Your dirty uncle.

So, the Dirty Show. It’s been going on since we’ve lived here, but this was our first time going. John Waters was the draw, of course – we’ve both been fans for a while, Alan of his movies and me of his post-Hairspray persona as this cuddly post-smutmeister who keeps telling people what a smutmeister he is.

His one-man show is raw, but also funny, which makes the raw go down easy. “What ever happened to pubic hair? I went to court to show bush. Now no one has one.” He talks about his parents a lot. He talks about assholes (the real ones, the ones we all have). He talks about his projects; when I heard his Hairspray-sequel TV series, currently in development hell, is called “White Lipstick,” I knew he would get it all right. He manages to come across as a perv and your favorite uncle all at the same time.

Afterward, he did a signing that went on for hours and hours. Everybody got a picture. We didn’t participate, as we were busy touring the rest of show, trying to find the pearls among an awful lot of bad oysters. It’s not that I find the human body artless, it’s just that you have to do more with it than just show me a big red dick. And dicks were scarce compared to the seemingly endless parade of tits ‘n’ vulvas. The sideshows were more interesting, including a touring burlesque show featuring a dwarf stripper and a man whose whole act was a hymn to the hot dog. There was also one of those gymnasts who performs aloft suspended and entwined in a long length of cloth, whatever they’re called. At first I thought she was nude, but after she came down I saw she was wearing a flesh-colored bodysuit with the anatomy spray painted on, and quite well.

Really, the only thing left to the imagination was why so many women into baroque lingerie, especially corsetry, are overweight.

I only saw one piece I could take home, a sketch that looked like a bunch of birds of paradise flowers but turned out to be, yes, more vulvas. But it was clever. And alas, it had a red “sold” sticker on it.

The rest of the weekend was half fun, half duty — a wedding, plus FAFSA and related forms. The wedding was at the National Shrine of the Little Flower, better known as Father Coughlin’s old church. Which is spectacular. Fr. Coughlin was the original Rush Limbaugh, and had quite the career until the diocese reined him in. The church has a theater-in-the-round thing going on; the first guests weren’t sure where to sit, but we all figured it out. The bride was beautiful, the groom flubbed some hand-holding instructions and we all went out to face the cold front howling in. Current temperature: 2 below, and the night has only begun.

Let’s hope we get a little relief by the end of the week, but I’m not hopeful.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Dirty.

Hey, guys. This is where Alan and I were last night: The Dirty Show, Detroit’s annual erotic-art exhibition, although “erotic” isn’t the word that came to mind most often last night. “Dirty” did, though.

Photography is forbidden, but I saw so many people breaking the rule I dared to capture these dancers, and a bouncer shut me down after a single frame. So apologies for the pic, but you get the idea:

dirtyshow

We went to see the opening-night performer – John Waters. He did a version of “This Filthy World,” his one-man show, another aptly named entertainment, with the distinct advantage of being very funny.

Then I got a text about David Carr, and, well…

But we stayed out late, and I have a buttload of work to do now, so short shrift. I’ll tell you all about it on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 7:55 am in Detroit life | 75 Comments
 

Fifty shades.

The other day I fell into a rabbit hole. It’s easy to do online. You follow one link, then another, then another and soon you’re looking at something like this, amusingly titled “Why Kindles Can Wreck Your Marriage”:

Look, I think sharing “sexy” thoughts with one’s husband, and flirting, and playing together is all pretty great. I am not against sexual play or sexual fun at all. But when we use something outside of marriage to get aroused, we’re transferring our sexual energy from our spouse. And if you then have sex with your spouse after getting aroused some other way, it becomes increasingly difficult to “be present” when you make love. Your mind starts to focus on what you were reading, not on your husband. And that’s not really making love.

This is an argument, I should clarify, against reading romance novels.

