Sobriety doesn’t suck.

How does the song go? “How dry I am,” something like that. Approaching the 48th hour of alcohol-free living, I’m starting to feel more or less like a teetotaler, even though I slept horribly last night. A nice early bedtime doesn’t pay off if you wake up at 1 a.m. and don’t get back to sleep until after 3. But that will pay off in a good sleep tonight, I devoutly hope.

HBO has some sort of series up on its streaming service – “Risky Drinking,” or some such. It’s not as good as it could have been, but the 20 minutes or so I watched wasn’t bad. Subject: Problem drinkers. Spoiler: There are a lot of them out there. My main takeaway was how many adults old enough to know better still drink like college students, with the multiple rounds of Fireball shots, the mixing of beer and vodka and all sorts of vile crap, all served in plastic cups in horrible bars.

My second takeaway is that there’s nothing more boring, and intolerable, as a drunk. I’ve known a few, and that glassy-eyed stare they get brings back unpleasant memories.

I respect you recovering alcoholics in the readership, for sure. I only wonder what is so appealing about drinking that much in the first place. All addictions are ugly, but they start out in something like beauty, at least for the addict.

The barfing always turned me off.

Not much bloggage today, because I worked and didn’t do much sniffing around the internet. But there’s this: Intellectuals for Trump. Yep.

Happy Tuesdaying, all.

Posted at 9:49 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 62 Comments
 

Pine needles.

Well, I did it. We did it, that is — took the tree down, and the outside decorations. God, that feels good, sweeping up the big pile of pine needles and dragging that sucker down to the curb. Let 2017 get underway, for cryin’ out loud.

One great thing about working for a startup is, things rarely stay the same for long, and lots more will be expected of all of us in the new year, so I have to get my organization under control. I’m trying a Bullet Journal — i.e., “making lists and taking notes in a paper notebook” — and seeing how it goes. I love my digital systems, but I’m old enough that writing something down seems to stick in my head better.

Bullet journaling seems to be a cult. Someone have me deprogrammed if I slide too deeply into this stuff.

January is also my dry month, which I’m happy to see arrive, frankly. Alcohol is a depressant, and this is a depressing time of year. Dry January also has its cult, and even a name — “Drynuary.” Its leading adherent:

“The first week, you’re overenergized,” he said. “I’m having lucid dreams more often.”

The second week, his clothes fit better, but after that, it’s all uphill. By the fourth week, he said, “I’m sick of whatever it is that used to be interesting about this.”

That sounds like my experience last year, although I hung on until the final hours of Jan. 30, when I had a few sips of wine. The next night, a single glass. We’ll see if I can go all the way.

Feeling boring at the moment. Let’s get to the bloggage, eh?

Whatever you know about Richard Nixon, dial your opinion down a few notches. He was worse than you thought:

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

Meanwhile, our toddler president-elect promises even lower lows:

“And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Mr. Trump, who does not use email, also advised people to avoid computers when dealing with delicate material. “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Mr. Trump said.

“I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”

My new favorite health-care news site is StatNews, worth a visit every day. I liked this piece about the dangers of the alt-medicine movement.

Time for an hour of non-digital reading and an early bedtime. The new year is under way.

Posted at 9:06 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments
 

Last days.

So, how’s everybody’s break going? Me, I am getting shit DONE. Basement, CONQUERED. Closets, NEXT IN LINE. Piles of paper EN ROUTE TO THE DAMN SHREDDER. When New Year’s Day dawns, that Christmas tree’s days are NUMBERED AT .5, and I’m starting 2017 fresh. Or maybe FRESH.

Or even FUCK YEAH FRESH.

In between organizing/trashing chores, I’m trying to read one of my Christmas presents: Shusako Endo’s “Silence,” now a major motion picture by Marty-my-idol. As you might imagine, the contrast is sometimes jarring, but I’m determined to finish it. I now have a stack of novels, both analog and digital, to get through in the new year, and I’m determined to do so. The internet has destroyed my attention span, and I’m equally determined to get it back. Not having a dozen years’ worth of neglected basement cleaning nagging at my conscience will help.

