Post-its.

Woo, it’s been a minute, I guess? One day it’s Sunday, and you blog at your leisure because you’re lining up your ducks and packing your workout bags for the week ahead and all that, and the starter’s pistol goes off and the next thing you know? Thursday evening.

Right now I’m feeling like downloading all the post-it notes in my brain, so here goes:

** I no longer watch “Jeopardy!” but will start again once this James Holzhauer guy goes back to Vegas. He’s taken all the fun out of the game, at least for me, so someone let me know when he flames out. I hope Alex Trebek outlasts him, and I’m not entirely sure he will.

** I was listening to a radio show the other day that featured a state legislator, and he lied his lying ass off. Then I listened to an NPR chat show about the Georgia abortion legislation, and the right-to-lifer lied his lying ass off. I am very very tired of being lied to, and I’m very very weary of polite radio hosts who either aren’t prepared enough to say, “Buddy? You are a lying liar,” or simply won’t do it because that would be rude, or something. We need to have the entire BBC over here to do some in-service work here for their colleagues on this side of the pond. Because those folks know how to call a lying liar what he is.

** To those who wondered, in the previous post comments, why anti-abortion groups make endorsements for offices that have nothing to do with abortion, here’s why: They are playing a long game, and they want to know who their friends are before they need them. City council members may have zero impact on abortion policy, but city council members are ambitious, and may run for the state legislature when they’re ready to move on. If dogcatcher were an elected position, the local right-to-life group would send all the candidates a questionnaire about their beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life in utero. The infamously disorganized Democratic party could learn a thing or two. And I wish they would, instead of digging up old columns written for college newspapers by 19-year-olds to scour them for ideological purity. Meanwhile, these bills that are under consideration in Alabama and Georgia are horrifying. How many abortions do you think the president has paid for in his life? I’ll put the over/under at…five. And take the over.

** To you “Game of Thrones” book readers, I say this: I don’t care if the latter seasons of the show are disappointing you. The books disappointed me, and I quit midway through the third one. The series was a victim of Harry Potter Syndrome; after a taut beginning, the later volumes started to sprawl all over the place, and were terribly overwritten. But they were successful — they were a cult — and all the publisher wanted was MORE. So honestly, I welcomed the TV show, with all those subplots dropped or trimmed. Admittedly, this last-episodes wrap-up is kind of a mess, but blame your guru, Mr. G.R.R. Martin, who presumably had something to say about it. Tying up this saga is no small feat. Once it’s done, I’ll happily move on to other things.

** I count 10 eggs on this guy’s plate, and we can’t even see the entire plate. WTF, is this the Cool Hand Luke breakfast special?

** I’m going to recertify as a lifeguard this summer, because who knows when that will be my only job possibility? In the meantime, everyone should read this: Drowning doesn’t look like drowning.

Now I have to get ready to go out for a bit, so I say to you, my friends? Adieu. Good weekend to all.

Posted at 7:30 pm in Current events | 21 Comments
 

Circles.

One of the baby gifts we received when Kate was born was a pair of infant-size slippers, kind of like those puffy down-filled ones L.L. Bean sells. She was born in the fall and didn’t walk until the following summer, and I wasn’t much for shoes in those early months, but they were cute and their oversized puffiness looked silly on her wee feet, so we put them on her sometimes on chilly days.

Also, they were pink.

So in those early months, during those long stretches where you basically just sit around holding your baby, we would sometimes sing The Big Pink Shoe song to her, which as I recall, was to the tune of “Tequila” and owed a lot to Peewee Herman. I’m doing my big pink shoe dance / I’m wearing my big pink shoes / My shoes are biiiiig and pink, yeah / And I got my big pink shoes on, yeah!

(Our skill with lyrics was also seen in the Poopy Diaper song, which was mine alone.)

Anyway, in recent years I keep noticing patterns as Kate ticks off her milestones. For instance: I went to see the Rolling Stones in Cleveland Stadium the summer after my high-school graduation, and she went to see the Rolling Stones in Comerica Park the summer after her high-school graduation, made all the more remarkable by the fact we graduated exactly 40 years apart.

Anyway, this happened on Friday. Note the shoes. (Doc Martens.)

I guess the next step in these closing-circle patterns is for me to die or something, but I hope to hold that off for a while.

It was a nice ceremony. The university, like many, divides the transition into two parts — a smaller one for the school or college or major (where you get to hear your name read aloud), followed by a larger one for the whole class (where you don’t). Friday was for the School of Music, Theater and Dance, so it featured music and dance, and the performances were very theatrical – one was a piece for two electric bassoons, and it was extremely so. Christine Lahti was the main speaker, and she worked blue, in that she described a job she was offered where “all I had to do was fuck the two directors,” followed by another story of being so depressed by it that she pulled herself out by vowing to “prove every one of those motherfuckers wrong.” Some of the parents seemed a little taken aback, but their graduates were probably the ones who studied violin, which doesn’t include swearing, except in practice that doesn’t go well, and maybe not even then.

The ceremony was so nice that we skipped the Big House the next day, allowing Kate to keep her four-year streak of never setting foot in the country’s largest football stadium intact. Actually, I think she did end up going, so as to celebrate with her housemates were were graduating in other majors. But we had complications, and didn’t. That was fine. It was overcast and cold.

On Saturday, I watched the Kentucky Derby. It was a great race, made more so by Maximum Security’s thrilling stretch run, where after leading from the start, he was seriously challenged and then found another gear, pulling away to win by one and half lengths. That sort of heart isn’t in every horse, especially on a sloppy track. To see his rider giving his post-race horseback interview in clean silks (everyone who ran behind him was streaked with mud) was remarkable.

And we all know what happened next. And I suppose that by now we all know this happened after that:

It was a disappointment, for sure, and I’m not at all satisfied that the best horse won, but in my humility, I trust that race stewards and those who enforce the rules know what they’re doing. There were 19 horses in that race, a huge field. I had no idea it had anything to do with political correctness. But what do I know? Less than the race steward-in-chief, evidently.

I hate what this country has become. After the 2016 election, a philosophical friend of mine said he was choosing not to be (too) alarmed. The United States, he said, was like an aircraft carrier, which needs miles of ocean to execute a change in direction, and there were so many things that would be even harder to change — the federal bureaucracy, for one. Congress would play its part as a check and balance. We’ll look back on this era and wince, but little real damage would be done.

It helped a little. I thought he might be right. I don’t think that anymore. I think we’re in very big trouble.

But this is a joyful weekend, the sun is shining, and I plan to enjoy what’s left of it. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 11:53 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 126 Comments
 

Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.

Tuesday can eat a dick. It was one of those days. But here I am, so let’s hope for better things today.

And once again, the world has rushed ahead of my capacity to think of anything to say about it. Shall we go to the links? No, one story:

We’ve been having some issues with our basement. Nothing terrible, no flooding, but seepage and some cracks that indicate it could get worse if we don’t do something about it. So a parade of professionals have been trooping through, delivering estimates. They range from $900 to $10,000, to give you an idea of how fucked-up basement work is.

Anyway, the other day one rang the doorbell. He was 20 minutes early, and Alan — whose responsibility this is — was still selecting which underwear to put on for the day, so I went down and let him in. Opened the door expecting the usual basement-company rep, which is to say, a youngish man with a logo’d polo shirt, chinos and a clipboard, maybe in one of those cases with an iPad.

This man was far older. Coal-black suit that had seen better days, and coal-black hair, ditto. The hair did not match the face, which is to say, not a thread of gray anywhere. Ronald Reagan hair.

But he was very nice, introduced himself, and I let him in, introduced him to Wendy and showed him to a seat in the living room. Went back upstairs and informed Alan that Sheldon Adelson was downstairs waiting for him.

As it turned out, he had an explanation for his startling appearance. He’s a Johnny Cash cover singer. His most recent gig was in Port Huron, and “they paid me handsomely.” He sings ’60s/’70s-era Johnny, and doesn’t care for the Rick Rubin era, although he was impressed that Alan knew about it. He left us with an estimate and his CD. We listened that night; he’s not bad at all, although we cracked up when the third track opened with, “This song is dedicated to” and the name of the basement company, which I won’t name because Google.

This town. It still cracks me up.

So! To the bloggage!

Years ago, when I lived in Fort Wayne, I met the author of this column. He was a friend of a friend, and a very nice guy. He had recently married, and his wife was sweet, notable for her amazing ginger-redhead coloring — a true coppery red and that pre-Raphaelite-angel skin that looks almost translucent. They had a baby named Henry. I saw Larry once in a while, at parties our mutual friend would throw, and at one of these events I found him sitting alone and struck up a conversation. “Where’s your wife?” I asked.

“She died,” he replied. Hoo-boy, that’s something you don’t want to hear. Later, I heard the story of what happened, which is detailed in the column. It’s a terrible story, but I think he came away with the right lesson. He doesn’t name the disease, but I heard it was malignant melanoma (that skin, so unsuited for the sun). One of the worst cancers you can get.

Anyway, he went on to become a champ single dad, adopting several more kids and appearing on “Oprah,” where his widowerhood was mentioned, but not the story behind it.

Paul Krugman gets to the heart of something that’s always been in the back of my mind, but never really moved to the front. After opening with an anecdote about Stephen Moore, the president’s nominee for the Fed board, shit-talking the Midwest, he notes:

This is not the story you usually hear. On the contrary, we’re inundated with claims that liberals feel disdain for the heartland. Even liberals themselves often buy into these claims, berate themselves for having been condescending and pledge to do better.

But what’s the source of that narrative? Look at where the belief that liberals don’t respect the heartland comes from, and it turns out that it has little to do with things Democrats actually say, let alone their policies. It is, instead, a story line pushed relentlessly by Fox News and other propaganda organizations, relying on out-of-context quotes and sheer fabrication.

Conservative contempt, by contrast, is real. Moore’s “armpit” line evidently didn’t shock his audience, probably because disparaging views about middle America are widespread among right-wing intellectuals and, more discreetly, right-wing politicians.

Mm-hmm, that’s right.

Finally, want to buy Patti Smith’s former house in St. Clair Shores? It’s quite something, and I totally would if I had the dough. (I do not have the dough.) Her son is the Realtor, which is amusing.

Let’s hope Wednesday fails to suck. On with it.

Posted at 8:24 am in Current events, Detroit life | 56 Comments
 

Out and about.

Thursday night I was invited to sit on a panel at a local bar/restaurant, an event sponsored by the local public-radio station, ostensibly to ask the grassroots what they were thinking about ahead of the Mackinac Policy Conference next month. I know the other panelists and the radio people, so it was a good time. Here we were; pic by my Deadline Detroit editor, who attended:

With any public radio-summoned audience, I always expect a higher level of discussion than you’d get from, say, mall walkers, but you still get the full spectrum of humanity, if you know what I mean. The No. 1 issue we discussed was road funding; Michigan’s have been neglected for years, and are at a crisis stage. This means a big tax to raise the $2 billion a year they will require for the foreseeable future, and the governor has proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon levy. That’s a hard swallow even for people who believe in it, and for Republicans? Of course it’s a non-starter in the legislature. We took a show-of-hands poll and found most in favor, with a few opposed.

“The governor has said that if you oppose this, you need to state what your solution would be, so would anyone like to offer one?” I asked, calling on one of the raised hands.

“The roads aren’t that bad,” he said, to guffaws from the room. Then he explained that the problem was people not calling the state highway authorities when they came across a bad patch, and anyway, he mostly drives on I-696, recently resurfaced, so he doesn’t see a need to pay so much for all the other roads awaiting action.

And if that isn’t the truest distillation of a certain kind of voter, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, and in line with the last thread’s comments, I was approached afterward by a woman with hollowed-out, imploring eyes. She kinda looked like Andrea Riseborough in this role (“Nancy,” in a film of the same name, weirdly enough), only with more hollowing and more imploring:

Her voice was low, but I picked out “greatest threat to health in our lifetimes” and a few other phrases. Thankfully, she just wanted a few seconds of time; the handout she pressed into mine would explain.

It was all about the radiation dangers of 5G internet.

So y’know, this stuff is going around. Put a pin in that, and then consider this:

We’re hearing a lot about civility these days, here and in Michigan, but my line is drawn: If this is the sort of rhetoric you support and cheer, I’m not going to be civil to you. And there are a lot of people who do, so where are we?

I fear there will have to be a 9/11-scale event to shake all this bullshit out of our skulls. I also fear it’s way too late for that. Although some people keep trying, like this lady; I encourage you to go over to Twitter and read the whole thread:

Oh, well. At least the NRA is suffering some public embarrassment. It’s the little things.

And now it’s a chilly but sunny day. I was going to lift some weights but instead I think I’m gonna put Wendy in the car and head over to Belle Isle for a walk along the river. Hope all have a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:00 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments
 

Fewer followers.

Hey. So how’s your week going? Mine’s OK, the usual roller coaster of I-don’t-have-time-for-this and Oops-forgot-I-have-to-do-that, but I’m maintaining. The incredibly detailed to-do list is working, for now. But messy.

So let’s just hop bunny-quick to the news. What is today’s outrage?

The president is mad at Twitter, yawn. Barack Obama has 106 million followers, Trump not quite 60 million. I’m sure that has nothing to do with his displeasure. Anyway, in a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey yesterday:

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

But Twitter long has explained that follower figures fluctuate as the company takes action to remove fraudulent spam accounts. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s work to enforce its policies, according to the source, who described the meeting as cordial.

Looks like Dorsey took off the stupid hat he wears in recent pictures, but did not put on a tie:

Well, I wouldn’t, either.

One of my favorite spots in Eastern Market is closing, because the area is changing quickly, and the new landlord appears to want more money from the deli than they’re willing to pay. The dispute is officially over a $50,000 floor repair; the landlord has spent $20 million buying buildings over the last couple of years, but is balking at a $50,000 repair on one of the market’s best-loved businesses. Anyway, I wrote a thing about it. Maybe you’d like to read it.

Finally, a story this weird could only come out of anti-vax land, or whatever you call it. Goopville, maybe:

This world is full of surprises, some of them involving anti-vaccine activists, sedated bears, and the small-scale production of literal fake news. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I was working on a quick, weird story about an anti-vaccine activist in Florida who was attempting to hold a rally in her hometown featuring a drugged bear. As it turns out, that’s not the story at all. Here, instead, is a story about someone who worked extremely hard to generate a news cycle involving a rally that they clearly have no intention of ever holding and a real activist who had no idea her name was being used. The bear also seems to be fake, and—despite my initial, hopeful understanding of the situation—is not named Ron.

Anyway, it’s funny. Me, I gotta run. Ciao!

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Media | 63 Comments
 

Spring is risen.

Well, finally it is spring, real spring. (Seemingly, anyway.) After a totally sucktastic Friday and Saturday (40s, rain), Easter was sunny and mild, a true miracle of resurrection. It might not last. It probably won’t last. I took the rosemary plant outside and put it on the back steps, and I will not be bringing it back in. If it dies, it dies. I’m tired of looking at it in the kitchen.

Winter is over by the decree of Nance. So let it be written, so let it be done.

And now it’s Sunday night, the forecast for the rest of the week looks well above freezing, and I might take my winter coat to the dry cleaner. Been smashing those little tasks on my to-do list the last few days. The secret: Actually putting them on the to-do list in the first place. Yes, that sounds like a no-brainer, but over these last few months of old-lady Swiss-cheese winter-depression brain, putting stuff on the list in the first place has seemed like a huge hurdle. My thoughts run like this, most days:

Yeah I need to do that thing before Tuesday and oh look this article on Twitter looks interesting I’ll put it on my reading list with the 9 million other things I’m going to read anyway I really should read this novel because remember I had that short-story idea that I wanted to get done by March? And now it’s April? Oh shit there’s that other thing, and the bathroom is dirty and did I feed Wendy? Did I pay the phone bill? Am I going to get high-speed fiber internet and knock $60 off that bill? Did I remember to eat today? Dumb question. I never forget to eat. This tab has been open on my browser for four hours, and the story that looked really interesting four hours ago looks considerably less so now. I’m going to close it. No! Don’t close it! You won’t be a well-informed person if you do.

How on earth do people keep their minds cruel and simple? With to-do lists, that’s how.

One story that did stay open on the browser long enough for me to read was this one, about Pete Buttigieg’s blight-eradication program in South Bend. It’s from BuzzFeed. (Sigh.) The mayor set an ambitious goal of tearing down or rehabbing 1,000 homes in 1,000 days. This, BF notes, “smacked of gentrification,” which made me stare off into space for a minute.

Gentrification. In a city with a population of 100,000. In Indiana.

Maybe the problem is, no one can actually define what gentrification is. My working understanding is this: The rapid transformation of a neighborhood, where the pace of change is so fast that rents and taxes rise precipitously and has the effect of driving out long-term, lower-income residents. Owners sell, cashing in on the rising-price market. Renters are less lucky, finding their rents rising out of reach. This often includes businesses, because who needs a dry cleaner when you can have a wood-fired pizzeria/bistro in the same space, paying triple?

It’s a real problem. Maybe it happened in South Bend. But I seriously doubt it.

Eradicating blight is not gentrification. It’s improvement. The problems come when people want to stay in their houses but can’t afford to improve them (or pay their taxes), but Buttigieg’s plan wasn’t just to demolish; it also supported rehab. The main oppositional sources in this story aren’t even that opposed, if passages like this are to be believed:

“I’m not sure we got that completely right,” Buttigieg told the Christian Science Monitor last week, specifically with regard to aggressive code enforcement.

The mayor did not respond directly to questions from BuzzFeed News. His campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, said in a telephone interview that a recent internal poll by Buttigieg’s mayoral committee found that 86% of respondents believed South Bend was on the right track. Schmuhl also noted that Buttigieg won his second term with more than 75% of the vote in both the Democratic primary and general election.

No one says that Buttigieg was guided by racial or sinister motives. (The mayor recently found himself explaining his 2015 declaration that “all lives matter” — a phrase that’s been used as a retort to the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.) But they also don’t buy his simplistic narrative, the story in which he’s the hero of a model program that could save cities like South Bend.

“Everyone wants to find a villain,” Williams-Preston said. “This is just how economic development happens. And I’m just constantly telling the administration: If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. And what we have always gotten in cities all across the country is displacement of poor people and people of color.”

I am by no means sold on Mayor Pete (although I like him more than Bernie. Sue me.), but I hope the national news organizations covering him make an effort to fully understand the problems of Rust Belt cities with the sort of depopulation South Bend (and Detroit) have faced over the decades. They ain’t New York. Or even Chicago.

OK, it’s Game of Thrones time. In the week ahead, a visit from J.C., en route to the U.P. So that’ll be fun.

Hope yours is pretty great, too.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Media | 36 Comments
 

Inferno.

I guess the talk today was about Notre Dame, about which I have this to say: Very sad news. I really don’t know what else to add, but maybe this: What sort of people look at an event like this an immediately try to warp it into their paranoid world view, in which the Mooslims are responsible? I mean, have they ever read the police and fire briefs in their local paper? “Firefighters believe the blaze began in the roof space, likely started by a spark from a worker’s blowtorch” — that’s a sentence I have read approximately nine million times. As Neil Steinberg noted today: The roofers did it. The roofers always did it. Writing about another church fire, years ago in Chicago, he notes:

It’s ALWAYS the roofers. Do you realize how many public buildings burn during roof work? Two years ago, the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton caught fire. In 2002, we almost lost another Louis Sullivan building, the magnificent Carson, Pirie Scott Building downtown, when roofers set the place on fire, and exploding propane tanks sent burning debris showering onto State Street. In 1999, it was another black church, St. Stephen AME Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the city, that was burned, destroying the roof and charring the walls. I’m telling you, roofers are worse than the Klan.

OK, that’s a bit extreme. It isn’t always the roofers. Countless roofers are reading this now, with their coffee and doughnuts, waiting for the supervisor to show up, and if there were ever a group that could tar and feather a guy, it’s roofers. So we should recognize that other trades also torch the places they’re supposed to be fixing. In 1998, the 120-year-old Barrington United Methodist Church burned to the ground when workers repairing a window burned a hole through the wall. Old churches are generally tinderboxes that could be set on fire with an ice cube.

That said, roofing is a particularly nasty, smelly, extra-dangerous business involving open flames and hot tar, which burns like napalm.

Fires are scarce these days, relatively speaking; you can credit GFCI plugs and outlets, as well as smoke detectors. Where I live, we don’t have full-time firefighters. We have “triple-trained” “public safety” officers, i.e. cops with firefighting gear in the trunk. They handle EMS, too. We have the trucks and all, and a staffing system so the garage is covered and they’re ready to roll, but fire is, blessedly, less of a concern than it once was. But Steinberg is right — old churches, and lots of old buildings, are just waiting to erupt into flames. Add cutting torches, and it’s only a matter of time.

You just hope it never happens at a place like the Notre Dame cathedral. And then it does. And you watch these crabbed, broken, twisted, awful people try to fundraise off it. Not to rebuild the church, but to stoke the fires of paranoia. It’s so repellant. If I ever have to peddle fear to make a living, just shoot me in the head.

And in just about 24 hours, I don’t want to hear any more about fires. Especially Notre Dame. I’ve looked at all your vacation photos on social media. I’m full.

Someone asked why Michigan has the highest auto-insurance rates in the nation. A few mentioned no-fault, but that’s not it. No-fault insurance is like no-fault divorce: Better. Instead of “you got hit, let’s figure out who’s at fault and recover from him/her,” it’s “you got hit, let’s fix it.” Michigan does have an unusual wild card — our catastrophic-care law, which decrees that if you are injured in a motor-vehicle collision, you can get the care you need, with no cap. A good thing! But under the law, health-care providers can charge whatever they like for that care, and the catastrophic-care fund must pay. There’s no negotiation, no agreed-upon prices. So an MRI related to an auto accident may well be billed at three times what it would be in a hospital. It’s lunacy.

So it’s not the service that’s provided, but the way it’s provided, that causes the problem. It wasn’t implemented well, and it’s quite difficult to change.

I think of cases like this when I read about all the vital functions of government that conservatives want to delegate “to the states.” Clarence Thomas wrote in one recent opinion that the states could figure out their own libel laws. Um, have you ever been to a state, Clarence Thomas? Visited the legislature? You might be surprised.

Let’s just call this Mueller Report II Eve and be done with it. It’s going on Wednesday. Hump Day, and I’m going to bed.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Current events | 89 Comments
 

Rendering unto Caesar.

I’ve been following the talk in the comments about the price of car insurance wherever everybody is. People? In the words of Jame Gumb, you don’t know what pain is. Michigan has the highest-priced auto insurance in the nation, and Detroit has the highest in Michigan. We’re not in Detroit proper, but we are in the same county, and man, do we pay.

My no-collision-coverage premium on the old-ass Volvo is double what an entire year’s worth of coverage was on my brand-new VW back in Indiana. Most younger people around here pay for their coverage monthly, because a couple thousand in a six-month premium is too much for a lot of people to handle. A monthly insurance premium that costs more than a car payment is very common around here; in fact, I think I just read about a guy who surrendered his lease on a new Cadillac (payment: $540/month) because his premium was something like $560 a month — FOR INSURANCE — and he couldn’t swing it anymore.

Our premiums are due in August and March, and I DREAD August and March. Now that Kate has a car, it’s…about $2,500 extra in those months.

And Alan wonders why I want to give up my car entirely.

Oh, well. Another weekend in the books. I just paid our taxes, and I’m about to make a cherry clafoutis for the “Game of Thrones” watch party we’re attending tonight. There was actually quite a bit of discussion about how the menu should be structured — medieval-ish, with a touch of dragon fire? At one point I was committed to individual savory hand pies, because it seemed very Kingsroad Inn and Hot Pie, but finally the host decided he’d smoke a pork shoulder, so that’s the plan. I’ve never seen a pig on “Game of Thrones,” but the cruel boys at the Wall called Samwell Tarly a pig when he arrived at Castle Black, so…

Wait, you’re not into it? Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s fine. You don’t have to be in on the fun. I don’t even think this is the greatest TV show of all time, but it does have actual dragons, and I’m totally there for that. Also, it is SUCH an improvement on the books, it’s in the ‘Godfather’ Hall of Fame for Adaptations That Transcend Their Source Material, and that’s a plus. Five or six more books I won’t have to read.

I’m really — as in really, really, really — hoping next week is an improvement on the last, which sucked. It was a stung-by-gnats thing, mainly, just a thousand things piling up and conspiring to make me crazy and late and under-rested. All this is balanced by the fact we have some milestones coming up soon, too, and happy ones. Kate graduates from Michigan in just about two weeks, huzzah. We have two separate ceremonies to attend, one for her school (she’s up for an award) and the one for the whole university, in the Big House the following day. I was hoping they’d get Michelle Obama for a speaker, but it’s the governor, and I guess I’m fine with that. I hope her speech is a good one.

Friday was the open house for the senior theses, and we went to that. Kate’s thesis project was an album-length recording of her new band, recorded, mixed and mastered by her. (Here’s their Bandcamp page, with only two tracks on it, both recorded by someone else.) Her boyfriend had a show, too, featuring a dancer with sensors stuck all over her body. The sensors were tracked by cameras that triggered music, so she was essentially dancing to music her body was composing in real time. That was pretty cool, even though one of the sensors flew off in the final frenzied minutes of the performance, and landed at my feet. It was the one on her forehead; when we first saw her, Alan whispered, “What a weird piercing.”

So. On to the clafoutis. In the meantime?

“Fox brain” is a thing, and it has victims. I have many friends whose parents went from nice moderates to angry, fearful racists in a matter of months. I’m sure you do, too.

Ivanka! Everybody’s favorite Trump, discussed here. This is what a person with cotton where their brains should be does:

When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”

Has anyone told her that cultivating authenticity is an oxymoron? Guess not.

Finally, I’m finding Bernie tiresome in the extreme. That is all. Talk soon.

Posted at 5:41 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 85 Comments
 

What’s for dinner? Nothing.

I don’t know how many more weeks like this I can take. One big thing after another big thing and here it is Thursday night and a pretty big weekend awaits. So I’m going to fold into bed pretty soon, but here I am for now.

I have a bookmark that’s been on my browser forever, called Wind Map. It shows the direction and velocity of prevailing winds all over the country at any given moment. I checked it Wednesday. You don’t get the motion effect here, but mercy, that’s a vortex:

The lighter the line, the faster the wind. Poor Colorado.

So let’s hop to the bloggage:

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, describes his eating habits:

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey gave an interview revealing that he typically fasted on weekends and ate only one meal on weekdays, and that the single meal typically consisted of, “fish, chicken, or some steak,” plus arugula, spinach or “sometimes asparagus or Brussels sprouts” and finally, “I have mixed berries as a dessert.”

If a female CEO described the exact same eating habits, there’d be a volcano of armchair psychologists making diagnoses: She has an eating disorder! What a bad role model! But in Dorsey’s interview with CNBC, this was described as “biohacking.” So thank goddess for Monica Hesse to point out what bullshit this is:

I don’t know why we’re so reverential of the eating behaviors of Silicon Valley executives, except I sort of think I know why. These men completely revolutionized the way we took photographs, paid for services, connected with relatives and moved through the world. There’s something tantalizing in the idea that they also hold the key to revolutionizing our bodies.

And so we get articles in the Guardian about a group of male CEOs who call themselves “Fast Club” and participate in a “5:2” eating plan, in which they eat virtually nothing for two days a week. “The first day I felt so hungry I was going to die,” one was quoted as saying, while simultaneously insisting that this wasn’t a dangerous result, this was just biohacking.

It just never stops, does it?

With that, I’m going to keep watching “Paris is Burning” on Netflix and continue to be amazed at how we all follow poor gay people but aren’t even aware of it.

Posted at 9:51 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments
 

Paint by numbers, but not bad.

I am absolutely not a fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, although I did like “Munich,” but that was probably because Eric Bana wore pants cut ’70s-style (with those big belt buckles that only emphasize his hard flat lower abdomen and swoon…). Also Daniel Craig and also that Irish guy, Ciarán Hinds. It started with his wildly successful early work, all those children’s faces turned up in a golden-lit closeup, blah. Work out your boring childhood neglect somewhere else, dude. But even his later, “mature” work left me barely more than lukewarm; I’m thinking about “Lincoln” here. Spielberg paints in primary colors, leads his audiences along well-trod paths with a big orange RIGHT THIS WAY FOLKS flag in hand.

I further acknowledge I am in the minority here, and that’s fine. I might not have watched “The Post” if I’d known it was a Spielberg deal; for some reason I thought Ron Howard directed it. And while it had the usual problems I mentioned, along with a few more, I liked it pretty well, even though I fell asleep for a few minutes along the way.

The story of how the New York Times and Washington Post competed to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 is established history, and is the capsule plot description, which is maybe why I avoided it – journalism movies leave me cold for the most part. It should have been called “How Katharine Graham Got Her Groove Back,” which is closer to what the story is about, just as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” should have been bundled as the Steven’s Parents Were Cold and Neglectful Collection.

What saves it is the cast. Which is, as it was in “Lincoln,” stellar to the last man and woman. Forget Hanks and Streep. There’s also Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood (in a hilarious Robert McNamara ‘do), Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, OMG it was a delight. Some of these folks got one or two scenes, but they all held their own against the megastars at the top of the bill, and even though you knew how it would end and the script was pretty much paint-by-numbers, it was still fun to watch. I may not like Spielberg, but he knows how to wrangle a cast, evidently.

:::pause:::

I wrote all of the above thinking “The Post” came out for Oscar season in 2018, and just discovered no, it was the year previous. So forgive me. I did my taxes this weekend and some work today, so it wasn’t much of a weekend. We have to pay this year, so I’m particularly happy about that, as you can imagine. America just feels greater and greater to me these days.

Starting this week, I will not be concerned with silly movies, anyway. Rather, I will be speaking in a British accent, which is actually a Westerosi accent, with occasional lapses into High Valyrian. Yes, “Game of Thrones” kicks off next Sunday, and I will be So There. If you don’t watch and don’t care, keep your yap shut, because I’m into it. And I’ve been waiting a long time for this final season.

Some bloggage to consider:

Rick Reilly on presidential cheating at golf:

And it’s not just the cheating. It’s the way he plays the game—with all the golf etiquette of an elephant on Red Bull. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. He’s definitely Made Golf Gross Again.

He drives his golf cart on greens. He drives it on tee boxes. He never, ever walks, even on the courses he owns that have banned carts (Trump Turnberry.)

…It stinks because we were finally getting somewhere with golf. It used to be an elitist game, until the 1960s, when a public-school hunk named Arnold Palmer brought it to the mailmen and the manicurists. Then an Army vet’s kid named Tiger Woods brought it to people of color all over the world. We had ultracool golfers like Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Rory McIlroy, and pants that don’t look like somebody shot your couch, and we’d gotten the average round of golf down to $35, according to the National Golf Foundation.

We were finally making the game cool and healthy and welcoming, and along comes Trump, elbowing his way into the front of every camera and hurling my sport backwards 50 years to its snobby roots.

I’ve been indifferent to golf my whole life, having been raised in Jack Nicklaus’ hometown, and can at times be hostile to it — the overbuilding of courses near ecologically sensitive rivers in northern Michigan, to name but one burr under my saddle — so I don’t give a shit whether Trump is ruining it. But this is a good read.

My editor at Deadline Detroit was raised by Yiddish-speaking parents, so it’s safe to say that in a few months I feel I’ve picked up enough of the allegedly dead language to move into a 19th-century shtetl and at least be able to indicate that I’m a meshuggeneh shiksa from the future and would maybe enjoy a little schmaltz on a piece of rye bread, thanks so much. Anyway, I know what he’d say if he could see the photo accompanying this story: A shanda.

The animals take their revenge. In Africa.

OK, let’s get the week ahead moving, shall we?

Posted at 5:15 pm in Current events, Movies | 57 Comments