It was her party.

A shame about Lesley Gore — how the hell did this woman, whom I associate with the early ’60s girl-singer moment of sheath dresses and sprayed bouffants — come to be only 11 years old than me? Either I’m aging faster or she was the Lorde of her day.

I guess she was the Lorde of her day.

Something I did not know: She was a lesbian. No wonder she sounded so confident when it was Judy’s turn to cry. (Check out those Mondrian shifts on her background singers! I wonder if those were original YSL, or knockoffs. Either way: Specto-freakin’-tacular.)

You know who else was a lesbian ’60s girl singer? Dusty Springfield, although that link will take you to a piece about her life with this obnoxious lead:

Call me a crazy old physiognomist, but my theory is that you can always spot a lesbian by her big thrusting chin. Celebrity Eskimo Sandi Toksvig, Ellen DeGeneres, Jodie Foster, Clare Balding, Vita Sackville-West, God love them: there’s a touch of Desperate Dan in the jaw-bone area, no doubt the better to go bobbing for apples.

It is thus a tragedy that Dusty Springfield’s whole existence was blighted by her orientation, which explains ‘the silence and secrecy she extended over much of her life, and her self-loathing’. One glance at her chin should have revealed all — but the Sixties was not a fraction as liberated and swinging as people now assume.

Oh, blow me. Although the story isn’t terrible. I’ve been thinking of Dusty lately, ever since one of Kate’s homemade CD mixes revealed “Son of a Preacher Man.” I thought mainly she’d picked it up from “Pulp Fiction,” but she said it was for a friend who had decided this was the Best Song Ever, and made the entire car fall silent whenever it came on.

Well, it is a great song.

Some bloggage: My stories (and my partner Ted Roelofs’ stories) on what we’re calling “poverty in paradise,” i.e. the widening gap between the well-to-do and the left-behind, start running today in Bridge. Part one goes live around 6 a.m. EST, so if you’re reading this afterward, feel free to click on part one. Gracias.

I know I’m late to this, but I thought this piece on the online shaming that followed a single ill-advised tweet was very, very good.

Today I discovered it is, indeed, possible to get to an ISIS beheading video in three clicks. I don’t recommend it.

Have a great Tuesday, all y’all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media, Popculch | 81 Comments
 

Your dirty uncle.

So, the Dirty Show. It’s been going on since we’ve lived here, but this was our first time going. John Waters was the draw, of course – we’ve both been fans for a while, Alan of his movies and me of his post-Hairspray persona as this cuddly post-smutmeister who keeps telling people what a smutmeister he is.

His one-man show is raw, but also funny, which makes the raw go down easy. “What ever happened to pubic hair? I went to court to show bush. Now no one has one.” He talks about his parents a lot. He talks about assholes (the real ones, the ones we all have). He talks about his projects; when I heard his Hairspray-sequel TV series, currently in development hell, is called “White Lipstick,” I knew he would get it all right. He manages to come across as a perv and your favorite uncle all at the same time.

Afterward, he did a signing that went on for hours and hours. Everybody got a picture. We didn’t participate, as we were busy touring the rest of show, trying to find the pearls among an awful lot of bad oysters. It’s not that I find the human body artless, it’s just that you have to do more with it than just show me a big red dick. And dicks were scarce compared to the seemingly endless parade of tits ‘n’ vulvas. The sideshows were more interesting, including a touring burlesque show featuring a dwarf stripper and a man whose whole act was a hymn to the hot dog. There was also one of those gymnasts who performs aloft suspended and entwined in a long length of cloth, whatever they’re called. At first I thought she was nude, but after she came down I saw she was wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit with the anatomy spray painted on, and quite well.

Really, the only thing left to the imagination was why so many women into baroque lingerie, especially corsetry, are overweight.

I only saw one piece I could take home, a sketch that looked like a bunch of birds of paradise flowers but turned out to be, yes, more vulvas. But it was clever. And alas, it had a red “sold” sticker on it.

The rest of the weekend was half fun, half duty — a wedding, plus FAFSA and related forms. The wedding was at the National Shrine of the Little Flower, better known as Father Coughlin’s old church. Which is spectacular. Fr. Coughlin was the original Rush Limbaugh, and had quite the career until the diocese reined him in. The church has a theater-in-the-round thing going on; the first guests weren’t sure where to sit, but we all figured it out. The bride was beautiful, the groom flubbed some hand-holding instructions and we all went out to face the cold front howling in. Current temperature: 2 below, and the night has only begun.

Let’s hope we get a little relief by the end of the week, but I’m not hopeful.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Fifty shades.

The other day I fell into a rabbit hole. It’s easy to do online. You follow one link, then another, then another and soon you’re looking at something like this, amusingly titled “Why Kindles Can Wreck Your Marriage”:

Look, I think sharing “sexy” thoughts with one’s husband, and flirting, and playing together is all pretty great. I am not against sexual play or sexual fun at all. But when we use something outside of marriage to get aroused, we’re transferring our sexual energy from our spouse. And if you then have sex with your spouse after getting aroused some other way, it becomes increasingly difficult to “be present” when you make love. Your mind starts to focus on what you were reading, not on your husband. And that’s not really making love.

This is an argument, I should clarify, against reading romance novels.

I’ve been around certain extremely Christian Christians enough to understand this is their definition of marriage: Two pythons tying themselves into knots, all the while proclaiming the unique strength of their bond, which was after all given by GOD HIMSELF. And in many cases I don’t even think it’s so awful; I think if people paid less attention to their children and more to their marriages, the children would take care of themselves. But at the same time, it makes me understand why they have higher divorce rates than the rest of us, too. A hug can feel like smothering if it goes on too long. And face it, does anyone want to live in a world where you can’t imagine Clive Owen with his pants off from time to time?

What prompted all this is “Fifty Shades of Gray,” a book I haven’t read and a movie I won’t see, at least until it comes around on Netflix and I’m sick with the flu or something. But judging from some of the social-media chatter I’ve seen lately, it appears to have unhinged a segment of the religious among us, who cannot be convinced that the vast majority of BDSM relationships are a) consensual; and b) no big deal. Personally? I don’t want to be spanked as a prelude to sex, but I understand others do, and I don’t think it qualifies as mental illness.

One of those things you inevitably read in any profile of a sex worker who specializes in this stuff is some version of: “Some of my most loyal clients are very powerful men.” It’s like: Duh. You spend all day influencing global exchange rates or lowering the tax bills of multinational corporations or bringing 747s in for a safe landing? Maybe you welcome a safe space where you can lay down that burden, have your hands cuffed to a bed frame and hear some lady in leather tell you what a bad, bad boy you’ve been.

As for women, well, we run the whole damn world, at least the part that involved getting dinner on the table and kids off to school and cookies made for a church bake sale. You don’t have to have aced Psych 101 to see why all those ladies made a bestseller out of a terribly written book that featured a woman who is blindfolded and restrained, so that her lover can fiddle with her: Oh, you mean I don’t have to run this show? Kind, kind sir!

The rougher stuff is a different breed of cat, but hey — as long as everyone’s clear on the boundaries and knows the safe word? Who cares.

Meanwhile, David Edelstein says the movie’s not so bad. And what a surprise:

The movie’s biggest surprise is its powerful affirmation of family values. It’s Jane Eyre with ropes. That this vanilla bean has been denounced by religious decency brigades while female churchgoers pleasure themselves over advance tickets is further proof of America’s insane cultural bifurcation — or trifurcation, if you count the worriers who predict that women’s shelters will have to add more beds to accommodate battered copycats. Are there really people who still think that watching a man tie up a woman and both of them get off is the gateway to hell?

Yeah, that sounds about right. This is Hollywood, after all. Meanwhile, I add this phenomenon to the list of Things I Am Not, Nor Ever Will Be, Into, which includes the “Sex and the City” movies, Uggs and the novels of Nicholas Sparks.

Some bloggage? OK:

This profile of young Scott Walker, college dropout, is essential reading for those who want to know more about him. As Hank said on Facebook, there’s a version of this guy on every college campus.

As we’re closing in on V-Day and I mentioned it above, this Esther Perel TED talk on maintaining desire in a long-term relationship is pretty damn smart, and a phenom all its own. Bonus: If you watch it, you pretty much have the gist of her book.

Back to edits. Have a great Thursday.

Posted at 8:51 am in Movies, Popculch | 36 Comments
 

Always look on the bright side.

Quite an evocative photo from my former workplace, which I stole from a friend’s Facebook page. Behold:

positive

Note: That is not the actual winner of the Positive Attitude Award. That is my friend Emma, who used to work there but doesn’t any longer. I’m told the actual winner of the Positive Attitude Award left the company before the year of primo parking was up, and got a better job. Outstanding.

There are two kinds of bosses in the world, I think: Those who think awards like this are a totally great idea and a swell motivator of the workforce, and all the rest. We could fill a shelf of books with stories of both, but mainly the first kind. I’m frankly amazed why so few sense the weird, Soviet vibe of such a designation, but Fort Wayne Newspapers always had a rich vein of that stuff running through it. So did Knight-Ridder, may it rest in pieces, which once rolled out a chain-wide initiative aimed at customer satisfaction. “We’re obsessed with it!” an editor wrote, suggesting he wasn’t entirely clear on the concept of obsession.

Anyway, it was all for naught. Budget cuts, more budget cuts, still more budget cuts, a sale, even more budget cuts and finally – the Positive Attitude Award. This is how American capitalism ends, folks.

Not that I am bitter!

So, I started a new book this weekend, an impulse buy on the Kindle: “400 Things Cops Know.” I remember picking up a similar book from a free pile years ago, with a similar title, and emerging from a blinking fog hours later. You can dive in and not surface, or just nibble at random, and it taught me a new bit of jargon: You know what you call a perp’s butt crack and/or rectum? A “prison wallet.” I’m sorry, it just makes me giggle.

Other things I learned today: The passing of Cat Fancy magazine tracks with the watershed in feline culture in recent years, from purebred fluffy Persians to internet cat culture of LOLcats and Caturday and Grumpy Cat and my favorite, Henri, le chat noir.

How was all y’all’s weekend? Bill Bonds died here, and as I’ve always said, the mourning over long-running TV personalities is not yours to indulge in when you’re a transplant to a city. I’m sure I already missed the passings of the various TV personalities of my youth. Luci of Luci’s Toyshop, Flippo the Clown, Bob Braun – all gone to the great beyond. But Bonds was special, or so they say. An early version of the Freep mentioned that his career was “derailed” by alcohol, true enough but a hell of a load to put in the first sentence of a man’s obit. He was on TV here for 30 years; surely there was more to him than a dapper drunk.

Hope everyone’s week will be stellar.

Posted at 8:20 pm in Media, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

You just don’t hear Li’l Kim much these days.

I’ve been absent a couple of days, yes. (Insert the usual excuses.) And I would have posted something last night, but I went out on a rare Tuesday night to see Doggy Style, which I guess you’d call a gay bar popup in an otherwise straight bar. It’s very informal; sometime after 9:15 you look around, and everyone’s a handsome man. The bar TV system switches to a mix of campy old videos, including a montage of Joan Collins-Linda Evans catfights from “Dynasty,” Vanity 6, Li’l Kim, the Scissors Sisters and miscellaneous Euro-popsters from the ’80s with Flock of Seagulls hairdos.

But it was a warm place on a cold night, so there it is. And I worked at home all day, so it was nice to get out.

Meanwhile, thanks to Roy, who for some reason tracks right-wing bloggers, for finding this National Review appreciation of Glen Larson, recently deceased creator of a lot of bad ’70s/’80s television, including “Quincy, ME.” (The ME stood for medical examiner, as we all know from watching CSI, right?)

The writer singles out “Next Stop Nowhere,” a landmark Quincy investigation into the dangers of punk rock. It’s amusing because I know someone whose parents dumped his punk records (“including a few 7-inches that are worth something now”) into the trash compactor after viewing this alarming episode. Today, it looks as ludicrous as it would have to most people who weren’t your parents back then. But the National Review, god bless ‘em, doubles down:

Made long after social causes of the week and Klugman’s penchant for soppy lecturing had begun to capsize the series, the fabled punk rock episode serves as an ironic touchstone for aging hipsters keen to remember when they were all scary and hilarious. On a fresh viewing, however, “Next Stop Nowhere” paints a fully true picture of punk rockers as they really were: deceitful social predators who wouldn’t think twice about framing you for murder and forcing you into a codeine overdose.

Forced into a codeine overdose! So that’s what really killed Sid and Nancy.

What kind of echo chamber do people live in to write this stuff?

Two inches of snow allegedly arriving today. I know that’s nothing to you guys in Buffalo, but here? It’s 18 degrees and I’m not looking forward to the solstice, still a month away.

A good day to all.

On edit: I can’t let today pass without noting it’s the 10-year anniversary of this hilarious event:

Alan had just accepted his job here, and we were preparing to move. We laughed maniacally over this event, and hoped our new home would always be this exciting. It hasn’t let us down yet. Detroit! This is why I love you! You’re never, ever boring.

Posted at 8:58 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments
 

Come and sit by me.

How do we feel about “co-working,” friends? Or has the hyphen been dropped entirely by now? In which case: How do we feel about coworking?

I think we need to keep the hyphen. Autocorrect tried to make that “cowering.”

I ask because co-working is the new dance craze that’s sweepin’ the nation. When Bridge was setting up its Detroit office, we looked at a couple of them. My boss asked only that it not be a place where if you stepped away from your desk for a minute you risked being run over by a hipster on a skateboard. We went through a couple, and they were beautiful places, but we couldn’t make them work, or co-work.

For starters, we needed at least a little privacy, and this seems to run contrary to the ethic of co-working. While there were lots of cubbies and cul-de-sacs and other places where you could make a phone call demanding the abortion money without too much risk of being eavesdropped upon, the co-working office where you can lock away your computer monitor, keep a private copier and a file cabinet or two wasn’t easy to find. No one really wanted to modify their lovingly restored reclaimed-wood loft into cubicles with locking doors, because hey! It’s CO-WORKING, not a bunch of veal-fattening pens. Get with the program.

The program, as near as I could tell via direct observation, was sitting at long tables staring into a laptop, feeding off the collective energy in the room. Bikes parked right next to your desk. An office kitchen with a few local craft brews in the fridge, takeout menus in the drawers. Funky signage. Funky everything. Maybe some old photos from the ’20s silkscreened, in heroic scale, on the walls. A few office dogs.

We ended up in a plain old traditional office with a locking door. I still park my bike near my desk. But every time a new co-working space opens, and the local Curbed website runs a shitload of photos, I feel a little bereft. I bet I’d like hanging there.

What am I thinking? In a month, they’d hold a vote and kick me out, after my third announcement to the room: SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTERS AND GO MEET SOME GIRLS, PEOPLE.

It does make you wonder how the office of the future will look. I’d much rather work in one of these places than in most of the offices I’ve endured, including the one in my spare bedroom. Cube life isn’t good for anyone.

So. Today the big time-waster on social media was the remarkable photos of ex-Tiger Prince Fielder, nude, published in ESPN magazine. I found myself poring over them, for no reason even approaching prurient. I just liked marveling at the size of the guy’s legs. There was a lot of talk of “eye bleach” and “things you can’t unsee” from the guys, a few clicks will take you to Venus Williams and her astounding booty. Plus many other sculpted athletes, all tastefully nekkid. Go waste some time of your own.

