Done in nine seconds.

I love it when a source suggests meeting for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. This means I can have a doughnut because duh — Tim Horton’s. I rarely eat doughnuts, because they are basically heroin for a sugar junkie like me. I need to detox, but before I do? One more delicious sour-cream glazed from Tim’s.

Sour-cream glazed are my absolute favorite, combining that little tang of sour cream with the sugar overload. My prejudices: Sprinkles are wrong on doughnuts, as is chocolate. Yes, I said chocolate. My mother raised me to believe you don’t eat chocolate before noon, and I’ve never been able to eat a chocolate doughnut in the morning with an entirely clean conscience.

And if you start eating doughnuts, any doughnuts, after noon, you have a problem.

What’s your fave doughnut? Beats bitching about the president, if only for one day.

I don’t have much bloggage, going into the weekend, because I’ve been working on something else and reducing my poking-around-the-internet time. Here’s an L.A. Times photo gallery of a number of national monuments the Trump administration is casting a stern eye at, because wouldn’t the American people really rather have a golf course?

Also, I used to start the day with the L.A. Times crossword, done on the laptop of course, but they changed the interface and I fell out of the habit. Then I realized that if you load the mobile site of the NYT on the laptop, I could do their mini-crossword on a proper keyboard instead of thumb-typing. I generally get it done under 30 seconds, and on Thursday? 16 seconds. I doubt I’ll ever beat my all-time record of 9 seconds, but go ahead and try.

I’m so tired I may walk into a wall on my way to bed. Hope you don’t, and have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 108 Comments
 

So, this happened.

New thread, and this picture of me and Pilot JoeK after lunch today:

Today was also J.C.’s birthday, so let’s wish him a happy one.

Me, I went to the Schvitz tonight and am too relaxed and warm to do much of anything other than go to bed.

Posted at 10:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments
 

Frog music.

Grocery shopping is suddenly so complicated. Remember being able to buy a whole chicken, cut up? My local Kroger no longer carries this exotic fare, just the beloved-by-yoga-moms boneless, skinless chicken breasts; chicken “tenderloins,” i.e., fingers; and once in a while there will be a sale on whole thighs. Even drumsticks are something you have to hunt for. And so now my food shopping expands to three venues — Eastern Market for vegetables, Kroger for yogurt and canned stuff and vegetables like onions and potatoes, because while I’m sure Alice Waters can tell me there’s a reason I need to fill my farmers-market bags with artisanal onions and extra-special potatoes, to my proletarian mouth regular old white onions and Yukon Gold potatoes do pretty well for almost everything. My third stop is to the specialty grocery here in G.P. that has better-than-Kroger-grade meat.

It must have been a grumpy weekend, you’re thinking. Yes, sorta. But this helped:

That’s Kate, playing the MacBook Air and Ableton, and her classmates, playing similar machines, except for the guy on the right, who was playing a theremin.

The puppetry procession was Julie Taymor-type big-ass puppets on sticks, the music the final product of Kate’s electronic chamber-music class. The weather was perfect, and we found a parking place. Can’t complain about Saturday.

Sunday brought this, however:

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post last year.

Yes, back by (unpopular) demand — the war on drugs!

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Because it worked so, so well the first time, right?

I can’t even. Let’s hope the week goes better than last.

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

Until death do you part.

The other day I told Alan that if I opened a dog restaurant, I’d call it The Bowl. Or maybe just Bowl. More modern, that one. He replied that if he opened a dog restaurant, it’d be fine dining, and he’d call it Squirrel.

We will have been married 24 years in May, ladies and gentlemen. This is what we’ve been reduced to. Dog restaurants and complaining about the president.

What would a cat restaurant be called? Can Opener.

Doing better today, thanks. Got more sleep last night, for starters, and had a great swim this morning. My insomnia is worse than it’s been in a long time, and I’m not sure why. However, I do know that the first way you treat it is to get your shit right, your ducks in a row and just take better care of yourself. (A little melatonin can help, although it didn’t this week.) Do that before you call the doc for sleep meds. So, lentil soup for dinner, just one glass of wine, and all was better.

And then I woke up this morning and read all about Karen Pence, America’s second lady. He keeps a separate landline phone on his desk that only she has the number to. They exercised in the Indiana governor’s mansion on side-by-side treadmills (ugh, treadmills — go for a run outside, Pences!). And this startling detail:

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

I recognize this as a cornerstone of the “marriage retreats” someone in Indiana was always throwing. The takeaway from these is always to concentrate more on one another, and avoid even the occasion of sin by not having separate lives beyond what is absolutely necessary. While on the one hand I understand the impulse — one of the few beliefs I hold in common with most evangelicals is to focus more on your marital relationship than your children — I don’t believe this python-like, wrapped-together model is healthy, either. As the great Esther Perel counsels, if you don’t get some distance, even just psychological distance, you will absolutely lose your fire. It’s a paradox, yes, but true.

And pro tip: If just sitting across a lunch table tempts you away from your marriage, man, you have more problems than I can advise you on.

Yesterday I told you about Dustin and the Olds, aka all his favorite bands, not one of which has an average age younger than Medicare eligibility. So enjoy this story about adjacent demi-celebrity Old wife that he passed along today:

Donna Betts, wife of founding member of the Allman Brothers Dickey Betts, was arrested after deputies claimed a video showed her standing on her dock, aiming a 30-30 Winchester rifle at a high school rowing crew threatening to shoot them.

What I found most alarming was the mugshot:

Ever since I started covering my gray hair with color, I knew the day would come when I would tip into Ronald Reagan territory, where the hair was such a mismatch with the face that it would be jarring. Every time I get a touchup, I ask my colorist: “Is it time to start transitioning to silver? Soon? Next year?” She always says no. I suspect she’s starting to fib a little. Hey, we can’t all be like Deborah with her icy-white fabulousness.

Back to brainstorming dog restaurant names. Or horses! How about Hay, Baby?

Posted at 6:28 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments
 

Some snaps.

The American Health Care Act isn’t even seven days old. If they’d done their homework, it could be seven years old by now, more or less, but let’s not quibble. Not when it appears to be a dumpster fire, and the best Paul Ryan can say about it? Insurance can’t work if the young and healthy have to subsidize the old and sick.

I’ve actually heard others say the same thing. If you live long enough, you’ll hear people say all sorts of stupid things, but that one takes at least a big slice of the cake. Over the years, I’ve spent thousands in insurance premiums, protecting houses that never caught fire or flooded, cars that left my ownership with no more dents than they arrived with, etc. As Charles Pierce points out, that is the literal definition of insurance.

Oh, well. It’s nearly the weekend. How’s about some pictures?

Look who I saw in my back yard on Sunday:

He was back today, although I didn’t get a picture. This makes me think he might be roosting somewhere in the neighborhood, which makes me happy, even though my vet once told me not to be. They crow at first light, and not the cock-a-doodle-doo crowing of roosters, but sort of a harsh, hacking sound. So be it. Pheasants. They’re beautiful birds, and cool to have around. My own little wild chicken.

(Please, no cracks about the state of the yard. Alan doesn’t believe in the traditional, Grosse Pointe “fall cleanup,” in which every single leaf is bagged and toted away the first week of December. He thinks old leaves should lay on the flower beds. So far, the spring bloom hasn’t contradicted him. So it’s an ugly yard for us in the cold months.)

A gift from Basset, found in some old files:

Of course it was the Day Of, because the N-S was an afternoon paper, and in those days, there would have been plenty of time — and reason — to rip up Page One for such catastrophic news. I’m more struck that no other story above the fold was local. Back when your evening paper carried the news from everywhere, dammit.

Finally, a sign I see from time to time at the end of an exit ramp:

Not just any cans and pails, but metal ones. And plastic ones. Sold by the Canbys. In a bold, sans-serif font, too. None of this IniTech-type bullshit. I miss businesses like this. I should stop in and buy one of each.

This is it for me for the week. A good weekend to all.

Posted at 5:36 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 88 Comments
 

The shortest, longest month.

Man, for the shortest month, February is sure taking its sweet time clearing out, isn’t it? I started Friday with good intentions to see at least one movie in a theater, do some food prep for the week ahead, the whole nine. Ended up watching the Sunday HBO lineup, which dropped early because of the Oscar conflict, and wishing I was anywhere but here, where the temperatures dropped, the wind picked up, and life became generally sorta gray and boring.

Made significant progress on “The Underground Railroad,” though. Which I am loving. “Lincoln in the Bardo” is next. “I Am Not Your Negro” and/or “Get Out” will have to wait for next weekend. When it’s cold and the wind is howling, it’s more of an otter eating lettuce sort of Saturday night.

Also, “Piper,” which you should watch, because not only is this short film too stinkin’ cute for words, it is kind of a documentary of me learning to surf.

Whatever happened to going out during the week? We used to do that, back when we both were reliably off work by 5 p.m., which simply doesn’t happen anymore. Plus: February. Chill winds. Et to the cetera.

Just one word before we get to the bloggage, after watching the third episode in the final season of “Girls,” I’m crossing my heart and making a promise that I will pay attention to Lena Dunham throughout her just-getting-started career, and you probably should, too. I thought “American Bitch,” the so-called “bottle episode” airing this week, was a real piece of work, smart and nuanced and funny and not-funny, and sort of amazing coming from the pen of a writer as young as Dunham.

Like lots of people, I have found Dunham hard to take at times, but the more I see of her acting but mostly her writing, the more impressed I am. “American Bitch” is about the gray areas where power imbalance, gender, age and consent all meet, a place lots of women have found themselves, both today and when we were all young. It’s not an easy topic to tackle in 30 minutes, but she managed it, with a great deal of help from Matthew Rhys as the famous dick novelist whose behavior is at issue.

We spend a lot of time here feeling sorry for ourselves because great old artists and entertainers are dying. I think the best cure for that is to find some young ones worth watching. Dunham is.

Plus, she drives conservatives insane, because she’s something of an exhibitionist with her nude body, which is pudgy and has cellulite and is generally the sort they think ought to never be seen unclothed. Fuck those guys, I say.

So. Bloggage? I guess there’s some: Thanks to Sherri for finding this piece on the “brilliant jerk,” a well-known type, especially in Silicon Valley:

This term, “the brilliant jerk,” has been around for a while in corporate lingo. I remember first reading about in a New York Times blog post (R.I.P. blogs) in 2012. (PLEASE DON’T ACTUALLY ME ABOUT REED HASTINGS, YOU JERKOFF, HE’S TWO GRAFS DOWN.) I guess there was a series about Being The Boss and the URL was boss.blogs.nytimes.com 🙁 What a world! Anyway it was a sort of advicey column about what to do about that one archetype, the Brilliant Jerk, in your workplace. It was fun to read when it came out because everyone got to speculate about who their brilliant jerk was.

But everyone already knows who the brilliant jerk at their workplace is because it’s the raging asshole!! It’s not hard to tell. And yet somehow as long as we’ve had a word for it, and probably even longer, we’ve wrung our hands over whether or not to cope with this fucktard over here because—wait for it—HE’S BRILLIANT!

Another Jewish-cemetery incident, this one in Philadelphia. The official word of 2017 is “emboldened.” Repeat after me.

My favorite Twitter chuckle of the weekend:

And on to Monday. But first, some chicken.

Posted at 6:09 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments
 

Fortysomething.

Remember “10,” the charming romantic comedy from 1979 that made a zillion dollars, inspired way too many white girls to try cornrows and introduced the world to both Ravel’s “Bolero” and Bo Derek? Seriously, that’s her opening credit: “Introducing Bo Derek.” You don’t see that so often these days.

I just turned it on, to see if it holds up. I remember seeing it more than once in the theater, and loving it irrationally, although I never tried cornrows.

It opens with Dudley Moore being led into a dark house, which turns out to be a surprise birthday party for him. After the gaiety and the cake, he’s enjoying a quiet moment with his girlfriend (Julie Andrews) by the fire. He laments his advancing age, and the birthday party, which only reminds him he’s old, old, old.

He’s 42. Julie, we learn a beat later, is 38.

Suddenly, my perspective is radically shifted. I was 21 for most of 1979. Forty-two must have seemed ancient.

Don’t think I’ll watch it all the way through. As I certainly know by now, life is short, and I have books to read.

Oh, here’s a singing scene, with Julia. God, what a voice. And face. A true gamine, clear until…38. Just realized, when she made this movie, she was 44. I wasn’t really buying her as 38, but not because of her looks. She’s one of those women from an earlier generation who simply seemed more mature.

Speaking of more modern entertainments, pro tip: If you’re a podcast fan, go find “Missing Richard Simmons” and subscribe, pronto. It’s based on the mystery of where Simmons has been for the last three years; early in 2014, Simmons essentially “ghosted the world,” i.e. went into his house and hasn’t come out. All of which would be one thing, but Simmons had many close friends and associates, and none of them know where he is, either. Please don’t Google; I did this morning and suspect I know what happened, but I’m still listening, because it’s very well-done, not too long and, as you might expect, about a lot more than just Richard Simmons.

Sherri posted this in comments yesterday, but I don’t want anyone to miss it — it’s very good. Laurie Penny’s account of traveling on the Milo bus, and what she saw there.

Otherwise, this is a midweek slump, and anyway — I’m older than 42.

Posted at 9:28 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 98 Comments
 

Well-marbled.

I mentioned, in what I hope was a certain woe-is-me tone yesterday, how I overcooked my New York strip night before last. It was still very good, because I did what I do from time to time and splurged on the really good USDA Prime that my meat market has on offer, most weeks. They display the Choice and Prime steaks right next to each other, and the difference is apparent to all but the fat-phobic yoga moms in their XS Lululemons — notable marbling in the Prime, little in the Choice. The flareups that overdid the steak would have reduced the Choice to leather.

The Choice steaks were $14.99 a pound, the Prime $19.99. Alan and I split one, for the standard deck-of-cards-size serving. I don’t feel guilty, because eating is something you have to do at least twice a day, and beef is something I might eat twice a week, so no biggie.

Sometimes I wish I’d gone into food journalism. Although by now I’d probably be a vegetarian. Feedlots are not nice places.

Can you see how hard I am trying not to talk about current events? I have to go back to reading novels instead of Twitter. “The Underground Railroad” is on the coffee table, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is on its way via Amazon (thanks, users of the Kickback Lounge!). I have to take more breaks from this insanity. Think about steak and cooking and the prose of George Sauders.

But we have to get to it sometime. I guess the story of the day is Milo. You only need to read two pieces, Roy’s

Milo tried to do that with his pedo-tapes (in “a note for idiots” — ha, that Milo!) — but found that he was suddenly no longer the Right’s sassy gay friend. Not because he had sex with children himself — there’s no evidence he did; interestingly, it seems he was the one exploited as a child — but because, from the conservatives’ perspective, he did something worse: He embarrassed them. It was fine when he was whooping up those wanton cruelties and bigotries a normal American can get away with. But pedophilia is a Hard Limit, at least socially.

Conservatives could have done a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin thing, but that would have required charity, and bitter experience has taught us all that in America this is not a Christian precept. They could have said that though Yiannopoulos had put himself beyond the pale, his principles were still sound, and they could put aside his failings the way intellectuals put aside the anti-Semitism of Mencken or the racism of Larkin, and cleave instead to his aesthetic legacy; but when his book deal and CPAC spot evaporated, it became obvious that there was nothing like a principle or an aesthetic legacy at all left to defend — just a savage clown show that no one wanted to see anymore. (Even Soave is edging away from him. Did I say “even”? Ha, I meant “of course.”)

…and this one, from Slate:

You can thank Steve Bannon, now a central figure in Donald Trump’s administration, for making the clownish hustler Milo Yiannopoulos a star. As the editor of Breitbart, Bannon recruited Yiannopoulos to the site, where he published columns like “No, J.C. Penney, Fat People Should Absolutely Hate Themselves” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Yiannopoulos is a Trump voter’s fantasy of a decadent gay sophisticate. His shtick is to wrap various shades of reaction – anti-feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims – in camp, to sell bigotry as cheeky provocation. He and co-author Allum Bokhari put it this way, in a Breitbart ode to the alt-right: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”

Yiannopoulos uses his gayness to grant absolution to his mostly straight right-wing audiences, telling them that by reveling in prejudice they are bravely flouting taboos. During the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, an at event billed as an America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos told a crowd full of bikers and Alex Jones acolytes: “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left…the left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate.” As a gay man, he added, he aims to be “transgressive, to be naughty, to be mischievous. And today in America that means being right-wing.”

And that’s about all the Milo I can handle at the moment. Time to start “The Underground Railroad.” Good Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments
 

A bit better.

Well, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Woke up feeling much improved, enough so that I made my Bed of Suffering, i.e., the guest room/office, emptied the wastebasket full of sodden tissue and might even go for a walk later.

I got out to meet a new colleague last night. That helped, although it was touch and go just getting vertical yesterday.

That said, here’s a new thread for comments on…everything, I guess. One little head cold, and I feel like I’m already miles behind. Kind of like Congress.

Carry on.

Posted at 9:16 am in Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments
 

A cold, conquered? Fingers crossed.

I woke up one day last weekend with the beginnings of a cold sore, and the whole week felt like a struggle – slow in the pool, messing up appointment times because I didn’t read the email closely enough, that sort of thing. No disaster, just the sort of thing that happens when your immune system appears to be working overtime to hold something at bay. I thought it had finally arrived on Friday, and spent half of Saturday lolling in bed, but here it is Sunday, and I’m sorta feeling myself again.

The cold sore has left the building, too.

What goes on in our bodies during weeks like these? What does “feeling run-down” really mean, at the cellular level? It is to puzzle.

So that’s why no update on Friday, sorry. Just wasn’t feeling it, or anything like it.

One of the things I saw while I was being lazy Saturday was this remarkable clip from CNN, in which a local GOP county official tries to revive the death-panels thing, and the crowd lights him up like a Christmas tree. It almost felt like 2009 again when the WashPost looked into his social-media accounts and found the stuff we’ve been seeing from these folks for years. But this time, it feels like an antique. That crowd just wasn’t having it.

Not that we should count them out entirely, of course. But just today I read a column in the local paper about how mean “the left” is being to Ivanka Trump, whom they should be supporting, because she’s such an ally, you know. There was some random bloviage about liberal attacks, etc.:

Boycotts are the favorite weapon of the resistance movement. Anyone who suggests affinity for Donald Trump or cooperates with his administration or fails to speak out against him on command (see Tom Brady) faces being ostracized or having their livelihoods threatened and their names smeared.

The left’s demand for conformity in loathing Trump is creating a blacklist to rival that of Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Which I found amusing, as I had just read this piece, about what happens with the Breitbart constituency identifies you as an enemy:

New America, the think tank where I am a fellow, got a similar influx of nasty calls and messages. “You’re a fucking cunt! Piece of shit whore!” read a typical missive.

I’ve spent time on Ivanka Trump’s website, and see a “line” of basic sheath dresses, sweater dresses and other ho-hum designs. I’m no fashion plate myself, and in fact I generally appreciate a decent sheath dress, but I can find the same thing on 6pm.com and other discount sites for about a third the price. Be advised.

A bit more bloggage:

Dr. Mona, as one hero of the Flint water crisis is known around here, points to her own status as a first-generation Iraqi immigrant to ask the obvious question about the travel and immigration ban. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here it’s almost impossible to get through a hospital visit without being seen by a doctor of Middle Eastern lineage. I hate to think what we’d do without them, particularly in non-garden spot cities like Flint.

Everybody’s talking about “Saturday Night Live” again, and posting the best bits on social media afterward. You can have the Sean Spicer cold open and the People’s Court satire from this week, but I’m going for Kate McKinnon as Alex Forrest/Kellyanne Conway in this genius piece.

We went to a party Saturday night, a fundraiser, and I bought some tickets for the raffle. And whaddaya know, I won a weekend at a lodge in northern Michigan. I’m taking it as evidence my luck has changed. Onward to Monday.

Posted at 12:32 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments