Gut the room.

Like (I hope) many of you, the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere has seen its investment portfolios go a little nutty in recent months. Blessed with all this new “wealth,” we’ve decided to spend a little bit of it, remembering the lessons of recent downturns. One lesson: My sister had a colleague who liquidated a bunch of stock in a red-hot market to buy a BMW. The stock (and many others) went south soon afterward, and he said, philosophically, “At least I got a car.”

We, however, are getting a kitchen. It’ll be the last big project left on the Big Projects list, and it’s time for this 30-year-old Home Depot cheap-ass shit to GO. The contractor is Ukrainian, and references say he brings an eastern European work ethic to the job, but any free advice you have to offer, I’m listening. The estimate arrives later today.

I had a busy-busy weekend. A charity nonprofit I serve on the board for had its main fundraiser this weekend, and it blotted out the sun. In reality, the sun (and moon) shone down benevolently on us, and I took some pictures before the party got started, so enjoy a couple of them. The temperature was mild, and the ice was on the move. It was quite a sight:

Even prettier as the sun went down:

This was at a local yacht club, so hence the waterfront setting. We raised about $15,000.

Not much bloggage today, although it seemed when I wasn’t partying this weekend, I was reading the news with a perma-furrowed brow. Just one story, today, which would seem to indicate another Night of the Long Knives may be coming in the Justice Department:

WASHINGTON — A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.

These people do not act like they have nothing to hide.

Have a good week, all.

Posted at 10:04 am in Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments
 

Little champs.

The Larry Nassar case wrapped an important phase yesterday, when the long, long sentencing hearing finally concluded and Nassar himself received the specifics of his punishment, which guarantee he will die in prison.

But I don’t want to talk about Nassar so much right now. I want to talk about sports.

With the winter Olympics bearing down on us, we’re about to be bombarded with stories of plucky young athletes who have sacrificed nearly everything youth has to offer for the chance to compete at a world level and maybe stand on the podium, have a medal hung around their neck and, rarest of all, have their national anthem played before the world. (At least if they’re in a sport worthy of attention. Hard to get big ratings for biathlon or my fave from the summer games, modern pentathlon. That’s riding, swimming, running, fencing and shooting, which was plainly my destiny in my parallel life.)

And I’ve been seeing headlines lately. Michael Phelps contemplated suicide after the 2012 games, which he left with four golds and two silvers. Tiger Woods, derailed after the death of his infamously domineering father, briefly trained with Navy SEALs, a foolish pursuit that may have given him a career-altering injury. Play in the NFL? Prepare to suffer head injuries that will likely shorten your life, or at least make its last years miserable in unanticipated ways. And then there’s Tonya Harding, human punching bag, the evil princess of American figure skating.

Anyone who pays attention to high-school and college sports hears stories, of parents willing to harass and even bribe coaches for playing time for their children. A average-size defensive lineman at my own high school came back from summer vacation looking like the Incredible Hulk. His father was a doctor, and the stories started circulating that dad had been helpful in finding a drug cocktail that would turn his son into a behemoth just in time for football season.

And these poor gymnasts in the Nassar case. Now that the main narrative has been concluded, look for the rest of the fallout to be coming down soon – about the coaches and trainers and others who, if they didn’t look the other way, certainly were accustomed to telling these tiny girls to just sit down and shut up about what this famous doctor did to them.

The stories are already starting to come out. This guy, booted from USA Gymnastics only this week, was one of Nassar’s enablers:

Geddert’s coaching style has largely been based on fear and intimidation, according to dozens of people who spoke with Outside the Lines over the past year, a group that includes current and former gymnasts, parents of gymnasts, coaches who have worked alongside Geddert and other gym employees. Many of those contacted said they were reluctant to speak publicly about Geddert because they either have children involved in gymnastics in the Lansing area or careers in the sport and they are mindful of the power he wields.

Man, it’s like you could hardly come up with a better atmosphere for a 14-year-old to not speak up about the doctor treating her back pain with a finger up her vagina, could you?

So, my question to the athletes in the room, or the athletes’ parents, or anyone who is athlete-adjacent: We hear a lot about kids who are “obsessed” with the game they play, who have to be told to put down the sticks and take off the skates/uniform/helmet. But how do you keep a child safe in a world like this, and why would you even want them to be part of it? How do you turn them over to a coach who trains little girls with fear and intimidation? I read an interview with Michael Phelps once where he apologized for not being more interesting, because “I swim, I eat and I sleep. That’s literally all I do.” Are even 20 gold medals worth it, when the result is a grown man who had to careen through alcohol, drugs, depression and suicidal ideation before, against all odds, finding himself? I mean, what about the ones who aren’t Michael Phelps, who train every bit as hard for just as long, but don’t make the cut?

I’ve long thought this was all about parents. Anyone seen “I, Tonya” yet? Allison Janney has a big scene, playing Tonya Harding’s mother, where she spits at her daughter, “I made you a champion, knowing you’d hate me for it. That’s the sacrifice a mother makes.” But how can you encourage a kid to keep trying, to not accept defeat easily, to give their best effort, in environments like this?

I read once that Wayne Gretzky’s father would take his hockey gear away from him and lock it in a closet once the season was over. Young Wayne could do whatever he wanted in the off-season except play hockey. It strikes me that the elder Mr. Gretzky knew something too many parents have forgotten.

In the meantime, this is the effort it took for someone to finally pay attention to what Nassar was doing:

Other girls had sounded the alarm about Nassar over the previous two decades — yet no one discovered his criminal behavior.

Rachael Denhollander arrived at MSU years after Nassar assaulted her. She was an attorney, ready for a battle with a thick folder of documents.

Among them: her medical records, journals, the names of four pelvic floor specialists, a USA Gymnastics-certified coach she had told about Nassar’s conduct, an index of medical journal articles on legitimate pelvic floor techniques, a character letter reference and a memo that outlined how her complaint met every element of Michigan law defining first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

“I knew it was going to be a fight,” Denhollander, a former Kalamazoo resident living in Louisville, told The Detroit News. “I had to present the absolutely strongest case possible because it was a medically and legally complex case because a doctor and alleged medical treatment was involved. My biggest fear was I would file a report, he would win and would know he was unstoppable.”

Insane.

So. Can we skip to some bloggage for the weekend?

A friend of mine works in an office where the Fox Business channel is on all day. “Think how bad Fox News is, then double it, and that’s Fox Business,” he says. After reading this piece on Lou Dobbs, I don’t doubt it.

And that’ll be it for me until after the weekend. I have a fundraiser to work on Saturday, and I appear to have blown out my knee (again), so I’m limping. Play nice and I’ll be back Sunday/Monday.

Posted at 4:38 pm in Current events | 89 Comments
 

Faces.

I spend probably too much time thinking about faces, but lately there have been so many weird ones out there, and so many have an indelible connection with you-know-who. A few weeks ago, Mrs. T No. 1 was on her book tour, and ay-yi-yi:

Over the weekend, as you probably know, some fans of Mrs. T No. 1’s first husband held a fundraiser/tribute for him at his Florida club. OF course someone snapped a picture:

I almost shrieked when I saw that. I believe many of these women are the Trumpettes, Mar-a-Lago ladies of a certain age. I have sympathy for women who grow up trading on their looks, although I was never able to do so myself. Sooner or later the thief of time comes for all of us, and the more you’re invested in your own beauty, the harder it is to let go. The biggest tragedy of “Bombshell,” the Hedy Lamarr documentary I saw a couple weeks ago, was how even this flawless beauty, as smart as she was, found herself bound to the ideal of her looks, and augured into the plastic-surgery merry-go-round. By the last years of her life she lived as a recluse, unable to face the world with her weirdly distorted face.

Do we wind up with the faces we deserve? You may have heard that Mean Girl Megyn Kelly had a little celebrity tiff with Jane Fonda a few days ago. Kelly pressed Fonda to talk about plastic surgery she’d had, under the guise of explaining why she “looks so great.” Fonda was pretty graceful about it at first, crediting a “good attitude, good posture and taking care of myself” before trying to pivot back to the movie she had been sent to promote, but Kelly wasn’t having it. All the while, Robert Redford, Fonda’s co-star, sat next to her. Have you seen Robert Redford in the last few years? He’s no stranger to the plastic-surgery clinic, let me tell you, but Kelly didn’t want to talk about his face work. And you could argue that Redford was, in his youth, more well-known as much for his rugged handsomeness than Fonda ever was. (Of course, women in Hollywood are just expected to be beautiful.)

If I reach Fonda’s current age (80), I of course will never look as good as this:

Here’s me on the red carpet of LA Museum of Modern Art gala

A post shared by Jane Fonda (@janefonda) on

But I hope I’ll have her sense of humor:

So, what a few days, eh? In Michigan, we’ve been gripped by the filibuster of misery unfolding in Ingham County, where disgraced Dr. Larry Nassar is awaiting sentencing for counts related to years of systematic sexual abuse of young women connected to the Michigan State and U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics program. More than 120 women have stood to give victim-impact statements, and it’s simply devastating.

What’s even more dismaying is the reaction of the MSU administration, which appears to have learned nothing from the Penn State disaster a few years ago. Today — TODAY — one trustee went on a radio show and dismissed “this Nassar thing” as though it was a nuisance lawsuit brought by a crackpot and not an occasion of shame upon all who came close to it over the years it went on.

This is going to be very, very bad.

Oh, I am tiring quickly and must watch a little TV before making my way to my warm bed. Happy Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Current events, Popculch | 71 Comments
 

Let’s take a spin.

Hey, guys! Let’s all say hi to Joe Louis, check our coats in the Delta lounge and see what the North American International Auto Show has to offer this year, shall we?

(I’m not sure how we got on The List for the Delta lounge, but I hope we get on it again next year. They had a little pre-party and an after-party, but the best perk was a separate coat check — it let us skip another line. The finger food and the champagne weren’t bad, either.)

Onto the show floor, where every year I’m a little overwhelmed by the first 10 minutes. As I’ve no doubt said before, it’s a very strange event. The lighting is about 1 trillion candlepower, there are liquid-video screens on every upright surface, lots of noise, and thousands and thousands of people dressed in black tie. I was talking to a guy a few months ago who said he likes to take LSD about twice a year. If he did it at this show, he’d run screaming from the floor before he hit the GM space. I want to send an avant-garde cinematographer in to capture surrealism on the hoof. Me, I just hold up my phone and say a Hail Mary:

Hello, Mercedes weirdness. Of course, that’s all anybody does: Take pictures. Of themselves, each other, and once in a while, a car. Like so:

I have no idea who that woman in the pink sequins is, although she appears to know me.

The media are all there, reporting live, reporting for later, just reporting-reporting-reporting. This guy is the No. 1 drive-time morning host on the AM talk station. I find his show almost unendurable; when I’m holed up in a bunker with federal troops outside, they’ll blare it on giant speakers and I’ll surrender in a minute:

Every year, it seems the cars are less of a story than the technology. The show follows the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, every year more seamlessly. The luxury models are more and more like rolling living rooms, with price tags to match, and even the less-luxurious do everything but make you lunch, and that may be on the drawing board. We have an automotive expression in our household — “it comes with all the shit on it,” with all pronounced Texas-style: awwwllll. I’m not sure what this photo represents, all-the-shit-wise; I only welcome our robot overlords with these well-dressed people:

Jeff Borden can tell a funny story about one of his early automotive purchases, where the trunk/glove box light was part of the deluxe accessories package.

But this is a car show, so here’s a car. Ford is reintroducing the fastback Mustang from “Bullitt” in 2019. I always sigh over these nostalgia-wallows, even while I know how useful they are for whipping up the auto press. Here’s the new Bullitt next to one of the two models used in the classic chase scene from the 1968 movie. Guess which one is valued at $4 million?

(Although the first 2019 production model just sold for $300,000 at auction, a price distorted by a charity donation.)

Me, I love a concept car. Freed from the constraints of federal safety standards, designers can go wild with the coolness. Like the carbon-fiber grille on this Lexus:

That’s the LF-1 Limitless, which Alan says is likely to go into production. I’m convinced the product expert was hired because his hair matched the paint job:

“We’re never going to be able to afford this car, are we?”

Look! A bedazzled fun fur!

Here’s a Chinese crossover. The name? A total coincidence, the company says. Well, I’m glad someone else is making money off the name other than you-know-who:

The Ram logo has been squared off and made more macho. Apparently the company thought the old one looked too much like a uterus.

What I said up there about rolling living rooms? Here’s the mileage sticker for the new Suburban, which is basically a bus for soccer moms who like to spend a lot of time at the gas station:

On the way out, we passed yet another refreshment station. Hey, it’s the Detroit News autos team. Good job, guys!

You can see their full coverage here, with more stories and many, far better pictures than these. As for us, bye for now:

Posted at 4:04 pm in Detroit life | 55 Comments
 

BOLO.

Hey, just realized I forgot to blog for Friday. A quick one, because I’m Cinderella-fying myself for the big dance tonight, and brother, that’s a long-term process at my age.

For those keeping score at home: I have just removed unwanted leg and pit hair and moisturized heavily. Next step: Nails.

I’ve also been following internet worm holes on human trafficking hysteria. With the auto show in town, the usual suspects are claiming their share of the spotlight, spewing questionable data and offering such helpful tips as: Watch for situations that just don’t seem right.

See, this is predicated on the extremely shaky contention that any large group of people descending on a city for an event – Super Bowl, Final Four, auto show – will lead to a “spike” in human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, but I bet you knew that. These press conferences aren’t to draw attention to domestic servants who are essentially held prisoner in their employers’ basement, but to give the local TV stations a chance to break out their whores-on-the-stroll video with the faces pixelated out. Anyway, I think the contention is shaky because so far, no one has ever produced any evidence other than this: Sex-service classifieds on sites like Backpage spike around that time.

This week, I tried to test it. To be sure, there are a lot of Backpage sex ads right now. But the ads drop off sharply after they’ve been up a day or two, and I’m not sure why. I also don’t have a control group from a non-auto show week. I tweeted a thread about this yesterday:

Any of you with experience in this area, feel free to private-message me via email or the channel of your choice. I’m genuinely curious.

Earlier this week, the police and some HT advocates held a presser that advised the public to BOLO (be on the lookout, in the cop lingo) for trafficked women at the show. They also said they made 22 arrests last year “tied to” the show, and apparently no one asked for more detail. So are girls, what? Working the floor? I find that hard to believe. Outside of Cobo? Ditto. Almost all prostitution is online now, anyway, so I don’t know how the public might see one of these women in the first place. Then there’s this:

Last year, police made 22 arrests for human trafficking that were tied to the auto show, Craig said. Some cases are still being investigated.

The chief anticipates there will be more reports at this year’s show, which runs through Jan. 28. Sex traffickers often go to major events that attract large crowds to find their victims, Craig said.

Craig emphasized that sex trafficking is much different from prostitution because trafficking means the person is held against their will.

Wait, what? Prostitution cases being investigated for a year? And what is he saying in the second paragraph there? That pimps are trolling the crowd for girls? Has anyone actually been to this show? The public week is hardly a magnet for young women traveling alone — it’s families, couples, and lots of guys. Is he pushing the “Taken” myth here? Oh, and trafficking vs. prostitution, he’s wrong there. He just is.

When I wrote about HT a couple years ago, one of my sources told me that, in terms of understanding the problem, we were about where we were with understanding domestic violence – in 1979.

It’s an interesting topic. I wish we had better data.

OK, on to the nails. I’ll have a photo roundup of the action tonight Sunday/Monday. Be good, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Detroit life | 54 Comments
 

Mixed signals.

When I was a girl, rape was what happened when a man brandished a gun or knife, dragged you into a dark alley, and had sex with you. That was easy to understand.

Then, when I was a young adult, the concept of date rape was introduced – that it could be someone you knew, and there might be no weapon involved, just a stronger man holding you down. Also easy to understand. There was also a brief pass through the concept of marital rape, with John and Greta Rideout suddenly everywhere, testing the idea that a man didn’t have an absolute right to sex with his wife whenever he wanted, and that cause was strange, then righteous, then infuriating (with the Rideouts reconciled after his, guess what, acquittal).

Date-rape drugs were next. Remember roofies? Where do you get roofies? I am not deeply immersed in drug culture, but I know my way around a little, and I’ve never seen or been offered a roofie. A third, fourth, sixth or ninth cocktail? Now there’s a date-rape drug that doesn’t get its due.

Then, in the ’90s, Antioch College instituted its widely ridiculed sexual consent policy, and by widely ridiculed I mean it was an SNL sketch that very weekend. Antioch eventually went out of business, but that was a hardy seed it planted, because it flowered into how we now talk about sexual encounters: They must be consensual, and they must be consensual at every step of the escalation, and that consent can be revoked at any time. Already stuck it in? Sorry, guys, if she tells you to take it out, you have to. No one cares about your sexual frustration; that’s why your hands reach all the way down there.

This is where I began to step off the train. I like sex, but I don’t like sex that proceeds like a contract negotiation. Once the clothing starts to come off, I think it’s safe to make some assumptions. If I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll speak up. I don’t want to answer “is this OK? Is this OK?” every few minutes. But at the same time, I see where that might be a useful framework, especially for college students who are still figuring this stuff out. Sex and navigating intimate relationships are skills you have to learn, and if these policies are essentially training wheels for the early years, no harm done.

Which brings us, as you knew it would, to Aziz Ansari, who is probably pacing his apartment rage-smoking, or maybe in a Xanax haze, or otherwise coping with the agony of being revealed to the world as a lousy hookup at best, and a near-rapist at worst. And here is where I step all the way off the train. Because the next stop is Pencetown, and I ain’t going there.

Either women are strong, independent individuals with the capacity to say what they do and don’t want in an intimate relationship, or they are delicate flowers who put out “cues” that men must decipher, and woe betide if they get their signals crossed.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Or read up. A lot of us have been talking about being older lately; never have I thanked the fates for my arthritic knees and wrinkly ass more than this week, when the thought of having to navigate this dating moonscape made me quake with fear. Because evidently you can go back to a guy’s place, take off your clothes, perform oral sex on one another, change your mind because “things are going too fast” and also because he’s a lousy kisser, and still feel you were wronged somehow, because he also served you the wrong wine and he did that thing with his fingers and, and, and…

This young woman sounds, at the very least, deeply confused. It’s also possible she’ll grow into the sort of woman who gives her husband the silent treatment, and when called on it, says, “If I have to tell you what you did, then you’re even more wrong!” Maybe these two deserve one another, come to think of it.

I’m with Gene Weingarten. This was a terrible piece that should never have been published, and could do significant damage to an important cause. But I guess progress is rarely linear. We’re still figuring out how to get along with one another. I expect we always will.

So. Nearly the midweek. And the decline of facts continues apace:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When truck driver Chris Gromek wants to know what’s really going on in Washington, he scans the internet and satellite radio. He no longer flips TV channels because networks such as Fox News and MSNBC deliver conflicting accounts tainted by politics, he says.

“Where is the truth?” asks the 47-year-old North Carolina resident.

Don’t have much to say about that, just throwing it out there. There might be hope for journalism yet, but I’m not sure how.

Finally, this horrifying thing from an English-language Russian news site. It’s easy to say “nothing will come of this,” but that requires ignoring history, in which genocides and purges always start with this sort of propaganda, and rarely end well.

But now it’s Wednesday, or nearly so. Over the hump.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events | 111 Comments
 

Rotten Apple.

Someday we’re going to look back on this era and…marvel, I guess, although “recoil in horror” may well be an option, too. I think often how long it’s been since I’ve done business with a larger outfit that didn’t make me seethe with anger or sneer with contempt. This weekend it was Apple’s fault.

My iPhone 6 is three years old and going strong, except that the battery is failing. How do I know this? Because the power falls from 75 percent to 20 percent in 10 minutes, that’s how. Sounds like a failing battery to me! Apple recently acknowledged it was slowing down the older model phones accordingly, and, chastened, offered replacement batteries for them for $30. How very convenient, because I need a battery.

I followed all the links, which led me to an appointment at the Genius Bar. I arrived on time: Hello, I need a battery. The nice lady plugged my phone into her iPad and ran all sorts of diagnostics. It turns out? I need a battery. I surpassed my impulse to eye-roll. So let’s get it done. It turned out there were none in stock, but when one arrived, they’d let me know.

So, one trip to the Apple store down.

The email came a few days later, and said, “come anytime.” I headed out in a gathering snowstorm on Friday. The nearest Apple store is about 15 miles away, I should mention. I arrived and handed over my phone. Give us 90 minutes, they said. So I went back out and shopped the clearance sales, got a French press at Nordstrom, then came back to the warm, bustling Apple store. Are those places ever not bustling? Just asking.

The tech greeted me like a mother who’d brought her child to the ER with suspicious bruises. He showed me a photograph of the phone’d innards. “We can see that this phone has had liquids inside it,” he said. Yep, that sounded right — I was caught in a drenching downpour last summer with the phone in my back pocket, ports facing up. I’m sure it got wet then, because the speaker and mic failed for a couple of days. But I dried it out in a bag of rice and it’s worked fine ever since. So fix the battery, OK?

“We can’t do that,” he said. “We don’t work on phones that have been penetrated by liquids.” Options: Buy a reconditioned iPhone 6 – a three-year-old phone, mind you – for three! Hundred! Dollars! Or just do the usual upgrade thing. Hundreds of dollars more. But to fix a “penetrated” phone in fine working order, only in need of a battery? Out of the question.

Well, it was nice to visit Nordstrom. Good coffee. And I got some tights at 40 percent off.

Why do we let tech companies treat us like this? Why do we happily help them run established businesses out of town for a slightly better price, and then scrape to them and beg them for the latest sacred object? I wish I knew.

I’m going to Office Depot. The hell with this.

And I’m sorry about that rant. It’s cold again, and I’m feeling cranky. Plus it’s the auto show this week, and I’m on my own. To whoever asked in the comments, the prom is this coming Friday, and I’ll have my usual report. From what I’m hearing, the tl;dr is: Trucks for days.

While Alan was working at the kitchen table, I took myself down to the DIA and saw “Bombshell,” the documentary about Hedy Lamarr, movie star and frustrated scientist. It’s very fine, and I recommend it. If you didn’t know that this legendary Hollywood beauty also had a restless, problem-solving intellect, then you should know now. The story is both triumph and tragedy, but what I found most interesting was what it had to say about the human imagination, and how ideas can come from anywhere. Engineering ideas don’t always come from engineers; Lamarr’s singular idea – a way to make radio communications secure via switching frequencies – came from who-knows-where, because she wasn’t even college-educated, and the man she worked with was inspired by player-piano scrolls. But their idea was sound, even as the military brass scoffed at it.

They didn’t get paid. (And she could have used the money.) But her reputation has made a comeback.

Tomorrow will be warmer, and it’ll be Monday. And we’ll await what fresh hell might be around the corner from Shithole-gate. Sigh. Bundle up.

Posted at 8:11 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments
 

Always look ahead.

In honor of his 60th birthday, Eric Zorn published a column called, I hope at least somewhat ironically, “My 14-point plan to be a good old man.” I reached that milestone a few weeks ahead of Eric, and never even considered such a thing, but admittedly, I no longer have a column deadline, and might well have if I did.

For the record, I don’t even consider myself close to being old. I get what he’s saying, though — at this age you can see senescence on the horizon, maybe closer. People you know are starting to die, sometimes of aggressive cancers that just show up one day, announcing time’s up.

On Tuesday you’re fine. On Friday, you have a few weeks left. It happens.

I read Eric’s list, and I approve of it. The tl;dr might be: Your body is one thing, but you can always be young in heart and spirit. I have young friends, real friends, not just my friends’ adult children. I listen to new music when I can. I respect a lot of their art, popular and otherwise. I consider that younger people as a group have many things better figured-out than my generation did at their age. I have hope for a better future, which I further hope will arrive before a totally horrible future comes beforehand. I’m sorry that the boomer generation, of which I am a part, is going out so disgracefully, even though the president is way older than me and I consider him part of a different subset. Unlike lots of young people, I don’t think my generation is the worst ever, or, in the current slangy parlance, Worst. Generation. Ever. Can’t we all get along? We need our confederates.

I was thinking this while reading a piece by a former colleague, a man I once liked very much, who seems to have taken a different path, desiccating into a bitter husk. It’s possible it was written on a bad day – we all have them – but it made me sad. I won’t link to it, in the interest of keeping a certain peace. Practicing kindness seems the best option here.

The other day I was sweating through the final moments of my weight workout when an old man started…I guess he was flirting. It wasn’t anything serious or creepy, just a semi-obvious I see you and I like what I see exchange. At first I was baffled, as he seemed to be much, much older. Then I realized he’s maybe 5-6 years ahead of me, so entirely age-appropriate if I were into it. He picked himself up off the mat where he’d been doing crunches and walked off to the locker room with the step of a far younger man. Here’s to you, you spicy geezer. I hope I have that confidence when I’m…your age.

Bloggage: A pretty good take on Facebook, what ails it and how it should be fixed. And it should be fixed.

The Case of the Infamous Dossier gets more complicated. Still sorting through this one.

Finally, from the comments, I know a lot of you have been getting junk phone calls lately. Me, too. I have a 734 area code, a souvenir of my first cell phone being purchased in Ann Arbor. I make a lot of calls to people who aren’t in my network, so I answer them all, but lately when I see not only the 734 area code but the first three numbers of my own, I let it go, then immediately block it. Lately, I’m starting to get weird email, too, and I wonder if it, too, is a new scam.

One of my private email addresses is first initial/married name -at- a popular domain. And a couple months ago — about the time I started posting my resume on job-search sites, a huge mistake I regret — I started getting email for Norma MyMarriedName, who also uses first initial/last name. She appears to be a very busy lady, buying stuff online and signing up for gym memberships and all sorts of stuff. One included her street address, which I figured had to be a fake, but I G-mapped it and lo it exists, and in Newark, Ohio, no less. We don’t yet have your down payment, Norma, and without it we can’t guarantee delivery by Christmas, wrote someone at Montgomery Ward. (It still exists, yes!) It doesn’t seem exactly…legit.

It keeps happening. I’ve started hitting Unsubscribe on some of them, and by doing so I’m wondering if I just delivered the full contents of my inbox to the Russians. If so, have at it! It’s the address that I mainly use for crap, so enjoy my utility billing notices and unread New York Times Cooking newsletters, Boris.

But who doesn’t know their own damn email address?

Time to punch down the pizza dough and consider toppings. Good midweek to all.

Posted at 6:40 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 123 Comments
 

I’m not with her.

No. Oprah Winfrey should not run for president, no no no no no. No. Don’t even pretend it’s a good idea. Don’t take it seriously. DO NOT DO THIS, AMERICA.

I want our next president to be a quiet, hard-working, younger-than-me-or-at-least-not-a-lot-older policy nerd. Charismatic, yes, but not goddamn Oprah. We shouldn’t even be talking about it, because talking about it makes it sound possible, and you know how that’s worked out so far.

So let’s stop this silliness right now.

Then you might consider reading this very sad story from Politico, about the widening divide between neighbors in little Pepin County, Wis., which went 58 percent for you-know-who in 2016, bewildering and baffling its many Democratic residents. Both factions have used the results as a pretext to stay angry and divided from the very people they live, work, shop and perhaps even worship next to on a regular basis.

Trump is surely not the only reason for America’s worrisome and worsening partisan strife, with 80 percent of people in recent polling saying they see the country as “mainly or totally divided.” But his election framed that chasm in stark terms, an emotional choice that felt bitterly personal on both sides. And since taking office, the 45th president has only stoked the discord with his comments about “ungrateful” blacks, the criminal propensities of immigrants, his anti-Islam rhetoric and his equivocations on behalf of white supremacists. People here, in this demographically homogeneous, almost entirely white community, have plenty to say about all this—they just have chosen not to say it to each other. If there is a wall that Trump has built, it’s not the “big, beautiful” one on the Mexican border—it’s the figurative wall that has risen in places like Pepin County, Wisconsin.

I sat at a bar in Durand called the Cell Block one afternoon and listened to Bill Ingram, a GOP member of the county board, bluntly describe Republicans as “good” and Democrats as “evil.” I spent another evening in a cabin on a dark hill as deer hunters downed cans of Keystone Light while discussing what they viewed as a Trump-boosted economic surge—and the next night at a cozy, artsy concert venue where aghast liberals drank $4 bottles of craft beer and lamented the “erosion” of democracy. Myklebust characterized Pepin County as a Venn diagram with two circles that no longer touch.

Not surprising, really. I found myself nodding along to much of it.

Sorry for the late update today. Just got jammed up after a bitter-cold weekend when not much happened, other than seeing “I, Tonya,” which we both enjoyed very much. I recommend it.

Posted at 4:12 pm in Current events | 39 Comments
 

The wrong person for the job.

The rest of you are talking and thinking nonstop about you-know-who, but I’ve been woolgathering on Karen Spranger today.

Chances are you don’t know her, although I know we have some journalists reading today, and if you’ve ever covered a small-city council and one of those people inevitably described as “a local gadfly” shows up, you know her. Spranger once attended a Warren city council meeting in a suit made of aluminum foil, to make her point that something – smart meters or chemtrails or one of those boogiemen – was poisoning local residents. She filed multiple petitions to recall a politician she disliked. And then she threw her hat in the ring as a candidate for Macomb County clerk, just north of where I live, and in one of those weird planetary alignments that happen from time to time in politics, last November she won.

It became evident almost immediately that she was unqualified and unprepared for the job. The office had run efficiently for years under a safe incumbent, who waited until the last minute to retire and tried to pass the position off to a hand-picked successor, but a party squabble broke out that allowed Spranger to surf into office on the Trumpian wave. And from there, it hasn’t gone well.

The biggest problem was Spranger herself, who appears to have mental-health issues. Her address of record is a blighted wreck that only a family of raccoons would find hospitable. She must live somewhere, but no one knows exactly where, and she won’t say. She’s never held a job like this before, and her actual employment record is sketchy – she was on public assistance before she started earning $109,000 a year as county clerk.

Needless to say, the existing staff hasn’t taken well to her. Key deputies were fired almost immediately, and the place has sunk into dysfunction, with filing backlogs, staff shortages and, of course, lawsuits.

Does this sound familiar? Spranger is Donald Trump, writ small. (This Free Press story from last summer outlines it all, with the bothsidesiest bothsides headline ever.)

It’s been fashionable for decades now to run for office on the claim that one is not a career politician, but if Trump and Spranger are what non-career politicians do? Bring on the people who know what they’re doing. Please.

Which brings us to the Michael Wolff book. Not a fan of Wolff, but not too proud to say this one landed like a daisy-cutter, and probably should have. The Real Journalists ™ over at Axios had this to say:

There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.

There follows a long list of things Wolff got right, and it’s all the important stuff. So. Make of that what you will. Meanwhile, Wolff’s column yesterday in his employer’s publication, the Hollywood Reporter, winds up like this:

Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Terrific. This is the fix we’re in. I see someone yesterday posted James Fallows’ comment on all this, something I’m in full agreement with. Everybody knows. And no one in a position of power is doing anything.

Have a great weekend, all. And brace yourselves for the rest of 2018.

Posted at 9:02 am in Current events | 94 Comments