Bearing down on me.

Did anything happen today that I need to know about? Because I was sort of immersed in this and that. Have a lot on my plate at work, and this weekend looms a rather hastily thrown-together graduation / bon voyage party for Princess Katharine. I looked into catering it, then decided to do it myself. Are those famous last words? Who knows. I’m planning a taco-fixings array, and this week I’m slow-cooking a pork shoulder, a beef brisket and three pounds of chicken thighs. Ring me up Sunday morning and ask how it went. I’m crossing my fingers, but wouldn’t bet against a disaster.

If so, I’ll take some pictures. Anyway, the weather forecast is favorable — sunny and low 80s. Here’s hoping.

Open thread, then.

Posted at 12:43 am in Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments


I was thinking about Donald Trump today, not in the hard-thinking way, more the staring-at-the-ceiling sort of woolgathering you do when you’re a little spacey. Slate ran a story that featured a photo of him in his newest fashion accessory, that ass-ugly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat.

I say “ass-ugly” knowing that some of you might be wearing a similar hat right now, or own a few. Hell, I hardly ever wear hats, and even I own a few. No one in the world would judge you for wearing America’s favorite hat, unless you were wearing it with a zillion-dollar custom-tailored suit, in which case you look ridiculous. Equestrians, whose show clothes range from blazer-type coats to tails, will sometimes pop a billed cap on to cover helmet hair, and it looks sort of dumb with those outfits, too. Everything from the neck down is saying “Downton Abbey,” while the head cries, “Dew Drop Inn.”

Of course, candidates sometimes dress in silly outfits. Even supercool Barry O. was photographed in mom jeans. To err at the closet in the morning from time to time is human, to forgive, divine.

And I forgive Trump his hat, but bottom line, I have a problem with men who can’t come to terms with baldness. It’s so common, and detracts so little from a man’s appearance, and is such a light burden to carry compared with all the stuff women have to worry about — bums and breasts and face and thighs and whatever else the fashion-and beauty-industrial complex is on about at any given time. When the trend toward skull shaving began (almost certainly by some guy sensitive about a receding hairline), I thought, good for you, guys. Fight baldness with baldness! Whatever.

Seriously, though, I say this with love and candor: Women don’t really care whether a guy has hair or not. Maybe some do, but it’s been my experience that once you select for the important qualities — personality, sense of humor, basic sanity, etc. — you can’t be picky about the rest of it. And I’m absolutely sure that even women who want a guy with enough hair to run her fingers through do not prefer a toupee to a shortfall up top. I’ve never trusted men who wore them, because they’re so ridiculously obvious to all that you have to wonder who, exactly, he thinks he’s fooling. Bob Greene, Jim Traficant, John Travolta — come on. We see, we know, we pity. Pity is not an attractive emotion.

Nor is vanity. Pride in appearance is not the same thing. Vanity is pride taken to an unattractive length. Pride is accepting baldness. Vanity is a toupee.

So there’s Donald Trump running around in that stupid hat, apparently because the wind blows in Iowa and on helicopter pads, telling the world no one is tougher than him. Even though he can’t bear to face his own natural head in the mirror. Give me a fucking break.

Here’s something else I was thinking about, after hearing about it on the drive home: Heroin. The White House is rolling out a small program in the worst-hit states for heroin addiction, concentrating on treatment, not incarceration. On the one hand, yay, good idea. I guess it beats horsewhipping the CEOs of the major pharmaceutical companies that started this problem in the first place, anyway.

I was reflecting on how often government is the one left to clean up the messes that the free market creates. Make no mistake, you can draw a straight and true line from the efforts of Purdue Pharma and others to create a wider market for opiate painkillers in the late ’90s to the heroin epidemic (and related health issues) we have today. It’s not even debatable. I remember sitting in the office of a former colleague, who blamed the problem on those damn drug abusers, who just couldn’t leave a perfectly good, incredibly powerful narcotic drug alone so that it could help people with real pain issues. What was so great about Oxy? I asked. Well, he explained, it was time-release, so a person wouldn’t have to cycle through ouch-ahh-ouch-ahh so often. That strikes me now as exactly the sort of thing a certain sort of person would see as a brilliant advance in technology. Unintended consequences are just that — unintended. If they’re not intended, you shouldn’t be held responsible for them.

Anyway, I’m glad the administration is finally treating drug addiction as a public-health problem. And I’m sorry that horsewhipping isn’t part of the solution, too. Progressives are always squishy on punishment, I hear.

Sorry for the no-show for most of today. Sunday was busy, and then we just decided to go sailing. By mid-August, the number of sunny, hot and windy days no longer feels unlimited.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 6:55 pm in Current events | 58 Comments

Here we (might) go again.

So, it looks like Jeb! has learned his lesson on Iraq, and is doubling down on the family legacy:

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, issued a blistering attack on Tuesday on the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq and terrorism issues, asserting that Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had “stood by” as secretary of state as the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

He said President Obama and Mrs. Clinton had orchestrated an early withdrawal of American troops, setting the stage for the chaos sweeping the region now and the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Jeb Bush walked past a portrait of former President Ronald Reagan after speaking at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta on Saturday.

“That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill,” Mr. Bush declared in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here on Tuesday night.

It’s come to this, I guess: We were right all along.

I heard this guy interviewed on NPR on the way home tonight. Fat lot of good that’ll do:

The problem with the legend of the surge is that it reproduces the very hubris that led America into Iraq in the first place. In 2003, the Bush administration believed it could shatter the Iraqi state and then quickly and cheaply construct a new one that was stable, liberal, democratic, and loyal to the United States. By 2006, many conservatives had realized that was a fantasy. They had massively overestimated America’s wisdom and power, and so they began groping for a new approach to the world. But then, in 2007 and 2008, through a series of bold innovations, the United States military bribed, cajoled, and bludgeoned Iraqis into multiple cease-fires. The Iraqi state was still broken; its new ruling elite showed little of the political magnanimity necessary to reconstruct it in an inclusive fashion. And the Band-Aids that Petraeus and his troops had courageously affixed began peeling off almost immediately. Nonetheless, Republicans today say the Iraq War was won, and would have remained won, had the U.S. left 10,000 troops in the country after 2011.

How much damage will the GOP’s revived hubris do? Inconceivable as it would have seemed a few years ago, Graham, who is now a Republican presidential hopeful, has suggested sending 10,000 American ground troops back into Iraq. (His GOP rivals generally support this idea but have not proposed exact troop numbers.) The U.S. is unlikely to send a sizable American ground force back into Iraq. But this line of thinking is troubling nonetheless, because the same wild overestimation of American power that fueled the war in Iraq now fuels the right’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran. To hear hawks tell it, the United States can scuttle the current deal, intensify sanctions, threaten war, and—presto—Tehran will capitulate. But Iranians have been living under the threat of attacks from America or Israel for more than a decade now. And British and German diplomats have warned that if the U.S. Congress torpedoes the agreement, sanctions pressure on Iran will go not up but down, as countries that have lost billions by limiting their trade with Tehran stop doing so.

Here’s what bothers me most about this: Jeb! will likely not be able to sell this to voters. He won’t be able to sell much else to them, either — has there ever been a presumptive GOP nominee this unimpressive in our lifetimes? (Well, yes. But never mind that.) So with Jeb! a far, far thing from a lock for the top spot, what does that leave us? I’m thinking maybe Scott Walker? Marco Rubio? One of those guys. And what happens if Hillary falls and breaks a hip, or finds a lump in her breast, or is otherwise incapacitated? President Scott Walker. Think on that for a minute. And shudder.

This is the state of our politics right now. It’s rather terrifying.

The next 16 months or so are going to be just so much fun. As for the sideshow acts leading up to the main event, well, we have this, too:

Ben Carson defended the use of fetal tissue for medical research Thursday, after a blog published excerpts of a 1992 paper describing work the neurosurgeon-turned-presidential candidate carried out using aborted fetuses. In an interview with The Washington Post, Carson called the revelation “desperate,” and ignorant of the way medical research was carried out.

“You have to look at the intent,” Carson said before beginning a campaign swing through New Hampshire. “To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.”

Can someone please explain what that means? Because I have no idea. A month ago, he said there was “nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue.” He also said 17-week fetuses were “definitely” human beings. Guess what Carson’s research used? Fetal cells from a 17-week fetus.

I’d have more respect for the guy if he said something about having different beliefs then, and he evolved or something.

I first learned of the vile labor practice of “on-call” shifts when Kate worked at Cold Stone Creamery. She explained that she couldn’t make plans for Saturday night because she was on call and might have to work.

“What are you paid for an on-call night?” I asked. Stupidly.


This is how it works: You’re scheduled to work, but they reserve the right call you an hour or two ahead of time and tell you not to come in, because it’s slower than expected. (In the winter, at an ice-cream shop, this happened a lot.) I told her, “Well, now you know why we had a labor movement in this country. And why we still need one.” At least one practitioner is calling it off, albeit with a nudge from the guvmint:

The office of the New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said in April that it was investigating 13 large retailers over whether the increasingly unpredictable work schedules adopted by some retailers violated state labor laws.

Abercrombie & Fitch said in a statement on Friday that all of its brands would end the practice for workers paid by the hour. As of the end of January, the company ran 799 Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister stores in the United States.

And how did I know that somehow, “data” would be behind this?

…Retailers often rely on sophisticated software to track the flow of customers, assigning just enough employees to handle ever-changing demand, resulting in far less predictable work hours for much of their part-time work force.

When you’re a 16-year-old working your first minimum-wage job, the stakes are low. I had no idea it was as widespread as it is, but it is. And it’s horrible. I’m sure President Walker would approve.

I need a break from all this gloom. My boxing trainer sent me this today, a 40-year-old Sports Illustrated story on the Thrilla in Manila, Ali-Frazier, 1975. It was an ugly fight, but this is a beautiful piece of writing. At the end of the 14th round:

“Joe,” said his manager, Eddie Futch, “I’m going to stop it.”

“No, no, Eddie, ya can’t do that to me,” Frazier pleaded, his thick tongue barely getting the words out. He started to rise.

“You couldn’t see in the last two rounds,” said Futch. “What makes ya think ya gonna see in the 15th?”

“I want him, boss,” said Frazier.

“Sit down, son,” said Futch, pressing his hand on Frazier’s shoulder. “It’s all over. No one will ever forget what you did here today.”

And yet, we apparently have forgotten what we did in Iraq. Some people have, evidently.

Have a nice weekend! It’s gonna be sunny and hot here.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 98 Comments

The beginning of the slog.

I have a number of looming hurdles to clear in the last weeks of summer, and none of them are brush boxes — a little hunter/jumper reference for the two or so of you who might get it (hey, Charlotte). That is to say, not easy. So there may be some outages between now and mid-September. Be advised. And be advised we’re going to be a little jangly today because: See above.

On the other hand, I learned that one of my colleagues was working at a farmers’ market last week, and there was a shooting just across the parking lot. If anyone ever tells you think-tank work is boring? They don’t work in Michigan.

Did you know Apple, as part of the promotion for “Straight Outta Compton,” is making it possible to do things like this?


Is that not awesome? Even though I hate that Beats stuff.

Neal Rubin is a columnist for the Detroit News I should include here more often, because he’s frequently wonderful. This piece, about a 71-year-old couple who accidentally wandered into a thrash-metal concert at a local amphitheater, is particularly so:

Jeff, whose goal was to take his wife to the nearest show to her birthday, thought maybe he’d bought tickets to an oldies revue. But The Shirelles weren’t on the bill, either.

Instead, there was an Australian metalcore band called Feed Her to the Sharks. At the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the Pardees were most definitely fish out of water.

Finally, it’s a function of how out of it I’ve been lately that I saw these Serena Williams photos earlier this week and didn’t think I should blog this. Fortunately, LA Mary sent them along and nudged me out of my torpor. Check ’em out. She’s amazing.

So forward we go into a big month or so.

Posted at 12:24 am in Housekeeping, Popculch | 62 Comments

Remembering to remember.

Warning: Discussion of female bodily functions ahead.

When I was pregnant, a nurse told me pregnancy was a good window onto old age, that the problems women had when they were great with child tended to pop up late in life — diabetes, etc. If so, I better have a killer retirement account, because my pregnancy passed like a cool breeze on a warm day, and the Big M — you guys can figure that one out, right? — was ditto. You’ll have to ask my loved ones about screeching mood swings, but I don’t recall that era as any worse than my usual moody-bitch act. Not one hot flash. Insomnia, sure, but that’s just the way of the world once you have a few things to worry about. A few other minor things, but in general, the big Change I’d been dreading for half a decade was a snap. Not only that, but I forgot, in a disgracefully short time, what it was like to be a fertile woman, and all it entails, specifically the gross stuff.

So it was refreshing to read this little essay in New York magazine today, pointing out the obvious: The reason there isn’t a wave of outrage over the Planned Parenthood sting videos is, women already know what abortion is about. Believe us, we know, even if we haven’t had one:

Women do not need real talk about bodies; our adult days brim with the effluvia, the discomforts, the weirdness and emotional intensity and magnitude of our medical choices. Then there is pregnancy itself, wanted or not, and its attendant risks. Women pass early pregnancies into toilet bowls and sadly collect the remains of later ones in Tupperware containers to bring to their doctors. Most of us know of someone who has suffered the excruciating pain of stillbirth. One friend, bleeding 13 weeks into a deeply desired pregnancy, was told by her doctor not to worry unless she passed a clot bigger than her fist.

Women who have been pregnant past quickening have felt the nauseating turn of a baby inside them; some have had the horror of feeling that baby stop moving, or, as Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis wrote of her experience, can feel the spasms of fetal seizure. She had a late abortion. So did California representative Jackie Speier, as she told the House in 2011, responding to a colleague who’d read aloud a gory description of a second-trimester termination. “I was thinking to myself, Not one of you has endured this procedure,” she said of her decision to speak publicly about it.

Women know about blood. We know about discharge. We know about babies, and many of us also love them, their little feet and hands and eyelashes. And, yes, we know that those bitty features develop while the fetus is inside us. We also know the physical, economic, and emotional costs of raising those children outside our wombs.

It brought it all back — those days of praying for your period, cursing your period, all of it. And it’s good to remember that from time to time, because if you forget it too long, you forget to be outraged when men stand up in legislative chambers and read descriptions they have no experience of and never will. And you need to be outraged, not all the time, but sometimes, when it counts. You need to remember.

But I don’t want to bum everyone out on a Tuesday. Here’s something quite amusing, John Oliver on sex ed. It’s long, but it’s very good, in that outrage-funny kind of way. I very much recommend it.

Who was asking about the obit for Frances Kelsey the other day, the doctor who blocked Thalidomide in the U.S.? This is a pretty good one:

The sedative was Kevadon, and the application to market it in America reached the new medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration in September 1960. The drug had already been sold to pregnant women in Europe for morning sickness, and the application seemed routine, ready for the rubber stamp.

But some data on the drug’s safety troubled Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a former family doctor and teacher in South Dakota who had just taken the F.D.A. job in Washington, reviewing requests to license new drugs. She asked the manufacturer, the William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati, for more information.

Thus began a fateful test of wills. Merrell responded. Dr. Kelsey wanted more. Merrell complained to Dr. Kelsey’s bosses, calling her a petty bureaucrat. She persisted. On it went. But by late 1961, the terrible evidence was pouring in. The drug — better known by its generic name, thalidomide — was causing thousands of babies in Europe, Britain, Canada and the Middle East to be born with flipperlike arms and legs and other defects.

A petty bureaucrat. Should have left that one up to the invisible hand, right?

Long day ahead, so let’s get to it.

Posted at 12:04 am in Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments

And we’re wrapped.

Well, we made it back. You get in the car in the crystalline, low-humidity loveliness of the north woods, and you stop for gas somewhere around Saginaw, where the air is smudgy and your hair immediately plasters itself to your skull like a wet towel.

(“I’m going to miss this place,” I said on our last day. “My hair looks the same in the evening as when I dried it in the morning.” Alan: “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Only women notice hair.)

It was a nice time. We didn’t do much, by design. Alan fished every night and some days, and I read “Missoula,” by Jon Krakauer; “The Drop” by Dennis Lehane; and “Between the World and Me,” Ta’Nehisi Coates, as well as some rereading — an old Travis McGee pulper I found in the cottage, and Laura Lippman’s “When She Was Good.” And a kinky romance about a woman with rape fantasies, because I read an interesting story about this market niche somewhere, and wanted to see what it was about. They’re all e-books and as cheap as candy bars. (Noted some details, including this: While women notice hair, when they write erotic fiction, they don’t spend a lot of time describing the women involved, for obvious reasons. The reader is free to imagine herself in the starring role. Sex scenes written by men are the opposite. I gave up on one popular crime novelist 20 pages into my first try, when he described his main character, a woman with the usual high, firm breasts and tight, round ass and long, long legs, etc. The real eye-roller — and book-closer — was her smooth olive skin and violet eyes. I’m like, pick one, dude. You don’t get both in the same gene pool.)

“Missoula” was a rare Krakauer disappointment for me, strong out of the gate and mired around the halfway point with courtroom procedural passages begging for a chainsaw edit. It was also about rape, the real, non-fantasy kind, but it was really about alcohol. And “Between the World and Me” is a heartbreaker, but an absolutely necessary one, and I highly recommend it.

At night, when I wasn’t reading and Alan was fishing, I watched movies. The house we were in didn’t have cable or an antenna, so I couldn’t watch the Republican debate, but it did have a DVD player and an uneven selection of movies. First were the good ones I’d already seen (“Michael Clayton,” “The Departed”) and then some fun crap (“Dirty Harry”), before finishing with ones I’d only heard about and never got around to seeing, like “The Green Mile.” Sixteen years after its release, I offer this review: P-U. (Alan suggested an alternate title: “Mr. Jingles and the Magical Negro.”) Last up was “The Grey,” which I turned off 30 minutes in while contemplating forming a Wolf Anti-Defamation League. Not just bad, offensively so.

And that was about it. We lost power in the big storm for a day and change, popped over to Traverse City for an afternoon and watched Wendy excavate the outside woodpile for two solid hours, trying to get the red squirrel squeaking inside. No cell service, no internet unless we drove through a coverage zone. And we floated a few miles of the Au Sable, and it looked like this:


Pure Michigan.

It looks like y’all had a good week. I still have a few pages to go in the Coates book, mainly because on the way home, as soon as we drove into cell coverage, my phone exploded with this story, about the Tea Party legislator I wrote about in April. Turns out he was sleeping with his legislative ally, and — you can read all the tawdry details at the link. The rumors about them started flying after my story ran, and I wondered whether they might be true, then decided such a hookup would be too Hollywood for words, like Frank Burns and Hot Lips Houlihan getting it on in “M*A*S*H.” It turns out that sometimes reality is just that — Hollywood. I keep looking at my notes, and the story, wondering if it was in front of me all along. Maybe it was:

Just yesterday, Courser posted, on his website and Facebook, a 3,300-word defense of Gamrat, referring to “the forces of tyranny” that are “attempting to silence a huge voice for liberty,” i.e. Gamrat, and calling on Speaker Cotter to reinstate her. He chides Cotter repeatedly and implies the Speaker – the leader of his own party’s caucus – lied about Gamrat to justify her ejection.

New rule: When a man tops 3K words defending a female colleague, look harder.

Anyway, I’m doing a Michigan Radio interview this morning, along with the reporter who broke the story. Should be fun. I’ll pop into the comments with a listen-live link when I get it.

I see you guys kept the bloggage going in my absence, so I don’t have a whole lot to offer, as I’m just catching up myself. This profile of an uncooperative Chelsea Clinton was very good, I thought. I found it via Hank Stuever, who commented on his Facebook that perhaps his parents had taken Jacqueline Onassis’ advice about raising their daughter in the White House to a fault: “When Caroline Kennedy sort of ran for office a few years ago, one single interview with the NYT made it clear that a lifetime of being sheltered from challenging questions had not done her any favors at all. She was in no way ready for real politics or much of anything that wasn’t ceremonial and scripted. Ergo, her current job — ambassador to Japan.” Chelsea is the same, I fear. Much posing and smiling, not much else.

Oh, and Coozledad sent along this wonderful piece from his local alt-weekly. Speaking of atrocious writing.

So the week begins anew, and I’m tanned (a little), rested (mostly) and ready (better be). Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events, Movies, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments

Having a lovely time. 

Wendy’s not a good Lab impersonator, but she tried. Big storm left us power-less for a day-plus, but otherwise all is well. Wish you were here, but you sorta are. 

Posted at 12:57 pm in iPhone | 108 Comments

Break coming up.

First a little light housekeeping: Light-to-nonexistent posting next week, as it is time for the Derringers to lay down their scythes and head into the cool north woods for a few days. It’s one step up from a staycation, but the price is right and a river runs through it. Alan will take his fishing gear, I will take a stack of books and other non-work reading, and we will both eat a lot of tavern cheeseburgers while I avoid cooking.

I might do a little yoga on the deck, but nothing more strenuous.

There might be some photo posts along the way. It depends on how picture-perfect things are. And how robust the cellular network is, and whether the WordPress mobile app is still a pain in the butt to work with.

Funny to think about these things. Kate is off in the great American west with intermittent cell service, and I just have to get used to her being out of range for a while. That’s what life used to be, and not that long ago.

I’ll do what I can.

Meanwhile, it remains hot here, although a line of thunderstorms yesterday blew out the humidity, if not the heat. It’s a little Los Angeles-y today, hot and dry and blindingly sunny. This I can live with, even as it makes me feel a little like a kid stuck in school, having to work when all this gloriousness is going on outside. But that’s what next week will be about.

I’m ready to take a news break, frankly. Donald Trump, lion killers, the construction outside my front door — it’s time to unplug.

That said, this isn’t a terrible take on Trump, and by a Republican, no less.

Capturing people who don’t collect their dogs’ poop with? What else — DNA.

Finally, Jon Stewart comes clean about his relationship with POTUS.

As for the rest of the weekend, I think Connie said it best:

Hope yours is good.

Posted at 12:03 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 88 Comments


I mentioned a while back that I gave blood? And they gave me a $10 Kroger gift card, up from the old $5 Target cards? Today, a new wrinkle:


It’s like an open adoption, isn’t it? They tell you where your blood went. As it turns out, the sides of the triangle formed by St. John Hospital, the gym where I donated and my house are no longer than half a mile. Now that’s some locally sourced blood. That’s blood a blood snob would be proud to infuse.

They must really need blood. Probably you should give some, if you’re able.

A mixed bag today. The heat wave continues. Kate’s leaving tomorrow on yet another trip, a straight vacation this time with friends, so there were some errands and I made a big pile of granola. (They’re going backpacking.) And I worked, simultaneously thinking I wish I were in an office with people and thank God I don’t have to get dressed so I can be around people. Of course the social-media story of the day was the lion killer, which I see you have already started tearing apart in the previous post’s comments. The local paper seems to be on top of things, and I don’t know what to add — it’s just a terrible story. The hunter sounds terrible. The situation sounds terrible. The whole idea of traveling to Africa to hunt heads – terrible. That this guy is a cosmetic dentist – terrible.

Which seems like a segue into yet another NYT piece on the outlaw seas, more of the Ian Urbina package on the astounding lawlessness on the high seas and yet another argument for the human race as not much of an improvement on primordial slime. The piece does have a hero, the environmental group that pursued an outlaw fishing vessel for more than three months, only to see it almost certainly deliberately scuttled to hide evidence of its crew’s crimes. But a good read just the same.

Finally, you may have read about the unveiling of the Satanist statue in Detroit. This is the real story. You’re being trolled, America.

In spite of the heat, I took a little bike ride. And I took a little picture:


It’s the original. Accept no substitutes.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments

God bless the Jumbotron.

No blogging today, alas. I accepted a friend’s invitation to see Elvis Costello and Steely Dan last night at the venue once and forever known as Pine Knob. It was a hot night and only got hotter when the main act came on. A woman seated in the row ahead of us barfed all over the floor — I honestly don’t think she was drunk, as she seemed to be ralphing mainly gouts of clear liquid. The crew got it cleaned up between acts and a different couple sat down in the adjacent seats. Dustin and I looked at each other and said? Nothing, of course.

The barfer and her husband returned, the barfer’s hair tied up in a ponytail. Maybe she was just overheated.

Anyway, the acts were in good voice and Donald Fagen is still one of my favorite lyricists in pop music. Fortunately, there were visual enhancements:


I’m told the kids don’t like Steely Dan, and in fact consider the band the absolute epitome of boomer narcissism, all jazzy pretentiousness and grad-school navel-gazing. Their fans are assholes, they play “music to put your sleazy moves on a drunk woman in a ski lodge to,” they’re for snobs only.

OK. Whatever. I have very specific and generational memories linked to most of their hits, and as for “Aja,” well, let’s just call it a foundational text in my pop-music memory. So the hell with you haters. We all know what you gotta do.

So not much bloggage today, except for this, my old colleague Dave Jones on the poisoning of youth sports. By their parents, of course:

As Hall of Fame acceptance speeches go, John Smoltz’s was not terribly entertaining. He was too careful to mention each and every person who affected his life, growing up as the son of accordion teachers in Michigan, to reach any sort of real connection with the audience during a rather lengthy half-hour.

Until, that is, the last five minutes. The loudest and longest ovation Smoltz received was for the most passionate point he made near the end of his time on the podium at Cooperstown on Sunday.

It was when he tried to talk some sense into all the parents who are relentlessly driving their kids through the nonstop treadmill that is travel baseball. He was speaking of all the kids whose arms are worn out and even damaged by their mid-teens. Whose passion for the game has long since been replaced by a hollow expression, whose onetime thrill in competition has dissolved into some vague sense of duty to their parents’ commitment.

‘Til Tuesday, and beyond.

Posted at 8:59 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 46 Comments