Are you ready for a brand-new beat?

Making my way slowly through the 1619 project, discussed earlier. So far my favorite piece is Wesley Morris’, in the magazine, about music, and what black folks brought to the table, and continue to bring to the table, of American musical expression.

I’ve always disliked the term “cultural appropriation.” I get it, I totally do, but I’ve never been comfortable with trying to define how listening to lots of things, taking it all into your soul, processing it in your soul-blender and then pouring out your own smoothie crosses a line between “influenced by” and “stealing from.” I think a lot of people can’t do it, either, which is how we get the stupidest extremes of the charge — the Oberlin students whining that serving banh mi sandwiches in the cafeteria, made with the wrong kind of bread, somehow devalues the unique cuisine of Vietnam, to name but one. I try to ignore these stories, because they’re dumb. The banh mi itself is a unique fusion of native and colonial Vietnam, after all (the baguette), and sooner or later someone is going to fill one with macaroni and cheese, at which point, game over. It’s food, folks. It all goes in the same stomach, as my dad used to say.

Music is more difficult. If you know anything about pop culture, you know about Alan Lomax and his field recordings, which preserved the unique live sounds of black southern music for the ages, but also how that tipped over into the theft of same. You know about the routine contract rip-offs of black musicians; there was a reason the mob was involved in radio and music publishing, after all. You may have seen the “60 Minutes” feature on Little Richard, which featured Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” a recording that paid Richard Penniman the princely royalty of zero dollars and zero cents. The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin both got their start covering African-American music. The Stones grew into something else entirely, and you can argue that Led Zeppelin was absolutely sui generis from the get-go, but it was a necessary step in the evolution of both bands. And it was great music.

My point is, trying to separate black music from white music is like trying to separate black and white people. We cross-pollinate. It’s what people do.

Morris’ essay is wide-ranging, and doesn’t really address “appropriation,” that term that sounds like it came out of the Cultural Revolution. Nor does he address copyright, or Alan Lomax. Rather, he dives into the stew and comes out with something that’s just delicious to read. Here’s the top, a slightly longer cut-and-paste than I generally do:

I’ve got a friend who’s an incurable Pandora guy, and one Saturday while we were making dinner, he found a station called Yacht Rock. “A tongue-in-cheek name for the breezy sounds of late ’70s/early ’80s soft rock” is Pandora’s definition, accompanied by an exhortation to “put on your Dockers, pull up a deck chair and relax.” With a single exception, the passengers aboard the yacht were all dudes. With two exceptions, they were all white. But as the hours passed and dozens of songs accrued, the sound gravitated toward a familiar quality that I couldn’t give language to but could practically taste: an earnest Christian yearning that would reach, for a moment, into Baptist rawness, into a known warmth. I had to laugh — not because as a category Yacht Rock is absurd, but because what I tasted in that absurdity was black.

I started putting each track under investigation. Which artists would saunter up to the racial border? And which could do their sauntering without violating it? I could hear degrees of blackness in the choir-loft certitude of Doobie Brothers-era Michael McDonald on “What a Fool Believes”; in the rubber-band soul of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”; in the malt-liquor misery of Ace’s “How Long” and the toy-boat wistfulness of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing.”

Then Kenny Loggins’s “This Is It” arrived and took things far beyond the line. “This Is It” was a hit in 1979 and has the requisite smoothness to keep the yacht rocking. But Loggins delivers the lyrics in a desperate stage whisper, like someone determined to make the kind of love that doesn’t wake the baby. What bowls you over is the intensity of his yearning — teary in the verses, snarling during the chorus. He sounds as if he’s baring it all yet begging to wring himself out even more.

Playing black-music detective that day, I laughed out of bafflement and embarrassment and exhilaration. It’s the conflation of pride and chagrin I’ve always felt anytime a white person inhabits blackness with gusto. It’s: You have to hand it to her. It’s: Go, white boy. Go, white boy. Go. But it’s also: Here we go again. The problem is rich. If blackness can draw all of this ornate literariness out of Steely Dan and all this psychotic origami out of Eminem; if it can make Teena Marie sing everything — “Square Biz,” “Revolution,” “Portuguese Love,” “Lovergirl” — like she knows her way around a pack of Newports; if it can turn the chorus of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me” into a gospel hymn; if it can animate the swagger in the sardonic vulnerabilities of Amy Winehouse; if it can surface as unexpectedly as it does in the angelic angst of a singer as seemingly green as Ben Platt; if it’s the reason Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” remains the whitest jam at the blackest parties, then it’s proof of how deeply it matters to the music of being alive in America, alive to America.

If you can’t tell by now, I recommend it. It’s one reason this project has been such an eye-opening pleasure to read.

I wish I could say anything else was a pleasure today, but it wasn’t. Terrible, terrible insomnia last night, which always leaves me depressed and miserable the next day. At least I was able to play the work-from-home card. I expect — I hope — to get a better night’s sleep tonight, and that tomorrow will be better. Keep a good thought.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Popculch | 17 Comments
 

The weekend, the whirl.

We start the week on a rocket blast of coffee and eggs and barely slow down. Wednesday is Hump Day, halfway to the weekend, then it’s Thursday, the official start of the weekend. (This is true; I saw some market research once that said people start thinking of the weekend at noon on Thursday, and once your mind is there, your body’s only a half step behind. Then it’s the official weekend, and it’s woo, party! Dinner guests! Activities! Errands! Laundry! And all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking, what happened here?

Americans work too hard, this is indisputably true.

it was a busy weekend. Eastern Market, dry cleaner, blah blah, ending at the Cannabis Cup, in town for the weekend. This is an event I was utterly unprepared for, a trade show all about marijuana, newly legalized in Michigan. I went there expecting a …trade show, but it was far more. Line around the block to get in, in withering sun and heat. It probably took half an hour just to get through the lines, and once inside? Quite nuts. Packed to the rafters, hot as hell, stinky as hell, row after row of weed vendors, selling pretty much everything weed-related.

If you live in a non-legal state, the first glimpse of Big Marijuana may be surprising. It has product specialists:

And of course it has characters:

And a certain literally homegrown charm:

But this was a big crowd, in a very Detroit space — the Russell Industrial Center courtyard:

It’s Weedstock. I’m sure someone has called it that before. I mean, the Wu-Tang Clan played.

Then, today, Sunday, was Swim to the Moon, the open-water swim I’ve been worried about for weeks. I had reason to worry; it was no easier than two years ago, when I finished it thinking I was going to die. I stayed on course better this year, maybe shaved a minute or two off my last time. But there’s simply no way to swim that far and make it easy, not at my age. But I finished, and didn’t drown, so we’ll maybe see about next year.

I’m trying to catch up with whatever I missed in the papers this weekend, but for now, I’m working my way through the 1619 Project, the NYT future Pulitzer winner about the effects of slavery in America. It’s much better than I expected, which is why so many Republicans seem to be so butthurt over it. So far, though, it’s very good.

And with that, I’m out. So, so tired.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments
 

Heat, begone.

If you live on the east coast, the heat won’t last much longer. I know, because it came to you from Michigan, and it is being chased out to sea by a cold front that swept through Saturday night. Lotsa wind, lotsa wind-related headaches, mainly power outages. We kept ours, but lost our internet — twice.

You’ll cool off soon enough. Hope you don’t lose your internet in the bargain

So with that in mind, and because I worked most of today, and “Big Little Lies” is coming on in 14 minutes, so just two bits of the bloggage today:

First, the full, 16-minute-plus projection of “Apollo 50” on the Washington Monument and a few other screens in D.C. the other night. There’s an every-other-year light-installation festival in Detroit called D-lectricity that is starting to get some works like this, but nothing this impressive. Absolutely worth your time.

And a Spin magazine look at the 40-year anniversary of “Aja,” my once and forever favorite Steely Dan record. Yes, pretentious, yes, full of itself, yes, you get the feeling the album cover was black so you could better see the inevitable lines of cocaine laid thereon, but I still love it.

With that, I must go and embrace the week ahead. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Popculch | 105 Comments
 

Lie, memory.

I heard a teaser clip the other day about why young people want to see the U.S. send a man to Mars.

“Everybody who was alive then knows exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface,” an under-35-sounding man said. “Our generation doesn’t have that, and I want us to.”

As people his age say: LOLOL.

On one of the other anniversaries of the Apollo 11, I read a story about how people remembered it.

“I remember it so vividly,” ran a typical account. “My kindergarten teacher had a TV on a cart, and brought it into the room. She drew the blinds and we all gathered around to watch.”

Or: “My daddy and I were making hay on the farm, but mama said we should take the afternoon off and watch, because it was history, and so we did.”

There were several more like that. Proving that our memories can lie like a young wife with a side piece, oh yes they do. Obviously no one was watching in school, unless they went to a school where classes were held in the middle of the summer, close to midnight. And very unlikely anyone was making hay, either, although that person might be thinking of the moon landing, which I believe was on a Sunday afternoon. It is seared in my memory because I was at a friend’s house, and her dad teared up. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing men cry, which is probably why I remember it better than the fuzzy images on the black-and-white TV.

I, too, can tell you where I was: Struggling to stay awake in my bedroom, while my mom watched from the other twin bed. The upstairs TV, which we rolled around on a cart, was in my room.

“Don’t you want to watch this?” she’d ask occasionally, and I’d struggle to focus, but I missed the one-small-step stuff. I was only 11, and even then, not much of a night owl.

But contrary to popular belief, memories can lie, and do. We’re suggestible, and stuff gets corrupted on our hard drives, just like it does with the one I’m writing this on. How many times have we heard stories about kids watching news of the Kennedy assassination on TVs in schools? Add a few more years, and suddenly they’re all mixed up.

A little short today, I know, but I had another insomnia bout last night and I’m beat.

For bloggage, try on this Robin Givhan essay about the late JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette. Interesting take:

Fame looked so different at the end of the past century than it does now. Princess Diana died in 1997. We paused and did a bit of cultural soul-searching. The price of fame was too much; the paparazzi had gotten out of control; it was a dangerous thing for a celebrity to fly too close to the sun.

We weren’t quite done with the introspection and the feeling of culpability when John and Carolyn died two years later in a plane crash. And when they did, it was as though we just threw in the towel and began to indulge in our worst impulses. We demanded to know everything about celebrities — what they wore, what they ate, when they gave birth, who they voted for, how they grieved. And the famous began to make the best of an untenable situation by transforming most every aspect of their lives, including their hobbies and parenthood, into a side business.

In hindsight, it’s as though Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were holding back the impeding tide of celebrity excess: the costly haute couture, the personal branding, the competitive public confessionals, the grotesqueness of it all.

Back later this week, eh?

Posted at 9:03 pm in Popculch | 45 Comments
 

Costumes.

We’re a pretty casual family, and I bet yours is, too. I like to dress up as much as the next girl, but honestly, I don’t get much call to, anymore. Who does? American life, even office life, has been trending away from neckties and pantyhose for a while. I have what my fellowship director used to call “power clothes,” but I don’t wear them very often.

When Kate was younger, I learned that in Grosse Pointe, there is one holiday event that is beloved by all, and it is not the Santa Claus parade on the day after Thanksgiving, but the various elementary school holiday choir concerts. All the kids sings in their grade-level choir, and it is an utterly charming event. (The kindergarteners came out on stage one year, and the dad next to me slapped his hands together and said, “AWRIGHT. Now we’re getting to the good stuff!”) When Kate went to her first one, I think she wore school clothes, i.e., jeans and a sweater, and she might as well have been a hobo. Nearly all the girls were wearing Christmas dresses, something we just didn’t have.

We’re not churchgoers, we don’t take studio family photos at the holidays, and without something to dress up for, why own dress-up clothes?

Which is the long way around to today’s subject, which is: Why do conservatives dress their kids so weird?

By now, those of you who are Extremely Online have probably seen the amazingly weird photo of the Acosta family on dad’s first day on the job as Secretary of Labor:

Holy shit, now there’s an image to haunt your dreams, eh?

Never have two little girls who live in Florida look so untouched by the sun, and not because their mother is always reapplying SPF 5000. The colorless lips, the hollow eyes – and that’s not even getting to the strange haircuts and identical dresses on sisters that look to be about two years apart, maybe less.

Now let’s consider the outfits worn by Jack and Josie Roberts, son and daughter of Chief Justice John Roberts, when he was introduced to the public in 2005. I can’t find a public-domain pic of the two – one could Google – so let’s call upon the descriptive prose of Robin Givhan:

There was tow-headed Jack — having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother — enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother’s skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes.

(Another girl with a pageboy? Josie and the Acosta girls must go to the same stylist.)

Finally, Barron Trump:

He just turned 13, so I suspect in this pic he was about…11? He’s accompanying his parents to a New Years party at Mar-a-Lago, wearing full black tie and looking, as he often does, like he lives deep inside his head. I believe, two years into his father’s presidency, I’ve seen two photos of him not in a jacket and tie. Because his father’s idea of outdoor recreation is golf, there are no pix of the two of them cavorting on the White House lawn, or dressed for skiing or the beach or any other place you’d expect a wealthy family to cavort.

I keep thinking about that NYE party at Mar-a-Lago. Can you imagine a more miserable place to be, at 11? Most kids would be having a sleepover, maybe a movie marathon in the rec room with popcorn and pizza and a sitter making surge-price money, not wearing a bow tie in a room with a bunch of adults, the youngest of which is probably 5x his age, all saying, “What a handsome boy! Do you like living in the White House?” Shudder.

Of course I loved the Obamas, and Michelle drew most of the style spotlight, but when we saw the girls, they seemed to be pretty standard American kids. At the turkey pardoning, they wore scarves and sweaters and down vests. On vacations, they dressed for the setting and the weather. And yes, for formal portraits, they wore dresses, but they looked like individuals, not like the twins in “The Shining.” And their clothing was contemporary, modern, not something out of an early-series episode of “Mad Men.”

Of course children have opinions about what they’re asked or told to wear, but when they’re young, the turnout is all about mom and dad, and mostly mom. Lace-trimmed anklets, matching dresses, identical haircuts, seersucker short-pants suits, saddle shoes — these are relics of a different time.

Givhan, again:

In a time when most children are dressed in Gap Kids and retailers of similar price-point and modernity, the parents put young master Jack in an ensemble that calls to mind John F. “John-John” Kennedy Jr.

Separate the child from the clothes, which do not acknowledge trends, popular culture or the passing of time. They are not classic; they are old-fashioned. These clothes are Old World, old money and a cut above the light-up/shoe-buying hoi polloi.

…Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It’s not about catering to personal comfort. One can’t give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual — and his family — to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.

The Roberts kids are probably in college by now. I wonder what they wear now.

A good weekend to all. Man I feel like I’ve earned it.

Posted at 8:13 pm in Popculch | 62 Comments
 

Hustle harder!!!!

Mercy, what a last few days. Just one thing after another. The small dinner party was a success, and I’m about to grill myself a hot dog, because why the hell not.

I think I had some ideas about blogs, but at the moment they have fled my brain. I should write these down. My to-do list routine is holding out, long past when I generally abandon them. But there’s something, what’s the word, centering about sitting down Sunday night or first thing Monday, turning to a fresh page in the diary, and making the list: Job 1, Job 2, personal. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn: Write it all down.

In the meantime, a question for you Californians: Where is the mine in California from which these guys are dug? Lay-deez and gennlemen, the CEO of WeWork:

Neumann is the kind of chief executive who sees pies in every sky, so it’s not surprising that even after a $14 billion step back, he calls the relationship with SoftBank “very, very, very, very positive.” While he’s known as a fierce and unpredictable negotiator whose bargaining tactics include tequila shots, he’s also always ready with a pep talk about finding your purpose, doing what you love, and making people feel less alone. Neon slogans on WeWork office walls implore you to “Hustle Harder” and “Get S#!t Done.” (More of the slogans, found in photos on the company’s website, are cycling below.) Neumann told a reporter in 2017 that WeWork’s 11-figure valuation had less to do with its revenue than its “energy and spirituality.” In a recent promotional video, he intoned, “The single most powerful word is the word ‘we.’”

…“Everyone wants to know what ARK is. I think it’s going to be amazing,” Neumann says one morning last month at WeWork’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Throughout our conversation, he’s at ease making grand statements, as if the dreary details will fall in line later as long as the vision is bold enough. He’s also hungry. It’s just past 11:30 a.m. when a male assistant in a black baseball cap delivers a shallow gray ceramic bowl with brown grains and a spoon. “I haven’t broken my fast yet,” the 40-year-old CEO says apologetically, instead of using the word “breakfast.” He’s clearly a big fan of the oats, sourced from Dan Barber, an “amazingly interesting” farm-to-table chef developing grains with “amazing qualities.” (These are high in fat.) Neumann invested in Barber’s seed company, Row 7, last year.

My editor and I looked at one of the Detroit WeWork spaces when we were expanding last year. It was as advertised above — very slogan-y, very go-team-y, and there’s free beer. It was also pretty expensive for what we wanted. The space was tight, and the walls were glass. There was a therapist in one of them; when I expressed amazement, the guide said, “she has curtains.”

So I’m not surprised to hear that the CEO appears to think that dreary details will fall into line later as long as the vision is bold enough.

We stayed in our cruddy suite of offices, and it’s fine.

I hope this week is easier than the last. I expect it will.

Posted at 9:12 pm in Popculch | 38 Comments
 

What’s for dinner? Nothing.

I don’t know how many more weeks like this I can take. One big thing after another big thing and here it is Thursday night and a pretty big weekend awaits. So I’m going to fold into bed pretty soon, but here I am for now.

I have a bookmark that’s been on my browser forever, called Wind Map. It shows the direction and velocity of prevailing winds all over the country at any given moment. I checked it Wednesday. You don’t get the motion effect here, but mercy, that’s a vortex:

The lighter the line, the faster the wind. Poor Colorado.

So let’s hop to the bloggage:

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, describes his eating habits:

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey gave an interview revealing that he typically fasted on weekends and ate only one meal on weekdays, and that the single meal typically consisted of, “fish, chicken, or some steak,” plus arugula, spinach or “sometimes asparagus or Brussels sprouts” and finally, “I have mixed berries as a dessert.”

If a female CEO described the exact same eating habits, there’d be a volcano of armchair psychologists making diagnoses: She has an eating disorder! What a bad role model! But in Dorsey’s interview with CNBC, this was described as “biohacking.” So thank goddess for Monica Hesse to point out what bullshit this is:

I don’t know why we’re so reverential of the eating behaviors of Silicon Valley executives, except I sort of think I know why. These men completely revolutionized the way we took photographs, paid for services, connected with relatives and moved through the world. There’s something tantalizing in the idea that they also hold the key to revolutionizing our bodies.

And so we get articles in the Guardian about a group of male CEOs who call themselves “Fast Club” and participate in a “5:2” eating plan, in which they eat virtually nothing for two days a week. “The first day I felt so hungry I was going to die,” one was quoted as saying, while simultaneously insisting that this wasn’t a dangerous result, this was just biohacking.

It just never stops, does it?

With that, I’m going to keep watching “Paris is Burning” on Netflix and continue to be amazed at how we all follow poor gay people but aren’t even aware of it.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments
 

Sunday again.

Oh, hello Sunday. I was just thinking, in one of those weirdly linked slide shows that happen in our brains, the following:

The Spanky and Our Gang song, “Sunday Will Never be the Same,” 52 years old this year. When it was released in 1967, a 50-year-old song was…Googling…“Over There,” which tells you something. “Sunday Will Never be the Same” was licensed for a commercial in the mid-’80s, for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I remember seeing it at the time, when I was visiting a friend there. It was beautifully shot, promoting the new and improved Sunday edition, showing Clevelanders waking up, starting the coffee, retrieving the big fat paper from the porch, enjoying it with their pancakes and eggs. When I got back to Fort Wayne, I saw that my paper, too, had a new commercial. It used a public-domain recording of “The Blue Danube Waltz” and bargain-basement production – a series of overhead shots of anonymous hands tearing coupons, articles, etc., out of the paper, scored to the dat-dat, doot-doot rhythms of the music. The tagline: “Worth tearing into.” How wonderful to be one of those Clevelanders, able to smile and relax and find enjoyable things in the paper, instead of opening it to read about human shitstain Alex Jones, and how he fueled the paranoid fantasies of a Sandy Hook truther, who fixated in particular on Avielle Richman, one of the dead students. Avielle’s father committed suicide recently, of course. The truther is named Wolfgang Halbig, and dig this, peeps:

Another parent, Leonard Pozner, whose son Noah died in the same classroom as Ana, reported the abuse, and after six years of appeals, Twitter suspended Mr. Halbig’s account last month. Mr. Pozner founded the HONR Network, a nonprofit combating online hate, after Noah was targeted by the conspiracy theorists.

The boldface is mine, of course. It only took six years of a certified lunatic clamoring for autopsy photos and receipts for crime-scene cleanup for Twitter, that temple of free speech, to do something about it. How honorable. Meanwhile, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, came to Detroit last week for something-or-other, and either he or his staff posted a couple pix of themselves, one in front of the Motown Museum, and every single person in the pictures is white. Give ’em six more years, and maybe they can find some staffers of color.

Anyway, I guess what I’m thinking is: Sunday will never be the same. I used to like Sunday. Brunch! Friends! Sunday Funday! Now, too often, it’s just another work day, starting with the morning paper.

Oh well. Truth be told, there were some great reads this weekend:

This Frank Bruni column is getting a lot of shares, for good reason. It’s about why we are less enamored of trendy restaurants as we age:

I was once under 50. I’m now over that mark. And it’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.

I’d advance a side argument: It’s restaurants, and what they’ve become, too. I’m an adventurous eater, and never mind trying something new. But I hate many new restaurants, not for the food, but the atmosphere, mainly the noise. If this is a sign of aging, so be it, but man — the cacophony in many of these places is simply off the charts. You can Google up a dozen stories about why that is, but I find it really off-putting to have to lean in and yell at your tablemates, which only makes the problem worse.

And while we’re on the subject of restaurants, you might enjoy this column from the Detroit News, about a century-old columnist for the Jewish News here in Detroit. Danny Raskin wears an obvious toupee, and has so much joie de vivre, you understand why he’s still kicking at 100. Even if centenarians don’t interest you, read until you get to the Purple Gang story.

Finally, many thanks to LA Mary for finding this. I let my New Yorker subscription expire, so I’m stingy with my clicks, and this one is worth it, about the strange story of Shen Yun. If you live in a city of any size, you’ve likely seen the Shen Yun billboards, which are utterly ubiquitous in Detroit, or were, before the Chinese dance troupe performed here earlier this month. I didn’t know what it was other than “something Chinese and dance-y,” and neither did the New Yorker writer. But it’s something…more.

With that, it’s on to cleaning up what I didn’t get done last week and compiling an unreasonable to-do list for next week. Sunday Funday!

Posted at 11:33 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Dirty.

In my haste to be a big smartypants about Jussie Smollett, I forgot to tell you about the Dirty Show. It’s an art show that runs over two weekends and is, surprise surprise, dirty. Erotic, I guess you’d call it, although dirty probably fits better.

About 15 percent of the art was decent, most was campy/mediocre/whatever and the rest was porn, but artistic. I guess this would fall in the first category:

But you don’t go to the Dirty Show to look at the art on the walls, scratch your chin and say hmm, interesting. You go to see the other stuff, and to people-watch. It rarely disappoints in that area; half the burlesque dancers in the Midwest show up, and the crowd tries to keep up. When I was getting dressed for the evening, I thought, what the hell, let’s do something fun, so I picked a crimson bra out of the drawer and, first, thought to wear it alone under a blazer, ’70s-supermodel style. But it was cold, and I chickened out, and added a rather sheer top. I felt scandalous leaving the house, but within five minutes of scanning the crowd, realized I was wearing the Dirty Show equivalent of a navy polo shirt and mom jeans. As I often say after Theatre Bizarre: “I had no idea so many women in Detroit own corsets.” Corsets galore, as well as pasties, bare-ass thongs with fishnets, all that stuff. A guy led a woman in a wheelchair around with a leash. A woman led a man around on a leash. I waited in line for the restroom behind a woman in bondage gear and a nun’s wimple.

It was quite the crowd. No John Waters this year, but a good time just the same.

So.

Not long after I wrote Monday’s entry about spotting bullshit, it occurred to me where I’ve read quite a few unbelievable stories in recent years: Accounts of human trafficking. I read a piece about a sex trafficking victim, who described her ordeal: Kidnapped at 15, thrown into an attic with two other women, chained by the ankle, and forced to stay there, sleeping on a pallet and using a bucket for elimination, for a year. A year. No baths, no breaks, “15 to 40 men a day,” just brought in one after another to rape the girls on their pallets. It’s possible. But it doesn’t pass the smell test, and I’ve heard verified stories about chained women. A year? It’s hard to believe that not one guy wouldn’t feel a pang of post-coital remorse and drop a dime to the police, that word wouldn’t spread.

And how often these stories are detail-free, so none can be verified with family or law enforcement, everyone mysteriously dead or gone somehow. And how often these stories are published by Christian presses, and feature redemption/conversion narratives late in the story. And how often these stories are only about sex trafficking, when we know that labor trafficking is just as big a problem, but somehow it’s all white girls forced into prostitution, never brown girls forced into agricultural labor, or domestic servitude.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said often: Human trafficking is real, and a serious problem. But it can’t be addressed without good data about the extent of the problem. And we’re nowhere close to understanding it.

OK, all. More snow expected overnight, followed by ice, followed by rain. Just another day in paradise. Stay warm.

Posted at 9:17 pm in Detroit life, Popculch | 102 Comments
 

Sick, sick, sick.

In my bottomless masochism, I subscribed to Will Sommer’s Right Richter newsletter. It’s not the reading that’s difficult; Sommer covers the nutso right for the Daily Beast, and man. Man. It’s hard to believe this isn’t just pro wrestling.

The newsletter is free, and if you follow the link above you can get it, too. I’m going to quote more liberally from the latest issue this week than I generally do, just so you can get the gist here:

Two of the internet’s greatest galaxy brains are at war.

On one side: InfoWars chief Alex Jones, who’s been scrambling to get headlines after getting booted off of nearly every social media platform.

On the other: Joe Rogan, the mixed-martial arts commentator, hallucinogen enthusiast, and bro god who doubles as the gatekeeper to the quasi-conservative, quasi-mystical Intellectual Dark Web.

Jones and Rogan used to be pals. The InfoWars chief was on Rogan’s mega-popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, less than two years ago, racking up millions of views for his one-time chum.

But now, Jones will only describe Rogan as a pig he’s going to gut.

“Joe Rogan, metaphysically, is a Christmas hog,” Jones said Wednesday. “And I’m going to politically haul him up by his back legs and slit his throat. His blood will fill buckets — politically, not violently.”

The beef between the two started at least last summer, when Jones, beset by social media bans and lawsuits over his conspiracy theories, watched his influence start to wane. But the feud has turned red-hot after Rogan interviewed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and failed, in Jones’s view, to press Dorsey enough on why InfoWars was banned from Twitter.

Enraged, Jones has “declared war” on Rogan, claiming that he’s working for the CIA and George Soros. In his response video, Rogan said he’s just too busy to be a CIA asset.

Jones insisted that Rogan promoted Bitcoin to his audience as part of a scheme to make himself and Dorsey rich off the backs of his “sucker plantation” audience. Naturally, Jones doesn’t mention that InfoWars, too, went wild for Bitcoin in 2017.

Even Rogan’s enthusiasm for the hallucinogen DMT has come into play, with Jones claiming that Rogan is using the drug to mind-control his fans.

It’s tempting to say that of course this is pro wrestling. Because no one could be crazy enough to believe this. But then you wander…well, take a Facebook profile I found myself marveling over the other day, one I’d found while following a comment back from a right-wing deplorable in northern Michigan. I learned that this person, a woman who also lives up there, is convinced she is being poisoned by, among other things, vaccines, fluoridation, chemtrails and 5G internet radiation. She lives remotely because that’s the only way she can feel safe.

Imagine a mind like that, hearing Alex Jones tell you Joe Rogan is using DMT to control his fans. You’d scoff, I’d scoff, but someone who thinks the internet is giving her cancer? Please, Mr. Jones, tell me more. The other day I was thinking about quackery, for some reason, remembering, yet again, the fabulous Flo Ripley, my high-school health teacher, who taught us about chiropractic and osteopathic medicine, how they differed from the traditional sort (at least as practiced in this country), other topics related to how medical con men work, and how we might know when we were being bullshitted. And then the laetrile story broke big — I think Steve McQueen traveled to Mexico to get this cancer cure that Big Pharma wanted to keep from the people, but spoiler alert, he died of cancer anyway. I read these stories at 16, 17 years old and said, Why, this sounds like bullshit. As I recall, Coretta Scott King did the same thing, although I don’t know whether she was after laetrile. Steve Jobs tried to treat his own cancer with “nutrition” and all that.

All dead. And now we have Goop, vaccine “hesitancy” listed as a public-health threat, fluoridation panics and myriad other ignorance afoot in the land, aided and abetted by the internet. And Alex Jones, of course.

So this is going to be it for me for a few days. We’re packing our bags for a long weekend away, Alan burning auto-show comp time and me? I just need some time away. Of course I am still sick. I went to see my doctor and begged for a Z-pack, because I was sure all this crud had migrated to my ears and become a bacterial infection.

His cold-hearted reply: “It’s viral. I had it. My wife had it, everyone has it. Antibiotics won’t do any good and might give you diarrhea.”

So on I go. In week three now. Maybe I’ll spread this to the whole world before I stop coughing.

Posted at 6:29 pm in Current events, Popculch | 132 Comments