Halfway through.

Apologies for yesterday’s no-show. I spent much of Monday on the road, driving to and from Battle Creek. I get out into farm country so seldom these days that it comes as something of a shock to see fields and lakes and freeway exits with Steak & Shakes. Come to think of it, I don’t see much fast food these days, either. GP has zoning prohibiting drive-throughs, with only one sad, grandfathered-in Wendy’s, and much of the fast food in Detroit between here and my office is dicey for one reason on another – cleanliness and security, mainly. Once I got off the freeway at Harper and Cadieux with a late-night, mad craving for Taco Bell. The drive-through window had one of those bulletproof plexiglas turntables, a detail of commerce you folks in the nicer neighborhoods don’t see so often, I imagine.

I used to love a long, solitary drive, but yesterday’s left me back-achey and cranky. It was the lunch that did it. I went to a craft brewer in downtown B.C. and had a mediocre, indifferently served roasted-squash soup that tasted like canned pumpkin-pie filling, and burnt ends slathered in a syrupy barbecue sauce. How hard is it to do these two dishes halfway decently? Not very.

Should have gone to Steak & Shake. Or had a bowl of Battle Creek’s finest. I’m sure a whole box of Honey Bunches of Oats would have contained less sugar than that soup.

Tuesday was better. Long swim, with lots of variety; the elderly lifeguard/retired coach who runs the early-morning swim puts a different workout on the board every day, and offers free advice to everyone who wants it. It’s a generous gift. Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned flip turns, corrected my terrible breast stroke and am on my way to mastering the butterfly, a stroke I’d never have dared try before. And my freestyle and backstroke have improved as well. When I think of the swimmer I was when I got in the pool just two years ago, it’s sort of astonishing – I’m surprised I didn’t drown or anything. He does all this for probably something close to minimum wage and the impetus to get out of the house in retirement. AND he’s running a summer program at a local park, which I will sign up for as soon as I’m able.

The tree across the street is having a glorious bloom, too, and it’s in my sightline as I write this. So y’know: Little things.

With that, let’s get to the bloggage, then:

I hope you guys can read this, as it’s a WSJ link, but I can, so fingers crossed. A rumored “fountain of youth” drug has seniors clamoring to get into the trial:

A few people said they craved significant life extensions—complete with retirement benefits. “The thought of living on until 120 years old fills me with great excitement, and also the thought of drawing my pensions until then would be an amazing gift,” a 71-year-old British man wrote.

Others seem motivated by their dread of an emotionally and financially challenging decline. “It’s not so much a fear of dying, it’s a fear of living in pain and agony and being a burden to everyone else and my wife and so forth,” said Bill Thygerson, 70, a retired missile-systems engineer.

Many who raised hands, including Mr. Thygerson, of Huntsville, Ala., already live carefully. He has cut way down on sugar and red meat. He’s a gym regular. A few years ago, he got back to his college weight. (“I did have three vegan cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday,” he confessed.)

Is this what I have to look forward to? Pain and agony and vegan cupcakes? Maybe I should hope for a terrorist attack or instant-death car crash. (Note the Brit, thinking about pensions. As if, America!)

A Michigan substitute teacher is fired. Why? Because she spoke the word “vagina” in an 8th-grade art class, discussing the work of Georgia O’Keeffe:

Harper Creek Community Schools released a quote from their school handbook, indicating teachers are required to get advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.

Wint says even so, she is still in disbelief she was dismissed.

“I honestly had no words, because I’ve always been an advocate of not censoring art and music and writing,” she said.

Now to wait for the primary returns to roll in. Happy Wednesday, guys.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 90 Comments
 

Two glorious days.

We had a spectacular weekend, weather-wise. I bet you did, too, as I gather this blessing of sunshine and warmth was granted to most the country east of the Mississippi, and after last weekend, we wuz OWED. So both days had a bit of work, but also fun, and nothing you say will make me feel guilty about that.

So’s how about some photos, then?

Saturday’s big event was a brunch to honor the retiring head of the journalism fellowship I did back in the day. Over to Ann Arbor to eat eggs, drink mimosas and enjoy some fellowship one more time. I took a walk though Wallace House, too. Charles, the retiring director, loves editorial cartooning. In 2000-01, Milt Priggee, who worked for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, was a member of the class and drew the seminar speakers. Many of these pieces are framed and hanging on the wall. Never noticed this one before:

snyder1

Of course, the subject doesn’t look like this anymore, and he has a new title now, too:

snyder2

“In happier days,” as they say.

Pat Oliphant visited during our year, and many others. He talks about current events and sketches at the same time, and these great, loopy caricatures emerge from it. Charles always has the best ones framed, and they’re really filling the place now. This one is over the stairs:

nixon

You really can see why cartoonists truly mourned Nixon’s exit from public life. The nose, the brows, the hairline and boom, there he is.

Took a bathroom selfie, and yes, the whole quote runs around the perimeter. (Improperly attributed to Voltaire, some say.)

bathroomselfie

And after all the catching up and email addresses were exchanged, it was off to north campus to shlep a few things home for Miss Kate, who will be rejoining us in just a couple more weeks. Where did the year go? Michigan dense-packs its academic year, and then that long summer — it’s great for out-of-classroom learning for sure. I found her enjoying that perk of college, outdoor studying:

katestudies

Change a few details, and that could have been me, once upon a million years ago. Also, she’s prettier, and studies more.

Seeing her with her devices reminds me that we saw “Steve Jobs” later that night, which was perfectly fine, if you like Aaron Sorkin talkfests, which I must say don’t always hit me the right way. I give it points for taking a different approach to the ol’ biopic, and structuring it in a novel way, but I did doze off for a few seconds here and there. Worth a watch if you’re an Apple person, maybe less so if you’re not.

And then Sunday was a bike ride, first long one of the season, maybe 15 miles, followed by a draft beer. If you had a better Sunday than me, well, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Not a lot of bloggage — the newspapers are oddly uninteresting on weekends like this — but maybe two things. First, the aforementioned Farm to Fable package from Florida (and everywhere, really), which pries the lid off the locally-grown myth. Like a lot of great reporting, it points out things that are lying in plain sight, but it does it in a readable, genial, well-designed package that seems perfectly suited to the content. We’re talking food here, not rapacious charter schools, so the amble-with-me-into-this-thicket-of-lies approach works really well:

What makes buying food different from other forms of commerce is this: It’s a trust-based system. How do you know the Dover sole on your plate is Dover sole? Only that the restaurateur said so.

And how can you be sure the strawberries your toddler is gobbling are free of pesticides? Only because the vendor at the farmers market said so.

Your purchases are unverifiable unless you drive to that farm or track back through a restaurant’s distributors and ask for invoices.

I did.

For several months, I sifted through menus from every restaurant I’ve reviewed since the farm-to-table trend started. Of 239 restaurants still in business, 54 were making claims about the provenance of their ingredients.

For fish claims that seemed suspicious, I kept zip-top baggies in my purse and tucked away samples. The Times had them DNA tested by scientists at the University of South Florida. I called producers and vendors. I visited farms.

My conclusion? Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or “greenwashing.”

This approach is getting some meta-journalism attention, too. It’s the first investigative series I’ve seen compared to Netflix. So there’s that.

A charter-school smackdown Brian should enjoy.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the golden light of the day’s magic hour and mentally prepare for the week ahead. Hope yours goes well.

Posted at 12:01 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments
 

Kibbles ‘n’ b.s.

The day we took our first Jack Russell terrier home, the breeder gave us a deli container of food – Iams Eukanuba. “I’ve always fed my dogs Eukanuba, and they’ve done well on it,” she said.

So we took Spriggy home, gave the bag of Purina we’d already bought to the shelter, bought a bag of Eukanuba and never looked back. Sprig lasted until a month shy of his 18th birthday. So when we adopted Wendy, we bought a bag. I couldn’t find it at my beloved locally owned pet store (Lou’s, the best in town), so I bought it from a regional chain a few blocks away, one with a very all-natural, snooty kind of nothing’s-too-good-for-my-fur-baby vibe. They had a frequent-buyer’s program, and I dragged that punch card around for the more than two years it’s taken to buy 12 bags. On Saturday, I took it in for my free 13th bag.

“Just to let you know,” the clerk said, “but we’re not going to be restocking this when the inventory is gone. It has…corn in it, which is contrary to the Snooty Pet Store philosophy.” All this delivered in a sort of of-course-you-agree airiness.

I stood there thinking, “If it weren’t for the Chinese and their poisoned pet food, this place wouldn’t exist.” Also thinking, “If this is a ploy to get me to pay even more for dog food, it ain’t gonna work.” You can put organic lamb and mountain blueberries in kibble, but we’re still talking about an animal that will eat its own poop, and with gusto.

Any suggestions? This place gets on my nerves.

So, then. Perhaps you’ve heard about Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently learned the man who he thought was his father, wasn’t. His real father turned out to be Sir Anthony Montague Browne, an aide to Winston Churchill. But until you’ve read his mother’s marvelous explanation of how this happened, you really haven’t lived:

Gavin Welby, my ex-husband, was a very strong, possessive character. At the end of March 1955 he was bullying me to leave my job as personal secretary to the Prime Minister and run away with him and marry him in the United States where his divorce was being finalised. At the age of 25, as I was, the pressure became too great and in the end I found myself unable to resist.

One feature of this pressure is that I was already drinking heavily at times. Although I could then ensure that this did not affect my work, it was later to develop into serious alcoholism during the 1960s which only came to an end when I entered rehab in 1968. I have not drunk alcohol since.

Although my recollection of events is patchy, I now recognize that during the days leading up to my very sudden marriage, and fuelled by a large amount of alcohol on both sides, I went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne. It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn’t work and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison.

Girl, that sort of thing happens all the time. Relax. You got a fine boy out of it. He grew up to be Archbishop of Canterbury! Blood will always tell. I’m sure he’ll forgive you.

You might have heard that Andrew Sullivan, the ultimate bad penny, is back on the job, or will be soon, this time at New York magazine. Roy makes the case for not forgetting Sullivan’s background, in case you need to be reminded, you fifth columnist.

God, here comes Tuesday. No entry tomorrow, alas — journalism awards tonight, so I’ll be curling my hair and getting my Oscar dress steamed.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

Desperately seeking zzzz’s.

If you’re looking for some pithy content today, you’re in the wrong place. Slept extremely badly last night, so I’m looking for an extra-early bedtime, a melatonin and fervent hopes for a good night’s sleep.

I was in Ann Arbor much of the day, and had a first: A source who grew up in Columbia City, and remembered my stupid face in her parents’ evening newspaper. That would be Columbia City, Indiana, for you non-sophisticates out there. A real happenin’ town. I showed my horse there a couple of times, passed through the McDonald’s drive-thru lane. Woo. Good times.

Bloggage: Here’s the story I was writing when Wendy was editing me, on Friday.

I’m also reading up on the Panama papers, so I can think about them coherently.

I suppose y’all will be discussing Wisconsin by the time I check in tomorrow, but for now, it’s lights out for me.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

Your digital assistant, and no-show.

I have a deadline at lunch today, and it means I’m going to have to write through blog time. So accept this photo of a typical cool-weather evening on my couch —

sleepywendy

— and a few links. (Wendy is quite the snuggler, when the snugglee is possessed of body warmth. Once the weather warms up, she’ll be back on her tuffet.)

I admit that I have yelled at Siri in the car. I have told her she’s a stupid fucking twit, that all I want is a sense of the traffic between me and downtown, and how should I phrase that request so you can understand it?! I wonder if I’d be so profane if her name was Sam, and she was a he. The Atlantic explores the issue.

Donald Trump says one thing, backtracks. Oh, how long 2016 will be.

Dahlia Lithwick with a genius proposal for Merrick Garland.

Back for the end of this long week tomorrow.

Posted at 12:15 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

The rebirth, and one death.

A pretty good weekend ripened into a perfect Easter — bell-clear, warm, perfect. The Facebook pictures on my feed are a glory of sunshine and pastels, little girls in pretty dresses and boys in bow ties, egg hunts and big family feeds

Me, I wore black. Still not ready to transition to my springtime color palette of white, beige and gray.

But a good weekend. It included “The Ten Commandments” (not the whole thing, of course, because there were commercials roughly ever 45 seconds), a David Bowie tribute concert, Easter, spaghetti and a few other wonderful things. Now a thunderstorm is drawing the curtain down on the whole thing. Not bad.

Here’s an OID story for you: A mediocre avant-garde artist partially disassembles a Detroit house and ships it to Rotterdam for an exhibition, promising he’d clean the whole thing up within six months.

Yeah, that was a year ago.

The story of 20194 Stoepel has become a tangled web of lofty artistic intentions, unintended consequences and broken promises, leaving neighbors living next to blight they say is worse than when the house was simply abandoned.

“I feel disrespected to the max, like we are nothing,” said Beverly Woung, who lives next door to the crumbling remains.

Which is bad enough, but when you read the guy’s self-justification, it’s enough to turn you into a Republican.

When I started on this project, my thoughts were clear. I wanted to bring a house back to Europe from America. When I arrived in Detroit in March 2015 I realised that this city – in the country I had left in 1992 out of distaste for its nationalistic, isolationist, police-dog mentality and its privatised prison system, along with its thick dictionary of rules and tax codes and its ingratiating political correctness – had, aside from the positive developments that were mostly in the downtown area, begun to look like a war zone.

This guy is such a douche it takes your breath away. And now the city is going to have to clean up his mess.

What happens when you make a great research university an arm of the state chamber of commerce. In Wisconsin, specifically.

But the big news of the weekend is the death of Jim Harrison, a great poet, novelist, gourmand, and Charlotte’s neighbor. It was only a matter of time — he was old and looked terrible — but it’s still a shock. I won’t sugarcoat his last few books, which were not his best and sometimes embarrassing to read, but when he was good, he was as good as anyone. And he wrote a lot when he was good. Almost everyone slips a little in old age. And even when he wasn’t great, he was better than almost everyone.

A big loss. Now I have to download his last book.

Posted at 12:08 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 37 Comments
 

Potholes.

The week is one pothole after another, but my shock absorbers are handling it. The weather needs to break; somehow I think a few open windows might make everything a little easier to take. (Pause.) Said every cabin-fever sufferer at this latitude since time immemorial.

This is spring-break time for the local schools, starting with Good Friday and continuing through next week. Strange to be divorced from that schedule for the first time in a decade. Of course, the only question I have of Holy Week is this: When is “The Ten Commandments” on TV?

And also, Passover.

Then jelly beans go on sale and the daffodils bloom. Hurry, please.

I can always tell I’m getting twitchy when I start obsessing on certain current events. This week: Trump and Brussels. I wish the world would stop giving these gifts to me, because I’d like to return both to the service desk. However, let’s use them to kick off the bloggage. Neil Steinberg on the Trumpian response to Brussels:

Because really, after the Brussels bombing, short of wrapping himself in explosives and setting himself off in some crowded public place, nobody could do the terrorist’s bidding with such alacrity as Donald Trump, running from station to station to spread the ISIS gospel.

“Frankly, we’re having problems with the Muslims,” he told Fox News. “These attacks are not done by Swedish people. That I can tell you. We have to be smart. We have to look at the mosques and study what’s going on. There is a sick problem going on.”

In other words, “Muslim = Terrorist.”

Which is exactly the reaction terrorists are looking for when they commit these atrocities. Like Donald Trump, they are uncomfortable with the idea of a tolerant Western society that welcomes all faiths. Like Donald Trump, they don’t think it’s wise for the West to include Muslims either. Like Donald Trump, they’d prefer the cultures remain separate and apart.

So eloquent. Ed and Gin and Tacos is a little harsher. Yesterday we talked about word salads? His post is called Word Cannon:

“What would you do?”

“Something.”

“What’s something?”

“I don’t know, I’ll have to ask someone else.”

About a third of the country is really excited at the prospect of this person getting in the White House.

This is reacting to the WashPost editorial-board meeting, of course. I wonder how many more of those he’ll be doing. Based on the reaction to this one? Not many, I’d wager. No upside.

The WashPost is pretty brutal on Belgium’s culpability in failing to spot the vipers in their midst:

BRUSSELS — The bomb attacks in Belgium offer new evidence of its security forces’ shortcomings in monitoring violent Islamist radicals, a failure that has allowed this country at the heart of Europe to become an incubator of terror.

One glaring example: Belgian authorities knew that at least one of the two siblings accused of blowing themselves up in Tuesday’s attacks — Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29 — had entered Turkey with the apparent intent of joining Islamist militants in Syria, according to a senior Turkish security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Bakraoui was stopped by Turkish authorities last summer at the Syrian border and sent to the neighboring Netherlands. But Belgian officials now say that at the time, they did not equate his attempt to join the fighters with a possible terrorist threat.

Pop culture news. Guess who died recently?

Clare Alden MacIntyre-Ross’ death on March 9 in Falls Church, Virginia, might have gone largely unnoticed by the larger world if she hadn’t been a Fresh Air Fund camp counselor in 1960 — and if her parents had let her take the subway.

The Scarsdale native was the daughter of former Scarsdale Mayor Malcolm MacIntyre, who was also the former president of Eastern Air Lines and under secretary of the Air Force under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Clare’s claim to fame was that she inspired Harry Chapin to write the love song “Taxi,” about former lovers who meet after years when he picks her up in his cab.

Finally, I really admire people who can turn Twitter into a form of dada art. Like this woman. Not for everyone, but I laughed out loud.

Man, doing the taxes this weekend is going to feel like a massage. Beginning, middle, end. Enjoy the week’s downslope.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 43 Comments
 

Self-critical Sunday.

Sunday afternoon. Time for clouds in my coffee, fat Sunday papers, mimosas. What am I doing? Staring at a screen. Not for the first time this year, I’m struck by a thought, Girl, you have GOT to get your shit together.

From the outside, my shit is mostly together, but it never feels that way. I put my tax documents in one place, I do my laundry, unfailingly, every weekend. My house is rarely surgical-theater clean but equally rarely a disaster area. And yet I never feel organized. I never can sit down without thinking that I should be doing something else. One deadline is met, another one looms in the great steeplechase of life and I feel like Velvet Brown, hanging on to the Piebald’s mane for dear life. All is chaos, where is the theory? And so on.

But as the kids say: Consider the alternative.

Argh. Oh, for a life of fewer distractions, but it’s not like I’m overwhelmed; my kid has flown the nest (more or less), and I’m no longer scrambling gig to gig. I’m just lazy, with the attention span of a fruit fly. Today, ladies and gentlemen readers, I am falling very short.

(Tomorrow will likely be fine, of course. It’s just one of those I-need-a-break days.) So with that! Cheerful! Greeting to the week! Let’s get to the bloggage, because there’s some good stuff here.

You like photo essays? Have I got a photo essay for you, via the NYT: Cuba on the edge of change. They induce the same uncomfortable feeling, located somewhere around the thrill of voyeurism, that Detroit ruin-porn pictures used to arouse in me. And there are some spectacular images in there.

I have a Cuba picture in my upstairs hallway, and I look at it often. (It’s next to the linen closet, so I have to.) Sometimes, when people ask me what Flint is like, I say, “All of the decay of Detroit, none of the faded grandeur.” Cuba is nothing but faded grandeur. Grandeur was its stock in trade, once upon a time. It has faded magnificently.

Remember what I say, often, about trusting local sources? Some fine reporting from Oregon Public Broadcasting about the elected officials, from Oregon and other states, who aided and abetted the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover. Will they be indicted? I wouldn’t bet on it.

An interesting column about Bernie Sanders’, um, personality problems:

Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.

I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state’s liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.

I hate to say it, but I’ve met a million of him through the years. And I never trust a person without a sense of humor.

Finally, this piece from New York magazine, about the problems in Kansas and Louisiana, who have followed the GOP policy prescription to the letter and now find themselves circling the drain:

In 2010, the tea-party wave put Sam Brownback into the Sunflower State’s governor’s mansion and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature. Together, they implemented the conservative movement’s blueprint for Utopia: They passed massive tax breaks for the wealthy and repealed all income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses. They tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and 2,000 government employees. In 2012, Brownback helped replace the few remaining moderate Republicans in the legislature with conservative true believers. The following January, after signing the largest tax cut in Kansas history, Brownback told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”

As you’ve probably guessed, that model collapsed. Like the budget plans of every Republican presidential candidate, Brownback’s “real live experiment” proceeded from the hypothesis that tax cuts for the wealthy are such a boon to economic growth, they actually end up paying for themselves (so long as you kick the undeserving poor out of their welfare hammocks). The Koch-backed Kansas Policy Institute predicted that Brownback’s 2013 tax plan would generate $323 million in new revenue. During its first full year in operation, the plan produced a $688 million loss. Meanwhile, Kansas’s job growth actually trailed that of its neighboring states. With that nearly $700 million deficit, the state had bought itself a 1.1 percent increase in jobs, just below Missouri’s 1.5 percent and Colorado’s 3.3.

In Louisiana, there’s no longer money for indigent defense.

And with that, I’m going to go make dinner. Have a good week, all. I’ll try to show up where I’m expected.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 43 Comments
 

Birdwatching for lazy people.

If it’s spring – and it almost is – it must be time for various bird cams. I could go on a big long web search for my favorite – peregrine falcons – but in the meantime, there’s the spectacular, high-def, night vision DC Eagle Cam, featuring Mr. President and the First Lady, whose two eggs are being well-cared for. One is pipping right now. You chicken-coop keepers know what pipping is, right? No? It’s when the eaglet starts to peck its way out of the shell; in larger avian species, it can take a few days.

So that’s where we are. They seem to be good parents so far. Happy birdwatching.

Not quite spring, but it feels like it around here. Birdies singing their springtime songs, and this action in the back yard:

snowdrops

I made it the lock screen on my phone. Because I’m feeling a little starved for color.

Feeling also a little starved for sleep. So this may not last too long today. It’s been a long-ass, tough week. Lots of driving, lots of stress, and a husband with a cold. And I don’t know about you, but I cannot read another word about Donald Trump for at least 48 hours.

In other words, welcome, Friday.

Here’s a little bloggage, then I’m heading upstairs, OK?

The usual Onion genius:

WASHINGTON—Declaring that the president had been warned about naming a justice during an election year, a defiant Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly held up the severed head of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland this afternoon while standing in front of the Capitol building.

And on the same subject, a little more straight-arrow, Dahlia Lithwick on the GOP’s treatment of Merrick:

He is Scalia’s polar opposite. A careful writer, an infrequent dissenter, a true believer that judges interpret law and don’t make it. That Obama chose to take identity politics off the table with the selection of another Harvard-educated white man will disappoint many of us who had desperately hoped for a court that looks more like America. But at a moment when people are quite literally fighting in the streets about what America should look like, the idea of Obama seeking to turn down the temperature isn’t all that surprising. By picking a “judge’s judge,” Obama has tried to steer the conversation from one about politics to one about courts. Right or wrong, he still believes there’s a difference.

Interesting stuff about DNA and bones and Ireland:

Radiocarbon dating shows that the bones discovered at McCuaig’s go back to about 2000 B.C. That makes them hundreds of years older than the oldest artifacts generally considered to be Celtic — relics unearthed from Celt homelands of continental Europe, most notably around Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

For a group of scholars who in recent years have alleged that the Celts, beginning from the middle of Europe, may never have reached Ireland, the arrival of the DNA evidence provides the biological certitude that the science has sometimes brought to criminal trials.

And with that, let’s start a weekend, eh?

Posted at 12:22 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Tax time.

Sometimes we must screw our courage to the sticking place. We must take advantage of a rainy day that promises to stay all day. We must dive into the pile of bills on the desk (and pay them) and then we must dive into the pile in the dusty shoebox on top of the bookcase and do the taxes (and pay them).

I use TurboTax, and I love it, but I often wonder if I’m making a terrible mistake, or leaving a grievous amount on the table, as they say. Love that metaphor of “the table,” which reminds me not of polished mahogany in a law-firm conference room, but the 3-by-6-foot plastic ones, with collapsible legs, an image I retained from an article I read years ago about what it’s like to sell to Walmart. No business lunches, not that there are many places to go in Bentonville, Ark., but a whole lot of windowless rooms with those tables in them. You go in, lay your goods down, and Walmart tells you what it will pay you for them. Then you outsource your labor to a sufficiently cheap third-world market to restore your profit margin, and drink your pain away at Applebee’s before flying back to wherever you came from.

Anyway, the table. All I want is to get my taxes off of it, and I’m 80 percent of the way there, with only a smallish sum to still be paid; thank you, higher-ed tax credits.

And in my world, these days, that’s what shapes up to be a fairly good weekend. Of course, it beats the alternative of going to Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Here’s one of the guests, Mr. T.:

misterT

Wearing his best outfit, as you can see.

Now. I know I am wading into treacherous waters here, that there are people out there who can make cogent and compelling cases for dressing down, as it were, but I’ve about had it up to here with them. The slobification of America may not be at a critical stage, but if this is the best you can do for the funeral of a former First Lady, you should consider staying home and sending a card. Mr. T. doesn’t stand astride a pile of money the way he once did, but surely he has one suit in his closet, and if he doesn’t, he’s famous enough to borrow one. Hell, he could rent one.

Last year we went out to dinner on our anniversary, to a nice place here in Detroit. It wasn’t nice-nice, but nice enough that I wore a dress and Alan a tie, and we fit in. I looked up halfway through the appetizer course to see two couples being seated at a nearby four-top. They were young, in their 20s, and the women looked spectacular, heels and hair and makeup and clothes, the sort of turnout that suggested at least an hour of prep work, on top of a lot of regular maintenance.

The men? Looked like boys. Sports jerseys, saggy jeans and sneakers, plus that ubiquitous young-male accessory, the baseball cap. Which they kept on throughout the meal. They sat down with women on one side of the table and men on the other, and if the girls had started holding hands and left together, I couldn’t have blamed them. They looked more like a couple than they did with their male partners.

I see this dynamic everywhere, and I don’t know where it comes from. Most of the sharp, Don Draper-level male dressers I know anymore are gay.

I’m not against casual dressing; I do it all the time. I’m for appropriate dressing, and again – the funeral of an important public figure, carried on national television in a beautiful setting, requires at the very least a business-level turnout, dark suit and tie for men and dark suit or dress for women, although some more vivid colors are fine if they have some connection to the guest of honor; Mrs. Reagan was known for her fondness for red, so sure, wear red if you like. I’ve heard of funerals where the deceased actually asked, in his or her advance directives, that guests dress a certain way, in Hawaiian shirts or Lilly Pulitzer or the colors of his or her favorite sports team. OK, fine – I’m not a hard-liner on this.

But surely you can do better than camo and a flag do-rag. Even if you are “colorful.” It’s not about you, dude.

Rant over. Speaking of baseball caps, here’s one I saw Saturday night:

metallica

Ha ha. I’m about reaching Peak Trump myself, especially after Friday night’s events in Chicago. But here’s another one, with a certain THANKS OBAMA theme to it. It’s about Trump’s bottomless need for affirmation:

Donald J. Trump arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April 2011, reveling in the moment as he mingled with the political luminaries who gathered at the Washington Hilton. He made his way to his seat beside his host, Lally Weymouth, the journalist and socialite daughter of Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post.

A short while later, the humiliation started.

The annual dinner features a lighthearted speech from the president; that year, President Obama chose Mr. Trump, then flirting with his own presidential bid, as a punch line.

He lampooned Mr. Trump’s gaudy taste in décor. He ridiculed his fixation on false rumors that the president had been born in Kenya. He belittled his reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump at first offered a drawn smile, then a game wave of the hand. But as the president’s mocking of him continued and people at other tables craned their necks to gauge his reaction, Mr. Trump hunched forward with a frozen grimace.

After the dinner ended, Mr. Trump quickly left, appearing bruised. He was “incredibly gracious and engaged on the way in,” recalled Marcus Brauchli, then the executive editor of The Washington Post, but departed “with maximum efficiency.”

Kind of a meh story about a meh topic – how Ben Carson came to endorse Trump – contains this delicious detail that I can’t get out of my head:

On several occasions, Trump and his wife Melania hosted Carson and his wife Candy for dinner at (Mar-a-Lago).

Mercy. Imagine the sparkling conversation at that table.

A little less levity, then? Josh Marshall on the violence at Trump rallies, with a warning.

One thing the Flint disaster may lead to is the end of the “let’s run government like a business” stuff, because as we know all too well, it doesn’t always work out.

And that wraps it up for me. Tip your waitresses and enjoy your week.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments