The gallop at midweek.

It’s still Wednesday, isn’t it?

Crazy beginning of the week, but at least it went pretty fast. Lots of work makes for flying hours. Two links you might consider hitting, before we start, both by me: A visit to the “Harvard of Santa schools,” with a former Hoosier; and some strict inside-baseball stuff for Detroiters, a quick-turnaround piece on a local scandalette.

Traffic is important in this job, and we’re trying to build a readership. So click and then come back. We’ll wait.

The Santa piece was fun. Ann, the woman at the beginning and end, used to read my column back in the Fort, her hometown. If you went to the Holly Trolley this past weekend, you saw her around town. She connected with me on Facebook a while back, and when this chance to go to Santa school in Michigan came up, she dropped a line. Serendipity.

So, hope you all are doing fine. I’m trying to get my Christmas ducks in a row, with the idea of having my shopping 90 percent done after this weekend. Then, to do the baking, although based on how my waistbands feel after this past weekend, maybe it’s best to delay that a while and go for roasted vegetables for a few days. Alan got me a sous vide for my birthday, and I made my first ribeye the other night. It was good, but too rare, even though the meat thermometer said it was ready. I ground the leftovers the next day and made shepherd’s pie for one (Alan had to work late). Very good. I look forward to exploring the wonderful world of eggs this weekend.

I also committed to my first swim meet, sometime in January. I’m not a fast swimmer, so I expect utter humiliation, but I will power through, as that is my sole virtue — doggedness. I show up, I put in the time, but I just don’t get any faster. Ah, well. The Olympic team needn’t call me up.

Which reminds me: If you’re a podcast listener, I highly recommend “Believed,” which dropped a few weeks ago from Michigan Radio. You can find it in the usual places. It’s about the Larry Nassar case, which I followed closely, but I’m still learning things I didn’t know from these stories. It’s very good at delving into some of the psychology behind these stories, particularly questions like, how could these young women not realize they’d been assaulted? How could this happen with their own parents in the room? And how could so many parents hear their daughters trying to tell them what happened, and still not respond appropriately? You’ll leave with more compassion for the flawed people in the world. (Although not for Nassar.)

As long as we’re back to bloggage, two more quick recommendations, and then I’m out.

Funny: Alexandra Petri on Melania’s bloody Christmas forest. Very funny.

Not funny at all: Laura Trujillo’s account of her mother’s suicide and its aftermath. Painful enough to read that if this issue is painful for you, it might be too painful. My grandfather committed suicide when my mother was 10, and it’s an act that I believe reverberates in our family to this day. But I learned a lot about suicide, and it’s absolutely beautifully written. Thanks to Hank for recommending it.

Time to draw the curtain on Wednesday and maybe eat some pizza. Talk later.

Posted at 7:11 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 82 Comments

Tryptophan hangovers.

You guys! I’m so bad at blogging this week! And I apologize. Somewhere along the way of having a birthday party, preparing 1.5 Thanksgiving meals, driving to hell ‘n’ gone and eating my weight in pretty much everything, this little task got dropped.

So here it is Sunday morning, a turkey breast is in the oven (yes, it’s too complicated and boring to explain), and I’m seizing this chance while I can. So, the weekend! The holiday! How was yours? The feast at Mar-a-Lago looks like it was lit, as per usual. Let’s look at the photos, shall we?

Fox News selected a set in which Melania managed to creak into a half-smile, and even Barron — poor Barron, forced to put on a goddamn necktie — seems to have a semi-pleasant emotion stirring behind his usually impassive face.

The Daily Caller proclaimed Melania “wowed” in a black lace dress, then posted photos where you could see approximately seven inches of the dress. Fashion coverage of Melania’s outfits is the best reason to read right-wing media, because that’s where they really shine. FLOTUS never fails to wow.

This is the pic most outlets went with. I like Melania’s thousand-yard stare.

I trust everyone else had a decent holiday, barring disaster. No neckties, anyway. And I hope the football team of your choice won the big game, although that certainly didn’t happen north of the 42nd parallel. The Lions sucked, the Wolverines sucked, and we’re supposed to get a few inches of snow overnight. Michigan — it’s a character-builder.

I was thinking about fake news a bit, especially after reading a rather disturbing New Yorker story about the future of AI-assisted “deep fake” technology. This is the programming that will someday allow you to see Meryl Streep in pornography and Barack Obama having a celebratory cocktail with Osama bin Laden. You think your Thanksgiving arguments with Uncle Foxnews are fun now? Just you wait.

The problem, of course, is not that people believe these things — although some will — but that far more people will then not believe anything. It’s one reason people grow frustrated with the chilly, cat-lays-the-bothsides-mouse-at-your-feet journalism of today, which is problematic in a world where all the rules have been suspended.

OK, my turkey is beeping and I have to get moving. Happy Sunday, see you soon.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments

More rakes please.

“There are hells below this” is something Neil Steinberg says from time to time. (It seems like it’s a phrase from Shakespeare or something, but when I google? It’s all him.) It’s a more elegant flip on the one lesson I learned from the newspaper game: Never say it can’t get any worse. It can always get worse. And usually does.

Anyway, this past week has been a new, deeper hell, in term of our national situation. By the time the president was rambling, exactly like a dementia-afflicted senior citizen, about raking the forest floor? I no longer had the spirit to even grimly chuckle. The president is deferred to, always — it’s one of the perks of the job — but I can only hope that sometimes, somewhere, there is someone in the White House who is brave enough to correct him.

What am I saying? Of course no one does such a thing. They just write anonymous op-eds in the New York Times.

Happy end-of-weekend, all. Ours went pretty well. After the dinner/cake thing in A2, I took Alan out for a peaceful Saturday breakfast, since any birthday when you have to work isn’t much of a birthday at all, in my opinion. Stopped by John King Books — a five- or six-floor temple of used ones — and bought four novels, in an attempt to rekindle my interest in the concept of reading for pleasure. Cheated with one that I’d already read, but it was long ago and at least I know the author (Martin Cruz Smith) is reliably pleasing to me. I also got a hardcover of “All the Light We Cannot See” and am hoping for the best. Also, did you know Elmore Leonard published a YA novel? No? Me neither. So I added that to the stack. Simplicity and brevity will do me good in the weeks ahead.

After John King there were chicken tacos, which I mention because I know how much you guys need to know that. And then it was “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the new Coen brothers movie that premiered in theaters last week before immediately hopping to Netflix. It was daffy and funny and I recommend it, especially if you’re a Coen fan.

One more thing before I hop to the bloggage: I followed some of the discussion of My Pants over the weekend. I found McEwan’s take interesting, but maybe not entirely convincing. For My Pants to rise, phoenix-like, from Trump’s ashes is no small task. He’ll have evangelicals, of course, but even moderate Republicans are going to be put off by the montages of Pence clapping, smiling and looking his oleaginous, toadying self next to POTUS. That first cabinet meeting alone should suffice, but we’re in a different place now, bets off, but I have a feeling. He’s the only person connected to this White House who I find almost as repellant at Trump himself. And that is saying a lot. I can’t believe the same suburban women who voted for Trump hoping for the best (and flipped blue in the midterms) would fall for this guy.

OK, then: Your greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts story today is this one, about a fake-news farm that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and the people who continue to believe what they publish, even when, for example, he publishes something like this:

He noticed a photo online of Trump standing at attention for the national anthem during a White House ceremony. Behind the president were several dozen dignitaries, including a white woman standing next to a black woman, and Blair copied the picture, circled the two women in red and wrote the first thing that came into his mind.

“President Trump extended an olive branch and invited Michelle Obama and Chelsea Clinton,” Blair wrote. “They thanked him by giving him ‘the finger’ during the national anthem. Lock them up for treason!”

Blair finished typing and looked again at the picture. The white woman was not in fact Chelsea Clinton but former White House strategist Hope Hicks. The black woman was not Michelle Obama but former Trump aide Omarosa Newman. Neither Obama nor Clinton had been invited to the ceremony. Nobody had flipped off the president. The entire premise was utterly ridiculous, which was exactly Blair’s point.

The story hits another gear when they visit one of those individuals who spends all day on Facebook, liking and sharing stuff like this because she thinks it’s true. The mournful violin strains of “Eleanor Rigby” began to play in my head, reading this:

It was barely dawn in Pahrump, Nev., when Shirley Chapian, 76, logged onto Facebook for her morning computer game of Criminal Case. She believed in starting each day with a problem-solving challenge, a quick mental exercise to keep her brain sharp more than a decade into retirement. For a while it had been the daily crossword puzzle, but then the local newspaper stopped delivering and a friend introduced her to the viral Facebook game with 65 million players. She spent an hour as a 1930s detective, interrogating witnesses and trying to parse their lies from the truth until finally she solved case No. 48 and clicked over to her Facebook news feed.

