Three days in TO.

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

By one of these guys, because of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that was Saturday afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

The mangle awaits.

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

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

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

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

Very full plate today. Best start eating.

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

Last days of this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owl in the ‘hood.

Well into the cold snap today, I bought a pair of clever lights that go on your bike shoes like spurs. I ride less than I used to, in part because I have these premonitions that I’m going to be flattened by a car. So anything that can move and lights up and flash and perhaps tear a driver’s attention away from his or her phone? I’m all for that stuff.

At this time of year, it sometimes seems we’re never going to see bike season again. I bought those lights because I believe in spring, dammit. Also because they were only $10, and accepted ApplePay.

Winter is a series of milestones, like a drunk walking home, lurching from parking meter to lamppost. I’m already seeing pitchers-and-catchers-report numbers here and there. In one month, I’ll start noticing that the days are in fact growing longer. Then snowstorms will give way to freezing rain, then the first false hope of an early spring, then spring itself.

There’s a screech owl hanging in my neighborhood. It’s pair-bonding season, and it’s been raising a ruckus all night, calling to its mate, or potential mates. It’s a wonderful sound, and I wish I could throw a window open to listen to it, instead of catching it in snatches through the double-pane windows, or when taking the recycling out.

Which strikes me as a better use of my time than worrying about what the people of Mt. Airy think of the rest of us. Y’all chewed this one over in comments, and parts of it are appalling, but I can’t deny this made me laugh:

A group of developers has been working on a project to redevelop an old mill, Morrison said, but the proposal has moved slowly because of resistance from residents. Similarly, Vann McCoy, who runs a whiskey shop called Mayberry Spirits, said that residents recently opposed a traffic roundabout because there is no traffic circle visible on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

And people think city folk are smug.

You want some comic relief? Years ago, someone persuaded me to subscribe to Quora, sort of an ask-the-crowd-anything service. I mostly ignore it, but I get regular emails, and this one was pretty amusing. Someone asked

If you had to choose between Donald Trump and Barack Obama to adopt your kids, who would you trust the most to look after your kids?

You’ll never guess who won that one. But some of the answers are funny.

OK, then. This week is short, but it is long, if you catch my drift. I plan to limp through the weekend on fizzy water and protein. Have a good one.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments

Sobriety doesn’t suck.

How does the song go? “How dry I am,” something like that. Approaching the 48th hour of alcohol-free living, I’m starting to feel more or less like a teetotaler, even though I slept horribly last night. A nice early bedtime doesn’t pay off if you wake up at 1 a.m. and don’t get back to sleep until after 3. But that will pay off in a good sleep tonight, I devoutly hope.

HBO has some sort of series up on its streaming service – “Risky Drinking,” or some such. It’s not as good as it could have been, but the 20 minutes or so I watched wasn’t bad. Subject: Problem drinkers. Spoiler: There are a lot of them out there. My main takeaway was how many adults old enough to know better still drink like college students, with the multiple rounds of Fireball shots, the mixing of beer and vodka and all sorts of vile crap, all served in plastic cups in horrible bars.

My second takeaway is that there’s nothing more boring, and intolerable, as a drunk. I’ve known a few, and that glassy-eyed stare they get brings back unpleasant memories.

I respect you recovering alcoholics in the readership, for sure. I only wonder what is so appealing about drinking that much in the first place. All addictions are ugly, but they start out in something like beauty, at least for the addict.

The barfing always turned me off.

Not much bloggage today, because I worked and didn’t do much sniffing around the internet. But there’s this: Intellectuals for Trump. Yep.

Happy Tuesdaying, all.

Posted at 9:49 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments

Pine needles.

Well, I did it. We did it, that is — took the tree down, and the outside decorations. God, that feels good, sweeping up the big pile of pine needles and dragging that sucker down to the curb. Let 2017 get underway, for cryin’ out loud.

One great thing about working for a startup is, things rarely stay the same for long, and lots more will be expected of all of us in the new year, so I have to get my organization under control. I’m trying a Bullet Journal — i.e., “making lists and taking notes in a paper notebook” — and seeing how it goes. I love my digital systems, but I’m old enough that writing something down seems to stick in my head better.

Bullet journaling seems to be a cult. Someone have me deprogrammed if I slide too deeply into this stuff.

January is also my dry month, which I’m happy to see arrive, frankly. Alcohol is a depressant, and this is a depressing time of year. Dry January also has its cult, and even a name — “Drynuary.” Its leading adherent:

“The first week, you’re overenergized,” he said. “I’m having lucid dreams more often.”

The second week, his clothes fit better, but after that, it’s all uphill. By the fourth week, he said, “I’m sick of whatever it is that used to be interesting about this.”

That sounds like my experience last year, although I hung on until the final hours of Jan. 30, when I had a few sips of wine. The next night, a single glass. We’ll see if I can go all the way.

Feeling boring at the moment. Let’s get to the bloggage, eh?

Whatever you know about Richard Nixon, dial your opinion down a few notches. He was worse than you thought:

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

Meanwhile, our toddler president-elect promises even lower lows:

“And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Mr. Trump, who does not use email, also advised people to avoid computers when dealing with delicate material. “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Mr. Trump said.

“I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”

My new favorite health-care news site is StatNews, worth a visit every day. I liked this piece about the dangers of the alt-medicine movement.

Time for an hour of non-digital reading and an early bedtime. The new year is under way.

Posted at 9:06 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Last days.

So, how’s everybody’s break going? Me, I am getting shit DONE. Basement, CONQUERED. Closets, NEXT IN LINE. Piles of paper EN ROUTE TO THE DAMN SHREDDER. When New Year’s Day dawns, that Christmas tree’s days are NUMBERED AT .5, and I’m starting 2017 fresh. Or maybe FRESH.


In between organizing/trashing chores, I’m trying to read one of my Christmas presents: Shusako Endo’s “Silence,” now a major motion picture by Marty-my-idol. As you might imagine, the contrast is sometimes jarring, but I’m determined to finish it. I now have a stack of novels, both analog and digital, to get through in the new year, and I’m determined to do so. The internet has destroyed my attention span, and I’m equally determined to get it back. Not having a dozen years’ worth of neglected basement cleaning nagging at my conscience will help.

The holiday itself was pleasant. When your family is small, your celebrations are often low-key and chill, and ours was. We did tamales on the Eve, turkey on the Day, and many leftovers remain in the fridge, which will not escape the purge, because New Year’s Day is also the first day of my second Dry January, which may or may not be part of a Whole30, haven’t decided if I’m up for the torture yet. The circus class, after a rocky, knee-wrenching start, is growing on me, and I’m wondering if losing a few pounds won’t make the upper-body job a tad easier. And as usually happens at this time of year, my waistbands are getting a little tight. I’m so sick of cookies and chocolate and gingerbread, and yet, whenever I pass a sample? I cannot help but reach.

So, a little bloggage? There’s so much, but I haven’t been making many notes; at the end of the year, many places do excellent wrap ups, so start with Longform and go from there.

And this year, of course, there are the obituaries. (You want to know why journalists are the way they are? While the rest of you were rooting for Carrie Fisher and passing along memes and so forth, a handful of grim-faced scribes were plugging away on the just-in-case obit, which it turned out was needed.)

I highly recommend, again, my colleague Bill’s great, never-before-told story of the family at the center of the 1967 Detroit riots. Long but very readable.

Leave it to Neil Steinberg to rain all over Christmas. But I can’t say he’s wrong.

I heard a long NPR thing on Rick Barry and the underhanded free throw a few months back, and I guess it’s making a comeback.

Probably the last update of 2016 here. See you next week, and everyone? Let’s take a tip from the front half of the Detroit civic motto: Speramus meliora. (We hope for better things.) But be prepared for the other direction.

Posted at 9:54 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 68 Comments


Hey, everyone. How’re y’all? My knee hurts.

It’s my own fault. In my never-ending quest to deny reality and change my workouts around, I signed up for a conditioning class at a local circus school. Just one day a week, figured I’d get some tips on improving my balance before the next surfing expedition. I didn’t think for a minute that we’d work on any of the apparatuses, as they call them, but to my surprise the main part of the class involves clambering around on trapeze fabric and a couple of round things called lyras.

Nothing like trying a new skill to make you realize how much you have to learn. It turns out my core strength is fine, but upper body? Let’s just say the Cirque du Soleil will not be calling; I can barely hoist my body weight off the ground, although I managed one good inversion on some fabric, after I’d wrenched my ACL-free left knee, trying to swing it through the lyra.

Success on one did not balance out failure+pain on the other, but it helped. I’m sticking with the class.

I’m told lyra work is a big thing in high-end strip clubs these days, but I wouldn’t know anything about that, first-hand.

And this is the sort of thing you do when your husband consistently works late on Tuesday nights.

Bearing down on the holidays, I only have a million things to do. Three of us went out for a couple beers after work yesterday, the closest thing to a holiday party we’ll have this year. Bill told a great story about being an altar boy 50 years ago, and talking to one of his fellow servers about what he did during his, the other kid’s, considerable alone-time with Father in the rectory.

“Try on diapers,” the kid said. “You should try it sometime. They’re really comfortable.”

Bill wrote about this when the priest abuse scandal was breaking. Father was transferred around from church to church, of course. The other kid? He developed a drinking problem.

So, then. Some bloggage as we go forward? I’ll do my best:

Working-class jobs in the area, especially those previously filled by unskilled men, have largely disappeared. In the late 1970s, 786 people worked in well-paid union jobs in the timber industry; now that number has declined to six. The population is ageing. Incomes have declined. White-collar jobs have drawn people to Oregon’s cities, whose demographics mean they dominate the politics of the blue state. Harney County has a limited economic and demographic future – but if federal lands were handed over to local control, Bundy argued, perhaps the area could be great again.

That paragraph, from this interesting essay about the alt-right and “new patriotism,” could be written about northern Michigan, rural Ohio/Indiana and probably dozens of other regions in this country. Still working my way through it, but so far, so good.

One of my Airbnb hosts on my California sojourn worked on this show, “Generation KKK.” I no longer have cable, but I’m sure it’ll be available through one of the streaming services, eventually.

This douchebag again. When is someone going to sue him?

Happy Thursday to all.

Posted at 10:05 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 103 Comments

The coast.

The week, the month, the year has reached its crescendo — annual review done, story memos done, shopping done. More or less. (Just a few bottles to buy. The Christmas equivalent of phoning it in.)

So now I can relax, work on some longer-term projects, look at the Christmas tree, wrap presents. Coast. Chill. Enjoy.

And drive. A lot. This weekend is the Nall Family Christmas ™ and the Columbus Dispatch Alumni Holiday Party ™, which replaced the booze-soaked Up on the Housetop Party ™ of my era. The Dispatch party is Friday night, and of course I have a training on Friday, in Lansing, which means I’ll be leaving from there. Driving distance between the two state capitals? Four hours and 25 minutes, thanks for asking.

I used to love a long drive. Now it just hurts my back. I recently came to the realization I’m what’s known as an active sedentary person, i.e., someone who exercises for one hour a day, then sits on her ass for the remainder. Not good, but I don’t see an alternative, until I perfect the art of writing-while-walking, and no, I’m not getting a treadmill desk.

I enjoy this time of year, working for Bridge. We go dark for two weeks, which never happens at a daily newspaper. I believe I’ve written before about the torture of the holiday interval in newspapering, which is sort of like anesthesiology — hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror. You sit around waiting for a disaster, hoping the pages won’t come up from advertising with more news hole than the canned year-in-review stories can fill, because then you’ll be sent out on a holiday nothingburger, about new year’s preparation or the returns desk at some department store. Those all suck.

The tragedies suck worse — the man who went to midnight mass, missing the fire that broke out and killed his wife and children; the old rummy who robbed a bank, then walked to a nearby bar and waited for arrest, so he could have a warm place to sleep and reliable meals. The underwear bomber was a Christmas Day story. Exploding water mains if it gets real cold, another holiday perennial.

Much better to be off. I clean closets, a deeply satisfying task. I’m also going to find time to watch “Hypernormalisation,” a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis, which is getting insane buzz at the moment, but can only be found on YouTube. I’ll give you a report.

Of course, a lull won’t necessarily arrive this year, as we count down to our nation’s transition. Neil Steinberg referred to these days as being akin the clack-clack-clack of a long climb up the first hill on the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster. I think that’s right.

In North Carolina, they’ll be covering the Calvinball leagues.

In Washington, we’ll be waiting for the first daughter to be first lady, while the woman who would normally fill that role remains separated from her husband in another city. And there’s the new diplomatic corps to look forward to.

Unrelated, except in the what-fresh-horror-is-this file, Lenny Pozner, one of the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook, continues to fight the good fight. What a heartbreaking, infuriating story.

Don’t mean to bum y’all out. I’ll be back after the long weekend.

Posted at 11:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments

Monday’s Monday.

I don’t know what it is about me and Mondays. I had an action-packed day today, if you equate “writing things” with action. I got a lot accomplished, is what I’m saying. At the end of it, I walked the dog and thought about pouring myself a big glass of wine. Then remembered: Trying to minimize my drinking. So I made soup — curried butternut squash-apple. Cutting up the squash put me in a lousy mood, because what a fucking vegetable, amirite? You practically need a chain saw to get to the good stuff, which is just wrong. Vegetables shouldn’t play so hard to get, considering lots of people have to force them down the old gullet.


Got a bit of a snow day, I guess. No swimming, no boxing, slept clear until 6:30 and lolled abed until 7, at which point I got up and went directly to work, because I had to do some interviews with people far overseas, whose days were already well along. Drank coffee and watched the sky go from black to gray to lighter gray. Monday.

Somehow, this blow-by-blow doesn’t quite have the best-seller ring of “My Struggle,” does it?

So, a couple of announcements:

MichaelG! Your sbcglobal email address was hacked some time ago, and I’m getting almost daily spam messages from it. Check/change your password, eh?

I used Google Voice / Hangout for my interviews today, and cannot praise it enough. Better than Skype, better than your calling plan. The internet has disrupted and destroyed many businesses, but I’m old enough to remember doing a story on some young Fort Wayne brothers who were living in Jerusalem during one of the intifadas. Because of the time difference, we did the phoners from home, well before I went into the office. One call went for 30 minutes and one for 40 minutes, and the phone bill was $179. I called to see if I could get it adjusted. Why yes! I could. If I signed up for a $5/month international calling plan, they’d retroactively bill me for what I’d have paid to call Israel under the plan. The bill dropped from $179 to $18 and if that doesn’t tell you what shit does and doesn’t cost, I don’t know what does.

Today my calls to Cypress and London were a penny a minute. Literally.

It was sunny in Cypress. Gray bowl here. Mondays.

I’m sorry I have no links. Maybe tomorrow.

Posted at 9:58 am in Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments