Some snaps.

The American Health Care Act isn’t even seven days old. If they’d done their homework, it could be seven years old by now, more or less, but let’s not quibble. Not when it appears to be a dumpster fire, and the best Paul Ryan can say about it? Insurance can’t work if the young and healthy have to subsidize the old and sick.

I’ve actually heard others say the same thing. If you live long enough, you’ll hear people say all sorts of stupid things, but that one takes at least a big slice of the cake. Over the years, I’ve spent thousands in insurance premiums, protecting houses that never caught fire or flooded, cars that left my ownership with no more dents than they arrived with, etc. As Charles Pierce points out, that is the literal definition of insurance.

Oh, well. It’s nearly the weekend. How’s about some pictures?

Look who I saw in my back yard on Sunday:

He was back today, although I didn’t get a picture. This makes me think he might be roosting somewhere in the neighborhood, which makes me happy, even though my vet once told me not to be. They crow at first light, and not the cock-a-doodle-doo crowing of roosters, but sort of a harsh, hacking sound. So be it. Pheasants. They’re beautiful birds, and cool to have around. My own little wild chicken.

(Please, no cracks about the state of the yard. Alan doesn’t believe in the traditional, Grosse Pointe “fall cleanup,” in which every single leaf is bagged and toted away the first week of December. He thinks old leaves should lay on the flower beds. So far, the spring bloom hasn’t contradicted him. So it’s an ugly yard for us in the cold months.)

A gift from Basset, found in some old files:

Of course it was the Day Of, because the N-S was an afternoon paper, and in those days, there would have been plenty of time — and reason — to rip up Page One for such catastrophic news. I’m more struck that no other story above the fold was local. Back when your evening paper carried the news from everywhere, dammit.

Finally, a sign I see from time to time at the end of an exit ramp:

Not just any cans and pails, but metal ones. And plastic ones. Sold by the Canbys. In a bold, sans-serif font, too. None of this IniTech-type bullshit. I miss businesses like this. I should stop in and buy one of each.

This is it for me for the week. A good weekend to all.

Posted at 5:36 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

The shortest, longest month.

Man, for the shortest month, February is sure taking its sweet time clearing out, isn’t it? I started Friday with good intentions to see at least one movie in a theater, do some food prep for the week ahead, the whole nine. Ended up watching the Sunday HBO lineup, which dropped early because of the Oscar conflict, and wishing I was anywhere but here, where the temperatures dropped, the wind picked up, and life became generally sorta gray and boring.

Made significant progress on “The Underground Railroad,” though. Which I am loving. “Lincoln in the Bardo” is next. “I Am Not Your Negro” and/or “Get Out” will have to wait for next weekend. When it’s cold and the wind is howling, it’s more of an otter eating lettuce sort of Saturday night.

Also, “Piper,” which you should watch, because not only is this short film too stinkin’ cute for words, it is kind of a documentary of me learning to surf.

Whatever happened to going out during the week? We used to do that, back when we both were reliably off work by 5 p.m., which simply doesn’t happen anymore. Plus: February. Chill winds. Et to the cetera.

Just one word before we get to the bloggage, after watching the third episode in the final season of “Girls,” I’m crossing my heart and making a promise that I will pay attention to Lena Dunham throughout her just-getting-started career, and you probably should, too. I thought “American Bitch,” the so-called “bottle episode” airing this week, was a real piece of work, smart and nuanced and funny and not-funny, and sort of amazing coming from the pen of a writer as young as Dunham.

Like lots of people, I have found Dunham hard to take at times, but the more I see of her acting but mostly her writing, the more impressed I am. “American Bitch” is about the gray areas where power imbalance, gender, age and consent all meet, a place lots of women have found themselves, both today and when we were all young. It’s not an easy topic to tackle in 30 minutes, but she managed it, with a great deal of help from Matthew Rhys as the famous dick novelist whose behavior is at issue.

We spend a lot of time here feeling sorry for ourselves because great old artists and entertainers are dying. I think the best cure for that is to find some young ones worth watching. Dunham is.

Plus, she drives conservatives insane, because she’s something of an exhibitionist with her nude body, which is pudgy and has cellulite and is generally the sort they think ought to never be seen unclothed. Fuck those guys, I say.

So. Bloggage? I guess there’s some: Thanks to Sherri for finding this piece on the “brilliant jerk,” a well-known type, especially in Silicon Valley:

This term, “the brilliant jerk,” has been around for a while in corporate lingo. I remember first reading about in a New York Times blog post (R.I.P. blogs) in 2012. (PLEASE DON’T ACTUALLY ME ABOUT REED HASTINGS, YOU JERKOFF, HE’S TWO GRAFS DOWN.) I guess there was a series about Being The Boss and the URL was boss.blogs.nytimes.com 🙁 What a world! Anyway it was a sort of advicey column about what to do about that one archetype, the Brilliant Jerk, in your workplace. It was fun to read when it came out because everyone got to speculate about who their brilliant jerk was.

But everyone already knows who the brilliant jerk at their workplace is because it’s the raging asshole!! It’s not hard to tell. And yet somehow as long as we’ve had a word for it, and probably even longer, we’ve wrung our hands over whether or not to cope with this fucktard over here because—wait for it—HE’S BRILLIANT!

Another Jewish-cemetery incident, this one in Philadelphia. The official word of 2017 is “emboldened.” Repeat after me.

My favorite Twitter chuckle of the weekend:

And on to Monday. But first, some chicken.

Posted at 6:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments
 

Fortysomething.

Remember “10,” the charming romantic comedy from 1979 that made a zillion dollars, inspired way too many white girls to try cornrows and introduced the world to both Ravel’s “Bolero” and Bo Derek? Seriously, that’s her opening credit: “Introducing Bo Derek.” You don’t see that so often these days.

I just turned it on, to see if it holds up. I remember seeing it more than once in the theater, and loving it irrationally, although I never tried cornrows.

It opens with Dudley Moore being led into a dark house, which turns out to be a surprise birthday party for him. After the gaiety and the cake, he’s enjoying a quiet moment with his girlfriend (Julie Andrews) by the fire. He laments his advancing age, and the birthday party, which only reminds him he’s old, old, old.

He’s 42. Julie, we learn a beat later, is 38.

Suddenly, my perspective is radically shifted. I was 21 for most of 1979. Forty-two must have seemed ancient.

Don’t think I’ll watch it all the way through. As I certainly know by now, life is short, and I have books to read.

Oh, here’s a singing scene, with Julia. God, what a voice. And face. A true gamine, clear until…38. Just realized, when she made this movie, she was 44. I wasn’t really buying her as 38, but not because of her looks. She’s one of those women from an earlier generation who simply seemed more mature.

Speaking of more modern entertainments, pro tip: If you’re a podcast fan, go find “Missing Richard Simmons” and subscribe, pronto. It’s based on the mystery of where Simmons has been for the last three years; early in 2014, Simmons essentially “ghosted the world,” i.e. went into his house and hasn’t come out. All of which would be one thing, but Simmons had many close friends and associates, and none of them know where he is, either. Please don’t Google; I did this morning and suspect I know what happened, but I’m still listening, because it’s very well-done, not too long and, as you might expect, about a lot more than just Richard Simmons.

Sherri posted this in comments yesterday, but I don’t want anyone to miss it — it’s very good. Laurie Penny’s account of traveling on the Milo bus, and what she saw there.

Otherwise, this is a midweek slump, and anyway — I’m older than 42.

Posted at 9:28 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 98 Comments
 

Well-marbled.

I mentioned, in what I hope was a certain woe-is-me tone yesterday, how I overcooked my New York strip night before last. It was still very good, because I did what I do from time to time and splurged on the really good USDA Prime that my meat market has on offer, most weeks. They display the Choice and Prime steaks right next to each other, and the difference is apparent to all but the fat-phobic yoga moms in their XS Lululemons — notable marbling in the Prime, little in the Choice. The flareups that overdid the steak would have reduced the Choice to leather.

The Choice steaks were $14.99 a pound, the Prime $19.99. Alan and I split one, for the standard deck-of-cards-size serving. I don’t feel guilty, because eating is something you have to do at least twice a day, and beef is something I might eat twice a week, so no biggie.

Sometimes I wish I’d gone into food journalism. Although by now I’d probably be a vegetarian. Feedlots are not nice places.

Can you see how hard I am trying not to talk about current events? I have to go back to reading novels instead of Twitter. “The Underground Railroad” is on the coffee table, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is on its way via Amazon (thanks, users of the Kickback Lounge!). I have to take more breaks from this insanity. Think about steak and cooking and the prose of George Sauders.

But we have to get to it sometime. I guess the story of the day is Milo. You only need to read two pieces, Roy’s

Milo tried to do that with his pedo-tapes (in “a note for idiots” — ha, that Milo!) — but found that he was suddenly no longer the Right’s sassy gay friend. Not because he had sex with children himself — there’s no evidence he did; interestingly, it seems he was the one exploited as a child — but because, from the conservatives’ perspective, he did something worse: He embarrassed them. It was fine when he was whooping up those wanton cruelties and bigotries a normal American can get away with. But pedophilia is a Hard Limit, at least socially.

Conservatives could have done a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin thing, but that would have required charity, and bitter experience has taught us all that in America this is not a Christian precept. They could have said that though Yiannopoulos had put himself beyond the pale, his principles were still sound, and they could put aside his failings the way intellectuals put aside the anti-Semitism of Mencken or the racism of Larkin, and cleave instead to his aesthetic legacy; but when his book deal and CPAC spot evaporated, it became obvious that there was nothing like a principle or an aesthetic legacy at all left to defend — just a savage clown show that no one wanted to see anymore. (Even Soave is edging away from him. Did I say “even”? Ha, I meant “of course.”)

…and this one, from Slate:

You can thank Steve Bannon, now a central figure in Donald Trump’s administration, for making the clownish hustler Milo Yiannopoulos a star. As the editor of Breitbart, Bannon recruited Yiannopoulos to the site, where he published columns like “No, J.C. Penney, Fat People Should Absolutely Hate Themselves” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Yiannopoulos is a Trump voter’s fantasy of a decadent gay sophisticate. His shtick is to wrap various shades of reaction – anti-feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims – in camp, to sell bigotry as cheeky provocation. He and co-author Allum Bokhari put it this way, in a Breitbart ode to the alt-right: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”

Yiannopoulos uses his gayness to grant absolution to his mostly straight right-wing audiences, telling them that by reveling in prejudice they are bravely flouting taboos. During the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, an at event billed as an America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos told a crowd full of bikers and Alex Jones acolytes: “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left…the left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate.” As a gay man, he added, he aims to be “transgressive, to be naughty, to be mischievous. And today in America that means being right-wing.”

And that’s about all the Milo I can handle at the moment. Time to start “The Underground Railroad.” Good Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments
 

A bit better.

Well, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Woke up feeling much improved, enough so that I made my Bed of Suffering, i.e., the guest room/office, emptied the wastebasket full of sodden tissue and might even go for a walk later.

I got out to meet a new colleague last night. That helped, although it was touch and go just getting vertical yesterday.

That said, here’s a new thread for comments on…everything, I guess. One little head cold, and I feel like I’m already miles behind. Kind of like Congress.

Carry on.

Posted at 9:16 am in Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

A cold, conquered? Fingers crossed.

I woke up one day last weekend with the beginnings of a cold sore, and the whole week felt like a struggle – slow in the pool, messing up appointment times because I didn’t read the email closely enough, that sort of thing. No disaster, just the sort of thing that happens when your immune system appears to be working overtime to hold something at bay. I thought it had finally arrived on Friday, and spent half of Saturday lolling in bed, but here it is Sunday, and I’m sorta feeling myself again.

The cold sore has left the building, too.

What goes on in our bodies during weeks like these? What does “feeling run-down” really mean, at the cellular level? It is to puzzle.

So that’s why no update on Friday, sorry. Just wasn’t feeling it, or anything like it.

One of the things I saw while I was being lazy Saturday was this remarkable clip from CNN, in which a local GOP county official tries to revive the death-panels thing, and the crowd lights him up like a Christmas tree. It almost felt like 2009 again when the WashPost looked into his social-media accounts and found the stuff we’ve been seeing from these folks for years. But this time, it feels like an antique. That crowd just wasn’t having it.

Not that we should count them out entirely, of course. But just today I read a column in the local paper about how mean “the left” is being to Ivanka Trump, whom they should be supporting, because she’s such an ally, you know. There was some random bloviage about liberal attacks, etc.:

Boycotts are the favorite weapon of the resistance movement. Anyone who suggests affinity for Donald Trump or cooperates with his administration or fails to speak out against him on command (see Tom Brady) faces being ostracized or having their livelihoods threatened and their names smeared.

The left’s demand for conformity in loathing Trump is creating a blacklist to rival that of Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Which I found amusing, as I had just read this piece, about what happens with the Breitbart constituency identifies you as an enemy:

New America, the think tank where I am a fellow, got a similar influx of nasty calls and messages. “You’re a fucking cunt! Piece of shit whore!” read a typical missive.