…On her computer the attack against America was urgent and unrelenting. Liberals were restricting free speech. Immigrants were storming the border and casting illegal votes. Politicians were scheming to take away everyone’s guns. “The second you stop paying attention, there’s another travesty underway in this country,” Chapian once wrote, in her own Facebook post, so she had decided to always pay attention, sometimes scrolling and sharing for hours at a time.

..She’d spent almost a decade in Pahrump without really knowing why. The heat could be unbearable. She had no family in Nevada. She loved going to movies, and the town of 30,000 didn’t have a theater. It seemed to her like a place in the business of luring people — into the air-conditioned casinos downtown, into the legal brothels on the edge of the desert, into the new developments of cheap housing available for no money down — and in some ways she’d become stuck, too.

Apologies for the long excerpt, but it’s worth breaking my three-paragraph rule for this one. If you have a lonely older person in your life, ask them to lunch. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

There’s a guy here in Metro Detroit, a civilian who knows the Affordable Care Act better than most legislators. I follow him on the tweeter machine. He recently published a spreadsheet of the “AHCA Class of 2017,” i.e., those legislators who voted to repeal Obamacare and just ran for re-election. This is a one-stop shop to find out the electoral fate of all 217 House Republicans. Most were re-elected, but enough weren’t that it’s worth checking out.

And with that? I’m off to the gym and grocery.

Posted at 12:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments

Natal anniversary.

It’s birthday season. Actually, it’s birthDAY for Alan and Kate, which means little time for you, although here’s a fresh thread. I just finished frosting the cake, and from here on it’s a run-run day until we head to Ann Arbor for dinner. Wendy’s coming along, and will spend the short week with her friends at Kate’s co-op. She loves that place, because it’s pretty much petting and walks and treats nonstop; she sleeps for two days after coming home from these canine bacchanals.

We’ll have a relaxing weekend afterward; Kate will be recording her band, part of her senior thesis. Yes, senior thesis. Assuming all goes well, she graduates in April. Sunrise, sunset.

A few reading recommendations for the next few days.

The NYT’s Facebook investigation is well worth your time. The short version: Fucking assholes. If you’re pressed for time, you can get the short version via podcast on The Daily, today.

Also, a companion piece on the ghastly behavior of Sheryl Sandberg in all of this.

I have a like-hate relationship with e-scooters. How about you? I think this WashPost writer gets the gist:

Electric scooters are a little like Q-Tips .

In both cases, the products are marketed with explicit warnings about how not to use them, even though everyone knows that’s precisely the way pretty much every customer will use them.

For scooter riders here in Santa Monica, it means: Don’t you dare ride on the sidewalk, which is against the law, even though it sometimes feels super unsafe to ride next to cars. Or: Wink-wink, always wear a helmet. Also, the beach bike path is verboten, even though it is the smoothest, most fun, most scenic ride possible. And definitely don’t just dump your scooter in the middle of a busy path or sidewalk.

Aw shucks, well, we did warn you. Guess it’s your fault if you land in the ER.

And with that, I best get moving. Happy weekend, all.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 28 Comments

Winter is here.

Woke up to the pitter-patter of rain on the skylight, which I expected, no biggie. I stumbled to the bathroom, put on my workout clothes and filled my water bottle, stumbling out the door to — snow. The rain was the dreaded “wintry mix,” that fat, plopping precipitation that comes at the beginning and end of the season and basically sucks, although at least it’s not too cold when it’s wintry-mixing outside.

Did the 6 a.m. boxing workout, taking a few breaks to work the mitts with the trainer. Smug level: Orange.

Hey, with winter bearing down on us, we take our little rewards where we can — flannel sheets, hearty soups, red wine with friends, online shopping for the holidays. I came home to see a news alert on Alan’s phone, about police responding to another active shooter. A bit later, a correction: Not a mass shooting, a malfunctioning water heater. Well, there’s a relief. I guess we’re all on edge after yesterday’s slaughter in Thousand Oaks, with the revolting detail that some of the people in the bar — some of the people who died — were survivors of the Las Vegas slaughter last fall. We are insane in this stupid country.

I have to go out in the wintry mix later today to attend a seminar on marijuana legalization, so I’m keeping my head light this morning. Did a little scanning for gift ideas, and fell headfirst into the weird world of startup underwear — you know, the MeUndies, Tommy John, all those brands that advertise on podcasts and have their noses in the air because they’re startups, and hence superior to Hanes and what-have-you.. And excuse me for saying this, but: The day I pay $35 for a pair of everyday u-trou is the day I hit the goddamn lottery, and probably not even then. I don’t doubt that it’s got amazingly soft microfiber whatever-the-hell fabric, and I’m sure it fits very well, but it’s underwear. If I’m going to pay that much, I want it to be lingerie, dammit. For just wearing under a pair of jeans, I’m going with something I can buy in a three-pack at Target.

Other mysteries: $200-a-pair blue jeans. Yes, yes, it’s selvage denim, supposedly superior to all other denims. Selvage, it turns out, is basically “self-edge,” and what that means is, the weave is different and it will only fray in two directions, instead of all four. Good to know! I generally expect my jeans not to fray at all — the worst money I ever spent was for a pair of “distressed” Levi’s, which have holes in the legs and can only be worn for a brief window in spring and fall, when it’s cool enough for jeans but not so cold you can’t wear the air-conditioned kind.

Anyway, jeans are one of those things that really rewards brand loyalty. You find the one that works on your bod, and you buy it forever. I’ve got a Levi’s ass, and Levi’s are my jeans jam, and I’m just grateful they don’t cost $200 a pair. You need to know what fits you, because jeans really are almost like, well, underwear.

Enough ranting about shopping. On to the bloggage.

Sarah Sanders is a lying liar, but you already knew that. That intern looks like a Sarah-in-training. Good luck, girlfriend, but I’d advise you to jump off this train at the first opportunity.

Mostly for Detroiters, but the issues are probably universal in contemporary urban America: An interview with the keeper of the Terrible Ilitches Facebook page. The Ilitches are a local billionaire family, owners of the Tigers and Red Wings, and adept at getting the city to subsidize their developments with tax money, promising payoffs that never come to pass.

Why Michigan just passed an anti-gerrymandering initiative: Because since the last round of redistricting, Democratic candidates have outpolled Republicans statewide, but find themselves outnumbered in the state legislature, and in Washington.

And I leave you with this difficult-to-watch clip. But watch it we must.

Off to the showers for a mostly work-at-home day. Enjoy yours, and your weekend.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Scrap paper.

I find the news of the day so disorienting I’m just going to download a bunch of random slides, post-it notes and half-scribbled cocktail napkins in my head, none of which have any point, but what the hell, here goes:

I’ve been commuting via bus lately. Probably a column in that one, but for the purposes of this discussion, all you need to know is that I was walking my neighborhood without Wendy, which I usually don’t do. I was trudging home on a steamy day. On the next block over, I walked up on a yard with a loose dog. Biggish, not a leviathan, and very friendly. Some sort of pitty/boxer-y melange, the sort that, when it wags its tail, the whole back half swings back and forth. I stopped and petted, of course, because I like dogs. A woman working in a yard a door or two down called the dog — Moxie, Maxie, something like that — closer to her. A squirrel was scampering around her, oddly close, for a squirrel. Also, it had pricked ears.

She reached down and scooped it up. It wasn’t a squirrel, but the tiniest puppy I think I’ve ever seen. The pup wore a eensie little collar with an ID tag that nearly covered her chest: Sophie. She was a Yorkie/chihuahua cross, and nine weeks old.

“I took her to the vet today. She weighs .88 pounds,” she said. I cuddled Sophie for a minute, and gave her back. She’ll be bossing Moxie/Maxie around soon enough.

* * * * *

I keep thinking about something that happened in July, when we went to Fort Wayne for an afternoon, for one of our old neighbor’s, sadly and unexpectedly deceased, “celebration of life.” (I always have to put that phrase in quotes; it doesn’t sound natural to me.)

The event was at Foster Park, which you locals most likely know — lovely gardens close to the entrance on Old Mill Road, a golf course behind, tennis courts, picnic pavilions. We were in a pavilion, reached by the main park road, which is paved. The parking is sort of haphazard; most people kinda bump onto a gravel shoulder, diagonally.

As we were leaving, carrying our cooler to the car and saying our goodbyes, I heard a child wailing. I looked over, and saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old, sitting on the park road, a few car lengths away, just where the gravel shoulder joined it, crying hysterically. A car was coming, too fast, and I held my breath; I didn’t have time to grab him, but surely there was an adult nearby who would.

The car passed the boy with room to spare, but no adult appeared. He continued to cry. I walked over and looked around. No obvious parent in sight, so I picked him up, said, “Let’s find your mom.”

We walked toward the nearest potential group of suspects, near the playground. “Point to your mom if you see her,” I told him. He was still crying, nowhere close to calm. I started asking random people; no one knew. The deceased neighbor’s daughter, a sometime nanny, speaks Spanish, and asked the boy where his mom was. No answer. We walked deeper into the playground, and I started calling out, “Whose little boy is this?” Again, nothing.

Finally, finally, a kid pointed to a woman sitting on a bench, waayyyy on the other side of the playground. She was on the phone. I walked over to her, the boy still yelling his head off.

“Is this your son?” I asked. Without even interrupting her conversation, she nodded and held out her arms. The boy reached back. OK, then.

“He was sitting in the road,” I said. She nodded in that yeah-I-hear-you way, while continuing to uh-huh-uh-huh whoever she was talking to. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say, so I walked away.

I looked back once. They were sitting on opposite ends of the bench, he in the hiccup-y end game of a crying jag. She? Was still on the phone.

Some people don’t deserve children.

* * * * *

I mentioned I’ve been taking the bus lately. Frankly, the extra time it takes me to get downtown is balanced by the lack of concern over parking and traffic.

It’s also an eavesdropper’s dream, a reward for anyone with eyes to look around the world and see what’s there. The other day I got on to find a man in surgical scrubs, carrying his clothes in a plastic bag, wearing a surgical mask. There’s a hospital two stops up, so the explained where he came from. But what happened to him? What was wrong with him?

I spent a few stops thinking about that, looking out the window. When I looked back, he was gone.

There are about a million stops on my route. The drivers don’t stop if no one is waiting. If there’s a hobo sleeping on the bench, they’ll slow down and honk. If the sleeper doesn’t stir, no stop.

Before I know it, we’re at the Rosa Parks Transit Center, where I take my bike off the rack and ride the last few blocks to the office. It’s a great way to start the work day. In summer, anyway.

Two summer pictures to close things out. Aretha, a mural at Eastern Market:

And the prettiest tomatoes ever:

And that’s it for the midweek memory dump. Have a nice Wednesday.

Posted at 9:01 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments

Double down.

I went to a party Saturday night. Somehow I ended up in conversation with two younger men, one of whom was a former major-league ball player (third base). They were friends of the host, in town for a weekend of sports and gambling.

They were staying at one of the downtown casino hotels, and the night before they, along with the father of one of them, had won more than $40,000 between the three of them. Baccarat.

“Like James Bond,” I said.

He got the reference, always a good sign in an age when James Bond now plays Texas Hold’em.

“So, what are you going to do with your winnings?” I asked. Both said they intended to go back to the casino that very night and keep playing, and that if they lost it all, they wouldn’t consider it a bad day at all.

“It’s entertainment,” one said.

I honestly don’t get it. If I were fortunate enough to win more than $20,000 in one sitting, the last thing the pit boss would see are the soles of my feet, leaving in a hurry. I know this is how casinos work. I know this is why they’re one business you almost have to work to fail at (ahem, POTUS), but it’s still baffling. The conversation moved on. It took a few unusual turns, but ended with my plus-one, a girlfriend, offering common-sense therapeutic relationship advice to the third baseman, which he received gratefully.

“I never thought of that,” he said.

Truth be told, he reminded me of Tim Robbins’ character in “Bull Durham.” But that’s a pro athlete for you.

What a weekend, all around. Fall arrived after a day of strong winds. Friday started hot and humid and ended chilly and overcast. Saturday, however, was perfect sweater weather. I bought apples at the market, and considered the last peaches, but passed. I bought some last week, and they took a while to soften, but they were fine and delicious. There’s always a day when I buy the last peaches of the summer and they’re terrible. Better to end on a high note, like any love affair.

So now it’s well and truly fall. The windows are closed, although today was lovely. I hit the gym, like an idiot. Should’ve been out on the bike, but at least I rode there and back. But leg strength needs a certain focused attention, and today was leg day. Google “Bulgarian split squats” and pity me, because I sure pity myself.

On to the bloggage!

So much of this stuff seems old, because most was gathered last week, before Thursday/Friday slipped out of my grasp. But what the hell, here you go:

Provocative headline: Everything you know about obesity is wrong, and totally worth the read.

You may have seen this already, but I found it so, so infuriating. It’s choir-preaching for sure, but to those of you who might wonder why women don’t report sexual assault, a sobering report about one young woman who did. Conclusion: Texas sucks, but so does everyplace else.

One of those cool NYT data presentations, about the links between counties via number of Facebook friendships. You’ll be mousing over this one all day.

Finally, because we need some good writing, Hank looks at twofour terrible TV shows, one of them a rebooted “Magnum P.I.”

So, “Magnum P.I.,” what am I to make of you? What is there to say about a show nobody asked for that oozed up anyhow from pop-culture’s toxic nostalgia barrel and now premieres Monday on CBS? Revived from your 30-year rest in the rerun crypt, you have achieved a new existence, Magnum — dipped in heavy gloss and buffed to a shine. Tires squeal, things explode, Dobermans bark. Still we feel nothing.

… You are not good at the thing you’re trying to be, New Magnum, and instead of resurrecting a feeling, you’ve run right over it with that bright red Ferrari. Instead of declaring a creative or timely purpose (like your network friend and fellow exhumee, “Murphy Brown”), you are merely a piece of content placed between commercials. Your existence is cold and cynical, Magnum, predicated on the previous success of reboots such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver.”

On to Monday, folks. Hope the week goes well.

Posted at 7:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments

The inevitable slideshow.

You guys! I’m back! The bar is OPEN. Let’s clean up all these old coasters, wipe down the bar top and start a new thread. As always, I appreciate all you keeping the lights on in my absence. My vague idea to post a little from Canada fell apart; when we had wifi, I was consumed with following Twitter and the Trump/McCain situation. My eye sockets got a good aerobic workout from all the rolling, of course.

But, as is the custom these days, the Trump/McCain thing now seems like ancient history, because a few days have passed.

Instead, in the great tradition of American vacationing, let me bore you with some photos.

It was quite hot when we were there. So much for traveling north to escape the heat. I know it’s summer, but still — I’ve reached the point where I am no longer amused by having a sweaty head all the time. Day one we went to the Ex, i.e, the Canadian National Exhibition, which promised to be a version of the Ohio State Fair, but, sadly, didn’t deliver. However, there was a union dispute around it, and we got to see our old friend, the big rat:

Who makes the big rat? Does it sell exclusively to unions? I’ve seen it in Lansing, in New York and other venues, always in the context of a labor dispute. Anyway, the Ex was the bad parts of an American state fair and none of the good; “the barn” contained not row after row of prize livestock, but one or two examples of same, with copious signage explaining them to city folk. Disappointing. I wanted to see kids in dairy whites or cattlemen’s cowboy hats, snoozing between classes. Oh well — next time I’ll go to the one in Columbus.

The following day was a heat-warning day, so it seemed a good time to check out the Toronto islands, just offshore from downtown, a large city park. You get there via ferry:

And, once there, relax and enjoy. You can rent bikes…

…and ride them to the end of the complex, where you can behold the skyline:

Very impressive. Although I was taken by this freighter docked across the way, likely a salty (i.e., one that leaves the Great Lakes). Note the lifeboat, stored at that terrifying 45-degree angle. It’s safety orange:

Not exactly the open rowboats of “Titanic,” but then, you wouldn’t want those in the pitching waters of a Great Lakes storm, would you. I wonder how they’re launched, if they wait until the nose sinks enough that it goes down at a gentler angle, or if everyone just climbs in, straps in and boom. That splashdown would be a whiplash-inducer for sure.

Oh, almost forgot the one impressive thing about the Ex — this display of “paper lanterns,” although I suspect the paper may have been rather heavily coated in a way to make it more like fabric. Anyway, in a dark room this was quite beautiful:

And here you thought carrying the weight of the world was your job.

After that first day, we did a lot more — shopping, eating, going to shows, including the summer revue of Second City and a Shakespeare in the park production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I bought some sandals and Alan bought a Patagonia vest, both on end-of-summer markdowns. It was a good week, even as hot as it was. Oh, wait, one more: What dry-aging beef looks like in process, from the St. Lawrence Market, an indoor food Mecca:

On Friday, after our return, I went ottering — my friend Bill’s word for swimming in fins and a lifejacket — in the St. Clair River, while listening to selections from Aretha’s funeral on the drive there and back. What an event that was. Bill told me about how some firefighters he knows were sitting around the station one day when a fancy car pulls up and Aretha got out with her driver/security guy. You know her famous purse? Some of them have locks on them, and one had malfunctioned. It didn’t need a fire ax to open, but she dated a Detroit firefighter for a while, and knew they had the tools necessary to fix it. They did so, and she posed for selfies all around before riding off into the distance.

Speaking of selfies: The photos I just posted are most of what I shot in the course of a week. I couldn’t help but notice, in the depths of this dense-packed city, how so many people spend so much time just taking photos of themselves. Two cute girls on the doorstep of a yoga studio — selfie. People on the ferry — selfie. In that paper-lantern exhibit? “Selfie spots” where a single light is trained on you, to capture your face and the illuminated sculpture behind you in the proper exposure. If you stand there, an employee rushes up and offers to do it for you. Man, I am growing tired of all this.

(That said, I took one of Alan and I sailing yesterday. Because I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Anyway, I have some more thoughts about the Aretha funeral, and I think I’ll trickle them out over time, as they haven’t quite gelled yet. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday if you’re reading it Monday, and the rest of this short work week. September is upon us.

Posted at 11:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments

Rockets’ red glare.

I opened a credit-card statement today, something I don’t normally do. Why bother? I pay almost all my bills online, and no, Discover, I will not “go paperless” until you make it worth my while somehow, and the warm feeling of “saving a tree” isn’t doing it. Make me an offer, and then we’ll talk.

But while I was glancing through my statement, I saw that I have a credit score of 842.

850 is perfect. Anything above 750 is considered excellent. I shouldn’t be soothed by this, and yet? I am. I’m not at put-it-on-my-tombstone level, but I’ve always been a person who likes to bring home a good report card. (If you’d seen my last performance evaluation before I was laid off, you’d have been as astounded as I was.) I guess this is the adult equivalent.

How was your Fourth? Mine was…mostly spent indoors. Another 90-plus day. I took an early bike ride, when the temperatures were still bearable, then retreated to the a/c. These are not the fun days of summer, in my opinion. However, by the weekend it should be substantially better. I have stuff to work on, chores done or in progress and the weekend to look forward to. I’m babysitting Saturday night, in fact, for the 9-month-old grandson of my oldest friend. The family will be in town for a wedding. I’m hoping it’ll go smoothly, but fearing something more like this.

If nothing else, we’ll be at the nicest hotel downtown, and we can visit the bar, me and young Ezra. A martini for me, and the same for my young friend! I recall nine months as the height of babyhood. We’ll be the toast of the lobby.

Some bloggage? Sure.

If you haven’t discovered #secondcivilwarletters already, you should, even if you’re not on Twitter. The WashPost has an explainer, with the greatest hits. This one may be the best:

The party of family values has given that shit up, but some of us knew this a while ago. From the Atlantic:

The migrant crisis signals an official end to one chapter of conservatism and the beginning of a terrifying new one. After all, a party cannot applaud the wailing screams of innocents as a matter of course and hope to ever reclaim the moral high ground. Trump seemed to know that, perhaps, sitting in the Cabinet Room this week, surrounded by a table of white officials. The compassion that he spoke of wasn’t really for the children torn from their parents—it was for his own party and its struggle to contain them.

A nicely written dispatch, again from the WaPo, on how this moment feels. Weird but, also, rooted in daily life somehow:

Over the past month — particularly since ProPublica released the audio of children at the border — America has confronted itself in off-hours spaces, in places reserved for politeness and deference.

Inside restaurants at dinnertime.

Outside private homes on quiet streets.

In office hallways as people are trying to work.

Warning signs have become alarm bells, and some people are trying to be academic about it, by debating social graces in careful tones.

I’m going to go try to calm my dog, who doesn’t enjoy the rockets’ red glare, happening now. If you have to work the rest of the week, you have my sympathies, but I’ll be right there with you.

Posted at 9:38 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments

Shut in.

Woo doggies, this heat. Mid-90s all weekend, and that is no fun, my peoples. From a glance at the weather map, it appears much of the NN.c readership knows what I’m talking about. We went sailing for a while on Saturday, and that helped, but the sun was a weapon for sure:

It was worse in northern Michigan, if you can believe that. Ninety-nine degrees at Boyne Mountain, way up near the tip of the mitten. Kate and her boyfriend went camping in the Upper Peninsula and came home a day early, after they were caught in, quote, the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen, unquote. The tent was flooded and they couldn’t get a hotel room, so they slept in the car.

When I wasn’t on the water, I tried to stay indoors. Ventured out to do some weight work at the gym, and even with the a/c on, it was still miserable. I told Alan that’s the last exercise I intend to do that’s not in a pool until this is over. I guess I’ll be spending some time in the pool.

When I was indoors, hiding from the heat, I did some reading. There was a lot of good reading to be done this weekend, so let’s get to it.

Everyone reads the New Yorker online, but I prefer the ink-on-paper version, and just saw this, so maybe it’s old, but what the hell — it’s a good read about the farce that ensued when Milo Yapyapyapalot came to Berkeley, or tried. You might recall that interlude, when he announced he’d be bringing a slate of high-profile conservative speakers to Berkeley for “free speech week,” and then it turned out the only losers who showed up were Mike Cernovich and Pam Geller, both creatures who actually live under the barrel, not at its bottom:

“Milo, what’s the deal tomorrow, man?” Cernovich said. “Are we speaking on campus? Off campus? What the fuck is going on?”

“O.K., so this hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re giving a big press conference on Treasure Island,” Yiannopoulos said. “I’m going to make my entrance by speedboat, with a camera trailing me on a drone, and we’re going to be live-streaming it all on Facebook.”

“I don’t do boats,” Geller said. “I projectile-vomit. But I love it for you, Milo, it’s a fabulous idea. I predict two hundred and fifty thousand viewers watching that live stream, at least.”

“I’ll be wearing this gorgeous Balmain overcoat—I’ll show you—with this huge fur collar,” Yiannopoulos said.

Geller and Cernovich changed the subject to Internet censorship. “They kicked me off Google AdSense,” Geller said. “I was making six figures a year from that. You can’t even share my links on Pinterest now! I’m ‘inappropriate content.’ ”

Yiannopoulos looked bored. “You guys are so selfish,” he said. “We used to be talking about me.” He turned to his stylist, a glassy-eyed, wisp-thin man, and whispered, “Go get the coat.”

They continued hashing out plans. “So we’ll walk in with you, through the streets of downtown Berkeley,” Cernovich said. “If there’s a screaming Antifa crowd, and if I maybe have to street-fight my way in and break a few noses in self-defense, that’s all good optics for me.”

“Maybe we should line up on the Sproul steps,” Yiannopoulos said, “surrounded by Berkeley students wearing ‘Defund Berkeley’ T-shirts.”

“Why don’t we march in with our arms linked together, like the Martin Luther King people, singing ‘We Shall Overcome’?” Cernovich said.

“We’ll do our thing, and then at some point the protests will turn violent,” Yiannopoulos said. “That will become the focus, and then we can just get ourselves out of there.” He reclined in his chair and smiled. “It’s all coming together,” he said.

The stylist came back with the coat, and Yiannopoulos squealed. “Pamela, is this coat to die for or what?” he said.

“Oh, my God, Milo, I’m dying,” Geller said. “It’s sick.”

He put the coat on and turned around, again and again, examining his reflection in the darkened glass of a window.

“It’s fabulous,” Geller said. “It’s sick. I hate you.”

Sorry for the long quote, which breaks my three-paragraph rule, but it’s a long piece. If you had any doubt that the whole free-speech-on-campus “crisis” was manufactured bullshit, this should settle it.

That story is like one long terrible joke. This one, on largely the same subject, isn’t:

The two (SCOTUS) decisions were the latest in a stunning run of victories for a conservative agenda that has increasingly been built on the foundation of free speech. Conservative groups, borrowing and building on arguments developed by liberals, have used the First Amendment to justify unlimited campaign spending, discrimination against gay couples and attacks on the regulation of tobacco, pharmaceuticals and guns.

We’ve lost our ambassador to Estonia, friends. (He was an Obama appointee, so no biggie.)

Finally, an essay by Virginia Heffernan you should read, on how profoundly lost the nation’s moral compass is at the moment:

There’s plenty of talk in Trump times about an assault on factual truth. But the more vicious attacks are on human perception, common sense and baseline notions of right and wrong.

…The Trump syndicate leverages this ludicrous stuff every day. It’s repeated and amplified by trolls and botnets, Fox News, far-right haranguers like Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos, and, of course, the president himself.

It gets loud.

And then the stupid inversions of reason are picked up by influential voices who should know better. Worse yet, they’re given a hearing, as American citizens are forced to sit for monotonous schoolings in the media conceit of “both sides.”

It’s really good. Me, I’m going to make tacos and edit a podcast. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 6:33 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments