March marching.

I wasn’t able to watch the march Saturday — cut the cable cord and only regret it two or three times a year — but I saw a few snippets on the gym TVs, and stayed on the treadmill a few extra minutes to take them in. It was a remarkable spectacle, I’m sure we’d all agree. Even more remarkable is the response to it from the other side, who are seemingly having a competition to see who can say the stupidest thing, from stocking classrooms with buckets of rocks to chiding students for not taking CPR classes to the too-numerous-to-count “sit down kids and listen to your elders” stuff.

That’s how you know you’re winning. That, and when Rod Dreher clutches his pearls and calls you Robespierre.

Kids, rock on. This is their fear talking.

I did some thinking on the treadmill (but just a few extra minutes of it). I once used to say things like, “America has made its bloody bed, and now it has to lie in it.” But I’ve come around to the more hopeful idea that something is better than nothing, and to do nothing because no one thing will solve the problem is a lazy and cynical position. In my lifetime — hell, just in the middle-aged portion of my lifetime — we’ve seen sea changes on smoking and homosexuality. Why not guns? So I’m choosing optimism. This just feels different.

Also, the graphics are pretty great:

Dahlia Lithwick on the march, too. Not-a-spoiler alert: This was not the work of George Soros.

Still cold here, insultingly so. I was going to take a walk to the bakery this morning, until I checked the temperature: 22 degrees. Newp. And that’s why we had stale bread at breakfast.

I have believed this for a long time, but it’s good to see I’m not alone:

You wouldn’t want to be operated on by a physician with only a few surgeries under his or her belt, and the assurance that this doctor brought a fresh perspective to anesthesia and incisions wouldn’t thrill you.

You would choose a pilot who had flown 999 flights over one with nine, and you would want your child’s teacher to be practiced with pupils, not merely a vessel of great enthusiasm.

So why the romance with candidates who have never done a stitch of government work before?

That’s Frank Bruni about the gubernatorial candidacy of Cynthia Nixon, but it could be me watching campaign ad after campaign ad by people promising to “run government like a business” and yelling at the screen, “But government isn’t a business, you twit.”

I lived 20 years in Indiana, which has a part-time legislature, and further limits its time in Indianapolis to alternating “short” and “long” sessions. Republicans are always emoting over how this makes the Hoosier state a true “citizen legislature,” and weeping over the founding fathers’ dreams that all legislatures would be made up of citizens, as though politicians aren’t actually citizens. The idea behind term limits, which we have in Michigan, is roughly the same: Make these bastards go home after a few years, because they suck. New blood! New ideas! No more career politicians!

One hazard of treating the U.S. Constitution as the revealed word of God, and the founding fathers (and mothers) as oracles of heaven is, we’re no longer an 18th-century collection of former colonies with a big idea and a wilderness close enough to see from the front porch. So maybe lawmaking for a nation of more than 300 million souls equipped with guns, smartphones and cars should be a little more than a regular meeting over the cracker barrel. Just a thought.

On to a cheerier topic: Your worst fears realized on a theme-park ride.

In a quest to be the record holder for the world’s tallest waterslide, investigators say, Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City rushed to build a dangerous and structurally complicated ride, ignored glaring safety red flags and replaced mathematical calculations with “crude trial-and-error methods.”

The string of negligence, according to a recently unsealed indictment, resulted in the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy and more than a dozen injuries. Caleb Schwab, son of Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab, was decapitated while riding the nearly 170-foot-tall Verrückt, a German word that means “crazy” or “insane.” On Friday, a year and a half after the boy’s death, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office announced criminal charges against the company and one of its former employees.

Schlitterbahn and Tyler Austin Miles, former director of operations, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and several counts of aggravated battery, aggravated endangering a child and interference with law enforcement. Investigators say the company knew the waterslide was unsafe and could result in injuries and deaths, but still rushed to open it to the public. Perhaps more disturbing is the allegation that several injuries, from neck pain to concussion, had already occurred before Caleb’s death. Still, investigators allege, Schlitterbahn and Miles kept the ride open to the public — and even hid reports of those injuries and other alarming safety problems from law-enforcement officers who were investigating the boy’s death.

A reader comment:

I live about 30 minutes from this waterpark, and from the moment I saw them breaking ground on this ride, I determined that my daughters would never go near it. I live in Missouri, but I know Kansas well enough to know that the state does not require government inspections of such rides—part of what has made Kansas the GOP utopia that also included ruinous tax cuts that have nearly destroyed the state’s schools and social services.

Kate has aged out of her going-to-Cedar-Point phase, at least going with me, but whenever we were there I would dream of a book project: Embedding with a design team for a new roller coaster, and tell the story from blueprint to ribbon-cutting. If you still think of roller coasters as the wooden ones of your youth, you have no idea. Just the engineering has to be fascinating.

With that, I’m out of here. Good week ahead, all.

Posted at 3:48 pm in Current events | 86 Comments

From bad to wurst.

Back in my horse-owning days, this would be heavy shedding season. You’d curry and curry and brush and brush, and still come away with a glove covered with hair after every pat. The ponies were the most fun; there was one retiree that lived in a back paddock at the barn where I boarded, and he woolied up like a stuffed animal. Even his hooves looked furry. That one required a shedding blade, sort of a serrated scraper, to help him take off his winter clothes.

Indiana’s climate is as prickly at this time of year as Michigan’s, and I always wondered why the horses would shed steadily, some starting as early as late January, through cold springs. It’s no mystery; it’s the light that triggers the cycle, not the temperature. Once the days lengthen, the hair starts to drop.

We’re having a cold spring here. The relentless chain of nor’easters is supposedly blocking the warm spring winds and allowing Canada to keep exporting its frigid garbage to my corner of the world. When I go out to walk Wendy in late afternoon, it’s usually in the mid to high 30s, and with the sun out, that’s not too bad. It’d be a gift in January, but in late March, it feels like I’m being robbed of something. And it’s all because of the light. We’re well into Daylight Saving, and I’d like to take a little bike ride from time to time, maybe sit in the back yard, but it’s so cold in the D. So I wrap up in sweaters that feel …wrong, somehow. I carried my suede purse the other day, and it, too, seemed wrong. Too soon for straw, but too late for suede.

I’m not freezing at the moment, but I will be at some point today, because that’s the way it’s been.

So now that it’s officially spring, start being spring, dammit.

You know what I’m going to do today? Not mention Him. Mainly because I found this story from the Washington Post so interesting. The premise: German food, as a restaurant business model, is dying:

All across the country, German restaurants are calling it quits. In Portland, Ore., Der Rheinlander closed after 53 years in 2016. Another Portland restaurant, the Berlin Inn, closed and reopened as the Brooklyn House, with a vegan and gluten-free menu of “European comfort food,” before closing again, permanently. Outside of Boulder, Colo., the Black Forest Restaurant closed last summer after 59 years. The Olde German Schnitzel House in Hickory, N.C., served its last sauerkraut in 2014, lasting 10 years. One of Nashville’s oldest restaurants, Gerst Haus, died last month after 62 years. That’s 10 years longer than the Chicago Brauhaus, which closed in December.

…German food’s decline “reflects the cultural mix of this country toward more Latin American, Asian and African American culture, and less of the mainstay Germanic culture that influenced this country for many decades,” said Arnim von Friedeburg, an importer of German foods and the founder of “The cultural shift is going on, and German culture has to fight or compete to keep its relevance.”

My gene pool is at least somewhat German, but my mother was never much for German food. I had to move to Indiana to find its influence on the table; the column I wrote about my bafflement at first confronting noodles and potatoes on the same plate was one that got a ton of reader response. To you non-Hoosiers: Imagine a tub of mashed potatoes. Imagine a tub of chicken and noodles, likely thick homemade noodles, swimming in the customary yellow gravy. Now put a big pile of potatoes in the middle of your plate, and ladle the chicken and noodles over it. In Indiana, that’s good eatin’, and may well owe more to field-hand cuisine than Germany. My first memories of “German” in a dish’s description are only good when it’s sweets — German chocolate cake, Black Forest cake and…I think that’s it. German potato salad made me gag, and the various schnitzels and stews and so forth were simply mysteries. As my adult tastes broadened, I came to appreciate a little sauerkraut on a hot dog, but not much else. And now that I think of it, if you had to pick the one chocolate cake that a kid would refuse, it would be the German one.

But German restaurants were big when I was a kid, always a Haus of some sort, with maybe a hex sign out front (which is Pennsylvania Dutch, I know, but few customers were sticklers about that stuff). Frankenmuth, the locally famous tourist town in Michigan, has several places with waitresses in dirndls and waist-cinchers, serving “broasted” chicken by the coop-load to visitors, but I’d be willing to bet 90 percent of the customers are old.

There’s a place here in Detroit like the German restaurants of old. It survives, mainly on the strength of its floor show — they do singalongs periodically through the night, and it’s great fun, but the one time I was there we ordered apps and beer and not much else. When you want to tie on the carbo feedbag in Detroit, you head to a Polish place in Hamtramck. Where honestly, there’s not much difference in the cuisine.

OK, off to work today. Reading about leaks, but I said I wasn’t going to mention Him, so I won’t. Just remember DO NOT CONGRATULATE.

Posted at 10:39 am in Popculch | 94 Comments

The lagging lug nuts.

Spring-ish weather finally arrived, which is to say not warm enough for shirtsleeves, but the sun was out and it felt like a promise of better things to come. It was 57 at one point.

Monday’s high? 37 degrees. We’ll always have Sunday.

Thank god for this little warmish breath, though, because if we’d had another gloomy weekend, I might have sat inside all weekend reading Twitter, instead of just part of it. Are the wheels coming off? Finally? I’m hesitant to believe, because the wheels have been coming off for more than a year now, and there always seems to be one lug nut still hanging in there, doing its job. But this weekend — just this weekend! — we had the mop-up from the Tillerson fiasco and the will-he-or-won’t-he-fire-Mueller thing and then, on Saturday (Sunday if you’re a normal person and wait to read your Sunday paper), the Cambridge Analytica bombshell. And I’m probably forgetting a few.

Yeah, Comey and Putin and all the rest of it. Oh, and the nondisclosure agreements.

Truth be told, I’m halfway between horror at what’s happening and a secret thrill that I’m living through a period we’ll tell our grandchildren about. I just want to behave honorably through the course of it.

That’s the point of the first link up there, a column calling on the outgoing secretary of state to finally prove he was one of the adults in the room:

Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we’ve been assured — via well-placed anonymous sources — that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing. …Whatever their accomplishments, if from their privileged perches these people saw the president as a dangerous fool in need of babysitting, it’s now time for some of them to say so publicly.

Yes. We’re at a unique moment in history. Do you want to be one of the good guys? Better start talking.

Great comment discussion going the last few days, guys. Rock on, but I have some work to do.

Posted at 8:42 am in Current events | 72 Comments

Bedford Falls vs. Pottersville.

There’s been a great comment discussion the last couple of days, over small towns, large cities, and what we owe both of them. It made me think of 2001-02, when we were both miserable at work, and Alan had a promising job interview in Traverse City. I gave considerable thought to how we’d live and what I’d do there.

“You can freelance,” everybody told me. “After all, with the internet, it doesn’t matter where you live.”

This was a big article of faith with the head of our editorial page, who, truth be told, was a bit of a hermit. The internet meant anyone could work from anywhere, which meant…all sorts of things. Less traffic, fewer days spent in boring offices, and of course, the flowering of many charming towns for those who love them. You could have a house with a walkout deck overlooking a lovely valley, while behind you the world of work simmered away on your monitor, and you joined it when you liked.

Not 20 years later? That hasn’t happened.

It’s happened for a handful of lucky souls, sure, but for most of us? No. In fact, a lot of these towns don’t even have broadband. And didn’t Yahoo call a bunch of work-at-homes back to the office corral a while back? The aphorism I recall from that was, “if you want people to be productive, keep them apart. But if you want them to be creative, they have to be together.” Yahoo needed some creativity, so the roundup began.

Someone said on the thread yesterday that cities are the future. Well, duh. But cities can’t be everybody’s future; too much density isn’t good for anyone, and I for one don’t want to live in some slightly cleaner and less polluted version of Mexico City, or even Los Angeles. In the last six months, I’ve met two couples who’ve bought houses in Grosse Pointe because, get this, they were priced out of Detroit. Not all of Detroit, mind you — you can still find hundreds of houses for a pittance — but the good parts, yes. Not everyone can live close in, where the action is.

But everything some of you have been saying about small towns — and small cities — is true. This is a painful time for the U.S. economy, and everyone is right, at least in part. This is about a shift, and if you can’t shift, or at least adapt, you’re going to be left behind. Anyway, I’m glad I have some smart readers willing to bat this stuff around.

So. Today in other Chaos Reigns news:

Subpoenas for the Trump Organization.

The president admits lying to our closest neighbor and their very handsome prime minister.

A brand-new bridge falls from the sky in Florida. It was put up using something called Accelerated Bridge Construction Methods, which I’m going to bet maybe don’t come out of this smelling like a rose.

Oh, and Don Jr. and his wife are splitting. Five kids, these two have. As Philip Larkin said, they fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Boy, am I tired. Good weekend to all.

Posted at 9:02 pm in Current events | 72 Comments

Another Tuesday in Bizarroworld.

It’s a feature of chaos that you don’t know who your friends are, I expect. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, that sort of thing? And so it is you can be reading an analysis of the short and inglorious term of Rex Tillerson, described in the headline as “the worst secretary of state in living memory,” and find something like this:

The administration is not divided into people who are loyal to Trump and those who are not. Rather, it is divided between those who know how to manipulate his vanity, his hatreds, his sensitivities, and those who do not. It is divided between those who think he is their ticket to fame and fortune and those who hope to survive this episode with their reputations more or less intact. It is divided, at the most fundamental level, between those willing to sell their souls completely and at a discount in the service of a man who is doing great damage to American norms and institutions, and those who are trying to get something for their country in return for the slices of honor and integrity that every day they reluctantly consign to the flames.

So here is a plausible account of what Pompeo would do, if he replaces Tillerson. He will fire Tillerson’s cabal, shrink the Policy Planning staff, and return it to its more normal role of writing speeches and doing long-range thinking. He will ostentatiously drape an arm around the shoulders of the foreign service. He will bring journalists back onto his plane and schmooze them—in return getting more than his fair share of what Washington journalists sometimes call “beat-sweetener” stories. Unlike Tillerson, who seems in good corporate fashion to have decided that a 30 percent cut ordained by headquarters is the equivalent of a Czar’s ukase—unwelcome, perhaps, but not to be questioned—he will fight back. He will either bully OMB Director Mick Mulvaney or, more likely, smile sweetly at him, assure him of his complete support—and then end-run around him on Capitol Hill, letting angry senators do for him the dirty work of subverting the president’s budget. He will call in some of the retired senior diplomats—legendary ambassadors like Ryan Crocker who have been uncharacteristically public in their criticisms of Tillerson—and listen to them with at least the appearance of attentiveness. Above all, he will flatter the president shamelessly, praising his toughness and superlative insights while steering policy in a more or less sane (if, to be sure, tough-minded) direction. He will rattle some with hardline rhetoric, but at least he will articulate a coherent view of American foreign policy to the world, and that will be an advance.

And then you realize: We’re talking about Mike Pompeo here. This is not a good guy. None of this is normal. Stop making me feel so crazy, world.

I expect most of you will want to talk about the election in Pennsylvania. So far, it’s looking good for Conor Lamb. But don’t celebrate until the returns are certified.

The other day some of y’all were talking about the attitudes of rural/small town/red state Americans. I saw this interview on Vox tonight, with the author of a book called “The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America.” The interviewer is not listening politely:

Q. I’m still struggling to understand what exactly these people mean when they complain about the “moral decline” of America. At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?

A: It’s an interesting question. What does it mean for us to take that seriously? I guess my point is that she takes it seriously, even if we don’t or shouldn’t. Does she still spank her children? Probably. Is she just using that as an example of how the country is changing and how Washington is driving that change? Probably.

Now, I doubt she made this us up herself. She likely heard it at church or from her neighbors or from Fox News or talk radio. Again, what I kept hearing from people is a general fear that traditional moral rules were being wiped out by a government and a culture that doesn’t understand the people who still believe in these things.

A couple years ago, I saw a comment on a NYT story on this very subject, from a woman who described herself as the only Democrat in a small farm city in central Michigan. She said her neighbors were so angry and paranoid that they genuinely believe that if there’s a puddle in their driveway, that soon “the government” would be coming by to declare it a wetland and move them out. So I guess we have to take it seriously, at least on some level.

I’m going to check the returns from the Keystone State. Happy Wednesday, all. Discuss.

Posted at 9:27 pm in Current events | 53 Comments

The brooding report.

A friend of mine is going through a serious depression right now, so I don’t want to call what I had on Friday a dark night of the soul, or anything like that. Rather, it was more like a gray day of the soul, just a walking-around all-day funk, probably because I slept particularly badly the night before, the weather was indeed cold and gray, and so are the inch-long gray roots I’m sporting at the minute, having once again forgotten to make a hair appointment.

Which is to say, it was a day meant for gloomy brooding. So I did.

And I came to a few conclusions: One, that I think I’m done with journalism, at least the make-a-living-at-it model. It’s a shrinking field, and no employer has any use for a 60-year-old with all the wrong skills. I could sit in my home office and send out pitch after pitch to editor after editor, but my stomach for rejection after rejection just isn’t there anymore. And for all the talk of journalism being more important than ever, it seems like the whole industry is slipping into the sea, and we have no idea how to stop it. It’s plain what the chaos merchants in D.C. and St. Petersburg are up to – impugn every source as “fake news” until the public trusts no one, then step in with your own version of the quote-truth-unquote, and dare anyone to prove otherwise. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley sits on its vast mountains of money and says hey don’t blame us before they go back to working on building offshore tax havens or a drug that will allow Peter Thiel to live forever or whatever it is they’re up to.

So I’m kinda…bearish on journalism these days. I don’t think it can save us. Yes, there is outstanding work being done by a handful of well-funded and smartly staffed outlets, but there aren’t enough of them, and what’s being done at the local level – where most Americans get their news – is simply criminal.

What I’m saying is, there has to be a better way to help humanity. And even if journalism is it, I’ve lost my taste for it.

Immediately after I reached this conclusion, I heard from an editor responding affirmatively to a pitch I made a while back. So yeah, plans may change. But I doubt it.

That said, I’m still interested in how the field is evolving. Do any of you do newsletters? I’ve gotten into them lately, and sample them like items on a buffet. For all the shit people shovel on it, I do appreciate the Axios daily emails; I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in reading obligations, and appreciate their bullet-point summations. I subscribed to the Crooked Media newsletter. Tried TheSkimm, and unsubscribed — I’m just not a daffy enough young woman to get into that one, although I appreciate what they’re trying to do, i.e. make young women better informed.

I subscribed to Lenny, Lena Dunham’s newsletter, and will unsubscribe when I think of it, because not only is it worthless, I’m running cold on Lena Dunham these days. So.

Any suggestions for others, leave them in comments.

So that’s why I missed Friday. Brooding.

Today it’s sunny, Alan is out for a few hours and I think I may take Wendy to the dog park. I should go to the gym, but I’m thinking a need a day off from shoulds, and who will grant such a gift but me? So let it be written, so let it be done.

How about some Sunday reading?

Having just gone through a kitchen remodeling, I’m glad I didn’t read this beforehand, but it’s worth reading just the same: There is nothing wrong with your house, by Kate Wagner, who runs one of the best making-fun-of-McMansions blogs in existence. Funny and true.

Not funny at all, but even more true, and necessary to read in this era of #NeverAgain: What it’s like to survive being wounded in a mass shooting.

Rosemarie underwent nine surgeries in the three weeks after the shooting, and she spent nearly two months on life support while her organs healed.

But the woman who emerged from heavy sedation in November was not the same sunny, self-possessed person around whom the whole family once revolved.

A debilitating nausea set in. She has vomited almost every day since, and for months, doctors could not explain why. In February, after a short-lived attempt to bring her home ended with Steve taking her to the emergency room in an ambulance, the condition was diagnosed: Rosemarie has gastroparesis, meaning her damaged stomach muscles cannot push food through her system. She will need yet another surgery to treat the condition as well as to remove her gallbladder, which is infected.

The doctors must wait for her old injuries to heal before they can operate. But on Friday, her stomach wound reopened and became infected — another setback. So Rosemarie must remain at a rehab facility, dependent on an intravenous nutrient solution for sustenance and a daily dose of Ativan to keep her crushing anxiety at bay.

But hey: Freedom. And meanwhile, this is what the other side has been up to, at least one member of it:

Imagine being moved to do such a thing. They used to say that email was the problem, that being able to dash off a nastygram and hit “send” made for more of them. If you had to find pen and paper, write something down, fold it up, find an envelope and stamp and walk it to a mailbox, you were less likely to be this much of a shithead. But I guess not.

OK, it’s time to go outside. It’s 34 whole degrees. A good week ahead to all.

Posted at 12:46 pm in Current events, Media | 76 Comments

Quite a hump to get over.

This week, in a nutshell:

And it’s only Wednesday.

Dragging a little today, to be sure. Kate returned from spring break very very early this morning, having gotten a lesson in the downside of super-cheap travel: While the outbound legs — and it’s always legs, plural, never leg — are an adventure because whee we’re on vacation and it’s so cheap! the ride home is a four-legged bitch. Of course she got sick along the way, so I picked up her and her companion from the Greyhound station at 6 a.m. to drive them back to Ann Arbor. The ride home was Budapest > Reykjavik > Chicago > Detroit, the last leg via bus and with many many layover hours between the other ones. I just hope whatever she brought home isn’t TB or something, because she was coughing pitifully all the way. However, she remembered to pick up a bottle of her parents’ favorite Japanese whiskey in the duty-free in Iceland, so I’m counting that as a parenting win.

They liked the old world, even though they stayed in “the only hostel in Budapest that welcomes alcoholics,” she said, and I gather the atmosphere was a little…tiring. The proprietors and guests were imbibing full-time, another idea that seems fun at first and becomes less so when all you want is a nap.

I’ll get a fuller debrief when the throat misery dies down, I hope.

Meanwhile, I was sitting outside the Greyhound station before sunrise, snow falling, bogarting the taxi lane because there was only one taxi even going for it, listening to NPR and scrolling Twitter, when an old man rolled his suitcase into the station and up to a line of chairs. Beard, black coat, black hat. He took off the hat, revealing a yarmulke underneath so OK, Orthodox here. Then he opened one of his bags and removed a prayer shawl and his tefillin, wrapped the former around his shoulders and the latter around arm and forehead, and proceeded to daven into his morning prayers. I don’t know if he was embarking on a trip or if this was a regular stop in some sort of quasi-missionary work or what, only that it was an odd sight to see on a cold morning, in a building where nine out of 10 occupants are African-American and bundled in layers of puffy coats and wool hats. A little surreal.

And then there was my coughing baby, so we set off for the west before the traffic got too heavy.

“There’s an old Jewish guy in there praying,” I said as she buckled her seat belt. Cough-cough-cough. Probably not the weirdest thing she saw in the last week.

So Richard Spencer was in Michigan this week, as part of his Let Me Speak So Fox News Can Get B-Roll of the Protests to Use in Their Campaign Against Higher Education tour. He was at Michigan State, which was on spring break, and booked into some ag building way over on the ag campus. Nevertheless, the usual suspects showed up, and there were the usual skirmishes, and there were arrests, and at the end of it all was this tweet:

Estimates of the crowd he drew to hear him speak range from 11 to 30. Free speech on campus will live another day. Here’s a dispatch from a local journalist for the gay alt-weekly. No autoplaying video, nice guy. He uses the word “melee” twice, but don’t hold that against him.

Time to get back to work and consider a shower. Or a nap.

Posted at 12:10 pm in Current events | 71 Comments

The fashion show.

O hai, guys. I guess I forgot to blog yesterday. I think I just flat ran out of gas and decided to watch the Oscars, and then flat ran out of gas on that, too. This morning I decided to make this an in-the-office day, which wiped out daytime blogging opportunities, but really, who cares about these lame excuses?

My office is in Livonia, another inner-ring suburb that feels like it is a million miles away. Forty minutes in moving traffic, 60 in rush hour. If I had to do this every day, I wouldn’t. All the podcasts in the world can’t make that commute work on the regular. But once or twice a week is tolerable, and today was a very tolerable day. So Monday, nearly in the books, will go down as a not-bad one.

I see you were discussing the Oscars today. I think I saw all of them but “The Post” and “The Shape of Water,” but fortunately, our brethren on the right were at work today to brief us all:

A reader writes to ask if I’m going to do an Oscars post. The answer is no; I didn’t watch the show, or see the movies nominated. He responded by saying that I really ought to write something. “The Academy used to play it safe with controversy, but now it’s moving the Overton window faster than in real life,” he wrote. “Who’d have thought one decade ago that the most prestigious award in the film industry would go to a film about bestiality, and casting it in a positive light?”

He’s talking about The Shape Of Water, a movie in which the female protagonist falls in love with a humanoid amphibian, and has sex with it (“cod coitus,” according to Sonny Bunch).

I can’t even. So I’m not gonna. But imagine how exhausting it must be to filter everything — everything! — through one’s politics, one’s “culture,” one’s whatever-it-is that keeps us from simply enjoying art. I’ll see this film eventually, but I simply refuse to believe that it’s “about bestiality, and casting it in a positive light.”

I’d rather experience the Academy Awards via Tom & Lorenzo, who are almost always how you say spot-on with their assessments. My overall impression: Almost all the hair was ugh, and I simply do not understand why anyone wants to wear a formal dress that blends in with one’s skin. One reason Lupita Nyong’o always looks so damn good is, she uses her skin as a canvas, and paints with color. (Her co-star in that picture painted with paint — on her head.) To be sure, her lean, muscular body doesn’t hurt a bit, but if all she did was dress in coffee-colored clothing, I think I’d be meh on her as I am on the Beige/Blush Girls.

Man, if I looked like Margot Robbie — so beautiful she sucks all the oxygen out of the room — the last thing I’d do is go to the Oscars with hair that looks like I let it air-dry after a shower where I was too lazy to rinse all the conditioner out. And another pale-on-pale color thing, only the detailing looks like Christmas garland.

One exception — because there are always exceptions — has to be Jane Fonda. As T-Lo like to say: BOW DOWN. She’s 80. Years old.

So that was my Oscar night. In bed by 10:30, missed most of the good stuff.

Posted at 7:56 pm in Movies, Popculch | 52 Comments

A few minutes on Lucky Place.

I drive I-94 from my house to downtown Detroit, or pretty much anywhere west of me, and almost everything is west of me. So I’m on I-94 a lot. The roads that pass over it are identified with signage, and one has always intrigued me: Lucky Place.

Detroit is an old city, with old-city ideas about what you call the things we drive on to get from one place to another — they’re streets, roads, avenues, boulevards. Not for Detroit the cutesy-poo ideas of suburban developers, with their Ways and Lanes and Crescents, all suggesting either some generic English countryside (Andover Lane) or a darling daughter (Helen Promenade). So right there I was intrigued. The neighborhood Lucky Place cuts through is not in any danger of gentrifying soon. It’s near the Chene-Trombly Market, a large party store, as they’re known locally, that serves as a freeway landmark and has appeared in two or three books. Not long after we moved here, a couple of winos hot-wired a nearby backhoe and used it to tear out the front door of the place. The loss to the business, besides the door and structural damage: $200 in liquor. They were just thirsty.

That none of the writers thought to mention nearby Lucky Place seems like authorial malpractice. Lucky Place should be the title of a crime novel. Or maybe it’s too obvious.

This morning I had an appointment downtown that ended early, so I decided to take surface streets home. I further decided that this would be the day I would finally see Lucky Place from anything other than the freeway.

The map was a help, telling me that Lucky Place isn’t much of a street at all. I said it “cuts” through its neighborhood? It barely scratches it, running from a back gate to the Cadillac assembly plant, across I-94 and not even a block into the neighborhood on the other side. Not a through street, the freeway so close that the noise would be a constant, only a few houses. But Lucky Place-bound I was, and after a short drive, there I was.

If you’re going to visit a street like this, a morning like Friday was a good day to do it — we had a heavy, wet snow the day before, and even dead or diseased trees look good trimmed in white. I arrived just as it was starting to melt off and fall in wet, slushy splats.

Google Street View indicates this house was still more or less intact in 2013. Not so much today:

There are two tires stacked on the collapsed porch roof. I see this often, and always wonder who would bother to lug them up there, and why.

The trash is still being picked up, but it looks like only two of the houses are still occupied:

But as always, it’s all in where you direct your attention. On the other side of this thicket is another street with old houses and vacant lots. But look at it just so, in the snow, and you could be anywhere. You could be up north somewhere:

As often happens, the street of my imagination and expectation was better than reality. But I’m glad I stopped. Now I know.

(I should note that others have investigated before me. But I took pictures.)

So, here we are, well into Friday. Just one bit of bloggage today, but it’s a good one: An intriguing story about latter-day vampires in Florida, and by that I mean medical hucksters trying to sell aging boomers on the quackery of “young blood” transfusions. Yes, it was a joke on “Silicon Valley” last season, but now it’s in the Sunshine State. Scroll down to the photo of Christine Lynn and ask what the odds are that she belongs to Mar-a-Lago.

A good weekend to all. Stay lucky, my friends.

Posted at 1:07 pm in Detroit life | 94 Comments

Warming up.

My new stove has a warming drawer. It’s genius. The drawer under the oven? Where you probably throw your pot lids and broiler pan and other hard-to-store items? The new thing now is to put a heating element on the bottom and lo, a warming drawer. I can find another place to store my pot lids, but I will give up this warming drawer when you pry it from my perfectly warm fingers.

Last night I was making dinner when Alan texted to say he wouldn’t be leaving the office until 8. That means he won’t be home until 8:40. I have to eat by 8 or I sleep badly.

That’s why we have a warming drawer, I replied. And I plated Alan’s chicken, rice and asparagus, put foil over it and stuck it in the warming drawer, on low, where it stayed for nearly an hour. Alan reports everything was delicious, and even the asparagus failed to shrivel.

People talk about when they felt they were truly an adult, or rich, or whatever. I always say that nothing made me feel that I was movin’ on up in the world like my first washer/dryer. Farewell, Solar Sudser laundromat, eater of one evening out of 10. Although I will say, it was the best people-watching in Fort Wayne. The clerk had trichotillomania (a compulsive disorder that caused her to pull out her hair) and a life that was a continuing series of disasters. I know because she discussed each one on the phone, loudly, while I sat eight feet away trying to read my new Spy or Vanity Fair.

I have a feeling my warming drawer will be another big lifestyle upgrade. I’m a simple woman, easy to please.

Friday: An ode to my incredibly quiet dishwasher, which shines a light on the floor to tell you it’s running, because you can barely hear it.

Not really.

Back when I was an equestrian, I boarded my horse at a barn with a fox hunter, a lawyer who basically lived for the sport — he didn’t work Tuesdays, because his hunt rode out twice a week, Saturdays and Tuesdays, and he didn’t miss. One day he debriefed me on their practices, and later on, when animal-rights groups made fox hunting a focus, and successfully banned it in England, of all places, I knew how much shit they were talking. Among the things I learned from my co-boarder:

The fox almost always “wins” the hunt, by going to ground (its burrow) before the hounds catch it. In the olden days, when fox were hunted because they were decimating the neighborhood henhouses, that’s when the terrier handlers would send in the Jack Russells, but no one does that anymore, because in the tradition of intelligent modern hunting, the hunter husbands the prey. Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited, with memberships primarily comprised of anglers and hunters, do more for habitat preservation than many environmental groups, because no habitat? No trout or ducks. There is no Fox Unlimited, but fox hunters go to great lengths to make sure they have fox to hunt. They lose far more hounds in the course of a season — to cars, of course — than fox; one or two (fox) a year was a typical casualty list. They only hunt in winter, because spring and summer is when the prey are raising kits. And so on.

Have I bored you to death yet? No? Well then, you might enjoy this lavishly illustrated Washington Post feature on modern fox hunting in the D.C. area, which is probably the center of the sport in the U.S. It’s such a beautiful sport, and every piece of that fancy clothing has a specific purpose. Especially the flask, ha ha.

What else? Hmm. Are self-driving cars on your local radar the way they are in Michigan? Perhaps not, but the technology is galloping ahead like a field of fox hunters, and as a lot of the research and testing is being done by the domestic auto industry, we’re seeing a certain amount of it here. There’s a driverless van shuttling around the University of Michigan north campus, and a big proving ground out that way. A lot of people — including the organization I work for — is trying to see into the future, because man, when self-driving reaches critical mass, there is going to be a revolution in the economy. Job loss, job creation, winners and losers and things we haven’t even thought about. Bloomberg hazards a scan of just a few things that will change as a result.

I like driving, except when I hate it.

Of course, there are a few bugs to be worked out. Contains shriek-worthy dash cam video of the crash in question.

Time to put the nose to the old grindstone. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:58 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 69 Comments