I’ve spent time on Ivanka Trump’s website, and see a “line” of basic sheath dresses, sweater dresses and other ho-hum designs. I’m no fashion plate myself, and in fact I generally appreciate a decent sheath dress, but I can find the same thing on 6pm.com and other discount sites for about a third the price. Be advised.

A bit more bloggage:

Dr. Mona, as one hero of the Flint water crisis is known around here, points to her own status as a first-generation Iraqi immigrant to ask the obvious question about the travel and immigration ban. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here it’s almost impossible to get through a hospital visit without being seen by a doctor of Middle Eastern lineage. I hate to think what we’d do without them, particularly in non-garden spot cities like Flint.

Everybody’s talking about “Saturday Night Live” again, and posting the best bits on social media afterward. You can have the Sean Spicer cold open and the People’s Court satire from this week, but I’m going for Kate McKinnon as Alex Forrest/Kellyanne Conway in this genius piece.

We went to a party Saturday night, a fundraiser, and I bought some tickets for the raffle. And whaddaya know, I won a weekend at a lodge in northern Michigan. I’m taking it as evidence my luck has changed. Onward to Monday.

Posted at 12:32 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments
 

Go Falcons.

I am watching the Super Bowl right now. The ads so far have been unremarkable. The game so far hasn’t — the Falcons are winning, and anything that ruins Tom Brady’s perfect little world can’t be all bad, can it?

Man, defensive linemen look like big fat guys, even in the championship game. I know everyone on a team has their own job to do, but I’d hate to have one of those behemoths fall on me.

I should watch football more often if I want to have opinions about it, so I’ll shut up now.

Another Atlanta touchdown! This could be pretty good. But I’m basically here for Lady Gaga.

Did you know Detroit has a gay sports bar? It does. I’ve never been there, but I should. Winter bucket-list item, maybe.

This was a weekend for winter bucket lists. Got to Belle Isle for a Wendy walk and to look at the ice, because it looks like the chances of a polar vortex long enough for serious ice are fading, so no ice walk this year. Instead, we watched it float by:

This may sound a little disjointed today, and it is. I have a million things to do early in the week, and I can’t think of much else. So, have a link? Post it. I’ll be back later.

Posted at 7:55 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments
 

Three days in TO.

Oh, Canada. What a country you’ve got there. We spend the weekend walking around without ever once thinking about being robbed or ‘jacked or whatever, and what happens as we’re almost literally boarding the train home? A mass shooting.

By one of these guys, because of course.

But I can’t argue with our weekend, not at all. We stayed in West Queen West, the same neighborhood we were in the last time, where dogs in fancy coats and sweaters outnumber actual children by about five-to-one. It’s January, so you don’t expect it to exactly be balmy. I thought I’d packed well, but when we came across a team handing out free — free! — long underwear from Uniqlo, I was happy to snatch it up. Of course long underwear is now known as “base layers,” for good reason — they’re not the waffle-knit separates you’re used to, but close-to-skin and undeniably-warm …base layers, I guess. They go on under the skinniest jeans and are just what the weatherman ordered.

A memory was just jostled loose: A winter weekend in the Upper Peninsula, when I learned of the one-piece base layer known as the union suit — flannel on the inside, wool on the outside, in heather gray or bright red. I bought one in bright red from L.L. Bean and wore it through some fearsome winters, with a pair of Levi’s 501s and maybe a sweater. A strange ensemble for a young woman to choose in the late ’70s, yes, undeniably, but I was very warm. Eventually it collapsed under the strain of my bustline and I retired it forever, the union-suit-bursting-its-buttons look being better-suited for bawdy postcards about deer camp or maybe cocktail napkins. It sure was warm, though.

What did we do? Walked around. Shopped. Caught part of the Chinese New Year observance. Drank cocktails and coffee, discovering that sub-niche of the cosmopolitan economy, the gay coffeehouse. (There used to be one in NYC called the Big Cup.) The waiter was very nice, but the best part was sneaking looks at a trans individual who had some really striking stick-and-poke dotted facial tattoos, with a little cloud on each temple and a line running up the bridge of the nose.

I love big cities. They’re where magic happens.

On Saturday, chilled and a little burned out on walking, we debated taxiing down to the TIFF Lightbox for a midday movie. Alan, looking at the listings, said, “‘The Silence’ is playing near here.”

“You mean ‘Silence,’ the new Martin Scorsese movie. I’d see that,” I said.

“It’s like, a block away. Starts in 12 minutes,” he said. We paid our bill, bundled up and walked the block to the theater, which was tucked in the back of an art gallery specializing in photography.

Strange place for a first-run movie to be playing, but whatever. Stranger still was the admission price of $0. But when the lights went down, the screen darkened and “The Criterion Collection” appeared on the screen, I knew we’d made a critical mistake, because we weren’t watching “Silence,” Oscar contender of 2016, but “The Silence,” an Ingmar Bergman film from 1963, all that black-and-white Sven Nykvist cinematography. You watch a 54-year-old film and marvel at how ahead of its time it was, with its frank depictions of sexuality — actual semi-shadowed fucking and a scene of female masturbation, not to mention a woman bathing with her 9-year-old son — and what Annie Hall called “that Scandinavian bleakness.”

(“I thought that shot where you see her boob while she’s washing her armpit was pretty hot,” countered Alan.)

So that was Saturday afternoon.

Here’s Sunday morning: First daughter dressed as a baked potato. (HT: TBogg)

You know what was in every furniture store window? This lamp, although I imagine most were knockoffs. Wouldn’t want to bring that through customs in this dark era.

Speaking of dark eras, more paranoia about Russia appears to be called for. And a related billboard defacing in Kalamazoo.

With that, it’s time for 55 minutes of innocuous telly. See you tomorrow, all.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments
 

The mangle awaits.

Guys, I’m back, but we got back late and, of course, there was too much to do late last night and this morning to put a proper post together. So just a few quickies so we can start a new comment thread, as the last one is getting unwieldy.

1) Canada is paying attention to us. My highly unscientific eavesdropping/taxi drivers poll, which has a +/- Everything margin of error, reveals that no one sees our position as enviable, moral or even smart. So there’s that.

2) Toronto is on a Great Lake, like Chicago, and is windy, like Chicago. Fortunately there are coffee houses and cocktail bars about every seven or eight doors, for warming purposes.

3) I watched the news from home obsessively. And this, while far-fetched, is disturbing.

Very full plate today. Best start eating.

Posted at 10:22 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

Last days of this.

One of those days, folks. Long and not terrible, but one that didn’t yield much material. Did a radio thing at 9 a.m. about the governor’s state of the state address. Fortunately, the other guest had taken very detailed notes, and can say that Flint didn’t come up until 34 minutes in. My notes read, “says ‘shoutout’ incessantly.” Which he did, enough that I looked up “shoutout” on Google Ngram. It’s hiphop slang, now over deployed by our nerd governor.

Then I came in to the office. Had soup for lunch. Had soup for dinner. Didn’t get enough done; my bullet journal will scold me tomorrow.

But I got some bloggage! It’s a bit infuriating.

Another one of those Vox things — I voted for Donald Trump, and I already regret it. Oy, these people:

Since that 60 Minutes interview when Trump went back on his promise to investigate Clinton, I haven’t been able to look at him the same way. Witnessing his open admittance that he made promises simply because they “played well” during the campaign was disturbing. He has shown himself to be guilty of all of the same things he accused Hillary of — lying to the public, refusing to do press conferences, putting himself and his business interests above the American people.

Since the election, Trump has repeatedly spat in the faces of those that cast their ballots for him. I did not cast my vote for his Cabinet members, many of them rich millionaires and billionaires, despite Trump’s lambasting of Hillary Clinton on her association with Wall Street. I did not cast my vote for his sons who sat next to him during his meeting with tech titans, potentially representing the vast business interests of the Trump company that they now run. I did not cast my vote for Ivanka, whose clothing brand was working out an ongoing deal with a Japanese clothing company when she sat in on a meeting with her father and the Japanese prime minister. I did not cast my vote to enrich the very swamp that Trump promised he would drain.

Today’s talker will be this NYT piece on Rick Perry, which made the blood drain from my face:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”

It’s fashionable these days to go around muttering “we’re so fucked,” and it’s easy to see why.

Finally, this Bridge story goes live at 6:20 a.m. Thursday, and I’m eager to hear what people think of it. It’s very strange, and there’s a twist at about the three-quarter mark that I’d rather not spoil until more people have a chance to read it. But I want to hear opinions.

Onward to the week’s downside. And…Friday.

Posted at 9:37 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments