The horror show.

It was midafternoon before I finally noticed no one was commenting on the post I made this morning. Checked the dashboard. Oops. Never posted it.

Apologies. This project is coming to a boil, and it’s flyspecking time. Also, when I got home Wednesday I made the mistake of watching the GOP debate, at least as much as I had the patience for. I was torn between breaking out in hives and weeping for my country. I certainly didn’t hang on until the end, so I missed the vaccine discussion. This writer hits the predictable notes of outrage, but I think Brian Dickerson makes a subtler point:

If Carson had addressed Tapper’s question squarely – if he had stood up for science, for his own, hard-won expertise and for the integrity of his profession – what Trump said next would have been pathetic.

But Carson did none of those things, because his objective was not to debunk a dangerous medical myth, but to avoid offending those who traffic in it.

Trump, who could scarcely believe his good fortune, spotted the escape route Carson had left him and bolted for it.

He was not opposed to vaccines, he explained to Tapper – “I love vaccines!” – but rather to the frequency and dosages with which they are dispensed.

“You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” Trump continued.

“I only say it’s not — I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount. But just in — in little sections. I think — and I think you’re going to have — I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.

Instead of renouncing his spurious claim about the causal link between childhood vaccinations and autism, Trump managed to repackage it as a spurious claim about the causal link between the frequency and strength of childhood vaccinations an autism.

Through this ridiculous process — remember, the election is more than a year away — I’ve tried to maintain an attitude that allows me to stay sane. It changes from day to day, from amusement to sneery contempt to bleak semi-depression, but I didn’t get angry until I read about this. Two highly educated doctors refusing to endorse a cornerstone of modern medicine for fear of irritating a slice of the electorate who is, frankly, too dumb to vote. I can’t stand it.

I’ve said before, I’m no fan of Hillary. But she is Winston Churchill combined with Abraham Lincoln compared to this crew. Neil Steinberg has said that if Donald Trump is elected president, it will only be what we deserve. I’ll say.

So. Question for the Indiana side of the room: What do we all think of the job Mitch Daniels is doing at Purdue? I ask because I had to write a story recently about college affordability, and many people think he’s doing a lot of good there. I know there was a dustup over Howard Zinn early, and I know he’s agreed to lay this stuff aside for now. Is there something I’m missing?

When the project drops next week, we can all discuss the topic uppermost in mind: Alcohol. Until then, some smart reading on the subject, an interview with Susan Brownmiller. She makes some excellent points; do you agree?

Good god, it’s the weekend. I thought you’d never arrive, weekend! Let me give you a great big kiss and fall into your arms.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 71 Comments

The dog park and the lozenge, and not much else.

Mostly pix today, because the day was long and the drive was long but afterward, with Alan working late on the UAW talks, I decided to call a friend in Midtown and take Wendy over to the Shinola dog park for some frolickin’.

Which we did. She frolicked with a four-month-old Chihuahua puppy named Scooby and a big lunk of a mutt called Dr. Gonzo. I think Dr. Gonzo’s dad was sweet on Scooby’s mom. Well, it was a beautiful night for hanging at the dog park. Tell me: Does every dog park have someone who brings a pit bull that charges around and gets on everybody’s nerves while his owner says, “Don’t mind him, he’s just a big sweetie”? Asking for a friend. Anyway, Wendy had fun:


On the way there, I was stopped at a light and watched this orange lozenge come around the corner, so small I suspected it was a remote-control toy. But as it passed me I could see a face in the middle, so it was something else. A couple hours later, after the dog park, I saw it parked in front of a trendy restaurant. Behold the lozenge:


As I took the picture, a voice came from a nearby table. “It’s a bike,” he said. I told him I figured as much. He said he’d been stopped for speeding. How fast? “Way over 30. I asked for a ticket, but they wouldn’t give me one.”

So, then, just one piece of bloggage while I wrestle a few big stories to the ground. When the Donald Trump era ends, what will it have accomplished? Waking up Latinos, says this guy. It’s a zag-don’t-zig take on this issue, and I recommend it.

Short rations this week, but I’ll try to keep the pix coming.

Posted at 12:21 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 128 Comments

Beanies, bandies and breezes.

Long, long weekend — I worked for most of it. But it was a good kind of work, the sort that got me out of the house and into the fresh air, which…freshened throughout the day. Which is to say, the day started sunny and cool, was briefly glorious, and then a cloud bank swept in from the west — you could see it on the horizon, bearing down like a malign force — and covered us all in gloom and chill.

But Michigan won the football game. I wasn’t in the stadium, but I was outside when the band passed by:


Look at those snowy white gloves. I’m always a sucker for a good marching band, and by “good” I mean Big Ten style — lots of brass, a loud-ass drumline and no silly arrangements of music that was never made to be played by a marching band. Leave that to the high schools. (In Indiana, marching bands compete with a ferocity generally seen only on reality shows featuring drag queens and dance moms. And they don’t really march, but sort of slither around the field in this weird walk-y gait, constantly moving — it’s harder — and never playing anything as mundane as, oh, “Across the Field.”) Marches! Fight songs! HAIL TO THE VICTORS! Or, you know, whatever they play for your school. But something rousing. That’s why the good lord gave us brass.

Story will be appearing in a couple weeks.

Kate wasn’t in Ann Arbor, amusingly enough. She came home for a Wayne State event with her friends, and we discovered another miraculous perk of enrollment at the state’s flagship university — the Detroit Center Connector, a free bus that runs between the Ann Arbor campus and Detroit four days a week. All that hang-wringing during the application process over how she was going to get home for band practice, the stuff I patiently answered with “Greyhound, Amtrak, ride-sharing and you’ll figure it out” has been vastly simplified. I dropped her off at 3 p.m. in front of the Ren Cen, where she joined three girls in hijabs to wait for pickup. And that was that. That student ID is worth its weight in gold. Plus a lot more. (Which we are paying, yes.)

Some good bloggage today that covers a vast span of emotional ground, so gird your loins and let’s do the depressing stuff first.

That would be the Washington Post’s remarkable look at the people with whom Dylann Roof stayed before he massacred nine people at a Charleston church earlier this summer. As is frequently the case, Roof gave ample warning of his plans, and he gave them to the people in this trailer. They didn’t say anything. Why? Read the story and shudder — it is terribly sad and depressing, and JeffTMM, you might want to stay away. As always, I ask, “What are we going to do with these people?” We used to have a place for them. We don’t anymore. But they’re still out there.

Moving on. One of the memories of Kate’s early childhood I recall fondly was the Beanie Baby era, although I did not play the tulip-fever game; we just played with them. She was still an infant unable to sit up unaided when a friend dropped by and gave her her first one, a rabbit of some sort. I thanked her, and when I later told someone else about it, they said, “You can’t let her play with it! It might be a valuable one!” I was under the impression we were talking about a $5 stuffed animal small enough for a baby to pick up, but no. And that’s how I was introduced to the silliness of Beanies, which was silly indeed. I recall a quote from a woman in the local paper: “These are going to pay for my daughter’s college education,” which even then a person with a room-temperature IQ could tell was bullshit. My neighbor did try to get a couple of hot ones, and nearly got herself and her toddler trampled in the process, which ended her enthusiasm quickly and before she spent more than a few bucks on them.

We bought our share and always took the tags off and played with them, and I remember how I tucked her in with a couple many nights. I was quite fond of them. You might enjoy this Vice piece on how they arced through the mid-90s pop-culture sky like a comet.

I laughed out loud at this account, by a Knight-Wallace Fellow from last year, on how he pledged a fraternity during his time in Ann Arbor. Yes, at the age of 38, hence the title, “The 38-year-old frat boy.”

I was about to give up when, on the last day of rush week, the Greek gods smiled upon me. It was at Alpha Delta Phi, otherwise known by students as “Shady Phi,” a popular frat on campus, with a beach volleyball court in the front yard. (As I would later learn, the prevailing rumor about A.D.P. was that even the sand in the volleyball court had herpes.)

I managed to hit it off with the president. He was an unconventional frat boy, a vegan who did yoga. He told me he wanted to be a life coach. We started going to the same meditation group and having lunch together on campus. Thanks to him, I got invited back to more events. I won first place at the beer pong party — turned out I was something of a beer pong savant, a skill I attributed to having a master’s degree in physics — and ably slammed Cuervo Silver and Simply Lemonade at Taco Tuesday. With the president’s political capital behind me, I was in.

Finally, Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, for a food startup of some kind. Best of luck to him, but I hope he doesn’t get all food-scoldy like everyone else in that community.

Posted at 12:19 am in Current events, Detroit life, Popculch | 66 Comments


Every month or so, this booster magazine appears on my doorstep. It is unapologetically rah-rah about Grosse Pointe in the most icky, groveling way; I remember a passage that ran something like, “So yeah, property values are down — that just means young families can move in!” Etc. You don’t expect a magazine like that to sparkle, but on the other hand, is it too much to not have to deal with this?

A photo posted by nderringer (@nderringer) on

I ask you. Man, that is a very long embed code. (Real bloggers don’t use the Visual tab in WordPress. We like to SEE our HTML.)

What a week of lameness, blogging-wise. I’m busy, and work drains the creativity out of me when the weather isn’t doing it first. And stuff is happening now that seems to cry out for heated commentary. Like this. Actually, that requires stand-up comedy. OK, then, this:

Former presidents may keep quiet about those who occupy the White House once they leave, but the code clearly does not extend to vice presidents. Nearly seven years after leaving office, Dick Cheney has produced a book that amounts to a stinging indictment of President Obama as an ineffectual, America-hating, military-destroying, soft-on-terrorism appeaser whose tenure has damaged the country.

It is a case he prosecutes relentlessly. To the witness stand, Mr. Cheney and his daughter and co-author, Liz Cheney, summon the ghosts of presidents past, including Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan, to testify to the greatness of America and what they call the bipartisan postwar tradition of muscular leadership on the world stage.

This is a tradition Mr. Obama has shirked, the writers argue, making him a modern-day Neville Chamberlain. “The damage that Barack Obama has done to our ability to defend ourselves is appalling,” they write in “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America.” “It is without historical precedent. He has set us on a path of decline so steep that reversing direction will not be easy.”

I don’t say this often, but how much longer can this affliction remain on the earth, sucking up health care on the taxpayers’ dime? Can we send an electromagnetic pulse to his robo-heart and end this sort of thing? You’d think.

Oh, and look: Donald Trump is “surging.” I welcome you to have a great weekend. I will have an insanely busy one, about which I can tell you more later. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments

The queen of most of what she surveys.

What a difference 24 hours, seven hours of sleep and a generic Zyrtec make. My world, it is transformed. Of course, the 10-degree drop in temperature helped, too.

And it was a good day for Queen Elizabeth, too — officially her country’s longest-serving monarch. Gaze upon the awesomeness of her official photo, complete with her red dispatch box, which contains the day’s work. Read the awesomeness of how she marked this special, special day:

The Queen and Prince Philip travelled by steam train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, where she formally opened the new £294m Scottish Borders Railway.

And then there’s this through-the-years gallery, also worth a look. Diana — what a goddamn lightweight that girl was. Not worthy of such a mother-in-law, clearly.

Once again, I didn’t do much web-surfing today, but I found a thing or three. This was the weirdest:

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly: The ancient, giant virus recently discovered in melting Arctic ice is not going to kill you.

But here’s the bad news: It’s not the first ancient virus that scientists have found frozen — it’s the fourth found since 2003. And you can be sure it won’t be the last. And with climate change causing massive melts, it’s not totally alarmist to suggest that something deadly might one day emerge from a long, icy sleep.

As if climate change didn’t already suck enough, right?

As I recall, this was the SPOILER ALERT central mystery of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” a strange novel I read ages ago, a mystery story set in Denmark and Greenland. Terrible movie, but hey, that happens.

And the new iPhones rolled out Wednesday. I won’t be getting one, but Alan’s due for an upgrade — he has the super-primitive 5, for the love of God, how much can a man endure — and frankly, I’m not looking forward to it. Is it time to go back to the candy-bar Nokia? I’m wondering.

So Thursday dawns crisp and clear — fall is finally in the air. I expect I’ll start bitching about it in a few days.

Posted at 8:11 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments

A change is gonna come.

Ugh, what a day. I think I slept two and a half hours, and awoke to the final day of the steambath. Figured I’d work out in the morning cool, which wasn’t. Cool, that is. Halfway through, I was gasping for breath. I know the weather change is days away, but this wet-cotton sauna shit just gets on my nerves. A few hours later my eyes felt swollen shut and it was clear that nothing was going to salvage it.

But I got a few chores done, and some work shoved out of the way, and now the sun is down, and I am ready to embrace my pillow like it’s George Clooney.

So once again, one lousy link. Like this one, with a Fort Wayne angle:

Sherman Alexie read hundreds, maybe thousands, of poems last year while editing the 2015 edition of Best American Poetry, an annual anthology that comes out Tuesday. Just over six dozen of them made the final cut, including “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” by Yi-Fen Chou, 20 brief, cynical lines on the absurdity of desire.

But after Alexie had chosen the poem for the collection, he promptly got a note from the author, who turned out not to be the rueful, witty Chinese American poet he’d imagined while reading the piece.

It was written by Michael Derrick Hudson of Fort Wayne, Ind., a genealogist at the Allen County Public Library who, given his field of expertise, could probably easily explain that he is not of Asian descent.

Boy, I hope the pollen count isn’t so high tomorrow.

Posted at 12:53 am in Current events | 33 Comments

Still steamed.

I know I spent a fair amount of time bitching about the weather this summer, because I spend a fair amount of time bitching about the weather, period. I recall days on end in July when the temperature didn’t kiss the bottom side of 70, but this weekend summer showed up for the last scene. It was hotter than a Louisiana swamp until sundown Monday, at which point I was sitting poolside at a nice end-of-summer party. What are you gonna do? Summer party? You gotta go.

It was an amazingly productive weekend. Got work done, bathrooms cleaned, potato salad made, dry cleaning dropped off and picked up — you know the drill. Not one but two ill-fitting dresses returned for credit. A lot of miles driven, but that’s what espresso is for, right?

Along the way, a funny story turned up by one of my Bridge colleagues, which I’m sorry Prospero/Caliban didn’t live to see — about the time the MC5 came to play at his Catholic high school, in 1968. The primary concern? What would Rob Tyner howl when they launched into their signature song? Read and find out.

I wish I had more for you today, but I took a bit of an internet break this weekend. You’ll find something to talk about. Let the fall begin!

Posted at 12:09 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments


Well, it was a perfect day for a move, if you love temperatures in the high 80s, ditto humidity and an elevator-less, A/C-free building. Michigan does the perky-helper model of kids who swarm your car and drag all your stuff up to the room, but the unpacking, the rearranging and the sweating-buckets part was up to us, limited somewhat by the fact we only had an hour before Kate had to go to a welcome activity, so we got the furniture how she wanted it, made the bed, hooked up the stereo and booked it.

I didn’t even get a final picture. All three of us looked like we’d been showered in steam, anyway.

But that’s why the good Lord gave us Zingerman’s, and its slow-roasted pork sandwiches with garlic aioli. We brought home some of that outrageously expensive jamon serrano, just to celebrate.


Neil Steinberg on Kim Davis.

Remember the Colorado program we talked about a while back? Give low-income teens and women long-acting, no-brainer birth control and watch the pregnancy and abortion rates drop? It probably won’t last long. It sends the wrong message:

When seed money from the Buffett foundation ran out this summer, Hickenlooper asked for state funding to continue the program. But Republican state lawmakers like Kathleen Conti said no. Conti complains the long-acting birth control is too expensive and sends the wrong message to teenagers who should instead be taught to refrain from sex.

“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the doctors encouraged the kids: ‘Now that you’ve got this, feel free to have sex with everybody.’ But I think it by default, takes away one more intimidating problem.”

Labor Day weekend suggests I should stop doing labor for a couple of days, and I think I will, except for maybe making some potato salad. You?

Posted at 12:35 am in Popculch | 66 Comments

She’s leaving home, bye-bye.

Today’s the big move-in day. I don’t want to make too much of it, because it’s only 50 miles away and it’s not forever, but it is a milestone, and it should be noted.

As it happens, two of my colleagues are also sending kids to Ann Arbor this year. One moved in Monday, and reported that Monday night he was introduced to something called Beer Olympics. Well, college is for learning.

In keeping with the spirit of the day, then, an image from the turnaround point in this morning’s very steamy bike ride:


Oh, and what should happen two days before we have to load at least one car (probably two) on an 88-degree day? The street work finally reached our driveway:


It’s OK, the cars are only parked a couple blocks away. At least we have a wagon.

So, bloggage:

Your daily Trump. Cue Samuel Jackson: English, m—–f—–, do you speak it? Roy is keeping up with Trump and the appalled assistants in the laboratory (you should pronounce that with the accent on the second syllable, please) as they watch their monster lurch around breaking shit. Here’s one roundup, with a callout to Coozledad.

You might have seen the story of the giant, overgrown sheep found living wild in Australia. Here’s the back story, including an After photo, post-shearing.

Y’all know I worry about your fitness, so here are some moves to tone your back. We do these in boxing class, yoga, Pilates — all of them. And I’m 57 and only rarely have back pain, and it’s almost always my own fault because I don’t take enough keyboard breaks.

Off to do a little work and then get those wagons greased up.

Posted at 10:03 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 26 Comments

The clerk with the crowning glory.

Caveat emptor: A commenter informs me she’s not an Apostolic Christian, but a Pentecostal congregation with “apostolic” in its name. She’s probably right, but I bet the same modesty/hair thing applies. These folks are nuts about long hair.

I’d never heard of the Apostolic Christian church before I moved to Indiana. A friend, native to Bluffton in Wells County, filled me in on this sect, which has one foot in Anabaptism (that would be the Amish/Mennonites for those who live far away) and another in Mormonism’s go-go capitalism. They dominate the business community in Bluffton, and over the course of a few visits, I learned to spot the women, with their long hair and modest hemlines, and their almost freakishly clean-cut menfolk. They were cohesive, insular and walked their talk.

Young AC church members don’t date, but socialize in chaperoned youth activities like “singings,” the genders separated to warble with one another from opposite benches, feeds and whatnot. When a young man feels attracted to a potential mate, he prays for discernment and if he gets it, takes the revelation to his parents and elders, who then approach the young woman for her response. (If I’m getting all this wrong, I blame time and memory.) If she’s amenable, they marry with a minimum of fuss and get to the work of building families and businesses, the latter because moms stay home and dads have to support ever-growing broods. They don’t do public assistance like some fundamentalist religious groups do, but they’re clannish in their economic dealings and support of fellow congregants, so they tend to prosper. My friend informed me you could hardly do a Saturday’s errands in Bluffton without supporting an AC business, and what resentment this might have raised among those business owners who had to work harder for customers might be grumbled about, but not much more.

I’ve been gone from Indiana for a while, but when I saw Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, her anachronistic appearance rang all my Hoosier bells. Just the shot in this story shows you what I’m talking about — the hair, the dowdy dresses made dowdier by the long-sleeved undershirts she wears with them, all of it. (A lot of modern Muslim women around here wear those undershirts, too, but in Michigan, where it’s winter half the year, you don’t notice it so much. Davis lives in Kentucky. And it’s summer. I have a few myself. I bought a couple at Costco a few years ago and loved their substantial fabric, their extra length — great with lower-rise jeans — and the elasticity in the fabric hugged my body — ooh, sex-ay. I bought a few more. When they wore out, I looked online to restock. The label said ModBod, which I was surprised to learn is a Mormon company, and the shirts were originally made to be worn as modesty layers, just like Kim Davis’. They’re cut tight to fit under more clothes. Oh, well. They still look great by themselves.)

A lot of people have noted that Davis is on her fourth marriage, so by definition she’s a hypocrite about God’s law vis-a-vis holy matrimony. I won’t argue, but I’d encourage you to spend more time around fundamentalist Christians of all sorts, and you’d swiftly understand what she’s about. She may well have been married three times previous to this one, but now she’s married to an Apostolic Christian, and she’s been forgiven. She is washed in the blood of the lamb, and her eyes are on the heavenly escalator that will one day carry her up to Heaven. Evangelicals, in my experience, don’t spend a lot of time brooding on their past mistakes. We all sin, we’re all fallen, the world is broken, but they’re moving forward. Moral complexity, reconciling past with present, reconsidering one’s point of view — they leave that to us New Yorker subscribers. Nothing about this woman should be unfamiliar to anyone who’s been to a church-basement potluck in the American midwest. Or read a Josh Duggar confessional lately.

We’ll see how this case works out. But now you have a cultural reference to her hair, anyway.

Not much bloggage today as I keep up with work and prepare for Kate’s departure. A couple of tidbits, though:

At 180 degrees from Kim Davis, a hilarious take on sugar dating, i.e. prostitution by any other name:

SeekingArrangement is just one of several sugar-dating sites, but a popular one. On all these websites, the splash page features a beautiful young woman, elegant but with sideboob, and either she’s overtly dangling a piece of jewelry or she is wearing it. She looks into the camera. Each time, a man, older, nearing silver status, is looking right at her, unable to take his rich, priapic eyes off her. He has the beginnings of male-pattern baldness: baldness that says, “I’ve lived, I have money, here is a bracelet.” He is about to lean into her neck, maybe take a big old bite out of it, and she hangs back, only for a moment, only to tell us her secret, which is: “Look, I got a bracelet.”

Everyone on SeekingArrangement knows what they’re there for, Thurston says. What is so bad about formalizing the arrangement so that we can all just go home happy? And aside from that unpleasantness with that woman who scammed him, all Thurston had to wrestle with, really, was the nagging guilt that maybe this whole sugar-dating thing isn’t so okay, particularly since he began before his divorce was even finalized. “I went to church every Sunday. This felt like an ethical dilemma.” But he reminded himself that he was actually helping someone, a poor student, or someone who badly needed the money for, I don’t know, medical bills or back taxes or vaping supplies. And that’s what it came down to: “The whole concept of a sugar daddy intrigued me, because even if I were dating someone traditionally, I’d give them money anyway.”

What becomes of a graffiti vandal sentenced to grow up? He does, and he doesn’t. Not too long; recommended.

And this profile of Larry King from last week’s NYT magazine is hilarious.

Time to start grinding.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Popculch | 52 Comments