On the DL.

I gotta tell you, Covid kinda spoiled me. Avoiding crowds, socially distancing, wearing masks in public – all that stuff shielded me from the usual seasonal crud. And so, when a perfectly normal and shrug-offable cold finally arrived, I turned into Audra Barkley from “The Big Valley,” where all I wanted was to lie in bed and have Barbara Stanwyck press wet washcloths to my brow, and maybe spoon-feed me some clear broth.

Which is to say, I woke up yesterday feeling po’ly and am not much better today, and I’m being a big wuss about it.

Taking a Covid test now. I sincerely doubt that’s what it is, but might as well check.

If I did have a mild case, it would serve me right. On Friday, I went to a THEATER and sat in a CROWD and watched CHELSEA HANDLER do her standup act. Not a huge Chelsea fan, but the tickets were spur-of-the-moment and free, so what the hell. Went with a friend. It was OK. Not tears-running-down-your-face funny, but perfectly fine, and a good example of long-form standup, which has to be hard as hell to pull off. The show was called “Little Big Bitch,” and was structured as Chelsea Tells Her Life Story. The problem with autobiographical shows like this is, you go in understanding there will be a lot of exaggeration and outright lying, because facts get in the way of a good story. But it was a good one, and I laughed a lot, and with that My Weekly Reader-style review, that’s it.

Covid timer went off. Negative. Still a Novid (I think).

The most interesting thing about Chelsea’s show was watching the crowd come in. Disproportionate numbers of 40something women with long blonde hair, holding go-cups of alcoholic smoothies, which is to say, women who look like her and drink like her. That, and gay men. So many that she made a point of calling them out and thanking them before she even got started, something of a land acknowledgement.

And that wasn’t my entire weekend, but it was definitely the highlight. It rained all damn weekend, as though November was getting something off its chest and it ran into December. Not feeling too Christmassy yet.

As for other feelings, I totally encourage Liz Cheney to run as a third-party candidate, as I’m certain she’d draw from the GOP side. She’s said that if she doesn’t, she’ll campaign for Biden, and I encourage that, too. This is so exhausting, worrying about the future of American democracy 24/7. Maybe that’s what my illness is: Trump Fatigue. Wouldn’t surprise me.

Oh, we also watched “May December,” which I loved, and if you have Netflix, get to it. I got a thing for Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore, that’s all I can say.

Let’s hope for better things later.

Posted at 1:20 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

The pile-up.

You guys, I know I’m late on a new blog, but things have piled up early in the week – two doctor appointments (checkups only, no need for alarm), a bad-news bomb about a local friend (an aggressive cancer that sounds like something out of a horror movie), the usual work obligations, PLUS I’m trying out a new book club tonight and still have reading to get through.

But! Another thing I had to get off my plate early was this Free Press op-ed, which I’ve posted on my social channels already, but if you haven’t seen it, I’d appreciate you giving it a click. It’s not paywalled, and I think it has, y’know, a message that goes beyond my community.

Oh, and the takeaway from at least one of the checkups? “You have the cardiac rhythm of an elite athlete,” my PCP said. This week, I’ll take it.

Later this week, let’s shoot for something longer.

Posted at 11:12 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 48 Comments
 

Jesus is just all right.

Let’s close out the week with a few snickers, shall we, and I’m not talking about the leftover Halloween candy. Julie Robinson sent along pix earlier this week, of decor in a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Florida. I assume they’re AI. They look like it, anyway. In one of my earliest art-history lessons, at the Columbus Museum of Art on some school field trip, the teacher said every culture makes art of Jesus in their own image. I guess Seventh Day Adventists are all keyboard players in ’70s rock bands:

Here he is healing a crippled woman, who cannot seem to look him in the eye.

But this! This is my favorite, as I’ve seen the pose on every hairdresser who turns the chair around and gives you the big reveal in the mirror:

“Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I tell you a shorter look would frame your face better?”

OK, then. Happy retirement to Alex, and I leave you with a great column about Bob Knight, by my friend Dave Jones, with whom I was partying just a few days back. I think many of you will like it.

Posted at 9:32 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments
 

‘I am not a bear!’

One thing my trip to Columbus did was stir up a bunch of those early-career memories. I recalled, but didn’t mention, the example Gary Kiefer used to teach me the difference between further and farther: “I can drive your car farther down the road, but I drive you further toward the brink of insanity.” I not only remember it, I use it when I have to teach it to someone else.

Then, today, in Axios, came this, about the return of the pandas to China:

I can still see the paper I extracted from my mailbox the day Kirk Arnott schooled me on this distinction after I turned in copy with the phrase “panda bear”: A cartoon panda with a dialogue balloon, saying, “I am not a bear!” Never forgot it.

Someone tell Axios.

Speaking of teaching, I went to see one of my former students play in his band last night, at a dive spot in Hamtramck, the kind of place where I, a 65-year-old grandma-ass looking woman, had to show ID AND open her purse for weapon/smuggled liquor inspection. As soon as their set ended, he came off the stage to see how the Ford-UAW settlement story his bureau was working on ended up. It’s a job that never ends. And that reminded me of the geezers who used to lead newsroom tours in Fort Wayne, who never failed to point out that some reporters might be reading the paper, and “that doesn’t mean they’re goofing off,” but that we were checking to see “how their stories look in print.” Ai-yi-yi.

Wait! :::touches earpiece::: We have this breaking update:

Well, I got that cartoon well before 1985.

Once again, I’m avoiding the news because it never seems to improve. I’m just reading about the mass shooter in Maine, and came across this uh-oh detail:

Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Koroknay of the U.S. Coast Guard said a 29-foot response boat was searching the Kennebec River for Robert Card, the suspect in the Lewiston shooting. A car linked to Card was found at a boat ramp in Lisbon, Maine.

And a boat linked to him is unaccounted for. We all know by now that Maine has virtually zero gun control, which we’re told over and over is the real solution to gun violence. Clearly the answer is, we have to harden our targets. So metal detectors, bag searches and maybe cavity searches in every bowling alley.

Which reminds me, this is something I think about a LOT:

Corporate media seems to lack the vocabulary to accurately describe the modern Republican Party.

Duh.

But consider how poorly the words they choose describe the reality of the Republican Party and its current leadership.

In their lead stories, Johnson’s political views were summed up with words like “staunch conservative,” (AP) “conservative hardliner” and “religious conservative” (New York Times), and “lesser-known conservative” (Washington Post).

But there is nothing “conservative” about insurrection. That’s radical extremism.

Yep. What’s more:

Johnson, like the party he now represents, is an extremist and a reactionary. By calling him a conservative – a “staunch” one at that – the mainstream media coverage normalizes him. It even glamorizes him.

Exactly. When this country marches itself right off the cliff — the brink of insanity, if you will — it’ll be with the best-intentioned people leading the way.

I should wrap this up. The weekend awaits! Enjoy yours.

Posted at 6:05 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

A break away.

My visit to Columbus was everything I wanted it to be. Warm, fun, a million laughs.

That’s me with Jeff Borden and Dave Jones, two very funny people. We met early before the whole group arrived:

Extras included Jim, Karen, Kirk and Gary, all former Dispatch people. The bar in German Village was one of our old haunts, and looks like it hasn’t changed a thing in 40 years. So it was perfect, really. I didn’t want the night to end (especially since I went home in a driving rain). But I got back to Westerville in one piece, and the following day went out with Julia Keller, another ex-Dispatcher who now writes and teaches. It struck me, going home, that going to see old friends is the best kind of travel. After Western Europe, of course. But way less walking.

So it was a restorative kind of weekend, except I had one glass of wine too many Saturday night with the fam, slept badly and now feel like crap. I’ll be better tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we had a minor media story break over the weekend in Detroit, in which Charlie LeDuff, a downward-spiraling journalist who fancies himself a Jon Stewart/Hunter Thompson mashup and desperate to “go national” tweeted something about the Michigan attorney general:

You see the problem? “See you next Tuesday.” As long as I’ve been a grown-up, I’ve understood that phrase to be another way to say “cunt.” Like “you go to h-e-hockey sticks, you scoundrel!” Even Charlotte York understands what it means.

He was called out by a number of female journalists, then some male ones, and by Saturday night he’d lost his contributing-columnist gig at The Detroit News. His fans, who are disproportionately right wingers because that’s the niche he’s going for in his quest to get his career back on track (Fox News, maybe CNN), keep insisting he never called Dana Nessel a cunt, and Charlie himself actually tried to claim he was only referring to when his next column would post. I call bullshit. Funny how it’s women who understand when they’re being insulted, isn’t it? And how often men try to gaslight us?

Finally, I could build up a big head of steam over this rather startling survey from the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, but I’d rather let you guys take a look at it and tell me what you think. Briefly, it reflects a jarring disconnect between what parents say they want for their children’s independence and what they’re willing to do to further it:

Among parents of a child 9-11 years, 84% agree that children benefit from having free time without adult supervision. Fewer parents report their child does things without an adult present, including staying home for 30-60 minutes (58%), finding an item at the store while the parent is in another aisle (50%), staying in the car while the parent runs a quick errand (44%), walking/biking to a friend’s house (33%) or playing at the park with a friend (29%), or trick-or-treating with friends (15%). The top reason parents cite as preventing them from letting their child 9-11 years have time without adult supervision is worry that someone might scare or follow their child (54%); however, only 17% say their neighborhood is not safe for children to be alone. Some parents think their child isn’t ready (32%) or doesn’t want (28%) to do these things. Some parents believe state or local laws don’t allow children that age to be alone (17%), that someone might call the police (14%), or that others will think they are a bad parent (11%) if their child is not in direct adult supervision.

Note well: Only 15 percent would let their child trick-or-treat with friends, but almost the same percentage thinks their neighborhood isn’t safe to trick-or-treat in. We’re paralyzed by fear.

OK, let’s start the week.

Posted at 7:48 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments
 

Back to the grind.

Yeesh, what a day. When fair September debuted, I told Alan, “one of these days it’ll be cold and rainy, and on that day I intend to give the kitchen a deep, deep cleaning. It’ll take the better part of a day.” Then this happened and that happened, and it became October, but finally, the cold and rainy day dawned and to be sure, it took the better part of Sunday.

But goddamn, that room is clean. I could have served dinner off the floor if I felt like cleaning it again, but plates will do. We cooked eye-talion sausages on the grill, and the stove still looks like it just came out of the showroom.

Our trip up north was lovely. Alan got to go fishing, I got to do some reading and Wendy fully became a woods dog. It’s funny: When we go for walks around here, she won’t even walk through a puddle and get her paws wet, but put her in the drippy, rainy woods and she’s bolting through the ferns and sniffing the ground like a bloodhound. She loved the woodpile outside the cabin, because periodically there’d be a squeak coming from it, and she’d shove her nose in every crevice and wag her tail enthusiastically. Never caught anything, but she certainly got in touch with her inner terrier.

And now we’re home. But it’s lovely up there:

I know some people look at that and see gray skies and bare pine boughs and a lot of mess on the ground, but to me, it’s paradise. Except during bug season.

Now, the usual nonfunctional government and Middle East turmoil and all the rest of it. As I said a couple hundred words back: Yeesh. Let’s all have a week.

Posted at 8:34 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

View from my window.

Well, I was going to include a photo of the view out my current window, but the internet up here in North Woods, Michigan, doesn’t appear to be up to the task of uploading a 2 MB photo. EDIT: Success!

So take my word for it: It’s lovely. That’s the Au Sable River flowing by.

Watching bluejays dart about right now. There were half a dozen deer in the yard last evening. And it’s so dark, and so quiet, here at night that truth be told, I’m a little nervous. In the woods, no one can hear you scream.

But we’re away for a few days. I wanted to start a fresh thread to discuss the various ongoing global calamities. Which are…calamitous.

Think I’ll take Wendy for an off-leash walk. That’s what we’re paying for, after all.

Posted at 10:48 am in Same ol' same ol' | 93 Comments
 

Happily ever after.

Every day I’m reminded of how old I am. I get up after half an hour in a chair, and it’s not uncommon to stagger a step or two, as my legs relearn how to move in bipedal motion. I scan Twitter for five minutes and stumble across Americans so stupid I can’t believe they are able to themselves move in bipedal motion, let alone make it to a Trump rally and speak into a microphone. Or I’m sitting in a bar in St. Louis, and ask the bartender, no spring chicken herself, if the Schlafly craft brews on the beer menu are in any way related to Phyllis, or rather Phyllis’ family.

“Who?”

“Phyllis. Phyllis Schlafly.”

“Who’s that?” she asked. She looked at a younger guy sitting a few stools away, evidently a regular. “Do you know?” He shrugged.

Well, that says everything about our brief time on this blue marble, doesn’t it? One day you’re a nationally known helmet-haired antifeminist, founder of the Eagle Forum, the next you’re forgotten in your more-or-less hometown (Phyllis hailed from Alton, Ill., across the river, but part of the metropolitan area).

For the record, Schlafly brewing is related to Phyllis’ family-by-marriage, but she had nothing to do with it, as this story from 2014 details:

Phyllis Schlafly is opposing a federal trademark for the name “Schlafly” for beer made by a St. Louis craft brewery co-founded by her nephew, Tom Schlafly.

The Schlafly beer maker applied for the trademark on the use of the brand name in 2011; Phyllis Schlafly filed a notice of opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in September 2012. Settlement talks have failed to produce a resolution, and neither side appears ready to back down.

… Tom Schlafly is a nephew to Phyllis Schlafly by marriage — she married his uncle, the late John Fred Schlafly — but she has no connection to the brewery and never has. The question of whether Phyllis Schlafly has ties to the brewery comes up, however, especially in new markets outside of St. Louis.

Phyllis argued in her case that the name means one thing, and one thing only: Phyllis. And hence:

…“In connection with its usage as a surname, it has the connotation of conservative values, which to millions of Americans (such as Baptists and Mormons) means abstinence from alcohol,” her filing with the trademark office states. “An average consumer in St. Louis and elsewhere would think ‘Schlafly’ is a surname associated with me, and thus the registration of this name as a trademark by applicant should be denied.”

I guess she lost that one, because the name is all over St. Louis, and appears to be more connected to beer, and the branch of the public library near our hotel in the Central West End, than ol’ Phyllis, who croaked in 2016, at age 92. I think there’s a lesson here.

As for our weekend, it was pretty great. We had plenty of time to ourselves, plenty of time with friends, didn’t drink too-too much and all in all was well worth the time and travel investment. Beyond that, here’s some pix. Day one we strolled down to the Cathedral Basilica to see its famous mosaics. Which are…amazing. It’s an overused word, but it’s the only one that really applies. This church is the equal of any we saw in Europe over the last few years.

But that’s not all there is to see in the CWE. There’s also the World Chess Hall of Fame, and its attendant, the World’s Largest Chess Piece, as designated by the Guinness folks:

We didn’t go in – neither of us play – but I visited the gift shop. The HOF exerts a certain cultural influence over the crossroads where it’s located; the Kingside Diner’s children’s menu is designated “for little pawns.”

We found bike rentals nearby and toured Forest Park. It was blazingly hot. Saint Louis’ horse would have fainted, but fortunately he’s bronze:

Friday night, the welcome party, at a beer garden, of course:

The wedding couple are both genetic researchers, a theme reflected in the desserts:

The wedding day was even hotter, so we tried to go from one air-conditioned space to another until it was time to go to the venue, a secular space for a Jewish wedding. The yarmulkes matched the groom’s footwear:

Here I am with my godson, Patrick, as the killer sun retreated for the evening and the outdoors grew pleasantly habitable again:

Blue dresses go well with red shoes:

Of course there was a hora. The groom looks like he’s considering what could happen to all that science in his brain if he happens to be dropped on it.

But no one was hurt, the night went swimmingly and everyone danced to Motown tunes, proof that Detroit’s contributions to the world do not begin and end with cars.

I hope I didn’t slow anyone’s download with all the pix, but right now I’d much rather take a bike ride than sit at a keyboard. Catch you later, all.

Posted at 9:13 am in Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments
 

On to the Lou.

I didn’t watch the GOP “debate” last night. If I wanted to torture myself, I’d do one-legged squats or something that might have a net benefit in the end. Whereas listening to this year’s crop of pathetic pick-me-oh-pick-me veep candidates just makes you, in what might have been the only decent line all night from what I’ve read, dumber. (That’s Nikki Haley to Vivek Ramaswamy. BURN.)

Also, wasn’t it on cable? I don’t have cable anymore. And the series finale to “Reservation Dogs” was on last night. And I was packing — we’re headed to St. Louis for a weekend wedding. It will be very hot, as is St. Louis’ way. But the event will be indoors and “cocktail attire” is the dress suggestion, so I’m very excited to be getting out all my auto-prom finery, including this Whiting & Davis bag that I scored via a Facebook mom-swap group for something like $20:

The bride and groom are both scientists. Seriously. I’m looking forward to seeing what their friends turn out in. As well as talking to them at the reception, because scientists are awesome.

I baked in an extra day, and I’m not sure why. I was born in St. Louis, but I know it not at all, having moved away in infancy and only returned for brief visits over the years. We’ll be staying in the Central West End, so I have the mosaics at the Basilica on our punch list, as well as Forest Park. I’m hoping to find a bike share. I’m expecting to have a good time.

I spent some time on Google Maps, trying to locate our old apartment in the city. My relatives all moved to “the county” years ago, and spoke of “south St. Louis” as their former stomping ground. G-Maps informs me the neighborhood is Dutchtown. The school across the street, its playground among my earliest memories, is now a Buddhist temple or cultural center of some sort.

Anyway, I have about two hours to shower, stuff my poofy dress into a suitcase and get on outta here. You all have a great weekend, and I’ll take a lot of pictures.

P.S. Trump was in town last night, trying to get UAW votes by visiting a non-union shop that, its owner contends, would be put out of business by EVs. The usual people turned out for this. Right now, The Detroit News doesn’t even have it as the top story on their home page — that would be given to the ongoing Mel Tucker saga. As the kids say, lol:

One individual in the crowd who held a sign that said “union members for Trump,” acknowledged that she wasn’t a union member when approached by a Detroit News reporter after the event. Another person with a sign that read “auto workers for Trump” said he wasn’t an auto worker when asked for an interview. Both people didn’t provide their names.

Posted at 7:46 am in Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments
 

Dog-kickers.

I haven’t been enrolled in Medicare for even a year, and I’ve already had my first fraudulent claim. I nearly pitched an EOB (explanation of benefits, for you healthy people) notice that arrived last week, sent by my gap-policy provider. Then I realized I hadn’t been to a doctor in months, so what could this be?

It turned out to be a claim for $4,500 worth of catheter supplies, made by a medical supply company in suburban Dallas. Sigh. Got on the phone, and ended up talking to someone in a call center that I suspect was on the other side of the Pacific. The woman, reading from a script, kept assuring me I wouldn’t be billed anything, and I kept telling her that wasn’t my concern, but rather that whether my Medicare account or identity or whatever had been compromised.

We ended it with her assuring me this was a glitch, a data-entry error, and it would be handled. Don’t worry.

Today I got another notice, this from Medicare itself, the great monolith, for the same claim, and this time, it indicated it had been paid. Another call, and I said the magic word to the phone tree: FRAUD. This time my call stayed stateside, and a report was made, and… I guess we’ll see what happens.

In other heart-stopping news at this hour, I took my old bike to a new shop for a top-to-bottom list of repairs, and had that great feeling walking out: This is the place I should have been going to all along. The guy not only knew my ancient Volkscycle, he used to sell them. He knew all about my Gatorskin tires, and why they might have failed me twice this summer. And best of all? “When do you think it’ll be ready?” “Eh, couple days.” Still plenty of time left in bike season.

And with that, I’ll cut the boring stuff and ask if you’ve ever seen anything quite as racist as Donald Trump’s new strategy to woo black voters, i.e. flaunting his arrests and mugshot and claiming a bond with them as a result:

Trump has latched on to a narrative promoted last month by Fox News commentators and others in conservative media — that his arrests could boost his standing among African Americans who believe the criminal justice system is unfair.

Trump claimed in a recent interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt that his poll numbers among Black voters “have gone up four and five times” since his mug shot was released.

That’s not true, as CNN reported.

Gotta give it to Axios, which drives me insane many days. “That’s not true” has a note of mordant humor I appreciated.

You watch: Next month he’ll be hanging with Yeezy again. Or maybe rapping, who knows.

Back to working my way through Michael Wolff’s latest book excerpt. (I wouldn’t be caught dead buying one of his books.) The good parts are always leaked to the media, and here’s a good one:

(Tucker) Carlson put (Ron) DeSantis’s fate to a focus group of one: his wife. When they lived in Washington, Susie Carlson wouldn’t even see politicians. Carlson himself may have known everyone, dirtied himself for a paycheck, but not his wife. In her heart, it was 1985 and still a Wasp world, absent people, in Susie Carlson’s description and worldview, who were “impolite, hyperambitious, fraudulent.” She had no idea what was happening in the news and no interest in it. Her world was her children, her dogs, and the books she was reading. So the DeSantises were put to the Susie Carlson test.

They failed it miserably. They had a total inability to read the room — one with a genteel, stay-at-home woman, here in her own house. For two hours, Ron DeSantis sat at her table talking in an outdoor voice indoors, failing to observe any basics of conversational ritual or propriety, reeling off an unself-conscious list of his programs and initiatives and political accomplishments. Impersonal, cold, uninterested in anything outside of himself. The Carlsons are dog people with four spaniels, the progeny of other spaniels they have had before, who sleep in their bed. DeSantis pushed the dog under the table. Had he kicked the dog? Susie Carlson’s judgment was clear: She did not ever want to be anywhere near anybody like that ever again. Her husband agreed. DeSantis, in Carlson’s view, was a “fascist.” Forget Ron DeSantis.

Don’t really like Wolff and certainly dislike Carlson and DeSantis, but that’s pretty funny.

Posted at 12:16 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 99 Comments