Scrap paper.

I find the news of the day so disorienting I’m just going to download a bunch of random slides, post-it notes and half-scribbled cocktail napkins in my head, none of which have any point, but what the hell, here goes:

I’ve been commuting via bus lately. Probably a column in that one, but for the purposes of this discussion, all you need to know is that I was walking my neighborhood without Wendy, which I usually don’t do. I was trudging home on a steamy day. On the next block over, I walked up on a yard with a loose dog. Biggish, not a leviathan, and very friendly. Some sort of pitty/boxer-y melange, the sort that, when it wags its tail, the whole back half swings back and forth. I stopped and petted, of course, because I like dogs. A woman working in a yard a door or two down called the dog — Moxie, Maxie, something like that — closer to her. A squirrel was scampering around her, oddly close, for a squirrel. Also, it had pricked ears.

She reached down and scooped it up. It wasn’t a squirrel, but the tiniest puppy I think I’ve ever seen. The pup wore a eensie little collar with an ID tag that nearly covered her chest: Sophie. She was a Yorkie/chihuahua cross, and nine weeks old.

“I took her to the vet today. She weighs .88 pounds,” she said. I cuddled Sophie for a minute, and gave her back. She’ll be bossing Moxie/Maxie around soon enough.

* * * * *

I keep thinking about something that happened in July, when we went to Fort Wayne for an afternoon, for one of our old neighbor’s, sadly and unexpectedly deceased, “celebration of life.” (I always have to put that phrase in quotes; it doesn’t sound natural to me.)

The event was at Foster Park, which you locals most likely know — lovely gardens close to the entrance on Old Mill Road, a golf course behind, tennis courts, picnic pavilions. We were in a pavilion, reached by the main park road, which is paved. The parking is sort of haphazard; most people kinda bump onto a gravel shoulder, diagonally.

As we were leaving, carrying our cooler to the car and saying our goodbyes, I heard a child wailing. I looked over, and saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old, sitting on the park road, a few car lengths away, just where the gravel shoulder joined it, crying hysterically. A car was coming, too fast, and I held my breath; I didn’t have time to grab him, but surely there was an adult nearby who would.

The car passed the boy with room to spare, but no adult appeared. He continued to cry. I walked over and looked around. No obvious parent in sight, so I picked him up, said, “Let’s find your mom.”

We walked toward the nearest potential group of suspects, near the playground. “Point to your mom if you see her,” I told him. He was still crying, nowhere close to calm. I started asking random people; no one knew. The deceased neighbor’s daughter, a sometime nanny, speaks Spanish, and asked the boy where his mom was. No answer. We walked deeper into the playground, and I started calling out, “Whose little boy is this?” Again, nothing.

Finally, finally, a kid pointed to a woman sitting on a bench, waayyyy on the other side of the playground. She was on the phone. I walked over to her, the boy still yelling his head off.

“Is this your son?” I asked. Without even interrupting her conversation, she nodded and held out her arms. The boy reached back. OK, then.

“He was sitting in the road,” I said. She nodded in that yeah-I-hear-you way, while continuing to uh-huh-uh-huh whoever she was talking to. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say, so I walked away.

I looked back once. They were sitting on opposite ends of the bench, he in the hiccup-y end game of a crying jag. She? Was still on the phone.

Some people don’t deserve children.

* * * * *

I mentioned I’ve been taking the bus lately. Frankly, the extra time it takes me to get downtown is balanced by the lack of concern over parking and traffic.

It’s also an eavesdropper’s dream, a reward for anyone with eyes to look around the world and see what’s there. The other day I got on to find a man in surgical scrubs, carrying his clothes in a plastic bag, wearing a surgical mask. There’s a hospital two stops up, so the explained where he came from. But what happened to him? What was wrong with him?

I spent a few stops thinking about that, looking out the window. When I looked back, he was gone.

There are about a million stops on my route. The drivers don’t stop if no one is waiting. If there’s a hobo sleeping on the bench, they’ll slow down and honk. If the sleeper doesn’t stir, no stop.

Before I know it, we’re at the Rosa Parks Transit Center, where I take my bike off the rack and ride the last few blocks to the office. It’s a great way to start the work day. In summer, anyway.

Two summer pictures to close things out. Aretha, a mural at Eastern Market:

And the prettiest tomatoes ever:

And that’s it for the midweek memory dump. Have a nice Wednesday.

Posted at 9:01 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments
 

Double down.

I went to a party Saturday night. Somehow I ended up in conversation with two younger men, one of whom was a former major-league ball player (third base). They were friends of the host, in town for a weekend of sports and gambling.

They were staying at one of the downtown casino hotels, and the night before they, along with the father of one of them, had won more than $40,000 between the three of them. Baccarat.

“Like James Bond,” I said.

He got the reference, always a good sign in an age when James Bond now plays Texas Hold’em.

“So, what are you going to do with your winnings?” I asked. Both said they intended to go back to the casino that very night and keep playing, and that if they lost it all, they wouldn’t consider it a bad day at all.

“It’s entertainment,” one said.

I honestly don’t get it. If I were fortunate enough to win more than $20,000 in one sitting, the last thing the pit boss would see are the soles of my feet, leaving in a hurry. I know this is how casinos work. I know this is why they’re one business you almost have to work to fail at (ahem, POTUS), but it’s still baffling. The conversation moved on. It took a few unusual turns, but ended with my plus-one, a girlfriend, offering common-sense therapeutic relationship advice to the third baseman, which he received gratefully.

“I never thought of that,” he said.

Truth be told, he reminded me of Tim Robbins’ character in “Bull Durham.” But that’s a pro athlete for you.

What a weekend, all around. Fall arrived after a day of strong winds. Friday started hot and humid and ended chilly and overcast. Saturday, however, was perfect sweater weather. I bought apples at the market, and considered the last peaches, but passed. I bought some last week, and they took a while to soften, but they were fine and delicious. There’s always a day when I buy the last peaches of the summer and they’re terrible. Better to end on a high note, like any love affair.

So now it’s well and truly fall. The windows are closed, although today was lovely. I hit the gym, like an idiot. Should’ve been out on the bike, but at least I rode there and back. But leg strength needs a certain focused attention, and today was leg day. Google “Bulgarian split squats” and pity me, because I sure pity myself.

On to the bloggage!

So much of this stuff seems old, because most was gathered last week, before Thursday/Friday slipped out of my grasp. But what the hell, here you go:

Provocative headline: Everything you know about obesity is wrong, and totally worth the read.

You may have seen this already, but I found it so, so infuriating. It’s choir-preaching for sure, but to those of you who might wonder why women don’t report sexual assault, a sobering report about one young woman who did. Conclusion: Texas sucks, but so does everyplace else.

One of those cool NYT data presentations, about the links between counties via number of Facebook friendships. You’ll be mousing over this one all day.

Finally, because we need some good writing, Hank looks at twofour terrible TV shows, one of them a rebooted “Magnum P.I.”

So, “Magnum P.I.,” what am I to make of you? What is there to say about a show nobody asked for that oozed up anyhow from pop-culture’s toxic nostalgia barrel and now premieres Monday on CBS? Revived from your 30-year rest in the rerun crypt, you have achieved a new existence, Magnum — dipped in heavy gloss and buffed to a shine. Tires squeal, things explode, Dobermans bark. Still we feel nothing.

… You are not good at the thing you’re trying to be, New Magnum, and instead of resurrecting a feeling, you’ve run right over it with that bright red Ferrari. Instead of declaring a creative or timely purpose (like your network friend and fellow exhumee, “Murphy Brown”), you are merely a piece of content placed between commercials. Your existence is cold and cynical, Magnum, predicated on the previous success of reboots such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver.”

On to Monday, folks. Hope the week goes well.

Posted at 7:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments
 

The inevitable slideshow.

You guys! I’m back! The bar is OPEN. Let’s clean up all these old coasters, wipe down the bar top and start a new thread. As always, I appreciate all you keeping the lights on in my absence. My vague idea to post a little from Canada fell apart; when we had wifi, I was consumed with following Twitter and the Trump/McCain situation. My eye sockets got a good aerobic workout from all the rolling, of course.

But, as is the custom these days, the Trump/McCain thing now seems like ancient history, because a few days have passed.

Instead, in the great tradition of American vacationing, let me bore you with some photos.

It was quite hot when we were there. So much for traveling north to escape the heat. I know it’s summer, but still — I’ve reached the point where I am no longer amused by having a sweaty head all the time. Day one we went to the Ex, i.e, the Canadian National Exhibition, which promised to be a version of the Ohio State Fair, but, sadly, didn’t deliver. However, there was a union dispute around it, and we got to see our old friend, the big rat:

Who makes the big rat? Does it sell exclusively to unions? I’ve seen it in Lansing, in New York and other venues, always in the context of a labor dispute. Anyway, the Ex was the bad parts of an American state fair and none of the good; “the barn” contained not row after row of prize livestock, but one or two examples of same, with copious signage explaining them to city folk. Disappointing. I wanted to see kids in dairy whites or cattlemen’s cowboy hats, snoozing between classes. Oh well — next time I’ll go to the one in Columbus.

The following day was a heat-warning day, so it seemed a good time to check out the Toronto islands, just offshore from downtown, a large city park. You get there via ferry:

And, once there, relax and enjoy. You can rent bikes…

…and ride them to the end of the complex, where you can behold the skyline:

Very impressive. Although I was taken by this freighter docked across the way, likely a salty (i.e., one that leaves the Great Lakes). Note the lifeboat, stored at that terrifying 45-degree angle. It’s safety orange:

Not exactly the open rowboats of “Titanic,” but then, you wouldn’t want those in the pitching waters of a Great Lakes storm, would you. I wonder how they’re launched, if they wait until the nose sinks enough that it goes down at a gentler angle, or if everyone just climbs in, straps in and boom. That splashdown would be a whiplash-inducer for sure.

Oh, almost forgot the one impressive thing about the Ex — this display of “paper lanterns,” although I suspect the paper may have been rather heavily coated in a way to make it more like fabric. Anyway, in a dark room this was quite beautiful:

And here you thought carrying the weight of the world was your job.

After that first day, we did a lot more — shopping, eating, going to shows, including the summer revue of Second City and a Shakespeare in the park production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I bought some sandals and Alan bought a Patagonia vest, both on end-of-summer markdowns. It was a good week, even as hot as it was. Oh, wait, one more: What dry-aging beef looks like in process, from the St. Lawrence Market, an indoor food Mecca:

On Friday, after our return, I went ottering — my friend Bill’s word for swimming in fins and a lifejacket — in the St. Clair River, while listening to selections from Aretha’s funeral on the drive there and back. What an event that was. Bill told me about how some firefighters he knows were sitting around the station one day when a fancy car pulls up and Aretha got out with her driver/security guy. You know her famous purse? Some of them have locks on them, and one had malfunctioned. It didn’t need a fire ax to open, but she dated a Detroit firefighter for a while, and knew they had the tools necessary to fix it. They did so, and she posed for selfies all around before riding off into the distance.

Speaking of selfies: The photos I just posted are most of what I shot in the course of a week. I couldn’t help but notice, in the depths of this dense-packed city, how so many people spend so much time just taking photos of themselves. Two cute girls on the doorstep of a yoga studio — selfie. People on the ferry — selfie. In that paper-lantern exhibit? “Selfie spots” where a single light is trained on you, to capture your face and the illuminated sculpture behind you in the proper exposure. If you stand there, an employee rushes up and offers to do it for you. Man, I am growing tired of all this.

(That said, I took one of Alan and I sailing yesterday. Because I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Anyway, I have some more thoughts about the Aretha funeral, and I think I’ll trickle them out over time, as they haven’t quite gelled yet. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday if you’re reading it Monday, and the rest of this short work week. September is upon us.

Posted at 11:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments
 

Rockets’ red glare.

I opened a credit-card statement today, something I don’t normally do. Why bother? I pay almost all my bills online, and no, Discover, I will not “go paperless” until you make it worth my while somehow, and the warm feeling of “saving a tree” isn’t doing it. Make me an offer, and then we’ll talk.

But while I was glancing through my statement, I saw that I have a credit score of 842.

850 is perfect. Anything above 750 is considered excellent. I shouldn’t be soothed by this, and yet? I am. I’m not at put-it-on-my-tombstone level, but I’ve always been a person who likes to bring home a good report card. (If you’d seen my last performance evaluation before I was laid off, you’d have been as astounded as I was.) I guess this is the adult equivalent.

How was your Fourth? Mine was…mostly spent indoors. Another 90-plus day. I took an early bike ride, when the temperatures were still bearable, then retreated to the a/c. These are not the fun days of summer, in my opinion. However, by the weekend it should be substantially better. I have stuff to work on, chores done or in progress and the weekend to look forward to. I’m babysitting Saturday night, in fact, for the 9-month-old grandson of my oldest friend. The family will be in town for a wedding. I’m hoping it’ll go smoothly, but fearing something more like this.

If nothing else, we’ll be at the nicest hotel downtown, and we can visit the bar, me and young Ezra. A martini for me, and the same for my young friend! I recall nine months as the height of babyhood. We’ll be the toast of the lobby.

Some bloggage? Sure.

If you haven’t discovered #secondcivilwarletters already, you should, even if you’re not on Twitter. The WashPost has an explainer, with the greatest hits. This one may be the best:

The party of family values has given that shit up, but some of us knew this a while ago. From the Atlantic:

The migrant crisis signals an official end to one chapter of conservatism and the beginning of a terrifying new one. After all, a party cannot applaud the wailing screams of innocents as a matter of course and hope to ever reclaim the moral high ground. Trump seemed to know that, perhaps, sitting in the Cabinet Room this week, surrounded by a table of white officials. The compassion that he spoke of wasn’t really for the children torn from their parents—it was for his own party and its struggle to contain them.

A nicely written dispatch, again from the WaPo, on how this moment feels. Weird but, also, rooted in daily life somehow:

Over the past month — particularly since ProPublica released the audio of children at the border — America has confronted itself in off-hours spaces, in places reserved for politeness and deference.

Inside restaurants at dinnertime.

Outside private homes on quiet streets.

In office hallways as people are trying to work.

Warning signs have become alarm bells, and some people are trying to be academic about it, by debating social graces in careful tones.

I’m going to go try to calm my dog, who doesn’t enjoy the rockets’ red glare, happening now. If you have to work the rest of the week, you have my sympathies, but I’ll be right there with you.

Posted at 9:38 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments
 

Shut in.

Woo doggies, this heat. Mid-90s all weekend, and that is no fun, my peoples. From a glance at the weather map, it appears much of the NN.c readership knows what I’m talking about. We went sailing for a while on Saturday, and that helped, but the sun was a weapon for sure:

It was worse in northern Michigan, if you can believe that. Ninety-nine degrees at Boyne Mountain, way up near the tip of the mitten. Kate and her boyfriend went camping in the Upper Peninsula and came home a day early, after they were caught in, quote, the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen, unquote. The tent was flooded and they couldn’t get a hotel room, so they slept in the car.

When I wasn’t on the water, I tried to stay indoors. Ventured out to do some weight work at the gym, and even with the a/c on, it was still miserable. I told Alan that’s the last exercise I intend to do that’s not in a pool until this is over. I guess I’ll be spending some time in the pool.

When I was indoors, hiding from the heat, I did some reading. There was a lot of good reading to be done this weekend, so let’s get to it.

Everyone reads the New Yorker online, but I prefer the ink-on-paper version, and just saw this, so maybe it’s old, but what the hell — it’s a good read about the farce that ensued when Milo Yapyapyapalot came to Berkeley, or tried. You might recall that interlude, when he announced he’d be bringing a slate of high-profile conservative speakers to Berkeley for “free speech week,” and then it turned out the only losers who showed up were Mike Cernovich and Pam Geller, both creatures who actually live under the barrel, not at its bottom:

“Milo, what’s the deal tomorrow, man?” Cernovich said. “Are we speaking on campus? Off campus? What the fuck is going on?”

“O.K., so this hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re giving a big press conference on Treasure Island,” Yiannopoulos said. “I’m going to make my entrance by speedboat, with a camera trailing me on a drone, and we’re going to be live-streaming it all on Facebook.”

“I don’t do boats,” Geller said. “I projectile-vomit. But I love it for you, Milo, it’s a fabulous idea. I predict two hundred and fifty thousand viewers watching that live stream, at least.”

“I’ll be wearing this gorgeous Balmain overcoat—I’ll show you—with this huge fur collar,” Yiannopoulos said.

Geller and Cernovich changed the subject to Internet censorship. “They kicked me off Google AdSense,” Geller said. “I was making six figures a year from that. You can’t even share my links on Pinterest now! I’m ‘inappropriate content.’ ”

Yiannopoulos looked bored. “You guys are so selfish,” he said. “We used to be talking about me.” He turned to his stylist, a glassy-eyed, wisp-thin man, and whispered, “Go get the coat.”

They continued hashing out plans. “So we’ll walk in with you, through the streets of downtown Berkeley,” Cernovich said. “If there’s a screaming Antifa crowd, and if I maybe have to street-fight my way in and break a few noses in self-defense, that’s all good optics for me.”

“Maybe we should line up on the Sproul steps,” Yiannopoulos said, “surrounded by Berkeley students wearing ‘Defund Berkeley’ T-shirts.”

“Why don’t we march in with our arms linked together, like the Martin Luther King people, singing ‘We Shall Overcome’?” Cernovich said.

“We’ll do our thing, and then at some point the protests will turn violent,” Yiannopoulos said. “That will become the focus, and then we can just get ourselves out of there.” He reclined in his chair and smiled. “It’s all coming together,” he said.

The stylist came back with the coat, and Yiannopoulos squealed. “Pamela, is this coat to die for or what?” he said.

“Oh, my God, Milo, I’m dying,” Geller said. “It’s sick.”

He put the coat on and turned around, again and again, examining his reflection in the darkened glass of a window.

“It’s fabulous,” Geller said. “It’s sick. I hate you.”

Sorry for the long quote, which breaks my three-paragraph rule, but it’s a long piece. If you had any doubt that the whole free-speech-on-campus “crisis” was manufactured bullshit, this should settle it.

That story is like one long terrible joke. This one, on largely the same subject, isn’t:

The two (SCOTUS) decisions were the latest in a stunning run of victories for a conservative agenda that has increasingly been built on the foundation of free speech. Conservative groups, borrowing and building on arguments developed by liberals, have used the First Amendment to justify unlimited campaign spending, discrimination against gay couples and attacks on the regulation of tobacco, pharmaceuticals and guns.

We’ve lost our ambassador to Estonia, friends. (He was an Obama appointee, so no biggie.)

Finally, an essay by Virginia Heffernan you should read, on how profoundly lost the nation’s moral compass is at the moment:

There’s plenty of talk in Trump times about an assault on factual truth. But the more vicious attacks are on human perception, common sense and baseline notions of right and wrong.

…The Trump syndicate leverages this ludicrous stuff every day. It’s repeated and amplified by trolls and botnets, Fox News, far-right haranguers like Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos, and, of course, the president himself.

It gets loud.

And then the stupid inversions of reason are picked up by influential voices who should know better. Worse yet, they’re given a hearing, as American citizens are forced to sit for monotonous schoolings in the media conceit of “both sides.”

It’s really good. Me, I’m going to make tacos and edit a podcast. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 6:33 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments
 

Bird’s-eye views.

When your friends swing by for a quick visit and bring their new toy:

Yep, that’s J.C. and Alan flying the drone high above our suburban back yard. Me in the white pants. Wendy in the white fur. (Sammy is behind the dogwood.)

Looking west. Our backyard oak was stricken with oak wilt last year. We had it treated, but it’s not looking good this year. I fear we’re going to lose it, and that will suck on multiple levels.

Looking east, with Lake St. Clair at the very edge of the horizon. We’re in the affordable real estate, maybe a mile away.

Wendy’s tail is down. She didn’t trust that thing.

It was a nice, if brief, visit, as John ‘n’ Sam are headed for the U.P. and the thousand chores that come with the joys of cottage ownership. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be in the mid-90s here, so it’s an excellent day to be fleeing toward cooler regions. But we had time for a shrimp boil, two rounds of mojitos and some strawberries and cream. Oh, and some droning.

The photographer at the surf camp I went to two years ago had one of these things. I’m amazed at not just the quality of the photos they’ll take, but their range; a friend who was hanging out Movement weekend with this drone owner said they were able to fly his from a bar downtown all the way to Hart Plaza, just for the fun of buzzing the crowd.

Click that link, by the way. Some spectacular images.

Let’s hop to the bloggage:

You knew Roger Stone was in this Russia stuff right up to his hair plugs. And hey, he is:

The Florida meeting (with a Russian offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton) adds another layer of complexity to Stone’s involvement in the Russia probe. For months, as several of Stone’s employees and associates have been subpoenaed or have appeared before the Mueller grand jury, it has been clear that the special counsel has been scrutinizing repeated claims by Stone that he communicated with WikiLeaks via a back-channel source before the group’s 2016 release of hacked Democratic Party emails.

Stone has said it’s possible he will be indicted, speculating that Mueller might charge him with a crime unrelated to the election in order to silence him. He said he anticipates that his meeting with Greenberg could be used in an attempt to pressure him to testify against President Trump — something he says he would never do.

Last year, in a videotaped interview with The Post, Stone denied having any contacts with Russians during the campaign.

Neil Steinberg has two boys graduating from college this year, and to celebrate, the family decided to spring for dinner at Alinea, one of those incredibly expensive, modernist-cuisine restaurants in Chicago. The price for dinner for four was something like $1,200 $1,700 and change, but they all agreed it would be a once-in-a-blue-moon trip, and that was OK. And it was OK; Neil got a column two columns out of it, which doesn’t make it expense-able, but almost certainly deductible. I’m fully down with special-occasion eating, and it’s a free country and all that, but when I read about the dishes served at this San Francisco restaurant, I honestly thought torches and pitchforks were called for:

A tin of osetra caviar arrives in a crystal bowl of crushed ice. It’s served as a bona fide “bump”— the server spoons the eggs onto your fist along with a dollop of smoked creme fraiche, then drapes it all in a fat slab of barbecued wagyu beef fat. (Yes, all on your fist.) It’s a salty, smoky, slippery slurp, enlivened by a perfect pop. The effect is similar to the drug it alludes to: I immediately wanted more — although not at $68 a hit.

Ah, well.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers out there, and to all sons and daughters. Which is everybody, I guess, so: Happy day. I’m off to shower.

Posted at 11:42 am in Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

New routines.

Yeesh, it is but Tuesday and I’m already hitting the wall. Part of this is, I have taken another half-time job. Two halves = one whole income, more or less, and about 50 percent less energy for me.

But once again, I’m going downtown on the bus with my bike on the front rack, and that puts a merry song in my heart. I love working at home, with Wendy as my constant companion, but there’s a lot to be said about coming into a downtown office building, and not one of those hipster co-working places with the free coffee and pop-up lunch opportunities, but an old-school lobby canteen with regular old coffee and snacks.

My boss has been bringing me a small bottle of Perrier every morning, which he picks up there. The proprietor gives him half price on the bottle, because he’s a regular. This is my new goal: $1 Perrier because I’m a regular.

I’ll post my stories when I start producing more of them. Never fear.

I think now is the time to discuss the North Korea agreement, right? As I see it, we got real concessions out of the Iranians, but that was a bad deal. From the Norks, a vague promise, but this is Nobel material. I give up.

Just a little bloggage:

Did you know that, in addition to being Prime Minister McDreamy, Justin Trudeau is also a boxer? You didn’t? Now you do.

Also, what do we think of the DeNiro thing at the Tonys? My feeling is Meh, but I got an outraged email from a Bernie supporter quoting, of all things, a Federalist piece claiming Bob gave the right a great gift by potty-mouthing the president in New York City.

Sorry for the Tuesday/Wednesday blahs, but I’m sleep-deprived. Damn birds are waking me up at 4:30 a.m., but I’ll take the longer days.

Posted at 8:15 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Blame Canada?

Greatest invention of summer: The Bluetooth speaker. With no trouble at all, you can have high-fidelity outdoor sound. No wiring required — just pair it with your phone, boot up Spotify and enjoy.

Worst invention of summer: The Bluetooth speaker. Because your neighbors, the ones who think Christian rock is the cat’s ass, all have them, too. Also, they are deaf, or at least have no concept whatsoever about what constitutes a polite volume level in a densely platted neighborhood.

I have two neighbors with these things. One I like, the other I can’t stand, even though he’s throttled way back on the behaviors that made me despise him, i.e., insane fireworks displays and shooting squirrels with a pellet gun. Now that he’s got a bomb-ass backyard speaker, he’s back on my shit list. His concert starts in late afternoon, generally with hip-hop before abruptly switching to what Kate calls butt rock, i.e. undistinguished radio filler that sounds like the lead singer is bearing down on a toilet somewhere.

The nice neighbor also has fairly terrible taste, but his problem is repetition — when he likes something, he puts it on repeat. Last summer it was Mumford & Sons, i.e., slow banjo/fast banjo/slow banjo. This year it’s something I don’t recognize, but it, too, is first cousin to butt rock, and like I said, the same few songs over and over and over. And over.

Some years ago, when we had our lake cottage, a neighbor’s speakers cranking AC/DC cycled through the same album three times before I went over to ask him to either turn it down or put on another record. The front door was standing open and our neighbor was snoring on the couch. I walked in and turned off the stereo. He never stirred.

You might ask why I don’t call the police. First, because I like the one neighbor, and I don’t think there’s a code in the Uniform Crime Reports database for lame taste in music, and as for the other one, well. I’m making it a practice not to call the police for annoyance issues. I just don’t trust police anymore, and besides, it’s a minor issue, all things considered.

Alan likes to sit on the patio in the dark on warm nights, sipping a drink and listening to KEXP out of Seattle on our own Bluetooth speaker. Turned very low. For what that’s worth.

I guess I should be glad none of the neighbors have teenagers. This was our outdoor-music alternative, as I grew up in a time before the boom box.

Anyway, how was y’all’s weekend? Mine was OK. Got a lot of stuff done, but I’m recovering from one of those bike rides where you feel great, oh let’s go fast and far, and then you get to the turnaround point and realize you are running on fumes and now have to go all the way back. If I hadn’t looked like death warmed over I’d have stopped for a hot dog somewhere, but my hair was dirty and sweaty, my legs were hairy and even a coney-island crowd would have looked askance. So I powered home, ate some leftover spaghetti, showered and went to bed with a book. All told, not a bad Sunday.

On the way, I thought about the news coming out of the G-7 conference in Quebec City, and saw a tweet somewhere that said something like, when are we going to face the reality that the President of the United States is an agent of the Russian state? Can’t disagree.

At least we had the Trooping the Colour ceremony to watch. I know it’s part of the queen’s birthday celebration, even though her real birthday is in April. I confess I don’t know exactly what it means, except that it has something to do with dressing up real fancy and riding horses in even fancier uniforms. The Royal Family’s Twitter had a bunch of pictures, but if you want to know who’s who in those big furry hats, I hope you can recognize family members from their noses, because that’s all you can see.

And speaking of horses, I watched the Belmont with my heart in my throat, once Justify jumped out to set the pace. Noooo, don’t do such a crazy thing, I thought. This is a 1.5-mile race, and its history is full of early leaders that faded to sixth place in the stretch, but Justify was the real deal, leading wire-to-wire. He was beautiful and clean for his winner’s circle appearance, whereas all the horses that had been behind him had dirt all over their chests, heads and legs. Justify’s dirt. He’s a true champion.

I’ve been enjoying David Letterman’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” at least until the Howard Stern episode, which debuted this month. Easily the weakest of the bunch, but I’ve never been a Howard Stern fan. He just isn’t interesting at all.

And now we head into the weekend, having alienated our closest and most loyal allies. Maybe we’ll be in a shooting war with Canada soon. Signs and wonders.

Posted at 6:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Souvenirs.

Kate returned from Cuba late last night. Her flight didn’t arrive until close to 1 a.m., so her night-owl father did the airport duties. Found this on the kitchen counter this morning:

Well, OK then. Looks like she’s already absorbed the first rule of adulthood: When in doubt, a bottle makes a fine gift. Those ripe bananas may find their way into a round of daiquiris this evening.

Although I kinda hope I got a T-shirt or something, too. Maybe something with Che’s face, so I can remember this week in which the NFL caved to a petty tyrant the very day yet another appalling video emerged of police behaving like thugs toward a professional athlete.

Thuggishness is all the rage these days, of course; security physically hustled a reporter from the Associated Press — the steadiest Eddie in today’s media environment — out of a public hearing. That was Tuesday.

And it’s only Thursday.

Can you tell I’m watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” these days? I am. This week’s episode is the best of the season so far, which is the first to extend the story beyond Margaret Atwood’s novel. It had everything I asked for, after one too many shots of Elisabeth Moss reacting to outrage entirely through her buttoned-up facial expression — serious plot action and flashbacks featuring the previous life of its primary female villain. I won’t go into a lot of detail; if you know “Handmaid’s” you already know them anyway, but I’ll just say that this episode posed a question: Is it abusive to scream FASCIST C*NT at someone who actually advocates fascism and wants to take your rights away?

But that would never happen here, right?

Another show doing interesting things with current events — while not actually about current events — is “Westworld.” I have to admit my fandom is pretty much gone now; I don’t mind challenging television, but this one isn’t my cup of tea. However, in the second season the writers have teased out two plot lines that reflect on today. Westworld, if you didn’t know, is a near-future theme park populated by very advanced robots that are indistinguishable from human beings. They live in a standard Hollywood version of an Old West town, and visitors interact with them. Most of the interaction, as you might expect, is sexual and violent and sometimes both, because when humans are turned loose with “humans” and permitted to do whatever they want, they mainly want to fuck and kill. This season, it’s revealed what makes this park so valuable — the user data, of course. “Where else can you see people being exactly who they are?” one executive, whose name is not Mark Zuckerberg, asks.

The other thread is another Silicon Valley obsession, i.e., whether eternal life might be possible, via downloading one’s brain into one of these better-than-real vessels. It’s not going well, as we see with a particular executive, whose name is not Peter Thiel, who keeps getting rebuilt and rebooted but is still really glitchy.

And now here we are at Memorial Day, almost — the start of the weekend. Less TV, more outdoors. Bring it on. Before you head outside, read this piece from a few days back, advising Democrats on how they might win over Trump voters. Spoiler: THEY CAN’T. So stop trying. Register your voters, then turn them out. It’s the old-fashioned way.

I’ll try to be back here and there over the weekend, but no promises. A lot going on. So let’s leave this thread open until the next one, and have a happy long weekend, all.

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments
 

Volcanos everywhere.

By request: A new post to replace the one about barf at the top of the page. Also by request:

It’s one of those days when I kinda want my browser to crash, if only to dispense with the three windows and 2,000 tabs I have open between them, because people, I am exhausted and it would help clear the decks. Been reading all the Trump news, periodically going to the window to see if a mob with torches and pitchforks has gathered for the long march to Washington, or even to the corner, to express howling disapproval. Zilch. This is a familiar feeling. I remember during the financial meltdown, closing my laptop in sheer panic and wondering why people weren’t out on my lawn screaming or setting their houses on fire or whatever. But life goes on in its petty-pace details of making coffee and taking showers and letting the dog out to pee. It just does.

Thursday, I went to Lansing. A lovely, lovely day. There was a crowd gathered on the Capitol lawn for some reason I would have liked to investigate, but I was headed the other way, for a lunchtime panel on workforce development. Michigan is not doing well at this, because our schools are underfunded and the population is still residually shellshocked by the reality that a high-school diploma isn’t enough anymore, unless you want to sell french fries in a paper hat. At the Q&A, my boss summed up the panelists’ big theme — that if we want more people in post-secondary education, we need to remake secondary education. Hear, hear. I’ve thought this for a while, and yet, the hold high school has on American life is strong. I’ve known many homeschoolers who stopped at 9th grade, not because they couldn’t go on but because their children wanted a high-school experience, and not the education but the rest of it — proms, football games, swim meets, all-night graduation parties, the opposite sex violating dress codes, all that stuff.

Also, with per-pupil funding the norm in most states, every kid who bails out of Everytown High a year early for early/community college takes their backpack full of cash with them, so schools have no incentive to encourage it. But the fact remains, the student body of almost every school is becoming more diverse in every sense — learning dis/abilities, income, family background, all of it. One size doesn’t fit all in anything other than caftans.

Common Core was supposed to address this. People forget CC was born in the business community, so personnel managers knew that a high-school diploma in Arkansas knew roughly the same as one in California. Alas, it was shortly revealed as a Satanic plot, so pfft on that.

And now I am tired and about to order a pizza, so have some fun with this bloggage:

Thanks to whoever posted this ultimate yanny/laurel explainer in the comments on the previous thread. I had to go almost all the way left to hear laurel. Team Yanny all the way here.

Great photos of the volcano erupting in Hawaii. It’s times like this I don’t mind Michigan at. All. Five months of winter, yes, but no wildfires (not around here, anyway) or volcanos, and the earthquakes are just li’l ol’ things.

Face it, the only thing worse than the current presidency would be the likely next presidency. Shudder.

Let’s start that damn weekend, shall we?

Posted at 7:23 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments