Two blondes, parted in the middle.

I have about 15 minutes to write this, so hey — expect typos.

Today’s Interesting Juxtaposition comes as the NYT magazine looks at the strange story of Goop, aka Gwyneth Paltrow’s “wellness” business that peddles not just incredibly overpriced creams and potions, but actual quackery, some of it harmless, some less so:

A gynecologist and obstetrician in San Francisco named Jen Gunter, who also writes a column on reproductive health for The Times, has criticized Goop in about 30 blog posts on her website since 2015. A post she wrote last May — an open letter that she signed on behalf of “Science” — generated more than 800,000 page views. She was angry about all the bad advice she had seen from Goop in the last few years. She was angry that her own patients were worried they’d given themselves breast cancer by wearing underwire bras, thanks to an article by an osteopath who cited a much-debunked book published in 1995. Gunter cited many of Goop’s greatest hits: “Tampons are not vaginal death sticks, vegetables with lectins are not killing us, vaginas don’t need steaming, Epstein Barr virus (E.B.V.) does not cause every thyroid disease and for [expletive] sake no one needs to know their latex farmer; what they need to know is that the only thing between them and H.I.V. or gonorrhea is a few millimeters of latex, so glove that [expletive] up.”

That is but one moment in a long, extremely entertaining read. But it gets to the heart of my complaint with Gwynnie. And then there’s the other blonde grifter:

In public interviews, Ivanka’s been a master of careful excellence, the artful dodge, the well-phrased nothing. As for her influence: She’s said only that if she disagrees with her father, it’s expressed privately and “with total candor.” …But the biggest question surrounding Ivanka has always been this one: How much of her identity is about herself? Her own name, her own brand, her own legacy? And how much of her identity is tied up in being her father’s daughter?

Actually, that last one’s not a hard question to answer at all: 100 percent. Ivanka’s clothes are basic career dressing — sheath dresses, skirts and blouses. She no more “designs” them than I do. If you click through, note the photo down low in the story, of Ivanka photographed in profile, hair in a bun, chin resting on a knuckle, as posiest a pose as was ever posed. Her fembot brain said, “Camera! Look thoughtful!” and that’s the first one that popped up. There isn’t an authentic bone in her body, or if there is, we haven’t seen it yet.

That both these pieces are about privilege, white/blonde/rich/genetic lottery privilege, goes without saying. That both these women lead (or led) “aspirational” companies is kinda depressing. Here’s my aspiration: To live long enough to see Ivanka become her mother, and all that implies — two more marriages, children grown into disappointments, face puffed with fillers and, of course, a “signature” hairdo. Straight and forever blonde, parted in the middle.

Fifteen minutes is up, and I have to shower and get to work. Sorry I’ve been scarce. Next week will be worse, at least until Wednesday. Try to get by without me.

Posted at 8:24 am in Popculch | 30 Comments

Certifiable. And with a TV show.

I think it was Dexter who mentioned the other day that Ginger Baker, like Roseanne Barr, is certifiable. He certainly is, and if “Beware of Mister Baker” rolls around on your streaming service, it’s worth your time to see just how much. My favorite was the thread where he complains that Jack Bruce and his lyricist held all the publishing copyrights, and Eric Clapton turned into God, and where does that leave ol’ Ginge? Broke and struggling, that’s where. Later, we learn he made a few million doing the One Last Tour thing, plenty for a gentleman well into his senior years to live out his life in comfort.

At least if he doesn’t go out and immediately buy 23 polo ponies and endow a veterinary hospital, that is.

Shorter above: Artists be crazy. But man, once you listen closely to the layers of rhythm Baker maintains on those old Cream tracks, and realize he was playing them all at once, and it’s almost forgivable. Unless you’re the guy he’s clubbing with a garden tool.

So, the week, it flies by. Helps when it’s only four days. The heat has not relented, but promises to by this weekend, when it will dip into the cooler 70s. Thank goddess our air conditioning is still holding out; it was of indeterminate age when we bought the house 13 years ago, but when I asked it to start up last weekend, it did. But I’m expecting the meltdown any year now, and it won’t be fun. Or cheap.

Meanwhile, speaking of Roseanne, of all the takes available for you to read, let me recommend but one — this one, from the Hollywood Reporter. Sample:

To say that Roseanne had skeletons in her closet does not accurately describe her situation. Roseanne had skeletons on her front lawn, with a massive neon arrow reading “SKELETONS” pointing to all the skeletons. It wasn’t even a “lawn” so much as an enormous pile of bleached bones.

For that reason, this whole sordid episode also represents a pretty spectacular failure by entertainment journalists to hold ABC’s feet to the fire. Since May of last year, story after story about Roseanne has treated her extensive history of public cruelty and racism as little more than a midgrade marketing challenge for ABC, if it was acknowledged at all. She was “controversial,” “outspoken,” you know, all the usual terms media types use to avoid calling a racist a racist — all this while she continued to pump out an unbroken stream of bananas tweets.

God, so true. “Controversial” may be my least-favorite word in journalism, and if you let me, I will drone on and on about it, but I especially hate it when it’s used as a euphemism for something like this, which is simply bald-ass racism. Kinda like Dinesh D’Souza, soon to be pardoned by our chief executive. That guy? Is a RACIST. He doesn’t even try to hide it, no he doesn’t:

When we look back on this era, those of us who lived through it may be asked what we did to stop it. I hope we all have a good answer.

With that, I am bowing out of what was, admittedly, a half-assed week around here. I have some balls in the air. When and where they fall I do not know, but I will keep you informed.

In the meantime, it’s now June! Summer! Enjoy it.

Posted at 9:11 pm in Current events, Popculch | 31 Comments

A powerful lift.

Glad the new design is gaining some fans. J.C., he just does this stuff for fun. He texted me and asked if I was “prepared for the chaos that is a new design,” and I replied “pull the trigger” and the next thing you know? New look. Even Alan likes it. (He didn’t like the last iteration.) Springtime calls for a new look, so a new look it is. And Wednesday is his birthday! But I got the gift.

What shall we chat about today? Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen – no, wait. Something else.

Transgender athletes.

I’m particularly interested in hearing Sherri’s take on this, because her social-justice and powerlifting bona fides are sound.

You probably missed this story yesterday, about a trans woman’s effort to win weightlifting gold in Australia’s Commonwealth Games this week. (She didn’t. Injury.) But it started me thinking about all the nuances of transgenderism we still have to deal with, and athletics is a big one.

The story made reference to her testosterone levels being low enough to compete as a woman, and I know T is a big factor in muscular strength, but it’s hard for me to see how a champion male weightlifter isn’t still going to be the best in her weight class, post-transition, all else being equal. How could it not be? Hormones change a lot, but they can’t change everything. Men have more muscle, a different angle in their pelvises. This is one reason I flip right past vapid remarks on trans women’s fashion choices. Don’t tell me about Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner and how great they look in gowns with a high slit; genetic men don’t get cellulite on their thighs. Don’t go on and on about her shoulders; I could lift weights nine hours a day and not get shoulders like that, because they’re the product of XY chromosomes, not work.

All of this is something we’re going to have to figure out if we’re going to fully integrate trans people into stuff like sporting contests. Don’t we?

Or is this just going to be yet another thing we wrestle over forever and ever, and have a big culture war, and end up hating one another even more afterward? I wouldn’t put money on either.

So, then: Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen Zuckerberg Cohen.

And happy birthday, J.C. Many more, because without you, this place closes up shop.

Posted at 6:28 pm in Current events, Popculch | 81 Comments

Star of the show.

I only watched one song’s worth of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Since we cut the cord, we have to rely on the antenna to get a signal, and as in the old days, sometimes it’s clear as a bell and sometimes the screen is a sea of pixelation, which I’ve been instructed by J.C. to call “packeting out.” Sunday night it was packeting out.

But it’s been interesting hearing you all talk about it. It reminded me of when I bought the original cast recording, the double-album set, back when it was new. I took it over to my friend Julie’s house to listen to, because her mother had forbidden her from buying it herself. A rock opera of the passion of Christ? Blasphemy! (This is the sort of thing mothers worried about then. And still do. One of Kate’s friends surrendered her ticket to some show I was driving them to when they were about 15, because her mother had looked up some lyrics on the internet, and oh my we couldn’t have that. The other day I read an interview with Edie Falco, the actress and also a practicing Buddhist. She said the biggest lesson her faith taught her was: Stop worrying. Good advice, Buddha.)

Anyway, if Julie’s mom stopped at the door to the room where we sat, music at half-volume, heads bent to the speakers, listening to this exotic samizdat, she never let on. JCS made a splash for sure, but I remember it mainly as a few witty lines (If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation/Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication), a few memorable songs and, well, here’s the new Neil Young record, and let’s listen to that one next.

I never saw a stage production. Never saw the movie. That whole era of early-’70s guitar-mass Christianity was probably the last one I fully participated in, although it was swiftly followed by the Great Cult Scares of the later ’70s. Hare Krishnas, Children of God, all sorts of false-prophet gangs, culminating with the big one – Jonestown.

Which seems like a good transition to recommending you watch “Wild Wild Country” if you’re a Netflix subscriber, a six-part documentary series about the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh and his adherents, who took over a ranch in north-central Oregon and made a big fuss for a few years. (Hey, Charlotte: Is that crazy church up by you still operating? The Church Universal and Triumphant?) It’s pretty fantastic, an absolutely bananas tale of weirdness and guns, and from the social-media reaction I’m seeing from people younger than me, almost entirely forgotten. I remembered the Baghwan as the guru who owned dozens of Rolls-Royces, and would be driven in them around his ranch while his followers lined the roads, clapping and cheering. When the whole thing fell apart, the fleet went where all notorious automobiles go eventually – the Auburn-Cord-Deusenberg Festival in Auburn, Ind., to be auctioned in the multi-day classic-car sale.

Americans don’t have a corner on cults, but we seem to do it weirder than other countries. “Wild Wild Country” doesn’t disappoint.

The first person I heard talking about it was a young man in his early 30s. “They practice some weird yoga there,” he said. “Kun something? Kuna…”

“Cunnilingus yoga,” I said. “It’s famous. Lots of chanting? That’s what you’re thinking of.”

“Yeah! Cunnilingus!” he said.

I was all for letting him carry that around for a while, but the other person at the table took pity.

It’s kundalini yoga. Lots of chanting. I did it once. Wasn’t for me, but I get it.

Anyway, Tom and Lorenzo really liked “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and said:

JCS is a beloved album, film and show, but theatrically, dramatically and at times even musically, it can get downright goofy. In addition, it’s tied very closely to a post-hippy, pre-metal sound and aesthetic that doesn’t always update well.

Yep, that sounds right: Post-hippie, pre-metal. I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “very ’70s.”

Neil Steinberg liked it, too:

“Superstar” tells the Passion story from the point of view of the man who betrayed Jesus, a twist on a classic narrative that would become standard in musical drama in musicals like “Wicked” where the villain gets his (or her) due. So it was in a sense apt that Brandon Victor Dixon was a far more engaging performer as Judas than John Legend was as Jesus. Christ here is a softer role to begin with, but at times Legend seemed half asleep. It was as if they cast Ben Carson in the role. (I later learned that Legend produced the special, which would certainly explain how he landed the role).

Sara Bareilles, an impressive Mary Magdalene, would not be accused of somnambulism. With pre-Raphaelite beauty and a bell-clear voice, she stole the show from the Son of God as she worked through her conflicted feelings toward him (I’m tempted to say “toward Him,” out of respect, but don’t want to pander).

I did watch a clip, afterward, of Bareilles doing Mary Mag’s big number: “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” and he speaks the truth. She has a lovely, lovely voice.

With that, I leave you with one amusing bit of bloggage, with a lesson for the ages: Don’t leave food by the open window of a fancy hotel, especially if there are seagulls in the area.

Wednesday lies ahead, in a week that already feels like…Thursday.

Posted at 8:23 pm in Popculch | 46 Comments

From bad to wurst.

Back in my horse-owning days, this would be heavy shedding season. You’d curry and curry and brush and brush, and still come away with a glove covered with hair after every pat. The ponies were the most fun; there was one retiree that lived in a back paddock at the barn where I boarded, and he woolied up like a stuffed animal. Even his hooves looked furry. That one required a shedding blade, sort of a serrated scraper, to help him take off his winter clothes.

Indiana’s climate is as prickly at this time of year as Michigan’s, and I always wondered why the horses would shed steadily, some starting as early as late January, through cold springs. It’s no mystery; it’s the light that triggers the cycle, not the temperature. Once the days lengthen, the hair starts to drop.

We’re having a cold spring here. The relentless chain of nor’easters is supposedly blocking the warm spring winds and allowing Canada to keep exporting its frigid garbage to my corner of the world. When I go out to walk Wendy in late afternoon, it’s usually in the mid to high 30s, and with the sun out, that’s not too bad. It’d be a gift in January, but in late March, it feels like I’m being robbed of something. And it’s all because of the light. We’re well into Daylight Saving, and I’d like to take a little bike ride from time to time, maybe sit in the back yard, but it’s so cold in the D. So I wrap up in sweaters that feel …wrong, somehow. I carried my suede purse the other day, and it, too, seemed wrong. Too soon for straw, but too late for suede.

I’m not freezing at the moment, but I will be at some point today, because that’s the way it’s been.

So now that it’s officially spring, start being spring, dammit.

You know what I’m going to do today? Not mention Him. Mainly because I found this story from the Washington Post so interesting. The premise: German food, as a restaurant business model, is dying:

All across the country, German restaurants are calling it quits. In Portland, Ore., Der Rheinlander closed after 53 years in 2016. Another Portland restaurant, the Berlin Inn, closed and reopened as the Brooklyn House, with a vegan and gluten-free menu of “European comfort food,” before closing again, permanently. Outside of Boulder, Colo., the Black Forest Restaurant closed last summer after 59 years. The Olde German Schnitzel House in Hickory, N.C., served its last sauerkraut in 2014, lasting 10 years. One of Nashville’s oldest restaurants, Gerst Haus, died last month after 62 years. That’s 10 years longer than the Chicago Brauhaus, which closed in December.

…German food’s decline “reflects the cultural mix of this country toward more Latin American, Asian and African American culture, and less of the mainstay Germanic culture that influenced this country for many decades,” said Arnim von Friedeburg, an importer of German foods and the founder of “The cultural shift is going on, and German culture has to fight or compete to keep its relevance.”

My gene pool is at least somewhat German, but my mother was never much for German food. I had to move to Indiana to find its influence on the table; the column I wrote about my bafflement at first confronting noodles and potatoes on the same plate was one that got a ton of reader response. To you non-Hoosiers: Imagine a tub of mashed potatoes. Imagine a tub of chicken and noodles, likely thick homemade noodles, swimming in the customary yellow gravy. Now put a big pile of potatoes in the middle of your plate, and ladle the chicken and noodles over it. In Indiana, that’s good eatin’, and may well owe more to field-hand cuisine than Germany. My first memories of “German” in a dish’s description are only good when it’s sweets — German chocolate cake, Black Forest cake and…I think that’s it. German potato salad made me gag, and the various schnitzels and stews and so forth were simply mysteries. As my adult tastes broadened, I came to appreciate a little sauerkraut on a hot dog, but not much else. And now that I think of it, if you had to pick the one chocolate cake that a kid would refuse, it would be the German one.

But German restaurants were big when I was a kid, always a Haus of some sort, with maybe a hex sign out front (which is Pennsylvania Dutch, I know, but few customers were sticklers about that stuff). Frankenmuth, the locally famous tourist town in Michigan, has several places with waitresses in dirndls and waist-cinchers, serving “broasted” chicken by the coop-load to visitors, but I’d be willing to bet 90 percent of the customers are old.

There’s a place here in Detroit like the German restaurants of old. It survives, mainly on the strength of its floor show — they do singalongs periodically through the night, and it’s great fun, but the one time I was there we ordered apps and beer and not much else. When you want to tie on the carbo feedbag in Detroit, you head to a Polish place in Hamtramck. Where honestly, there’s not much difference in the cuisine.

OK, off to work today. Reading about leaks, but I said I wasn’t going to mention Him, so I won’t. Just remember DO NOT CONGRATULATE.

Posted at 10:39 am in Popculch | 94 Comments

The fashion show.

O hai, guys. I guess I forgot to blog yesterday. I think I just flat ran out of gas and decided to watch the Oscars, and then flat ran out of gas on that, too. This morning I decided to make this an in-the-office day, which wiped out daytime blogging opportunities, but really, who cares about these lame excuses?

My office is in Livonia, another inner-ring suburb that feels like it is a million miles away. Forty minutes in moving traffic, 60 in rush hour. If I had to do this every day, I wouldn’t. All the podcasts in the world can’t make that commute work on the regular. But once or twice a week is tolerable, and today was a very tolerable day. So Monday, nearly in the books, will go down as a not-bad one.

I see you were discussing the Oscars today. I think I saw all of them but “The Post” and “The Shape of Water,” but fortunately, our brethren on the right were at work today to brief us all:

A reader writes to ask if I’m going to do an Oscars post. The answer is no; I didn’t watch the show, or see the movies nominated. He responded by saying that I really ought to write something. “The Academy used to play it safe with controversy, but now it’s moving the Overton window faster than in real life,” he wrote. “Who’d have thought one decade ago that the most prestigious award in the film industry would go to a film about bestiality, and casting it in a positive light?”

He’s talking about The Shape Of Water, a movie in which the female protagonist falls in love with a humanoid amphibian, and has sex with it (“cod coitus,” according to Sonny Bunch).

I can’t even. So I’m not gonna. But imagine how exhausting it must be to filter everything — everything! — through one’s politics, one’s “culture,” one’s whatever-it-is that keeps us from simply enjoying art. I’ll see this film eventually, but I simply refuse to believe that it’s “about bestiality, and casting it in a positive light.”

I’d rather experience the Academy Awards via Tom & Lorenzo, who are almost always how you say spot-on with their assessments. My overall impression: Almost all the hair was ugh, and I simply do not understand why anyone wants to wear a formal dress that blends in with one’s skin. One reason Lupita Nyong’o always looks so damn good is, she uses her skin as a canvas, and paints with color. (Her co-star in that picture painted with paint — on her head.) To be sure, her lean, muscular body doesn’t hurt a bit, but if all she did was dress in coffee-colored clothing, I think I’d be meh on her as I am on the Beige/Blush Girls.

Man, if I looked like Margot Robbie — so beautiful she sucks all the oxygen out of the room — the last thing I’d do is go to the Oscars with hair that looks like I let it air-dry after a shower where I was too lazy to rinse all the conditioner out. And another pale-on-pale color thing, only the detailing looks like Christmas garland.

One exception — because there are always exceptions — has to be Jane Fonda. As T-Lo like to say: BOW DOWN. She’s 80. Years old.

So that was my Oscar night. In bed by 10:30, missed most of the good stuff.

Posted at 7:56 pm in Movies, Popculch | 52 Comments


I spend probably too much time thinking about faces, but lately there have been so many weird ones out there, and so many have an indelible connection with you-know-who. A few weeks ago, Mrs. T No. 1 was on her book tour, and ay-yi-yi:

Over the weekend, as you probably know, some fans of Mrs. T No. 1’s first husband held a fundraiser/tribute for him at his Florida club. OF course someone snapped a picture:

I almost shrieked when I saw that. I believe many of these women are the Trumpettes, Mar-a-Lago ladies of a certain age. I have sympathy for women who grow up trading on their looks, although I was never able to do so myself. Sooner or later the thief of time comes for all of us, and the more you’re invested in your own beauty, the harder it is to let go. The biggest tragedy of “Bombshell,” the Hedy Lamarr documentary I saw a couple weeks ago, was how even this flawless beauty, as smart as she was, found herself bound to the ideal of her looks, and augured into the plastic-surgery merry-go-round. By the last years of her life she lived as a recluse, unable to face the world with her weirdly distorted face.

Do we wind up with the faces we deserve? You may have heard that Mean Girl Megyn Kelly had a little celebrity tiff with Jane Fonda a few days ago. Kelly pressed Fonda to talk about plastic surgery she’d had, under the guise of explaining why she “looks so great.” Fonda was pretty graceful about it at first, crediting a “good attitude, good posture and taking care of myself” before trying to pivot back to the movie she had been sent to promote, but Kelly wasn’t having it. All the while, Robert Redford, Fonda’s co-star, sat next to her. Have you seen Robert Redford in the last few years? He’s no stranger to the plastic-surgery clinic, let me tell you, but Kelly didn’t want to talk about his face work. And you could argue that Redford was, in his youth, more well-known as much for his rugged handsomeness than Fonda ever was. (Of course, women in Hollywood are just expected to be beautiful.)

If I reach Fonda’s current age (80), I of course will never look as good as this:

Here’s me on the red carpet of LA Museum of Modern Art gala

A post shared by Jane Fonda (@janefonda) on

But I hope I’ll have her sense of humor:

So, what a few days, eh? In Michigan, we’ve been gripped by the filibuster of misery unfolding in Ingham County, where disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar is awaiting sentencing for counts related to years of systematic sexual abuse of young women connected to the Michigan State and U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics program. More than 120 women have stood to give victim-impact statements, and it’s simply devastating.

What’s even more dismaying is the reaction of the MSU administration, which appears to have learned nothing from the Penn State disaster a few years ago. Today — TODAY — one trustee went on a radio show and dismissed “this Nassar thing” as though it was a nuisance lawsuit brought by a crackpot and not an occasion of shame upon all who came close to it over the years it went on.

This is going to be very, very bad.

Oh, I am tiring quickly and must watch a little TV before making my way to my warm bed. Happy Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Current events, Popculch | 71 Comments

Back to the mangle.

And in just a week, that’s that.

No complaints here. Last year’s vacations were about getting out and exploring and doing new things. This year’s was more about retreating and refreshing, and that is fine. Fine, I tell you. I desperately needed both parts of that R ‘n’ R, and the setting was lovely. The image above was from the same walk that yielded the last one, when the first maples were just starting to redden. By the time we left, the bracken ferns were browning, the milkweed was yellowing and while the forest is still mostly green, the last act of the year is underway. Sorry to break it to you, but I guess most of us check the calendar from time to time.

Thank you all for keeping up the conversation in my absence. I tried to avoid most news, but couldn’t get away entirely. Actually, me on a news diet is approximately an average American who considers themselves well-informed, I suspect, at least judging from the conversations I overhear in restaurants. We had zero cell signal where we were staying, and no wifi. Have you noticed how the only place you find video stores these days are in rural areas and poor neighborhoods? One can’t get decent-enough internet service to stream, the other can’t really afford it. I’m leaving out the exceptional film-snob place deep in some university-adjacent neighborhood, but even those are going away, I expect. So we watched cottage-shelf DVDs and read. Got through three New Yorkers, one a disappointing fiction issue, and two books – “Conversations With Friends” and “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which a friend gifted me with and said I’d love. (I realize it was a best-seller for a long time, but I remind you, I was the very last person in the world to see “A Chorus Line” on Broadway, too.)

It turns out I liked-short-of-loved it, but it’s an interesting artifact of its time, I’ll say, that time being the bygone Clinton presidency. Sigh. Remember that time? Everybody was earning good money, the newspaper business was robust and Al Kida was a guy who sold you your morning bagel. (Carbs were OK then, too.) You could publish a memoir about resetting your life by undertaking the renovation of an Italian villa on an American academic’s schedule, and people found it refreshing rather than self-indulgent. Even “Tuscany,” back then, was sort of a yuppie Brigadoon, a destination you visited, fell in love with and vowed to return to ever after. It’s a richly detailed book, but after the main work on the house is over, it lost steam for me.

“Conversations With Friends” was richer, and I bought it based on the fact I read this New Yorker piece about it all the way to the end. It’s not a substantial book, but it’s interesting, as a glimpse of how young people think about love. At least the young person who wrote it.

I did much of my reading on the screened porch, because the weather was so warm, approaching fall or not. This is overexposed; I was trying to capture the gnat cloud at the center — look closely — but it also captures the warmth of the day:

The next day was ever warmer, and we floated on the river for about six hours. Lunch was a sandwich on a convenient gravel bar. Longtime readers will remember the boat from 2004, when Alan built it.

Our time in the cottage was done Thursday, but we couldn’t bear to go home, so we headed over to Traverse City in hopes that the usual summer crowds had abated somewhat. They had, but the place is still too much for me, except food-wise. We had a couple of good meals there, a couple more good beers, and I found a pair of cool boots, half-price, which makes it a good trip.

And then, homeward bound. As the cell signal grew stronger, I caught up on some reading. Almost all of it is outdated, but here are a couple you might not have seen yet:

The death of expertise, via Politico. We’ve hashed this out here many times, but the dark side of the internet’s democratization of everything has been the idea that anyone can be…oh, take your pick. A filmmaker, a publisher, a writer, a politician, a designer, etc. etc. I’m ready for the smart people to make a comeback, but god knows when that might be:

Voters say they reject expertise because experts—whom they think of as indistinguishable from governing elites—have failed them. “Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, ‘What have experts done for us lately?’” one USA Today columnist recently wrote, without irony. Somehow, such critics missed the successful conclusion of the Cold War, the abundance of food to the point that we subsidize farmers, the creation of medicines that have extended human life, automobiles that are safer and more efficient than ever, and even the expert-driven victories of the previously hopeless Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Experts, in this distorted telling, have managed only to impoverish and exploit ordinary Americans; anything that has benefited others apparently happened only by mere chance.

Also from Politico, the loneliest president, by Michael Kruse, who has made Trump-the-man his beat over the last year.

Finally, maybe a little housekeeping note. I’ve decided to continue the 3x/week posting, instead of the former 5x. I need to do some other writing, personal writing, and I need the time. You folks seem to carry the freight well in my absence, so keep on keeping on.

Now to find the bottom of my inbox. Over and out and back to the mangle. See you Wednesday-ish.

Posted at 4:04 pm in Housekeeping, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 85 Comments

Who are these jerks?

Today’s question: What’s wrong with the College Republicans?

Two of the tiki-torch marchers ID’d by the general public are College Republicans, and anytime I hear about that group, I’m reminded of a Fort Wayne story from 2002. I finally tracked down a copy of it, and since I can’t link, I’ll post larger-than-normal chunks of it here:

A Fort Wayne woman with dementia wrote nearly $50,000 in checks within six months, mostly to political organizations. She doesn’t recall making the donations, but her family wants the money back.

The more Mary donated, the more money the organizations pleaded for. They told the 82-year-old our nation is in danger of communist takeover and implied the letter writers had close ties with President Bush and other high-ranking government officials.

All the solicitations were through the mail.

…It’s a family’s worst nightmare, said niece Jan Rediger of Leo, who asked that her aunt’s full name not be published.

Last summer, her aunt told her, “The bank has stolen $30,000.”

“I knew things were going downhill when I stopped by to see her and there were stacks of mail everywhere, especially from Republican groups.

“There were hundreds of letters, most of them addressing her by her first name. She thought they were letters to her personally. She didn’t realize they were form letters. They all asked for money,” Rediger said.

…Last year, she began getting more letters from the College Republican National Committee, which is affiliated with the Republican National Committee.

Mary also received 20-30 letters a day from lesser-known GOP groups, including the National Republican Victory Campaign, Republican Strategy Headquarters, Republican Headquarters 2001 and the National Republican Leadership Committee.

All her checks were deposited and cashed, including several Mary made out to individuals listed as directors of the organizations.

One of the letters said:

“I need you to send your $200 contribtuion immediately. If I don’t hear back from you, I will be forced to shut down several critical Republican programs.” The undated letter was signed Scott Stewart, chairman of College Republican National Committee.

In another letter:

“I feel that we have gotten to know each other well enough that I may write to you using your Christian name …It always brings a smile to my face when I open a letter from Fort Wayne, Indiana because I know that it is from you. Mary, I am writing to you and sharing all of this with you because I have nowhere to turn. I am writing to you to ask you if you will make a major commitment to Republican Strategy Headquarters now to help President Bush in the amount of $25,000…

“This is the true amount that I need within the next three weeks if I am to help the president’s proposals pass through the Senate …I beseech you, send $25,000 now. Or if you cannot send it all at once, perhaps $5,000 now and the rest in a little while.” The letter, dated June 15, 2001, is signed: “Your sincere friend, David Harris, director of Republican Strategy Headquarters, PO Box 4442 Salisbury, MD 21803.

Although Mary did not send the requested $25,000, within a few months she did send nearly $13,000 to Republican Strategy Headquarters, which listed a different Washington, D.C., post office box on some letters.

…The College Republican National Committee “is not in any way connected” to Republican Strategy Headquarters, said committee Chairman Stewart.

But the family wonders why, in the June 15 letter, Harris writes: “You have been enormously generous toward me in the past and also to Chris, Scott and others.” Chris Tiedeman is general chairman of the National Republican Victory Campaign, a project of the College Republican National Committee.

Stewart said he had no explanation and “is going to be seriously looking into it.”

He said the national committee “does not ask for large sums of money,” adding solicitations usually are for $25 to $50.

In a March 28, 2001, letter, Stewart urges Mary to “rush me back $300 right now. …If we delay then the Rule of Law may be dead and America may turn into a Communist police state.”

There’s more, but you get the idea. A little Googling shows Stewart seemed to be cut from the usual College Republicans cloth — an early sexual harasser who rose like cream to the remunerative top layers of corporate America. And, of course, Mary wasn’t the only one. This was part of a national fundraising strategy, and most of the money went to pay vendors, not elect Republicans.

I had to chuckle over this passage in the last link:

College Republicans serve as the party’s outreach organization on college campuses. The group has been a starting place for many prominent conservatives, including Bush adviser Karl Rove, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed.

Elite company, right there. But seriously, given this history, wouldn’t you think job one would be to rebuild the brand? Rhetorical question, because of course, this is the brand – take-no-shit aggression in pursuit of party over all. Bilk a bunch of seniors? Hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few bank accounts. March with racists? A few bad apples, heavy hearts, thoughts and prayers, etc.

Blegh. Enough.

I want to leave you with something delightful after this grim week, I’ve found it, and it isn’t a kitty video, but this breezy history of true-confessions magazines, from their founding to today. Yes, today — they still exist!

The magazines are staple-bound and always 64 pages long—ten stories, two “Inspirational Mini-Stories, and one recipe, released once a month. The paper inside is newsprint, the photos all stock images, and the prose leans toward Kindle single. They’re not exactly the kind of magazines that anyone would describe as “venerable” at a glance, but the goofy covers belie the publications’ age and legacy. The first women’s confessional magazines, True Story and True Confessions are now approaching their centennial.

I think I’m going to have to seek one out. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Popculch | 83 Comments

Cricket time.

Did we talk much about Glen Campbell? I don’t think so. Of course his death was coming, everybody knew it. (Yours is coming too, and if you don’t know it, you should.) I took the opportunity to run through a few Jimmy Webb-written classics on YouTube, and thought what I always do: Jimmy Webb is an astonishing songwriter.

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” are two of the best songs ever written about adult heartbreak and loneliness, and Webb was barely out of his teens when he wrote them. He’s only 71!

I just said this again, at dinner. Alan pointed out that Billy Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” when he was 17, and that song is even more knowing and sophisticated and world-weary. But then, Strayhorn was gay; some of those guys have that stuff baked into their bones. I love those lyrics as much as I do anything by Webb:

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis
Of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails

The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces
With distingué traces
That used to be there
You could see where
They’d been washed away
By too many through the day
Twelve o’clock tales

I snuck a “Wichita Lineman” reference into a Bridge story, because I could. Here’s to Glen, a great artist.

Man, it’s been a long week. Long for the usual reasons (work), long for the newer reasons (Trump), short for more poignant ones (ah, fleeting summer). I want to take two full days to myself this weekend; I think I deserve it.

In the meantime? Some bloggage:

Someone said on Twitter a while back that everything you need to know about dietary supplements can be seen in the fact that so many grifters find their way to them. Alex Jones is no exception, and Buzzfeed sent away for a few of his branded products and had them tested. The good news is, they’re basically what they claim to be. The bad news is, they cost about 200 percent more than they should, but of course, only Alex Jones is sending you Alex Jones-branded patent medicine. For something called Anthroplex, for instance:

Claimed ingredients:​ Zinc Orotate, Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, Tongkat Ali-Longjack, Fulvic Powder

Test results: Labdoor found that Anthroplex passed a heavy metal screening but noticed a discrepancy in the reported amount of zinc in the capsules. According to Labdoor, there’s 31% less zinc than advertised. “When we look into the zinc dosage, it’s so ridiculously low that you’d basically be buying a worthless product for $40,” the report reads.

Review snippet: “This product is a waste of money. The claim that ‘Anthroplex works synergistically with the powerful Super Male Vitality formula in order to help restore your masculine foundation and stimulate vitality with its own blend of unique ingredients’ is fluff on multiple fronts.”

Can’t get upset by this. If you’re dumb enough to believe Jones, someone’s going to get your money. Might as well be him.

From Philip Kennicott at the Washington Post, an essay about his border collie, a rabies scare, and some thoughtful thoughts about how we behave in a crisis:

In a serious pandemic, in a country full of people not just skeptical about scientific consensus but also deeply hostile to government authority, what chance is there that people will abide by basic public health mandates during an emergency? What if the Ebola virus scare of 2014 happened today and was managed from the White House by tweet? Even if you understand the idea of risk intellectually, the words “There’s a very low risk” aren’t comforting when it’s your health in the balance, which is one reason it is so difficult to contain costs in our medical system.

Finally, how you-know-who and his right-wing pals latched onto the death of Kate Steinle and rode it across the finish line. Good policy is based on fact. What is based on distortion of fact?

You tell me. And have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments