West to Washtenaw.

I was at Wallace House today, the Ann Arbor clubhouse of my old fellowship. Of course I took a lap of the first floor, and noticed that a couple of Mike Wallace’s Emmys had been added to the shelf in the library. Is it possible to pass a major award and not pick it up and make a little acceptance speech?

And take a selfie, of course. This one’s blurry, but you can see Mike peeking over my shoulder:


Since I was in town, I took Kate to lunch to celebrate the near-end of her first semester. She has one final to go, some sort of live performance of an original digital-music composition, so, y’know, no pressure. We went to a noodle bar, of which there are now ten thousand in Ann Arbor. I had the bibimbap I’ve been craving for weeks; Kate had pho. And that was lunch. Because she doesn’t read this blog, I can reveal that I stopped at the MDen and bought her a sweatshirt with her school name on it, for Christmas. I bought it because she showed up for lunch wearing a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs T-shirt. A friend goes there, and gave it to her at Thanksgiving break.

“Would you wear branded merchandise from your own school?” I asked.

“I guess, but not here.”


“Because everybody knows where you go to school here.”

This girl needs to walk through the Harvard Coop. I bet half their merch goes to non-students.

So. I guess you guys will have something to say about the debate, but I can’t add anything — one of the advantages of cutting the cord is, you don’t have to feel guilty about not watching CNN.

So what happened?

Posted at 9:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 67 Comments

Dry turkey.

I don’t know why, but it seemed this year’s Thanksgiving break was just about perfect, kicking off with my birthday on Wednesday and winding up with family not-thanksgiving today; my sister-in-law came up and we had lasagna, which is traditional, right? Anyway, I’ve been away from the grindstone just long enough, and it’s back to work today.

A few things we did:

** Had a Friendsgiving this year. There were some scheduling changes this year, and so we were freed to have the big banquet in the evening, not at 1 p.m., our usual time. You ask me, I think the candles sparkle brighter on the table after the sun goes down, but I bend to the will of the crowd — I’m just there to cook. But because of the later hour, we had more friends at our table, and it was lovely. The wine was spectacular, I made a stuffed boneless turkey breast and I just ate the last of it in a sandwich. Makes a nice bookend on the weekend.

** Saw “Spotlight,” the film about the Boston Globe’s priest pedophilia investigation. To paraphrase David Simon, for a journalist, it’s like watching porn. Just a really well-done film, admirably underplayed, that doesn’t traffic in shadowy parking-garage meetings or other low-rent cloak-and-dagger stuff. Journalism in stories like this mostly takes place in ugly offices and fluorescent-lit courthouses and other unglamorous places, where everybody dresses badly, in shades of beige, black, navy and oxford-shirt blue. Underdoing it like this gives the brief scenes where someone speaks a raw truth — “And then one day he asks you to jerk him off or give him a blowjob, and now you have another secret” — a great deal of power. The cranks, like the founder of the victims group SNAP, are not de-cranked for narrative purposes, and the strange, twitchy victims, you can immediately see, were chosen by their abusers because they were strange, twitchy kids.

I can’t think of any part of the story that was goosed for dramatic purposes, with the possible exception of one montage scene, where a children’s choir sings and a character comes to terms with the inexorable evil he and his colleagues are confronting. And that was hardly unforgivable, given some of the nonsense I’ve seen in journalism movies over the years.

** Went to the Eastern Market on Saturday. Beheld this:


No comment.

** Started a new book, “Slade House,” which Kate gave me for my birthday. I put aside Margaret Atwood for now, which I now see is worth the very low price I paid for it in Toronto.

** Finally, we cut the cord. The cable cord, that is. Those of you who have dealt with Comcast know what it’s like to deal with Comcast, so I won’t bore you with the details. But we got rid of the digital-cable box, picked up HBO Now and Showtime-via-stream, and Alan picked up a weird-looking antenna, with which we can receive all the local channels, in widescreen HD, and I think that’s going to do us just fine. Net savings: $110 a month. I’ll take it.

And now the holidays start in earnest. I have a jump on my shopping and for once am facing the next month un-frazzled and almost, dare I admit? A little festive. Let’s get into it. And let’s start this week.

Posted at 12:16 am in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

Sip Bacardi.

Whatever happened to that playlist service where you could embed a sound file in a blog post like this? I feel like we need some 50 Cent all up in here, “In Da Club,” cuz shawty, it’s my birfday, we gonna party, cuz it’s my birfday.

Actually, probably the partying will be kept to a minimum, although the year 58 must be celebrated somehow, and it is the biggest bar night of the year. Some friends and I discovered one not too far from here that has the best jukebox I’ve seen in ages. (Detroiters: Better than Honest John’s, oh yes it is.) So that’ll be da club for tonight. But tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m cooking, so I have to get up ready to rumble in the kitchen.

That’s middle age for you.

I accept and thank you for all your tributes in advance. We’re all buddies in here.

A few links to get out of the way, some of which you folks have already posted in comments:

Gin & Tacos on security vs. freedom, bringing the Obviously sauce to the picnic:

By giving Americans the freedom to move about as they please and buy whatever they can afford (including some things that could be used to do harm) we are choosing (reasonably) to live with some risk. We’re never completely safe. As I tell the students, the only way to guarantee that you won’t be stabbed on the way to your next class is to create a society in which either cutlery or the right to walk around outside are forbidden. It’s certainly not likely to happen, and that’s why we choose to live with the minuscule risk that it will.

This is all incredibly simple, yet here I am explaining it because half of adult Americans do not appear to understand it. At one moment we appear to believe that we can protect ourselves from a nebulous and ephemeral threat and at the next moment we are willing to increase vastly the risks to ourselves and to society. The same people, for example, who oppose admitting Syrian refugees because doing so might pose the slightest increase in risk of danger from terrorism are most vocally in favor of letting everyone carry any kind of gun anywhere and at all times. We’re so concerned about our security that we are willing to let Syrian refugees die (literally) to protect ourselves, yet we don’t see a problem with handing out powerful, high-capacity firearms to any possibly unstable, possibly deranged white guy who can pass a laughable background check (or use one of the many loopholes in gun sales to circumvent even that) and hand over the purchase price. Our national principles can be jettisoned when we’re confronted with scary brown refugees but when we deal with the desire some of us have to avoid being murdered at work or school our freedoms are sacrosanct.

Neil Steinberg, touching on the same themes:

The right side of our political spectrum is devoted to marrying Islam to terror, Which makes them on the same team as ISIS, because that’s precisely why they commit these acts. Western culture is a big, warm, inclusive blob that absorbs and alters everything. Joan of Arc rides in, clad in armor, her eyes aglitter with passion for the Lord, and 500 years later, Miley Cyrus swings out, straddling a wrecking ball in her underwear. ISIS wants to separate Islam from the West, so men like them can be in charge forever and women never get to drive or sing. Thus they strike at the West in nihilistic acts of terror, counting on the Bruce Rauners of our nation to leap up and shout, “Golly, do we really want all these Syrians here?”

Yes, yes we do. Because the way to manufacture patriotic Americans is by letting their grandparents into the country after their homelands go to hell. My grandfather, Irwin Bramson, didn’t end up in a trench in Poland because a relative, Ira Saks, plucked him at age 15 out of the jaws of doom. So my mother, June, got to be born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1936, and not in Bialystok, Poland, where she’d end up another 5-year-old butchered by her neighbors.

I liked that image of Miley Cyrus swinging out of western civ. Made me chuckle. Of course, others see this as evidence of decadence; Rod Dreher — look up his stupid blog if you want to read it, I’m not linking here — has had his panties so bunchy lately, between terrorism and the hoo-ha on college campuses, that I’ve come up with a new rule: If it upsets Rod, I’m for it. Personally, I can’t wait until he makes good on this Benedict Option crap he’s always threatening and fucks off for good. Unfortunately, I’m sure he’ll be fucking off to someplace with wifi and a sinecure.

Which brings us to a final link, to Foreign Policy magazine, on terrorism in general, arranged in a helpful list:

Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism — and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves — we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as an ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”

The Israelis have been living with terrorism for generations. I don’t know that they’re the model we want to follow in our response, but they don’t hide under their beds, either.

So with that, I leave to go pick at a light breakfast before a 9:30 workout. The link between terrorism and birthdays isn’t an obvious one, but some years, maybe so. Not this one, not yet anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving, too. Look for photo posts through the weekend.

Posted at 8:11 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments


As it looks like we have another developing terrorism story abroad, and I know you’ll want to talk about it, I’ll keep this brief. No blog posted last night because I did The Most Detroit Thing Imaginable, i.e., attended a popup dinner thrown by an up-and-coming chef, in this case a Detroit sushi artist. The theme was a Japanese home-cooked fall meal. If you’re expecting the sushi rolls you buy at the grocery, no dice. There was a squash thing in a dashi stock, fried smelt and tofu with pickled onions, everything vinegar-y and tart. Then there was this:


Salmon in three states of curing — none, one-day, three-day. I’m sorry I didn’t get the picture before the wasabi doodle was smeared. As a pop-up is basically a religious ceremony, eating before one has done the traditional Photograpy of the Food is sort of like chewing your communion host. Trust: It was very good. And I ate the flower, too.

Then there was this:


Noodles with sea urchin and salmon roe, as rich as anything you might be served in Paris or New Orleans. Then a little dish of ice cream then home to an early bed, and– psyche! Of course we rolled into the Motor City Casino. But just for a nightcap, and I was in bed by 11.

Let’s all turn our gaze to Mali, and allow ourselves just this one glimmer of grim amusement, from our commander in chief, just four paragraphs, on his favorite Obama conspiracy theory, with a great walk-off quote.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 8:35 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 65 Comments

Caught in the rain.

So today I awoke to an astonishing 57 degrees at 5:30 a.m. For November, that’s, well, astonishing. But then a front blew in and I walked to the parking garage in a driving rain. To wit:


I hope this isn’t the turning of my marvelous luck of late. I’m hoping it’s just a wet head.

So much has been going on the Syrian-refugee front, it’s hard to keep up. And it’s best I keep my mouth shut, as Michigan has been snatched up in this, and southeast Michigan in particular. So I’ll leave that to you people.

In the meantime, I leave you with an amusing column about Bobby Jindal, a great correction from the NYT (scroll to the bottom) and yet another suicide bombing. Because that’s the way of the world these days.

Let’s get through the end of the week, and keep your powder, and heads, dry.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments

The visitor.

Let’s make this a quick one today. I’m tired and need some light lifting. But I don’t want to let another day pass without showing you who stopped by Jeff TMM’s back yard a few days back:


I count eight points on that bad boy, how about you? A trophy on any hunter’s wall. But I’m rooting for him to make it through another season.

The other day I showed up for my Monday boxing class, and was the only one there. No biggie, it just means a private session with the trainer, always a good thing. Traffic was light on the way to work, at a time slot where it’s never light. And even Alan came home early on Monday, reporting that news didn’t happen because the auto plants were closed and everyone was on light duty. Why? Gun season opened over the weekend.

It’s a big deal in Michigan. In West Virginia, it’s a school holiday, or so I’m told.

What is there to report?

Charlie Sheen has HIV, and has spent millions, he says, keeping it quiet over the last four years. I guess it was to preserve his reputation, because it’s so sterling.

Ben Carson is hung out to dry by an advisor, quoted by name, in the New York Times. And what an advisor to choose in the first place. Later, doc.

Paris isn’t over, and now it’s Germany. Ai-yi-yi.

With that, let’s drag ourselves through hump day together.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Worth a listen.

Monday was the birthday twins’ special day, so Kate came home over the weekend to eat cake with her father. We drove her back on Sunday and ate at a fairly awful Chinese restaurant in Ann Arbor before dropping her at her dorm. But! It was a worthwhile experience, because we sat next to a table of athlete/frat bros, and eavesdropped shamelessly on their conversation, which ended up being about women, of course.

What women are 10s? they discussed. The main point of contention seemed to be whether Victoria’s Secret models were 10s by default, having been admitted to the most exalted realm of female pulchritude, or whether there were gradations of heat within the Victoria’s Secret pantheon.

“They’re, like, the primo examples of humanity,” one protested. Another was pickier. Heidi Klum, well past her VS years, was a permanent 10, a hall-of-fame 10, but the rest of them? They would have to apply one by one.

The Derringers sat with ears cocked like cocker spaniels, listening to this. The best entertainment is our fellow human beings.

Which is why today’s bloggage kicks off with examples of humanity at its most confounding, including a man who paid $718,000 to a series of psychics, because he was lonely:

He knew none of it made sense: He was a successful and well-traveled professional, with close to seven figures in the bank, and plans for much more. And then he gave it all away, more than $718,000, in chunks at a time, to two Manhattan psychics.

They vowed to reunite him with the woman he loved. Even after it was discovered that she was dead. There was the 80-mile bridge made of gold, the reincarnation portal.

“I just got sucked in,” the man, Niall Rice, said in a telephone interview last week from Los Angeles. “That’s what people don’t understand. ‘How can you fall for it?’”

This, on the other hand, is a scary-as-hell story about how life and law enforcement works in the Deep Souf’, and how it led to the death of a little boy in the proverbial hail of gunfire.

And with a shift, we pivot to a topic near and dear to my heart: The meeeeedia. Which, it would seem, is getting tired of being a punching bag. In three pieces:


There absolutely is room for debate about the proportionality of coverage of an incident like this compared to something like the Paris attacks that happened on Friday, but to say that the media don’t cover terrorism attacks outside of Europe is a lie.

They do.

But as anyone working in the news will tell you, if you look at your analytics, people don’t read them very much.


We live in a world now where no one wants to pay for news. Newspapers are struggling, and foreign bureaus have been shuttering for years. Many of the buzzy new media sites don’t have foreign bureaus or even much original reporting from overseas (with a handful of notable exceptions, and good on them). Publications are increasingly dependent on freelancers abroad, who do their work for low pay, with virtually no institutional resources behind them, often at significant personal risk. To suggest that “no one” is reporting on Beirut, on Garissa, on Baghdad is an affront and an insult to the great many professionals who put their lives in jeopardy to do just that.

We complain that we don’t see the reporting we want. But aside from an outraged Facebook status, many of us in the U.S. don’t actually seem to want the kind of reporting we claim to value — we’re overwhelmingly not paying to subscribe to the outlets that do good, in-depth reporting about places around the world. Aside from when tragedy strikes, we’re not sharing articles on Beirut or a city we’ve never heard of in Kenya nearly as often as many of us are sharing pieces about Paris, or even 10 Halloween Costumes for Feminist Cats.

And three:

Since college students are free to vent what they feel about the media, it’s only fair that the media return the favor.

So allow me, based, not on biases absorbed from my parents along with my Maypo, but on actual experience, teaching college courses, including one at Loyola.

College kids don’t know shit. The average college student couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a map. I once taught a journalism course for the State University of New York’s Maritime College. At the end of the final exam, I prefaced the extra credit questions with, “A journalist should have a rough idea of what is going on in the world.” One question was: “With the collapse of the Soviet Union, one Communist super power remains. What is it?” Some students guessed “Cuba.” Others, “Iraq.” Some didn’t even hazard an attempt.

That should give you enough to chew over for a Tuesday. Me, I’m back at work.

Posted at 12:36 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 68 Comments

Farewell, Carol DDoda.

I knew bringing up Missouri would put everybody in a testy mood, so instead, today, for Blessed Friday, let’s go in a different direction, and mourn Carol Doda, the now-departed former centerpiece of the Condor club in San Francisco. Tom Wolfe wrote an essay about her; she’s said to have invented the topless-entertainment dynamic. And now she has gone the way of all flesh, even flesh that’s had silicone directly injected into its breasts. (Shudder.)

It so happens Alan and I were just discussing her the other day; a local burlesque dancer I follow on Instagram was dancing at the Condor. The local dancer is Roxi D’lite, and she posts excellent cheesecake pictures every day or three, although she’s been a little scant this week. She was at the top of my feed when I opened it once, during a break in a staff meeting a few months ago. I think it was to this one:

One of my bosses was sitting next to me. Awk-ward.

So, with cheesecake, let’s go to some quick bloggage:

Neil Steinberg covers a speech by Caitlyn Jenner.

The poop swastika. It does exist.

And I’m outta gas. Don’t spend too much time with Roxi! See you after the weekend.

Posted at 12:28 am in Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

Oh, Canada.

Every time I go north of the border — or, as Detroiters inevitably point out, south, at least if you’re headed to Windsor — I’m impressed by something new. Like your plastic money:


“Why can’t we have plastic money?” I mused at one point. We decided the tea party wouldn’t allow it, because Obama. They’ve also done away with pennies. If you buy something that rings up at $1.82, you pay $1.80. Is this a great country, or what?

It was Halloween weekend, and we did Halloweeny things. Besides the “Frankenstein” play, we spent a few hours on Oct. 31 at a screening of “Nosferatu,” the 1921 version, with Radiohead’s “Kid A” as the soundtrack. You could watch it here if you like, but the guy who screened it in Toronto said it was his idea and he did it first. He was a real original. He shows movies in his living room. Six people were at this screening, and we were two of them.

But it’s a cool idea, and the music fit the action very well.

In between was a lot of walking and talking and shopping and eating and just looking around. Alan and I have our own way of doing cities. It works for us.

And now we have houseguests, unexpected ones — J.C and Sammy are passing through en route to Atlanta from the U.P. Of course, we took some pictures of the supermodel in the house:


That rug really pulls the room together.

There’s more to the weekend, but I’m so whipped now, and full of tapas and wine and impending sleep. Did you read this Mark Fisher piece on Trump over the weekend? You should:

For some supporters, especially those in the second half of life, Trump’s slogan is a tribute to a simpler time. “He could have said, ‘Make America what it was before’ and I would have voted for him,” said Jane Cimbal, 69, who lives in Winchester and signed up to collect signatures to get Trump on the Virginia ballot. “The last time we had good jobs and respect for the military and law enforcement was, oh, probably during Eisenhower.”

Cimbal doesn’t view Trump as an optimist of the Reagan stripe, but she’s okay with voting for a harsh critic. “He speaks his mind,” she said. “So many of the others are wishy-washy. Mr. Trump isn’t a provocateur to annoy people but to get them thinking.”

These people.

OK, toddling off to bed. Thinking about Canada, writing more later.

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

No wifi, a problem.

Friends, I’d hoped to update the blog on the way back from Toronto, but the wifi on Via Rail was on the fritz. I ask you! Where is my free flying carpet of information, Canadian rail system? How is a civilized human being supposed to endure in this sort of primitive state?

We didn’t get home until after 11, so I was pretty zonked to do it then. In the meantime, accept this photograph:


Because this is what I have to do now: Get to work. See you tomorrow.

Posted at 8:14 am in Same ol' same ol' | 23 Comments