Tax time.

Sometimes we must screw our courage to the sticking place. We must take advantage of a rainy day that promises to stay all day. We must dive into the pile of bills on the desk (and pay them) and then we must dive into the pile in the dusty shoebox on top of the bookcase and do the taxes (and pay them).

I use TurboTax, and I love it, but I often wonder if I’m making a terrible mistake, or leaving a grievous amount on the table, as they say. Love that metaphor of “the table,” which reminds me not of polished mahogany in a law-firm conference room, but the 3-by-6-foot plastic ones, with collapsible legs, an image I retained from an article I read years ago about what it’s like to sell to Walmart. No business lunches, not that there are many places to go in Bentonville, Ark., but a whole lot of windowless rooms with those tables in them. You go in, lay your goods down, and Walmart tells you what it will pay you for them. Then you outsource your labor to a sufficiently cheap third-world market to restore your profit margin, and drink your pain away at Applebee’s before flying back to wherever you came from.

Anyway, the table. All I want is to get my taxes off of it, and I’m 80 percent of the way there, with only a smallish sum to still be paid; thank you, higher-ed tax credits.

And in my world, these days, that’s what shapes up to be a fairly good weekend. Of course, it beats the alternative of going to Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Here’s one of the guests, Mr. T.:

misterT

Wearing his best outfit, as you can see.

Now. I know I am wading into treacherous waters here, that there are people out there who can make cogent and compelling cases for dressing down, as it were, but I’ve about had it up to here with them. The slobification of America may not be at a critical stage, but if this is the best you can do for the funeral of a former First Lady, you should consider staying home and sending a card. Mr. T. doesn’t stand astride a pile of money the way he once did, but surely he has one suit in his closet, and if he doesn’t, he’s famous enough to borrow one. Hell, he could rent one.

Last year we went out to dinner on our anniversary, to a nice place here in Detroit. It wasn’t nice-nice, but nice enough that I wore a dress and Alan a tie, and we fit in. I looked up halfway through the appetizer course to see two couples being seated at a nearby four-top. They were young, in their 20s, and the women looked spectacular, heels and hair and makeup and clothes, the sort of turnout that suggested at least an hour of prep work, on top of a lot of regular maintenance.

The men? Looked like boys. Sports jerseys, saggy jeans and sneakers, plus that ubiquitous young-male accessory, the baseball cap. Which they kept on throughout the meal. They sat down with women on one side of the table and men on the other, and if the girls had started holding hands and left together, I couldn’t have blamed them. They looked more like a couple than they did with their male partners.

I see this dynamic everywhere, and I don’t know where it comes from. Most of the sharp, Don Draper-level male dressers I know anymore are gay.

I’m not against casual dressing; I do it all the time. I’m for appropriate dressing, and again – the funeral of an important public figure, carried on national television in a beautiful setting, requires at the very least a business-level turnout, dark suit and tie for men and dark suit or dress for women, although some more vivid colors are fine if they have some connection to the guest of honor; Mrs. Reagan was known for her fondness for red, so sure, wear red if you like. I’ve heard of funerals where the deceased actually asked, in his or her advance directives, that guests dress a certain way, in Hawaiian shirts or Lilly Pulitzer or the colors of his or her favorite sports team. OK, fine – I’m not a hard-liner on this.

But surely you can do better than camo and a flag do-rag. Even if you are “colorful.” It’s not about you, dude.

Rant over. Speaking of baseball caps, here’s one I saw Saturday night:

metallica

Ha ha. I’m about reaching Peak Trump myself, especially after Friday night’s events in Chicago. But here’s another one, with a certain THANKS OBAMA theme to it. It’s about Trump’s bottomless need for affirmation:

Donald J. Trump arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April 2011, reveling in the moment as he mingled with the political luminaries who gathered at the Washington Hilton. He made his way to his seat beside his host, Lally Weymouth, the journalist and socialite daughter of Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post.

A short while later, the humiliation started.

The annual dinner features a lighthearted speech from the president; that year, President Obama chose Mr. Trump, then flirting with his own presidential bid, as a punch line.

