Self-care.

One childish pleasure you can grant yourself after being fired is this: Purging files, photos, passwords and other job-related data from your devices. Unsubscribing to emails, putting things in the rearview mirror, waving bye-bye.

Then I found a keeper: Shit Derek Says, a file I was keeping of the quips and quotes of my amusing boss-before-last, who presents as quite the curmudgeon but, of course, isn’t:

Are you willing to admit I was right about TED talks? Yes? Victory is mine.

Yes, Derek, I am willing to admit you were right about TED talks. Great idea, ridiculous and/or poor execution in 90 percent of the cases. And yet they go on.

I’m going hard on self-care in this interregnum. Exercise, eating right, scant alcohol, childish pleasures – I believe I’ve mentioned this, but I could use some more, preferably the kind that doesn’t cost much money. Long walks with the dog, meditation, that sort of thing. Send tips.

Feeling a little peevish this morning, however. Alan was having problems with his email that I couldn’t solve, so we called Comcast for help. Ai-yi-yi. The first 15 minutes — FIFTEEN MINUTES — of the call, which of course was to the Philippines, was spent explaining that “Grosse Pointe” and “Grosse Pointe Woods” are the same thing.

And then it turned out the problem was at their end. While I listened to him negotiate with the Filipino help desk, I read this story, from Columbia Journalism Review, on the victims of fake news — Sandy Hook parents, Comet Pizza owners and customers, you know the drill. Here’s a passage that I stopped at:

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with Megyn Kelly asking her to not run that show where she interviewed Alex Jones. My point to her was, don’t just hold up this guy and say “Can you believe he thinks this?” That’s not enough. Look into why is he that way, why does he think these things, what happened to him to make him think this? Why?

That’s Sandy Hook parent David Wheeler speaking. Good for him for sparing 45 minutes for Megyn Kelly, but where Alex Jones is concerned, I think he’s asking the wrong question. I firmly, absolutely believe Alex Jones doesn’t think these things. He knows he’s peddling bullshit to rubes, but it pays so well, he has to pretend he believes this nonsense, too. And this is where I part with those earnest souls who insist that we must meet Milo, et al in the Marketplace of Ideas, extending respect to them and getting it in return. They are not bargaining in good faith, and I don’t think we owe them anything like respect.

Also on the Testy Train is the writer of this piece, who points out that “as the father of daughters” is the thoughts-and-prayers of sexual harassment stories. Slam-dunk kicker here:

Having a daughter shouldn’t be a requirement for internalizing the problems of working within a sexist industry. Your wives gave birth to a baby girl, not a moral compass. (For what it’s worth, George Clooney, a new dad, managed to talk to the Daily Beast for a whole interview without mentioning his infant twins, one of whom is a girl.) Peppering statements about how shocked and appalled you are with a mention of your daughter just makes you look clueless. Because here’s the thing: Only a sociopath needs a daughter — or a sister, a girlfriend, a wife, or even just a lady standing in front of him at Starbucks — to make him queasy enough at the thought of a sexual predator in his industry to do something about it. You don’t need a daughter to feel guilty about working with a man who preys on young women, or about not acting to stop him. You just need a conscience.

The Russians not only penetrated Facebook, Twitter and Google, but even…Pinterest? The social network for bar-cart enthusiasts? Apparently so.

Onward into the maw of Thursday. Time to check GlassDoor and ZipRecruiter again. Sigh.

Posted at 10:19 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments
 

Postcards from the Dairy State.

And just like that, the weekend has flown. Two days in the car, one in the rain — it wasn’t a bad three days at all, but man, am I stiff. Have to do some legs-up-the-wall later.

It was a lovely visit with my old friends, who met my new friends, and while it rained much of the weekend, there was still shelter for this:

You UW alums should recognize those chairs, which are the signature seating on the Union Terrace, second only to my beloved alma mater in the Best Student Union Ever sweepstakes. It overlooks a lake, has a stage and a wide selection of Wisconsin beers. On a lovely day, you can watch the sailboats bobbing at their moorings. On a rainy night, it’s still not half-bad.

My friends Frank and Cindy are living the life in retirement. Cindy said Frank woke up one morning and decided he wanted to live on the lake. Cindy has a short list of things she wants in a house, one of them a window over the kitchen sink. In all of their previous homes, this simple detail has eluded her, but the latest one made her dream come true. The view from the sink:

You can see the weather was sketchy, but it cleared up that night and we were able to enjoy a rooftop deck downtown for our Saturday nightcap:

Waxing moon on the rise, capitol dome aglow, one of those gas fires to enjoy. The capitol dome was also visible from my guest bedroom, the state’s greatest nightlight. The next day the sun rose in a clear sky, and we took their pontoon boat around for a cruise and got a closer look:

That’s Monona Terrace in the foreground. A Frank Lloyd Wright project.

In between all these photos was talk-talk-talk, about everything under the sun, but mostly health-care policy. (Frank was a hospital president, and now consults with health-care startups.) He recommended this Atul Gawande dispatch from Athens, Ohio — the writer’s hometown — on the question of whether health care is a right. I think you’ll recognize the opinions within, and his treatment of them is respectful. Personally, I believe that until we start turning away the seriously sick and injured at the hospital door if they’re unable to pay, health care already is a right; all we’re arguing about it is how we will pay for it. This passage is important:

Liberals often say that conservative voters who oppose government-guaranteed health care and yet support Medicare are either hypocrites or dunces. But Monna, like almost everyone I spoke to, understood perfectly well what Medicare was and was glad to have it.

I asked her what made it different.

“We all pay in for that,” she pointed out, “and we all benefit.” That made all the difference in the world. From the moment we earn an income, we all contribute to Medicare, and, in return, when we reach sixty-five we can all count on it, regardless of our circumstances. There is genuine reciprocity. You don’t know whether you’ll need more health care than you pay for or less. Her husband thus far has needed much less than he’s paid for. Others need more. But we all get the same deal, and, she felt, that’s what makes it O.K.

“I believe one hundred per cent that Medicare needs to exist the way it does,” she said. This was how almost everyone I spoke to saw it. To them, Medicare was less about a universal right than about a universal agreement on how much we give and how much we get.

Understanding this seems key to breaking the current political impasse. The deal we each get on health care has a profound impact on our lives—on our savings, on our well-being, on our life expectancy. In the American health-care system, however, different people get astonishingly different deals. That disparity is having a corrosive effect on how we view our country, our government, and one another.

I’d rather think about beer for a while longer. But let’s get to the bloggage:

I started subscribing to Mike Allen’s daily email for Axios. This was pretty pungent: Welcome to Rex Tillerson’s life.

A handy guide to Republican presidential etiquette, from the NYT. For those of you who remember the OMG-a-tan-suit days.

God, I can’t wait until this freak show is over:

I am teetering on the edge of a Coozledad-worthy rant, so I best sign off for now. Legs up the wall! And work to do!

Posted at 12:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Park bench notes.

So, when one is unemployed, is it normal to be whipsawed between optimism over the unpredictable future and despair that one is old, old, old and will never work again?

Asking for a friend.

Basically doing OK here. I’m trying to keep busy. Sent out some résumés, surfed some more job-search websites, cleaned the first floor, ate leftovers for lunch, rode my bike a bit. Swam. Tried not to feel like a leper.

When I was a kid I had a board game called Careers. The square for unemployment was called Park Bench, because that’s what you did when you were jobless, I guess — went to the park and fed pigeons. I’ll try not to be a cliché, but Wendy does enjoy occasional jaunts to the dog park in Detroit. We’ll try that.

Hugh Hefner is dead. I do not have much of a feminist take on Hef, I confess. Objecting to the grosser elements of his lifestyle seems about as effective as objecting to the same parts of our president’s – you’re not going to make a dent in the guy, and the objections seem to be a feature, not a bug. He made it to 91 living more or less exactly how he wanted, down to the last detail. A deeply strange man, fully on display in this four-year-old Esquire feature on the occasion of his 87th birthday. Thanks to Hank for tweeting it late last night. I read it during my 4:30 a.m. insomnia bout (see above). A few details:

Even after they split up, when Hefner bought (ex-wife Kimberly) Conrad the mansion next door and smashed down the wall between them, he kept a blown-up version of her centerfold on the wall in his library. It wasn’t until (sons) Marston and Cooper told an interviewer that they didn’t love seeing their mom’s bush every time they came over that it even dawned on Hefner to take it down.

and this:

On another night, Bettie Page was invited to come see, for the first time, “The Notorious Bettie Page,” a 2005 biopic starring Gretchen Mol as the early, iconic Playmate. In her eighties then and still getting used to the idea of her late-life revival, Page sat near the back of the room. Everybody hoped that she liked what she saw. (Hefner was especially protective of her, having loudly denounced a biography that documented her battles with mental illness and occasional violence. A giant topless photograph of her still hangs in the hallway upstairs.) Those hopes were shattered only minutes into the movie when Page began screaming at the top of her lungs: “Lies! Lies! Lies!” Then she burst into tears, her face in her hands. “Why can’t they just tell the truth?” she said between sobs.

and can’t forget this:

He holds two Guinness World Records, for different kinds of devotion. The certificates are on display not far from Bettie Page’s beautiful tits. He is the longest serving editor in chief of a magazine—Playboy’s first issue came out in December 1953 (he founded it after leaving his job as a copywriter at Esquire), with a sixtieth-anniversary issue planned for the end of this year—and he has the world’s largest collection of personal scrapbooks. A genial but intense forty-nine-year-old man named Steve Martinez oversees their assembly and upkeep; he has a silver tooth and dark-framed glasses. For twenty-two years, he has been Hefner’s full-time archivist, responsible for the thick black books—2,643 volumes and counting—that document virtually every day of Hefner’s long and eventful life.

(Editor’s note: I wish classy magazines like Esquire and the New Yorker would stop spelling out numbers higher than nine. “Forty-nine-year-old man named,” etc. Ugh.)

The scrapbooks part is really weird.

Time to hit the gym and walk Wendy. In the meantime a little bloggage.

When we look back on this era, the No. 2 embarrassment will be our creation of the Dragon of Gluten, although it’s certainly been a good grift for some people:

Belle Gibson, wellness blogger and founder of the Whole Pantry, was fined $410,000 (in Australian dollars; $322,000 in American dollars) by an Australian court for claiming that she “cured her terminal brain cancer by avoiding gluten and sugar.” Gibson admitted in 2015 that the claims had been made up to Australia Women’s Weekly — she did not and never had brain cancer.

“Wellness blogger.” Speaking of which, if you’re on Twitter you should be following @drjengunter, who has made a small name for herself tormenting all things Goop, i.e., the work product of wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow.

As the kids say, so much This to this, a report from today’s college campuses from Ed and Gin and Tacos:

Articles about college students by people who do not spend their working lives on a college campus are inevitably bad. Hilariously bad. Bad like that right-wing Christian fantasy film God’s Not Dead, which represents a fever dream of what a college campus is like by a bunch of people who have never been on one.

Since this isn’t the Washington Post and I don’t have an editor here I’m going to cut to the chase: 99.99% of college students don’t care. About anything. Half of them consume so little news that even asking them about the major headline stories of a given time period draws blank stares more often than not. If they have opinions about political or social issues, more often than not it amounts to parroting the reactionary views of their parents and all the Fox News their parents exposed them to. The idea of college undergraduates as a gaggle of barbarians mobbing the proverbial gate is endlessly amusing to any college faculty. If you can get these kids to show up to class and hand in their assignments it’s a goddamn miracle.

OK, then. There are but 24 hours in this day and more than nine of them have already flown. Time to get some shit done.

Posted at 9:38 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments
 

New horizons.

I have to admit it: It’s hard to get excited about job-hunting in journalism, not only because there are so few of them available, I just know what all the job-listing language is really saying. Plan, coordinate, assign and edit = answer to vague directives from on high, struggle to translate them to assignments that can be understood by freelancers, beat the bushes for a few writers who are both a) literate and b) willing to work for peanuts, hector them until the pieces are done, try to shape them into what you really wanted, mail out tiny checks.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, when I think of what I want the next chapter in my work life to be, I find myself inspired by…well, this guy, who was the subject of a Wall Street Journal A-hed story way back in the day. He’s an Ohio U. grad, a few years ahead of my time, whom I met and chatted with at one of our college-newspaper reunions. He’d been the Israeli correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and was among the very first to be downsized. So he took his considerable portfolio of skills and ended up PR guy/day manager of one of those mega strip clubs that the Sun Belt is so famous for. Now that’s a goddamn transition.

As I come to the end of my career, I want my work to encompass more experiences outside journalism, not another office staffed by the depressed and overworked. The websites I’ve been examining for jobs this morning include casinos, professional sports, and if anyone knows some URLs for what a friend describes as Big Marijuana, pass them along. (Big Marijuana is gathering on the state’s borders, I’m told. Salivating. They need someone like me.)

However, I’m 59 and realistic. But you never know.

Thanks for all your support. In the end, I think Bridge will move in a new direction, and it’s just as well I won’t be moving with it, because I’d be miserable. My plan for the next few weeks, besides updating my resume, are to restore my sleep, relax, pinch pennies, exercise every day, chip off the eight pounds that accumulated over the last year and listen to my nerves sigh, rather than gasp for air.

So, need to hit that gym yet today. On to the bloggage:

I agree with Neil Steinberg that this piece is too long, but it’s delicious just the same — Matt Taibbi on the Madness of Donald Trump. If you’ll forgive this breaking of the three-paragraph rule, a description of the Phoenix rally a few weeks ago:

The audience seems into it for a while. But it goes on too long. During the campaign, Trump was expert at keeping a hall buzzed with resentment for an hour or so. But he hits weird notes now. He goes off on a tangent about his enemies, it’s not clear which ones. “They’re elite?” he says. “I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great.”

Polite applause.

“You know what?” he goes on. “I think we’re the elites. They’re not the elites.”

No one is counting fingers, but you can tell people are having trouble making the math work. We’re elite because you have a nice apartment? Campaign Trump bragged endlessly about his wealth – “I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney” was a classic line – but back then he was selling a vicarious fantasy. Trump’s Ferrari-underpants lifestyle was the silent-majority vision of how they would all live once the winning started. But candidate Trump was never dumb enough to try to tell debt-ridden, angry crowds they were already living the dream.

At one point, Trump ends up standing with a piece of paper in hand, haranguing all with transcripts of his own remarks on Charlottesville. To prove that he’s been misquoted or misunderstood, he goes through the whole story, from the beginning. It gets quiet in the hall.

It’s an agonizing parody of late-stage Lenny Bruce. The great Sixties comedian’s act degenerated into tendentious soliloquies about his legal situation (he had been charged with obscenity). Bruce too stood onstage in his last years for interminable periods, court papers in hand, quoting himself to audiences bored to insanity by the spectacle.

This, too, is another piece that’s on the long side, but it certainly captures the particular blend of soft-focus nostalgia and blindered self-delusion that is the contemporary Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy is there to make sure it stays that way:

We linger at the mausoleum of Jefferson Davis, whom my escort refers to as “the president.” “You probably don’t like President Trump, and to be honest I’m not too thrilled with President Obama,” he tells me. “But like it or not, they were president, and President Davis was our president.” I must look skeptical. “Aren’t you the folks who want to go around giving everyone a participation trophy?” he snaps.

The bronze effigy of Davis winks in the sunshine, a participation trophy if I’ve ever seen one. Earnest, meanwhile, has withdrawn once more into the 19th century. Not among these dead, he intones, is Davis’ son Jim Limber, a black boy freed and then adopted by Davis’ wife. “Union troops took Jim Limber away” when the first couple of the Confederacy retreated to Danville, Virginia, he says mournfully. “They didn’t think it was right to have an African child in a white family. But I tell people that we Southerners were way ahead of President Obama: We put a black in the Confederate White House.”

Yeesh.

Finally, on Mike Pence and Obamacare, this:

As governor of Indiana, he implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to great success, modifying the program to address what he perceived to be his state’s unique needs. Now Pence is championing a bill that would undo much of what he accomplished in Indiana, stripping insurance from the very people who received it under his plan. Graham-Cassidy redistributes federal funds from blue states to some red states—but not to Indiana: The bill would slash federal funding for Indiana by $7 billion between 2020 and 2027, denying health coverage to nearly 500,000 Hoosiers over the next 10 years. It is, in other words, another version of the same concept that Republicans have pushed for months: a massive cut to Medicaid under the guise of ACA repeal.

As vice president, Pence has unceasingly promoted measures that would undo his signature achievement as governor. (As of this writing, Graham-Cassidy appears to be dead, but recent history suggests the repeal effort isn’t truly over until the Sept. 30 reconciliation deadline passes.) More pointedly, he has promoted these measures using a rationale he has already himself disproved. Why? Pence obviously wants to remain loyal to his boss and the GOP agenda—but he’s also boxed in by his own past success. If the vice president told the whole truth, he’d have to admit that as governor he showed that the ACA already allows states to “innovate” with “new ideas” about health care. According to Republicans, Graham-Cassidy seeks to solve the alleged inflexibility of Obamacare toward states that want to color outside the lines. But Pence’s own record proves that this problem is simply nonexistent.

And that’s it for now. Again, thanks for all you do to buoy me up at times like this. It helps. It really does.

Posted at 11:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments
 

Breaking news.

Hey, guys. I just announced this on Facebook, but for those who aren’t over there: I was laid off this morning. Yes, it came as a surprise. Yes, there’s severance. Beyond that, I should probably keep my mouth shut. But if you’re a Detroit reader, and you know anyone who’s hiring, believe me I am all ears.

These things happen. It’s never happened to me before, but I guess it was my turn. I’m not really bitter, except OK I am, but I’ll get over it.

New horizons dead ahead.

Posted at 12:44 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments
 

Lucifer.

Man, you can take your let-us-treasure-these-final-warm-days-before-the-snow-flies and stuff it. It’s 88 degrees as I write this, and I think I speak for many here: This weather blows. Two more days and it’s over, and after seeing a Christmas tree at Costco this afternoon, I say bring on the pumpkin spice and all the rest of it.

(I realize the pumpkin spice arrived the day after Labor Day, yes. And we had a few cool days in there before Lucifer arrived. But this shit is miserable.)

This weekend was Dlectricity, a biennial art festival that takes place after dark along Woodward Avenue and a few surrounding blocks. They’re light installations, mostly. There are several such events like this, the other being Noel Night, and last year I told Alan that Noel Night had joined the lengthening list of Things That Used to Be Fun, But Aren’t Anymore. Which is to say, parking is a nightmare, every attraction has a long line, etc. We decided to park about a mile or two away and use the new bike-sharing service to get close to the action, which is what we did, but about that weather? After we arrived, I looked down at my shirt and it was wet, in one of those Vs like you see in the movies when the handsome leading man is interrupted in the middle of his morning run.

However uncomfortable, it was still a good idea. Rode down, docked the bikes, walked around the installations, picked out another couple bikes and rode back to the car. The way home was in the new protected bike lanes, which was awesome.

As for the exhibits, I liked the bunnies best.

Two more days of this, then we drop below 80 for a daytime high. Maybe we can turn off the air conditioning.

Today I made the mistake of looking at some Twitter and Facebook posts about #Takeaknee, and it has dispirited me mightily. I have but this to say: God bless Martha Ford, that raving Marxist. She linked arms with her players while wearing sunglasses. I’m not inclined to tumble for WASPy matrons, but I did this time.

I have nothing blogwise, do I? Maybe:

How Trump bungled what could have been a first down. Why? Because he doesn’t understand football.

The latest heat-n-serve repeal from the GOP kitchen looks to be in peril. We shall see.

I don’t make it a point to watch the first lady’s speeches, so this piece was interesting. Turns out her observations are correct: She did appear to be on the brink of tears throughout. What’s going on in that lady’s head? (Never mind the outfit.)

Happy Monday. I hope wherever you are, it’s not as hot as it is here.

Posted at 6:49 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments
 

The good table.

The Detroit News has an annual event where they recognize the Michiganians of the Year, and this year’s was last night. I went as Alan’s date – a little reluctantly but dutifully, attitudes I shed as the evening went on. The view from atop the Motor City Casino was spectacular even on a drizzly evening, the company was good, the honorees inspiring and how often do you get to go to a party with Kate Upton?

Her uncle Fred, a Republican congressman from southwest Michigan, was being honored, along with Debbie Dingell, in a special bipartisan co-award. Dingell came close to tears describing her friendship with Fred Upton, a scene that good Republicans these days would laugh at scornfully, I suspect. Uncle Fred is said to be maybe retiring, or perhaps will run for the Senate. Dingell is in her second term, and indefatigable. Dunno what Kate’s next project is; I expect she’s concentrating on planning her wedding to Justin Verlander. And no, I never really got closer to her than looking at her blonde updo from a couple tables away, but I glimpsed her from the side at one point, and she has enviably nice legs.

And that’s why I didn’t update last night.

Back at work, and I feel pretty good so far. Yesterday was a bit of a grind, but I kept my nose to the stone and only have a little blood spattered on my blouse to show for it. In between, I caught up with some podcasts, in particular the week-old “What Happened” edition of “Pod Save America,” a 45-minute interview with Hillary Clinton. This WashPost piece concentrates on her comments about Bernie, but what stuck with me was her flinty defense of the necessity of courting big-money donors in an age of Koch, Mercer, Sinclair Broadcasting, et al. These are people who either own media empires or command them as such, and in an era when people are so easily manipulated by utter fucking bullshit, well, you can’t fight fire with kumbaya. I encourage you to click that last link, last week’s NYT magazine piece on the Russian propaganda operation, another piece I’m catching up with. It’s sort of terrifying.

And I’m multitasking with the NYT podcast looking at yesterday’s UN speech by the prez. He’s very fond of unnecessary modifiers, I notice — completely unacceptable, totally destroy, etc. Beyond that, I’ve not had enough coffee to further analyze that one.

So on to the bloggage.

We all know this, but Jamelle Bouie says it again.

Do you follow Will Sommer’s coverage of right-wing media? You should.

There’s a big freeway-restoration project going on in Detroit, the rebuilding of one side of the I-75 bridge over the Rouge River, but not only the Rouge River – it also crosses a landscape of industrial works that looks like the set of a dystopian sci-fi movie. It’s a two-year project and everyone around here knows about it. Except for this guy, who broke through the barriers, did $50,000 worth of damage to the project and nearly fell through the bridge surface. I know this is hard to believe, but police say alcohol may have been involved here.

With that, let’s tackle Wednesday.

Posted at 9:01 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments
 

Back to the mangle.

And in just a week, that’s that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I ever wanted.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, today begins a week of vacation for yours truly, the first full week off since last Christmas, and yes, it’s nobody’s fault but mine. You can procrastinate on claiming your days off, the same way you can in filing expense reports and the like.

All I know right now, though, is I NEED A LITTLE BREAK. Yesterday I was toiling in one form or another for about 14 hours. Not heavy lifting, of course, and yes, there was a 20-minute power nap in there, but still. My mind needs a break from the news, from the grind, from all of it.

We’re going up north for a week. Alan will fish, I will read.

And there’ll be at least one more week off before the year-end holiday break. I mean, use it or lose it.

So now we wait for the next catastrophe. One of my Facebook network is posting intermittent short posts from Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin, which took a direct hit from Irma and is awaiting José. It’s grim there. I know dozens of people in Florida, and I’m thinking all my good thoughts for them. And of course we don’t know what our president will think of next. All I know is I’ll have a poor cell signal for a while.

I hope to put fresh posts in from time to time, probably picture posts you can comment on, as I don’t even know our rental’s wifi status. I hear the weather will be fine for at least some of the time. The woods and river are pretty up there. No hurricanes, anyway.

Have a great week, all. I plan to.

Posted at 4:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

Fresh notebook pages.

It’s a bad policy, but Michigan schools are prohibited by law from starting until after Labor Day, and there’s a tiny part of me that is OK with that. I want the curtain to come down on summer before it rises on the school year, and yesterday was a perfect ending. The day was windy and increasingly hot through the afternoon, the gusts pushing the 80s out like a broom. A big front of thunderstorms was behind it all, and it hit around dinnertime where we are. It was the whistle that blew to clear the pool for good, send all the kids home to lay out their first-day outfits and backpacks, eat the final summer meal and set alarms for the first time in weeks or months.

Then, today, cool again, struggling to reach 70. My social-media feeds are full of pictures of little kids holding signs that say FIRST DAY 2017-18 and older ones smirking at mom.

People who live at this latitude say they like the change of seasons. They better, because they sure do change.

How was your weekend? We did a little sailing…

And I did a little rokkin’…

And there was relaxation, and some cold beers, tacos and laundry. The show was fun, Edgar Winter and Alice Cooper and Deep Purple on one bill, in that order. My young friend Dustin describes himself as an old soul, mainly reflected in his fondness for music that was popular when I was in high school. I wouldn’t have purchased a ticket for $5, but I was happy to be his plus-one as he reviewed the show for the local paper. The revelation was Edgar Winter, who I expected to be at death’s door, but wasn’t, and did a valiant “Tobacco Road” cover in honor of his late brother. Alice Cooper was…Alice Cooper, givin’ the folks what they came there for. Deep Purple took too many extended breaks for keyboard-solo noodling, doubtless to give the lead singer time for oxygen treatments backstage.

“One day, one of these guys is actually going to die out here in front of my eyes,” Dustin told me once. “And then my life will be complete.” He does a pretty fair impression of Roger Daltrey gasping for breath after struggling through the final yell in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that always makes me laugh. “He actually bent over and put his hands on his knees,” D. said, eyes aglow.

Our first trip to this venue was two years ago, to see Steely Dan, and of course Walter Becker, half of that group’s central duo, did actually die over the weekend. I have complicated feelings about that. Long live their many fine recordings.

During one of Deep Purple’s extended jams, I scrolled Twitter and learned of the DACA situation. What is there to say about that? The nation’s mattress continues to get soaked with pee.

And now we have Irma coming for us, but “The Deuce” to look forward to. One of these things is not like the other thing, and I’m not making the comparison.

Short week ahead, then VACATION FOR ME. Rarely have I needed one so badly.

Posted at 6:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 107 Comments