Pole held together entirely by staples, Frenchmen Street.
You think you’ve seen it all when it comes to anti-gay b.s., but I have to agree with the obvious click bait of the headline here: Kansas’ Anti-Gay Segregation Bill Is an Abomination. (But why oh why, Slate, are you using up-style headlines? It’s So Old-Fashioned, And Not In a Good Way.)
When passed, the new law will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away gay couples at the door. And if a gay couple sues for discrimination, they won’t just lose; they’ll be forced to pay their opponent’s attorney’s fees. As I’ve noted before, anti-gay businesses might as well put out signs alerting gay people that their business isn’t welcome.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking. Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.
Does anyone in the Kansas legislature have any shame about being featured on “Ken Burns’ Gay Revolution,” premiering in 2020? I guess not. Who are these people, who can simultaneously feel like the most oppressed, put-upon souls in human history — besides Jesus, of course — and pass legislation like this?
Of course, most of these things won’t happen; homophobia isn’t as widespread as the Kansas legislature perhaps thinks. But it will happen. If I were gay in Kansas, I’d leave. Let the Fuller Brush Co. hire some heterosexuals to do their advertising.
And what, exactly, is being protected here? This, the single most excruciating thing I’ve watched in a good long while. Thanks, Velvet Goldmine, for bringing it to my attention.
And with that, the last day before vacation dawns, a pretty busy one. I leave you with a recording of a weird sound that swept across St. Paul early Thursday morning — it’s oddly musical. Explanation at the link.
And finally, it turns out Michelle Obama wore a formal dress to a formal event. THE NERVE.
Happy valentine’s day! As for me, Laissez les bons temps rouler. At least it’ll be warmer.
A friend of mine here has a truly encyclopedic record collection, and when we were chatting online about the Westminster dog show, he recollected a garage-sale find of many years back, an album of songs about dogs. Children’s music, mind you, not country-western weepers about a latter-day Ol’ Yeller. Did he have any on MP3? But of course. Enjoy the one about terriers:
(No, it’s not as good as this one, I fear.)
And you dachshund lovers do the same:
So. I wish I had more to report today, but it was one of those. Woke up to -5 temperatures, which at this point is just one of those OK-so-no-early-dog-walk days. It was sunny, though. Just have to white-knuckle it through to Saturday, after which: Photo posts only next week. I will try to make them interesting photos, but no promises. I know I had time off only two months ago, but I’m feeling the need for this one — not to get away from work, but to get away from winter. I know you understand.
That said, there’s still some good stuff to share.
My friend Dave Jones, doing a pretty standard Winter Olympics column (hey dudes, figure skating isn’t so bad), which nevertheless has some very funny moments:
Even when the women aren’t classically beautiful, they are interesting looking. I mean, from what world is Meryl Davis? Were she only born 40 years before, Gene Roddenberry surely would have signed her for a single episode to be one of those women Captain Kirk used to fall in love with when he beamed down to warring planets and they’d look into each other’s eyes and the soundtrack would turn to quavering fifth-octave mellotron. Meryl Davis is evidence we are not alone.
And finally, an ad for a personal-care product. I’ll say no more. I’ll just lay it down on the table and …slip out of the room.
Perhaps it’s because I’m from Columbus and always found the words on The Limited’s shopping bags silly (New York Paris London) or perhaps it’s because I once interviewed the company’s CEO without a single PR person in the room, but I always will read stories about its business empire.
And while I believe Abercrombie & Fitch was formally spun off a while ago, it found its contemporary life as an arm of The Limited. Also, its CEO is a crackpot plastic-surgery addict control freak whose business life virtually sprouts good stories. So I read this one in New York magazine this week, pegged to the fact the thrill is gone. Sales are down, and the mojo that used to work doesn’t work anymore. Alas, Mike Jeffries, aforementioned CEO:
Above all, Jeffries, who was once married but is now openly gay, sought to sell an image of American beefcake sexuality as he saw it: a world of hairless, amply muscled men tussling in a pastoral Eden. That this world was so highly homoeroticized—the roughhousing in the catalogues seemed perpetually on the point of turning into a full-on orgy—is one of the most poignant ironies of his success. He was persuading straight jock teenagers to buy into a gay man’s fantasy of a jock utopia.
The story isn’t vicious. While frank about Jeffries’ many eccentricities and jerkishness, you’re left more with a picture of Puff the magic dragon after Jackie Paper stopped coming around, as rendered in American boardrooms. He’s been stripped of much of his power and, at 69, appears to be waiting for the ax to fall on his blonde-dyed head. But it was such fun (for him) while it lasted!
In many ways, Jeffries’s most impressive accomplishment was not the signature Abercrombie style but the signature Abercrombie attitude, with its bluntly brash appeal. As one former employee put it, “The only bad news was no news. Controversy was what you wanted.” Consequently, the list of PR disasters past and present is too lengthy to fully detail, but the more notable flare-ups include the following: the quickly recalled line of Asian-themed T-shirts, which featured men in rice-paddy hats and cartoonishly slanted eyes; a line of thongs, marketed to girls as young as 10, with the words wink-wink on the crotch; an issue of A&F Quarterly that included a user’s guide to having oral sex in a movie theater; and the disingenuous joke-apology to critics that appeared in the same periodical in 2003: “If you’d be so kind, please offer our apologies to the following: the Catholic League, former Lt. Governor Corrine Wood of Illinois, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Stanford University Asian-American Association, N.O.W.”
Ha ha ha. Come back, Jackie Paper:
But sensibilities have since evolved; casual prejudice is not as readily tolerated. Today’s teens are no longer interested in “the elite, cool-kid thing” to the extent that they once were, says Gordon, the Michigan professor. “This generation is about inclusiveness and valuing diversity. It’s about not looking down on people.”
I’m sure he has a nice retirement to look forward to, and plenty of money for botox.
My sister did some business with the Limited, back when she was selling phone systems. The headquarters were in an enormous building, with cafeterias scattered throughout, each one decorated with advertising images from a particular brand under the corporate umbrella. The guys she worked with always wanted to eat in the Victoria’s Secret canteen.
So, how are you spending the week? Olympics, yes of course, but is anyone watching Westminster? I am. I could watch those dogs trot up and back all day. And who is the winner in this house? Wendy with the crooked leg, Jack Russell Terrier No. 1.
Not much other bloggage today, although this story about a heroin overdose in Wisconsin broke my heart.
Supposed to be close to zero tonight. Keep those fleece jeans out, I guess.
If it’s Monday, it must be time for the Grosse Pointe North High School Cardboard Boat Regatta of 2014, now in its third or fourth year, always with new rules. This year’s were:
Cardboard and duct tape only for construction materials, with duct tape only along seams — no wrapping for stiffening. This year they were also warned not to try anything too fancy; evidently last year some group of wiseasses launched an enormous craft that had a second dinghy concealed onboard. They got to the far wall of the pool and launched the second boat — I’m imagining they were going for some sort of low-rent James Bond effect — and the whole thing sank. Stuff was sucked into the pool’s filtration system, the custodians were furious, and stern warnings were issued.
This, then, was Kate’s team’s entry. It was called the Poseidon, after all rejected Alan’s suggestion (Box of Rain):
Very utilitarian. Of course, Alan knows boats — not uncommon in a lakeside community full of sailors — and helped with construction, but his major contribution was to suggest the cardboard mailing tubes for gunwales and bulkhead stiffeners. No one else did it quite the same, but quite a few teams used tubes in other capacities; one made a pontoon out of cardboard post-hole forms, stuck a box on top, paddled it up and back, and scored the A. It wasn’t as pretty as Poseidon, but it worked.
Another rule: Two paddlers. Here they are, ready to launch:
I was concerned about the lack of freeboard, but it had a triple-layer bottom and the girls were able to paddle it while sitting flat on their fannies. If they’d ever done it together and maybe been better-matched, I think they could have won their heat. As it was, I think Kate dug in too hard and they got fouled up in the lane dividers. They didn’t get the big bonus for the win, but if your craft made it up and back without sinking or capsizing, you got the A. They did:
Others weren’t so lucky. A few sank at the dock, so to speak, and others capsized or went down mid-voyage. I think Poseidon could have done a few more laps easily, but upon completion, everything went into a special dumpster parked outside. Lessons learned:
- Stability, stability, stability.
- Duct tape is nice, but Gorilla Tape is better.
- A parent who likes to make stuff is very helpful.
- Have fun.
And now I think we’re done with these projects for a while. It doesn’t get more exciting than this, unless they build a rocket ship. (Kate’s taking astronomy next year; her school has, no shit, a radio telescope. Senior year, when the electives really become important, should be the best of the lot. We’ll see.)
And with that, I have to get to work on another extracurricular project, a grant application for a friend. So I leave you with this, which someone sent me today. It gives me hope, because obviously I wasn’t the only person who found Mitch Albom’s column yesterday ridiculous:
I would have made it “young person” instead. Stop listening to that Lady Geegaw, young person! The Beatles were better!
See you tomorrow…
If it’s February 2014, it’s time to spend our winter entombment sitting on our holiday-fortified butt fat watching the slender and graceful do some of the silliest sports in creation.
Slopestyle — oh, please. Team figure skating? If it keeps them from scratching each other’s eyes out. Moguls make my knees hurt just to watch. And yet, I’m gonna sit here on this couch and eat Girl Scout cookies until it’s over, because I am done, done I tell you, with what’s outside my own house at the moment. Two more inches fell Saturday night. Fuck every damn flake of it.
You know, this slopestyle is sort of fun to watch. Crazy damn kids.
I think speed skating is my great lost opportunity. Who knows? If I’d grown up in Milwaukee, maybe I’d have rock-solid 36-inch thighs that could kill a man.
Well, it was a weekend. Cold, snowy, a little dull. We saw “Dallas Buyers Club” Saturday, while Kate went to a Pixies show downtown. Made macaroni and cheese and a panzanella salad. You know how it goes. This time next week, we’ll be in New Orleans. Where, today, it reached 70 degrees. I think that’s all I have to say about that.
Meanwhile, a little bloggage:
When Mitch Albom goes to the mat for something, you know he’s going to give it his all. After all, he’s a sportswriter, a venue where putting it out there and then smack-talking to back it up is part of the job. And he’s a decorated, nationally known sportswriter. So, today, he wound up his keyboard and declared THE BEATLES WERE THE BEST. Actual lines:
Yep. I said it.
Yep, he said it. He said it: The Beatles were the best, and he won’t take it back.
If Katy Perry wants to argue, bring it on. If Lady Gaga takes exception, I’ll raise it.
Because this is an incredibly bold position, isn’t it, to argue that the most successful and enduring pop-music group from an almost supernaturally creative epoch in modern pop-music history is still worth listening to.
And addressing this lecture to a hypothetical “young person,” as he does? That’s simply the work of an asshole.
Moving on: What, you mean I was ahead of the editor of the New York Times? Nonprofit news — it’s what all the cool kids are doing.
The weather was bad in Portland over the weekend, too. Here’s the best story to come out of it. I could see it coming, too – watch out for that ice!
Tick, tick, tick.
I know this stupid blog has readers across the country, so I must ask our Milwaukee correspondents what they make of the Stradivarius theft — and subsequent recovery — in their fair city.
I first heard about it via this New York Times story, which did not disappoint:
It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed a chamber concert in his own “Frankly Music” series with Messiaen’s hushed, eerily intense “Quartet for the End of Time.” Mr. Almond drew the graceful, ringing high notes of the finale from his prized 1715 Stradivarius violin, producing a tone so intensely focused that the audience in the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s 388-seat auditorium sat in awed silence for 20 seconds before applauding.
But the glow of the moment evaporated quickly, once Mr. Almond, 49, stepped into the college art center’s parking lot at 10:20 p.m. Monday, his violin carefully swaddled against the subzero temperatures and minus-25-degree wind chill. And as he neared his car, a figure stepped up to him and shot him with a stun gun.
It happened in a matter of seconds: Mr. Almond dropped the violin, the attacker scooped it up and jumped into a late 1980s or early ’90s maroon or burgundy minivan, where an accomplice was waiting to speed away.
Based on that early information, I figured the violin was already halfway around the world, bound for a Russian, Chinese or perhaps a Japanese mobster’s bunker, there to lie in suspended animation, decay setting in for lack of proper care and play, until it was found years later, maybe when the mobster’s junkie nephew tried to pawn it.
I mean, clearly, this was the work of professionals, no?
No. Or, at least, not very skilled ones. The instrument was recovered in Milwaukee, in the attic of a home, and two guys, one of them named Universal Allah, are in custody. Neither one looks anything like like Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons, which is the only acceptable face for this crime, IMO — European, faded good looks and a deep appreciation for classical music as played by stringed instruments. Hell, I’d believe Hannibal Lecter stole the thing before these guys.
What, do you suppose, is the story here? More will be revealed, I expect.
Alan informed me that most Stradivari and similar violins are technically owned by zillionaires, who form buyers’ syndicates and lend them to worthy musicians to play. Makes sense. They really need to be played to stay in shape, just as pearls need to be worn to stay pretty. I expect Frank Almond will continue to play this one, but he’ll be walked to his car by orchestra hall security now.
So, then. In the bloggage today, a friend sent this along, one of those great data maps on the most pleasant places to live. I notice that when I moved from Fort Wayne to Detroit, I gained eight “pleasant” days a year along with a radically higher homicide rate, so hey! Win! The most pleasant places are all in coastal or near-coastal California, the least-pleasant in Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and some place called East of Cedarville, Calif. Discuss. (The fact North Dakota isn’t contributing to the least-pleasant list is a mystery to me, too.)
I only read two sections of the Detroit Free Press when it arrives on Sunday, so I missed the Great Cleavage Debate, which followed this story, which is probably good, because if I’d read this sentence cold, my head might have exploded:
Cleavage is a powerful, powerful thing.
The story became a journalism story, mainly because of a poll attached about who has the best cleavage, blah blah blah. That’s not what interests me today. Rather, I don’t think I’m working with the same definition as everybody else. What, exactly, is cleavage? I thought cleavage occurred when you had enough breast heft that, when displayed in a low-cut neckline, you actually had a cleft. By that measure, two of the three women in the accompanying photo don’t actually have cleavage at all. Am I wrong? Don’t misunderstand, they all look great, but in that picture, only Sofia Vergara is rocking cleavage. Amy Adams has a lovely top half, but she’s slight-breasted enough, in the ’70s style, to be free of it. And Lupita Nyong’o has one of those enviable rock-hard fashion bodies that makes every dress look fantastic, in large part because she doesn’t have much boobage at all.
You guys take 20 or 30 minutes, examine the picture, maybe do some outside research, and get back to me on that. I have a weekend to start. Hope yours is great.
Somehow I got sucked down a Woody Allen rabbit hole today. I really wish that hadn’t happened, because it makes my brain spin like a Tilt-a-Whirl.
When I was a columnist, I sometimes got thoroughly sick of having to have an opinion about everything, and the Woody Allen situation today is one of those things that I’m simply refusing to engage with, like a late movie you’re just waiting to fall asleep in front of. No matter how many times I turn it over in my head, I come up with the same conclusions:
1) Someone is lying, and it is impossible to know who that is.
2) In our country, when we’re not sure about someone’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, we don’t convict.
3) Of all the children in the world who are abused every day, whatever did or didn’t happen to Dylan Farrow constitutes getting off easy, as these things go. (A friend of mine is a therapist; her small talk turns your hair white.)
4) Speaking truth is important. So is healing.
Someone brought up something the other day, in connection with a completely different matter: Why do we spend so much time looking at what doesn’t work, instead of what does? If the numbers of abused children are as high as we’re told, surely not every single one of them is so traumatized that the sight of their abuser makes them vomit. What works? Is it therapy, revenge, inner strength? Surely there’s something good to be plucked from this rancid shitshow other than I believe this one and that one is lying.
By the way, I always separate art from the artist. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be anything good to watch, listen to or experience. Artists are frequently shits. This is not a secret.
That said, here’s a fascinating XOJane roundup of all the well-known artists who have gone for young girls. It’s sort of sick, actually.
Bloggage? OK, sure. Of all the things I’ve read about Philip Seymour Hoffman since Sunday, this is the second-worst:
One continuing mystery of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is this: Why was he in such abject need of a shoddy, solitary and dangerous chemical high when he knew the pure joy that comes with just being with your kids?
And if you’re wondering what’s the worst, it’s this thing, by the same writer:
As a crime scene investigator emerged to fetch a brown paper evidence bag, photographers fired off their flashes as they had when taking shots of Hoffman at openings and awards ceremonies. The light glinted strobe-like off the brick façade and the air momentarily filled with the paparazzi sound of camera shutters.
OK, so. We got another six inches of snow today, so quickly that I let Wendy out and let her back in five minutes later and she had a measurable snowfall on her back. So what did I do? Waited until it tapered off, fired up the snow blower and moved it off the damn driveway.
This shit is getting old. At least, it’s making me feel that way.