Turn the page.

My 2021 notebook arrived today. Planner, some might call it, although mine is neither one nor the other.

It’s formatted for bullet journaling, something I tried but couldn’t stick to. But most of it is just blank pages, and every week, on Sunday or Monday, I turn the page and start a new entry: Week of December 21. The top half of the page gets a Work subhead, the bottom half Personal. I write down all the tasks and projects I know I have coming due that week. Newsletter, edit XXXX, various stories with deadlines approaching. Personal is for errands, bills to pay, etc., and always gets a line for Workouts, which I tally with hash marks. (Several years into my more dedicated fitness regimen, it’s now essential for my mental health, so I make note of every one. Don’t hate me because I have muscle tone.)

As I get these things done, I scratch them off. The scratch-off is the most important part of this habit. Have I ever written down something I’ve already completed but didn’t put on the to-do list, then immediately scratched it off? Do you even have to ask?

The facing page is for auxiliary notes on the main page — stuff that goes along with the tasks, but isn’t a task itself — phone numbers, email addresses, down-the-road stuff. I put the newsletter budget there.

All of this is the front half. The back half of the book is for random notes — a meeting, a training, something someone said that I wanted to remember: The Dodge Charger is the official I-don’t-give-a-fuckmobile of Detroit, for instance.

Over the years, I’ve tried a million different ways to organize my life. The aforementioned bullet journaling, writing everything down in iCal. (On March 31, 2014 I rode my bike nine miles and did a yoga class.) Not much of it stuck. But this is the third year I’ve bought the Standard Issue Notebook No. 3, and it seems to work. It’s the uncapping of the pen, writing everything down, that makes it different.

I hate the word “journaling.” It’s writing. A novelist doesn’t do noveling. Why complicate matters unnecessarily?

Finally, this: There is only one thing more satisfying than a blank notebook for the year ahead, and that’s the scribbled-in, marked-up one for the year just past.

What’s your organization strategy? Any tips for the group?

Here we are, already at midweek. I’m trying to assuage my guilt over this upcoming trip by registering with TSA PreCheck, which I’m hoping will keep us out of the ridiculous jam-ups at airport security. Also, it’s a hopeful gesture that I’ll be a more frequent traveler in the news five years, and I’ll use it often enough to justify the $85 charge. Tomorrow I go in to be fingerprinted. A small price to leave my shoes on in the security line.

A little bit of bloggage, then? Sure. Here is 2020 in Associated Press pictures, most of which are great. No paywall, just enjoyment.

Happy Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:35 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

These scoundrels.

Sooooo… what chapped your ass this weekend? This was mine:

Yes, by all means, spend the better part of a year licking the dimpled ass of our Covid-denying president, not wearing a mask and otherwise being a waste of space, then jump to the head of the line to get the vaccine for the disease you told us all was no biggie.

There are other examples – hey, Mike Pence – and every single one bugs me. At least have the decency to do it in the shadows.

You probably saw this story in the WashPost over the weekend, worth a click if you need to stoke your stomach-acid supplies:

The rise in cases and deaths in November coincided with a drop in visibility from Trump and Pence. Following the Nov. 3 election, the two went many days without public appearances. Whenever the president did speak or weigh in on Twitter, it was usually about his desire to overturn the election results, not about the worsening pandemic.

As for Pence, one consistent criticism was his reluctance to deliver tough news and dire coronavirus statistics to the president. As one former senior administration official put it, “He knows, like everybody else knows, that covid is the last thing Trump wants to hear about or see anybody making news about. If not touting Operation Warp Speed, it’s the topic that shall not be spoken of.” A senior administration official and Pence ally, however, said Pence always shared the daily reality with Trump but, as a perpetual optimist, often did so with a positive spin.

What an empty suit. In an administration full of them, his may be the emptiest. And then there was this:

President Trump on Friday discussed naming Sidney Powell, who as a lawyer for his campaign team unleashed conspiracy theories about a Venezuelan plot to rig voting machines in the United States, to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud, according to two people briefed on the discussion.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump will move ahead with such a plan.

Most of his advisers opposed the idea, two of the people briefed on the discussion said, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. In recent days Mr. Giuliani has sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election.

Mr. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place.

We are going to have to white-knuckle it through every goddamn day until January 20, aren’t we?

Ah, well. This is the last weekend before the holidays, and I have the happy/nervous task of prepping for a somewhat spur-of-the-moment getaway early in January. The Friday after Alan retires, we’re heading to Key West for a few days. I figured it was one place we could go that was capable of supporting outdoor dining and recreation as we tick down the days until we can get vaccinated. The flights will be the riskiest, but we’re planning to be tested ahead of time, double-masking through the flight itself and then driving from Miami down the island chain. We’re renting a condo and traveling with friends who both had the bug earlier in the year and have antibodies. Delta seems to have a sound Covid policy and friends who’ve flown them say they’re enforcing it.

So, fingers crossed. It may be irresponsible, but not as much as Marco Rubio.

Alan’s Christmas present: A day of guided fly-fishing on the tidal flats. I think he’ll like it. And if Trump declares martial law, Key West seems as good a place as any to ride it out. The last time I was there was…1980, lordy. Just after Mariel, just before AIDS. What a week that was, staying in my friend Jeff’s hovel of an apartment, no air conditioning, in an unbelievably hot and humid September. He had one fan, which we never, ever turned off for fear it wouldn’t start back up again. Periodically it would slow down, and we’d watch, horrified, as it slowed, slooowwed, sloooowwwed, until you could see the blades moving, then miraculously speed back up. We slept late and I knocked around the island while Jeff worked as a waiter at the Casa Marina. He’d get home and we’d chill before starting the night’s activities — first this one bar, then this other bar, finally ending at the Monster, the famous gay disco whose other location was on Fire Island.

I recall a cast of beautiful gay men, enjoying the last time it was safe to be so. One night, on the second Myers gimlet of the night at the first bar, we sat looking lazily out the front window onto Duval Street. A slender blonde man walking past stopped to light a cigarette and rested a hand on one of the rattletrap bicycles leaning against the porch overhang. “Get your hands off my Cadillac, you bleached whore,” one of our party drawled in this perfect Tennessee Williams delivery and I just cracked up. Many drinks later, at the Monster, he told me that if he were straight, he would certainly make a play for me. You don’t get a compliment like that every day.

Our last night, we stayed up all night partying. My early-morning flight had a mechanical problem and I missed the connection to Columbus, but Eastern booked me first class on a later one, the first and only time I’ve flown in the front of the plane. It was…glorious.

So that was the weekend. How was yours?

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments
 

The new breed.

Twenty years living in northeast Indiana will do things to a person’s head. One of the things it did to mine was make it very comfortable with Republicans. After all, they were everywhere – if you couldn’t make your peace with them, you’d be damn uncomfortable. Like being terrified of squirrels.

And in that time, I thought I’d met the full spectrum. They ran the gamut. At one end were the moderate country-club types who ran the city and weren’t overtly racist. Next down were the county office holders and residents. When the city tried to annex the urbanized parts of their territory, they objected strenuously; it wasn’t just the taxes (which went without saying), but the crime, oh my the crime. “We don’t want to be part of the city with all that criiiiimmme,” was the lament. As though simply stretching the boundary around their subdivision would invite crime. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t.)

Then there were the hard-core rural types, who got twisty knickers over the very idea that some day, the city might sprawl out to them, that they might have to accommodate another human being’s expectations in any way. Some of them were crazy – tax protesters, third-party voters, regular callers to talk radio with fanciful theories about the Federal Reserve, which is to say, they were anti-Semites who’d probably never had a conversation with a Jew in their lives.

One of these guys hailed me outside a polling place on Election Day. “Ma’am, may I interest you in some literature from Bo Gritz?” “I thought it was pronounced ‘grits,'” I replied. “Oh no,” he said. “It rhymes with ‘rights.'” Ha ha! No thanks.

Anyway, even these guys were mostly harmless. There was that messy business in Oklahoma City at the federal building, but at least it shut them up for a time. Hard to adopt a pose of moral superiority when your fellow travelers have bombed a daycare center.

But this new type disturbs even Rod Dreher, and I’m not sure what to think of them. I’m reasonably confident they’re just flinging chum at the dumbest – but still writing checks! – members of the base. However, I honestly don’t know what to do with this steaming pile of rancid fish guts:

Does this alarm you, or nah? Is this only grifters fighting over a drying lake full of about-to-be-beached fish, or what? What will be the upshot of it? Paul Mitchell, lame-duck Michigan congressman, was elected four years ago, and was pure Tea Party then, probably still is. He declined to run for a third term, and this week formally resigned from the caucus. It’s a toothless move. If he’s trying to send a message, and he is, nobody is listening.

But if the GOP can’t accommodate a hard-core tea partier anymore? How long do we have to pretend these people are fit to invite into your home? I wouldn’t touch Flynn with 10 feet of Sarah Palin. And yet? Here we are.

I was sleeping better, briefly. But I’m not anymore. I still expect a rather large act of violence before Jan. 20, as this tantrum goes on, and on, and on.

OK, then. Midweek, time to watch some TV. Maybe watch a sitcom, because to judge from ol’ General Flynn, soon it will be all show trials and executions. Happy hump day.

Posted at 7:43 pm in Current events | 139 Comments
 

V-Day.

It’s Vax Day in Michigan.

The first of the Pfizer vaccines rolled out of the company’s facility in Kalamazoo early this morning, and you know what happened? People — not just reporters, but regular folks — lined up outside to applaud. At 5 a.m. All day on Twitter I could see videos of the trucks making this turn, making that turn. Pulling into the Lansing airport now! Plane is taking off! Here is the plane flying Covid salvation, climbing into the sky!

And how does every one of these tweets end? #PureMichigan, that’s how.

Well, that’s OK, I guess. It’s better to be proud of your state than embarrassed, and we’ve certainly shown our ass to the world plenty in recent days.

And who will be among the first to be vaccinated? The people who denied the virus, refused to wear masks, and then, when they got sick, got line-jumping, top-of-the-line health care, that’s who. These motherfuckers.

Still, let’s not be too impatient. The vaccine is coming. I saw it rolling out of Kalamazoo just this morning.

This was the weekend to…try to relax a bit. The SCOTUS denial came in on Friday night and that was a big load off the ol’ shoulders, but of course the clamoring will go on and on and on for some time. Weeks, months, maybe years? Or maybe it will just peter out. The state’s electors meet tomorrow, of course, and all of them will travel to the Capitol under police escort.

But instead, I took down some beloved books from some long-neglected shelves and just dipped in and out. Jim Harrison’s novellas, some Sinclair Lewis, a little Elmore Leonard. We watched “Let Them All Talk,” the slight new Steven Soderbergh movie on HBO Max. Rewatched “Inglourious Basterds” Friday night because it was Hanukkah, after all. And just tried to unplug.

It’s clear unplugging will be a process that will not happen overnight. These whiny-ass titty babies are going to keep disturbing the peace for a while. But we’re all owed a tune-out from time to time.

Couple fun things to read? Sure: Sidney Powell’s “military intelligence expert”…isn’t. None of that should be surprising.

Good lord, some of these whiners. Tim Alberta’s final “letter to Washington” in Politico.

Hello, Monday.

Posted at 7:08 pm in Current events | 69 Comments
 

Tapping out.

If anything, today was worse, in terms of news. After the horrifying charade of multiple states signing on to this ridiculous Texas lawsuit, today we had Michigan legislators seeking to invalidate their own state’s vote because they are terrible people Republicans.

I have to dip out of this madness and into something, anything that is sweet, frivolous and/or makes me believe people are good. So I suggest you start with Hank’s review of the new Bee Gees documentary. Anyone who remembers the Bee Gees from that mining-disaster single through disco era will enjoy it, he promises. OK, I’ll be there, too. Glad this detail made it in:

It is here that “The Bee Gees” makes an enlightening argument for the kind of musicianship that happens at the studio control board. It’s not so much about manipulation as it is a startling degree of precision and perfectionism. “Jive Talkin’,” a revelatory new Bee Gees hit in 1975, was divined from the rhythm produced by car tires speeding across a Miami bridge.

I have a friend who tells Uber drivers this when he visits Miami.

Also, here’s a sweet remembrance of a recently departed mother by the Freep’s long-departed religion writer. (He took the buyout years ago.) I was particularly impressed by the mother’s experience with depression, at a time when depression wasn’t nearly as well-understood as it is now, and her lifelong management of it. I read it in bed this morning. It’s worth your time.

Hello, weekend. Hope yours is good.

Posted at 8:42 pm in Uncategorized | 89 Comments
 

Friends of the court, my ass.

God, what a day. Just swamped with work and then, at the end, this motherfucking amicus brief with 17 more states saying, Hey, Michigan, we don’t like who you voted for so we’re just gonna throw it out. OK?

God, I am sick of this shit.

Part of my irritation is due to the reaction feature of iMessage. I was doing a phone interview today, trying to concentrate, and my phone kept ding-ding-dinging with people in a group text I’m in “loving” each other’s fucking messages. Just kill me now.

Not that I wish to display a bad move. But what happened today was one-third of the country trying to disenfranchise voters in four states because they didn’t like the results. Yeah, sure, a coup is cool, no problem.

Why are these people not hounded through the streets, as they should be? All these AGs think they’re clowning for the base and the norms and law will restrain them. How do they know Justice Serena Joy Waterford won’t have a conversation with God that morning and grant cert? They don’t know. We keep dancing close to the cliff’s edge, trusting we won’t fall over, or that it won’t crumble.

This stupid country, I swear.

Couple things worth your time today:

Covid in South Dakota, in the WashPost. Speaking of a stupid country, here’s a nurse dealing with a patient:

Then there were the patients who didn’t even believe the coronavirus was real. That week, a patient in his 40s came in for a physical — he was high-risk and asthmatic — and his gaiter pushed down when she walked into the exam room. He said he couldn’t breathe in it and didn’t believe the whole pandemic thing anyway. People were dying from pneumonia because they were being forced to wear masks, he told her.

“The next thing you’re going to be calling me to come in and take the vaccine, and I’m telling you right now I’m not going to get it,” he told her.

So die, dummy.

Melania’s book may be a coffee-table volume. Figures.

Let’s just get through this, then, eh?

Posted at 9:11 pm in Current events | 28 Comments
 

Crazy ladies.

A wee bit of excitement this weekend, which beb referred to in the comments: Deadline Detroit was the first to break the story of Mellissa C*aron*’s action-packed past. The story broke our servers (several times), too, and the in-house record for traffic – more than 500K uniques. And the gossip from others in the community suggests there is far more out there, but for now I think that’s enough from her.

This transition is seeming like one of those dreams where you’re trying to run, but your feet won’t move. And now Rudy’s got the Bug. Still sucking all the oxygen from the room, these people. It gets hard to breathe.

Maybe Rudy will find it hard to breathe, soon enough. When I think of all the saliva and various other agents spraying from his yap during his time in Michigan, I get…well, I’d get angry, but the GOP-dominated state legislature has had quite its share of cases, too, and they don’t seem to bothered. One who tested positive was asked why he wasn’t quarantined or wearing a mask. He replied that he had no symptoms, so he didn’t need to.

Ah, enough of this. I’m tired of complaining about it, and sick of being made to think about it all the time.

Remember Black Lassie from a few weeks back? Here he is, runnin’ the streets again:

My friend took that with a lens he borrowed from me — a 50mm 1.4 Nikon AI. I always thought it was terribly underrated, and one of my faves.

Also, I discovered Hulu has all seasons of the old “Prime Suspect” — remember that? Helen Mirren at her best? I watched the first season, which was really just two two-hour pieces. Parts of it seem dated now, but it does feature young Ralph Fiennes in a small part, so that was fun. And Tom Wilkinson as a needy househusband.

What else? I drove through Belle Isle in search of the Piet Oudolf Garden. Found it, although there’s not much to see now, obviously. It’s all planted, and spring should be interesting there. I did watch the Polsteam ship Isadora pass down the river:

It’s headed for Montreal. Of course I waited until the stern passed, so I could check out the lifeboat:

If you’ve seen “Captain Phillips,” you know it’s the orange mini-submarine-looking thing pointing down at that ominous angle. I expect by the time it’s released, it would be much closer to the waterline. Amazing to think that the entire crew of that big ol’ ship can fit in there.