He lampooned Mr. Trump’s gaudy taste in décor. He ridiculed his fixation on false rumors that the president had been born in Kenya. He belittled his reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump at first offered a drawn smile, then a game wave of the hand. But as the president’s mocking of him continued and people at other tables craned their necks to gauge his reaction, Mr. Trump hunched forward with a frozen grimace.

After the dinner ended, Mr. Trump quickly left, appearing bruised. He was “incredibly gracious and engaged on the way in,” recalled Marcus Brauchli, then the executive editor of The Washington Post, but departed “with maximum efficiency.”

Kind of a meh story about a meh topic – how Ben Carson came to endorse Trump – contains this delicious detail that I can’t get out of my head:

On several occasions, Trump and his wife Melania hosted Carson and his wife Candy for dinner at (Mar-a-Lago).

Mercy. Imagine the sparkling conversation at that table.

A little less levity, then? Josh Marshall on the violence at Trump rallies, with a warning.

One thing the Flint disaster may lead to is the end of the “let’s run government like a business” stuff, because as we know all too well, it doesn’t always work out.

And that wraps it up for me. Tip your waitresses and enjoy your week.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

Farther ahead at the halfway point.

More proofing to be done tonight, but hey — it’s Wednesday, i already got a lot done this week, and once Thursday starts the weekend is more or less under way. At least to my mind.

As you might imagine, I’ve been reading about Iceland between chores. Of course the Derringers will be visiting the Icelandic Phallological Museum, i.e., the penis museum. Which is? A collection of more than 200 penises from the animal kingdom, from whales to elves, and no, I’m not sure how the elf deal works. “I want to see the elf weiners!” Alan chirped. This marvel is only blocks from our apartment, so yeah — on the list.

I’m also looking forward to swimming there, as it’s apparently a big-deal national pastime, with wonderful public pools in every town, and each includes at least a couple of hot pots, for after-lap soaking. The oldest one in the country is steps from our apartment, and this amazing complex is a mile or two away. All the guides go into great detail explaining the scrupulous scrubbing one is expected to give oneself before dipping so much as a toe into the pools. It’s a very clean country, and I intend to abide by local customs.

Beyond that, I’m thinking lots of skyr, lamb, local beers, steam, walking and birdwatching at midnight.

Super Tuesday turned out pretty much as advertised. I’m trying to be aware that I’m living through history, and I should pay attention and take good notes, but I keep getting distracted by a) terror; and b) the need to laugh uproariously from time to time. That look on Christie’s face is one for the ages.

But now we have a little time before the next primary (it’s Michigan’s, although the mood here is not exactly outward-looking, as the Flint disaster is still the story everyone talks about), so let’s look at some different topics today.

Remember when Hamtramck, the little city within the big city (Detroit), elected the first majority-Muslim city council in the country? The local alt-weekly did a story about how they’re getting along, now that everyone’s settled into office now. The answer? There’s plenty of conflict, but not the kind you might expect:

One weekday afternoon I sit down at Aladdin Sweets, a popular Bangladeshi restaurant, with Kamal Rahman.

He’s with the Bangladeshi-American Public Affairs Committee, and he’s here to help set me straight on the history of immigrants from Bangladesh. A thin, well-educated 47-year-old with a slight accent, he tells me that people have come to Detroit from Bangladesh since the 1920s, although it’s been just a trickle compared to the flow of immigrants from, say, Lebanon or Iraq.

Rahman’s duties as cultural emissary have included documenting the way Islamic culture has blossomed in the Detroit area, and have even seen him take Sen. Hansen Clarke back to his grandparent’s village in Bangladesh. But the meat of his job is helping native-born Americans understand that immigrants aren’t invaders, in fact, they’re most often the victims of racism and bigotry. He tells of a Bangladeshi family who bought a house near Hamtramck High School and found it vandalized with the message, “You are not wanted here.” The family sold the house and never moved to Hamtramck.

“I think the fear is mostly of the unknown,” Rahman says. “People aren’t familiar with the new culture.”

These are the sorts of patently obvious things Rahman has to say over and over. Though he can do it articulately, you wonder why it’s necessary to explain that people fleeing sectarianism and terror would embrace America’s secular culture and ballot-oriented politics.

“Those who experience conflict, those who experience suffering, they tend to not to want to repeat it,” he says. “The Muslims that are coming here, most of them have suffered through war, through terrorism, through everything. They know what to avoid. It’s highly unlikely that someone would like to be in the same situation as they were before.”

These days, after seeing media people bring up Sharia Law again and again, he doesn’t even care to joke about it.

It’s a very good story. Recommended.

Because I don’t follow sports, I wasn’t very familiar with the Erin Andrews story. I find my old friend Jones’ story about it very compelling, though. God, what a horrible experience to go through; I hope she recovers everything she’s asking for. And when she testified that it never stops, she was right. It never stops.

On to the proofing.

Posted at 12:10 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments
 

Clearing the desk.

A few stray notes and scraps I’ve been saving. Sorry, but we all have to empty drawers from time to time.

** Every time I think about the Supreme Court, I get irritated, thinking about one of the most preposterously obnoxious trolls of recent years — the time the National Review bitched about Sonia Sotomayor daring to pronounce her name the way she feels like pronouncing it. Why can’t she be more ‘murrican? A few of the viler blogs referred to her thereafter as Sodameyer.

I know it was just baiting, but keep that in mind when some winger whines about whoever the president ends up nominating.

** Kate had a friend over when she was home a few weekends ago, and they made a nest on the couch to watch “Six Feet Under.” Kate got up to make popcorn, and her friend popped up behind her. “In a popcorn popper? I have to see this!” she said. Nineteen years, and she’d never seen popcorn prepared in a home popper. And so another generation got to see this in action:

popcornpopper

My siblings are in their 60s now. This was a gift from our Aunt Charlene when they were preschoolers.

** Jeb! has a monogrammed gun. I am not in the least surprised.

** Tonight may be the first night since we cut the cable cord that I regret it, because it’s… the Westminster Dog Show! Someone tell me how it went.

Everyone else, get through your Wednesday however you can.

Posted at 12:17 am in Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Another snap.

Monday night appears to be turning into a semi-regular no-show night for me. I apologize, for whatever it’s worth. (Not much.) This is the point in the winter where I begin to get mad at my coats, sick of flannel sheets, keenly interested in lying under down comforters until maybe April.

And what are we looking at for the end of the week? Single digits, just in time for the weekend. Yech. Ah, but we will make it through, as we always do.

Primary season, then. Bernie wins big, Trump wins big, Kasich finishes big, the Exclamation Point battling it out for fourth place. What a crazy race so far. What else is there to say? Maybe here’s a companion piece, a (wait for it) David Brooks column about the president:

(Over) the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

This is what much of the world is so angry about, mind you. Or rather, it’s what they’re concentrating their anger upon. They’re angry because they’ve been screwed over by a changing economy and an almost unbelievably greedy and uncaring elite that cares absolutely nothing for them. But they’re focusing it, many of them, on an administration that sees mostly convenient.

You know where people are angry? Flint. And who wouldn’t be? Every day the story gets more infuriating:

In sum, a review of the e-mails provided by Genesee County from several public-information requests appear to illustrate the inability, if not unwillingness, of city and state agencies to share information with the county as it investigated multiple Legionnaires’ cases. The clash among bureaucrats went on privately for months despite growing fears inside Flint among residents that something was deeply wrong with the city’s drinking water.

Imagine owning a house in Flint right now. I’d be angry, too.

Not much bloggage today, but if you’re one of those spreading the story that Michigan passed an anti-sodomy law this week, you’re wrong.

On to South Carolina, then.

Posted at 12:04 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 67 Comments
 

Dip?

The Super Bowl is this weekend, which always reminds me to check my grocery coupons in the Sunday paper to see what the potheads at the Kraft and Pillsbury test kitchens have come up with to amuse us. Never do I get such a strong sense that drugs were involved than when I behold the recipe suggestions. A football field made of lime Jell-O, with yard lines of piped-on Cool Whip. A dip in a hollowed-out bread bowl in the shape of a football. Cheese-stuffed everything.

The year I was a journalism fellow, we threw a Super Bowl party for the overseas journalists, and i tried to come up with the most ridiculous possible nosh, and settled for something fairly pedestrian — guacamole in a low, rectangular dish, with sour cream piped-on yard lines, and PATS and PANTHERS in the end zones.

Of course, if cheese-stuffed deep-fried Doritos had been invented then, I’d have made those. I’ve been weirdly interested in this preposterous recipe for a few days, but I’m not invited to any parties this year, and there’s no way in hell I’d make them for two people. So another year will pass without experiencing cheese-stuffed deep-fried Doritos. I vow that I will pass the time trying to figure out how to add bacon to the recipe.

What’s your favorite Super Bowl food? Don’t say chili; it’s pedestrian.

So, Eric Zorn asked the other day if it’s sexist to describe Hillary Clinton as “shrill,” even if her voice does occasionally rise into the higher registers. I didn’t have to think for a second before thinking yes, it is sexist, and we should stop using that to describe not only Hillary but any woman. I think we’re just going to have to stop it the same way we stopped telling our black friends that they’re great dancers. Because “shrill,” even if it describes a person with a high, screechy voice, is making common cause with Rush Limbaugh and all his minions. You sound like the people saying stuff like this. Speaking of shrill.

Just one bit of bloggage before the weekend starts. Planned Parenthood was blocked from using public funds to serve poor women in Texas, and so had to stop serving them. Guess what happened? Pregnancies rose. Color me astounded, and I wonder what happened to the aboriton rate.

Whatever your Super Bowl plans are, I hope they include cheese. See you Monday.

Posted at 12:15 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

Try to remember.

I was always an excellent speller, missing only one or two on a typical test, and often getting perfect scores, but one time the teacher dumped a wowser on us in the weekly list: “arithmetic.” Ten letters, with a tricky vowel sound – the whole class groaned. Nonsense, she said, and wrote out, on the blackboard, “A rat in the house may eat the ice cream.”

Thus began my first exposure to the mnemonic device, or memory trick. Remember the sentence and you could remember how to spell “arithmetic,” by using the first letter of each word. Colors in the light spectrum? Roy G. Biv. Notes on the musical staff? “Every good boy does fine” for the lines, “face” for the spaces, and the good boy “deserves favour” if you’re British. The Great Lakes? “Homes.” And of course, we all know the planets in the solar system, in order, because we all know “My very educated mother just served us nine pickles.” I’m sure that’s been reworked since the demotion of Pluto, and will be reworked again if the new ninth planet delivers on its promise.

Ask me how to spell Cincinnati, and I’ll answer “one, two, one,” because that’s how I finally mastered the tricky interior consonants – one N, then two Ns, then one T. I still see Cincinnati misspelled in books and in national publications, less so since spell-check.

Anyway, I’m a big believer in mnemonics. This year I’ve been volunteering as a homework tutor in an after-school program one day a week, and Tuesday I worked with a boy studying for his religion test. I never went to Catholic school, but I took CCD classes one day a week after heathen public school, so my knowledge of basic doctrine is there. We did a sample test together: Which two sacraments can only be received once? Four pairs followed. I taught him the first rule of multiple-choice testing: First, eliminate the obvious wrong-os, i.e., the ones with Eucharist or Reconciliation as one of the choices, because Catholics receive those over and over. I got the feeling no one had ever taught this third-grader about the process of elimination in test-taking.

This is when I feel the most despair, and see an opportunity to actually teach something. These kids are wonderful but, as you’d expect in Detroit, disproportionately disadvantaged, in so many ways. They know the words to crappy songs on the radio, but don’t hear the rhythms of the written word, because few have been consistently read to. They’re tested all the time, but lack test-taking skills. Worst of all, learning is accompanied by rote rituals that strip all the pleasure out of it. It’s not enough to answer “Who wrote most of the Declaration of Independence?” with “Thomas Jefferson.” Rather, grasp your pencil in your fist and write, “The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson.” (Or, worse, “The person who wrote the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson.”)

I see the need to get students accustomed to writing in complete sentences, but when a writing assignment asks a high-school student, “What do you think of X?” and the automatic first line of the answer is, “I think X is…” we’re doing it wrong. The other day a bright high-schooler and I talked about Eleanor Roosevelt. The study guide asked students to explain why the first lady was controversial, and she dived back into the chapter for the facts she’d need to marshall for her answer. I told her to put the book down and we talked a little about Hillary Clinton and the things people say about her – that she rode her husband’s coattails to power, that she meddled in affairs she had no business in, etc. I told her people had said these things about Nancy Reagan, Michelle Obama and pretty much every first lady in my lifetime. I asked whether this said anything about those women as individuals, or about women in general, and about Eleanor Roosevelt in particular. You could see understanding dawning over her face, and people? That is a wonderful thing to see. She went back into the chapter for her facts, but now she understood not just what she was looking for, but why.

I am not a teacher, I have no skills in teaching. I’m not always a very good explainer. I’m not creative about dreaming up new ways to impart knowledge. But when I read Mother Goose and A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter to little Kate, I held her on my lap and jiggled my leg in time to James James / Morrison Morrison / Weatherby George Dupree / Took great care of his mother / though he was only three. And today? She plays a rhythm instrument. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

After we settled on the correct answer to the religion question (Baptism and Confirmation), we matched details of various rituals to their symbolism and significance. Why do converts put on white garments? Why do priests baptize with water? He knew most of them, but was having a hard time with the laying on of hands. It signifies the power of Christ, the book said. Hmm…the kid’s dad is a boxing trainer, so I told him to connect the power of Christ with the power of a punch, delivered? Through the hands. Mnemonics!

Even though Jesus wasn’t much of a brawler, even when he was kicking the money-changers out of the Temple.

On to the bloggage.

Speaking of people who didn’t learn well in school, an atrocious rewrite of a TV script, featuring the fun neologism “rigamortis.”

I guess my old newspaper’s new letters policy is that they’ll run any old crap that comes over the transom.

My local Trader Joe’s is nothing like this. Is yours?

Skating into week’s end, I am. We all are. Happy Thursday.

Posted at 12:15 am in Same ol' same ol' | 90 Comments
 

January, now on ice.

What a difference a weekend makes. I went into it a teetotaler and came out free to imbibe again. The Whole 30 is over. January is over. And I discovered I have knack for curling. Sorta-curling, anyway.

I was invited to a fundraiser by a woman in my boxing club, for a new group that’s trying to help women in difficult circumstances. Alan was under the weather, so I went stag. (Doe?) The house was large and beautiful, but the party was in the back yard. Where I found this:

curling1

Now that’s a backyard ice rink. The host said he’s been doing this for his kids since they were little, just knocking the frame together and filling it with a hose. They skate a couple hours a day, and then he goes out after they’ve gone to bed and manually Zambonis the surface, with scrapers and a big squeegee. But we weren’t there to play hockey; backyard curling was the night’s entertainment. I found their homemade curling stones charming — two mixing bowls filled with cement, with pipe handles. We played backyard-curling rules, which was basically ice bocci: Throw a puck down the ice, then try to get your stone as close to it as possible.

curling2

The temperature was just above freezing, so the brushing was pretty inconsequential. Mostly we just slid the stones down the ice. Our team was trailing in the final, caught up and was down by one on the final point. The other team had two stones in scoring range and our last player sent his down the lane and knocked both to kingdom come, leaving his close enough to the puck to kiss it. A real Michigan-Michigan State 2015 finish. The prize was any bottle from the booze table, and I chose a nice bottle of champagne. A great way to end Dry January.

And that means the Whole 30 is over, too. Truth be told, it was more of a Whole 15 and a PrettyMuch 15, but it accomplished what it was supposed to do. I lost seven pounds, and while I didn’t break my sweet tooth in half, I held it at bay and learned it was not my master. Didn’t miss alcohol even a little bit. Bread was different, but I broke some habits there, too — I no longer consider eggs without toast a pathetic excuse for breakfast. And not only is it possible to add vegetables to every meal, sautéed vegetables make scrambled eggs pretty damn special, as Mark Bittman can attest.

Now to keep the trend going. My opinion of Paleo recipes has changed, but not by much. I still think most of them suck (TOO MUCH SEASONING), but I’ve found a few exceptions. But I’m never buying a bottle of coconut aminos, and I sorta regret this coconut oil, too, because it makes everything taste like coconut. I like coconut, but not that much.

I was regretting the bottle of unfiltered organic apple-cider vinegar I bought a few months back, once I realized I could never find a way to choke that stuff down like the healthy people do, and why would I want to anyway? Until I started using it to treat a small patch of toenail fungus that appeared on one of my tootsies last spring. It never spread or got worse, but never got better, either. OTC remedies were expensive and did nothing, and my doctor said the Rx solution wasn’t much better, had a potentially serious side effect and wasn’t something he liked to recommend for a non-critical case. “It might go away on its own, or you might have it for years,” he said. “They’re stubborn.” So I sadly stripped off my summer nail polish (that would make it worse, the Internet said) and scowled at it, week after week. Toenail fungus. It sounds like something bums get. I’m sure it is.

Until I thought, what the hell, and started dabbing the spot with cider vinegar twice a day, and dripping a little under the nail. One sock smelled like vinegar, but that was the only side effect. After a few weeks of this, damn if it didn’t get smaller, and smaller, and today is on the verge of disappearing altogether. An old-timey remedy that’s actually a remedy! Could this January get any better?

A little bit of bloggage to start the week.

Michael Phelps in a gold Speedo and a chest full of medals would certainly distract me. I guess he’s the ultimate shiny object. Check out the core strength on that young man. Not to mention the quadriceps. #swimminggoals

Welcome back to DellaDash, aka St. Bitch, who showed up in comments over the weekend. She’s an Iowa caucus voter. I have to say I’m very glad I don’t live there, because I would grow weary of shooting my TV over and over:

A super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee produced an ad for both radio and TV in which two women express doubts about Cruz’s commitment to Christian causes, saying that he speaks in one way to Iowans and in another to New Yorkers whose campaign donations he needs.

“I also heard that Cruz gives less than 1 percent to charity and church,” says one of the two women.

“He doesn’t tithe?” asks the other. “A millionaire that brags about his faith all the time?” They conclude that he’s a phony.

Thanks, Mike Huckabee, you loser, you also-forgotten piece of crap. Thanks for all you do for your country.

Grr. I guess I’m ready to start Monday, then. Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments
 

Water, everywhere.

Another …day. Another day, but it started with a pretty good swim, and so there’s that. This is why I work out with the dawn patrol; if the day goes well, it goes well. And if it doesn’t, at least you got a workout.

I’m working on learning the butterfly. I’m terrible at it. Wikipedia explains why:

The breaststroke, backstroke, and front crawl can all be swum easily even if the swimmer’s technique is flawed. The butterfly, however, is unforgiving of mistakes in style; it is very difficult to overcome a poor butterfly technique with brute strength. Many swimmers and coaches consider it the most difficult swimming style.

But like I said a while ago: Just keep swimming.

Water is sort of a theme around these parts. Today this story broke:

The state provided its workers in Flint with bottled water in January 2015, 10 months before officials would tell residents the water was not safe to drink, according to state emails released Thursday by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan.

The decision was unrelated to elevated lead levels that were later found in Flint’s drinking water, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Instead, the management and budget department decided to provide water coolers in a Flint state office building after the city sent out a notice saying it had been found in violation of the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act because of high levels of disinfection byproducts.

It just keeps getting worse. This is going to be such a mud bath.

I had the world’s most boring task today (transcription), and a lot of busy work, so my brain feels steamrolled this evening. But hey! So some pix today.

My colleague Chastity did a story on breed-specific legislation, i.e., banning pit bulls, and it’s attracting the expected slapfest in the comments, but I only want to call your attention to this puppy:

chiapet

That pup is the offspring of, wait for it, a Chihuahua and a pit bull. They lived under the same roof, and the owners never had them neutered because they figured, what are the odds? So now there’s this litter of chia pets (or chit bulls). For some reason, it reminded me of the puppies we meet in the final scenes of “Babe: Pig in the City,” one of my favorite kid movies, and maybe movies, period:

poodlepitpups

Supposed to be 40 degrees this weekend. Woo. Have a good one.

Posted at 12:27 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

They still believe.

Another cray day past and ahead, but since y’all are sharing adult-coloring stories in the comments of the last post, here’s one: Kate was tickled to learn that the U-M library brought in puppies for students to pet for stress relief during finals week. At least, that’s what she was told at orientation. It turned out to be therapy dogs, not puppies, and so many students showed up to greet them that she couldn’t get near the beasts. But there was an alternative! Both coloring AND Legos, at which point, hearing this, my fingers tightened around the steering wheel. They tightened, and whitened. Because it was really hard not to say ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Hank Stuever and I have a shared belief that Kids Today could stand to grow up a little more, and a little sooner. For all the worry, so often expressed in mass and social media, that children are “sexualized” at ever-earlier ages, there’s a corollary that’s equally evident — some are staying young, or maybe babyish, for way too long.

In “Tinsel,” Hank’s book about Christmas in modern suburbia, he talks about older students who claim to still believe in Santa Claus, and around here, in a very similar community, the Cult of Keeping Them Believing is vast and strong. There was a whole Facebook thread about it among local moms, which I read in slack-jawed amazement. “This will NOT be the year they stop believing!” mother after mother vowed. There was talk of a coordinated effort to make sure older children didn’t spill the beans to the younger ones. One mom complained in a recent exercise class about paying a pretty penny to attend a Santa Claus event, and the Santa underachieved, with a crappy costume and a strap-on beard that didn’t fool her kindergartener. This was seen as a tragedy.

Are we raising a generation of fornicating, social media-dependent wimps who need puppies to endure a college finals week (we made do with beer), or is this just me? I ask you.

One or two links today: A great Bridge story on a local (Detroit-local, that is) Chaldean kid who was born in Iraq, traveled at great peril with his family to Michigan to start a new life after Gulf War I, and has since returned. He now lives in northern Iraq, in ISIS country, and flies the flag of Motor City hip-hop in his job of running a radio station called Babylon FM. If you don’t have time for the whole thing, don’t miss this gem within, a sound clip of the young man interviewing a Kurdish rapper going by the name of Frank Flo. Listen to the rapper and tell me hip-hop hasn’t conquered the world. Dear Donald Trump: AMERICA IS ALREADY GREAT, YOU MORON.

Back later. Thanks for just being you.

Posted at 10:09 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 74 Comments
 

One day at a time.

Maybe some of you with nothing better to do are wondering whether I embarked on the Whole30, and if so, how it’s going. I did, and OK so far. I probably wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have two friends who are doing it as well. We got together for dinner on New Year’s Eve, the night before the launch. The first course would be entirely Whole30 “compliant,” as they say:

shrimp

That’s barbecued prawns with portobello mushroom caps. Mmmm.

And the main course was certainly compliant:

tenderloin

Mmm, beef tenderloin.

But you don’t go on a 30-day sugar/grain/legume/dairy/booze purge without one last fling. Which was dessert:

dessert

For the last few days, we now text one another pictures of our meals. To be supportive, you know.

Breakfast:

breakfast

Lunch:

lunch

And dinner:

dinner

I have but this to say: I miss bread. I don’t miss booze. I don’t miss sugar (too much — the fruit helps). But man, that lunch would have been better as a sandwich.

One day at a time. And if I give it up, no biggie. It’s all about learning.

Is there anything as boring as another person’s chow? No. But that was a lovely, delicious chocolate-Chambord mousse. February isn’t so far away.

So, the tree is now at the curb, the ornaments are back in their boxes, Kate is back at school and I’m back at work. Threw some stuff out, sent a million emails, did a bit of spadework for the next eight weeks of assignments. Ate that grim lunch at my desk and tried to explain the Oregon situation to Kate on the drive to Ann Arbor. Honestly, I think the Onion nailed it:

What are the protesters’ demands?

$5 million in cash and safe passage to 1874.

Deconstructing the semiotics of Bill Cosby’s grandpa sweater.

I also slept terribly last night, so I think I’m going to turn in early. Have a great Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:06 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments