No cold pizza here.

Did I just say I had some breathing room at work? I don’t have it Tuesday night. There was an election today, there was but one question on the ballot, but it was the one I’ve been writing about for a month, so I have to handle the follow-up. (Or, as we journalists like to put it in our internal memos: the “folo.”)

I’m writing this about an hour after the polls closed, and this question is going down like (insert fast-falling imagery here). Like a rock in a pond. Like a plane with one wing. Like a whore at a bachel– never mind. I haven’t seen a margin slimmer than 75-25 percent yet. Well, anyone could see it coming. I’ve never seen internet comments quite like the ones on this issue, seething rage from left to right, all of it directed at a legislature that simply couldn’t get anything done, even in a lame-duck session (important in Michigan, because of our term limits).

They got this thing done at 5 a.m. on the last day of the session. And this is what happened. Back to the old drawing board, boys and girls.

One quick note before I get on this conference call with the Democratic leadership: You “Mad Men” fans who’re watching the final episodes may have an opinion on the sexual-harassment plot line in the latest one. Hanna Rosin did:

…this episode depended on some pretty crudely-drawn enemies. The bros at McCann were like guys you usually encounter only on workplace training videos about sexual harassment.

You want to know how much things have changed since the c-1970 period depicted there? Look at that observation by Rosin, who almost certainly was an infant at the time. I had a friend whose boss literally chased her around the desk, and when she complained, she was transferred, but the boss, deemed too valuable to the company, was left in place, a new assistant dropped in to amuse him. So was it bad then? I was years away from entering the workforce, but it was bad when I did a decade later, so I have no problem believing what Joan Harris was fictionally enduring up on the screen.

Many of you readers went through this. Tell some stories. Me, I gotta hoover up some quotes.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 43 Comments
 

Snapshots.

Whoa, as much as I like to travel, I’m equally happy when I’m done traveling. I’ve been working so hard lately, and I finally have some breathing space, and now I’m staring at this blank page and blinking cursor, thinking: (Blink.)

How about some pix from the trip?

Here’s a topiary that will be truly impressive once all the plants fill in:

earthmother

That’s the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is truly impressive itself. We spent a couple of hours there, and it could have been a couple of days. My eyes were so starved for green, I could have moved in.

Back at J.C. and Sammy’s house, I was confronted with the evidence that John, he don’t throw nothin’ out:

postcard1

The postmark on that was 1979. Front? Sure:

postcard2

And to top it all off, he handed me a thumb drive with about 1,000 pictures of us — the four of us, plus Kate, plus a few others — taken over the last 15 years, just in time for graduation-season posting. Won’t the rock ‘n’ roller’s friends get a kick out of this one?

Nancy Nall Derringer

My little girl. All growed up.

Then the long road home. Hello, Cincinnati:

roadhome

But it’s great to have all this. And now it’s time to go to work. Bloggage tomorrow, I think.

Posted at 7:53 am in Friends and family, Same ol' same ol' | 27 Comments
 

Where I am today.

So here we are, in beautiful, warm, sunny Atlanta. For a wedding, but of course we’re staying with J.C. and Sammy. Who have some spectacular neon in their neighborhood.

neon3

neon2

neon1

We drove, and broke it into two days, leaving after work Thursday and spending the first night in Cincinnati. A question for the room: Whatever happened to Red Roof Inn? I recall it as the cleanest and safest of the budget-hotel segment, and given that we were staying for less than 10 hours, it seemed silly to pay for anything more. Alas, it was seedy and smelly and creepy. There were bloodstains — yes, bloodstains, falling well short of shotgun-massacre but definitely WTF-happened-here — on the wall of the bathroom, and the door of the room next door had dents in it, at precisely boot-kicking height: CHRISTINE! YOU BITCH! YOU AIN’T KEEPIN MY KIDS FROM ME! OPEN THIS DOOR OR I’MA KICK IT DOWN!

Well, we got shut of that p.d.q. Friday morning and had breakfast at Bob Evans. Another bad idea, alas.

But now we’re here and dinner last night was far from a bad idea. And it’s not cold, and the sun is out, and everything is groovy. Open thread, and enjoy the pictures. Because I’m a journalist, one more — Manuel’s, the media-hangout bar, doomed-but-not.

manuels

Happy weekending, all.

Posted at 9:40 am in Friends and family, Housekeeping, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments
 

The new new thing.

What a whirl of news lately, at a time when I’ve been up to my neck in my own work, so I feel like a periscope. Every so often I stick my head up, look around, try to scan Twitter and then pull it back down, overwhelmed.

On the other hand, this might be the best way to absorb a breaking story. Every so often I turn on CNN, seeking news of Baltimore. The last time I did, Ben Carson (I refuse to call him Dr. when he’s not actually talking about pediatric neurosurgery) was praising some woman who smacked her son in the head. And wasn’t that story peak weirdness? I watched it the first time wondering how the hell do we even know who this woman is to this ninja-looking man? But I guess there was some direct observation of the encounter, and OK — it was his mother. And she’s chasing him, smacking his head, telling him to get his ass home, and of course the rest of America went nuts. MOTHER OF THE YEAR!

I guess there’s a time to smack your kid upside the head, but that was a very uncomfortable piece of video to watch. On the other hand, it was a great excuse to turn off CNN. It’s like they scan Twitter, no, Facebook all day and count the stupidest posts possible, then pitch their coverage directly at that demographic.

On the other hand…

I did find two interesting things in all of this.

This lengthy Q-and-A with David Simon is absolutely worth your time, as it dives deep into the dysfunction of the Baltimore police department, i.e., all urban police departments, and its relationship with the politicians and cities it’s entwined with. To wit:

It used to be said — correctly — that the patrolman on the beat on any American police force was the last perfect tyranny. Absent a herd of reliable witnesses, there were things he could do to deny you your freedom or kick your ass that were between him, you, and the street. The smartphone with its small, digital camera, is a revolution in civil liberties.

And if there’s still some residual code, if there’s still some attempt at precision in the street-level enforcement, then maybe you duck most of the outrage. Maybe you’re just cutting the procedural corners with the known players on your post – assuming you actually know the corner players, that you know your business as a street cop. But at some point, when there was no code, no precision, then they didn’t know. Why would they? In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that’s the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat the West Bank, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. The police aren’t looking to make friends, or informants, or learning how to write clean warrants or how to testify in court without perjuring themselves unnecessarily. There’s no incentive to get better as investigators, as cops. There’s no reason to solve crime. In the years they were behaving this way, locking up the entire world, the clearance rate for murder dove by 30 percent. The clearance rate for aggravated assault — every felony arrest rate – took a significant hit. Think about that. If crime is going down, and crime is going down, and if we have less murders than ever before and we have more homicide detectives assigned, and better evidentiary technologies to employ how is the clearance rate for homicide now 48 percent when it used to be 70 percent, or 75 percent?

I was glad to see that bit about cameras. I think there’s a PhD dissertation on the role of cheap-but-excellent cameras we all now carry in our pockets in this story, and in many stories. Anyway, a long piece but recommended.

Here was the other smart thing I read, about Periscope, just one of the amazing live-video apps that will transform stories like this and make Wolf Blitzer’s gaping fish mouth that much more stupid and irrelevant:

In photography, the golden hour is all about timing. It’s when the subjects in an image are depicted under warm, natural light. It’s when shadows are the least visible, and the details of a scene are enhanced. Likewise, there is a window when journalists can capture the richest part of a breaking news story.

On April 27th, with nightfall approaching, several journalists, armed only with their iPhones, wandered out in Baltimore. Through a sequence of expertly-documented live footage, including on-the-ground interviews, Guardian US correspondent Paul Lewis used Periscope to “observe a community making sense of the destruction and chaos” in real-time.

In one of his first Periscope feeds, Lewis speaks with a local in front of a neighborhood corner store. The shop is being looted as they talk on camera. After a minute of conversation, he is threatened by a bystander to stop recording.

“I’m gettin’ ready to beat you” is heard in the background.

Lewis’ live Periscope feed ends abruptly. For nearly five minutes, several hundred users remain active on his feed, exchanging messages and posting shell-shocked reactions about his fate.

P.S. He was OK. It’s a fascinating thing to consider. The 40th anniversary of the Detroit riots is approaching, and I’m looking through archival material. It’s truly an archeological process that makes you wonder why any of us journalists bother — all we’re making is core samples, snapshots, Vines, whatever, and nothing close to reality.

Off to bed for now. Follow those links — you’ll be glad you did.

Posted at 12:17 am in Current events | 57 Comments
 

TV explains it all.

I expect we’re heading for cord-cutting within the next few months. (When “Mad Men” wraps, and then “Ray Donovan,” and then “the Knick” and oh, it’s just gotta go.) But we’ll be doing the HBO Now when we do, and in part because of shows like “Silicon Valley,” which in its most recent episode introduced a character who explained digital-economy finance better than anyone or anything else I’ve heard or read. Mike Judge really has a great sense of satire. I can’t reproduce the dialogue, but this recap nails it:

As usual, “Silicon Valley” is gleeful about ripping off real-life story lines of the Valley. So you have Hanneman espousing one of the tech businesses’ happy secrets, which is that for young companies, making any money can actually be detrimental to its prospects. “If you show revenue, people will ask how much, and it will never be enough,” he advises Richard, who’d foolishly believed that the point of starting a company is to make money. “It’s not about how much you earn but what you’re worth,” Hanneman says. “And who’s worth the most? Companies that lose money.”

Hanneman’s analysis is largely correct. Google bought the home-device company Nest last year for $3.2 billion, a relatively small sum for a company that actually sold products that people were willing to pay for. Meanwhile companies that had, at the time, spent little time trying to make any money at all — like Snapchat and Pinterest — were valued at many billions more.

Thank you, fictional Hanneman guy. This has baffled me forever. How can Instagram be worth $1 billion? There are no ads and it’s free. ‘Splain this. No one can.

Much good to read today, so let’s get to it.

On the Baltimore situation, here’s Hank on CNN:

On a night like Monday, no one involved — Baltimoreans, city officials, CNN reporters, and, indeed, all journalists doing live TV or filing dispatches tweet by tweet and photo by photo — had the time to parse their own words. Words such as “riot,” words such as “thug,” combinations of words that are mostly metaphorical exaggerations, such as “the city is burning.” You can only be so careful with the sting of smoke in your eyes and the taste of pepper spray in your mouth.

Likewise, CNN doesn’t always have the time to think deeply about the images it beams live back to the rest of the country. One assumes there are a lot of people calling the shots at CNN, but it’s hard to see the power of a guiding hand or principle. It is CNN’s nature to jump into the fray and seek out the most dramatic events it can capture on camera and then summarize them as they occur, while queueing up a long line of experts to weigh in.

The strongest visual will always win. CNN would be shirking its duty if it declined to show such events to appease some nobler effort to accentuate the positive, which, in this case, included the many people who chose peaceful protest. TV news frequently finds itself explaining why non-burning buildings and people standing still (or staying home) don’t make the cut.

I’ve really come to despise live cable news in a breaking story, even while I freely acknowledge that it’s the first place I turn when news is breaking (plus, y’know, Twitter). Sometimes I hate myself as a news consumer.

Also, from the WashPost: The burning of Baltimore and “The Wire.” Some smart stuff, some dumb stuff, but if you were a fan and you were watching CNN Monday night, you had to think it: Is that the street where Kima was shot? It looks so familiar.

Time to return to Twitter.

Posted at 12:39 am in Current events, Television | 45 Comments
 

Trending!

Since I lost weight I’ve been buying new clothes, and while I’ve never been a fashion plate and have no interest of becoming one, it is fun to look at fashion magazines and websites again and see what’s going on out there. I can report a few headlines and my own reactions:

The ’70s are back, big-time. I keep hearing that wide-legged denim is here again, and so just pack those skinny jeans up and throw them in the trash, because BELLS, BABY. As I age, there are very few things I am certain of, but one is: Not going back to wide-legged denim. I only recently bought some skinnies, but then, I live far from fashion’s nerve center. Around here, jeans and a Detroit-themed T-shirt will take you everywhere but the symphony, and probably there, too.

Anyway, no elephant bells, and I’m also going to let trendier people discover the styles of the ’70s, most of which I couldn’t purge from my closet fast enough when the ’80s finally came along. (You know what I loved best about the ’80s? All of a sudden it was all about natural fibers. Linen, cotton — man, was that a relief.)

That said, I found this interesting: Google’s predictions of spring fashion trends, based on what people are searching for. To my relief, wide-legged jeans are not on the list, but skinnies are in “seasonal decline.” Also declining: One-shoulder dresses — perfect, because I just bought one. Waist trainers? On the way up. (I think it’s a 50-shades thing.) Normcore? Outta here.

It’s a good time to be a middle-aged woman whose basic outfit is jeans, T-shirts and nothing with too much color.

A little bloggage? I think we can do that.

Here’s a profile I wrote of a high-profile tea partier in the Michigan House, but the link won’t go live until 6 a.m. Be advised.

Riots in Baltimore, but you probably already knew that. Mr. Lippman weighs in, too.

Waiting tables always seemed like pretty sucky work to me, and it is, but every so often you get a good customer. A few of those stories.

Off to bed.

Posted at 12:36 am in Current events, Popculch | 54 Comments
 

A placeholder.

As Beb notes at the bottom of the last comment thread, I am indeed recovering from my vacation — which was only a weekend. We got in about 8 last night, just in time to order and eat a pizza and watch Sunday-night teevee before hitting the sack. One more big trip next weekend, and then the summer whirl officially begins.

In the meantime, new thread while I take time to go over all the stuff that happened over the weekend. I checked Twitter early Saturday, saw the news of the earthquake, tried to find it on cable news but what were all the chatterers chattering about? Bruce Jenner, of course.

Anyway, this is me, Deborah and Heather at lunch on Saturday. Thanks for lunch, Deborah, and thanks for the company, both of you. It was fun:

selfiegirls

Back here tomorrow.

Posted at 9:19 am in Same ol' same ol' | 35 Comments
 

End of the lyne.

Well, isn’t this interesting: The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is drawing to a close after 40 years. I remember getting a flyer for this when I worked in Columbus, when the festival must have been in its near-infancy and spelling “women” with a y was considered real transgressive stuff.

Later on I wrote about it for a magazine here, and interviewed the founder and head honchess, Lisa Vogel. It was pretty clear there were already some deep divisions within the tribe, although at the time the transgender issue, which is apparently what brought the fest to its knees for good, hadn’t emerged in the mainstream. At the time, I was more agog that they banned male children from the main grounds, and by children I mean any boy over the age of 5. Vogel patiently explained that for the sort of women attracted to a four-day, all-female music and arts fest held in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan, it is a genuine, almost physical relief to not have to see or even think about the other gender. I get it; it takes all kinds, and while these women aren’t my kind, I respect their right of free association. It must have sucked to be one of those who had a boy child to look after, that’s all. They are confined to a separate boys campsite. Probably had plenty of fun there, but.

The real split came over the organizers’ rules restricting the festival to “womyn-born-womyn,” which is evidently a big split among feminists well to the left of me. The New Yorker had a thoughtful piece about it last summer, and Vogel is quoted:

Michfest, as it’s called, takes place every August, on six hundred and fifty acres of land in the woods east of Lake Michigan. Lisa Vogel founded it in 1976, when she was a nineteen-year-old Central Michigan University student, and she still runs it. The music, Vogel says, is only part of what makes Michfest important. Each year, several thousand women set up camp there and find themselves, for a week, living in a matriarchy. Meals are cooked in kitchen tents and eaten communally. There are workshops and classes. Some women don extravagant costumes; others wear nothing at all. There is free child care and a team to assist disabled women who ordinarily cannot go camping. Vogel describes the governing ethos as “How would a town look if we actually got to decide what was important?”

She told me, “There’s something that I experience on the land when I walk at night without a flashlight in the woods and recognize that for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” She continued, “If, tomorrow, we said everyone is welcome, I’m sure it would still be a really cool event, but that piece that allows women to let down their guard and feel that really deep sense of personal liberation would be different, and that’s what we’re about.”

I feel passionately about a great many things, but this isn’t one of them. You have to respect those who do, however, even if it may seem a bit, oh, much. I’m glad my ideology is still a little more flexible.

For now, anyway.

Another big rewrite today, another just-plain-write tomorrow. So how about some writing by someone else?

Did you know there are kosher kitchen gloves? Well, there are. Speaking of rigid.

You know Jay-Z has been living in the bubble too long when he launches his “better for artists” streaming service by parading a bunch of his millionaire friends up on that stage and having them get all windy about Art. Predictably, Tidal is tanking.

And so am I. Happy weekend, all. I plan to sleep.

Posted at 12:22 am in Popculch | 76 Comments
 

A little tapped.

Whenever I spend a day writing, I find myself not wanting to spend a night writing. Which explains a dark Wednesday. Guess what I did on Wednesday? Yep.

But we cannot have two dark days, can we? No, we cannot. So let’s start off in that great NN.c tradition of bitching about the weather.

Today it didn’t reach 50 degrees. In fact, it barely reached 45 degrees. It also snowed, and rained, and snowed again. On my way to the parking garage, a three-block walk that can feel like 300, I passed a wan little family headed to the ballpark, dressed for a polar expedition. What a sucktastic night for baseball.

However, it was a good excuse to wear boots for one more day. It’s always a little hard to put some nice boots away for the summer.

I guess in the Department of Following Up on Stuff, I should note that the 78-year-old man on trial for having sex with his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife beat the rap. What a terribly sad story, and what a waste of judicial resources. I hope he enjoys what years he has left.

I’d say it’s also not looking good for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who made the mistake of flipping off a camera in his cell, now a nice exhibit for the prosecutors who want to give him the needle. He’ll get it, I expect, but for once I agree with his defense team; it’s far from a definitive message. He may well have been saying f.u. to the camera itself, which I don’t think anyone would welcome in a personal space.

There’s also talk of a “smirk,” another expression it’s unwise to wear in a court of law.

Amy Schumer isn’t everyone’s cup of dirty tea, but if you’re in a safe office or with headphones, you might like this — “Last Fuckable Day.” I know I did.

Weren’t we talking about teratovas the other day? Ew.

With this weak, thin effort, it’s my bedtime. Zzzz.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 37 Comments
 

Feed my dog.

Based on the Twitter recommendation of JeffTMM, and the fact “Game of Thrones” was still 15 minutes away, we tuned in “A.D. The Bible Continues” for a while Sunday night. Jesus asked Peter if he, Peter, loved him. Of course, Peter replied.

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus said. He asked the question again, and got the same answer. “Feed my sheep,” he tells Peter.

Alan said, “Feed my dog.”

Cracked me up.

Why are so many biblical dramatizations so awful? Actually, they pretty much all are — Jesus is too pretty and everyone’s teeth are too white. All the poetry is lost. It’s like the opposite of “The Godfather,” in which a pulpy, craptastic story was turned into a spectacular, operatic movie. These shows take the greatest story ever told and turn it into bad community theater.

I will say, though, that I never come away from these things unimpressed with the Roman soldiers. The ones in “A.D.,” etc. had breast plates with nipple rings on them. Yes, little rings dangling from the nipple part of the armor. I guess it’s so you can tie a rabbit’s foot there, or your keys.

I know Rome was wealthy, but is it possible every Roman soldier had identical fighting gear? The production of all those leather minis and brush helmets must have been a logistical nightmare.

I just figured out why the centurions wore those brush helmets. So their men could pick them out on the field of battle, right? Plan for retirement, should it ever come: Read up on that stuff.

Oy, what a day. Driving, meetings, then another meeting via speakerphone, which is only marginally better than driving nails into your palms, but does have the advantage of a mute button.

So let’s get to the bloggage, which is, coincidentally enough, mostly blogs:

Neil Sternberg bought some shoes. And wrote about them.

Gin & Tacos on the increasingly tiresome call-out culture.

Some simple rules for eating. I know, I know — to add to the million previous simple rules for eating. But they’re good rules.

Monday is over, so bring on Tuesday.

Posted at 12:11 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 58 Comments