A burden, lifted.

Not a great weekend, but a productive one. Taxes, filed. (REFUND!) FAFSA, updated. (LESS EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION!) And after it was all over, I stood up and put my hands on my hips and felt infrastructure.

I should explain. Six months ago I started adding side planks to my workout. One minute each side, three times a week at the end of the session. Today? Infrastructure. So y’all run out and start doing some side planks. Your waistline will thank you.

Seriously, though, there’s something about shoveling this great chore into the Outbox that just feels like springtime. A few years ago, I filed and immediately went on Craigslist and bought a Tiffany chain — this one, although not this one — from a woman, exchanging goods for cash in a Costco parking lot. I wear that chain several times a month and don’t regret a penny of the $75 I paid for it. (“My grandmother bought it for me, and I just…don’t like it,” she said. Excellent. She wasn’t the plain-silver-chain type, anyway.)

And why do I do the taxes? Because Alan does stuff like paint the dining room and bleach the mold out of the washer, which was his weekend project.

There was some fun, too: The Deadly Vipers played Friday night at the Hamtramck Music Festival. They were the last act at one of the venues, and the crowd seemed to dig it. I shot a bunch of hail mary pix with my phone, and they were the usual mixed bag. I was trying to capture the moshing, which was too close to the band for my comfort, but that’s how it goes in bars:

moshing

And then every so often you got a fun moment. BUDWEISER:

beerdrinker

We also watched “Foxcatcher” because I was too tired to go out Saturday night, and it was, what’s the word? Disappointing. Tonally self-important, and the story was just sort of boring. Vanessa Redgrave, meanwhile, has three scenes as a nearly-dead WASP dowager, and manages to steal every one. Because she’s Vanessa Redgrave.

And now the winds have finally shifted and a breeze is blowing out of the southwest, and by Wednesday we are promised 50 degrees. Mirabile dictu.

So, did you catch the president’s speech at Selma? If you have only one thing to read about it, make it this. It was such a great speech; I can’t wait to see what the lunatics find to hate about it.

Comic relief: Tom and Lorenzo and a million pictures of “fashion clown Kim Kardashian,” who looks incredibly weird. (That said, I’m adding some blonde chunks to my hair the next touch-up I get, because why the hell not.)

Seems a good note to start Monday. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:17 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments
 

(More) dirty cops.

I haven’t found the time to read all of the Ferguson Report, but I’ve read enough to be disgusted. How can you not be?

…in July 2013 police encountered an African-American man in a parking lot while on their way to arrest someone else at an apartment building. Police knew that the encountered man was not the person they had come to arrest. Nonetheless, without even reasonable suspicion, they handcuffed the man, placed him in the back of a patrol car, and ran his record. It turned out he was the intended arrestee’s landlord. The landlord went on to help the police enter the person’s unit to effect the arrest, but he later filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination and unlawful detention. Ignoring the central fact that they had handcuffed a man and put him in a police car despite having no reason to believe he had done anything wrong, a sergeant vigorously defended FPD’s actions, characterizing the detention as “minimal” and pointing out that the car was air conditioned.

This is, as a friend of mine pointed out today, the virtual definition of a police state: Do as we say, don’t question us in any way, and you’ll be fine — in an air-conditioned car, no less. I can’t tell you how often I heard this during the Eric Garner protests: Just do what you’re told, and you’ll be fine. The hell with that. When citizens — invariably, poor ones — refuse to be revenue streams for these chiseling little fiefdoms, who can blame them? Not I.

The stories are so numerous, they blur into one another. Follow Ta’Nehisi Coates’ Twitter; he’s keeping up.

Yeesh, it’s been a week. A long one, a dull one, but most of all a very very cold one. I’ve been a good girl this winter — I haven’t missed many workouts — but man, it has not been easy, trudging out of the house at oh-dark-thirty five or six mornings a week. I’m writing this ahead of Friday morning’s weights routine, but I’m promised it will be 7 degrees when I do. FUCK THIS SHIT, I say. Next week, sunny and in the 40s — which will feel practically like Florida.

A little bloggage:

Via Hank, a very strange demonstration of a word-processor recorder. Fascinating, and very, weirdly accurate. Intimate.

How chickenshit aggregators steal the work of honest journalists, and are well-rewarded for it.