I’ve been around certain extremely Christian Christians enough to understand this is their definition of marriage: Two pythons tying themselves into knots, all the while proclaiming the unique strength of their bond, which was after all given by GOD HIMSELF. And in many cases I don’t even think it’s so awful; I think if people paid less attention to their children and more to their marriages, the children would take care of themselves. But at the same time, it makes me understand why they have higher divorce rates than the rest of us, too. A hug can feel like smothering if it goes on too long. And face it, does anyone want to live in a world where you can’t imagine Clive Owen with his pants off from time to time?

What prompted all this is “Fifty Shades of Gray,” a book I haven’t read and a movie I won’t see, at least until it comes around on Netflix and I’m sick with the flu or something. But judging from some of the social-media chatter I’ve seen lately, it appears to have unhinged a segment of the religious among us, who cannot be convinced that the vast majority of BDSM relationships are a) consensual; and b) no big deal. Personally? I don’t want to be spanked as a prelude to sex, but I understand others do, and I don’t think it qualifies as mental illness.

One of those things you inevitably read in any profile of a sex worker who specializes in this stuff is some version of: “Some of my most loyal clients are very powerful men.” It’s like: Duh. You spend all day influencing global exchange rates or lowering the tax bills of multinational corporations or bringing 747s in for a safe landing? Maybe you welcome a safe space where you can lay down that burden, have your hands cuffed to a bed frame and hear some lady in leather tell you what a bad, bad boy you’ve been.

As for women, well, we run the whole damn world, at least the part that involved getting dinner on the table and kids off to school and cookies made for a church bake sale. You don’t have to have aced Psych 101 to see why all those ladies made a bestseller out of a terribly written book that featured a woman who is blindfolded and restrained, so that her lover can fiddle with her: Oh, you mean I don’t have to run this show? Kind, kind sir!

The rougher stuff is a different breed of cat, but hey — as long as everyone’s clear on the boundaries and knows the safe word? Who cares.

Meanwhile, David Edelstein says the movie’s not so bad. And what a surprise:

The movie’s biggest surprise is its powerful affirmation of family values. It’s Jane Eyre with ropes. That this vanilla bean has been denounced by religious decency brigades while female churchgoers pleasure themselves over advance tickets is further proof of America’s insane cultural bifurcation — or trifurcation, if you count the worriers who predict that women’s shelters will have to add more beds to accommodate battered copycats. Are there really people who still think that watching a man tie up a woman and both of them get off is the gateway to hell?

Yeah, that sounds about right. This is Hollywood, after all. Meanwhile, I add this phenomenon to the list of Things I Am Not, Nor Ever Will Be, Into, which includes the “Sex and the City” movies, Uggs and the novels of Nicholas Sparks.

Some bloggage? OK:

This profile of young Scott Walker, college dropout, is essential reading for those who want to know more about him. As Hank said on Facebook, there’s a version of this guy on every college campus.

As we’re closing in on V-Day and I mentioned it above, this Esther Perel TED talk on maintaining desire in a long-term relationship is pretty damn smart, and a phenom all its own. Bonus: If you watch it, you pretty much have the gist of her book.

Back to edits. Have a great Thursday.

Posted at 8:51 am in Movies, Popculch | 36 Comments
 

Pants afire.

I don’t know what to think about Brian Williams. On the one hand? Almost certainly a chronic exaggerator, maybe an utter fabulist. Depressingly, none of this really matters in the performance of his job. The olden days when an anchor was a real journalist are pretty much over; while they might be trotted out to do standups here and there, the producers do the heavy lifting.

When Don Lemon, CNN’s barking idiot, tweeted a photo of his smallpox scar a few days ago and called it a measles scar, and this after speculating on the air that a Malaysian jetliner might have been swallowed by a black hole, I expressed frustration to a member of the NN.c commentariat. He replied:

I think Don Lemon is just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.

I think William Hurt’s character in Broadcast News was just fine when you put news stories on a teleprompter and ask him to read them in sequence.

That, however, has long ceased to be the CNN “anchor” job description.

I think that’s true everywhere, with maybe a few exceptions. If you have the right look, a modicum of charisma, can read a prompter and are relatively quick on your feet in a live-interview situation, and as long as you have that elusive something that makes you one in a few million — you too can be a network news anchor. It’s not an easy bunch of qualifications to wrangle under one handsome head.

Of course, once you’ve attained this level, you have to deal with this sort of thing, i.e., co-workers trashing you anonymously:

“Brian is deeply disliked inside NBC—extremely unpopular. The people at NBC are loving this,” says someone in the know. Why? “Because he enjoys being a celebrity too much.” He also doesn’t pull his weight. “He never comes in in the morning”—as a managing editor, you should. “He calls in from his apartment and shows up around lunch time, has a fancy lunch with some important person, and then at the 2:30 production meeting—close to air time—he tears everything up.”

They pay him an eight-figure salary. I expect this is part of the deal.

And now Williams has been suspended for six months, effectively ending his career. Seems a big waste of…something, but I’m not sure what.

So. What sort of bloggage am I in the mood for?

This arrived on the radar yesterday, and nobody knows how it happened. Good for the Vipers, though.

The slut shot, i.e., the HPV vaccine, does NOT turn girls into whore-monsters. Such a relief.

An oral history of Laurel Canyon in the ’60s and ’70s. Love that Joni Mitchell.

Now, I must go to bed before I collapse.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media | 33 Comments
 

Losses.

For the past few years, Kate has had an upright bass teacher who is, well, a real teacher: Dan Pliskow. Early on, Alan accompanied her to a lesson. She muffed a walking line and said, “I’m sorry.” And he said, “You never say that in here. You just go again. Don’t apologize.” And he smiled, because what are we doing here? Playing some jazz. No need to get upset.

Dan was motoring well into his 70s, playing lots of gigs, teaching at Wayne State, teaching private lessons in his home. And then, as these things sometimes go, he took a turn. Cancer. He went into hospice care a few weeks ago and died Sunday, surrounded by his family. He had a lot of family. A while back, he gave me his autobiography, which he wrote when he turned 70, photocopied and passed around. What a treasure; Detroit was a force to be reckoned with in jazz in the middle of the 20th century, and he was in the thick of it – a journeyman musician. It was fascinating, reading about how it was possible, once, for a guy like him to not only work, but work most days a week, in clubs from one end of the metro to the other.

He had a chance to replace Paul Chambers in a tour, but couldn’t — he had four kids at home. So he played in the Playboy Club house band and on the Soupy Sales show, here and there, cobbling together a living a gig at a time. We watched the Elaine Stritch documentary a few months ago, and caught a glimpse of him in her stage band when she played at the Detroit Music Hall.

He was such a sweetie. I will miss just knowing he’s in the world.

Here’s a video that looks like it was shot about a month ago, and you can tell he was sick, but his elfin personality shines through. One thing I regret: I never got him and Kate together at the Detroit bass players’ annual picture at the Motown Museum.

Any other bloggage today?

Kate’s band, which recently shortened their name to the Deadly Vipers, dropped an album last week, and you all are invited to listen and enjoy. No pressure to buy, but some of you may be rock ‘n’ rollers.

Alan’s petting Wendy so much to her liking that she’s nearly moaning. That’s winter. Time to sign off.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life | 19 Comments
 

We want it chunky.

A quick one today, sorry. I had a full weekend that stretched into a potluck birthday party Sunday night, my customary blogging time. I was puzzling over what to make – my cooking is in a creative lull; must be the weather – when inspiration appeared in the scowling, ghost-white face of none other than Jack White:

Pallid rocker Jack White is pretty pissed after some enterprising college students leaked a copy of his tour rider containing — amongst other ridiculous parameters — an extremely specific recipe for extra-chunky guacamole. The full contract in all its glory was posted online by the University of Oklahoma student newspaper The Oklahoma Daily just days before White was scheduled to perform at the college on Monday. Though the show went on as scheduled, the college has now been blacklisted by White’s agency.

The answer, then, was obvious:

guacamole

Personally, I think it could use a little more heat and some garlic, but all in all, Jack’s guacamole game is strong. It all got eaten, anyway. Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try it. The thing about the pits keeping it from browning is b.s., I should add; my newly learned trick is to squirt half a lime over the top and seal it with plastic wrap. When you serve, stir in the puddled lime juice and there you are.

So now the week begins anew, and I’ll see you here tomorrow with a little bit more than this, eh?

Posted at 8:29 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

Troll II: The entrollening, plus more.

So, something of a hodgepodge ‘n’ mop-up post today, starting with a continuation of yesterday’s subject.

Inspired by Lindy West’s story, it seems Twitter has grown a conscience. Better late than never, I say, and I hope other platforms follow suit.

A chapter of the Troll story I didn’t go into yesterday: As the fax gave way to the web, Media Watch of course moved online, and as easy blogging platforms took over from hand-coded HTML, they went in that direction, too. But in a very strange way: Rich Reynolds and whatever company he had didn’t post on one blog, or two, or three or four or even five. Rather, they scooped up Blogspot URLs willy-nilly, and to this day there are many out there with one or two or zero items on them, ghost ships sailing the online seas. A fellow blogger tried to count them all 10 years ago, but I’m sure there are many more. Certainly, he missed two: Why We Hate Nancy Nall and That Stupid Bitch, Nancy Nall.

Go ahead, click. He’s not making any money off this shit.

The second one gives you a pretty fine example of what I put up with all those years, but it’s the first one that I want to talk about. It features a picture of me that he stole from here (which makes all that wankery in the other one about my abuse of Fair Use that much more, y’know, ironic). I recall I posted it next to a photo of Leonardo DiCaprio making the exact same scowly face, as something of a joke.

I had some time on my hands the day I discovered it, and I sent an email to Google, which owns Blogspot, and asked them to send a takedown notice for copyright infringement. I don’t remember what happened, but I think it went down for a while, then back up. I sent another email to Google, and received a robo-reply encouraging me to take up my case with the blog operator. Nothing doing. The whole experience was like standing on the sidewalk outside the Willis Tower, yelling at someone in the higher-level executive suites.

One of my many frustrations with online publishing is this sort of bullshit, in which Google sits around on its vast piles of money and anyone with a complaint is encouraged to fill out a form and then go pound sand. There was literally no way to contact anyone in whatever division controls Blogspot, at least not without a lawyer. And it simply wasn’t that important to me. (I did find a high-ranking Google executive on Facebook and messaged him my complaint, signing off with “Don’t be evil!”)

A guiding principle of newspaper publishing, when I came up through it, was responsibility for your product. It’s the reason we had so many high-flying ethical codes about conflicts of interest and fairness and the like, and it’s why you couldn’t drop f-bombs in stories. It’s why Ben Bradlee said, “We stand by our story” and it’s – you get the picture. But today, you can offer a product, free of charge, that allows crazy people to rant and rave, to copy and paste and steal others’ work, to post photos of naked 19-year-olds made up to look 13, etc. And if anyone objects? Hey, we’re just the messenger!

I know there is a legal philosophy behind this, but it still chaps my ass.

And with that, let’s close this chapter and move on to cheerier matters, shall we?

This is delightful: Since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, an old wingnut rumor has been dusted off, that Dearborn, Detroit’s heavily Muslim-populated suburb, is actually under Sharia law. A local wag — one of those terms I learned in the newspaper business — who happens to be a gay Buddhist, went around with a friend taking photos of Dearborn Sharia in action and they were published on the Huffington Post. (My favorite is the Honeybaked Ham store.)

One of these lunatics claimed Detroit police never go into Dearborn, because Sharia. My old colleague Jack Lessenberry has another idea:

It’s true that Detroit police never go to Dearborn. However, that might be because Dearborn is a separate city and has its own police force.

On a darker note, you might have to do some googling to understand the Wisconsin Idea — basically, it’s the crazy notion that Wisconsin institutions of higher learning should serve the people of the state that supports them — but Scott Walker is no fan of it. And how did the governor’s administration want the Wisconsin Idea rewritten? Do you even need to ask?

…(In) the proposed budget he released Tuesday, the governor made the UW System’s mission to “meet the state’s workforce needs.” He also proposed striking language about public service and improving the human condition, and deleting the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”

Hey, he never graduated. WHO NEEDS COLLEGE, ANYWAY? It’s times like this I’m glad Charles Pierce is blogging.

OK, that’s enough for this week. Enjoy the weekend, all. I’ll be working for at least part of it, but it’ll keep me out of trouble, I hope.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media | 63 Comments
 

Troll.

I don’t know how many of you caught Lindy West’s segment on “This American Life” recently, but she reprised and expanded on it a bit in this piece for the Guardian. It’s about her experience with her worst internet troll, a man who created a Twitter and Gmail account in the name of her recently deceased father, and used it to harass her. The story has an unusual ending, and it is most definitely worth your time. I thought I knew from hate mail; reader, I didn’t.

But I, too, once had a troll, a certain troll, a particular troll. For all I know, I still do. (I’ve long since stopped allowing him to stay rent-free in my head.) I’ve mentioned him in passing here a time or two. His name is Rich Reynolds, he lived in Fort Wayne when I did and for years, he insulted me without mercy in the guise of being a self-appointed media critic.

Here’s how it went: Starting in the early 90s, once or twice a week, sometimes more, he would send out a fax called Media Watch. It went to all the newsrooms in town. The librarian would take it off the machine and post it on the bulletin board. Everybody read it.

From the beginning it was pretty lame, and years of practice did not improve it. He seemed to base his authority on a claim to have once worked for my very own newspaper, phrasing it something like this: “When we” — he always referred to himself as we — “worked for Stewart Spencer at the News-Sentinel…” He was never on staff, although as I recall he had once been a stringer in “the region,” as the outer counties were called. You newspaper people know that stringers =/= staff, but whatever. I know Stewart Spencer probably couldn’t have picked him out of a police lineup, anyway.

As I said, he was no David Carr, or even Howard Kurtz. His criticisms were things like lists of who was cool and who wasn’t, who was pretty and who wasn’t, etc. Physical attractiveness was something of an obsession with him, and it was there that he always started in on me: “Why is the News-Sentinel publishing Nancy Nall, when she’s so ugly?” Yes, really. “She offends our aesthetic sensibilities,” etc. It’s standard practice for newspaper columnists to have their work run under a mugshot, and mine offended him. I was also regularly called fat and a terrible, terrible writer.

(When he devoted an entire issue to my awfulness, he was fond of illustrating it with one of Lucien Freud’s obese nudes. Like this one.)

I could go on, but the details are boring and rapidly fading from memory. I’ve always understood that writing a column is a special sort of job, and a certain amount of abuse and hate mail is part of the deal. Hey, I had a column! Some people would simply be predisposed to dislike me because they didn’t have a column. And I’ve always made a policy of not talking (much) about him, but for casual mentions here and there. But this passage from West’s essay stuck with me:

Over and over, those of us who work on the internet are told, “Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t talk back. It’s what they want.” But is that true? Does ignoring trolls actually stop trolling? Can somebody show me concrete numbers on that? Anecdotally, I’ve ignored far more trolls than I’ve “fed”, and my inbox hasn’t become any quieter. When I speak my mind and receive a howling hurricane of abuse in return, it doesn’t feel like a plea for my attention – it feels like a demand for my silence.

And some trolls are explicit about it. “If you can’t handle it, get off the internet.” That’s a persistent refrain my colleagues and I hear when we confront our harassers. But why? Why don’t YOU get off the internet? Why should I have to rearrange my life – and change careers, essentially – because you wet your pants every time a woman talks?

My friends say, “Just don’t read the comments.” But just the other day, for instance, I got a tweet that said, “May your bloodied head rest on the edge of an Isis blade.” Colleagues and friends of mine have had their phone numbers and addresses published online (a harassment tactic known as “doxing”) and had trolls show up at their public events or threaten mass shootings. So if we don’t keep an eye on what people are saying, how do we know when a line has been crossed and law enforcement should be involved?

To be sure, Rich Reynolds never threatened me (although he’s a person of interest in another matter I’ll get to in a moment) and confined his attacks to repetitive remarks about my looks, weight, arrogance, how much all my co-workers hated my guts and so forth, interspersed with demands that I be fired. In this matter, he was like a mental patient painting my picture with his own feces on the walls of his cell (an image my friend and fellow blogger Lance Mannion came up with). Never have I felt so deliberately misunderstood. I’ll cite one example, because I happen to have the column in these very archives. It’s the one I wrote about my retiring boss, Joe, and part of it went like this:

At work, unlike any other area in our lives, we can be almost entirely self-invented. We write the script of an endless movie starring ourselves: “The Receptionist No One Appreciated,” “The Secret Life of Tech Services,” and that famous documentary, “Payroll: What They Know About You, You Can’t Even Imagine.”

Everyone else in the office is watching our movie, perhaps coming away with a message different from the one the director intended. And we’re all one another’s supporting players; in one, we’re the sympathetic friend, in another, the villain. Sometimes both.

This, he said, was preposterous; now this woman considers herself a movie star? How big is her ego, anyway?

I know what you’re thinking: He’s crazy. I’m in full agreement! But at some point, it didn’t matter. Because as time went on, his targets dwindled until there were only a few – me, a couple people at the other paper, some others. More were singled out for lavish, generic praise, along the lines of “we’ve never read anything as smart as X, by Y. He’s as good as anyone working in Chicago or New York,” etc. And that is a very powerful thing, especially when you’re 23 or so.

See, Fort Wayne is an entry-level media market, and lots of people who work for the TV stations and newspapers are either fresh out of college or close to it. What do they know from a real media critic? Not bloody much. No one likes to be called awful names, even by a fool. And soon, it became obvious who came in for abuse and who for praise in Media Watch: If you talked to him and made him feel important, you were golden. If you wouldn’t return his calls or hung up on him (as I did, twice in one day; he never called again), he’d start with the needles.

I’ll never forget walking past the desk of a colleague whom I liked, a fellow sassy malcontent. As I came up behind her, I could see she was working on an email. Addressed to Reynolds. The opening line, “Dear Rich, Thank you so much for including me on your list of…” I was stunned. And there was one editor for whom I never had much respect, but the day I heard her tell a reporter on the phone, “The Media Watch guys think you’re doing a great job,” what shreds there were blew away like cobwebs in a hurricane. Conversely, there was a TV weather lady who was, y’know, a TV weather lady, and not someone I’d be naturally inclined toward. But she never would truck with him, and bore his insults with grace and humor. I had to like her after that.

I knew a TV producer who would chitchat with him as a form of insurance against abuse. He was tight with the wife of an editorial writer for a time. And I can only assume that one local TV anchor must have taken him out for lunch or something, because the encomiums he heaped on her blonde head would have embarrassed a Kardashian.

I really, really tried not to feed this troll. But on the day the column I linked above appeared, besides the by now familiar comments on my looks, he gave the shank a twist: I made a reference in the lead to the last years of my mother’s life, when she was in a nursing home. He thought a person who would put their mother in a nursing home deserved some abuse, and delivered. It wasn’t exactly setting up a fake Twitter account in her name, but it was close, in terms of the effect it had. I wrote a letter to my own colleagues, which I posted on the bulletin board. I said that I knew some people talked to him and fed him information, but that I wanted them to be very clear who they were dealing with. If you’re envious of my job or salary, that’s one thing, I said, but if you funnel it through this guy, please be aware of what you’re aiding and abetting: This is your friend. This is the shit he does.

It was a shaming letter, and I don’t know if it was effective. But damn, it sure felt good to write.

Back to Lindy West: I’m spoiling her essay slightly by telling you her troll eventually revealed himself to her, apologized, shut down the fake accounts and explained himself: He was abusive because he was in a miserable place in his life, and he came clean and apologized when he found his way to a better one. From the known facts about Reynolds – that he had some measure of family wealth, mainly – I can only assume something similar, that he found himself living in this D-list media market and couldn’t break in higher than regional-stringer level. Sometimes money provides a cushion so soft that you can find yourself spending the days watching local TV, reading the papers, and wanting to be part of the action. Even in Fort Wayne goddamn Indiana.

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy. But that thing I mentioned above, about never threatening me? A while back, years after I left Fort Wayne, a member of this blog’s commenting community was called into the boss’ office and shown a letter, purportedly from an “internet monitoring service,” calling the company’s attention to their employee’s commenting activity on this very blog, during business hours.

“And he copied and pasted, without any context, every comment I’d ever made at your site. Years’ and years’ worth,” the subject of the attack wrote me this week. (If he wants to reveal himself, he can.) We later heard from the proprietor of another popular Fort Wayne blog that the same thing was done to at least one of his commenters, too.

I’m not making any accusations, y’understand, even though right around the time this happened, Media Watch published a blog item complaining about internet goofing off on company time. I’m sure it was just a coincidence. And no, no action was taken against our commenter, nor the others.

Reynolds always styled himself a great scholar of the classics; I recall him mentioning a reporter covering some story “needs to read Aquinas” or some such. So I’ll sign off with a line from Miranda in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” but in the great tradition of Reynoldsian point-missing, I’ll twist its intent from the original:

O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

And aren’t we all the poorer for it?

Posted at 8:11 am in Media | 34 Comments
 

Fortunately, there’s a vaccine.

This appears to be the week in which we ask politicians what they think of vaccines.

Just think about that a minute: We’re asking politicians what they think of vaccines. Was Dwight Eisenhower asked to weigh in on the polio vaccine? I bet not. I bet it was a more sensible world in which great medical advances were celebrated, not something to debate.

Maybe Mike Judge was right. Maybe this is “Idiocracy.”

Anyway, first Barack Obama (“Get your kids vaccinated”), then Chris Christie (“I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”), and then Rand Paul (“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines”). Rand Paul, I remind you, is a doctor.

So that was the start of the week. That, and a foot of snow, maybe an inch or two more. Kate got a rare snow day, and I worked at home, but! I got to the gym at 6:30 a.m. I had to do some crazy snow-surfing along the way, but that’s why God made big Swedish station wagons with all-wheel drive. That old sled did her home country proud.

I was the only one there. Respect.

OK, some bloggage:

You know I don’t link to BuzzFeed very often, or ever, but hell — Missy Elliott deserves to be better-known by you young’uns.

Whatever Huffington Post is, it ain’t journalism.

I’m exhausted. Have a good Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:29 pm in Current events | 104 Comments
 

Back home again.

Hey, I’m back. That felt like a long trip, and I guess by most standards, it was: I was gone from predawn Tuesday to Friday twilight, and I barely had a minute to myself, although at one point I turned on the TV just for the noise of company and actually watched a few minutes of a Real Housewives episode.

What a wonder! I’ve never beheld this spectacle for more time than it takes to change channels or watch Jon Stewart mock them on “The Daily Show.” I’m not clueless. I know the basic gimmick: An assembly of polished, high-dollar women are followed by camera crews as they go about their days, with various trumped-up activities thrown in to give them something to do. Sometimes they sit around their lavish kitchens and drink wine. Sometimes they go to parties and drink wine. On this particular day, the Beverly Hills flock was arriving at some sort of reception or opening or something similar in one of those southern California restaurant courtyards that makes a Michigander wonder why she doesn’t live there.

Everyone wears a curve-hugging sleeveless sheath dress. Everyone’s hair falls in barrel curls. Everyone’s makeup is perfect, if a bit overdone. (Lots of false eyelashes.) Everyone air-kisses. Everyone drinks wine. And then the “reality” begins, as one character approaches another for a tete-a-tete. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but apparently there’s some bad blood there.

“What do I have to do?” one asks. “Eat your pussy?”

Whoa. This is basic cable now? A scene of comic relief followed, in which all the housewives discuss cunnilingus. (The relief comes from one who hasn’t ever heard the term.) And then suddenly I had a camera-pulls-back moment and realized I was actually watching “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and turned it off.

I swear, we are going to be cutting the cable cord very soon.

The rest of the trip was very nice. I was reporting a project that will appear in another couple of weeks, concerning conditions at the tip of the mitten. Along the way I met some almost freakishly nice people – it’s true what they say about friendliness around here – and saw a lot of good and bad and beautiful things. Of course, ice covers the water, but ski season is in full swing. One night I peeled off to the dark-sky park up there, the Headlands.

True to Connie’s warning, the stargazing was subpar with a bright, waxing moon in the western sky, but Orion looked close enough to touch and the moon was a veritable spotlight. I was absolutely alone out there, and the weird feeling that started as I pulled in began to build. It was helped along by the various information stations on the road in, which featured life-size human cutouts; I only recognized one (Galileo), so I gather the others were pioneering astronomers, too. But with the single-digit cold, the blazing moon, the snow-covered road and the utter absence of other humans, it all took on a sort of Blair Witch vibe: WHAT IS THAT? WHO IS STANDING IN THE WOODS? Ohit’sjustGalileo. I stopped the car at the very end, got out and looked up. The silence was absolute. There was no wind, so the ice wasn’t shifting out in the Straits of Mackinac. No rustling from the surrounding woods. No owls. Even the cooling car engine seemed to stop ticking in just a minute or two. I strained to hear anything, but the best I could do was the far-far-off laboring of a big engine, probably a logging truck on the Mackinac Bridge.

All this while standing in the clearing, under the moon. I watch “Game of Thrones.” If a White Walker had emerged from the forest on a zombie horse, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I stood there until the cold penetrated deeply enough to make me uncomfortable, and left. I’m going back this summer, I think. There’s a guest house there you can rent. Alan will love it.

So that was sort of the sublime and ridiculous of the trip. Now to write all these stories.

In the meantime, I have some bloggage, some of which you posted in the comments last week.

A dive into Jeb Bush’s role in the Terri Schiavo catastrophe, reported and written for Politico by the talented Michael Kruse. Long, but well worth your time.

Something you’ve probably heard of, but didn’t know there was a name for: Tip-overs, the hazard that kills a few children every year, and doesn’t need to. If you have little kids at home, be advised.

Finally, a Free Press story simultaneously inspiring and infuriating: A Detroit man walks 21 miles, every single work day, to get to his job. From the timeline I gather he has about four hours in his day when he’s not getting to, or doing, his job. I hope with all my heart that by the time you read this, some kindhearted used-car dealer has gifted him with reliable transportation, and the rest of us have donated money to pay his insurance bill.

And so the week begins. We’re currently in the midst of a snowmageddon, and my poor baby has to work tonight — at the pizza place where she’s been since the fall. A pizza place on Super Bowl Sunday during an 8-inch snowfall? It’ll be a character-builder for sure.

Posted at 12:37 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 22 Comments