Cleaning up.

Well, in the end everything was fine. Going into a party where you’ve promised to provide food and drink for 30 or so people, unless you’re a professional caterer, it’s always tense. There’ll be too much food, there won’t be enough food, no one will have a good time, the world will collapse upon itself and so will the tent.

But it was fine. Invite the right people, and it’s always fine. I don’t envy people who go to fabulous parties all the time, because over time your standards have to get too high and utterly wonky. Cassie VonSnoot’s bash was just so…Pinterest, don’t you think? And the white wine really wasn’t right with the fish course. Whereas if you just provide something to eat and something to drink and a break from a typical Saturday, and mash together some groups that don’t meet every so often, it’s fine.

I got a $5 bouquet of flowers from the Eastern Market and divided them between the tables. I got plastic tablecloths and paper plates in Michigan colors. Alan iced down oceans of drinks, of all kinds and strengths. And this being a congratulatory affair, there was a congratulatory cake:


It’s our family motto.

Now I’m up for air, although the pace won’t really abate until mid-September, when Kate is relocated and my work projects reach critical mass, and by then it’ll be time for apples and brussels sprouts and, inevitably, cold weather.

I’m glad we had some fun while it was warm. Back to vegetables and clean living for a while. This cake and booze and tortilla chips makes me feel a little… off.

Some good bloggage, anyway, as we start the week.

The story of the three Americans who thwarted a mass shooting on a French train has everything, doesn’t it? Three handsome men, one bumbling terrorist and a denouement with the bad guy left hog-tied while the good guys put a good thumping on him. Meanwhile, it appears jihadi training has some problems in the supply chain:

Mr. Skarlatos, the AK-47 in hand, began to patrol the carriages, looking for other gunmen. He made a series of startling discoveries: The suspect’s guns had malfunctioned, and he had not had the competence to fix them.

“He had pulled the trigger on the AK. The primer was just faulty, so the gun didn’t go off, luckily,” Mr. Skarlatos said. “And he didn’t know how to fix it, which is also very lucky.” In addition, the gunman had not been able to load his own handgun: “There was no magazine in it, so he either dropped it accidentally or didn’t load it properly, so he was only able to get what appeared to be one shot off,” Mr. Skarlatos said.

Well, thank heaven for small favors.

Neal Pollack has a nice summation of the Ashley Madison business, I think. He had a guest account with AM while writing a Maxim story and found himself in the hall of shame:

Ever since the data-dump threats began, I’ve been thinking about the people I interviewed for that Maxim story. A couple of them were admitted sex addicts, but most were just normal people living in private circumstances. I interviewed a middle-aged woman who was in a friendly marriage with someone 25 years her senior, a man who went to bed every night at seven. She didn’t want a divorce, but she was bored, seeking sexual adventure, so she went on the site and set up some discreet liaisons. I also talked to a truck driver, happily married but on the road 200-plus days a year. Rather than pay for a hooker or masturbate sadly at the Howard Johnson’s, he set up private consensual liaisons. No one got hurt, or at least hadn’t gotten hurt yet.

The conventional narrative with Ashley Madison is that 95 percent of the accounts are either bots or horny dudes who never actually hook up with anyone. A lot may have changed on the site since 2007, but from my experience, subscribers were people who, for whatever reason, wanted to have an extramarital affair and had no other avenue to find one. Not everyone can screw around like a rock star or even a traveling Big Pharma sales rep. Whatever their reasons or circumstances—and, again, they varied widely—it was no one’s business but their own.

For you football fans, a story I’m still picking my way through, but is good so far, a feature about Chris Borland, the NFL player who quit the 49ers in his first year, to save his brain, he said. As you might expect, his life since has not been uncomplicated.

And with that, let’s take on Monday, eh?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments

Bearing down on me.

Did anything happen today that I need to know about? Because I was sort of immersed in this and that. Have a lot on my plate at work, and this weekend looms a rather hastily thrown-together graduation / bon voyage party for Princess Katharine. I looked into catering it, then decided to do it myself. Are those famous last words? Who knows. I’m planning a taco-fixings array, and this week I’m slow-cooking a pork shoulder, a beef brisket and three pounds of chicken thighs. Ring me up Sunday morning and ask how it went. I’m crossing my fingers, but wouldn’t bet against a disaster.

If so, I’ll take some pictures. Anyway, the weather forecast is favorable — sunny and low 80s. Here’s hoping.

Open thread, then.

Posted at 12:43 am in Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments

Remembering to remember.

Warning: Discussion of female bodily functions ahead.

When I was pregnant, a nurse told me pregnancy was a good window onto old age, that the problems women had when they were great with child tended to pop up late in life — diabetes, etc. If so, I better have a killer retirement account, because my pregnancy passed like a cool breeze on a warm day, and the Big M — you guys can figure that one out, right? — was ditto. You’ll have to ask my loved ones about screeching mood swings, but I don’t recall that era as any worse than my usual moody-bitch act. Not one hot flash. Insomnia, sure, but that’s just the way of the world once you have a few things to worry about. A few other minor things, but in general, the big Change I’d been dreading for half a decade was a snap. Not only that, but I forgot, in a disgracefully short time, what it was like to be a fertile woman, and all it entails, specifically the gross stuff.

So it was refreshing to read this little essay in New York magazine today, pointing out the obvious: The reason there isn’t a wave of outrage over the Planned Parenthood sting videos is, women already know what abortion is about. Believe us, we know, even if we haven’t had one:

Women do not need real talk about bodies; our adult days brim with the effluvia, the discomforts, the weirdness and emotional intensity and magnitude of our medical choices. Then there is pregnancy itself, wanted or not, and its attendant risks. Women pass early pregnancies into toilet bowls and sadly collect the remains of later ones in Tupperware containers to bring to their doctors. Most of us know of someone who has suffered the excruciating pain of stillbirth. One friend, bleeding 13 weeks into a deeply desired pregnancy, was told by her doctor not to worry unless she passed a clot bigger than her fist.

Women who have been pregnant past quickening have felt the nauseating turn of a baby inside them; some have had the horror of feeling that baby stop moving, or, as Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis wrote of her experience, can feel the spasms of fetal seizure. She had a late abortion. So did California representative Jackie Speier, as she told the House in 2011, responding to a colleague who’d read aloud a gory description of a second-trimester termination. “I was thinking to myself, Not one of you has endured this procedure,” she said of her decision to speak publicly about it.

Women know about blood. We know about discharge. We know about babies, and many of us also love them, their little feet and hands and eyelashes. And, yes, we know that those bitty features develop while the fetus is inside us. We also know the physical, economic, and emotional costs of raising those children outside our wombs.

It brought it all back — those days of praying for your period, cursing your period, all of it. And it’s good to remember that from time to time, because if you forget it too long, you forget to be outraged when men stand up in legislative chambers and read descriptions they have no experience of and never will. And you need to be outraged, not all the time, but sometimes, when it counts. You need to remember.

But I don’t want to bum everyone out on a Tuesday. Here’s something quite amusing, John Oliver on sex ed. It’s long, but it’s very good, in that outrage-funny kind of way. I very much recommend it.

Who was asking about the obit for Frances Kelsey the other day, the doctor who blocked Thalidomide in the U.S.? This is a pretty good one:

The sedative was Kevadon, and the application to market it in America reached the new medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration in September 1960. The drug had already been sold to pregnant women in Europe for morning sickness, and the application seemed routine, ready for the rubber stamp.

But some data on the drug’s safety troubled Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a former family doctor and teacher in South Dakota who had just taken the F.D.A. job in Washington, reviewing requests to license new drugs. She asked the manufacturer, the William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati, for more information.

Thus began a fateful test of wills. Merrell responded. Dr. Kelsey wanted more. Merrell complained to Dr. Kelsey’s bosses, calling her a petty bureaucrat. She persisted. On it went. But by late 1961, the terrible evidence was pouring in. The drug — better known by its generic name, thalidomide — was causing thousands of babies in Europe, Britain, Canada and the Middle East to be born with flipperlike arms and legs and other defects.

A petty bureaucrat. Should have left that one up to the invisible hand, right?

Long day ahead, so let’s get to it.

Posted at 12:04 am in Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

And we’re wrapped.

Well, we made it back. You get in the car in the crystalline, low-humidity loveliness of the north woods, and you stop for gas somewhere around Saginaw, where the air is smudgy and your hair immediately plasters itself to your skull like a wet towel.

(“I’m going to miss this place,” I said on our last day. “My hair looks the same in the evening as when I dried it in the morning.” Alan: “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Only women notice hair.)

It was a nice time. We didn’t do much, by design. Alan fished every night and some days, and I read “Missoula,” by Jon Krakauer; “The Drop” by Dennis Lehane; and “Between the World and Me,” Ta’Nehisi Coates, as well as some rereading — an old Travis McGee pulper I found in the cottage, and Laura Lippman’s “When She Was Good.” And a kinky romance about a woman with rape fantasies, because I read an interesting story about this market niche somewhere, and wanted to see what it was about. They’re all e-books and as cheap as candy bars. (Noted some details, including this: While women notice hair, when they write erotic fiction, they don’t spend a lot of time describing the women involved, for obvious reasons. The reader is free to imagine herself in the starring role. Sex scenes written by men are the opposite. I gave up on one popular crime novelist 20 pages into my first try, when he described his main character, a woman with the usual high, firm breasts and tight, round ass and long, long legs, etc. The real eye-roller — and book-closer — was her smooth olive skin and violet eyes. I’m like, pick one, dude. You don’t get both in the same gene pool.)

“Missoula” was a rare Krakauer disappointment for me, strong out of the gate and mired around the halfway point with courtroom procedural passages begging for a chainsaw edit. It was also about rape, the real, non-fantasy kind, but it was really about alcohol. And “Between the World and Me” is a heartbreaker, but an absolutely necessary one, and I highly recommend it.

At night, when I wasn’t reading and Alan was fishing, I watched movies. The house we were in didn’t have cable or an antenna, so I couldn’t watch the Republican debate, but it did have a DVD player and an uneven selection of movies. First were the good ones I’d already seen (“Michael Clayton,” “The Departed”) and then some fun crap (“Dirty Harry”), before finishing with ones I’d only heard about and never got around to seeing, like “The Green Mile.” Sixteen years after its release, I offer this review: P-U. (Alan suggested an alternate title: “Mr. Jingles and the Magical Negro.”) Last up was “The Grey,” which I turned off 30 minutes in while contemplating forming a Wolf Anti-Defamation League. Not just bad, offensively so.

And that was about it. We lost power in the big storm for a day and change, popped over to Traverse City for an afternoon and watched Wendy excavate the outside woodpile for two solid hours, trying to get the red squirrel squeaking inside. No cell service, no internet unless we drove through a coverage zone. And we floated a few miles of the Au Sable, and it looked like this:


Pure Michigan.

It looks like y’all had a good week. I still have a few pages to go in the Coates book, mainly because on the way home, as soon as we drove into cell coverage, my phone exploded with this story, about the Tea Party legislator I wrote about in April. Turns out he was sleeping with his legislative ally, and — you can read all the tawdry details at the link. The rumors about them started flying after my story ran, and I wondered whether they might be true, then decided such a hookup would be too Hollywood for words, like Frank Burns and Hot Lips Houlihan getting it on in “M*A*S*H.” It turns out that sometimes reality is just that — Hollywood. I keep looking at my notes, and the story, wondering if it was in front of me all along. Maybe it was:

Just yesterday, Courser posted, on his website and Facebook, a 3,300-word defense of Gamrat, referring to “the forces of tyranny” that are “attempting to silence a huge voice for liberty,” i.e. Gamrat, and calling on Speaker Cotter to reinstate her. He chides Cotter repeatedly and implies the Speaker – the leader of his own party’s caucus – lied about Gamrat to justify her ejection.

New rule: When a man tops 3K words defending a female colleague, look harder.

Anyway, I’m doing a Michigan Radio interview this morning, along with the reporter who broke the story. Should be fun. I’ll pop into the comments with a listen-live link when I get it.

I see you guys kept the bloggage going in my absence, so I don’t have a whole lot to offer, as I’m just catching up myself. This profile of an uncooperative Chelsea Clinton was very good, I thought. I found it via Hank Stuever, who commented on his Facebook that perhaps his parents had taken Jacqueline Onassis’ advice about raising their daughter in the White House to a fault: “When Caroline Kennedy sort of ran for office a few years ago, one single interview with the NYT made it clear that a lifetime of being sheltered from challenging questions had not done her any favors at all. She was in no way ready for real politics or much of anything that wasn’t ceremonial and scripted. Ergo, her current job — ambassador to Japan.” Chelsea is the same, I fear. Much posing and smiling, not much else.

Oh, and Coozledad sent along this wonderful piece from his local alt-weekly. Speaking of atrocious writing.

So the week begins anew, and I’m tanned (a little), rested (mostly) and ready (better be). Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events, Movies, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments


I mentioned a while back that I gave blood? And they gave me a $10 Kroger gift card, up from the old $5 Target cards? Today, a new wrinkle:


It’s like an open adoption, isn’t it? They tell you where your blood went. As it turns out, the sides of the triangle formed by St. John Hospital, the gym where I donated and my house are no longer than half a mile. Now that’s some locally sourced blood. That’s blood a blood snob would be proud to infuse.

They must really need blood. Probably you should give some, if you’re able.

A mixed bag today. The heat wave continues. Kate’s leaving tomorrow on yet another trip, a straight vacation this time with friends, so there were some errands and I made a big pile of granola. (They’re going backpacking.) And I worked, simultaneously thinking I wish I were in an office with people and thank God I don’t have to get dressed so I can be around people. Of course the social-media story of the day was the lion killer, which I see you have already started tearing apart in the previous post’s comments. The local paper seems to be on top of things, and I don’t know what to add — it’s just a terrible story. The hunter sounds terrible. The situation sounds terrible. The whole idea of traveling to Africa to hunt heads – terrible. That this guy is a cosmetic dentist – terrible.

Which seems like a segue into yet another NYT piece on the outlaw seas, more of the Ian Urbina package on the astounding lawlessness on the high seas and yet another argument for the human race as not much of an improvement on primordial slime. The piece does have a hero, the environmental group that pursued an outlaw fishing vessel for more than three months, only to see it almost certainly deliberately scuttled to hide evidence of its crew’s crimes. But a good read just the same.

Finally, you may have read about the unveiling of the Satanist statue in Detroit. This is the real story. You’re being trolled, America.

In spite of the heat, I took a little bike ride. And I took a little picture:


It’s the original. Accept no substitutes.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments

Scraps of notes.

Another late night without much inspiration. So here’s the last night of the Deadly Vipers’ tour. It was posted at way past their bedtime last night; I don’t expect them home early:

A bunch of opossums in St. Louis

A photo posted by The Deadly Vipers (@deadlyvipers.detroit) on

They seem to be making friends.

Here’s another Neil Steinberg blog to contemplate, about a 1915 disaster I’d never heard of until today. More than 800 people drowned when a ship capsized at the dock on the Chicago River. They were close enough to shore to easily swim, but that was when swimming was a rare skill. Eight hundred forty-four dead, and the ship was still tied up. Mind-boggling.

I swam this morning. Couldn’t find my rhythm, felt off the whole time. Maybe I’m being haunted by the ghosts of the Eastland, drowned 100 years ago today.

I see there was another mass shooting last night. Today, I swear, CNN was tweeting a piece about “movie-theater safety.” No words. And Bobby Jindal informed the world he was rushing to the scene, inspiring Twitter to yell at his exhaust plume, Make sure you tell ’em how much you like guns, Bobby! Awright.

OK, to work and to the weekend. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 9:19 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments

Summer slowness.

Monday might be my least-favorite blogging day of the week. Nothing ever happens to me on a Monday. Usually I go to the downtown office, so that’s something. But usually nothing interesting happens there, either. You see movies about journalists, and you think it’s all running around to fires and stuff, and there’s some of that, or used to be. For me and my colleagues, it’s mostly talking on the phone and staring at a computer screen.

I once had lunch with an editor who worked in the same office complex, or cluster, or whatever, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page. He could walk by and see them at work. What did he observe, you might wonder? Spells being cast, raucous staff meetings, Nerf basketball?

“Emails,” he said. “Lots and lots of emails.” That’s journalism today.

And since I brown-bagged it, I didn’t even get the fun of going out onto the sweaty streets to see what’s up. Except at the bus stop, which was pretty quiet. I think the whole world goes on vacation in July and August.

I did get a road report from the Deadly Vipers: The three shows so far have been in small spaces that were tightly packed with sweaty, moshing, toilet paper roll-throwing celebrants. They’ve been called back for encores all three shows, and “we’re selling a lot of tapes.” Yes, tapes, because some guy in Brooklyn is releasing their music on cassette. As I recall, the last time I was there people were gathering under a tent at a street festival to take a turn working on that wacky wayback machine known as a typewriter.

The rest of you can check out two tracks from the four-track EP via Soundcloud.

I know Americans have hardly covered themselves with glory abroad. I know idiots have scratched Ryan + Amber 4Ever on the Stonehenge monuments, touched stuff they were told not to and otherwise stumbled and bumbled their way through the world’s glories — don’t even get me started on that stupid locks-on-the-bridge thing in Paris — but honestly, there’s something about the lead of this story that makes me want to drop a bomb on France, just to get this guy:

Andre Saraiva is an internationally known graffiti artist. He owns nightclubs in Paris and New York, works as a top editor of the men’s fashion magazine L’Officiel Hommes and has appeared in countless glossy magazines as a tastemaker and bon vivant.

Two months ago he showed up on the decidedly un-fashionista website Modern Hiker, along with a photo of a boulder he tagged in Joshua Tree National Park. Since then, Saraiva, who lives in France and is known by his fans as Mr. Andre and Mr. A., has been scorned by American nature lovers and thrust into a highly charged debate.

Saraiva is of a new generation of graffiti artists who regard nature — not just the built environment — as their canvas. They tag national parks, then post photos of their work on the Internet.

The next bomb goes on the front office of the magazine whose editor offered this priceless observation:

“This is a very complex issue,” said Casey Schreiner, editor of Modern Hiker. “How different is graffiti in national parks than street art? If street art is OK, is this OK? Is there a correlation?”

Answers, in order: Very, no, no. Next question.

This is an interesting piece to consider, as demographics and trends move the wheel around. Remember the anonymous suburban office park in “Office Space?” Remember how you thought, “God, there are a million of those in my city alone?” Well, there are. And they’re falling out of favor:

The building in North Bethesda has eight floors. It is 98.7 percent vacant. There is one life form within its nearly 210,000 square feet — not counting the lobby fern on life support — and she wears a security uniform, sits at the front desk and listens to the muffled whine of a faulty alarm for hours at a time, every day between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“It’s quite annoying,” say Lum Tumentang, the guard. The building engineer sometimes stops by and turns it off, but it inevitably trips again. There’s one or two IT people who do IT stuff one flight up, but they’re not here right now. The building was built in 1989, and it shows: a mountain of tinted glass and beige concrete in commercial dullsville. Over the past decade, its value dropped by 64 percent. The largest tenant, the National Institutes of Health and its contractors, started packing up two years ago as leases expired. By 2014, the owner reported cash-flow problems, foreclosure arrived this past January, and that was it for 6116 Executive Blvd.

That’s in D.C. Your town is likely not far behind.

So, then, Monday is in the books and Tuesday lies ahead. Enjoy whatever it holds for you.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments

The horn section.

The Detroit “scene” — yes, air quotes are definitely called for here — has been growing so quickly that it’s sometimes hard to tell the New Detroit weekend activities from the earlier, more organic and fun variety. One year you’re going on a group bike ride and it’s just a good time, two years later you have thousands of fellow riders and corporate/foundation sponsorship and all the rest of it.

So lately, when I hear that something’s going on somewhere in the central part of town, I’m less likely to think hey, fun and more likely to think parking’s gonna be a four-legged bitch, no doubt.

It was a pleasant surprise to drop by the second annual Crash Detroit festival in its waning hours Saturday and see it was still fun. This is a brass-band gathering, very much in the New Orleans tradition of fun and partying and spontaneity, and we arrived for the last act, the hometown Detroit Party Marching Band:


A little dark, I know, but I wanted you to get the idea of how they work — no stage, just gather up and start playing. And they play hard. The trombonist nearest to me shed his jacket halfway through the show, but I bet he wished he could shed more. Most of these folks play hard, and it was hot.

Still, in the depths of summer, a good news Sunday. There’s the Bill Cosby story, so much ick in one package:

He was not above seducing a young model by showing interest in her father’s cancer. He promised other women his mentorship and career advice before pushing them for sex acts. And he tried to use financial sleight of hand to keep his wife from finding out about his serial philandering.

Bill Cosby admitted to all of this and more over four days of intense questioning 10 years ago at a Philadelphia hotel, where he defended himself in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by a young woman who accused him of drugging and molesting her.

Even as Mr. Cosby denied he was a sexual predator who assaulted many women, he presented himself in the deposition as an unapologetic, cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women — a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.

Man, I’m not one for idolizing celebrities (with some exceptions), and this is not Monday-morning hindsight, but there was always something off-putting about his Doctor Cosby, American Dad act I found off-putting. I should trust my instinct more often.

Brian Dickerson, my No. 1 reason for reading the Sunday Free Press, had a thoughtful column about the pressures on liberal arts educations these days. I think he nails it — business is trying to outsource its training onto higher ed — and have been saddened at the idea that studying something other than finance, marketing, math and business is somehow worthless. I’ve known many liberal-arts majors who are brilliant business people; knowing Iago’s motivation might be a useful skill in business, in my opinion, but what do I know.

A long read, but absolutely worth it: A long NYT project on crime on the high seas, Pulitzer-worthy, that reminds me to read William Langewiesche’s book on the same subject. A sobering reminder of the cost of civilization, a connection I probably drew from my liberal-arts education.

Oh, and also, this weekend? There was a pie:


I’m-a eat a piece. Right now. Enjoy the upcoming week.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 30 Comments

Widely scattered.

I know we have readers here from all over, and some of you have perhaps never traveled to the nation’s breadbasket, where many of us live. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the weather condition the meteorologists call “widely scattered thundershowers.” Here’s what it looks like on the radar:


It’s the thing every Midwesterner notices sooner or later, where you call someone who lives a mile away and say, “Too bad it’s raining, or we could go for a run or something,” and your friend says, “What are you talking about? It’s so sunny.” Sometimes you live right on the literal edge of a shower, and can see dry sidewalks on the other side of the street. Rarer still is Hollywood rain, where it’s pouring, but the sun is out, like in those movies shot in Los Angeles sunshine under rain sprinklers. (You know what I always notice about those scenes? It rains HARD under those sprinklers, but no one ever says, “Maybe we should go inside.” Perhaps because those are the scenes where someone is expressing eternal love, five minutes before the credits.)

Anyway. That’s the kind of day it was. Rode my bike to the dentist and regretted not bringing sunglasses. Came out and had to dry off the seat, then race another cell home. Walked the dog 30 minutes later, wishing I had sunglasses. But it was real pretty, with everything all drippy in the sunshine. I kept looking around for Brad Pitt. So I could kiss him and express eternal love.

I rode my bike to the dentist because the office is half a mile away, but also because I didn’t have a car, it being in the shop for the usual ruinously expensive Volvo service interval (timing chain = bread and water for a month). Kate and her bandmates are borrowing it for a week, for a little tour they booked themselves. Me, worried? Ha ha ha ha ha [takes three giant glugs of wine] ha ha ha. The Cataclysmic Events tour kicks off in Brooklyn Friday night and plays a number of closet-sized DIY venues before concluding in St. Louis (oy) a week later, then home. I’m sure they will have the time of their lives. Those of you who are the praying sorts, feel free to include them in your dailies. ALSO INCLUDE MY CAR.

So, a bit of bloggage today. This has been one newsy year, hasn’t it?

If you’re going to do sex work, make serious bank at it, the way the wait staff at Las Vegas pools do:

Vegas’s hot summers are slow for tourism, but in the past decade, resorts have transformed the generic poolside experience into a lavish party scene. This has spawned a pool-industrial complex, where attendees, even guests who once enjoyed free entrance to a hotel pool, now pay into the thousands for general admittance per day, shaded cabanas and private bottle service at parties featuring daylong drinking and celebrity D.J.s.

Inside the parties, a class structure prevails: The proletariat use towels to claim spots around the pool, the bourgeoisie reserve $1,000 cabanas and aristocrats fork over up to $15,000 for private bungalows equipped with televisions and temperature-controlled climates. Add in food and drink minimums, and these clubs, combined with their night-life counterparts, now surpass the longtime king of casino revenue — gambling.

For the tipped worker, the appeal is obvious. Checks can spike into the tens of thousands, and with an automatic 18 percent gratuity, few service jobs can compete. No wonder people fly in from around the country to apply for them.

Could this story of civil protest in Dent County, Mo., pop. 15,000, be more predictable? The county commission voted to lower flags to half-staff for one day a month (the 26th, because that was the day in June that SCOTUS let the homos get married) for a year, then walked it back “out of respect for veterans,” but not before it yielded this priceless quote:

“It ain’t what our Bible tells us. It’s against God’s plan,” County Commissioner Gary Larson said.

Whenever I read a quote like that, I think of the gray areas of cleaning up bad grammar in quotes, a subject that journalists around the world can no doubt chew your ear off and bore you to death, discussing. I tend to leave it intact except in cases where the speaker’s meaning might be misunderstood, but if you look at stories from many Ohio newspapers during the governorship of Jim Rhodes, the guy sounds like an Oxford don, and friends? He was not.

The Onion swings the sword of truth, regrettably.

Which takes us all the way to the week’s hump. How’d that happen?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments

Blueberries and blues.

I’ve missed going to the market the last couple of weeks, but I went Saturday, and man, is it ever on. Pre-tomatoes, pre-peaches, but the greens are greenin’, the sugar snaps snappin’, and of course the blueberries and cherries are in. I couldn’t decide what kind of pie I wanted this week, so I got both. In trying to preserve my weight loss, I will generally make a whole pie but take half to my office. However, we hit that poor thing like a tackling dummy; I might have to do a backup pie tonight for the co-workers.

Mmmm, backup pie. Blueberry backup pie. Yummers.


Tonight, I’m thinking pizza on the grill.

In between there was a bike ride, something I’m doing less of. Not for any particular reason, only that I’m trying not to get bored, so I’m juggling boxing, swimming, yoga and weights in the mix, and there just isn’t as much time for the bike. But I got out there on Sunday. Stopped and listened to five minutes of a sermon outside a church (with organ stings!), passed a couple splitting a joint on a park bench, observed a man sitting on his porch with a sign at the curb reading, “Barber on deck, 8am-8pm.” Just another Sunday noontime in Detroit.

Oh, and we saw a movie — “The Wolfpack,” now on iTunes and in theaters. Recommended, especially if you liked “Crumb,” as it basically hits the same theme. Which is? That art saves, and sometimes transgressive art saves the most. A review, by David Edelstein.

It’s bummer day in bloggage, but all of it good reading:

First, the most infuriating, a WashPost look at Tunica, Miss., an early gambling adoptee that somehow managed to squander a few hundred million in proceeds to local governments and still leave its people as poor and screwed-over as any in the U.S. How? By leaving the usual suspects in control of the purse, and what did they do?

What went wrong in Tunica is a matter of perspective. For many African Americans — and the county’s current officials — it was a story of a largely white political leadership that did not grasp the depths of poverty facing many black residents and did not choose to use the casino revenues that flowed into the county in an equitable way. So instead of funding skills training and providing programs for the vulnerable, they poured money into a riverfront wedding hall, an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool and a golf course designed by a former PGA Tour pro — all while implementing a massive tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy.

Tax cuts. How bad could taxes have possibly been in a largely rural county known for its extreme (56 percent) poverty rate? I wonder if somewhere in the next world, Ronald Reagan is being roasted over a fire of dollar bills. He can give up his place on the spit when Grover Norquist joins him.

Moving on. This story is a heller to read, about how Matthew Teague’s wife died of cancer and his best friend helped him through it — for two years. I can tell you that it made me think we need better options to help people, and help the people who help them, through the last days of their lives. I know I would have called Dr. Kevorkian well before I reached about the midpoint in Nicole’s story.

If you can’t stand that, how about a DOG dying? Dooce.

Finally, a nice bit of essayin’ on something I feel I was the very last to learn: “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” the great fear novel of my young single life, was based on a real murder, of a woman with a similar name as the main character in the book, and not too many changes. The victim taught deaf children in real life, which explains why Diane Keaton’s character did in the movie adaptation, a change from the book I found jarring. Some things slide right past you; this was one of mine.

So now the week begins. I’m hoping to see half my street paved by the end of it. We’ll see.

Posted at 12:14 am in Same ol' same ol' | 81 Comments