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
 

Don’t ever change, Cleveland.

Dammit, I always miss the big anniversaries. First I missed June 3 and a chance to blog about “Ode to Billy Jo,” and now this: The 40th anniversary of the Cleveland Indians’ 10-cent beer night fiasco was Wednesday.

Fortunately, Michael Heaton remembered — he’d better — and brings us a Q-and-A with Dan Coughlin, a Plain Dealer sportswriter who covered it in 1974:

Q. When did it turn from silly to nasty?

A. Late in the game fans started throwing cherry bombs on top of the Rangers’ dugout. That’s when things got menacing. A fan ran out and grabbed Ranger player Jeff Burroughs’ hat. Burroughs went to kick the kid and fell. From the dugout Billy Martin thought his player had been attacked. That’s when the whole Ranger team charged the field with bats. The Indians even defended the Rangers as a form of professional courtesy. The game was called then because fans had stolen all three bases. The game couldn’t continue.

Alcohol and drunkenness is not inherently funny, but every time I read about this dark day, I crack up. Fans literally stole the bases. A woman ran onto the field and flashed her breasts, and a father-son team did a double moon, then slid into second base. That’s funny.

I read a deeper dive on this a few years ago, from the bloggers at Lawyers, Guns & Money, which provides some historic context:

The 1960s and 1970s were an awful time for northern Ohio, as the departure of heavy industry and the frenzied flight of white residents to the suburbs helped cut the city’s population nearly in half from its post-World War II high of 900,000. By 1974, Cleveland was five years past the infamous Cuyahoga River chemical fire and four years from declaring bankruptcy. For those who were able to struggle out of bed on June 4, the opportunity to drown in cheap alcohol must have seemed like an instance of divine intervention.

I’m a little wary of throwing the Grand Sweep of History into these things, but they’re right about the preceding years not being kind to the region. The detail about the Kent State shootings in 1970 that only locals remember was the wildcat Teamsters strike that the Ohio National Guard had only recently been called off of. It was a nasty one, with striking truckers dropping heavy objects onto Guard convoys from highway overpasses. From that exhausting duty, the troops were called out to police student demonstrations at Kent. So: Deindustrialization, white flight, urban decay, the national shame of a student slaughter. To this, just add beer; what could possibly go wrong?

Not funny, I know.

Even less funny: A beer in today’s MLB facility will cost you about $8.

And I should also add that despite today’s headline, I like Cleveland very much. I always have a good time there.

OK, so: I must rush today and crash a deadline on the book project, but I have one thing I want you to look at, completely without comment from moi. The photo is set for Public on Facebook, so I’m hoping you can all click through to see three Michigan legislators showing how well they understand women.

A great weekend to all, and I’ll be less-crushed on the other side.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 42 Comments
 

Big doctor is watching.

I think I mentioned a few times that I received a Misfit Shine for Christmas — it’s a “wearable,” the latest thing for fitness/health nerds. You put it somewhere on your body, and it tracks your activity level. It sounds simultaneously Orwellian and narcissistic, but I have to say, it got me through the winter and reminded me many times that it wouldn’t hurt to take the stairs. Of a thousand little modifications is a 10-pound weight loss made.

Of course, such a silly-sounding item does have its detractors. I’ll admit it’s silly, but it’s my kind of silly. I need an extra boot in the ass. The longer I live, the more I think the most important lesson is: Whatever works, works. Don’t ask too many questions if it’s working.

But. I’ve learned the Shine can be gamed. Wear it on different parts of your body, and it responds differently. If I tuck it into my bra, I get mad points — it interprets normal jiggling as the exertion of a sprinter. If I wear it on my wrist, it’s much more realistic. On a necklace sort of splits the difference.

All of which makes me wonder what might be coming, now that Apple’s unveiled Healthkit, a health-statistics tracking system that sounds positively Big Brother, except that it could conceivably also save your life.

From the advance look, it appears to do everything but stick a thermometer up your ass, and keeps track not only of the stuff it can read from a wearable — your pulse, temperature and the like — but also recent test results. (Your doctors will upload to the app. Theoretically, anyway.)

It’s simultaneously sort of cool and, frankly, a little frightening. This “cloud” we’re all trusting — what is it, really? Sort of like Jesus’ dad’s house — a place with many mansions, where our only hope is to have a health profile so boring and ordinary no one wants to tinker with it.

On the other hand, say you’re wearing an iWatch or whatever, and it detects a troublesome heart rhythm in your pulse hours before it drops you like a rock? It might be worth the invasion of your pulse-rate privacy, right?

Or it might just be a way to make sure that all your records are with the patient they’re supposed to follow. I doubt they are now.

So. A steamy day downtown today. I took a couple of walks and felt like I’d been misted with canola oil and grime. Summer is here. The children’s sandbox has been opened at Campus Martius Park:

beach

Enjoy it, kids. The real world is nothing like this, except when it is.

So tired, I might die. Talk tomorrow?

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 54 Comments
 

Eat the candy.

I’ve lost a bit of weight. Not much — I still have 12 pounds to go before the CDC no longer considers me overweight — but enough that my clothes don’t fit right anymore. As much fun as it is to be able to insert your fist between your stomach and waistband, it’s equally a pain to have to keep hitching your pants up. So I’ve been rewarding myself with a little shopping. The closeout place I like for cheap workout gear and this ‘n’ that has been throwing one of these into their delivery boxes:

candy

Speaking of losing weight. Let’s see if we can count all the silliness just on the front of the label. These are “dark chocolate covered real fruit juice pieces.” Please explain how juice, a liquid, can come in a “piece.” Then there’s the mysterious açai berry, which I’ve been seeing in my junk mail for a couple years now — apparently it’s a superfood, or a weight-loss aid, or something. But there’s blueberry in there, too; I have to assume it’s juice, so… this is a mixture of acai and blueberry juice, somehow pieced out and covered with dark chocolate. It’s a “natural source of flavanol antioxidants.” What is this stuff, anyway? It’s health-food candy. It’s not a Snickers bar, it has antioxidants! Antioxidants go in pursuit of free radicals in your body, which everybody knows are rilly, rilly bad. So eat the candy. Guilt-free.

It was tasty, I’ll give it that. Sixty-five calories.

Getting back to the CDC and its body-mass index, which has been criticized for being stupid and inaccurate: I’m going to keep trying to lose, but entirely without any pressure or expectation; the BMI is just a guideline. After years of being nauseated by my thighs (but not enough to lose my appetite), I’ve decided to accept them. I’ve said before that the truth of being female in this culture is, the body you hate today will be the one you wish you still had tomorrow, and I’m going to appreciate mine while it still works and is still relatively pain-free. Strength, flexibility, balance, fun — if it hits on at least three of those cylinders most of the time, I’m going to call it a good day.

Yoga helps with all of this, which may explain its popularity. But for someone like me and, maybe, you — those of us whose heads tend to go buzz buzz buzz all the livelong day — it provides a solid hour in which the sole command is: Pay attention. I have a couple of good teachers at the moment, who are gentle and kind and walk that careful yoga line between too little and too much woo-woo. The other day I was sitting in the deepest twist I could muster, concentrating on breathing and back muscles, and reflected that most of us pay attention to our stomachs and genitals and not much else. I’m willing to believe that breathing deeply in this twist somehow makes my internal organs happy. How can thousands of years of flexible little Indian dudes be entirely wrong?

I can’t get on the antioxidants bandwagon, but I will eat their candy when it comes along.

Sorry to be boring.

A little bloggage:

We’ve discussed the wedding-industrial complex here many times, but I thought this blog post from Esquire.com made an important point: As a proportion of wealth, the typical American wedding is far more expensive than the Kanye/Kardashian affair in Florence over the weekend. And then there’s this part:

The culture that demands a big wedding hurts the poor worst of all. In 2005’s “Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage,” Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas explained why even women who didn’t have much money wanted a lavish wedding. “Having the wherewithal to throw a ‘big’ wedding is a vivid display that the couple has achieved enough financial security to do more than live from paycheck to paycheck, a stressful situation that most believe leads almost inevitably to divorce. Hosting a “proper” wedding is a sign that the couple only plans to do it once, “given the obvious financial sacrifice.” This is the equivalent, financially, of cutting of your arm to demonstrate how strong you are. The needs of a big wedding also leads to poor people marrying later and less often than rich people, which brings with it a host of negative socioeconomic consequences.

Yup.

This man is a hero:

The father of a young man gunned down Friday during the rampage in Santa Barbara said he is asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Christopher Michaels-Martinez.

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down his face. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

If a few more people said that to a few more members of Congress, daily, things might change in Washington. Maybe.

Let’s go out on a bitter laugh; the Onion nails it with just the headline: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 25 Comments