An agenda full of OMG.

I was just looking at my work and personal calendars for the next month, and realized it’s entirely possible I will not have ONE SPARE MINUTE to do anything I actually want to do before I take a two-week overseas vacation. Two big projects to finish at work, plus getting the house ready to host our house/dogsitter for two weeks — which is to say, cleaning this dump up and jotting down the million notes on garbage day, laundry machines, etc., as well as hoping the air conditioning doesn’t pick that fortnight to go on the fritz.

There may be gaps here. I’m always saying that, but this time I mean it, dammit.

I may be feeling surly because I’m working my way through this NYT profile of Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, which seems to boil down to speechwriter/Twitter virtuoso, and it’s stirring up a range of emotions and random thoughts, among them:

1) I’m glad people this smart are working for us.
2) I should write more than this stupid blog and a million emails a day. Write-write, like some fiction. Or whatever. This guy is inspiring.
3) Fuck, what if Trump wins? Who will have this job then? Do you think that person will have even read a novel in their lifetime, much less aspired to write one?

I probably had about nine million more, truth be told. It’s a long piece, but absolutely worth your time.

As was this much lighter, fluffier Table for Three feature, with the president and Brian Cranston shooting the shit with an NYT reporter, on the subject of…well, on a lot of subjects. Ostensibly it’s pegged to Cranston playing LBJ in a new movie, but there’s lots of good stuff in there, like this, from the prez:

One thing you have to keep in mind is that I’m probably the most recorded, filmed and photographed person in history up to now. Because I’m the first president who came along in the digital age. Every leader is a funnel for the culture he lives in. And despite the exotic name and weird background, I grew up as an ordinary middle-class kid. The cultural touch points that shaped you are the same ones that shaped me. And the fact that that was true until I was 45 probably differentiates me from most presidents. For somebody like L.B.J., who fastened onto a political career early, it probably changed the way he experienced culture and presented himself. It never felt like a burden to me. What’s felt like a burden is seeing how politics has changed in ways that make it harder for Washington to work. There are a set of traditions, a constitutional design that allows someone like L.B.J. or F.D.R. to govern. And when those norms break down, the machinery grinds to a halt. That’s when you feel burdened. When you say, “Here’s what we need to do.” I’ve made my argument; the majority of the population agrees with me. Yet we’re confronted with endless filibusters and polarization that forbids us from getting stuff done.

The luxury to absorb all these long reads was one detail of my Mothers Day. I was served blueberry pancakes and a bloody mary and then left to my own devices, so I pretty much frittered the day down to its fringes, with a little bike ride and a big dog walk and a mental organization of the month ahead.

At the end of which: Iceland. Still hard to believe.

So, with that sort of week ahead? Best hop to it. But first, “Game of Thrones.”

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 70 Comments
 

Barrel’s bottom.

I’m decreeing today to be …silly. So let’s start with a dog picture:

wendyinthesun

She really likes the sun, and when it hits that white coat of hers, she almost glows. A good day.

What’s next? How about Donald Trump, celebrating Cinco de Mayo:

He loves Hispanics!

Jon Carroll, tellin’ stories, like he do so well.

Finally, a new reader took note of the post on spanking, and sent in a couple of stills. With a note:

…the media spankings I remember best were from the Westerns series which were on television all the time when I was growing up in Britain. Series like Bronco- that sure dates me! These were more likely to be a father and his big misbehaving daughter of the sort of age I was at the time- so they were of interest to me, but since as in this one below a shapely actress of about twenty two was pretending to be a girl of seventeen the effect may be similar. The ambience is different though, and growing up I preferred it. The daughter’s been sent to Finishing School, but has run off to the Circus to trick ride by day and perform in burlesque and hoochie coochie dancing by night.

FATHER: And you know EXACTLY what I’m going to do when I get you home.
DAUGHTER: (laughing) But I’m too BIG now to have my BOTTOM spanked.

spanking1

FATHER: You’ve been needing this for a long time
DAUGHTER: (squirming now) OOOH!! AWW!! Oh that’s ENOUGH!!!

spanking2

No, I don’t know why her hair is blonde in the second shot. But I love the shots.

And with that, I’m outta gas. Good weekend, all. More links appreciated.

Posted at 12:07 am in Same ol' same ol' | 103 Comments
 

Later, John.

And then there was one, and lo, it was the orange-haired one, and there was both glee and trembling in the land.

Reader, I had a little of both.

First was of course the obvious gloating one is bound to feel when just a few months ago, the usual suspects were calling the GOP field of primary contenders the best in years. Years, they said! Such a range of philosophies and approaches to the governing of our God-given Republic, yessiree. :::Draws deeply on pipe, or whatever stupid face accessory these people favor nowadays::: It will be a bracing race, and at the end, why, the world will be ours!

Meanwhile, see Gin and Tacos for a somewhat different take on the field:

The big money and bag men in the conservative movement bet on a candidate (Walker) so marble-mouthed, uncharismatic, mean, and stupid that he didn’t even make it to the Iowa Caucus and one so fundamentally incompetent (Bush) that not even a famous name, all the money in creation, and the blessing of the entire GOP establishment could win him better than a third place finish anywhere. The field was so bad and the Republican electorate is so mentally skewed that a man with no elected experience who is quite possibly insane and who never even pretended like he was campaigning seriously (Carson) got 10% of the vote. Red-meat Bible thumpers like Huckabee and Santorum never got off the launching pad. Recycled losers like Jindal, Rick Perry, and Lindsey Graham got so little attention other than mocking laughter that they quit before they too could win their 1% in Iowa. Rand Paul proved that he has a cult following of about 8% of the GOP electorate, just like his dad, and nothing beyond that. Shockingly, it turned out that nobody in any party was prepared to take bloated live-action Nelson Muntz / Tony Soprano hybrid Chris Christie seriously, nor a hatchet-faced sociopath with literally no professional, political, or personal qualities to recommend her to serve as dog catcher let alone president. It was worse than a clown car; clowns are, at least occasionally, funny.

So there was that. And because I am deeply suspicious of victory, knowing the grinding feeling of defeat, the inevitable It Could Happen thoughts intruded, and — may I just say something about victory and defeat? There have been times, in recent years, that I’ve felt a tiny hint of sympathy for conservatives, particularly younger ones, who have never known a world without Reagan worship, when Tax Cuts = Economic Growth is as indisputable as John 3:16, or that if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind. These are the people who are bleating that the problem with people like John McCain and Mitt Romney is that they weren’t conservative enough. The twin state-level disasters of Louisiana and Kansas, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, large-scale laboratories for this school of thought, faze them not in the least. MOAR CONSERVATIVE, they rage, and then offer up…Ted Cruz. Srsly. (If I may lard this paragraph with ‘net speak.)

Anyway, wheels turn. Today you might be feeling pretty high on that wheel. Six months from now, it could be President-elect Trump. So don’t get too comfortable.

By the way, if you didn’t read Dahlia Lithwick’s marvelous piece on being on the the college debate circuit with young Ted Cruz, do so now. I found it simultaneously irritating — jeez, do all these Ivy League pricks know each other from their summer-camp days? — and amusing, because it’s Dahlia. Funny and wise, of course:

Most of my memories of debating Ted Cruz involve being hollered at. Austan (Goolsbee) was always defter than I was at deflating that which was most infuriating about Ted—the way he’d reframe a debate topic into something he had prepared, or would become fake-angry in ways that suited a 19-year-old even less than it suits a 40-something-year-old. I do remember that he wasn’t funny, and also that he never ever seemed comfortable in his skin. He always wanted to relitigate whatever round had just been decided, even if everyone else was careening drunkenly around the quad.

I have not one single memory of a relaxed Ted Cruz, or a joyful Ted Cruz, or an unguarded Ted Cruz. In every mental snapshot he is leaning forward and importuning someone to believe he is charming.

Sounds like the child really is father to the man.

Elsewhere in politics, the president came to Flint today. He was preceded at the podium by the governor, who was roundly booed. Cruel boos; this is pretty bad by any measure short of flying shoes.

Then Obama started to speak, and at one point asked for guess-what:

Mr. Obama, who coughed occasionally throughout the speech, paused at one point and looked offstage. “Can I get a glass of water?” he asked, drawing laughs and applause.

“I really did need a glass of water,” Mr. Obama said as he sipped the water that an aide handed to him. “This is not a stunt.”

It may well have been a stunt. But last month, when the governor was telling people that filtered Flint water was safe to drink, he was asked if he’d consider drinking it himself. He said he’d be willing to talk about it. Later he agreed, but the moment had passed, the moment when you reach out, grab that glass, and chug it down.

Oh, this week is going slowly, but once Thursday happens, stuff speeds up.

Let’s hope so.

Posted at 12:28 am in Current events | 38 Comments
 

Adios, Rafael.

I don’t have norovirus, but I do have some reading to do for a project, so this will be short.

So Ted Cruz is out. But of course Ted Cruz is not out, will never be out. Like the original Terminator, he’ll be back, and like the second Terminator, perhaps in a different form. No one that ambitious just goes away, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to marvel at the way his mouth, when he opens it to make a big point in a speech, makes a rectangle:

cruzrectangle

Have you noticed that? So weird. How does anyone go so far in the world, so utterly bereft of charisma? Intelligence opens doors, ambition gets you through them, but personal appeal is an important asset if you want people to put their faith and trust in you, to elect you to high office. But contempt – for almost everyone – oozes from the man. It’s behind his facial expressions, his smug sanctimony. I’d say he’s almost Shakespearean, but Shakespeare wouldn’t have written him, because he’s so utterly devoid of empathy. Even Richard III had a reason behind his menace, his deformity that led so many to reject him. What’s Rafael’s excuse? “My mouth makes a rectangle and my children seemingly shrink from my touch — vote for me!”

Doesn’t work.

I drove to Lansing today. I drove back from Lansing today. I enjoyed it as much as I could, which is to say, I noticed the unearthly green of the fields, the delicate green of the budding trees, and the fact that of all the cars that passed or I passed, a strong majority of drivers were looking at a phone. To be sure, I listened to a podcast on the way there, so I at least glanced at a phone, but still. The podcast was Marc Maron’s WTF, and it was good, because he’s a good interviewer. The subject was Garry Marshall, and it’s a testament to how good Maron is that I kept listening, because I despise Marshall’s films and even his voice gets on my nerves. Maron goes deep with his guests, deeper than Terry Gross, and my one complaint about WTF is that it’s frequently at least an hour and a half. But he turns up some good stuff. Today I learned that Marshall’s neighbor in Toluca Lake, Bob Hope, once gave out autographed photos of himself to trick-or-treaters.

In between my drives I had lunch with my old boss, who looked dapper, happy and successful, which I guess he is. Very smart guy, funny and astute. I’ve been lucky with my bosses at Bridge, and mostly lucky in Michigan. Shoulda left Indiana sooner, maybe, although I’ll be forever grateful to the Hoosier state for humbling Ted Cruz.

With that, I leave you. Discuss the events of the day, as is your wont.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events | 56 Comments
 

Pounds, lost and found.

File this under Emails You Probably Don’t Want to Receive. It arrived late this afternoon:

We have been informed that a large number of the staff at (company deleted) came down with a gastrointestinal illness over the weekend. We do not know the source of the illnesses. As a precaution, we are sanitizing all drinking fountains and public restrooms in the building, as well as common areas recently utilized by (the) staff. We are not aware of any other tenants experiencing multiple illnesses among their staffs. If you or members of your staffs have or are experiencing similar symptoms, please let us know. At this time, we are considering this an isolated incident.

Bad news: This is at our co-working space. Good news: It’s four floors above ours. Fingers crossed, but those noroviruses are sneaky bastards. Good news: I’m a dedicated hand washer. Good news: I think I drank only bottled water today. I guess we shall see.

Good thing there is much good bloggage today. If you don’t see me for a while, perhaps I’ll be barfing. Or maybe just lazy — it’s always a strong possibility.

First off, a terribly depressing and still interesting story about the aftermath of the 2009 “Biggest Loser” contestants. Guess whether they kept their weight off. Yes, you’re right — hardly any of them did, and one or two are even heavier than they were when they left the show, stones and stones lighter. Nut graf:

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.

What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.

Mr. Cahill was one of the worst off. As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size. Anything more turns to fat.

This is great research, and may well lead, down the road, to an understanding of obesity not as a character flaw but something more complicated – part disability, part psychological condition, part mystery.

Moving on to someone who is not fat and would probably be sent back to Slovenia if she gained so much as an ounce, we have a long-awaited profile of the uncooperative Mrs. Donald Trump:

Melania appears to have internalized many aspects of Donald’s culture: his ahistoricism; his unblinking gall; his false dichotomies between murderous scofflaws and deserving citizens, women who ask for nothing and nagging wives. Like Donald, Melania doesn’t drink. She never breaks ranks, not even with a teasing criticism. “I like him the way he is,” she has said, of Donald’s hair. She has taken on her husband’s signature pout, in a connubial version of people who grow to look like their dogs. In 2013, Donald tweeted, “I love watching the dishonest writers @NYMag suffer the magazine’s failure.” One of them, Dan Amira, retaliated, writing, “Your wife is waiting for you to die.” One couldn’t help but detect Donald’s influence when Melania fired off a reply: “Only a dumb ‘animal’ would say that! You should be fired from your failing magazine!” (Last week, when Julia Ioffe reported in GQ that Melania has an unacknowledged half brother, Trump supporters flooded social media with images of Ioffe that they’d doctored to depict her, among other things, wearing a yellow star in a concentration camp.) Melania is the ultimate embodiment of Trump’s bargain with the American electorate. If the Obama promise was that he was you, the Trump promise is that you are him.

She’s a tabula rasa who speaks in a heavy accent, an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

You might think this is the best election ever, and when I see clips like this, I have to agree with you.

You might think this is the best election ever, and when I hear that a young Hoosier yelled “you suck” at Ted Cruz, I have to agree with you on that one, too.

And this little bit of satire is a little bit amusing.

Off to Lansing today. Let the conversation begin.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 57 Comments
 

T*t soup.

We went out Saturday night, and in the manner of Olds, were inside with the latchstring pulled before 10:30 p.m. I could have probably gone later, but it would have required another food/alcohol game plan, and the couch is so, so inviting at that hour.

Anyway, being without cable but with broadband, I found the president’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner with little trouble, and had it playing on my phone as I drifted in and out of consciousness. When we were out earlier, one of my friends said, “I read that the Key & Peele guys write his jokes,” like that was a terrible thing. I responded that of course Obama has a joke writer, like virtually every comedian. Besides, the joke on the page is only half of the miracle; the rest is in the delivery, and that’s all his. And, as has been noted a million times before, Obama has spectacular timing and delivery skills.

You can read the whole speech transcript here, if you like. You’ve probably already read the best zingers:

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.

…And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.

…Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

You can find your own favorites. The last Facebook message I got was from a friend who heard Larry Wilmore’s speech, which ended with this bit, which actually played in a key of pride and nostalgia —

Thank you for being a good sport, Mr. President, but all jokes aside, let me just say how much it means for me to be here tonight. I’ve always joked that I voted for the president because he’s black. And people say, “Well, do you agree with his policies?” And I always said, “I agree with the policy that he’s black.” I said, “As long as he keeps being black, I’m good.” They’d say, “What about Iraq?” “Is he still black?”

But behind that joke is a humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means.

When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.

Words alone do me no justice. …Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it.

Only he didn’t say n-dash-dash. He said, “my nigga,” and I guess parts of the mediasphere lost their shit. Feh. The world, she changes every day.

A good weekend in our neck of the woods. The theme was sweat: First in Saturday’s workout, then in Sunday’s schvitz, the last until September. In between our friends who recently honeymooned in Napa held Taco Night, and we marveled at their embryonic wine cellar and stories of spectacular dining experiences. Face it, Napa is just grownup yuppie Disneyland. All the pleasures — food, wine, million-thread-count sheets.

The schvitz was pretty great, too. The proprietor turned on the bubbles in the jacuzzi, which are some SERIOUS DAMN BUBBLES. I think my back actually got numb. Everyone in the spa was topless, and I was reminded of one of the funnier lines from “Sex and the City,” when Miranda, at the Playboy Mansion, rounds a corner in the grotto to find a similar sight. “Look,” she says. “Tit soup.”

Bloggage! I know you’re all Princed out, but I chuckled over this Roy take on a National Review Prince column, so what the hell, you should enjoy, too.

And Neil Steinberg disposed of Chris Christie nicely here. By “nicely,” I mean, “with a stiletto.”

…Christie showed up at the Republican debates, delivered his prepackaged zingers and hit his cues. And when it was over he was among the first former opponents to embrace Donald Trump.

As a reward, Trump lets him join the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album cover melange of models and GOP mercenaries who have drifted over to his banner and are allowed to stand behind him at speeches.

Christie, though, is noteworthy for that expression, that stunned, miserable stare that often comes over his face. I think of that woman trapped in the hive in “Aliens,” who croaks “Kill me.”

Finally, last week I mentioned not keeping up with internet culture so much anymore. One individual I did notice from my keeping-up days, though, was Jeff Jarvis, who was one of those post-9/11 guys, the purported Democratic peacenik who went whole-hog for the warblogs, and later became convinced blogs were oh-so-much-better than boring old ink-on-paper stuff, etc. (It’s more complicated than that, but I don’t have time.) Lately he’s reinvented himself as an eminently parody-able journalism futurist, and a parody Twitter account — @profjeffjarvis — has been parodying him for a while. The other day, Esquire’s website ran a piece by the spoofer, which made the original recipe very, very mad. Gawker took him down nicely.

Busy week ahead. I am not tanned, but I am rested and ready. Bring it on.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Detroit life | 41 Comments
 

This thing, not that thing.

When I was in high school, and I’m fairly sure I’m remembering this correctly, a teacher was dating a student. She wasn’t his student, and she was a senior, and I don’t think their relationship was a deep, dark secret, although they were discreet. I’m also fairly sure they married shortly after graduation, so I have to assume her parents knew. A little Googling reveals that he was employed by the district for many years, and may well still be. He was a rookie then, so let’s say he was…23, 24? And she was 18, maybe 17. That’s an age gap that wouldn’t turn a head if they were a few years older, or if this happened a few years earlier. To this day, I have no idea how it slid past the administration, but maybe her parents approved, and – hell, I don’t know.

But even then, I think it was understood that the teacher wasn’t a child molester. (It might have been a little creepy, but they did get married, after all.) The problem with people like Dennis Hastert isn’t that he’s a molester, but that he abused a power relationship, that he imposed himself sexually upon someone in a subordinate position. It’s about consent, and when it’s appropriate to even ask for it. But a 17-year-old is at least physically an adult.

I believe the term for this is not pedophilia, but ephebophilia, describing a sexual attraction to adolescents. A while back I was complaining about the May-December – no, March-December – sexual relationships that turned up in Jim Harrison’s later fiction, between a 60-something man and a 15-year-old girl. The character says he thinks 15 is the cutoff, a thought I find pretty fucking gross, and still do. But there has to be a cutoff somewhere. Arbitrarily, we set ages of consent or legal majority. A 17-year-old might legally be a child, but they’re not.

If you’ve had one in the house, you know what a maddening mix of both they can be.

Fuck Dennis Hastert, anyway. Imagine groping some poor high-school boy, after telling him a massage will help him lose weight.

And speaking of him, Neil Steinberg’s column about the very same.

I pay less attention to internet culture these days, and this is why.

The new hockey arena in Detroit will be called the Little Caesar’s Arena. NO ONE likes this (and there are still more than $200 million in public dollars in this goddamn thing). I hate the new era.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 12:33 am in Current events | 59 Comments
 

Ew.

I’m an opinionated person, but – you may have to take this on faith – I really do try to look at most issues objectively. In part it’s because I’m a journalist, but also because I’m a novelist who can’t write fiction, i.e., a frustrated one. Show me a fucked-up person, and I try to think what made him or her into such a mess, and if I think I have a pretty good idea, I start to feel empathy. So while I might express very strongly worded opinions, inside I’m thinking, you poor thing.

Did that make sense? Because I’m trying to explain how I feel about Ted Cruz. And I have to add this: I can’t get my head around him.

I mean, I understand how this ambition monster was birthed and nurtured, but what I can’t understand is how he can not know that hardly anyone actually likes him. Lindsay Graham says (in public!) that everyone in the Senate hates him, his college roommate has a second career making funny insults about him – and he doesn’t care, he still thinks he should be president, and who knows, maybe he will be, someday. Repellent candidates have worn down the American people before (koffNixonkoff), and anyone who thinks Cruz will go away after 2016 is a fool.

But I’m amazed at how tin his ear is, how a guy who’s so smart can be so amazingly bad in any sort of candid spotlight. Every photo of him, even allowing for the prejudices of photo editors, makes him look greasy and smarmy. How does a man with an ounce of self-awareness use a term like “basketball ring” in a place like Indiana? And having done so, how does he not make an immediate joke – something about jet lag or brain farts – at his own expense? I understand why so many comments/tweets make reference to “his human suit getting itchy.”

And now he’s picked a running mate who is every bit his equal, personality-wise.

There’s a guy who sometimes rides the bus when I do. I see him reading National Review, and once he and a couple of other guys had a little chat about their personal weaponry that made me want to move and go sit next to a homeless guy. From where he gets off, I know that he lives a block away. When, before the primary, a solitary house sprouted a TrusTED sign, I had a feeling it was his, and sure enough, it was.

Maybe I should ask him.

Or not.

Speaking of politics, here’s a writer I’m not fond of, hitting a nice triple about “the woman’s card.” I sense improvement.

Happy Thursday, y’all.

Posted at 8:46 am in Current events | 44 Comments
 

Halfway through.

Apologies for yesterday’s no-show. I spent much of Monday on the road, driving to and from Battle Creek. I get out into farm country so seldom these days that it comes as something of a shock to see fields and lakes and freeway exits with Steak & Shakes. Come to think of it, I don’t see much fast food these days, either. GP has zoning prohibiting drive-throughs, with only one sad, grandfathered-in Wendy’s, and much of the fast food in Detroit between here and my office is dicey for one reason on another – cleanliness and security, mainly. Once I got off the freeway at Harper and Cadieux with a late-night, mad craving for Taco Bell. The drive-through window had one of those bulletproof plexiglas turntables, a detail of commerce you folks in the nicer neighborhoods don’t see so often, I imagine.

I used to love a long, solitary drive, but yesterday’s left me back-achey and cranky. It was the lunch that did it. I went to a craft brewer in downtown B.C. and had a mediocre, indifferently served roasted-squash soup that tasted like canned pumpkin-pie filling, and burnt ends slathered in a syrupy barbecue sauce. How hard is it to do these two dishes halfway decently? Not very.

Should have gone to Steak & Shake. Or had a bowl of Battle Creek’s finest. I’m sure a whole box of Honey Bunches of Oats would have contained less sugar than that soup.

Tuesday was better. Long swim, with lots of variety; the elderly lifeguard/retired coach who runs the early-morning swim puts a different workout on the board every day, and offers free advice to everyone who wants it. It’s a generous gift. Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned flip turns, corrected my terrible breast stroke and am on my way to mastering the butterfly, a stroke I’d never have dared try before. And my freestyle and backstroke have improved as well. When I think of the swimmer I was when I got in the pool just two years ago, it’s sort of astonishing – I’m surprised I didn’t drown or anything. He does all this for probably something close to minimum wage and the impetus to get out of the house in retirement. AND he’s running a summer program at a local park, which I will sign up for as soon as I’m able.

The tree across the street is having a glorious bloom, too, and it’s in my sightline as I write this. So y’know: Little things.

With that, let’s get to the bloggage, then:

I hope you guys can read this, as it’s a WSJ link, but I can, so fingers crossed. A rumored “fountain of youth” drug has seniors clamoring to get into the trial:

A few people said they craved significant life extensions—complete with retirement benefits. “The thought of living on until 120 years old fills me with great excitement, and also the thought of drawing my pensions until then would be an amazing gift,” a 71-year-old British man wrote.

Others seem motivated by their dread of an emotionally and financially challenging decline. “It’s not so much a fear of dying, it’s a fear of living in pain and agony and being a burden to everyone else and my wife and so forth,” said Bill Thygerson, 70, a retired missile-systems engineer.

Many who raised hands, including Mr. Thygerson, of Huntsville, Ala., already live carefully. He has cut way down on sugar and red meat. He’s a gym regular. A few years ago, he got back to his college weight. (“I did have three vegan cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday,” he confessed.)

Is this what I have to look forward to? Pain and agony and vegan cupcakes? Maybe I should hope for a terrorist attack or instant-death car crash. (Note the Brit, thinking about pensions. As if, America!)

A Michigan substitute teacher is fired. Why? Because she spoke the word “vagina” in an 8th-grade art class, discussing the work of Georgia O’Keeffe:

Harper Creek Community Schools released a quote from their school handbook, indicating teachers are required to get advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.

Wint says even so, she is still in disbelief she was dismissed.

“I honestly had no words, because I’ve always been an advocate of not censoring art and music and writing,” she said.

Now to wait for the primary returns to roll in. Happy Wednesday, guys.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 90 Comments
 

Cold-hearted.

After a couple years of shooting Kate and the band, I’m sort of out of angles, but I never claimed to be a photographer. So it was nice to get this snap from one of Alan’s colleagues, whom we met at this show Saturday night. Guess what? She’s a photo editor, so she’s got the eye:

hair

Head-bangingly good.

How was your weekend? I’ve reached Peak Prince, I think. Neil Steinberg argues that every celebrity doesn’t need to get the Full Diana (a phrase I wish I’d turned, alas), although I think he forgets what the Full Diana was. We’re here at, what? Four days after Prince assumed room temperature? He’s already been cremated and funeral’d, and inevitably the world will move on, by Wednesday at the latest. I seem to recall the Full Diana going for at least three weeks. The Full Reagan was about 10 days. The world needs content for all the content providers, so it’s to be expected.

But the fine weather continued, if a little chillier this weekend. Sunny, though, and by Sunday even fine for shirtsleeves. Did some grillin’, did some chillin’, spent a little time looking over the comments and marveling at you people. FYI, Danny, my friends visited Bistro Jeanty in Napa on your recommendation and said it was fantastic, and they’ll probably be back in the next couple of days. They even sent a photo:

marrowbones

Marrow, mmmm. Perfect food for carnivores.

And LAMary, I am now using “tired and emotional” as my new synonym for “drunk,” a la Princess Margaret.

So today I am a happy girl. Tomorrow I might not, but for now, let us wallow. A little bloggage for y’all? Sure.

An essay appropriately titled, “The End of Empathy,” right here:

My brother’s 32nd birthday is today. It’s an especially emotional day for his family because he’s not alive for it. He died of a heroin overdose last February.

This year is even harder than the last. I started weeping at midnight and eventually cried myself to sleep. Today’s symptoms include explosions of sporadic sobbing and an insurmountable feeling of emptiness. My mom posted a gut-wrenching comment on my brother’s Facebook page about the unfairness of it all. Her baby should be here, not gone. “Where is the God that is making us all so sad?” she asked.

In response, someone — a stranger/(I assume) another human being — commented with one word: “Junkie.”

Let’s give this whole thing some context: this one word was posted in response to a comment posted by my mother on the Facebook page of her only son on his would-be birthday had he not died at thirty years old of a heroin overdose less than two years ago.

Maybe you saw the photo that appeared over the weekend, of little Prince George being introduced to the Obamas when they visited the U.K. The pic is heart-meltingly sweet, with little George in his jammies and robe and Obama in the deep-squat, meet-kids-eye-to-eye pose he does so well. I made the mistake of reading the comments on one news site where I saw it, and I won’t be making that mistake again. Talk about a lack of empathy.

Generally I leave keeping up with the wingnuts on the right to Roy, but I follow a few myself. I couldn’t help but notice that Rod Dreher, whose middle name is very likely Hysteria, has been on a roll lately about transsexuals in bathrooms, just simmering with OMG and THIS IS CRAZY and so forth. I can understand his argument, not being utterly bereft of empathy myself, but on Friday he had a particularly screechy post sandwiched between two tributes to Prince, and I just got pissed, because it reminded me of one of the best things Lance Mannion ever wrote, about Kelsey Grammer and his Conservative Republican act:

Grammer doesn’t live anything like a Republican-approved lifestyle. He lives the life of the sort of big city liberal Republicans affect to despise. And as far as I know he’s quite happy with that life and has no plans to change it. He’s not about to move to any place Republicans regard as part of the “real America.” He’s not leaving Hollywood or New York for Topeka, Biloxi, or Wasilla. He’s not about to give up acting to start an oil company, become a hedge fund manager, or a cattle rancher.

…Now, I don’t believe that any Republican should have to go live in Topeka, Biloxi, Wasilla, or anywhere else on Sarah Palin’s short list of places that count as the real America. But I do believe that happy and contented East and West Coast elitists like Grammer—and conservative members of the punditocracy in Washington—should stop talking as if they believe that the lives lived in places like Topeka, Biloxi, and Wasilla are more “authentically” American than lives lived in Brooklyn, Brookline, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, or San Antonio and that the people in the one set of places are more American than the people living in the other.

And it’s probably too much to ask, but could they acknowledge that the lives they live in the most decadent parts of decadent Blue America have been made possible for them by liberalism?

People like Dreher, they want all their culture. They want plays and orchestras and great food and interesting novels and museums and all the rest of it, but they don’t want to acknowledge that many, even most, of the people who produce such things and run the institutions that encourage them, are mostly filthy liberals who don’t care if a transsexual woman might still be packing a penis into the ladies room. Confine them to their authentically real communities of Fritters, Ala., for a few months and they’d go stir crazy, but they’d never acknowledge that Prince, who may have been a Jehovah’s Witness but also danced in his undies and gave Tipper Gore fits, might be one of the Other.

OK, it is now time to top off the weekend with “Game of Thrones.” Later, folks. Let’s have ourselves a week, shall we?

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events, Detroit life | 81 Comments