Phoning it in.

Sorry for the spotty posting, guys. I’ve been busy, and will continue to be until the end of the month. Today, in fact, I’m working. But it being Sunday, I may do some of it in my underwear.

Alan’s working too – leadership change at Fiat Chrysler, so it’s all good. Fortunately, it’s raining and muggy as hell, so we’re not missing much. And I’m suffering from wicked allergy symptoms at the moment. Alan and Kate are 365-day antihistamine takers, but I’ve only been bothered in recent years, and only intermittently. Yesterday I sneezed more or less continually for about 15 minutes. Love when that happens, eh? By the end they’re what I call “snoughs,” pronounced “snoff,” because everything that can be sneezed out has been, and it’s more like a cough with a convulsive nose element.

So, today I’m back on Zyrt*c and Fl*nase, which I asterisk so as not to attract the ‘bots that have been sending me increasingly sophisticated email spam: “Hi, it’s Jenny. I see you’ve been writing about (some stupid fucking product),” accompanied by a link to this blog that may be 10 or 12 years old. “Can we partner on some branded content?” All of which is merely a nuisance; how long does it take to click the Spam button on your email? But then come the followups — “Hey, it’s Jenny again. I know we’re all crazy busy these days, but I wanted to circle back and make sure you’d seen my offer,” etc.

Go away, Jenny.

I did make a little time this weekend to go to the movies. Saw “Sorry to Bother You,” which was absolutely bonkers and entirely enjoyable, a social-satire mashup of art, culture, organized labor, wealth and then, whoa, sci-fi. It reminded me of what Spike Lee might have made if he were, you know, funnier.

But that’s been pretty much it. Work, sleep, movie, a little sushi.

I have a couple links saved, but at three days old now, they seem positively outdated. But here goes:

This should lead to some interesting speculation, if it doesn’t get lost in the garbage pile: Trump properties have been paying their property taxes late. What does it mean?

The missed deadlines puzzled real estate experts, who said that for a long-established property company such as the Trump Organization, paying property taxes should be a routine task. The bills arrive for predictable sums of money, at predictable times, with predictable penalties for paying late.

Many companies use computer programs to track upcoming bills and flag them long before they become overdue.

“If you’re a professional organization, you’re typically not late on property-tax bills,” said Matthew L. Cypher, a former real estate executive who runs a real estate center at Georgetown University’s business school. He said the Trump Organization did not seem to have saved itself any significant amount of money by delaying the payments; in fact, it did the opposite.

This is a pattern change, too. These businesses have previously paid on time.

You all know my fondness for Neil Steinberg’s blog. This past week he’s been traveling, and pre-loaded a series of posts he called Traitor Week, a daily look at some famous turncoat in history. He winds up today with guess-who. My Yes moment:

Honestly, I’m not that interested in what Trump actually did. What is more important, to me, is how indifferent his supporters are to the possibility of Trump treachery. They just don’t care. Nothing is going to make them care. This is worse than any meeting with Russians. Their my-side-versus-your-side, dodgeball mentality is a staggering revelation.

…Maybe the horror of the Trump years is not that America became some awful place under his watch, but that a certain segment looked around and realized what we are. The illusion vanishes, the beautiful skin withers, and we see the grinning skull that has been here the whole time.

I actually read a social-media post by a local lunatic saying this very thing: So what if Russia helped? Big deal.

Finally, because we have librarians and library-lovers in this community, behold the stupidest thing ever written: Amazon should replace local libraries to save taxpayers money The author made the mistake of posting a link on Twitter and is currently being ratio’d to beat the band. Pretty sure Forbes.com is one of those brands with a website that shames its print counterpart. This certainly does.

OK, I’m out. Gotta shower, grocery shop and then do an interview. Have a good Sunday and I’ll see you back here…eventually.

Posted at 11:09 am in Current events, Movies | 71 Comments
 

Literate men.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might be familiar with my cover photo, which I never tire of examining — Pete D’Souza’s over-the-shoulder shot of President Obama and his then-speechwriter, Jon Favreau, working on his health-care speech, delivered to Congress in 2009. You can see it here.

I love it because it shows just what sort of writer Obama is — careful, meticulous, not afraid to draft and redraft. Favreau may have done the first one, but he wasn’t going to get away without making sure every word was right, “this has always been our history” revised to “this has always been the history of our progress.” I know Favreau and Obama had a close relationship, the old two-halves-of-one-brain thing, but writing is personal and the president put his personal stamp on his. (This is another reason I guffaw at the idea Obama had a ghost for his two books. Get outta here with that crap.)

Anyway, here’s today’s commander-in-chief and his editing style:

Nice cufflinks, too. I bet they cost a lot, and are of very high quality. The best quality. The best. An incredible pair of cufflinks.

And yes, “collusion” is misspelled. Thanks to MMJeff for finding that one.

I needed a laugh today, after yesterday. I have tried to keep up with all the outrage takes, but I’ve run out of steam. Shock supply: E. It’s all about swatting these distractions away and marching relentlessly toward the next election. Also, I am closing in on the end of “The Americans,” which arrived on Amazon Prime’s video stream in June. I banged through the five available seasons like a junkie, and bought the final one on iTunes. I know how it’s going to end, basically; spoilers are held at bay for maybe 18 hours after a prestige-TV event, and then everybody talks about it. No biggie — I’m still enjoying every hour.

I’m also pleasantly surprised at how much Russian is spoken therein; none of this just-have-them-do-a-Boris-and-Natasha-accent business. Long scenes with subtitles are a lot to ask of an American TV audience. It’s weird how, even though I haven’t studied it in a while, immersion cracks a door open in my brain, and more comes back to me. The characters address one another formally, as Russians in a professional setting would do — first name and patronymic. No courtesy titles in Russian. Schoolchildren address their teachers as Natalia Ivanovna or Sergei Ivanovich. But when two of the characters are rolling around in bed, it’s the diminutives and informal address.

Fun fact: Russians can make diminutives — nicknames, pet names — from almost any word, and especially names, just like us. Mikhail is Misha, Pavel’s friend call him Pasha, you get the idea. Most names have multiple diminutives, just as our Michael might be Mike, Mikey, Mickey, etc. The -ka ending in a diminutive carries an implication of naughtiness, the way your mother called you by first, middle and last name when she was mad at you. When Mikhail is in trouble, his mom might call him Mishka. When Pasha, a troubled teen on “The Americans,” comes home with a black eye, brushes off his mom’s alarm and stomps up to his room, his mother yells up the stairs at him, “Pashenka!” Authentic.

And now you know how the Russian word for water, voda, became vodka.

So, bloggage:

Looks like ol’ Coach Jim Jordan may find himself giving discovery depositions one of these days.

I’m following the discussion in the previous post’s comments, about billionaires setting public policy, in this case Bill Gates and his ideas about education. A few days ago, short-attention-span billionaire Elon Musk took a break from saving the world to tweet that he would slice off another bit of his limited time on earth to do something about the water in Flint. I don’t even have the energy to can’t-even over that one.

So now let’s turn to my next TV commitment, “Fauda” on Netflix, and hold “The Americans” at bay for another day.

Wednesday ahead. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:20 pm in Current events, Television | 63 Comments
 

Cold case cracked.

Many years ago, 30 to be exact, back in the era when children didn’t have their pictures taken every hour, with video every day, an 8-year-old girl in Fort Wayne was abducted, raped and murdered. Her name was April Tinsley. This weekend, police made an arrest. The suspect still lives in the area.

The picture at that link is burned into my brain. It is the only photo anyone had of her, and because the crime was so heinous and went unsolved for so long, it ran dozens of times, in both papers, on all the TV stations. I never heard what happened to her family. They were poor. The neighborhood wasn’t the best. But she was loved, and this was a horrible thing. This part interests me:

In a probable cause affidavit provided by the prosecutor’s office, city police said they obtained a DNA profile from an unknown male from April’s underwear.

In 2004, the affidavit said, police were dispatched to a Fort Wayne address and two Grabill addresses and recovered one used condom from each scene. Notes at each scene were found stating the person who left the condoms had raped and killed April M. Tinsley. A DNA profile was developed from the condoms, which was determined to be consistent with the profile developed from Tinsley’s underwear.

In May of this year, the affidavit said, a police detective arranged for genetic DNA testing and analysis to be done on the suspect’s evidence sample. On July 2, using open public genealogy database research, the contract laboratory narrowed the DNA recovered in the case to two surviving brothers.

On July 6, the affidavit said, a covert trash search was conducted at Miller’s residence in an attempt to locate any items that might contain his DNA. Several items were collected, it said, including three used condoms. The affidavit said the DNA was consistent with the 2004 profile and the DNA from April’s underwear.

Another case solved by DNA and 23andme, or Ancestry, or one of those. But it’s the 2004 anecdote that interests me. Who wrote those notes? An angry lover, or the culprit himself? And all those condoms — what’s that about?

His name is John Miller, and he lives in Grabill, an Amish town. I wonder if he’s an ex-. He’s also 59, which would make him roughly 29 at the time of the crime. Imagine growing to the cusp of old age, carrying that around. When the police showed up at his trailer and said they wanted to talk to him, they asked if he knew why. He replied, “April Tinsley.”

What a world.

Some other things that happened in it over the weekend:

A jaguar escaped its enclosure at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans and killed eight animals. #badass

This column, by the widow of John McNamara, one of the journalists killed in Annapolis last month, will gut you if you have a soul.

Finally, another argument to abolish the electoral college: In about 20 years, half the U.S. population will live in eight states. Demography is fascinating.

Gotta run. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 6:47 pm in Current events | 37 Comments
 

Overnight sensations.

Late update today — sorry. Been a rather busy week, but as often happens when we gallop through Monday and Tuesday, things are improving.

I have a story in Deadline Detroit today; it turns out the filmmakers who made that video for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are not only Detroiters, but I already know one of them. She used to work for the advocacy firm where Bridge had its Lansing office for a spell, so I mainly recall her as one of the young people who worked in the bullpen, who I sometimes chatted with on my way to the coffeepot or giant vat of peanut butter-stuffed pretzel nuggets. (That is a disgusting-sounding snack, I know, but I tried one and soon was filling a bowl with them to furtively carry back upstairs. I’d never buy them, however, because I’d fear the disapproval of others in the checkout line.)

Anyway, Naomi’s reaction to the 2016 election was to start attending socialist-feminism discussion groups, which led in a more or less linear fashion to her quitting her job and starting a new media company for socialist candidates. And that led them to make the Ocasio-Cortez video, which is fantastic and partially credited for her success.

Predictably, the comments on the story are whack. I thought of contributing to the discussion, drafted a comment, then trashed it because why engage, and on the internet of all places. I’ll paste it here, just to get it out of my system:

Hi, everyone. As the writer of this piece, I think some of you are overlooking an important point: It’s easy to make fun of socialism. So many spectacular failures, yes. But you are also forgetting what led to it, and why it’s appealing to so many younger people. The Gilded Age and industrial revolution after the Civil War led to an era of great wealth for the few, while the working class toiled in backbreaking labor, for little money and with few to no protections, as a nervous middle class looked on and wrung their hands.

(Yes, an oversimplification. Bear with me.)

Many of these young people talking up Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others are graduating from college — if they went to college — with mortgage-size debt into a gig economy with a shrinking middle class, exploding wealth for the top tier, and a political class that simply *does not hear them.*

You look at her platform and say it’s crazy. Medicare for all? Every Western democracy has some form of universal health care that won’t impoverish those who need it. Free public college? Maybe not four years’ worth, but a two-year associates degree wrapped into a slightly longer term in high school — all paid for from the school aid fund — is called middle college, it’s happening in Michigan, and you should google it.

Judicial reform? When poor people sit in county jails for nonviolent offenses because they can’t afford $500 bail, that doesn’t seem crazy. Housing as a human right? Good news, kids! All the decent jobs are in those cool big cities you like so much. Bad news, kids! Rent is a zillion dollars a month, and even your decent-job salary won’t cover that. Also, those cool cities need bartenders, teachers, waiters and so on, so that Ivanka’s apartment can be kept clean and her children minded while mom’s at work. But for those people? Womp-womp.

My point: This doesn’t sound crazy to people who are dealing with these realities. And what is the reaction? Sneering at those who didn’t major in STEM fields, because if you studied art history you *deserve* to be poor, losers! (One of the most successful people I know, a C-suite vertical blur, majored in English lit. He says analyzing poetry and novels taught him problem-solving skills he employs every day.) Health insurance for those gig employees? You can’t have that, because Obamacare = tyranny. Help with housing? Get a couple roommates, or move to the ex-ex-exurbs and enjoy the 90-minute commute. Judicial reform? You should have thought of that before you rode your bike on the sidewalk, or talked back to a policeman (Blue lives matter!!!) or sold a couple joints to an undercover officer.

And so on. I’m not taking a stand here, and I realize that wading into any internet comment section is a waste of time. (I’m also not going to engage with any of you further, because see previous sentence.) I’m only making a plea for empathy, to try to step out of your own shoes and into someone else’s. You can learn a lot.

It wouldn’t have done any good, of course. Which is why I deleted it.

God, the last 48 hours have been a blur. Clemency for the Oregon rancher/arsonists. NATO. Kavanaugh. Where to start? I don’t think I will. Instead, let’s be stupid on this fine July afternoon. A screen cap from the Axios newsletter a couple days ago, because I don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription:

There’s a restaurant around the corner that does this with hot chocolate, inserting skewers laden with doughnuts, cookies, gigantic marshmallows and stuff like that, drizzled with chocolate syrup. I see a lot of kids in there who seem to be celebrating birthdays; maybe next they’ll balance an entire chocolate cake on top. But adults are supposed to know better. A $55 bloody mary! Surely we’re in the end times.

Some commenter-community news: Snarkworth has published a book – “Same River Twice,” available in the usual places. I haven’t read it, so I have no opinions about it other than Books Are Good, and Writing Books Is So Hard That They Should All Be Celebrated. (Unless we’re talking about Dick Cheney’s memoirs, or whatever.) Congratulations, Snarkworth. Now go write the next one.

Posted at 3:36 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Housekeeping | 77 Comments
 

Substitute grandma.

Hello from Sunday, the last day of what has been a perfect summer weekend — the heat blew out, the sun remained, and the humidity has been low and tolerable for three whole days now.

Tomorrow it will be 90 again. Sigh.

I hope you all had a good one. I spent Saturday seeing friends from Ohio, in town for a wedding. I babysat their grandson while they all danced the night away at the Detroit Athletic Club. Ezra is nine months old, and quite the little charmer, as you’d expect. He was really getting his crawl on, and as even a high-end hotel suite is not baby proof, it was a few hours of following him around, cupping my hand around the razor-sharp edges of tables, redirecting his urge to pull on electrical cords and improvising toys out of things like empty water bottles. (It’s a great toy — lightweight plastic can be intriguingly crushed by even an infant, and it makes a great crackling sound. If you feel inclined to lecture me about BPAs shedding or some such, keep it to yourself. He found it delightful.)

As it’s been a while since I went through this, I was amazed by all the changes in child-rearing customs and technology. Ezra is still pretty much entirely formula-fed, eating mushy vegetables only as “practice food,” his grandmother said. Rice cereal? Has been shown the door by contemporary mothers. Something about arsenic; I had no idea. But the real revelation was the Baby Brezza, aka the Keurig for infant formula. You dump the powder in the top, the water in a reservoir on the side, select a temperature and amount, stick the bottle under the spout and press a button. You get a warm bottle in seconds. Screw on the top, give it a shake and serve. Amazing.

But Ezra, being curious as all babies are, was happiest when I plopped him into his stroller and took him outside. We started at a community garden outside the hotel, but what really made him happy was to get into the thick of things down around Campus Martius, in the heart of downtown. And with a Tigers game and various summer activities in full swing, it really was the thick of things — it was like the old D-Day photos down there. The fountains! The music playing on restaurant patios! People everywhere! He was thrilled. So we walked, and walked, and walked, and today my feet are sore. But he was a happy little guy.

Of course, even New Detroit has a certain amount of the Old in it:

I’ll tell you one thing Saturday did — I checked out of the news for almost 18 whole hours. That made absorbing the NYT this morning a little more like times of old. I’m now following the Thai cave rescue, which is, if you can believe this, a pleasant break from paying attention to ol’ what’s-his-name. At least four out as I write this, with fingers crossed for all of them, soon. How nerve-wracking that must be for all involved. Every one of those Ezras has a mom who is worried to the edge of hysteria. All hopes for a good outcome to the last one.

Happy start of the week to all. Heat notwithstanding.

EDIT: OK, so given today’s topic, I have to include this jaw-dropper, about the U.S. upending a U.N. resolution encouraging breast-feeding. Is there anything this horrible bunch won’t do? Ahem:

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

Every day, a new nightmare. Sigh.

Posted at 11:36 am in Detroit life | 81 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
 

Blood.

Yes, of course I’m heartsick. What happened yesterday in Annapolis is simply appalling. I sometimes wonder how much the public knows about how exposed journalists are, and how common the sort of abuse Jarrod Ramos visited upon the Capital Gazette before his shooting spree really is.

It’s been years and years since I’ve worked for a newspaper, but in my experience, we saw guys like Ramos all the time. Most weren’t violent; in fact, none were. But that simmering layer of insanity? All the time.

When I worked the night shift in Columbus, a regular newsroom caller would rail about Queen Elizabeth to whoever would answer the phone. I don’t know who he was, or the names of the voices in his head, but he could go on and on. We were not encouraged to be cruel to callers, so most people just let him run on. One night, an editor picked up just as we were heading to dinner. He said, “OK, what do I need to know?” and put the receiver down on his desk. When we came back 45 minutes later, the guy was still talking.

A man who looked strangely like a brontosaurus (sorry, I know brontosauruses have a new name now, but I can’t think of it) — long, long neck and tiny head — started writing to me when I was a columnist, and dropped by the newsroom one day to chat, clearly with love on his mind. (He asked me to dinner.)

Another man apparently developed a crush on me after three phone calls and also dropped by the newsroom, clearly with love on his mind. (He brought flowers.)

Then there was the elderly man who came by to tell me about the good work done by his Kiwanis club, then started talking, with far more enthusiasm, about his fondness for at-home nudity, and his daily effort to make sure the early-arriving newspaper carrier got a good look at him through the bay window, on dark winter mornings. (“Did he have a boner?” Alan asked later.)

Yeah, all these people were harmless. A couple were pathetic. But none were 100 percent stable. One guy sent me his self-published book about police persecution, which he described as a nightly phenomenon. Another guy sent mash notes for a while, and when I failed to respond, switched to fuck-you-whore with an alacrity familiar to any woman who’s ever had a crazy boyfriend.

And here’s the thing: No one was really bugged by any of this. It’s part of what makes newsrooms more fun places to work than insurance agencies. Shitty pay, bad coffee and the nut of the morning. After a while, I would tell some callers, “Are you on medication? Have you taken your medication today? Why not? I think you need to take your medication and call me back in an hour.”

But as we all know now, the internet has taken harassment and one’s imaginary worlds into new, self-reinforcing places. It used to be hard to stalk someone; you used to have to do some legwork. Now it’s as easy as sending a friend request. The rhetoric around the business — you’ll hear more about enemies of the people and Milo in the next few days than you ever wanted to know — is reckless and criminal, and shouldn’t be tolerated.

We pause for a word from our sponsor:

Most of the newsrooms I’ve been in had some sort of security. None of it was very good security. I expect that will change now. And one more place a member of the public could saunter through without causing alarm will become locked-down, with visitor badges and sign-in sheets. We’ll all be lesser for it.

Two bits of bloggage today:

Here’s my first big piece for Deadline Detroit. It’s about a local radio station with an unusual promotion strategy. Speaking of harassment, read to the end.

I know a lot of you are friends of Bill and fans of country music. I liked this deep dive into country’s boozy subculture from the WashPost. The most interesting part was how much individual artists can make off liquor tie-ins, an important consideration for artists whose revenue streams are being stolen by the internet.

A very hot, very steamy weekend awaits. I hope to be sailing for the worst of it. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 9:12 am in Uncategorized | 37 Comments
 

Cloudy with a chance of anything.

A long day today. A very long day. Kind of a depressing day, given the news. Gileadian, if you catch my drift. I take consolation in one thing that I know: That you never know. You just don’t. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, it won’t be exactly the way you imagine it. Stuff happens. Wheels upon wheels turn, and then there’s our old friend Chaos who could yet throw a wrench into the whole works.

Who knew a 28-year-old socialist could defeat a cemented-in-place incumbent who outspent her almost 20-to-1? Nobody. Supreme Court justices get cancer and drop dead unexpectedly, just like your uncle. Presidents, too. No, I am not wishing for anyone’s death. I’m just saying, you don’t know.

The future could be better than you fear. It could be worse. So waste no time fretting over it. Do the work you need to do, do it well, and wait. All will be revealed.

(I think this is a line in the Tao Te Ching, in fact. I just looked it up. Close, but not quite. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful sentiment, so here you are:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you: This is no time to be zen. I get it. All I’m saying is, you can drive yourself crazy with this stuff, and you should save your strength.

Meanwhile, this is who will likely be Hope Hicks’ replacement.

What a day! Have we hit bottom yet?

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events | 51 Comments
 

Tired of this.

I have a friend that I see every few weeks or so. About five years older than I am, so…Medicare-eligible, but not old-old. Whenever I mourn the current state of affairs, he tells me not to get so fretful, that things were worse in the ’60s. He’s right. We forget, but he’s right.

Unrest in American cities — race riots (Detroit, Newark, D.C., Los Angeles, et al.) and police riots (Chicago). Families torn apart by Vietnam, one way or another, either the ones who sent their sons who never came back, or the ones where the sons refused to go, and lit out for Canada or refused induction outright. Families torn apart by even worse things, like hair or hemlines or birth-control pills. It was far worse than today, he always says.

I’m usually reassured by that. But I usually want to know how much further we’re going to slide before we come to our senses, either on our own or because some horrible, 9/11-type event slaps us silly. Today, it’s plain we have a ways to go.

I think it was Neil Steinberg who, in the days between the election and inauguration, compared that period to the clack-clack-clack feeling of the roller coaster climbing the first big hill, and we know the plunge is coming, but we don’t know what it’s going to be like, so we just have to hold on and ride it out. Today the Sun-Times published his column, with this subtle headline: Donald Trump is a racist leading our country toward disaster, so you get the idea how he thinks the ride is going.

Meanwhile, Politico is writing about the trials of being a young, single member of the administration, the Washington Post leads us into a right-wing group’s safe space for young Trump-supporting women, and Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant. Dim glimmer of amusement in Jennifer Rubin’s blog about that last incident:

Anti-immigrant zealot Stephen Miller, who pushed as hard as anyone for snatching kids from their parents, was dining in a different Mexican restaurant last Sunday when, according to the New York Post, a protester called out, “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”

Remember a couple years ago, when I wrote about the Float Down, this sort of fun, renegade floatie trip on the St. Clair River up near Port Huron? The wind picked up out of the west and blew all these drunk Americans in their inner tubes across to the Canadian side, and the Canadians rounded everyone up, warmed them up, and drove them back across the bridge to the American side? A French jogger went for a run along a Canadian beach in British Columbia and wound up on the U.S. side. She was arrested. Her mother hustled down to the immigration office with her passport, hoping to clear everything up.

She was held for two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

I’m so, so tired of this. I’m tired of current events. I want to pick up a fat novel set in someplace like Victorian England and just tune all this crap out until, oh, November, without feeling like I’m not doing my part.

I want to live in a world where the French lady would be told to turn around and head the few steps back into Canada and have a nice day. I remember that world.

Well, another weekend gone. It was a good one. The Claressa Shields fight was great, and I wrote a column about it for Deadline Detroit. I’ll add a link when it goes up.

Otherwise, let’s get to the week ahead.

Posted at 9:20 pm in Current events | 83 Comments