greenness, and…excuse me, did you say something? My back hurts during a meeting that long. But there was a lunch afterward, and more meetings, and now we’re all done for another quarter.

That was Monday. Plus the drive there in the rain, and the drive back in the mugginess, and then some spaghetti carbonara, because I can’t always get it together to marinate something and otherwise plan a decent dinner. Sometimes bacon and eggs and spaghetti is the best you can do. Fortunately, it’s delicious.

Tomorrow is orientation in Ann Arbor. I still have cleaning to do before graduation. And yet here I sit. Sue me.

It’s an all-pop culture bloggage menu today, because I’m out of gas to think very deeply:

What will be the song of the summer? A few contenders.

How horrible can people be? In a Walmart shampoo aisle, pretty horrible.

“Caps lock is the Palin family’s rhetorical open-carry.”

Off to bed.

Posted at 12:39 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

All about the feet.

Despite the tsuris the usual suspects are having, this isn’t the first time I’ve read about the odd, tiny subculture of people who believe that in their core, they are really amputees, even if they have all their fingers, arms and legs, and whatever else you can cut off and still live.

It actually came up during the infamous Huntington Castrator story. My colleague Bob Caylor had an Atlantic magazine story on the phenomenon, which he found extremely weird — correctly, I guess I should add. Some people are deeply into body modification, a continuum that probably starts with eyebrow-plucking and moves on from there.

Here’s the story that’s causing the tsuris. If you follow the usual wing nut thought patterns, the concern is this: Here’s a single story where one guy says the “transabled” should be taken seriously, i.e., this is what Caitlyn Jenner wrought. Once you allow an Olympic gold medalist to decide he’s a woman, sooner or later you’re allowing people to cut off their hands in the name of…something.

It’s deeply weird, I’ll allow. I’m not sure it is at the bottom of the slippery slope.

However, at the bottom of the barrel is this email, which arrived today in my personal inbox:

Dr Suzanne Levine, Celebrity Podiatrist on Park Ave in NYC speaks out on Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation surgery. In Vanity Fair cover shot she is shown wearing fabulous stiletto heels. Dr Levine asserts the feet have not been feminized and must have been airbrushed. Is it possible the entire photo was photo shopped? Her feet look too dainty in the heels – hint, hint – it’s all about the feet.

Dr. Levine states in many male to female transitions, the feet feminizing procedure is one of the most overlooked factors in creating a feminie appearance, and can be the true defining change to create the most feminine appearance possible.

Dr Levine is available for interviews via phone or skype.

Good to know that somewhere in the world, there’s a celebrity podiatrist, and she practices on Park Avenue.

This is a good story by the AP: The FBI has small aircraft in the skies over major U.S. cities, spying on us.

I’m so glad I live in the north, and my child is done, today!, with public education.

And that’s what I have today. Happy Hump Day.

Posted at 12:31 am in Current events, Popculch | 36 Comments
 

Exit through the darkroom.

Having worked with a few headstrong photographers, I know they’re essential to telling a great story. At the same time the best ones have a way of going rogue. Many times I’ve sat back at my desk, looking over my notes and the pictures, thinking these don’t match.

I always blamed myself for failing to communicate strongly enough what the story was, but frankly, sometimes it changes as you report it. Let me put it this way: I’ve written some convoluted captions to explain why the person in the picture is beaming and blowing bubbles in a green meadow, but the story says she’s suicidally depressed about the depletion of the Oglala aquifer. (Or, y’know, whatever.)

Anyway, if I think about it, the photographer who has bugged me the most over the years is Richard Avedon. Love his celebrity portraits, love his fashion work, hated — HATED — his series set in the American West, where he took some pretty unconventional-looking people and stood them up in front of his famous seamless backdrop and turned them into freaks for his New York friends to groove on.

You may sense the depth of my feelings on this subject.

Mary Ellen Mark occupies a different place. I find many of her portraits as unsettling as Avedon’s, but without the note of mocking condescension. Although can anyone, especially a woman, look at the first photo in this series and not think, “Put down that camera and get that child to a responsible maternal figure, for God’s sake.”

Mark, who died this week, was probably best known for the “Street Wise” project, about homeless street kids in Seattle, which started as a photo feature for Life magazine — man, just writing those words feels impossibly nostalgic — and later became a documentary. It wasn’t easy to watch, listening to these kids talk about turning tricks and retrieving pizza out of dumpsters, even as you know the situations they left behind were even worse.

And then, of course, they grew up.

Photography is such an intimate medium, and it’s so easy to tip the viewer from a guest looking in through the fourth wall to a peeping tom. I think Susan Sontag may have touched on this subject a time or two.

So. Bloggage to get to.

Bob Schieffer says he’s worried about the decline of local journalism. That makes two of us:

Less than a third of all newspapers in the country assign a reporter — part time or full time — to cover statehouses, according to the Pew study. Almost nine in 10 (86 percent) of local TV stations have no part-time or full-time correspondent covering the statehouse.

I’m less concerned about TV, because most stations’ coverage of serious news has always been spotty and not the sort of thing you should rely on to be informed. Many manage to park two or three highly paid butts on a couch for an extended morning show of utter crap content, so cry me a river over that one. But on newspapers, he’s absolutely right. Fort Wayne once had a two-person Indy bureau — one for sports, one for the legislature. That dwindled to a freelancer, then a go-when-you-can staffer, then let-the-AP-handle-it. That’s no way to cover anything.

What the hell just happened in Nebraska? I’m still puzzled, although I think I get it: GOP corrections reform meets Democrats’ traditional opposition to capital punishment. Amazing.

Wednesday I was walking to lunch with my colleagues, and a large semi crossed our path, the side emblazoned, “Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour.” She plays at Ford Field on Saturday. That is one long setup. I’ve said many times I would rather see two guys play guitar in a smoky nightclub than go to your average stadium/arena show, and that stands. Tickets for “general admission standing” for her “B stage” — I expect that’s the one where she walks a plank into the audience and gives low-fives to the clamoring minions — are $200. Nosebleed is $50, most others well north of there. Yikes.

Oh, and Basset, I used Coastal for my last eyeglass purchase, but I knew what I wanted and what looks good on me. YMMV. Good luck.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Popculch | 92 Comments
 

Clams on the side.

My local fish market had a cooking class last night, and I jumped in at the last minute. The theme? Grilling. The temperature? Mid-50s. We ate grilled shrimp and grilled scallops, grilled clams and grilled tuna and grilled swordfish. There were some pickled vegetables and, to top everything off, a nice fish taco, made with grilled cod. Didn’t learn too much new, but got some new flavor ideas. My cooking has been blah lately, mainly because I feed an indifferent teenager and a husband whose arrival in the evenings can range from 7 to 9 p.m., or even later, and I’m not feelin’ it, cooking-wise. There is a strong temptation to stock the fridge with cold cuts and tell the world to learn to make sandwiches.

This will help. The weekend temperatures might even get over 70! Woo.

Let’s skip to the bloggage, then. Because the weekend is something I kinda need right now.

I run hot and cold on Jezebel, but with the fallout from the UVA false-rape disaster still falling, someone there needs to take some deep breaths before publishing stuff like this, a supportive (and anonymous) piece by a friend of the girl who dragged her mattress, her RAPE MATTRESS in case you didn’t read any of the twelve million stories about it, around Columbia University, culminating with dragging it across the stage at graduation this week. Here is her gripping tale of sexual assault, by the same man who allegedly assaulted mattress girl:

The incident happened my junior year at Columbia, when Paul followed me upstairs at a party, came into a room with me uninvited, closed the door behind us, and grabbed me. I politely said, “Hey, no, come on, let’s go back downstairs.” He didn’t listen. He held me close to him as I said no, and continued to pull me against him. I pushed him off and left the room quickly. I told a few friends and my boyfriend at the time how creepy and weird it was. I tried to find excuses for his behavior. I did a decent job of pushing it out of my mind.

Look. I am not condoning this behavior, but if I were, oh, say… a woman I knew in Fort Wayne who had a man climb through a window she left open on the hottest night of a hot summer, a man who held a knife to her throat and forced her to perform oral sex? If I were that woman, and read Anonymous’ story of being forcibly hugged, I would laugh bitterly in her face. Not that rape and assault has to be a game of one-upmanship, not at all. But the encounter she describes is something virtually every woman I know experienced at least once by the age of 19, and no one called it assault.

Something else published in Jezebel this week: My hot, consensual introduction to the rape fantasy romance novel.

What a confusing world we live in.

You want assault? I’ll show you (alleged) assault, quiverfull-style.

Time to hang things up for the weekend. Maybe some photo posts in the next few days? I’ll keep you posted. Ha.

Posted at 12:37 am in Popculch | 59 Comments
 

What do you press?

You know what you need this morning. A heapin’ helpin’ of butt-kickin’ FLOTUS.

I can do all those moves except…that plyometric bench-jumping — hate that one. Not much of a rope-skipper. I bench, but not that much. Maybe I should, so I could have the Obama Guns of Awesomeness. And if I tried a roundhouse kick like that, the next movement in the sequence would be the Abdominal Crunches While Clutching Pain-Screaming Knee.

I’m going to miss the Obamas. Can you imagine a partner in the current crop of POTUS wannabes who would do this? Or this? Hardly.

A long last few days, but ahead us lies the sweet sweet weekend. Boat’s in the water, graduation is bearing down on us and the light in the evenings goes on and on. If only it would stop being so fucking cold. I keep washing my fleece pullover, promising it’s about to go into the closet until the cool days of fall. But the cold days of fall WON’T GIVE THE HELL UP.

I keep looking at a little stew pot of notes I made on accents we heard on our brief trip south, but can’t make anything of it. We stopped for lunch in Tennessee, after a long haul of not-stopping since somewhere in Ohio. That takes you past the Ma’am Line, i.e., the place where a woman of 26 is called “ma’am” by clerks and fast-food servers. We didn’t stop for fast food, but at some non-chain country-style place where I could order an item called Pulled Pork Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and did.

Some women were talking at the next table. It was a going-away lunch for someone who was retiring, and she expressed some anxiety about what was next. Her table mate told her to pray on it.

“He will nivver lead you as-try,” she said. I recalled my friend’s grandmother, who hailed from the tidewater Virginia region. She would have added some syllables: “He will ne-vuh lead you as-tray-uh.” And people think all southerners sound the same.

Some bloggage for y’all? Sure:

This was the most interesting thing I read in last Sunday’s NYT — a profile of a couple from Flint who are now the highest-earning in publishing. They write “street lit,” ie., some pretty unreadable stuff that nevertheless sells like crazy:

Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

A confession: Years ago, I stumbled across an amateur porn site and spent an hour paging through the photos, looking at the home decorating details and items on the bookshelves. So of course I am a sucker to know what was on Osama bin Laden’s bookshelves when the SEALS pulled his card. No novels, alas, and at least one volume of the Bob Woodward oeuvre. Bummer.

Tom and Lorenzo’s final Mad Style was a great and fitting tribute to the series, and you should read it.

Today is Thursday. How’d that happen?

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 46 Comments
 

You’re going out in that?

If it’s prom season, it must be time for the annual what’s-with-these-girls-and-their-hoochie-mama-dresses story, here in the New York Times and here on Gothamist, which has the distinct advantage of an array of photos showing a range of hoochie-mama dresses so we can all judge them.

Frankly, they’re pretty hoochie, but I think we all know that’s the trend. Right, Bey? Kim? Jenny? Or, to summon a role model closer to high-school age, Mylie. Can’t forget Rihanna, the OG of the naked dress.

So you can’t blame girls for wanting to dress like the famous ladies, and given that most of them don’t have Donatella Versace on speed-dial, they have to find these styles at far lower price points, which means they’re even hoochier than usual.

All I have to say is this: Thank GOD my daughter has no interest in going to the prom. Not that she’d be caught dead in these ghastly frocks; she’s way too modest.

Of course, the story is about whether schools should be imposing vague dress codes for prom, then deciding, after the money’s been spent on dresses and alterations, that a particular specimen won’t fly. Here’s the guideline for Kate’s prom: “The dress code will be strictly enforced: formal attire, NO TWO PIECES DRESSES, no plunging neck lines, sides or backs, if we deem too low etc you will be given a t-shirt to wear over your dress. Please feel free to bring a picture if you have concerns, PLEASE be sure to tell your guest this information, no exceptions.”

I was mystified by the no-two-pieces (sic) rule, until I figured it out: That’s how you show off your belly.

So, I’m watching Celebrity Jeopardy right now, thinking what I always do: Man, celebrities iz dumb. When an NFL player (Aaron Rodgers) is the runaway winner, you know…something, anyway.

Bloggage: Too stubborn to buy health insurance, he’s now going blind. Who should save his eyesight? WHO SHOULD SAVE YOUR EYESIGHT, DUMMY?

A lawsuit follows the Rolling Stone false rape story. One of many, I expect.

Now I think I’m gonna shoe-shop online. I don’t need shoes, but hey — everybody can window-shop at Zappo’s.

Be good, and happy Wednesday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 65 Comments
 

Rubbed the right way.

You know what I haven’t had since…March 1996? A massage. You know what I’ve been promising myself I’d get just as soon as the pace slowed just a tad? I finally did it, the day before Mother’s Day. My present to myself.

And it was, well, have you ever had a bad massage? I guess it’s possible — you wouldn’t get me to try rolfing or anything — but it’s sort of like what Woody Allen said about orgasms: Every one was right on the money. Not that I’ve had all that many, but a good one can almost make me gibber incoherently. Once I was sitting in a salon with my hair in foil wrappers, gettin’ the lights turned on y’know, and a guy came around and asked if I’d like a free hand massage. I’m sure he was selling the miracle cream he used to do it, but I said yes and simply couldn’t keep up with his small talk, because my head was nearly lolling with pleasure. It was sort of embarrassing.

Anyway, I bravely opted for a masseur (the boy kind) and he was very respectful, but what else would you expect? Anyway, I’ve decided that if a boob slips out here or there, he’s seen a million others. He said my back was a mass of knots. I could have told him that.

How was your weekend? It was a pleasant M-day, and Kate and I went to the art museum to see the Diego-and-Frida exhibit, which was pretty great, but overcrowded. I was delighted by the large-scale sketches of the Rivera murals, as well as the Kahlo paintings, which were smaller and more powerful than I expected. I can’t imagine what it must have been inside a marriage of two talents like that, but they certainly made some great art in Detroit.

Some good bloggage this weekend, so without further blabbing:

The president visited the 50th state this weekend, and it happens to be one that loathes him. (South Dakota.) Nevertheless, this happened:

Most in the crowd, which was now three or four people deep, were die-hard Republicans and had little love for this president. “I wonder if he’s a Christian sometimes,” said Kristi Maas, 47, who owns a small hair salon in town. Just the thought was “scary” to her, she said. “He wants to take prayer out of everything. . . . Isn’t this country supposed to be based on religion?” Heads nodded around her.

…The crowd drifted slowly away. As she walked back to her car with her sister, Maas was already reconsidering her opinion of the man who minutes earlier she had believed maybe wasn’t a Christian — the man she worried was ruining the country.

… When Obama was done, the bar erupted in applause. A woman sitting in the smoking room by the video poker machines had begun crying.

“Most of the time I could care less what he’s talking about,” said Jason Hollatz, 37-year-old farmer. “Are all Obama’s speeches like that?”

A good read. You wonder what this country might be like without the propaganda factories making bank off people in South Dakota.

My husband has a thing for smart women in glasses, and I think he loves Tina Fey most of all. Here’s one reason.

Finally, a picture I took at the state capital on Friday. Remember when we were kids, and our parents might take a roll or two of photos of us over the course of maybe a year? Now it’s a roll a day.

capitolsteps

Oh, one final note: We watched “Welcome to Me” on iTunes, which wasn’t great but was a long way from terrible — a comedy in which Kristin Wiig plays a woman who wins the lottery and uses the money to launch her own vanity talk show called guess-what. It might be the ultimate commentary on Selfie Nation. Maybe one of the kids in that picture will grow up to do the same.

Happy week ahead, all!

Posted at 12:31 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 25 Comments
 

No cold pizza here.

Did I just say I had some breathing room at work? I don’t have it Tuesday night. There was an election today, there was but one question on the ballot, but it was the one I’ve been writing about for a month, so I have to handle the follow-up. (Or, as we journalists like to put it in our internal memos: the “folo.”)

I’m writing this about an hour after the polls closed, and this question is going down like (insert fast-falling imagery here). Like a rock in a pond. Like a plane with one wing. Like a whore at a bachel– never mind. I haven’t seen a margin slimmer than 75-25 percent yet. Well, anyone could see it coming. I’ve never seen internet comments quite like the ones on this issue, seething rage from left to right, all of it directed at a legislature that simply couldn’t get anything done, even in a lame-duck session (important in Michigan, because of our term limits).

They got this thing done at 5 a.m. on the last day of the session. And this is what happened. Back to the old drawing board, boys and girls.

One quick note before I get on this conference call with the Democratic leadership: You “Mad Men” fans who’re watching the final episodes may have an opinion on the sexual-harassment plot line in the latest one. Hanna Rosin did:

…this episode depended on some pretty crudely-drawn enemies. The bros at McCann were like guys you usually encounter only on workplace training videos about sexual harassment.

You want to know how much things have changed since the c-1970 period depicted there? Look at that observation by Rosin, who almost certainly was an infant at the time. I had a friend whose boss literally chased her around the desk, and when she complained, she was transferred, but the boss, deemed too valuable to the company, was left in place, a new assistant dropped in to amuse him. So was it bad then? I was years away from entering the workforce, but it was bad when I did a decade later, so I have no problem believing what Joan Harris was fictionally enduring up on the screen.

Many of you readers went through this. Tell some stories. Me, I gotta hoover up some quotes.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 43 Comments
 

Trending!

Since I lost weight I’ve been buying new clothes, and while I’ve never been a fashion plate and have no interest of becoming one, it is fun to look at fashion magazines and websites again and see what’s going on out there. I can report a few headlines and my own reactions:

The ’70s are back, big-time. I keep hearing that wide-legged denim is here again, and so just pack those skinny jeans up and throw them in the trash, because BELLS, BABY. As I age, there are very few things I am certain of, but one is: Not going back to wide-legged denim. I only recently bought some skinnies, but then, I live far from fashion’s nerve center. Around here, jeans and a Detroit-themed T-shirt will take you everywhere but the symphony, and probably there, too.

Anyway, no elephant bells, and I’m also going to let trendier people discover the styles of the ’70s, most of which I couldn’t purge from my closet fast enough when the ’80s finally came along. (You know what I loved best about the ’80s? All of a sudden it was all about natural fibers. Linen, cotton — man, was that a relief.)

That said, I found this interesting: Google’s predictions of spring fashion trends, based on what people are searching for. To my relief, wide-legged jeans are not on the list, but skinnies are in “seasonal decline.” Also declining: One-shoulder dresses — perfect, because I just bought one. Waist trainers? On the way up. (I think it’s a 50-shades thing.) Normcore? Outta here.

It’s a good time to be a middle-aged woman whose basic outfit is jeans, T-shirts and nothing with too much color.

A little bloggage? I think we can do that.

Here’s a profile I wrote of a high-profile tea partier in the Michigan House, but the link won’t go live until 6 a.m. Be advised.

Riots in Baltimore, but you probably already knew that. Mr. Lippman weighs in, too.

Waiting tables always seemed like pretty sucky work to me, and it is, but every so often you get a good customer. A few of those stories.

Off to bed.

Posted at 12:36 am in Current events, Popculch | 54 Comments