Me, I’m going to bed. I had a class tonight called Yoga Flex that taught me an important lesson: Yoga and weight-lifting are both fine workouts, but they really shouldn’t marry. It’ll never work out.

Happy Hump Day, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 66 Comments
 

The ageless.

I wouldn’t see “Tammy” at gunpoint, but this passage from David Edelstein’s review is amusing:

The setup is promising, but the casting is … what’s that word again? Off. McCarthy is 43, Janney 52, and Sarandon 66 going on 40. Seriously, Sarandon is more gorgeous than she has been in any film since Bull Durham, a quarter-century ago. She doesn’t begin to compute as a granny who’s one foot from an old-age home, and she’s so serenely assured a comedian that she steals every scene.

What is the trick to being Susan Sarandon? I’ve been watching her in movies since “Atlantic City” in 1980, and she only gets better and sexier with age. Didn’t she leave Tim Robbins a few years back for an even younger man? Attagirl. Don’t go gently into that good night.

So. We’re headed into the weekend for sure, and I can tell because my neighborhood resounds with the sound of explosions and it’s…ridiculously cool outside, for July. Friday’s high is supposed to barely top 70. While that sounds OK to me, it is distinctly unseasonal.

I plan to enjoy it.

I wish I had more bloggage, but the world is taking a long weekend, so maybe I will, too. Who is Susan Sarandon’s skin guy? Send him to me.

And have a great weekend. Some photo posts later, I think.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 35 Comments
 

Cut the cake.

It’s summer, the world outside is lovely and we all want to step away from our computers more, but sometimes you have to work, and you have a down moment or three, and maybe you found yourself watching this, a short video on how you’re cutting your cakes wrong:

If you don’t have time to watch the thing, here’s the gist: There’s a right way and a wrong way to cut cake. Allegedly. The wrong way is the “pie” way, whereby you cut triangular slices from the center. This is wrong — allegedly — because the exposed cake gets dry. Um, OK. And so this guy, drawing on some supposedly ancient text of cake-cutting written by a mathematician, proposes a system that requires some fairly fancy knife work and — I shit you not — rubber bands.

Only a mathematician could come up with something that dumb, or find dry cake — a phenomenon I’ve never noticed with cakes, maybe because they don’t last that long in our house — a problem that needs to be solved.

That said, my mother had her own method.

She took the cake and isolated a quadrant, then cut four slices or so out of it, parallel to one another. I’d make a diagram, but lack the graphic-design skills. I hated this method because the outside piece got tons of icing, and the rest, not so much. As the young person, I rarely got the icing piece, which was reserved for the guest. Yes, it’s my own version of “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait.” Seen here:

When I got older, I vowed that every cake I made would be cut in an egalitarian style, where everyone got an equal amount of icing, except for special cases — like getting the buttercream rose. And dammit, I have stood by this.

Since we’re on an eating theme and a video theme, here you go, one more, the gluten-free duck:

And just to snap us out of our video-cake reverie, how about that Indiana? Wedding cakes for all, cut however you damn well please.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Vocab test.

I think I set a land-speed record today. At 7:42 a.m. I was a sweaty post-workout mess, and by 8:20 I was dropping into my seat on the bus. In between: All the grooming/makeup/morning stuff. It seemed a good omen for the day, but most of it was spent sitting in a chair, with a brown-bag lunch. But it wasn’t a bad one, and for that I’m grateful, because who wouldn’t be.

Tonight is the Detroit fireworks, always a crapshoot. If you’re lucky enough to have a prime viewing spot — by which, I mean “access to a high office suite or loft with a good view or maybe a roof” — it’s a pretty good time. If not, you run the risk of being hassled by police or, y’know, shot. Shot or trampled. I haven’t the former, so I left work a.s.a.p. after 5 p.m. and still got a little delayed by traffic. The older I get, the less I like crowds.

Of course, the best way to view fireworks is from a boat. Not this year.

Fireworks means it’s midsummer, right? Why doesn’t winter pass this quickly?

For bloggage, one thing I really found interesting: The gender gap in vocabulary, or 10 words that are most known by only one gender. I’m pleased to say I knew all of them, but was shy of definitions on only two, although I was pretty close; I knew a solenoid is something to do with electricity, and a dreadnought was a weapon. Close enough.

The actual vocabulary test — embedded here — is fascinating. I got 91 percent, and even though it’s at the top level, that’s not a brag. Nothing like a vocab test to tell you what you don’t know. It’s sort of insulting to think that most of the female-recognized words were about clothing (taffeta, bodice) and the men’s were about weaponry (dreadnought, claymore), but the world wouldn’t fall part with more bodices and fewer claymores in it, I guess.

How about some cooking notes? Been grilling a lot, of course. I keep meaning to do some pineapple and fruit projects, but the success of the summer has been spatchcock chicken, also known as a way to grill an entire chicken in under an hour. Our dinners tend to be scattershot these days — I never know when Alan will be home — so I’m all in favor of anything that can be fixed once and provide a lot of leftovers. One butterflied chicken = several meals. Big ups here. And it’s pretty and tasty.

And now, with Monday in the bag, time to turn in and get Tuesday under way.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments
 

Nuts to the flabby guys.

I didn’t watch the NBA championship series, but I heard about the new Apple commercial via other channels. It uses the Robert Preston song commonly known as “Chicken Fat.” You can watch it at the link.

I know a lot of us here are boomers, and we were the first audience for this record. They played it on the radio (occasionally), in gym class (ditto) and on the local morning kids’ show, “Luci’s Toyshop” (often). Somehow a copy ended up in my possession, and the last time I remember following its instructions – touch down, up! Every morning, 10 times! Not just now and then… – was in high school, goofing around with my friend Jeff Clark.

The next day, I was sore in the hamstrings. Those toe touches can be murder if you’re not warmed up.

Anyway, the song was sort of a curiosity, but everyone knew about it. Which is why it’s so amusing to read the current reaction to it. That Slate story called it “strange.” Adweek mentioned its “odd history.” Daily Kos did the same.

I guess it’s come to this: We are now weird grandparents, with our funny 23-skidoo pop-culture memories. One minute you’re at Woodstock, the next you’re stinking up the room with your adult diaper and everybody’s reminiscing about Michael J. Fox.

OK. But I always liked the Chicken Fat song. It reminds me of a time when getting in shape was mainly about touching your toes and running in place. As if.

So, I read this story about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the New Republic this afternoon. It has conservatives in a tizzy, because it basically argues that Walker has benefitted from an enormously segregated Milwaukee metro area. It’s depressing, particularly in the details about the role talk radio plays in the area; just the first three paragraphs want to make you open a vein, but honestly, it’s not so different from what talk radio has always been. (Rush Limbaugh made the theme from “The Jeffersons” the background music for his Carol Moseley Braun updates, but hey — his producer is black, so no racism!) And I’ve admired a lot of public figures in my life, but never like this:

Walker’s only overt enthusiasms appear to be his Harley Davidson motorcycle and Ronald Reagan. He and Tonette married on Reagan’s birthday, and every year they celebrate their wedding anniversary / Reagan’s birthday by serving the Gipper’s favorite dishes, such as macaroni-and-cheese casserole and red, white, and blue jelly beans.

I encourage you to read it. It’s not all jelly beans and racism; some of the voter-turnout numbers from the suburbs are frankly astonishing.

So, what else do we have today? A story out of Indiana, in which a young mother, just 24 but already with three children, sticks her head out the window of a moving vehicle to barf, hits it on something and, of course, dies. Because life is tough in Mishawaka, and there’s nothing else to do.

Finally, this:

Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011.

Oh, shut up.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 41 Comments