Not covered in drivers ed.

It looks as though the Oregon situation is, as we say in the biz, developing. Discuss, if you like.

I know we generally start with a little banter before getting to the bloggage, but really, can this wait?

Detroit — A Detroit man watching a porn movie while driving his car got into an accident and died.

The man, who wasn’t wearing pants, was watching the movie on his cellphone, said police.

Clifford Ray Jones, 58, wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected through the sunroof.

A state police spokesman said it’s the strangest incident he ever encountered.

The accident happened at 3:30 a.m. As Alan sometimes says, “I suspect alcohol was involved.”

Now, the banter: Another week lurches toward its midpoint. Sorta scattered at this end, trying to get a couple things going, but nothing really catching hold yet. It’s like scratching a match and trying to get it to light. You know it’ll happen eventually, but it’s going to take a few scratches first. But I swam fairly well Tuesday. You flail in one part of your life, and you do better in another.

Or, as Clifford Ray Jones might have put it: Just keep both hands on the wheel.

I wish I had more words for you today. I wish I had more links. But I have this:

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker has been following Trump:

Trump’s fans tend to express little regard for political norms. They cheer at his most outlandish statements. O’Reilly asked Trump if he meant it when he said that he would “take out” the family members of terrorists. He didn’t believe that Trump would “put out hits on women and children” if he were elected. Trump replied, “I would do pretty severe stuff.” The Mesa crowd erupted in applause. “Yeah, baby!” a man near me yelled. I had never previously been to a political event at which people cheered for the murder of women and children.

But right now, I have a little more work to bang out. Later.

Posted at 12:07 am in Detroit life | 44 Comments


(Sorry about this, guys — I had this cued up to publish shortly after midnight, or so I thought. So here ya go. Just imagine it’s 6 a.m., or whenever you usually read it.)

I’m about Flinted out at the moment, so let’s talk about another ongoing fiasco, eh? Let’s talk Bundyville.

I’ve been following it at something of a remove, via the social-media feeds of a friend who works at Oregon Public Broadcasting (but isn’t covering the standoff at the Malheur wildlife refuge). And I must admit, I’m …puzzled.

Let me say right up front I’m not one of those who consider this crowd of freedom lovers terrorists. I don’t want to go all Waco on they asses. Rather, I think the best strategy to handling this situation is to wait them out but in the meantime, not make it too easy for them. The feds could cut the power, but I’d rather they not. Just let them run out of food, starve them of attention strategically, and let nature take its course. But that’s not what appears to be happening.

They’re letting the mail through, for one, and even though this has led to amusing scenes like the boxes o’ dildos video, it’s also keeping them stocked with white cheddar goldfish crackers. They’re letting reporters in (of course I approve) and apparently young children, too (of course I disapprove). And they’re allowing them to fire up the bulldozer on site and cut new roads (and I totally disapprove of that one).

It’s hard to know what the strategy is for ending this thing. Apparently the FBI is giving no briefings whatsoever. It’s all a matter for conjecture:

As the Bundys will seemingly speak with anyone who will listen, law enforcement spokespeople won’t talk about the investigation. Requests for detailed comment on the situation are routinely denied.

However, federal sources familiar with the occupation, investigation and legal case did speak to OPB on the condition of anonymity.

Those sources tell OPB there is still hope among law enforcement leadership the occupation will end without violence. That’s why law enforcement doesn’t patrol the area, block travel to the refuge or take other actions that could lead to a confrontation.

There’s also a legal concern that a shootout, or raid, could make it harder to get jury convictions and prosecute material supporters.

For now, it seems as though the FBI is taking a chance: If the militants can’t get the standoff they want, they’ll get sick of standing around.

Part of me sees a plan in all this; see paragraph three. These guys are self-deluding little drama queens, and the best strategy with a drama queen is to deny them drama. On the other hand, this Missoula Independent piece on Ryan Payne, the occupiers’ security chief (if indeed they truck with titles, and I bet they do) suggests that if the drama won’t come to them, well then they’ll bring it themselves:

Payne came to believe …that the government uses regulations to deliberately undermine the average American, “that they are purposely destroying industry, they are purposely taking this land from people.” The more he looked, the more he saw a deliberate and nefarious plan being orchestrated by a small number of people wielding enormous power. He saw a pervasive conspiracy to control all aspects of the media, the financial system, the entertainment industry, the military and the government.

More specifically, he came to believe that slavery never really existed in the United States and that African Americans in the antebellum South “didn’t view themselves as slaves.” He came to believe in “an effort by some Jews to control the world.” He came to believe the founders of the United States intended for the states to act as sovereign countries. He came to believe taxes are a form of “legal plunder.” He came to believe names are spelled in all-caps on driver’s licenses because U.S. citizens are actually “corporate entities.” He came to believe U.S. courts are actually foreign admiralty courts. He came to believe that “in most states you have the lawful authority to kill a police officer that is unlawfully trying to arrest you.” He came to believe when a newborn child’s footprint is made on a birth certificate, that child is effectively entering a life of servitude to the U.S. government, which borrows money from China based on that child’s estimated lifetime earning potential.

He came to see all aspects of government, culture and society as mechanisms of control. “And they’ve set everything up so they can maintain that control,” Payne says, “because they believe they are God.”

Every person who’s done time in a newsroom meets these people from time to time; they write insane letters to the editor (or did, before the internet, when they all traded a typewriter on a card table under a single hanging bulb for a PC on the same card table), they self-publish books that they press into your hands, they stalk columnists and editors until one finally sits down with them in a conference room with a glass door, which is checked often by worried colleagues.

And we’re letting these people accept deliveries of food and ammo. Wonderful.

The weekend passed in a blur of sobriety and efficiency. Laundry, market, dry cleaner. Watched “Straight Outta Compton,” which mainly served to remind me why I dislike biopics, and why I shouldn’t watch them if there’s any alternative to be had. I watched my feeds and enjoyed the snow news from the east coast; we enjoyed high pressure, low-but-not-too-low temperatures and a rare blue sky. No snow, little ice and a good day to take the dog for a walk on Belle Isle:


But while you’re still thinking snow, thanks to Hank you can read this lovely piece by David Von Drehle, on the peculiar peace of shoveling. I feel exactly the same way — that a well-shoveled walk or cleared driveway speaks well of the person who did the work. (You may not, I understand.)

Monday! Bring it the hell ON.

Posted at 12:30 pm in Current events | 58 Comments

A grimy spotlight.

I keep thinking about Flint and its river. (Who wouldn’t?) Fort Wayne gets its water from a fairly dodgy river; so does Columbus, and I’d bet there are cities all over the country with a water source that isn’t exactly bubbling out of a pristine mountain spring. The Midwest is the country’s breadbasket, and what drains off its farm fields and into its rivers is decidedly…unpleasant, chemically speaking.

But all is not lost. You can make all kinds of water safe to drink with proper treatment. A lot of attention is being paid to how and why the city switched its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. That’s important, but the problem is that the water wasn’t properly treated. As beb has pointed out, adding anti-corrosives to municipal water supplies to control lead leaching has been standard operating procedure for decades. Someone fell down on that job, for sure.

Another oddity: For all the talk of the “poisoned river,” most of the lead comes through your service pipes, i.e., the line between your house and the main line running down the street. The older the house, the more likely you are to have lead or lead-soldered service pipes. So the lead exposure, in Flint, tended to be concentrated in older housing, rather than widely scattered.

You think of all the things in old, crumbing neighborhoods, in old, crumbling cities — all the things that can hurt you. You don’t think of the water.

How was your day? Or your last couple of days? Mine were uneven. Gave blood, worked late. For the first time ever, the nurse had to…dig a little for the vein, even though it was standing out like a good little soldier. It was an oops moment for her, but now I have a sexy bruise for a couple of days. Forgiveness for the spotty appearance here, please. The last couple of days have been a little hectic at work, for obvious reasons:


Crazy week for all Michigan publications. Traffic off the charts, people looking for something, anything, about Flint. To answer a few of your questions: Yes, the Rude Pundit pretty much made hash of that moronic National Review editorial, although there is blame to be assigned to Democrats, for sure, especially at the EPA. Republican scribes are helpfully referring to this agency as “Obama’s EPA.” Bottom line: Complicated story, complex explanations. I thank you all, especially beb and BigHank, for your smart and informed comments on water chemistry and treatment issues.

So, let’s limp to the bloggage and the end of the week, then.

A good Flint timeline/explainer. One of several.

The ancient roots of man’s best friend.

Naked men in locker rooms, and how journalists interact with them.

A “manosphere” denizen gets his. Deservedly so.

Good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events | 57 Comments

A whirl of a week, so far.

Sorry for the no-show yesterday. Remember the story I was aiming to finish by 4 p.m. Friday? It wrapped at 9:30 p.m. Monday. Complications. Still ahead of deadline, so: #winning. In the meantime, Glenn Frey died, the Michigan State of the State address happened, and about a million other things, including $arah Palin coming out for “the Donald,” as I’m 99 percent sure she calls him. The week started at a gallop for sure.

Here’s a Glenn Frey story you won’t read in Rolling Stone, from a friend of mine:

One of my dad’s friends, John, ended up at a driving range near here next to an elderly woman and broke the head off his three-iron. The woman offered to lend him one of hers and he said “No, I don’t want to break one of your clubs, too.”

She said, “Don’t worry, my son sends me new golf clubs all the time. He’s in a rock band.”

John: “What band?”

Elderly woman: “Have you heard of the Eagles?”

John: “Who’s your son?!”

Woman: “Glenn Frey, dear.”

John: “OK, I’ll take a club.”

Frey was from Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb. Good one.

I didn’t see any of the Palin endorsement. Did she use the phrase “shake things up?” I don’t think I’ve heard a single phrase used so often in connection with one candidate; it’s like there was a memo I missed, or something. Actually, I kind of miss $P. With the fading of her star, I haven’t seen her strangely angled face – which looks weirder by the year, and I can’t tell if it’s weight loss bringing out new bones, plastic surgery or something CLAWING TO GET OUT – and her daffy word-salad statements. Seeing her reminds me of all the Republican men I knew who were so, so taken with her at first, and how they soured on her the way you do a one-night stand who immediately starts texting nude photos.

Oh, wait, here’s a recap: “Post-apocalyptic poetry,” Slate says:

When we’re talking about the power that comes from strength, power through strength, well then we’re talking about our very existence. No, we’re not going to chill. It’s time to drill, baby, drill down and hold these folks accountable and we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect a candidate that represents that and America first, finally. Pro-Constitution. Common-sense solutions he brings to the table. Yes, the status quo has got to go. With their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged, it must be savaged and Donald Trump is the one to do that. Are you ready for new and are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s going to take a whole team.

That it is.

So. I have not yet seen “Making a Murderer” beyond part one. Truth be told, I just didn’t have the heart for another true-crime procedural, and 10 hours? I’ll read 10,000 words, but 5,000 would be better, and a 10-hour commitment just seemed a bit much for the cruel depths of winter. But Laura Lippman watched, and has some rather incisive things to say about it here. The New Yorker, ditto, here.

Why the Eagles were great, a list with which you may not entirely agree.

Finally, a note on the Flint water situation. I can’t let a great deal hang out because of my job, but those of you who live far away and have questions, feel free to ask. There are already a lot of misconceptions out there, and even the facts are murky; part of what’s driving the story is the multiple finger-pointing parties at the heart of it. But if I can answer you out-of-staters, I’ll try. We also have at least one employee of the Detroit water department in our commentariat, and he knows the chemistry part. So ask away.

And have a good Wednesday.

Posted at 12:14 am in Current events | 63 Comments

Shiny new models.

Another curse of Facebook: When you tell people you’re going someplace special, everyone says, “OMG, you have to take a selfie and post it!” And unless you have professional lighting, or at least halfway decent lighting, everything ends up looking like this:


Hello, my name is Miss McEyebags, under an overhead light that could be used for interrogations, because that’s where the full-length mirror is that doesn’t reflect the disaster of the master-bedroom clothes-catcher. But never mind that; let’s do a quick tour of the 2016 North American International Auto Show. It’s a quick tour because we kind of did a speed-walk through — we made a dinner reservation this year, and while it seemed as though we’d have plenty of time, it rained torrentially and there was a ridiculous line at the coat check and bleh bleh bleh. So let’s get moving!

Here’s a Lincoln you cannot buy unless you’re in China: Correction: The Lincoln Continental was designed for the Chinese market but will also be sold here. And it will be made here. But here it is, Alex, just for you:


I love these cultural romances between countries. The Chinese ruling class loves this car, Alan says. They don’t drive them, their chauffeurs do, while they sit in the back seat and work. See, it’s very roomy:


Of all the cars they could choose, they go for a Lincoln. Love that.

So let’s head over to ConceptLand, and woo, what a sweet…Buick? Yep, it’s a Buick. Concepts are just sort of artistic ideas in car form, mind you, but here you go:


It’s on a Camaro platform. Love that paint job — it’s one of those that changes color depending on the angle, which has been on the custom/street rod market for a while. Trends trickle down and up. That blue, so rich.

Alan has a thing for Ducatis, but not this one, which he described as “their Harley imitation stupid street rod pig thing,” or some such.


Let’s take a moment to appreciate interesting floral design, too:


I wish I were that creative.

Technology was the big story out of this year’s show — self-driving, mobility management, electricity, all that stuff. I personally can’t wait until my headlights look like this:


Because that is pretty cool.

And here’s that Buick again. Foreground, a 1957 classic. There are cars in Havana older than that.


And with that, it was time to trot off to the Selden Standard for a celebratory, ides-of-January, halfway-through-the-Whole30 meal. I cheated my ass off, but it was so good, I didn’t care.

Back tomorrow with more links and conventional content. Honk-honk.

Posted at 12:06 am in Detroit life | 75 Comments

She contemplates her domain.

The goal today is to finish two stories by 4 p.m., so have a dog picture instead of thoughtful sentences:


Princess Wendy, captured in a pensive moment. Original watercolor by Coozledad in background.

If you haven’t read this, you should: Pete Wells takes on a Thomas Keller Cafe du Snoot and, well, does what Pete Wells does so well:

The kitchen could improve the bacon-wrapped cylinder of quail simply by not placing it on top of a dismal green pulp of cooked romaine lettuce, crunchy and mushy at once. Draining off the gluey, oily liquid would have helped a mushroom potpie from turning into a swampy mess. I don’t know what could have saved limp, dispiriting yam dumplings, but it definitely wasn’t a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water.

Stipulated: I know MichaelG dined recently at Keller’s French Laundry in Napa, spent four figures and pronounced every penny Worth It. But the comments on the review from other disappointed Per Se diners suggest someone is failing at this one. And lest you think Wells is just an effete prick taking down another effete prick, let it further be stipulated that he approaches restaurants the way Roger Ebert approached movies, asking: What is this restaurant trying to be, and how successful is it in execution? Witness his dizzy review of Señor Frog’s, a Times Square tourist trap that nonetheless delivers on its promise.

Bridge took on the spiking death rates among less-educated white males story earlier this week. Interesting.

I think Frank Bruni gets to the heart of it in his column about last night’s GOP debate. Or, as I prefer to think of it, the circular firing squad, slowly reducing itself to a duel.

Back to the keys. Back to the phones. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Media | 62 Comments

They come in threes.

Not Alan Rickman? Nooooooo, I loved him so. The perfect foil to Bruce Willis’ macho bad boy in “Die Hard.” The perfect villain in a million British costume dramas. He was always in on the joke, but never gave it away, which made his lip-curling sneer so wonderful. I haven’t seen more than 20 minutes of a Harry Potter movie, but I’ll treasure him in many, many others.

Sixty-nine is young these days. Probably a smoker. Bowie was a smoker. The sooner this habit enters the ashtray of history, the better.

And the third? You probably didn’t know him, but I did: Brian Bedford, Canadian stage actor extraordinaire. He was part of the company at Stratford, and played every role you can think of, always spectacularly. Another argument for the importance of the arts, right here:

Mr. Bedford was born on Feb. 16, 1935, in the mill town of Morley, near Leeds and Bradford, in Yorkshire — “a pretty awful place,” he told The New York Post in 1971, comparing it to Lawrence, Mass., another city that played a grim role in his family history. “Only much dirtier. Chimneys belching smoke night and day.”

His father, Arthur, was a postal worker; his mother, the former Eleanor O’Donnell, was a factory weaver. Two of his three older brothers died of tuberculosis. Sometime after Brian left home and began his acting career, his father took his own life.

“Suicide runs in the family,” Mr. Bedford said in a Times interview in 1971. “My father’s brother also committed suicide. He got a girl into trouble when he was 22, and in order to save face for both families, he emigrated to America, took a boat to Boston, went to a tiny place — Lawrence, Mass. — booked into a hotel and shot himself in the mouth.”

The austerity of his upbringing fostered a lively fantasy life. “I used to spend all my time pretending to be a radio,” Mr. Bedford said. He attended a Roman Catholic school in Bradford but left at 15, working in a warehouse by day and performing in amateur theater at night. At 18, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

And it’s the arts that certain elements of the education-reform movement would like to push aside in favor of more things that dollar up on the hoof, so to speak. Job skills, you know, not poetry and drama and other fag stuff. Fuck that noise; if it weren’t for the dream of escaping these grimy tank towns to play music or act or just to enjoy these things in an audience, a lot of kids like Brian Bedford would have ended up living and dying in places like Morley.

So with the death of these three artists, let’s look toward the tail end of the week. I have a big project to start writing, and so I will. Before I do, though, I leave you with the best SOTU analysis I have yet read. It’s pants-wettingly funny. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events | 31 Comments

The state of the union is…

I’m watching the State of the Union. I could listen to Obama talk all day, but when he says “POCKeestohn” it drives me nuts. That’s mitigated by watching the GOP text through all of the best applause lines. And there are so, so many.

Because I know you’re going to talk about this… ooh! ooh! They just showed Kim Davis, scowling, frumpy, stupid hairdo and all. Could the contrast be any starker? Which America do you want to belong to? Hers? Or the smart guy talking?

So let’s talk SOTU. Alternatively,

People are sending dildos to Vanilla ISIS? I did not know this.

A smart thing about the Oregon situation Sherri posted yesterday in comments, but you should read if you’re not a comments person, because it’s good.

She wore her best sweater. Really, give her a break:


Posted at 10:20 pm in Current events | 44 Comments

A starman waiting in the sky.

It’s touching, how widely beloved David Bowie was. Of course I loved him, and my friends loved him, but lots of the stuff I like no one else does. But Bowie was apparently everyone’s favorite, including wingnuts who, if a gender-fluid, bisexual, chain-smoking weirdo were to move next door, would consider moving away or at least refuse to loan a cup of sugar.

But that’s art. It unites people.

I have no special Bowie stories. My college roommate’s father, Walter Tevis, wrote the novel “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” adapted for the movies and the role that made a pop star into an actor. She went to the premiere in New York, but I don’t recall one special thing about it, although I’m sure there was. I was especially moved by the recollections of oddballs and misfits and queer kids everywhere, who found a role model in Bowie. Tom and Lorenzo’s brief tribute was just right:

(For) these two fashion queens, David Bowie’s entire existence was a celebration of oddness; a seven-decade manifesto that taught us not only that we didn’t have to be normal if it didn’t suit us, but that the pursuit of abnormalcy in one’s life can be an aesthetic, philosophical and most importantly, moral choice with true value and rewards.

I see Jolene already posted the NYT obit in the comments yesterday, but I think they also hit the nail on the head when they identified cabaret as a big influence on Bowie’s career. Of course. I’m just grateful that I grew up in a time when I could turn on one radio station — just one! — and hear Bowie, the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin and others, all under the umbrella of American pop music.

Folks, I’m tired tonight. It’s nearly 10 and I’m still waiting on Alan to come home. He was up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the first presser at 7. I’d already left for the gym, and Wendy was so discombobulated and insulted at having been left alone in the house, unwalked, before the sun even came up that she left a dirty bomb on the bath mat. That’ll show us!

Speaking of Wendy, Kate asked me the other day to find the story about Detroit arson that ran in the Detroit News a couple of years ago, the one that made me think I’d found Wendy’s parents. Did I mention this? Can’t recall. Long story short: I’m reading this pretty good story about Detroit’s “culture of fire,” the weird arson tradition the city has, which thrives in a place with so much standing around, waiting to burn. There was a passage that said something about a guy being awakened by his Jack Russells barking at the blazing house next door. I looked at the picture…


…and I said, “Wendy, is this mom and dad?” Of course I can’t be sure, but she was surrendered to a shelter just a few miles from this house. The dogs have the same undocked tails, brindle patches and other traits that suggest she wasn’t bred by someone who keeps horses, too. The CSS on the story is all fubar, so I dug up the pic through a separate search to file it away.

Lance Mannion reposted this blog sparked by “Spotlight” today, and it reminded me of when the events he described happened — when his little boy was struggling in Catholic school, and how the church dealt with it, by suggesting, and then requesting, and then requiring, that Lance and his wife withdraw their second grader in the middle of the year. It turned out their son had Asperger’s and a couple of other learning disabilities, and the school just couldn’t, or didn’t want to, deal with it. This happens all the time in private schools, and also in charters, so just remember that the next time someone talks about failing public schools. Because they alone can’t tell kids they have trouble teaching to go someplace else.

Young Mannion is fine today, and enrolled in college.

Well, hey, whaddaya know — it’s 10:30 and Alan just got home. Signing off and see you tomorrow.

Posted at 12:25 am in Popculch | 30 Comments

El Chapo meets Spicoli.

Truth be told, although I should be interested in journalism’s meta-story, I haven’t clicked on the Sean Penn El Chapo thing. It was far more entertaining reading about it, both the sober, official accounts, which I treasure the way I do gossip-column summations of celebrity bios — it gives you the good parts without having to wade through the rest. But the real fun was to be had on Twitter, which took apart so many lines so hilariously that now I wonder if I should even spoil it by reading it.

But I have to read it. So… stand by.

(10,000 words later.) Man, that was pretty awful. Pretentious, overwritten, long on information about the writer (he farts, he looks lovingly at his penis, and no I’m not kidding) and short on…so many things. Structure. Coherence. Editing. Oh, for a sharp editor on that thing. It would have been shrunk to 15 paragraphs. I don’t know what Rolling Stone is even about these days, between this and the fake rape story. Attention ≠ credibility.

How was everyone’s weekend? This one was the kickoff of the auto show, which means I mostly experience my husband in the form of damp towels and a snoozing lump under the covers between 14-hour days, but it’ll all be over by Friday’s auto prom. I’m wearing the same scandalous red dress I wore last year, as I haven’t had an opportunity to wear it in the interim and it’s a sin to retire a dress after only one night. A friend scored an Ungaro gown at a local vintage shop for $50 and encouraged me to get down there, pronto. Eh. I rarely find anything nice in high-end vintage, mainly because I’m a size 10 and in designer circles, a 10 is an XL and the sort of women willing to drop four figures on a dress keep a lot slimmer than I do. But I might see if there are any interesting shoes on the racks, what the hell.

And now it’s Sunday night, snow has fallen, the temperature has dropped, wind is up and it really feels like winter, finally. Maintaining on the Whole 30 at the 33.3 percent mark. I’m waiting for the promised bloom of health and well-being to arrive, although I’m sleeping better and mostly just fine, when I’m not feeling like G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over an open flame. I made a pork shoulder. Gonna poach some chicken. And dream about eating oatmeal again.

How about some bloggage? It’s getting harder to be a boxing fan these days. Last month a local kid died — died! — in his four-round pro debut, a victim of terrible officiating. Now this, a wrenching account of even more terrible oversight by the people who were supposed to be protecting him (to the extent a heavyweight fighter can be protected). Beautifully written by the masterful Dan Barry, but hard to read.

You’re going to be hearing more about the Flint water crisis in the coming weeks, now that the layers are finally being peeled from the onion. It’s a huge story, and as always in these things, I encourage you to read local news sources before national ones, although admittedly, for those coming late to the game, a national paper’s perspective can be useful. But this story, about the triumph of dark money in state politics, is absolutely worth a read, too.

And so the week begins! Five days to the red dress.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events | 40 Comments