OK, then. Time to start the week? It is. Hope yours goes well.

Posted at 7:48 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 77 Comments
 

Which act are we in, anyway?

I see you were chuckling over the Wednesday-night spectacle in Lansing, i.e. day two of the shameful House and Senate Oversight Committees, in which a parade of unsworn, hearsay-spouting paranoiacs tried to persuade the Michigan legislature to throw out the duly conducted and certified election and give the state’s electors to THE REAL WINNER DONALD TRUMP.

The first day was weird enough. The second featured Rudy Giuliani.

My duty at Deadline includes early-morning aggregation shift on Thursdays, i.e. the day we go through stories others have reported, summarize and link them from our own page. Faced with the mess of Wednesday night, I did my best and came up with this. Mellissa C*ron* was the hit of the evening, of course; the internet christened her a “whistledrinker,” but I think she wasn’t drunk on spirits, only on overnight-sensation fameball kind. She was on Lou Dobbs! She was on a million weird internet-based “news channels!” She trended on Twitter! She went viral!

And, I later learned, she too lives in Grosse Pointe Woods. Can’t wait to run into her at Kroger.

Here she is giving some sort of video testimony to some sort of NGO-type group, and honestly, I don’t think she knows what the word “discarded” means. Look deeply into those eyes. It’s kind of scary.

On the other hand, this City of Detroit response to Sidney Powell’s lawsuit is a thing of beauty, the Hammer of Truth ringing on the Anvil of Righteousness:

This is the lawsuit that one-time Trump legal team member Sidney Powell has been promising would be “biblical.” Perhaps, plaintiffs should have consulted with Proverbs 14:5, which teaches that “a faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.”

Few lawsuits breathe more lies than this one. The allegations are little more than fevered rantings of conspiracy theorists built on the work of other conspiracy theorists. Plaintiffs rely on affidavits of so-called “experts”—really confidence men who spread lie after lie under cover of academic credential—which misstate obviously false statistics. These “experts” use academic jargon as if that could transmute their claims from conspiracy theory to legal theory. The key “factual” allegations from the supposed fact witnesses, some of whom attempt to cloak their identities while attacking democracy, have been debunked.

If you’re deep-diving some of the claims made by Team Rudy in this case, you can lap up their point-by-point rebuttals there. It’s very readable.

And so we limp to the end of the week. I’m going to conclude this part of it with some TV. Reading? OK, a little – Monica Hesse on Melania’s last Christmas at the White House, as usual, good stuff:

The fans who love Melania’s Christmas decor — and they are legion, and they are loud — will insist they love it because it’s “elegant”; that Melania has returned “elegance” to the White House.

And maybe this is the disconnect: There are those who feel the White House should be a place of inclusion, a place where you hang up the weird calamari ornament just because Rhode Island made it, and Rhode Island is a part of the country, too. And there are those who feel the White House should be a symbolic showplace, whose inhabitants’ lives are untouched and unbothered by whatever is going on outside of its walls. Melania is not there to welcome you, she is there for you to admire her. When she delivers words, they will be stilted but she will look fantastic doing it.

But there were darker undercurrents to the Melania Christmas debate, too: the defenders of Melania have always insisted on comparing her to her predecessor, Michelle Obama, and it became hard to believe that “elegant” was a code word for anything other than “White.” Melania is “elegant” because she represented a very specific kind of White femininity: silent, lovely, delicately fingering the ornaments that her staff had assembled.

Enjoy your weekend.

Posted at 8:20 pm in Current events | 50 Comments
 

Big day.

I was thinking in the shower today. Don’t we all do our best thinking there? I wish showers could go on for two hours, some days. Anyway, I was thinking mostly about fear.

I live in a suburb, and sometimes I get a chance to write about it, as I did today. The story is about a local lawyer, who is black, and was told his BLM sign was in violation of the local ordinance governing yard signs, and that he’d have to take it down.

One tangent I didn’t include was this: The complaint was signed by a cop, which is standard practice when a neighbor complains and doesn’t want to be known as the complainant. The lawyer said that if one of his neighbors had a problem with the sign and came to him to talk about it, he’d probably have taken it down. But calling cops is chickenshit, and so it was that I thought in the shower about fear.

Fear is the dominant emotion of parenthood, especially when your kids are young. The hospital hands you this tiny, larval little human being, and if you have an ounce of self-awareness at all, you are flooded with terror. For days, you an barely leave them alone in a room without fearing they’ll burst into flames or something. But newborns are easy compared to toddlers, lurching around the house and threatening to smash into coffee-table edges or fall down the stairs or drown in their baby pools the second you turn your head for even a second.

A friend once said that children never grow out of one set of dangers without growing into another. Truer words, etc.

But eventually, you learn to relax a little and if you’re lucky you even get to the point where you understand that what will happen will happen whether you’re there or not, and you can even trust that you’ve done the best you could, so que sera sera.

The fear, however, can become comfortable, like a pair of sweat pants. But comfort =/= a good look, and you can end up wearing them every day because it’s familiar, and change is scary. And so, instead of just asking the perfectly nice man across the street whether he needs to have a huge Black Lives Matter sign and maybe a smaller one, or two smaller ones would be sufficient? You call the goddamn police.

Suburbs are full of people like this. So are cities, for that matter. Maybe that’s why we keep buying guns. In fact, I’m sure that’s why.

Oh, well. Other things of note happened in Michigan today. A truly bonkers committee hearing in Lansing, that wasn’t held for any reason other than to allow a lot of venting about the election. Here’s one straight news account; and here’s a more entertaining Twitter thread. God, these people. Stop indulging them.

One final note, which we’ve known for a while but here we go: Alan is retiring in a month. The buyout offer came as expected, and at 64, he’s decided he’s had enough. I’m in full agreement. Anyway, our financial guy says we have enough money to do this, and so he’s pulling the ripcord. Me, I’ll keep working, but only part time, and at some point I guess I’ll be out of the plane, too. I expect it to feel great.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Current events | 72 Comments
 

Leftovers.

That was a nice break. I needed it, even if it feels like I spent all of it in the kitchen. My back hurts, and I told Alan I need me some carryout for a couple nights this week, or I might just collapse.

Thanksgiving was fine, but I promised two desserts and two sides, which meant: All day in the fucking kitchen. I did sweet potato for the pie and an apple tart, then a green bean thing and a cauliflower thing, and I swear, I only got into the shower in late afternoon. No matter, though — the hostess worked harder and dinner was delicious. My tart would be terrible, I thought; everything went wrong, and it was just so much work for something so slight, and yet, it was a big success, and delicious. Next try I’m doing an ombré variation.

All the cooking left me plenty of time to read the news today, oh boy. This WashPost piece got a lot of attention, deservedly so. I was taken by the full-length photo of Sidney Powell at the notorious RNC presser last week, in which she is wearing what appears to be a leopard-print cardigan with snakeskin boots. It reminded me of an editor I once had, who wore business clothes with strange embellishments — heels encased in gold cages, stuff like that. She said she’d picked it up in Texas, where no one dresses quote-unquote normally. Powell is from Dallas, so it tracks, but it reminded me of…was it Coco Chanel’s advice? Or your mother’s? The bit about getting dressed for the day, putting on all the jewelry you think you need, then taking off one piece.

New rule: You may wear one animal print. Not two. It makes you look crazy, and that you packed very badly.

Anyway, I’m glad my birthday is over and Thanksgiving is over, and the rest of it is just a glide into the holidays. Most of my shopping is done, and all I have to do is wrap and bake, and precious little of that. Man, I am sugared out for a few days. I’ve been thinking of trying soufflé vendome, i.e., a soufflé that’s hiding six poached eggs inside. Maybe in the spring, for Easter? I will think about it.

(Alan: “I don’t like poached eggs.” Me: “You’ll eat it anyway.”)

Every year I consider a buche de Noel. Every year, I think I’d rather stab out my eyes than carve marzipan mushrooms.

Although that’s why the gods gave us the Great British Baking Show, so I’ll watch that. Soon it will be December, the last 1/12th of 2020.

Posted at 8:48 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments