Remain in light.

This weekend was Dlectricity, a biennial festival of light installations and other twinkly art up and down Woodward Avenue and thereabouts. I took my camera, but my friend Dustin has a better one, and an enormously better eye, and captured this:

dlectricity

That’s Rodin’s Thinker, for those who aren’t familiar with the Woodward face of the Detroit Institute of Arts. It only looks like he’s wearing a baseball cap.

So, a little bloggage:

I once assigned a long article on a digital movie pirate to my students, and in passing, asked how many of them illegally watched/listened and traded copyright material like movies and music. Nearly every hand went up. I asked if any felt guilty about this. All hands went down. Which maybe is why Hana Beshara, the woman profiled in this NYT story Sunday about the fallen proprietress of an online copyright-theft site, is still so unrepentant about her crimes, even after a prison term. Me, I’m baffled. Pay the artist! But we’ve discussed this before.

I don’t know if anyone else is watching “The Knick” on Cinemax — it’s a channel we hardly pay attention to, but Steven Soderbergh always gets my attention — but I think the most recent episode, “Get the Rope,” is one of my absolute favorites of any show this year. The series is about a New York City hospital c. 1901, and it’s fascinating for a number of reasons, from the spurting blood to the opium dens. The most recent episode was about a race riot, and perhaps captured the nature of riots, at least as they happen on television, with a small cast and not a lot of budget for extras, as well as any. If you want to discuss, feel free.

Book work continues, slower than I’d like. But expect fresh threads every day or couple-of-days for a while.

Posted at 4:35 pm in Detroit life, Television | 60 Comments
 

A bad case of Pretty.

So I was at lunch the other day, standing in line, waiting to order and pay. Things seemed to be taking a long time, and as I got closer, I could see why: The cashier was a flirt, and sort of all-thumbs. The credit-card swiper gave her problems, but she smiled and cocked her head prettily and seemed very bent on every (male) customer getting a few moments of her intense focus. She was no raving beauty, but she was cute enough, had a nice figure, a tight T-shirt, and the ineffable glow of Youth.

It was my turn. The bill was $9.81. I gave her a $20 bill and a penny. She stood over the cash drawer, staring down at it like she could transform it with the power of her gaze. (After all, it worked on the men.)

“I’m sorry,” she finally said. “What do I owe you?”

“Ten-twenty,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said. “I really suck at math.”

“You’ve picked the right career, then,” I said.

I offer this anecdote mainly as a tiny glimpse of what it’s like for members of the non-pretty community to confront the realities of life, where a cute face, a snug T-shirt and an inability to make simple change qualifies you to be…pretty much anything, I bet. I guess I should be grateful she was only making change in an inexpensive restaurant and not running a nuclear reactor, but I bet there are a a few of her out there doing that, too.

A bit of bloggage:

Dexter and my other Wolverine fans, here’s John U. Bacon on the ongoing problems with the University of Michigan athletic program, and you might be interested. The football team’s problems have been well-covered, and this week a humiliating ticket-dump was revealed: Two tickets to the Minnesota game with the purchase of two bottles of Coke:

Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.

Michigan fans may be irrational about their love for the Wolverines, but they’re not stupid about their money. Their Saturday habit developed over a lifetime, but they can break it in a week.

I hear constantly from fans of other programs that their team is heading in the same direction. The question is, will other schools learn from Michigan’s mistakes in time to avoid Michigan’s troubles?

In case you’re wondering, yours truly was the unnamed colleague accused of lying in this bit of inside Bridge baseball. As you all know, I am a fearless teller of the truth. Yes, your ass looks fat in those pants.

Finally, not exactly an OID story (it happened in the Twin Cities just a couple years ago), but just one of the many reasons I love living here: Non-stop mayhem. Not that it’s good when infrastructure collapses and kills people, but life here is never boring, even for an adrenaline junkie. And OID would one of the first drivers on the scene be the Detroit Lions quarterback.

Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 9:09 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Outta here.

Not gonna lie: When I read this story, I could not help but think of our dear old Coozledad:

SILER CITY, N.C. — In Raleigh, conservative Republicans may be running North Carolina like they own it, but go almost anyplace in the state, even to this former textile town that looks like a movie-set re-creation of an older, more traditional South, and the political picture quickly blurs.

At Chatham Industrial Supply, a hardware store here, its owner, Richard Kernodle, grumbled recently about what he called the “liberal artists” who have moved to this city of 8,100 — opening galleries, throwing pottery and generally bringing the kind of lifestyle and politics one might expect 45 minutes away in the progressive college town of Chapel Hill.

Mr. Kernodle, 56, said that some of the newcomers wanted to paint murals on downtown buildings without securing the proper permits. They want gay rights taught in the schools. And he has heard a rumor that some of them tend their gardens in the nude.

The story was about how this red state is turning purple, and if anyone is a nude gardener, it’s you-know-who. Seriously, though, I guess this is what it’s come to — red states, blue states, and a lot of pissed-off people living in the purple areas. As well as nude gardeners.

This Gin & Tacos post about the recent poll showing a healthy support for individual states’ secession sort of touches on that. I don’t want my own to secede, but if it does? Expect the price of cherries to go way up, and don’t be thinking any more silly thoughts about coveting our water. We’ll be the Saudi Arabia of H2O.

Oh, and this story, about a student strike/walkout in Colorado, is incredible. There’s hope for us yet.

The week lurches on. Hope you’re enjoying yours, if you aren’t lucky enough to travel with MichaelG.

Posted at 10:25 am in Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Saturday morning market, two days late.

Coming home from the market Saturday, I finally found myself at an obvious Hantz Woodlands site, seen here:

hantzfarms

John Hantz is a local moneybags who has been trying to farm the urban prairies of Detroit for years, and kept getting swatted aside by various city agencies and other complainers. First he wanted to farm food, but that was deemed too attractive to rodents, and eventually he settled on hardwoods. He brokered a deal with the city to turn over 150 acres, non-contiguous, consisting of hundreds of lots scattered around the depopulated east side within a rough rectangular footprint. The usual “create jobs” argument was deployed, but I notice that when the planting happened, it was done with volunteers. Which is not to knock him; he really tried hard to do something on these lots, and the usual cries that this was a “land grab” ring hollow when you see what the land was doing before all this.

Anyway, that picture — that’s a Hantz woodlot. A zillion little trees, a cracked sidewalk and a scrapped-out, abandoned apartment building looming over all. I really hope the neighborhood is happy with getting these lots mowed, at least, because one determined vandal could take out the whole lot with a riding mower.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this project. I’m amazed at the things people in these nearby neighborhoods find to complain about. A separate, but similar project to fill a vacant parcel with an apple orchard met with unbelievable carping a few months back. Why? Because apples will draw rats, people said. Man.

So, a little bloggage:

The White House jumper was 42 and sounds like he had an undiagnosed case of schizophrenia and/or PTSD, if his fear that he did the deed because the president needed to be informed of a “collapsing atmosphere” is to be believed. Another win for the piss-poor mental-health safety net in the U.S. of A.

Starbucks Nation vs. Chik-fil-A Country? Screw you, Meet the Press.

Since y’all have been enjoying MichaelG’s Barcelona travelogue so much, you might enjoy the pix ‘n’ words of our own J.C.’s wife, Sammy, as the two of them enjoy a month in Italy. They’re in Rome now.

As for me, back into it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Flying up front.

I was reading MichaelG’s vivid account of his trip to Barcelona in the previous thread, feeling, as the kids on the internet say, all the feels – happiness, envy, nostalgia. It was the comment about flying first class that did it. I’ve done so exactly once, and it came via the way many people who don’t generally fly first class get on the other side of the curtain.

I was leaving Key West in September 1980. You Floridians know what September is like at that latitude. Miserable. It’s hurricane season, the islands drenched in the hot breath of the African coast, and even though there were no storms that week, I vividly remember thinking I have never been this hot before, and if I have anything to say about it, never will be again. I went down because I had vacation time and no plans, but two friends in the Keys. Gay men, of course. One, my dear old friend Jeff, is now dead and I expect the other one, his roommate Dennis, is too, but you never know.

Our last night, we stayed up all night, doing what you do in Key West, what we did all week: We started at one bar with all the other gay men and fag hags in town, then, as if on a signal, decamped for another bar, and then, as if on another signal, left for the place everybody closed down: The Monster. We danced and danced and danced and partied and partied and partied with the people who had become MY BEST FRIENDS EVER in the course of a week. They included one sweet young man, who’d come to the Keys from Wyoming, thinking he’d find an easier place to be gay there. He was hanging with some German guy, and there was a real cutie named Les, who worked as a bartender at the in-between bar and called me “baby.” Wyoming man paid me the ultimate compliment: “If I were straight, you’d be the woman for me.” How can you not love that? I did, but then, it was a very strange week in all ways. (I see now that he probably said that to all the girls.) Several nights in a row, walking home from the Monster, Jeff would see me to the door of their rented hovel and then peel off to have a nightcap in the baths, no doubt nurturing the virus that would kill him a few years later.

On this last night, we decided to stay up because my flight was at 8 a.m. and why not? What, you’re going to bed at 3 and then getting up three hours later?

I don’t even remember what we did, only that it was the hottest night ever, and Jeff dropped me at the airport around 7, with the sun rising on another steamy one, and I stumbled aboard the plane wearing sunglasses and the next thing I knew, the stewardesses were asking one another, “Do you smell jet fuel?”

Something was wrong with the plane. They had to send another one down from Miami, and I missed my connection back to Ohio, and in the rebooking, I heard those magical words: “We can get you there, but you’ll have to fly first class.” Have to! Really? I guess I can manage.

I don’t think I took off my sunglasses the whole time. Staying up all night does odd things to your perception, especially when you’ve been drinking for hours and hours. I wasn’t drunk, though — I’d gotten to that place where I seemed to be burning the alcohol at the same rate I was consuming it, the highly sought-after state of equilibrium.

The stewardess kept bringing me bloody Marys, anyway. Bloody Marys and food that was sort of edible and real silverware, not plastic. Plus pillows and blankets and a nice seat mate who could talk about this and that. It was all sort of “Miami Vice” years before the show appeared, and when they announced our descent into Columbus, I was sort of sad. I could have stayed on that flight forever.

Have a great trip, MichaelG. That ham you spoke of? I had a tiny scrap of it in Ann Arbor, at a snooty wine store that kept a couple in the back room. Don’t think of the per-kilo price, because all you eat is a little at a time. Just enjoy it.

So.

Today on the bus, I overheard two guys talking about bike routes from the Pointes to downtown, and I butted in and made some suggestions. They seemed surprised that this old bag was the one whose bike was on the rack on the front of the bus, and maybe this is why: There’s a gender gap in cycling. Well, damn, there shouldn’t be. Especially during a week like this.

I guess by the time you read this, the Scottish independence vote will be in full swing. I don’t know a lot about it, but my gut is with the No faction — the better-together people. Someone, make the case for independence, because I don’t see it being good for anyone now.

The blogger at Gin & Tacos lives in Peoria, and his local paper sounds a lot like the one I used to work for. The one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge now.

Enjoy the rest of the week, all.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 93 Comments
 

Whew.

Ugh, but I am burning the candle at both ends, and will be for a while. Fortunately, this doesn’t involve shoveling coal or anything, but still. I finally got a chance to watch part of “The Roosevelts” — which I’m missing at least partly by choice, because I’m still committed to my premium-cable Sunday nights, along with Dexter — and what do you know, it’s pretty good. A lordly American family who felt an obligation to help their country along, and not just loot it for the profit of their friends? What a revelation.

A little bloggage:

More Cris Carters, fewer Charles Barkleys. What a tool that guy is. (Barkley.)

Big Lebowski fans will want to read this. Thanks, MMJeff. A friend of mine got a magnetic-word selection from the film’s dialogue. She took out most of the swears, because the house has children who don’t need to see that. When I go over, I try to make “My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina.” Haven’t been able to, yet.

Are we really putting boots back on the ground in goddamn Iraq? Really?

Talk soon.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

Two days away.

Another September weekend in the bag. I’m growing to enjoy these things, these “weekends.” This was Friday night: A couple of brew-pops at a local dive bar marked for destruction. It’s in the way of the hockey arena, but until then, it remains your proverbial not-particularly-clean-or-well-lighted-place, and delightful. Graffiti in the outdoor smoking lounge:

comet

For the record, Dan Gilbert is not the Detroit-transformin’ tycoon responsible for the Comet’s death sentence, but Mike Ilitch. Disclaimer: I don’t believe he touches boys, except in the usual sense of the phrase, like how you might pat a dude on the shoulder. But people get upset when good dive bars go down.

Saturday was a local music festival in Windsor. I can never shake the weird feeling I have when I’m in Canada — everything is the same, but not. Windsor is closer to my own house than Bloomfield Hills is, but it’s just so not-U.S., especially in the sense that you don’t have to drive many miles to get some fine Asian food. We had pho at a Vietnamese place, with that wonderful pho broth that arrives at the table exhaling the scent of a place you’ve never been, but really want to visit one of these days. The music was…well, it was Canadian. Everyone sounded CBC-ready, but not a lot of stank on anything.

And now it is Sunday, the cool weather continues, and I just concluded a 45-minute twilight bike cruise. This is another thing I’m enjoying, this after-dark and pre-dawn cycling. The night time is the right time.

Some bloggage:

If I remember my catechism correctly, the actual corpse of a potential saint is considered key to their beatification process because of incorruptibility, or something. It all sounds terribly macabre, which is how this story about the delayed beatification of the late Bishop Fulton Sheen sounds so damn medieval:

By canon law, the body should be exhumed and authenticated before beatification, and relics — bone fragments and other physical remains — taken for the purpose of veneration.

An interesting look at a variety of Catholicism most Catholics wouldn’t even recognize.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 37 Comments
 

Drenched.

So, two fronts collided somewhere over Michigan Wednesday, a low from the southwest and a high from the northwest, and the result was about what you’d expect this time of year — lots of crap falling from the sky. We also had crazy wind, and me? I had sandals on. It was a warm day, after all. I hope they’re not ruined by the water sluicing through them on the way to the bus stop. The puddles were unavoidable.

Well, that’s city life. It’s not like I didn’t have warning; some schools were dismissed early, after the apocalyptic forecasts spooked everyone. They weren’t new sandals or anything.

And that is today’s excitement.

Time for some Small Faces, I think:

This will be old news by the time you read it, but when you think about it, it was old news all along: Yep, the NFL brass had the whole Ray Rice video all along. What a bunch of lying liar sleazebags.

This is also old news, but it’s big news, and it’s mostly Detroit news. However, we have to acknowledge it, because it’s news: The city’s way out of bankruptcy became a lot clearer when the most recalcitrant of its creditors appears to have reached a settlement that doesn’t involve taking paintings from the wall at the art museum. And I link mainly for this priceless quote:

Outside court, Syncora lawyer Stephen Hackney reflected on a 14-month journey during which he fought to liquidate the city’s art collection, tried to block repairs to miles of broken streetlights and leveled a “blistering” personal attack on federal mediators that drew a rebuke from the judge.

“It is interesting and ironic that we are both part of Detroit’s future,” Hackney said. “It feels better to be loving rather than fighting.”

Lawyers. You gotta love ‘em.

Thanks so much for being so patient and good about keeping the chatter going through this month of Scant. I do appreciate it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 87 Comments
 

Scant. Just scant.

The thing is, it’s funny because every word is true:

FORT WAYNE, IN—Promising to steer them away from the usual tourist traps and show them the sights of his hometown through the eyes of a native, local man Martin Greenbaum pledged Monday to treat his visiting friends to the real Fort Wayne experience, sources said.

And yeah, it’s the Onion. But the Onion is genius.

I was actually thinking about Fort Wayne today, as it was Crazy Downtown Day in Detroit. The Tigers played at 4, followed by the Lions home opener/Monday Night Football right after. All through the stadium neighborhood, radio stations had set up remote broadcasts. There was food everywhere, bands — the whole shot. It made me happy, once again, to be here, all the Detroit jokes in the world be damned. I was meant to live in a big city. People like me don’t reach critical mass in tank towns. I stayed in the Fort 20 years and can’t say it wasn’t worth it — it absolutely was — but I’m glad I’m somewhere else now. Chapters, pages, etc.

So. Some of you guys know that I went to college with Peter King, the sportswriter. One of the best PK insults ever was in Deadspin today — “covers the league from the centermost pleat on Roger Goodell’s khakis” — but it sounds like he really stepped in it on this Ray Rice business.

Off to contemplate more Book. Happy Tuesday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Scanty pix.

Well, I cleared two big hurdles in Bookville this week, so I took myself a weekend. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad played at Dally in the Alley, a end-of-summer fest at Wayne State. Fortunately, my friend and former student Dustin was there with his DSLR:

DVAS1

That’s the best shot. But of course I’m partial to my girl:

DVAS2

They really did well. I’m so proud.

It was a great Dally — perfect weather, lots of fun people, the smell of dank in the air after dark. Drank too much beer, of course, but check that golden-hour light, will ya?

dally

It was a great weekend. Hope yours was, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 21 Comments