Statement dressing.

Having enjoyed a few days of not having to be under the same roof as her husband, the First Lady of this once-great country wishes people would stop paying so much attention to what she wears. To which I reply: Then stop dressing so goddamn weird.

I have Tim Gunn and “Project Runway” to thank for introducing me to the concept of an outfit being “costume-y.” That is to say, it moves beyond style — which flatters and communicates something about the wearer — and becomes something that calls attention to itself alone. Also, it makes people looking on say, essentially, WTF?

Lady Gaga’s meat dress is an easy example of this, in contrast to, say, one of her other many fun evening outfits.

Lots of attention was paid to FLOTUS’ overseas wardrobe, but perhaps most to the meet-your-British-overlords equestrian ensemble, complete with pith helmet. Especially the pith helmet, which scholars explained elsewhere has a particular attachment to colonialism, but honestly? I don’t think that entered FLOTUS’ head for even a second. I don’t think she was sending a message to white nationalists or anything like that. I think she’s playing dress-up. She saw a picture of a Kenyan coffee plantation in a book and duplicated the look.

I mean, she’s also wearing riding boots; why? Is she getting on a horse? Walking somewhere that snakebite might be feared? No. Any old broad-brimmed hat could shield her face from the sun, but the picture of the coffee plantation had a pith helmet, so a pith helmet it is.

Where does anyone even buy one of those things? It’s a puzzle.

Then there was the other outfit, which she saved for the pyramids of Egypt:

I think this one came out of an Indiana Jones movie. It makes absolutely no sense to me. The hat is fine — again, strong sun — and there’s nothing wrong with a pantsuit, but the hat with the pantsuit and then the windblown necktie? Hello, Dr. René Emile Belloq.

It’s really baffling. If we’re all supposed to pretend that Melania Knauss entered this country as a “model,” shouldn’t she have learned something about clothing along the way?

Ugh, a Sunday after a tough week with another one ahead. I am coping by arranging as much as possible ahead of time, a to-do list and food prep and all laundry done and all the rest of it. I’m also avoiding the news even more than I did last weekend. I went to the library and checked out three books, all of them novels. This isn’t avoiding reality, it’s bolstering sanity. There comes a point where you just can’t take this crap another day.

One bit of news I did see this weekend is about the melee that broke out after the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Vegas Saturday night. The bout was between Irishman Conor McGregor and Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, which made me reflect, first, that Ireland was the old source of great-white-hope fighters, and Russia is the new one. Besides the Ukrainians (Wladimir Klitchko and his brother Vitali) and the famous Triple-G (Gennady Gennadyovich Golovkin, aka Triple G, and boy do the announcers like to draw that one out in the introductions), there are a shitload of ferocious fighters from the north Caucasus, i.e. Muslim Russia. When we saw Claressa Shields fight here in Detroit in June, the undercard had a couple of Chechens on it, and Nurmagomedov is from Dagestan, right next door.

And now that I think about it, Dearborn has a little bit of a boxing community, which makes me wonder why Russia and why Muslim Russia. Anyone have any ideas?

OK, I think I’m done for now, and I hope this week brings you peace, quiet and as little static as possible. God knows we need it after last week.

Posted at 5:49 pm in Current events, Popculch | 117 Comments

Not dead yet.

The word of the day is…I guess it’s a compound word, but whatever: “Pre-mourning.”

Allow me to explain.

The news that Aretha Franklin is, quote gravely ill unquote came in late Sunday night. In journo-speak, that means the person involved has hours to live. I generally work Mondays at my non-journalism workplace, but I got there particularly early Monday, so I peeled off my first hour to dash off…I guess you’d call it an appreciation of the queen of soul.

“I will get you something before noon,” I told my editor. It was done by 9:30 a.m. Whew!

But Aretha lingered. Word of her health condition spread. Of course, thanks to social media, everybody has something to say now, and they all started saying it. Traditional news outlets swung into action, some with comical results — two local TV stations did live standups in front of the Motown museum, because TV staffs skew young and apparently no one in their newsrooms knew Aretha had never been a Motown artist, ever. (Columbia, then Atlantic.) The pop music writers started doing their career retrospectives. There was a headline in the Freep yesterday: What we know about Aretha Franklin’s health. Pieces about who was stopping by to visit in these presumably final days.

My poor little appreciation, which seemed crisp 48 hours ago, now stinks like an old fish. This has all been said, I’m thinking, looking at it. It’s not fresh at all. I’ve seen that Kennedy Center thing 14 times on my Facebook in the last hour.

And then I saw this:

The digital age allows us to witness “pre-mourning” on a worldwide scale. And that’s what we’re witnessing right now around the news that Aretha Franklin’s health is failing. People are celebrating her life and bracing for her possible death — and much of this is playing out in public.

OK, first off: Death is not “possible.” It’s inevitable. For everyone, even Aretha Franklin. But I find this kinda…gross. There’s a tribute concert in the works, for god’s sake. It’s not quite like, but close to, the heirs fighting over an estate before the corpse is cool. Let’s give the lady some peace in her final days.

Does your city have Bird scooters yet? Detroit got them a few weeks ago. I won’t say I …hate them, exactly, but man, they can be annoying, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some eager-beaver bro runs over an old person, or a young person, or some other person, and then we’ll have a situation like they have in Los Angeles, which you have to agree is pretty funny:

As cities like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills struggle to control a rapid proliferation of electric pay-per-minute scooters, some residents are taking matters into their own hands and waging a guerrilla war against the devices. These vandals are destroying or desecrating the vehicles in disturbingly imaginative ways, and celebrating their illegal deeds on social media — in full view of authorities and the public.

I’ve had a few zoom past me on the not-particularly-crowded streets. They get on my nerves when they weave in and out of sidewalks and streets, but I guess that’s the point.

How’s your August going? August is spider season here — they’re turning up everywhere. They’re pooping all over Alan’s boat and making webs outside the back door every night. Big ones, too — I expect they’re genetic mutants enabled by climate change, don’t you? Grabbing the last meals out of summer, although honestly, there are weeks and weeks left before the first frost. I never kill them; I relocate them outdoors. Anything that kills flies is A-OK with me.

So, what are the current events for discussion? Omarosa? I don’t have the energy, except to note that no one could have possibly seen this amazing, astonishing outcome to her White House employment. Also, I hope she has lots more tapes.

And then there’s the One True Church. Ugh.

Time for bed. Over the hump, Wednesday.

Posted at 9:46 pm in Current events, Popculch | 46 Comments

The ‘Wolf continues to rock.

I forgot to tell you about Steppenwolf. OK, here goes:

This was yet another outing organized by my friend Dustin, who has yet to reach 30 but, as he often says, is devoted mainly to musicians who qualify for Medicare. And the ‘Wolf — as John Kay referred to the band from the stage — certainly qualifies. Kay does, anyway, and for all intents and purposes, he *is* Steppenwolf. He’s now 74, and announced from the stage that this would be the final! Steppenwolf! Tour! EVER.

Sorry you couldn’t be there to hear them plow through a completely standard oldies-act set, with all the usual hits, from “Sookie Sookie” through “Rock Me,” “Snowblind Friend,” blah blah blah, “Monster” and then the band introduction, followed by “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Born to be Wild” and one more I can’t remember…oh right, “The Pusher.” (Thanks,!)

I was hoping for a MAGA-led riot during “Monster,” as anti-America a song as was produced in the ’60s, but no deal. The Trump voters in the audience — and I’m confident a straw poll would have shown a crowd as red as blood — either saw it as a nostalgia piece or just didn’t know what it was about.

But of course I wasn’t there for the music, which I burned out on before junior year of high school. I was there to see the amazing audience of elderly bikers, who looked sort of like the Confederate Army in full retreat, if the Rebels had still had decent boots, four-footed canes and health insurance. There was so much evidence of hard living — beer bellies, prosthetic legs, baroque surgery scars running up and down legs from where they’d had to lay the bike down on that bitch of a turn that one time.

Being a biker is a look that doesn’t age well, but hey, no one cared! And so there were women who looked 70 if they were a day, still wearing skintight jeans, Harley-Davidson tank tops, engineer boots and American-flag bandannas on their hair, a face full of wrinkles like W.H. Auden, in total IDGAF mode. Once an old lady, always an old lady. And their dudes were similarly dressed, and guess what? They made for some cute couples.

Lots of this sort of thing:

When was the last time we used combat paratroopers? That guy’s hair looks too young to be a Vietnam vet.

Here was John Kay, signing a last autograph before heading off to his bus or hotel room or something:

The ‘Wolf has had a good run, Kay said from the stage — 50 years and then some — but it’s time to move on. He’s planning to save the elephants in his remaining years. God bless him.


Some of you were talking in the comments about companies moving their corporate offices hither and yon in search of the young and educated. That’s certainly happening here. But I wonder how well this trend will scale, as the wonks say. The older I get, the less willing I am to sit in traffic, under any circumstances. Commuting at rush hour is one of my least-favorite things to do, ever, and I’ll do almost anything to avoid it — take surface streets, be an hour late, whatever — because it’s the closest I get to murder these days.

If I had to get into a dense downtown via car every day, I’d go insane. Fortunately I mainly do so off-peak, or else take the bus.

Just one piece of bloggage as we slide into the weekend — the peerless Robin Givhan on Paul Manafort’s revolting, expensive wardrobe:

His is the story of a man’s inexorable slide into a nauseating spectacle of insatiable consumption — a parable, or perhaps, a farce that included salivating merchants flying across the country to cater to his appetites. There are so many enticing, beguiling entry points in this story of unbridled decadence: the use of wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to pay his clothing bills, the capacity to spend more than $929,000 on suits in a five-year period, a perplexing fixation on plaid sport jackets. But ultimately, the one thing that most folks will remember from the first week of Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges is his $15,000 ostrich-leather bomber jacket.

The jacket is an atrocity — both literal and symbolic. It’s a garment thick with hubris and intent. For the prosecution, it was not an opening statement; it was an opening salvo.

As a matter of aesthetics, it’s worth stipulating that most clothes would not look particularly enticing dangling from a wooden hanger hooked over the back of an open door. And the government’s photographer is not exactly Richard Avedon. But hanger appeal is not the problem. The jacket, with its white topstitching and white satin lining, lacks finesse, artistry and sophistication. It’s simply a celebration of ostrich leather, which is to say that it is a celebration of money and excess. Ostrich, after all, is an expensive, exotic skin. Manafort also owned python, which he had stitched into an equally unimpressive but expensive jacket.

Now that. Is fashion writing.

Happy weekend, all. Rock on.

Posted at 8:55 pm in Current events, Popculch | 46 Comments

Slow food.

OK, a little breathing space this afternoon, so here goes:

As Connie may have hinted at in the previous post comments, one of my two part-time employers is hosting a conference this week, and it’s been time-consuming. It’s short but pretty dense-packed, and between the tweeting and coffee-swilling and field-trip wrangling, I haven’t had much time to spare. Yesterday was “Detroit Day” for our guests, policy researchers from several different states, and we had sessions on the bankruptcy, the autonomous-vehicle future, the lead neurotoxin menace and to finish the day, a bus tour to two urban farms. There were a lot of details and emails involved, but it all came off without a hitch, so most of the pressure is off now. Tonight is a dinner at the DIA, then the rest is just administrative stuff and waving goodbye.


Let me begin by asking for a show of hands: Anybody been to a McDonald’s lately? If your hand is up, can you tell me what the hell is going on at that place? Because I’ve stopped there twice in maybe the last six months, and if this is the way they’re running, sell your stock.

I guess I have to start with the usual disclaimers: I’m not a regular, although I’ll stop there from time to time when I’m on a long drive and it’s clear there will be no Steak & Shake for at least 100 miles, or if I’m running between errands and ravenously hungry with no time to eat. A small fries and a Diet Coke will tide me over to the next real-food occasion pretty well. Oh, and cards on the table: I still enjoy an Egg McMuffin from time to time. Maybe twice a year.

As it happened, some of these circumstances led me to a Mickey D’s a couple times lately. Both times, the drive-through lanes were backed way up, and I figured I could park, order inside and be on my way in less time. If only. They’ve revamped their order-and-delivery system, and the delays now make the term “fast food” ironic. Gone is the slanting aluminum rack behind the counter, where the cooks kept the wrapped burgers sliding down to the counter people to bag and deliver p.d.q. Now you get a slip with an order number, and you stand around and wait. And wait. And wait.

Both times I’ve been lately, it’s clear why the drive-through lane was backed up, why the lot’s been re-striped with sit-and-wait parking spots. I’ve had faster food service in bars. Hell, even in real restaurants, they can usually get a salad or bowl of soup out within a few minutes of ordering, but the other day it took at least 10 or 15 to deliver a quarter-pounder.

I suspect the labor shortage has something to do with this. We’re long past the time when a fast-food joint was a teenager’s traditional first job; I think the average FF worker’s age is now 31. Every McD’s I’ve been in lately has signs touting the excellent benefits to be gained from working there, and the smiling person on the poster rarely looks 16. It’s possible this is a transitional step to the order-from-kiosks model, too, and the kid running the register is simply dead man walking. Or it might just be that fast food is going through yet another transition as an industry, and I don’t read deep enough into the Wall Street Journal to know what it is.

Anyway, for as long as it took me to get my food, it took the kid in front of me about 20 to get his chicken nuggets.

OK, so a little bloggage:

How America uses its land — a data package with some great maps.

Here’s a piece from my other part-time job — not mine — about the GOP Senate battle here in Michigan. Two candidates are trying to outdo one another in pledging fealty to you-know-who. One is a young war vet, the other an older businessman. Both should know better, but I guess not:

A Pensler campaign ad noted that James’ only campaign contribution ever consisted of a $500 donation to a liberal Detroit City Council candidate who now supports “sanctuary cities,” which shield illegal immigrants from deportation. At the time, James said, he naively backed a local candidate running for office in a district that included his family’s Detroit business.

In response to a counterattack, Pensler was forced to defend a few campaign contributions he made to Democrats two decades ago. The wealthy financier said he has contributed more than 30 times to GOP candidates and his attempt to “cross the aisle” with Dem donations was a mistake.

…As both candidates vie for the affections of staunchly pro-Trump voters, James attacked “liberal” Pensler for saying Trump talks “like a fourth grader.” Pensler cried foul, contending that his remarks in context show that he was complimenting the president. He tried to say that Trump successfully boils issues down to a fourth-grade level, which Pensler views as an admirable political skill.

Not that they’re anywhere close to the bottom, either. Oh, no. This guy is much, much closer.

And with that, I’m going to try to grab a bike ride before I have to change for the evening. Thanks for bearing with the erratic schedule around here.

Posted at 2:25 pm in Current events, Popculch | 46 Comments

The ‘Wolf rocks on. Me, likewise.

I’m heading into a 48-hour period of grindstone-meet-nose stuff, but I wanted to put up a fresh post and let er’rybody talk about this and that. My weekend started with seeing, of all bands, Steppenwolf, and ended with an all-day there-and-back to Fort Wayne, to say farewell to one of our neighbors, who died unexpectedly a few weeks ago. It was a good trip, but exhausting, and for now, let me just show you this photo of one of the ‘Wolf crowd, and I’ll be back probably Tuesday or Wednesday:

Yeah, it was that kind of night. Carry on, and I’ll see y’all soon.

Posted at 10:24 pm in Popculch | 24 Comments

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