The holiday itself was pleasant. When your family is small, your celebrations are often low-key and chill, and ours was. We did tamales on the Eve, turkey on the Day, and many leftovers remain in the fridge, which will not escape the purge, because New Year’s Day is also the first day of my second Dry January, which may or may not be part of a Whole30, haven’t decided if I’m up for the torture yet. The circus class, after a rocky, knee-wrenching start, is growing on me, and I’m wondering if losing a few pounds won’t make the upper-body job a tad easier. And as usually happens at this time of year, my waistbands are getting a little tight. I’m so sick of cookies and chocolate and gingerbread, and yet, whenever I pass a sample? I cannot help but reach.

So, a little bloggage? There’s so much, but I haven’t been making many notes; at the end of the year, many places do excellent wrap ups, so start with Longform and go from there.

And this year, of course, there are the obituaries. (You want to know why journalists are the way they are? While the rest of you were rooting for Carrie Fisher and passing along memes and so forth, a handful of grim-faced scribes were plugging away on the just-in-case obit, which it turned out was needed.)

I highly recommend, again, my colleague Bill’s great, never-before-told story of the family at the center of the 1967 Detroit riots. Long but very readable.

Leave it to Neil Steinberg to rain all over Christmas. But I can’t say he’s wrong.

I heard a long NPR thing on Rick Barry and the underhanded free throw a few months back, and I guess it’s making a comeback.

Probably the last update of 2016 here. See you next week, and everyone? Let’s take a tip from the front half of the Detroit civic motto: Speramus meliora. (We hope for better things.) But be prepared for the other direction.

Posted at 9:54 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 68 Comments
 

Ouch.

Hey, everyone. How’re y’all? My knee hurts.

It’s my own fault. In my never-ending quest to deny reality and change my workouts around, I signed up for a conditioning class at a local circus school. Just one day a week, figured I’d get some tips on improving my balance before the next surfing expedition. I didn’t think for a minute that we’d work on any of the apparatuses, as they call them, but to my surprise the main part of the class involves clambering around on trapeze fabric and a couple of round things called lyras.

Nothing like trying a new skill to make you realize how much you have to learn. It turns out my core strength is fine, but upper body? Let’s just say the Cirque du Soleil will not be calling; I can barely hoist my body weight off the ground, although I managed one good inversion on some fabric, after I’d wrenched my ACL-free left knee, trying to swing it through the lyra.

Success on one did not balance out failure+pain on the other, but it helped. I’m sticking with the class.

I’m told lyra work is a big thing in high-end strip clubs these days, but I wouldn’t know anything about that, first-hand.

And this is the sort of thing you do when your husband consistently works late on Tuesday nights.

Bearing down on the holidays, I only have a million things to do. Three of us went out for a couple beers after work yesterday, the closest thing to a holiday party we’ll have this year. Bill told a great story about being an altar boy 50 years ago, and talking to one of his fellow servers about what he did during his, the other kid’s, considerable alone-time with Father in the rectory.

“Try on diapers,” the kid said. “You should try it sometime. They’re really comfortable.”

Bill wrote about this when the priest abuse scandal was breaking. Father was transferred around from church to church, of course. The other kid? He developed a drinking problem.

So, then. Some bloggage as we go forward? I’ll do my best:

Working-class jobs in the area, especially those previously filled by unskilled men, have largely disappeared. In the late 1970s, 786 people worked in well-paid union jobs in the timber industry; now that number has declined to six. The population is ageing. Incomes have declined. White-collar jobs have drawn people to Oregon’s cities, whose demographics mean they dominate the politics of the blue state. Harney County has a limited economic and demographic future – but if federal lands were handed over to local control, Bundy argued, perhaps the area could be great again.

That paragraph, from this interesting essay about the alt-right and “new patriotism,” could be written about northern Michigan, rural Ohio/Indiana and probably dozens of other regions in this country. Still working my way through it, but so far, so good.

One of my Airbnb hosts on my California sojourn worked on this show, “Generation KKK.” I no longer have cable, but I’m sure it’ll be available through one of the streaming services, eventually.

This douchebag again. When is someone going to sue him?

Happy Thursday to all.

Posted at 10:05 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 103 Comments
 

We meet again.

Yes, my little minions, I made it to and from Columbus in one piece. The greatest threat was potentially dying of boredom on the trip down from Lansing on Friday, which seemed endless, all gray skies and flat fields and nothing on the damn radio. I turned on Google Maps’ navigation function as I drew near, and it led me, turn by turn, into an area I remembered as a slum, where today the greatest threat is being hit by a guy on a $3,000 bicycle who was just doored by a BMW.

Gentrification. On the one hand, it displaces the poor. On the other, it displaces the Short North Posse.

Anyway, the party was fun. Nice to see friends old and new, and my biggest fear — that I’d look around and think, “What do I have in common with all these old people” — was not realized. We have a strange relationship with the people we work with; we often spend more time with them than our own families, and when it comes to an end? Sometimes we stay in touch, sometimes people fall off the earth. But it was great to see everyone.

Several journos-turned-authors in the group, or editors of authors. That was interesting. Also, lots had bailed out when the parachutes were still pretty big. Not so much anymore. The copy desk has already been outsourced – to Austin, Texas. That’s how you get mistakes like this, which is not the Columbus Dispatch’s, but a Michigan chain with similar cost pressures:

frontpages

Oopsie. The Lions played the Giants this weekend, not the Cowboys.

And while you’re feeling contempt for the media, do consider that this AP photographer literally risked his life to capture some startling images of the Russian-ambassador assassination in Ankara earlier today.

A strange business. Let’s turn from the tragic to the comical, shall we?

Remember how Tim Goeglein disgraced himself and embarrassed his hometown paper by plagiarizing a couple dozen columns over the course of several years? Well, guess what? He’s writing again — for the same paper, which apparently now has no standards whatsoever.

But he’s delivering a message they’re comfortable with, so I guess all is forgiven:

In 1988 Dan Quayle became vice president of the United States and Dan Coats was plucked from near-obscurity by Indiana Gov. Robert Orr and appointed the new U.S. senator from Indiana. Without peer, Coats was the right man for the job because his character and integrity were unassailable and because he had never lost an election. Even though most Hoosiers hadn’t a clue who he was, those who knew him best knew his personal integrity and natural grace would carry him to the heights of political power.

It’s really a remarkable column. I’m sure it’s not plagiarized, but it’s so…weird and icky that I had to read it a couple times. Coats, who is leaving the Senate at the end of this term, moves Tim to many adjectives, most of them deployed with some stupid adverb, so he’s “loved and respected roundly and widely,” a man who “intentionally widened his gyre in a manner that would serve him and our country powerfully in all the years ahead.” Needless to say, his faith is “deeply felt.” About that faith:

It is that faith that is at the heart of the man himself – utterly foundational to understanding everything he finds most important in life: his long marriage to Marsha, his boundless love for their three children, and the unmatched devotion he has for their many grandchildren. His exceptional respect, love and devotion to his wife and family are his pillars.

Tim! If you’re reading this, here’s a lesson from Comp 101: Show, don’t tell. If you can’t think of a single anecdote or example of all this love and respect in action, adding a bunch of extra adjectives won’t help sell it. And if you choose the wrong ones, it’s just creepy. Lots of people respect, love and are devoted to their spouses and families, so to call one guy’s exceptional, absent of any evidence, is irritating to many readers. And almost everyone would do anything, even give their life, for their own child, so calling Coats’ paternal love boundless is just trite.

Also, stop saying categorical. And immutable. You use utterly twice in adjacent paragraphs. And slipping in the vanilla good in the midst of all that silly froufrou is almost jarring.

At the end, Tim stands revealed as the worst kind of boot-licking toady, all flattery and blandishments and sweet nothings in the ear. Which, when you come to think of it, is probably a good skill set in Washington these days. There’s a new administration hiring, and they like that stuff.

Expect spottier posting for the next couple of weeks, as we move through the holidays. The spirit may move within me, it may take a fortnight off. Fingers crossed.

Posted at 5:38 pm in Current events, Media | 73 Comments
 

The coast.

The week, the month, the year has reached its crescendo — annual review done, story memos done, shopping done. More or less. (Just a few bottles to buy. The Christmas equivalent of phoning it in.)

So now I can relax, work on some longer-term projects, look at the Christmas tree, wrap presents. Coast. Chill. Enjoy.

And drive. A lot. This weekend is the Nall Family Christmas ™ and the Columbus Dispatch Alumni Holiday Party ™, which replaced the booze-soaked Up on the Housetop Party ™ of my era. The Dispatch party is Friday night, and of course I have a training on Friday, in Lansing, which means I’ll be leaving from there. Driving distance between the two state capitals? Four hours and 25 minutes, thanks for asking.

I used to love a long drive. Now it just hurts my back. I recently came to the realization I’m what’s known as an active sedentary person, i.e., someone who exercises for one hour a day, then sits on her ass for the remainder. Not good, but I don’t see an alternative, until I perfect the art of writing-while-walking, and no, I’m not getting a treadmill desk.

I enjoy this time of year, working for Bridge. We go dark for two weeks, which never happens at a daily newspaper. I believe I’ve written before about the torture of the holiday interval in newspapering, which is sort of like anesthesiology — hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror. You sit around waiting for a disaster, hoping the pages won’t come up from advertising with more news hole than the canned year-in-review stories can fill, because then you’ll be sent out on a holiday nothingburger, about new year’s preparation or the returns desk at some department store. Those all suck.

The tragedies suck worse — the man who went to midnight mass, missing the fire that broke out and killed his wife and children; the old rummy who robbed a bank, then walked to a nearby bar and waited for arrest, so he could have a warm place to sleep and reliable meals. The underwear bomber was a Christmas Day story. Exploding water mains if it gets real cold, another holiday perennial.

Much better to be off. I clean closets, a deeply satisfying task. I’m also going to find time to watch “Hypernormalisation,” a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis, which is getting insane buzz at the moment, but can only be found on YouTube. I’ll give you a report.

Of course, a lull won’t necessarily arrive this year, as we count down to our nation’s transition. Neil Steinberg referred to these days as being akin the clack-clack-clack of a long climb up the first hill on the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster. I think that’s right.

In North Carolina, they’ll be covering the Calvinball leagues.

In Washington, we’ll be waiting for the first daughter to be first lady, while the woman who would normally fill that role remains separated from her husband in another city. And there’s the new diplomatic corps to look forward to.

Unrelated, except in the what-fresh-horror-is-this file, Lenny Pozner, one of the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook, continues to fight the good fight. What a heartbreaking, infuriating story.

Don’t mean to bum y’all out. I’ll be back after the long weekend.

Posted at 11:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments
 

A clipping file.

All the hassle of the last fortnight comes to a head tomorrow, so short shrift tonight, but hey — I have some good links.

Neil Steinberg is often one of my first stops in my morning rounds, in part because of his unflinching eye in obits of public figures, but for many other reasons, as well. He’s just a good writer. But I really liked this frank appreciation of a public atheist who died unexpectedly early this week.

I want to post the final paragraphs, but it would give away the best part of the piece. Just read it.

On a far grimmer note, but a good read, is this tick-tock about the fire in Oakland. Kate’s band sometimes plays places like this, and I never stop worrying when she does.

Another great piece by Ta’Nehisi Coates, about the departing president. Too much wonderful stuff to quote. read it over lunch.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events | 35 Comments
 

Monday’s Monday.

I don’t know what it is about me and Mondays. I had an action-packed day today, if you equate “writing things” with action. I got a lot accomplished, is what I’m saying. At the end of it, I walked the dog and thought about pouring myself a big glass of wine. Then remembered: Trying to minimize my drinking. So I made soup — curried butternut squash-apple. Cutting up the squash put me in a lousy mood, because what a fucking vegetable, amirite? You practically need a chain saw to get to the good stuff, which is just wrong. Vegetables shouldn’t play so hard to get, considering lots of people have to force them down the old gullet.

Mondays.

Got a bit of a snow day, I guess. No swimming, no boxing, slept clear until 6:30 and lolled abed until 7, at which point I got up and went directly to work, because I had to do some interviews with people far overseas, whose days were already well along. Drank coffee and watched the sky go from black to gray to lighter gray. Monday.

Somehow, this blow-by-blow doesn’t quite have the best-seller ring of “My Struggle,” does it?

So, a couple of announcements:

MichaelG! Your sbcglobal email address was hacked some time ago, and I’m getting almost daily spam messages from it. Check/change your password, eh?

I used Google Voice / Hangout for my interviews today, and cannot praise it enough. Better than Skype, better than your calling plan. The internet has disrupted and destroyed many businesses, but I’m old enough to remember doing a story on some young Fort Wayne brothers who were living in Jerusalem during one of the intifadas. Because of the time difference, we did the phoners from home, well before I went into the office. One call went for 30 minutes and one for 40 minutes, and the phone bill was $179. I called to see if I could get it adjusted. Why yes! I could. If I signed up for a $5/month international calling plan, they’d retroactively bill me for what I’d have paid to call Israel under the plan. The bill dropped from $179 to $18 and if that doesn’t tell you what shit does and doesn’t cost, I don’t know what does.

Today my calls to Cypress and London were a penny a minute. Literally.

It was sunny in Cypress. Gray bowl here. Mondays.

I’m sorry I have no links. Maybe tomorrow.

Posted at 9:58 am in Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments
 

The world’s longest to-do list.

Every so often we all wonder if we’re in the right place, job-wise, right? Don’t you look at job listings from time to time? Sure you do, even if you like the one you have. Grass is varying shades of green, so we’re always looking on the other side of the fence.

So here you go: $125-150K per year for running six separate estates, all owned by the same family (or LLC, most likely), in three different cities (Franklin, Mich., Aspen and Palm Beach). Basically, you’re at the beck and call of Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags and their adult children, as a combination event planner, food and beverage manager, diplomat, maintenance supervisor, human resources director (“in an environment where everyone is given clear expectations and loves coming to work daily”) and six or seven other full-time jobs, all rolled into one. And you have to be able to travel at the drop of a hat and pay the bills and, and, and…

That sounds like a fat salary until you consider that it’s really a bargain for a family that apparently needs six houses to encompass all their money. On the up side, you’ll learn a lot of interesting things about the Trumps.

The weekend turned out to be 50 percent of one. I’m working pretty much all day Sunday, writing a story and doing other chores, so I can leave early on Friday — I’m hoping to attend the Columbus Dispatch alumni holiday party for the first time in a few years. I’m also hoping not to be detained by the weather; a polar vortex is headed this way, with “frigid air tied up (that) has its origins in Siberia and northern Canada.”

As if Russia hasn’t fucked with us enough as of late.

A story I’m not getting into, because I feel the top of my skull is just barely holding on.

Although you should read this.

This Twitter account is mainly for comic relief.

I have to start writing other things now. It’s snowing like crazy, too. Hello, winter.

Posted at 11:55 am in Current events, Popculch | 38 Comments
 

Brandy, you’re a fine girl.

I don’t know why, but I think this belongs here:

rock3c

It’s one of those nights, folks. Too much work, a trip tomorrow — to Kalamazoo, perhaps my favorite city name in the whole state — and too much miscellanea in the One of These Days file. Like this list, not the top 100, but the first 81. So many songs that should never be played again, and yet, I probably know every word, because if there’s ever an effective memory-cementing device, it’s a 14 year old and a transistor radio. Alan digs up “Troglodyte” on YouTube every few months, just to torture me. “She was one of the Butt sisters!” he crows, and justlikethat, the song is re-embedded in my frontal lobes, along with…pretty much everything else on this list. There may be two songs here I couldn’t sing beginning to end, and I don’t think I want to learn them.

More fun fotos! The royal family before the annual Diplomatic Reception:

royalfamily

I love the fam’s official photographic record. Those knickers, the heir, the heir’s heir, the consort and the young commoner-turned-duchess. Do you ever wonder if, while getting dressed, maybe Bill and Cathy Cambridge sing “Duke of Earl” to one another?

And when I hold you
You’ll be my Duchess, Duchess of Earl
We’ll walk through my dukedom
And a paradise we will share

I hope so, anyway.

Finally, pro tip: “Pumping Iron” is on Netflix this month. You should watch it. I did, the other night, for the first time since the 1970s. It holds up, with young Arnold Schwarzenegger displaying all the charm that took him to fame and riches. He’s smart, confident and a real competitor in this bizarre sport. Plus, it’s 87 minutes long, which strikes me as pretty perfect for a documentary.

Into the weekend we go.

Posted at 9:56 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 91 Comments