To observe its 60th anniversary, Sports Illustrated is posting some of the great stories from its archives. This one was devastating, how Rae Carruth killed his baby mama, nearly killed his unborn son, and continues to make everything hellish for those left behind. It’s a sad story, but beautifully told — and not entirely sad.

Off to bed I totter, but I plan to read in Laura Lippman’s new novel until I pass out. It could well keep me awake.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events | 61 Comments
 

Dirty cops.

Such a strange story developing around here, about a small town in one of the metro counties — only one square mile and home to fewer than 300 souls — has nearly 150 auxiliary reserve officers. The answer is fairly straightforward: The chief sells an auxiliary-reserve badge to any number of wealthy “supporters” in exchange for big donations of cash, not into his own pocket, but to the department and the village, where the money makes up a substantial portion of the municipal budget.

In exchange, the donors get a special police clearance that allows them to carry weapons into places that even permit holders can’t take them, including bars, casinos and stadiums. It’s a very mutual back-scratching sort of arrangement, but a local bar owner decided the chief was a bully and sued to get the list of auxiliaries released via a FOIA request. The release was this week, which brought the comedy to a whole new level:

With several news agencies trying to learn the names of auxiliary police officers in Oakley, one of the state’s leading First Amendment lawyers joined the fray.

But the attorney, Herschel Fink, didn’t want the names revealed. He wanted them kept secret.

Even more surprising was the reason.

Fink, who is one of the auxiliary officers, told village officials releasing the names could expose the officers to harm from ISIS, the radical Islamic group that has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Oops, I sprained my eyes. Fink, by the way, is the Free Press’ lawyer. Note he is low in their story, and the lead in the News’. Snicker.

The whole thing put me in mind of the New Rome police scandal in Ohio, which we discussed here many years ago. It’s a reminder that whatever you can say about big-city corruption, small towns can match it dollar for dollar.

Real America. Don’t you love it?

I see some of you were discussing the Curt Schilling story yesterday. I read the blog in question, and had the same feeling as some of you, i.e., this man may be a jerk, but he’s right about this. (Someone explain the name of his blog, though; what is the significance of 38 pitches?) I note one of the young morons who said rude things about his daughter was a radio guy, in the sense that he has a show on the community-college radio station, for one whole hour a week.

Now, I know our own Julie Robinson’s father was a radio guy, but with the exception of him and a few public-station dudes, well, all I can say is: I am not surprised. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, at al — you think these guys got into radio via public-policy think tanks? No. They were disgusting radio guys who decided their opinions need to be shared with the world. When I worked briefly at WOWO in Fort Wayne, I saw things on their bulletin board that would have gotten you horsewhipped at my own office.

If this kid is capable of learning and growth, he’ll absorb this setback and move into the big world that does not include radio.

Not much more bloggage today. You guys?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 47 Comments
 

Sun, with a promise of more.

I was going through my Instagram today and realized I had an example of the East Jordan Iron Works manhole covers that I should have included with yesterday’s post. So here you go:

EJmanhole

Isn’t that lovely? Computer-aided design has changed the game, hasn’t it?

It was one of those Mondays — a long staff meeting that ran over the lunch hour. Sometimes a decent breakfast can carry me past 1 p.m., but there wasn’t enough fat in Monday’s, and I was ravenous by noon, to the point I could hear my own stomach feeding on itself. But the meeting was productive, the skies were sunny and the temperature kissed the low 30s, which set just enough melting in motion that, when the temperature dropped with the sun, the sidewalks were covered with glare ice.

It’s snowing like crazy at the moment. Nothing more treacherous than ice covered with a thin coating of snow. Alan went to walk Wendy and fell twice before he reached the neighbor’s property line. I’ll try that again later. In cleats.

So now it’s Tuesday, the week has momentum, and I have the usual array of crap to do. I’m trying to get into “House of Cards,” but it’s losing me, and fast. If I want sudsy soap drama, I watch “Empire.”

Now I’m going to hit the phones and hope to carve out a few minutes for Bibi. You?

Open thread.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Dirty work.

I was following the comments about stinky factories in the previous thread. It made me recall a line from an older Jim Harrison novel: If you think a belching smokestack is ugly, try one that isn’t. It was a fact underlined over and over when I was up north last month — good jobs for working-class people are likely to be smelly and/or ugly.

We pulled up to the foundry that’s the heart of East Jordan Iron Works, and it’s this big, steam-belching deal on the shores of a lovely lake. It doesn’t look right, but the parking lot is full of $50,000 pickup trucks and everyone who works there loves their overtime.

A few years ago, there was a photo story in the New York Times about the foundry in India where Con Ed, the local electrical utility, has their manhole covers made. East Jordan Iron Works makes manhole covers for virtually every city in Michigan and many more around the world. The NYT photos showed conditions that would horrify most modern eyes, of barefoot men working around cauldrons of molten iron, sparks flying, the whole bit, all for the usual wage of third-world peanuts. The plants in Michigan pay very well.

Work is frequently done in ugly, smelly places. We can’t all be college professors.

So, how was your weekend? The cold hung on and hung on and is supposed to let up…Tuesday. Well above freezing, 37 whole degrees. Woo! And then? Cold again. FML. I could use a week in Mexico right around now.

And then we went out to the movies. Saw “Maps to the Stars,” yet another David Cronenberg cup of poison that, when the lights go up, make you cackle bleakly. The screening was at Cinema Detroit, located in an old elementary school in the heart of the Cass Corridor — the film is shown in the school auditorium. But the seats are in surprisingly good shape. So much in Detroit is strange, and so much of the strangeness is being paved over by a certain pan-yuppie familiarity, it’s nice to see some things are still the old way.

News: Grand Rapids revels in its low murder rate, the headline says. For some reason, it makes me giggle.

NYT: How to dress to complement your dog.

And that’s what I got. I hope you got a little more, and a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

101-level.

And so we lurch to the end of the week. I’m mailing out a few copies of a Deadly Vipers press release. It only took Alan and I, two professionals who have read thousands of press releases between us over the course of decades, about three days to bang it out. It was ridiculous, batting drafts back and forth like a couple of toddlers. I thought I had it nailed, but then realized I’d forgotten the social media and a goddamn phone number.

It’s early dementia, I’m sure.

Oh, well. Speaking of journalism, this was Thursday’s chuckle, Hank’s review of a vile new show called “Sex Box,” in which a couple sits on stage for therapy, and is then ushered into a bed-sized box onstage for, presumably, y’know:

While they’re in there supposedly having sex (in the two episodes shared with critics, duration in the Sex Box lasts anywhere from 11 to 31 minutes), the therapists continue to discuss the couple’s problems. The audience fidgets. The Parents Television Council issues another useless press release. We wait.

The musical cues in “Sex Box” are more suited to a reality show about sharks or avalanches. I mean, is the saxophone solo so out of fashion that it can’t even be put to use here, where we need it most? The tone and presentation make it seem as if something really awful is happening in there, in addition to the making of truly awful television out here.

More tragically, the Sex Box doesn’t move, shake, thrum, glow or give any indication of what’s occurring within. It would be such a better show if the Sex Box, once occupied, could then be lowered onto a shipping vessel bound for the Asian continent, or shot into orbit by Richard Branson, or driven to a storage unit in West Covina and stashed away. Something, anything to make up for the time wasted watching “Sex Box.”

People wonder why critics take so much apparent glee in writing pans. Because there’s so much more fun, that’s why. (I love the idea of lowering the box onto a freighter. I’d watch that show.)

Sigh. When I get up to hit the gym tomorrow, it is predicted to be 0 degrees, maybe lower. Should I skip? Perish the thought!

Have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media | 86 Comments
 

How dumb?

Lately I’ve been gathering string for a Facebook post I’m tentatively calling, “I read it online; is it true?” This is born of frustration with the sheer amount of utter bullshit I see posted on social media, and particularly Facebook.

Hard to imagine that just a year or two ago, I was looking forward to the end of Facebook. No dice. It’s more popular than ever, and is an important driver of traffic to Bridge, among other sites. Drives me nuts, but it is what it is.

I’m not talking about the stupid, obviously fake news stories, like the one about the Marines who beat up the thief at a Best Buy. (Nice little twist of racism in that one; note the thief’s subtle name, “Tyrone Jackson.”) I’m talking about ones where an aggregator takes a legit news story, rewrites it, spins it like a top, slaps on a new headline and hopes for maximum viral magic.

The more partisan/crazy the aggregator, ditto the spin. Here’s an example, with the subtle headline New York Times Wants to Force Nursing Homes to Starve Alzheimer’s Patients to Death. (Another corollary to crazy news sites: They Are Most Likely to Use Up-Style Headlines, Which Drive Me Nuts.) The story links to a complex NYT story about elderly people who are writing advance directives requesting nutrition/hydration withdrawal in the event they develop severe dementia. How they get to that forcing business? Well, it’s Life News dot com; what else would you expect?

Speaking of dementia, here’s one from the other side, yet another chapter in the continuing mental deterioration of Pat Robertson, who today is down on yoga, because it makes people “speak Hindu.” I wonder what it’s like to have your own show and have a daily stage for your own decrepitude. To which we must all ask: Is macaroni and cheese a black thing?

Getting back to the other thing: It’s no secret that people don’t mind being lied to if they like the lie, but it’s always been disappointing. Mitch Albom had no shortage of defenders when he was caught reporting a heartwarming story that was, well, not true, because people liked the heartwarming part and the facts? Eh, we’re going for a larger truth here.

It should be illegal to be this tired at 9:42 p.m., but we’re into week three of a deep cold snap, and it’s getting exhausting — struggling in and out of the Parka of Tribulation; choosing every morning between flannel-lined pants, jeans-and-longjohns and which warm socks will fit in which boots, and which boots are warmer, and… ugh. And tomorrow I have to swim, so off to bed I go.

Remember last summer, when a national gathering of men’s rights advocates came to Detroit? GQ dropped its story this week.

I hope Samantha Elauf wins her case before SCOTUS.

Hoping for a second wind.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 32 Comments
 

Protected.

Something I learned today: Michigan is the only state in the nation that explicitly forbids discrimination based on height and weight.

There’s been talk of adding sexual orientation to the state’s civil-rights law, but in the current legislature, that’s unlikely to happen. A little googling reveals that height and weight were added in 1976, and it was the foundation of a suit brought five years ago by a Hooters waitress — 5-foot-8 and 132 pounds, who was pressured to lose more weight, so as to fit into a size-XS uniform.

In the comments, some guy refers to her as “a porker.” Which put me in mind of this, semi-NSFW. We are so cruel to one another, but only in the comments sections are we cruel to young women who can’t squeeze into an XS.

The other thing worth reading today is this Frank Rich piece on Ben Carson, or “Dr. Ben Carson,” as he’s popularly known. Cutting right to the point:

Thanks to his status as the political equivalent of a unicorn, Carson qualifies for the most elite affirmative-action program in America, albeit one paradoxically administered by a party opposed to affirmative-action programs. Simply put: If an African-American raises his hand to run for president as a Republican, he (they’ve all been men) will instantly be cheered on as a serious contender by conservative grandees, few or no questions asked. He is guaranteed editorials like the one in the Journal, accolades from powerful talk-show hosts (Carson would make “a superb president,” says Mark Levin), and credulous profiles like the one Fred Barnes contributed to The Weekly Standard last month. Barnes’s piece regurgitated spin from Carson’s political circle, typified by his neophyte campaign chief Terry Giles, a criminal litigator whose clients have included Richard Pryor, Enron’s Kenneth Lay, and an estate-seeking son of Anna Nicole Smith’s elderly final husband. “If nominated, can Carson beat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat?” Barnes asked—and then answered the question himself: “Yes, he can.” How? By winning 17 percent of the black vote in swing states—a theoretical percentage offered by a co-founder of the Draft Carson movement.

There’s no reason that a small-government black conservative Republican couldn’t be elected president—a proposition that might have been tested by Colin Powell and no doubt will be by other black Republicans one day. But not today. There have been three Great Black Presidential Hopes in the GOP’s entire history, Carson included—all of them in the past two decades. None has had a chance of victory in a national election, not least because none of the three ever won any elective office. None can be classified as presidential timber without a herculean suspension of disbelief. Indeed, the two Great Hopes before Carson were a buffoon with congenital financial woes and a two-time settler of sexual-harassment suits. But they, too, were praised to the skies by their Republican cheering section up until—and sometimes past—their inevitable implosions. And not without reason. There is a political method to this madness that reaches its culmination with Carson.

If nothing else, it’s an entertaining walk down memory lane. I’d forgotten about Alan Keyes. And Herman Cain is probably best left that way.

Whoa, but I’m sort of whipped. Let’s try again later.

Posted at 9:46 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

(Nearly) done with February.

The cold abated this weekend. It went clear up to the high 20s, which felt like beach weather. We were promised snow, just in case we thought the near-thaw was a prelude to spring, but only a dusting fell, and the forecast is for more subzero cold, arriving today (Monday).

On Saturday I bought a pair of fleece-lined tights, and if you were reading this on a text message, I would insert a thumbs-up emoji right here. Instead I’ll note that today is a prelude to spring, because everything in winter is, in some way. Sunset is a full hour later than it was at Christmastime, and sunrise ditto. Believe me, the early-morning exerciser notices these things. It takes our minds off the fact our hair is freezing.

It hasn’t been a terrible February. We’ve had parties to attend each of the last three weekends, and Saturday’s was at the home of one of the old filmmaking crew’s, so there were lots of jokes about getting the band back together. I doubt we will, but it was fun to catch up. One of our number is a pretty high-level IT guy, and was describing an incident in which some guy nearly crashed the internet for a very large ISP through one mistake. “The more you learn about any complicated system, the more you come away thinking it’s a miracle it works at all,” he said. Amen to that, brother.

Sunday I read this story in the NYT:

On the nights when she has just seven hours between shifts at a Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla., Shetara Brown drops off her three young children with her mother. After work, she catches a bus to her apartment, takes a shower to wash off the grease and sleeps three and a half hours before getting back on the bus to return to her job.

…Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: “clopening.”

This is the second story about this phenomenon I’ve seen recently; the other was also in the NYT, and looked at a single mother at a single business – Starbucks, if I recall correctly. The story led to some red-faced corrections on the part of Starbucks, but as this one makes clear, the practice is widespread across fast food, retail and other service businesses. There are some reasons this isn’t 100 percent a human-rights issue…

Some managers say there are workers who don’t mind clopenings — like students who have classes Monday through Friday and want to cram in a lot of weekend work hours to maximize their pay.

Tightly scheduled shifts seem to have become more common for a number of reasons. Many fast-food restaurants and other service businesses have high employee turnover, and as a result they are often left with only a few trusted workers who have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning.

…but at the same time, you have to ask yourself: Hmm, why high turnover? Maybe because the money is bad and the hours are torture. What’s the solution? Keep the money low and the hours ditto, and hope a unicorn drops off an application.

Come the revolution, the quants and MBAs who dreamed this stuff up will be the first to the guillotines, and who will cry for them? Maybe their mothers. Meanwhile, our own Jolene passed this along, via her Facebook network:

parttimework

That’s the workaday world these days.

And here’s the workaday week, upon us. Another thumbs-up emoji here for a good one.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 52 Comments
 

Laundry plus links.

For the record, my family knows how to do laundry. I do the laundry because I’m a control freak and I like it done the way I like it done, but friends? That’s going to change. I’m done washing those goddamn towels.

You wouldn’t think laundry would be a high-skill job, but with all the fast-fashion items out there in weird fabrics, and my mania to reduce dry-cleaning bills, it can get a little complicated. Cold-water wash, low-temperature dry — ah, it’s a muddle.

But towels are uncomplicated. Wash, dry, fold, bing-bam-boom.

That was Thursday.

So much good linkage today, let’s just get to it.

This story is basically a shortened, condensed version of the Michael Kruse Politico piece on Jeb Bush and the Terri Schiavo case, spiced up with some obvious point of view. Still, worth reading. I’d forgotten how awful that skirmish in the culture wars was, but you shouldn’t. It also led me to this obviously sympathetic, 10-year-old profile of Michael Schiavo’s new woman, but hey — life is complicated.

How complicated? CLOWNS, THAT’S HOW COMPLICATED.

Finally, Ta’Nehisi Coates’ remembrance of David Carr brought me to tears. We should always have a mentor like this is our lives, but few of us are that lucky.

Oliver Sacks is on his way out. Another sad story.

Have a great weekend, all.

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